Information Age Education
   Issue Number 5
November, 2008   


This free Information Age Education newsletter is written by David Moursund and produced by Ken Loge. For more information, see the end of this Newsletter.

Looking Back

HistoryThe current criticisms of our educational system are nothing new. See, for example, The Saber-tooth Curriculum by J. Abner Peddiwell available at http://nerds.unl.edu/pages/preser/sec/articles/sabertooth.html. In this 1939 parody on our educational system, a caveman gets the idea that children should be taught useful skills. Soon a formal curriculum is developed, designed to fit the needs of the times. Children are taught “fish-grabbing” (the barehanded catching of fish), “horse-clubbing” (clubbing the type of small horse used for meat), and “tiger-scaring” (using fire to scare away the saber-toothed tiger). Over time, this curriculum becomes more and more out of date.

For a more recent parody see David Moursund’s 1987 short article Chesslandia available at http://iae-pedia.org/Chesslandia. This portrays an educational system completely focused on teaching all children to play chess well enough to avoid being eaten by the wild Chess-playing Monsters that roam the countryside. The development of computer systems that could play chess better than humans eventually made the educational system completely obsolete.


Looking at Current Times

CurrentDuring the past 15 years, authentic assessment—accompanied by authentic instruction and authentic content—has received considerable emphasis in education. See, for example, http://jonathan.mueller.faculty.noctrl.edu/toolbox/whatisit.htm. There are two key ideas. First, content, instruction, and assessment should be aligned. Second, education should prepare students to deal with the types of problems and tasks they will face in non-school (“real world”) environments.

In recent years there has been a reasonable level of support to provide students with computers and connectivity. My recent Google search on one-to-one computing produced about 3.8 million hits. Much of today’s one-to-one activities can be traced back to the Apple Classroom of Tomorrow (ACOT) project that began in 1985. Much of the success of the ACOT sites was due to a significant change in the role of the teacher—becoming a “guide on the side” rather then serving as a “sage on the stage.” One way for a teacher to move in this direction is to make expanded use of project-based learning in an environment in which students have good access to computers and are given increased responsibility for selecting and defining the projects they will do. See http://iae-pedia.org/Good_PBL_Lesson_Plans. With proper participation of both the teacher and the students, this can be a powerful example of authentic content, instruction, and assessment.

 Looking into the Future

The FutureOne of the major goals of education is to help prepare students for the opportunities and responsibilities they will face in the future. Thus, one might expect that many educators and educational leaders would be futurists, spending a lot of their time trying to understand possible futures that their students might face.

Some aspects of this futuristic endeavor have led our educational system to understand that learning to learn, learning to take responsibility for one’s own learning, and learning to deal with change are all essential components of a modern education. Unfortunately, our overall educational system is not particularly strong in dealing with these general goals.

When it comes to more detailed forecasts of the future, our educational system does still more poorly. Consider a child who started first kindergarten earlier this fall. What will the world be like when this child is finishing high school, community college, or four years of college? What can this child be learning that helps prepare for the advances in technology and medicine that will occur during this time? See http://iae-pedia.org/20/20_Vision_for_2020_Challenges for an excellent article by Bob Sylwester, an educator who has specialized in brain science and its potential contributions to education.

Perhaps the heart of the matter is to provide students with an education in which they routinely learn to work with and learn about Information and Communication Technology and the other technologies that are changing our world. Include an emphasis on how such technologies are changing and contributing to each of the curriculum areas students are studying. For further reading on this topic, see http://iae-pedia.org/Two_Brains_Are_Better_Than_One.


About Information Age Education, Inc.

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.

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