Book Review: Rethinking Education in the Age of Technology

I recently finished the book, Rethinking Education in the Age of Technology: The Digital Revolution and Schooling in America┬áby Allan Collins and Richard Halverson. Actually, I have read this book twice. The first time I “read” it was a very superficial skimming as I was considering the book for my graduate educational technology class. Once the semester was underway, I read the book more carefully along with my students.

The premise of this book, which I happen to have done some research on myself for a different class I teach, is that the format for American education has evolved according to four distinct eras throughout history. These eras, as one might predict based on the theme of the book, have been shaped in large part by the introduction of technological innovations in society. From the invention of the printing press to the Reformation to the American Revolution to the Industrial Revolution, education has always changed in response to broader societal and technological changes. The authors argue that we are now in the midst of the Knowledge Revolution, also referred to as the digital revolution in some parts of the book. This revolution is characterized by unprecedented access to information, ubiquitous access through network-enabled mobile computing devices, and the shifting role of education in our society.

The book is well crafted and the narrative builds the further the reader gets in the text. Since the nexus of society, technology, and education is a particular interest of mine, I was captivated by the way Collins and Halverson framed the shaping of education within the context of these various revolutions. I agreed with most of the trends they described in terms of access to information, learning, and the changing emphasis on formal schooling. A significant part of this book, in comparison to the other descriptions of evolving models of education, was devoted to home schooling. I was not able to ascertain if the amount of time spent on the increase in home schooling was an endorsement of this model or just used to emphasize its potential for becoming more popular in the coming years. Either way, the main message came through clearly, which is that education as we know it is changing and will look very different in the future due in large part to the opportunities created by technology for learning.

If you are annoyed by educational prognosticators, I would not recommend this book. Though the majority of this book is devoted to discussing the past models of education and the current affordances of technology for teaching and learning, the overall message is that education will not stay in current state much longer. The authors assert that educators, and society in general, embrace new models of schooling sooner rather than later. If you love history and like to think about how various forces work together to shape our lived experience and the human condition, you will enjoy the thorough manner in which the authors address this topic within the context of technology and learning. Personally, I found the book an enjoyable and interesting read, and I plan on using the book again in my classes (though not the class I originally intended it for … that’s a different story).