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Moursund and Bob Sylwester, and produced by Ken Loge. The newsletter is
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This is the second of a
series of IAE Newsletters exploring educational aspects of the current
cognitive neuroscience and technological revolution. Bob Sylwester
(Newsletter #75) and Dave Moursund (Newsletter #76) provide two
introductory articles. These will be followed by a long series of
“Guest” articles written by a broad collection of experts in the field.
For the most part, these guest articles will focus on cognitive
neuroscience. However, Dave Moursund will provide Information and
Communication Technology follow-up commentary to the articles. In
addition, readers are invited to send their comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We encourage you to tell your colleagues and students about the free
IAE Newsletter. Free back issues and subscription information are
available at http://i-a-e.org/iae-newsletter.html.
an Appropriate 21st Century Education Part 2: Information and Communication
“Computers are incredibly
fast, accurate, and stupid. Human beings are incredibly slow,
inaccurate, and brilliant. Together they are powerful beyond
imagination.” (This quote is often mistakenly attributed to Albert
Einstein; most likely the correct attribution is Leo Cherne at the
Discover America Meeting, Brussels, June 27, 1968.)
“Humans now routinely use three types of brains: their ‘meat’ brain;
paper and pencil brain; and computer brain. Three brains are
better than one.” (David Moursund; 1936–.)
Since long before recorded history, humans have used their
capabilities to discover and invent tools that enhanced their physical
and mental capabilities. Comprehensive oral communication is one of
More than 10,000 years ago, some groups of humans started the
Agricultural Age. This was a game changer—agriculture has facilitated
huge changes in our lives and world.
About 5,000 years ago, humans developed reading and writing. The
accumulation of information and the use of reading/writing to access
and process the information greatly augmented the capabilities of a
About 240 years ago the Industrial Revolution was just getting started.
Quoting from the Wikipedia:
The Industrial Revolution
marks a major turning point in human history; almost every aspect of
daily life was influenced in some way. Most notably, average income and
population began to exhibit unprecedented sustained growth. In the two
centuries following 1800, the world's average per capita income
increased over 10-fold, while the world's population increased over
6-fold. In the words of Nobel Prize winner Robert E. Lucas, Jr., "For
the first time in history, the living standards of the masses of
ordinary people have begun to undergo sustained growth ... Nothing
remotely like this economic behavior has happened before".
About 60 years ago, the first electronic digital computers became
commercially available. Information and Communication Technology (ICT)
can be thought of as a way of combining the power of reading and
writing with the power of machines. We now routinely automate complex
mental and physical processes. Moreover, we routinely use our
automated mental and physical in research, development, and
implementation that increase the pace of change in our world.
ICT and Education
It is amusing to look back at the first commercially produced
electronic digital computers. In retrospect, they were more like
glorified calculators than what we now think of as being a computer. In
the past 60 years, the cost-effectiveness of computers has improved by
a factor of well over one billion! Many of today’s cell phones have
computing power than the multimillion-dollar super computers of 30
ago. Moreover, these cell phones not only provide us with
person-to-person communication, they also tie in with the Web. Thus,
people have easy access to the world's largest library of print and
multimedia materials, and also the computing power and capabilities of
So how might ICT affect education, and how is ICT affecting education?
As with all research and development efforts that might have a
significant impact on education, there is the issue of “theory into
practice.” Our formal educational systems are very resistant to change.
Way back in 1980, Bob Taylor wrote a computers in education book titled
The Computer in the School: Tutor,
The book was a collection of papers on use of computer as a teaching
tool (tutor), use of computer as an aid to solving problems (tool), and
use of a computer as a device that people could instruct (i.e., write
programs for) (tutee). He also thought about adding a fourth section
with the title of Toy.
Although the role of computers in entertainment was already well
established and was beginning to affect education, this was not yet a
“scholarly, academic” topic for a scholarly book to be published by
Columbia University’s Teachers College Press.
Here is a more modern list of key aspects of computers in education
currently affecting education and/or likely to strongly affect
education in the 21st century:
Learning (ICAL) systems.
ICAL systems are better than human teachers in certain components of
instruction and assessment, and they are steadily growing in
capabilities. When integrated as a component of distance learning, we
have a game changer. The vision is high quality, Highly
Interactive Computer-assisted Learning (HIICAL) being made
available to all students throughout the world.
Access to information and aids
in processing/using the information.
The Web is not only the world’s largest library, it is also a steadily
growing set of tools that can solve or help solve problems. Perhaps the
single best example of this is Wolfram Alpha (n.d.). Ask this system a
question and it uses a combination of artificial intelligence, immense
amounts of stored informational and access to information, and huge
computing power in an attempt to answer the question. The system
gets better through analysis of successes and failures, research in
artificial intelligence, and so on.
Automation of mental and
physical jobs being done by people.
The Industrial Revolution substantially increased productivity of
humans doing physical work. ICT is doing the same thing for mental
jobs, as well as helping in continuing efforts to automate physical
jobs. You have repeatedly heard the statement that we must educate
students for the “jobs of the future that have not yet been created.” A
variation of this is that education should not focus on educating
students for the current jobs that will eventually be done by computers
and computerized machines.
Steady improvement in
attention-grabbing and attention-holding multimedia entertainment.
One way to think about such forms of entertainment are its addiction
capabilities. The carefully crafted instant gratification and
longer-term addiction characteristics of such entertainment have
already greatly changed how younger people (and indeed, many
not-so-young people) spend their time. When we add in instant
messaging, social networking, and other computerized aids to
communication and entertainment, we see that schools are fighting an
uphill battle for students' time and minds.
Working in partnership with ICT
See the IAE-pedia articles by Moursund: 1) Two brains are better than
one; 2) Computational thinking. What ICT is doing is making it easier
and easier for humans to collaborate with each other and with
computers. We need an educational system in which students learn to
work in such collaborate efforts to deal with the problems and tasks in
our everyday world.
Voice input to computers is now relatively common, and progress is
occurring in making it possible for a person’s brainwaves to control a
computer. Some popular commercially available games now use gestures as
input to a computer system.
A steadily increasing pace of
Progress in the various technologies feeds on itself. In the past, the
pace of technological “progress” was very slow. A hunter-gatherer might
have to adjust to a better spear or stone hammer. An early farmer might
have to adjust to a new type of crop being farmed or a new type of
domesticated animal being raised. The pace of change increased rapidly
Industrial Revolution and has increased still more rapidly since the
beginnings of the Information Age in the mid 1950s. To a large extent,
our educational system is backward looking rather than forward looking.
It is not designed to prepare students for a lifetime of continued
In brief summary, we need an educational system with the following
It prepares students to be independent, intrinsically motivated,
It prepares students to deal with a rapid pace of change both in
technology-related areas and in the world as a whole. Students face a
life in which issues of sustainability, global warming, population
problems, and huge inequities among people within various countries and
between countries are continuing and growing problems. Computer
technology plays a major role in contributing to these problems and as
a possible aid in dealing with these problems.
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