Information Age Education
   Issue Number 30
November, 2009   

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.

Informal and formal education help to prepare a leaner for the future. Our school system attempts to predict the future as part of the information needed to develop appropriate curriculum to use in our schools.

I spend quite a bit of time reading future-oriented materials. From time to time a document seems particularly interesting to me, and I add it to the Information Age Education Wiki at http://iae-pedia.org/What_the_Future_is_Bringing_Us.

The Association for Computing Machinery publishes a free newsletter three times a week. See http://www.acm.org/news/featured/free-technews to subscribe to this newsletter.

I am a subscriber. I browse the titles of each of the items in the newsletter. If the title seems relevant to my interests, I read the first couple of sentences of the paragraph-length summary of the article provided in the newsletter. If that seems relevant to my interests, I go to the linked article and read part or all of it. If I think the information will be of interest to my readers, I make an addition to the Wiki entry listed above and/or include the information in my other writings.

My Five-Step Process

Notice the steps I have described. For the ACM newsletter:
  1. I signed up for this free electronic newsletters a long time ago, because it fits with my general interests in the field of Computer and Information Science. I am committed to continuing to add to my professional knowledge in that discipline.
  2. I browse the titles of content in each newsletter. I make quite rapid “go, no go” decisions. For the ACM newsletter, typically I immediately reject about 2/3 of the content based just on the titles.
  3. I read the first couple of sentences of the paragraph-length summaries of the articles that have catch my attention. For each of the brief summaries, I make a “go, no go” decision. A “go” decision is to read the whole brief summary and/or to go to the article.
  4. If I go to the article, I generally read only a part of it—but I occasionally read the whole thing. That is, I am continually dealing with information overload and not enough time to read all of the good materials that are available.
  5. If the article is somewhat future-oriented and particularly relevant to my interests in educational aspects of the discipline of Computer and Information Science, I make an addition to my Wiki at http://iae-pedia.org/What_the_Future_is_Bringing_Us.
In addition, I may make use of the article in my other writing. See the remainder of this IAE Newsletter.

An Example

Here is the list of items in the November 16, 2009 ACM Newsletter.
  1. Supercomputers With 100 Million Cores Coming By 2018
  2. Disease-Matching Software Could Save Children
  3. ECS Researchers Present Learning Technologies in USA
  4. Contact Lenses to Get Built-In Virtual Graphics
  5. Working Together to Design Robust Silicon Chips
  6. Intel Says Shape-Shifting Robots Closer to Reality
  7. Stanford-Led Research Helps Overcome Barrier for Organic Electronics
  8. How Secure Is Cloud Computing?
  9. What Computer Science Can Teach Economics
  10. Tough Choices for Supercomputing's Legacy Applications
  11. New 'finFETs' Promising for Smaller Transistors, More Powerful Chips
  12. Jaguar Supercomputer Races Past Roadrunner in Top500
  13. It's All Semantics: Searching for an Intuitive Internet That Knows What Is Said—and Meant
As I skim this list, I draw on my knowledge and interest in education, the future, and the field of Computer and Information Science. Remember, in this case I am making quick decisions about 13 published articles.

The title of the first article gives me all of the information I need. It is a forecast that super computers will become more and more capable by the process of adding more and more micro-processors. I already know that year-by-year these micro-processors become faster. My mind does a loop-de-loop as it struggles with the idea of a hundred million micro-processors, (each with a speed of a number of billions of operations a second) working on a problem. I think about computers getting better and better at dealing with very complex problems such as simulation of the human brain, better weather forecasting and global climate forecasting, simulation of the actions of the billions of people who populate the earth, and so on. How does one educate students for life in a world in which significant progress is being made in studying such very complex and challenging problems? What does the ordinary person need to know about computer modeling and simulation?

This constructivist thinking firmly embeds the number 100 million processors into my brain, and I go on to the next title.

The second article interests me and I read its short summary. It discusses computer software that is better than well-trained doctors at dealing with a large collection of symptoms of a patient and prescribing appropriate treatment. I have long been interested in artificial intelligence. This is an example of continued progress in the area. I wonder briefly how such software is changing medical education and medial treatments. I think about how progress in this area of AI will affect the ability of people to self-diagnose (with the use of such software) an increasing number of their medical problems. Alternatively, perhaps much of the diagnostic work that ordinary doctors now do will be done by a technician or nurse.

In the third title, I don’t know what ECS is. I spend a few seconds reading the first sentence of the article:

Researchers from the University of Southampton's School of Electronics and Computer Science (ECS) presented the most recent developments in the school's Learning Societies Lab at a recent symposium at the IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center.

This provides me with a general reaffirmation that countries and companies throughout the world are continuing to make significant contributions to the steadily growing accumulated knowledge of the human race. I briefly reflect on issues of information overload and how one designs an educational system to prepare students for this continuing very rapid growth in the totality of human knowledge.

The fourth article catches my attention. Wow! Embedding virtual reality capabilities into one’s contact lenses. The details don’t interest me. Rather, it is the general idea that virtual realities are becoming more readily available. It reminds me of the Star Trek Holodeck. What will our education system be like when students can routinely be immersed in virtual realities in that are representative of some of the people, places, things, and environments that they are studying?

Final Remarks

As you can see, I could easily extend this into a very long article. The ACM materials that I read point to continuing rapid change in computer technology and in computer-based problem solving. There are clear, general patterns of the changes that are occurring.

In summary, computers are getting faster. New, very powerful applications software is being developed. The totality of readily accessible accumulated human knowledge is growing. More and more of the accumulated knowledge is being collected in a form that computers can use to help solve problems. Computer-based aids to representing and solving problems are getting more and more powerful. Artificially intelligent problem-solving systems are getting better than humans in a variety of areas.


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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