This free Information Age Education Newsletter is written by David
Moursund and produced by Ken Loge. For more information, see the end of
"They know enough who know how to learn." (Henry B. Adams; American novelist, journalist, and historian 1838–1918.)
If you spend a day in a typical elementary or secondary school, you
will see that the time is blocked into a number of courses or areas of
study. In elementary school, the students tend to stay in one room, and
the teacher changes discipline hats from time to time. This is
conducive to facilitating transfer of learning among the various
disciplines being studied.
In secondary school, students move
from room to room, and a teacher may well wear the same discipline hat
all day. This setting is more challenging to both teachers and students
in terms of teaching and learning for transfer of learning.
The development of written language necessitated a major change in
education. Few students readily learn a written symbolic representation
of their oral language and math. (Of course, Tarzan of the Apes was
able to do it—but we all know he was truly exceptional!)
the original schools were set up to help a very select group of
students learn the rudiments of written symbolic representation of
Thomas Jefferson was a strong supporter of
children receiving a free public education up through the third grade.
He felt that this level of introduction to reading, writing, and
arithmetic was essential to becoming a responsible adult citizen in the
United States’ democratic form of government.
Jefferson did not talk about “transfer of learning,” what he expected
was that students would take their rudimentary knowledge of reading,
writing, and arithmetic, and do two things with it:
it (via transfer of learning) to all problems areas that the student
encounters as he or she moves toward adulthood and then functions as a
responsible adult citizen.
- Uses the foundational knowledge and skills as a basis for continue learning, either in school or outside of school.
believed in students learning to learn on their own. In the quote given
below, he provided advice to a person who wanted to study for the law
(become a lawyer):
"All that is necessary for a student is
access to a library, and directions in what order the books are to be
read. This [list] I will take the liberty of suggesting to you, …”
Looking at More Current
I think that Thomas Jefferson would be pleased by the progress we have
made in the first three grades of schooling helping students to learn
the rudiments of reading, writing, and arithmetic, and free public
education for all.
Our educational system well understands the
idea of learning to read well enough so that one can read to learn.
This transition in emphasis tends to begin about the fourth grade and
it is expected that by the end of the seventh grade students will be
relatively good at reading to learn.
However, reading to
learn is a major challenge to many students. Thus, multimedia aids have
been welcomed into our educational system. Moreover, an “oral
tradition” approach to education continues to play a major role—in some
disciplines more than others. For example, relatively few of today’s
high school students have learned to read math well enough so that they
can learn math by reading. My personal feeling is that this represents
a major flaw in our math education system.
world also has brought us the Web, a huge and rapidly growing global
virtual library. While significant parts of this library charge for
access, there is a huge amount of free material available. See, for
. You also might find the following article to be of interest: Universities will be 'irrelevant' by 2020, professor says. See http://www.deseretnews.com/article/705298649/Universities-will-be-irrelevant.html
latter article describes the situation of the detailed content (for
example, via video recordings of classroom lectures) of more and more
courses being made available free on the Web.
And, of course,
distance learning courses and programs of study are available for all
levels of schooling. Gradually, high quality computer-assisted learning
materials are being developed that can make significant contributions
to such “traditional” coursework. Already, students can make use of
distance learning and CAL to earn a high school diploma, an
undergraduate college degree, and a variety of master’s and doctoral
Looking into the
There are many reasons why our current educational system is what it
is. A traditional school is a place where students, human resources,
library resources, and other resources are brought together in one
place. In that place, students can readily interact with each other,
with their teachers, and with the resources.
Now, many of the
resources are online. Students and faculty can communicate with each
other online. Many different resources can be shared via connectivity
over the Internet. For example, it is now possible for research
scientists and a growing number of students to access and control
research equipment at a distance. It is now routine for teams of
researchers (consisting of people, computers, and a variety of pieces
of research equipment) to be located throughout the world, but to be
working together on a problem or task.
A modern education
system can prepare students for the lifelong learning challenges they
will face as they continue in school after they leave school. Right
now, this poses a major and largely unmet challenge to most school
This is an educational problem that lends itself to
both a top down and a bottom up approach. Each individual person can
help address this educational challenge. You can address this challenge
in your own ongoing lifelong education, and you can help the people
(including students) that you interact with.
About Information Age
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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
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