Information Age Education
   Issue Number 3
October, 2008   

This newsletter is written by David Moursund and produced by Ken Loge. Information Age Education (IAE) is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving education for learners of all ages throughout the world. IAE is a project of the Science Factory, a 501(c)(3) science and technology museum located in Eugene, Oregon. Current project activities include a Wiki with address http://IAE-pedia.org, a Website containing free books and articles at http://I-A-E.org, and the free newsletter you are now reading.

To subscribe to this twice-a-month free newsletter and to see back issues, go to http://i-a-e.org/iae-newsletter.html. To change your address or cancel your subscription, click on the “Manage your Subscription” link at the bottom of this email message.

Each issue of this newsletter consists four parts. The introduction you are now reading is the first part. The other three parts focus on the past, present, and future of our educational system.

History

"Those who cannot remember the past, are condemned to repeat it." (George Santayana, 1863–1952.)

HistoryIn the United States, the first “mass production” of computers began in 1951. The UNIVAC I gained fame when it was used to forecast the 1952 presidential results based on the early returns coming in during the evening of Election Day.

By the early 1960s, quite a few precollege and college students were gaining access to computers. While the students’ initial focus was on computer programming, computer games soon arrived on the scene.

Timeshared computing beginning in the 1960s and microcomputers beginning in the mid 1970s led to a huge growth in student uses of computers. Computers became academically and intellectually useful to more and more students.

In May of 1974, David Moursund started a periodical named the Oregon Computing Teacher. This eventually became The Computing Teacher and then Learning and Leading with Technology. Moursund wrote over 170 editorial messages for these publications. They give good insight into the history of computers in education, and they are all available free at http://iae-pedia.org/David_Moursund_Editorials

 Current 

"If I had eight hours to chop down a tree, I'd spend six sharpening my axe." (Abraham Lincoln, 1809–1865.)

CurrentMany students, parents, educators, business people, and politicians are interested in the quality of our education system. It is easy to find faults in the system, and it is easy to find parts of the system that are worthy of praise.

Our current educational system faces the challenge of interpreting and then appropriately implementing past and current important ideas that help prepare students for their futures. For example, what might Lincoln’s statement quoted above mean in our current world of rapid improvements in Information and Communication Technology? The ICT educational uses that most students —and their teachers— are currently making could well be described as “sawing with a dull saw” or “chopping with a dull ax.” Our educational system is proceeding very slowly in the discipline of Computational Thinking (see http://iae-pedia.org/Computational_Thinking) and uses of computer technology as an aid to representing and solving problems throughout the curriculum (see http://uoregon.edu/~moursund/Books/IAE-PS/index.htm).

 Future

"Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there." (Will Rogers, 1879–1935.)

The FutureWe are living in a time of very rapid technological change. Our educational system attempts to prepare students for their possible near and longer-term futures. Thus, all educators and students can benefit by having insights into current and possible future developments in technology.

Here is an important example of a forecast for just a few years from now.

Nystedt, Dan (9/4/08). One Laptop Per Child to launch touchscreen XO-2 laptop in Q1 2010. NetworkWorld. Retrieved 9/23/08: http://www.networkworld.com/news/2008/090408-olpc-to-launch-touchscreen-xo-2.html?hpg1=bn.

Quoting from the article:

The One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) association plans to launch the upcoming second generation of its low-cost XO laptop in the first quarter of 2010, according to an official from the group.

The XO-2, an update to the original XO laptop that's designed for low-cost computing for kids in developing nations, will carry two 16-inch by 9-inch touchscreens and eschew a keyboard. It opens like a book and can either be held vertically for reading, or horizontal for laptop computing. When used horizontally, the bottom touchscreen displays a keyboard for typing.

The XO currently costs around US$203 or $204 to make, said Keller, while the XO-2 will likely cost around $80.

Notice the forecasted price! At the current time, it is still unusual for every student in a precollege school to have a laptop. In a modest number of years, it may be unusual to find students in a school who do not have a laptop computer. This forecast of the future strongly supports the idea of thoroughly integrating routine use of ICT throughout the curriculum.