Rethinking Education

I recently read a book called Rethinking Education in the Age of Technology. The authors give a historical overview of education in the U.S. – from apprenticeship to the current factory-model that Americans know. They make the claim in this book that school as we know it is changing, and it’s changing because we’ve entered the technological revolution. In fact, they believe that education is going through its own revolution.

They address barriers to using technology in education; but, they focus on the current bricks & mortar educational system when they discuss these barriers. It isn’t until very late in the book that they begin to explore how students can learn differently and in self-directed ways.

The subtopics in the last chapter are: rethinking learning, rethinking motivation, rethinking what is important to learn, rethinking careers, rethinking the transitions between learning and work, rethinking educational leadership, rethinking the role of government in education, and their vision for the future. Their vision: stretch thinking capacities to include broader technological use in education. Ummmm- aren’t we already doing that?

Granted, education must change, and it must include technology to an extent that just isn’t doing yet; but, we all know that education moves at a glacial pace. I don’t think including more technology “in the classroom” is what we need. I think teachers need to learn how to use technology and they need to become mentors so that they can allow students to be self-directed. The traditional role of teacher must change. We should be coaches. Maybe our educational system needs to revert back to the apprenticeship system – with a few little tweaks here and there.


2 comments on “Rethinking Education

  1. Curt Bonk says:

    Yep, Jen, I have seen the book (I got it, in fact).

    Collins, A. & Halverson, R. (2009). Rethinking education in the age of technology. New York: Teachers College Press.

    Here is what I say in a recent NSF grant proposal about this book:

    Collins and Halverson (2010) characterized this new era of education as an ongoing evolution of learning from traditional family apprenticeships to conventional universal schooling and now into a digitally-mediated lifelong learning (see Table 1).

    Table 1. The three eras of education (Collins & Halverson, 2010)

    Educational Aspects Educational Eras

    Family Apprenticeships Universal Schooling Lifelong Learning
    Responsibility Parents Government Individuals
    Expectations Social reproduction Success for all Individual choice
    Content Practical skills Discip knowledge Learning to learn
    Pedagogy Apprenticeship Didacticism Interaction
    Assessment Observation Testing Embedded assessment
    Location Home School Anywhere
    Culture Adult culture Peer culture Mixed-age culture
    Relationships Personal bonds Authority figures Computer-mediated interaction

    We are now firmly in the third age where learning happens anywhere and at any time. As we enter this new age, there is a need for sharing stories of life change as a means to document the novel ways that Web resources foster and sustain lifelong learning under both formal as well as informal conditions

    Without a doubt, Web technology provides immense opportunities for people to learn anywhere, anytime, and from anyone. For unknown thousands of people, learning opportunities are opening up with Web technology and their lives are changed. It is increasingly obvious that these technological innovations expand learning and education beyond the formal structures of schooling institutions. However, research on how Web-based learning has engaged learners and provided unique opportunities is relatively sparse; what does exist is often focused on formal learning situations.
    = = = = = = = = = = =

    While I appreciated their book, Allan Collins and his colleague seemed to be spouting off that technology IS the solution. And we are ready for it…almost. I think much of this could have been written 2 or 3 decades ago (and was–see Mindstorms from Seymour Papert from the MIT Media Lab).

    The interesting (and perhaps unfortunate) thing is that my World is Open book came out at about the same time as this book and they sold similarly since Collins has a great reputation. He did some cognitive science research 30 or more years ago on information retrieval that was very popular and well documented. Most introductory cognitive science courses cite it.

    But here he was coming to the IU to give a talk on his new book. The dean was in the front row. But the talk was extremely technology focused. Too much so I think. I walked out near the end. I did not find it too exciting. Here is a standard case where reputation drew a crowd. The auditorium in the School of Education was packed. But hearing this talk must have made most shiver and overgeneralize that IST is about technology being the fix to all the ills of education. Too bad. There was much potential from his talk and his book. Too, too bad.

  2. Cyndi says:

    I have a copy of the book too. If I am not mistaken Allan Collins spoke at IU in 2009. I remember watching either a live feed or a saved video.

    It seems to me, and I will only speak from the K12 sector of education, that this thing called “technology” is somewhat of a mystery. Someone who has read about or been to a conference decides that a new form of technology is needed without, in many cases, conducting a needs assessment ; there is not an implementation plan in place for the new technology and without an implementation plan there will be no thought put into “where is the fit”.

    I design instructional materials for K12 teachers and provide instruction on the implementation and integration of technology into curricula. I have provided this instruction for almost 20 years. I cannot agree with you more when you say this type of instruction is needed. I don’t care what generation you come from not every person sees the fit. We developed our own technology standards about 16 / 17 years ago to serve as a guide for teachers.

    The worse thing that I see happen is a teacher returns to their classroom after summer break to find a new interactive white board hanging on the wall with a document camera setting close by. Where I work they know I will be there for them to walk them through the use and show them some fits within their curricula but for those I know in other districts they are left to figure it out on their own. Although I love working with technology and using it to provide instruction for students and teachers alike, I also understand the problems that exist.

    We could probably talk about this in great length and still be looking for an answer that would work each and every time. Perhaps we should do that sometime.

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