|Issue Number 28||
Reading, Writing, Arithmetic, and Problem Solving
One way to think about reading, writing, and arithmetic is their roles in representing and solving problems. Reading, writing, and arithmetic are powerful aids to the accumulation of information and to making use of accumulated information to help represent and solve problems in all disciplines.
There are two very important ideas here:
about the first of these two items. The Internet and other
communication systems are bringing steadily improving connectivity to
the world. You are familiar with the Web as being a dynamic, virtual
library that is by far the largest library in the world and that
continues to grow very rapidly. The Web is a component of the Internet,
and the Internet provides lots of different powerful aids to
communication between people, between people and machines and between
In designing a modern education system, it is reasonable to forecast continued steady improvement in something akin to the Internet and the Web, and in various aids to accessing , making use of, and contributing to the Web.
Thus, we need to look at our current K-12 educational system and analyze it in terms of how well it is preparing students for a responsible and productive adult life in which adults can readily communicate with each other, with machines, and with virtual libraries that are steadily growing “smarter.”
The last sentence brings us to item 2 in the above list. We now live in a world in which information is processed (problems are solved) both by human brains and by computer “brains.” See http://iae-pedia.org/Two_Brains_Are_Better_Than_One. How well is our education system doing in preparing students for responsible and productive adulthood in a world in which many of the problems and tasks they will face are best addressed by making appropriate use of a combination of human and computer brains? What constitutes a good math education in light of the ready availability of calculators, computers, and computerized tools? This is a very challenging question.
Some Relevant Forecasts of Information Processing Technology
Essentially every week brings new announcements of significant progress
and/or forecasted progress in Information and Communicating Technology.
Computers are getting faster. Storage systems of greater capacity are
being developed. Communication systems are getting faster and reaching
more people. Information retrieval systems and computer systems are
One way to think about this increase in overall capability and smartness is the improving ability of artificially intelligent systems to directly answer questions and solve problems that people pose. For example, think about the question, “How do I get from where I am now to the nearest pizza eatery?” GPS and related technology on a handheld cell phone can deal with this type of question. Wolfram Alpha has received a lot of publicity for its question answering capabilities, and we can expect that it and other competing systems will steadily improve over time. See http://www.wolframalpha.com/.
Thus, a good modern education includes a focus on understanding the capabilities and limitations of question-answering computer systems, and how to pose answerable questions.
The previous issue of this Information Age Education Newsletter
addressed some aspects of National Standards in education. To a large
extent, such proposed National Standards, along with our current focus
on state and national testing, are not paying enough attention to the
future. In essence, they focus on doing better what we have been doing
in the past. The world is changing much more rapidly than its
About Information Age Education, Inc.
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.
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