Rewiring Education: How Technology Can Unlock Every Student’s Potential by John Couch and Jason Towne, BenBella Books, US $24.95, Pp 244, May 2018, ISBN 978-1944648435
Those of us who grew and went to school in the 1950s or 1960s, the school curriculum focused entirely on memorization. The work we did was not relevant, creative, collaborative, or challenging, but rather the simple consumption of information requiring little more than short-term recall. In Rewiring Education, John Couch and Jason Towne say that reality was either black or white in those days. We either memorized the material or didn’t. And it was understood that the seemingly never-ending series of standardized tests we were given would show how “smart” we were, in the process judging us, labeling us, and attempting to forecast our future.
Today we live in a world of rapid technological innovation, where seemingly every day a new startup comes out of nowhere with a new invention that changes things. Couch and Jason Towne argue that overflowing with creativity and empowered by the latest technologies, the visionaries from around the world have disrupted status quos, revised inefficient designs, upgraded outdated systems, and reshaped entire industries, except for one, which is education. There have been no revolutionary changes to our education system in the past century. Even where local successes at the school and classroom level show promise, nothing new ever seems to scale.
Exploring the educational reforms over the last century, Couch and Jason Towne say that, in 1911, Thomas Edison, with several inventions under his belt, realized that our system was short-circuiting and needed rewiring. He went on to invent something that used the most advanced technology in existence at that time and was unlike anything we had seen before. Everybody thought that boring textbooks now would become a thing of the past. All students would now be able to learn equally and our traditional classrooms, with their rowed desks, school bells, and a single teacher lecturing from the front of the class, would soon vanish forever. That invention was called an educational film. However, Couch and Jason Towne argue, over a century later, it is evident now that Edison’s invention didn’t work out too well, as not much has changed in our schools or classrooms.
Since Edison’s educational flop, hundreds of visionaries, innovators, and education reformers have followed his lead by introducing their own versions of the next big thing, and one by one. Couch and Jason Towne argue that each one has failed. “Moving boring content from one medium to another doesn’t make it any less boring, and doesn’t improve learning, Couch and Jason Towne rightly argue. Education needs a system prepared to meet the needs of its current generation – digital natives. It needs leaders with the ability and agility to ensure the system is designed, developed, and implemented to keep pace with change. Repairing or patching and replacing or stating over education is not the answer. What is needed is rewiring education.
Rewiring education means meeting the biggest challenges we face in education today. Couch and Jason Towne say that that rewiring education means to learn to use learning research and current technology to personalize learning experiences in ways that better meet the needs of today’s students. It asks us to think differently about how we motivate, train, develop, measure, and evaluate our children and extraordinary people who teach them. It means understanding and unlocking the unlimited potential for children to learn and succeed. To those who argue that our education system is the best in the world, Couch, and Jason Towne reply that everything can become better. The laws in the system that prevent us from improving didn’t get there by accident but were put there by design.
Rewiring Education is a necessary addition to the existing literature on the state of education in the United States. It provides deep insight into what is wrong with our system of education. John Couch and Jason Towne give a new perspective on the problems our system of education faced in the last century or so. Rewiring Education is packed with creative and innovative ideas about how to revamp education and make it relevant and collaborative. It is a book of knowledge about knowledge. Everybody who cares for our children and their education must read Rewiring Education.