Information Age Education
   Issue Number 6
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.

Two Big Questions:
  1. Are you, personally, satisfied with the quality of our precollege education system and our teacher education system?
  2. If not, what are your recommendations on how to improve the situation?
This issue of the IAE Newsletter contains a few of my thoughts. To share your thoughts with others, please go to http://iae-pedia.org/Talk:Substantially_Improving_Education, log in, and add your comments.


Looking Back

HistoryThe Russian space vehicle Sputnik 1 launched in 1957 ignited the space race component of the Cold War between the USSR and the United States. This led to explorations into our education system and substantially increased funding for students wanting to do graduate work in science, math, engineering, and technology. It also eventually led to the Nation Science Foundation beginning to fund a substantial amount of inservice education for precollege teachers of math and the sciences.

The April 1983 report, A Nation At Risk, helped to “stir up” politicians, business people, and educators throughout the country. Quoting from this report:

If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war. As it stands, we have allowed this to happen to ourselves. We have even squandered the gains in student achievement made in the wake of the Sputnik challenge.

My (Dave Moursund) personal thoughts: Education can be improved by increasing the number of good, experienced teachers who are well prepared in content, content pedagogy, and general pedagogy. The standards currently being set in some of the discipline areas are too low. For example, see my Webpage http://iae-pedia.org/Communicating_in_the_Language_of_Mathematics. We could substantially improve math and science education at the elementary school level by having these disciplines taught by math and science specialists.

Looking at Current Times

CurrentOver the past decade there have been a variety of tests that allow international comparisons of educational systems. Two well-publicized examples are:

• The Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS http://nces.ed.gov/timss/index.asp) data has been collected in 1995, 1999, 2003, and 2007.

• Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2006. This presents the results from the most recent PISA survey, which focused on science and also assessed mathematics and reading. For video that summarize some of the results, see: http://www.asiasociety.org/resources/losingedge.html.

In addition, recent data suggest that only about 70 to 75 percent of US students are graduating from high school. and there is little evidence that our overall educational system has significantly improved during the past few decades.

My (Dave Moursund) personal thoughts: In my opinion, our precollege educational system is slowly losing ground in its battle with attention grabbing and attention holding non-school activities such as the various forms of electronic games, audio media, video media, and telecommunication systems. Increasingly, curriculum content, instructional processes, and assessment are not authentic—they are not very well aligned with the “real world outside of schools.” One way to attach this problem is through a substantial increase in project-based learning in which students draw upon their full range of education and interests as they work to produce a product, performance, or presentation. See http://iae-pedia.org/Good_PBL_Lesson_Plans.

 Looking into the Future

The FutureWe are living at a time where the pace of change in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics is both high and is increasing. Among other things, this is leading to the world becoming “smaller” and an increasing global competition for jobs. Some of the very rapidly change areas include computer technology (including robotics), nanotechnology, gene technology, and brain science.

My (Dave Moursund) personal thoughts: Here are two major flaws that I see in our educational system. First, many students are not learning to take responsibility for their own current education. Second, our educational system is not preparing students for the continuing rapid pace of globalization. There needs to be far more emphasis on the idea of illustrated in the following assignment:

In this class we are currently studying (teacher gives a short description.) The assignment is to select some aspect of this topic that you feel will empower you to better deal with possible futures you envision in your life, present arguments supporting this choice of topic, develop a plan of action for substantially increasing your level of expertise in this area, carry out your plan of action, and demonstrate your increased level of expertise. (See http://iae-pedia.org/Tools_That_Empower_Students.)


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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