Information Age Education
   Issue Number 4
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 IAE 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 contains 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

"If women are to do the same work as men, we must teach them the same things." (Plato; Greek philosopher and educator; 428-347 B.C.)

HistoryThe Information Age officially began in the United States in 1956. Thirty years later the following article was published:

Moursund, D.G. (February 1986). The Information Era: What does it mean to education? The Computing Teacher. Eugene, OR: ICCE. Access at http://iae-pedia.org/David_Moursund_Editorials.

Quoting from this article:

I think the major difficulty is that while "information" is a useful term in describing our current era, capital-intensive, service-oriented, high tech/high touch, and shrinking world are also appropriate. The latter term is of particular significance. We live in a world that is steadily shrinking due to improvements in transportation and communication. Radio and television audiences for a major event may amount to 20 percent of the entire earth's population or more. It is estimated that by the year 1990 there will be about one billion telephones interconnected by our telecommunications system. That is about one for every five people on earth! The cost of communication between two places via telecommunications satellite is essentially independent of the distance between them. There are telecommunication satellites currently in production or on the drawing board that will add hundreds of thousands of additional long distance telephone circuits.

At the same time, high tech is shrinking the world, populations continue to increase and the people of this planet are becoming more interdependent. To me this suggests our educational system needs to combine high tech with high touch. The high-tech aspect of our current era indicates that we need a number of highly trained, technically oriented workers…

In the past couple of years, Thomas L. Friedman wrote the books “The World is Flat” and “Hot, Flat, and Crowded.” I highly recommend these books to educators and people concerned about our educational system.

Current 

"Try to learn something about everything and everything about something." (Thomas H. Huxley; English writer; 1825–1895.)

CurrentThe totality of human knowledge is huge and growing quite rapidly. Thus, our educational system needs to think very carefully about what it really wants students to learn. There is not enough time to learn everything—indeed, there is not enough time to learn even a hundredth of one percent of everything.

One approach to this educational challenge is to think in terms of each student developing some islands of expertise. Some of these islands of expertise are decided upon by the educational system, and some by the student. (See http://iae-pedia.org/Education_for_Increasing_Expertise.) For example, our current educational system believes that all students should learn reading, writing, and math. Many students decide for themselves that they want to develop better social skills, learn sports and sports statistics develop skill in playing a variety of computer games, and learn a lot about popular music performers and their music.

The idea of islands of expertise ties in well with the ideas of student-centered education and empowering students. Computer technology can play a major role in both of these important approaches to improving education.

 Future

"The wisest mind has something yet to learn." (George Santayana; Spanish and American philosopher and novelist; 1863–1952.)

The FutureThe totality of human knowledge is growing quite rapidly. The growth rate is often summarized by statements such as “doubling every five years” or “doubling every 10 years.” Suppose, for example that it is doubling every 10 years. Some people argue that it is doubling more rapidly and the doubling time is decreasing. (See http://www.nationmaster.com/encyclopedia/Georges-Anderla.)


A level, ten-year doubling time means that when a child born today becomes 20 years old, the totality of human knowledge will be four times what it is today. By the time this person is 40 years old, the totality of human knowledge will be 16 times what it is today. (With a five-year doubling time, that latter figure becomes 256.)

But even now, most of us feel like we suffer from an information overload. This situation, which is steadily worsening, suggests that good schools should:

  1. Place strong emphasis on learning to learn and being a life long learner.
  2. Place strong emphasis on just in time learning—learning what one needs to know shortly before one needs to have the knowledge.
  3. Learning to make good use of the steadily growing capabilities of “intelligent” machines.

See the free book:

Moursund, D.G. (2006). Brief introduction to educational implications of artificial intelligence. Access at http://iae-pedia.org/David_Moursund_Books.