This free Information Age Education Newsletter is written by David
Moursund and produced by Ken Loge. For more information, see the end of
The newsletter’s goal is to help improve
education. Please help build circulation to this free newsletter by
publicizing it to your colleagues, students, and others.
An April 8, 2009 newspaper article quotes US Education Secretary of
Education Arne Duncan as saying: “American schoolchildren need to be in
class more—six days a week and at least 11 months a year—if they are to
compete with students abroad.”
Duncan went on to say that: “I
fundamentally believe that our school day is too short, our school week
is too short, and our school year is too short.”
The need to
better prepare our students so that they and the US can better compete
with the rest of the world is a recurring theme in calls for school
The world has changed a lot since I was a child. As I was growing up,
we certainly did not worry about people from other countries competing
for the same jobs that people in the US competed for. Although
telephone, telegraph, and radio communication spanned the globe, we had
nothing like today’s fiber optics, communication satellites, Internet,
and transportation systems.
A huge number of technology-based
advances occurred during World War II in areas of collection,
processing, storage, and communication of information. Information
overload was beginning to rear its ugly head. Notice the date on the
"Consider a future device for individual use, which is a sort of
mechanized private file and library. It needs a name, and, to coin one
at random, 'memex' will do. A memex is a device in which an individual
stores all his books, records, and communications, and which is
mechanized so that it may be consulted with exceeding speed and
flexibility. It is an enlarged intimate supplement to his memory."
(Vannevar Bush, As We May Think, The Atlantic, July 1945.)
The article is available free on the Web at http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/194507/bush
That availability on the Web is quite fitting, since the Web is a
relatively good implementation of what Vannevar Bush was dreaming
Looking at More Current
(October 2008) of this newsletter discussed the Information
Age and the overwhelming and rapidly growing accumulation of
information that each of us faces. One educational approach to this
steadily growing overload of content that can be taught in schools is
spelled out in Arne Duncan’s proposal. Have students go to school more
hours a day, more days a week, and more weeks per year. There are two
general arguments for this:
- Students will learn more, and
they will have less time outside of school to forget what they are
learning. (And, since a major goal of a school is to be a safe, secure
place for students, this will increase the amount of time that many
students spend in a safe, secure place.)
- The United States
needs more and better education to occur in order to have
better-prepared job seekers and for our workers to be competitive in
the world market.
These are complex issues and challenges, and
they certainly cannot be resolved in the small amount of space I have
available here. The first argument relates to students having to deal
with both an information overload (too much to learn) and an
information underload (not to learn well what is really important).
However, it should be obvious to you that the information overload and
underload issues cannot be solved by expecting students to learn more
and more. The world’s totality of accumulated information is doubling
in under ten years. Such a rate of growth quickly overwhelms any
solution depending just on students spending more time in school. For a
more extensive discussion of information underload and overload, see http://iae-pedia.org/Information_Underload_and_Overload
terms of the second argument, I personally believe that there is much
more to informal and formal education than just getting ready to
perform on a job and to compete internationally for that job. I have
met a great many people who agree with me.
Looking into the
Here are two insights into education from long before I was born:
"The mind is not a vessel to be filled but a fire to be kindled." (Plutarch; Roman historian; 46 AD–120 AD.)
is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can
find information upon it." (Samuel Johnson; English poet, essayist, and
lexicographer; 1709–1784.) His Dictionary of the English Language was
published in 1755.
The whole world faces educational and other challenges from a
continuing very rapid pace of change in science and technology
(including ICT). The whole world also faces problems of bigotry and
prejudice, rapid population growth, global warming, and sustainability.
The United States is moving in the direction of measuring the
quality of its education system by how well its students perform in
state, national, and international tests in a very small number of
subject areas. There is special emphasis on math and science. Moreover,
the major emphasis is on performance by a person working alone without
the aids of ICT.
This testing emphasis ignores a very large
number of disciplines that are very important. Rather than name lots of
other disciplines, here is an idea I think is worth considering.
Besides “traditional” measures of educational success in specific
discipline areas, lets also develop and make use of measures such as
levels of success in:
- Students learning to learn and to become relatively independent, self-directed, lifelong learners.
- Students learning to become responsible and productive members of
the local, regional, national, and global societies in which they live.
This includes learning to function well in different cultural and
- Students learning to work productively
in teams that include people, machines that aid in physical
performance, and machines that aid in mental performance. (See Issue 12
of this newsletter.) The various people and machines of such teams may
be distributed throughout the world.
- Students learning to
actively contribute to helping to solve problems of bigotry and
prejudice, global warming, sustainability, hunger, disease, war, and
other major problems facing our world.
About Information Age
Information Age Education 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 e-mail message.