Digital Schools

How Technology Can Transform Education

Nearly a century ago, famed educator John Dewey said that "if we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow." That wisdom resonates more strongly than ever today, and that maxim underlies this insightful look at the present and future of education in the digital age.

As Darrell West makes clear in Digital Schools, today’s educational institutions must reinvent themselves to engage students successfully and provide them with the skills needed to compete in an increasingly global, technological, and online world. Otherwise the American education system will continue to fall woefully short in its mission to prepare the population to survive and thrive in a rapidly changing world.

West examines new models of education made possible by enhanced information technology, new approaches that will make public education in the post-industrial age more relevant, efficient, and ultimately more productive. Innovative pilot programs are popping up all over the nation, experimenting with different forms of organization and delivery systems.

Digital Schools surveys this promising new landscape, examining in particular personalized learning; realtime student assessment; ways to enhance teacher evaluation; the untapped potential of distance learning; and the ways in which technology can improve the effectiveness of special education and foreign language instruction. West illustrates the potential contributions of blogs, wikis, social media, and video games and augmented reality in K–12 and higher education.

Technology by itself will not remake education. But if today’s schools combine increased digitization with needed improvements in organization, operations, and culture, we can overcome current barriers, produce better results, and improve the manner in which schools function. And we can get back to teaching for tomorrow, rather than for yesterday.

Darrell M. West is the author of numerous books, including Brookings titles The Next Wave: Using Digital Technology to Further Social and Political Innovation (2011) and Brain Gain: Rethinking U.S. Immigration Policy (2010).

Praise for the book:

"As is expected from Brookings, Darrell West provides us with a clear, authoritative, non-dogmatic, up-to-date account of all the ways in which new technologies are altering the K-12 education landscape."—Paul E. Peterson, Director, Harvard University’s Program on Education Policy and Governance

"Darrell West’s book recognizes that if students don’t learn the way we teach, then we should teach the way they learn."—Larry Rosenstock, CEO and founding principal, High Tech High

"In this pithy volume, Darrell West offers wise words of both optimism and caution. He notes the promise of new technologies to improve schooling in the twenty-first century, but cautions that these advances will only deliver if accompanied by a tough-minded willingness to rethink the structure and culture of schools and school systems. Policymakers and educators alike would do well to heed the lessons West offers."—Frederick M. Hess, Director of Education Policy Studies, American Enterprise Institute