This free Information
Age Education Newsletter is written by Dave Moursund and Bob
Sylwester, and produced by Ken Loge. The newsletter is one component of
Age Education project.
All back issues of the newsletter and subscription information are available online.
In addition, three free books based on the newsletters are
available: Consciousness and
Morality: Recent Research Developments, Creating an Appropriate 21st
Century Education, and Common
Core State Standards for Education in America.
This final issue of the 2013 IAE Newsletter brings you best
wishes from the editors for a Happy New Year. It also interrupts the
current sequence that focuses on Complexity in order to introduce the
new 2014 series on “Education for Students’ Futures,” and to invite our
readers to contribute articles for this new series. The remaining three
newsletters in the Complexity series will be published in January and
mid-February of 2014.
Education for Students’ Futures
Part 1: Introduction
Emeritus Professor of Education
University of Oregon
During most of the year 2014, the
IAE Newsletter will focus on “Education for Students’ Futures,” a
series that will explore many possible futures for our educational
systems. We are seeking authors who will contribute their ideas and
speculations for major changes to improve the educational systems of
their states, nations, and the world. If you have ideas that you want
to share with a large audience, contact David Moursund or Robert Sylwester.
We will tend to be publishing contributed articles on a “first come,
first served” basis. However, we will also be organizing the
newsletters into a collection of short books to be published by
Information Age Education. See examples of recent IAE Newsletter-based
books at http://iae-pedia.org/IAE_Newsletter.
The unifying theme of the coming futures-oriented series of newsletters
is forecasting and understanding possible educational changes that have
the potential to significantly improve education. Changes might be in
content, teaching processes, assessment, or some other aspect of
A “good” article will include one or more such forecasts, research to
support the ideas in the forecast(s), and a discussion of what will
need to happen in order to successfully implement the suggested changes.
Some Examples of Potential Newsletter Topics
Education Begins in the Home
We know that a great deal of a child’s education occurs in his or her
home and comes from parents, guardians, close relatives, caregivers,
siblings, and friends. As we make progress in improving the overall
education of our population, we also improve the informal home
education environments, and thus we improve the education of children.
We know that a successful policy of universal education and of
providing every home with aids to education (such as making hard copy
and electronic books readily available) leads to improvements in
education. Via research we can compare and contrast this approach with
one of providing all homes with easy access to entertainment-oriented
television, Web-based audio/video, electronic games, and social
networking connectivity. Which approach best supports improvements in
our current educational systems? Is this wave of electronic technology
entertainment negating progress in universal education?
With these, as with many other aspects of informal and formal
education, we can ask, “What does the research show?” What can we do to
better and more broadly implement changes in home environments that the
research shows will improve our educational systems?
For thousands of years, a child grew up in a small clan or tribe, and
assimilated the culture of this small group. Gradually, populations
increased, travel became easier, and the “size” of a particular
cultural group grew. Now we have cultural groups whose membership
dominates an entire country or region of the world, and also
constitutes a significant percentage of the population of many other
In addition, we have new types of cultural groups made possible by
computer technology. Social networking provides a good example.
Facebook’s membership is more than a seventh of the world’s total
population. Through Facebook and other social networks, a person may
have dozens, hundreds, or thousands of “friends.”
We also have computer game cultures. Some networked computer games have
millions of players immersed in the culture of a particular game. For
players who are deeply immersed, the game becomes a part of their
culture and everyday life.
In brief summary, many children are now growing up to be multicultural
in the traditional definition of a culture, and also multicultural in
terms of participating actively in multiple social networks and gaming
networks. How does and/or should this affect our educational system?
Individualization of Instruction
Since the development of reading and writing, a small number of
students have had the advantage of individual tutors. This one-on-one
mode of teaching and learning is the “gold standard” of education.
As our societies made the decision to educate a much larger percentage
of their children, schools were developed in which an individual
teacher taught classes of a large number of students. This is much less
expensive than providing each student with one or more tutors. However,
it also is much less effective.
We now have the technology to provide students with “computer tutors.”
A computer tutor has some characteristics of a human tutor, and it can
provide a great deal of individualization. At the current time, many
schools are providing students with a mixture of human-based teaching
in classes of 20 to 40 or more students, combined with more
individualized computer-based instruction. The computer-based
instructional systems are becoming better and more available. What does
the future hold for Highly Interactive, Individualized, Intelligent
Open Computer Assessment
For our final example, consider the issue of “open computer, open
connectivity” assessment. We now expect students to make routine use of
computers when they are studying and doing assignments. Open
connectivity is now common in the workplace and in the everyday life of
a significant portion of the world’s population. Will it or should it
become common in student assessment? This question provides a good
example of past-oriented versus future-oriented education. We have a
major schism between what is going on in our schools today versus what
is going on in the everyday lives of children and adults outside of
There is general agreement that the various educational systems
throughout the world are not as good as they could or should be.
Moreover, there are substantial differences in opinions as to what
constitutes a good education. The opinions of the various major
stakeholder groups change over time. In a time when the world is
changing quite rapidly, the educational needs of people are also
changing, even while many stakeholder groups stick to their long-held
beliefs about what constitutes a good education.
I view each person as a unique individual who is both a lifelong
learner and a lifelong teacher. Every act of communication between two
people helps both the receiver and the sender to learn. Through
informal and formal education, each of us becomes better as a learner
and as a teacher. Thus, educating a larger percentage of the earth’s
population and educating them in greater depth can improve our overall
This short discussion suggests a topic quite suitable for one or more
newsletters in the new “futures” series. Can we improve education
through educating each student to be a better learner and a better
teacher? What research helps to answer this question? What evidence do
we have of successful wide-scale implementation of the specific
instruction of all students to be both teachers and learners? We are
eagerly seeking authors with knowledge on this topic who are interested
in sharing their knowledge.
Past and Future Orientation
I think of education as a very complex and challenging endeavor for
both professional educators and the rest of the world’s population. So,
I often attempt to make broad, sweeping generalizations in an attempt
to simplify things. For example, I tend to divide education into 1)
education that is oriented toward the past, and 2) education that is
oriented toward the future. Education oriented toward the past seeks to
preserve and pass on history, culture, and lessons learned through the
many thousands of years of human history. Education oriented toward the
future seeks to help prepare students to be responsible and productive
grownups in an ever more rapidly changing world.
During times when the world is changing little from generation to
generation, an education that is strongly past-oriented serves the
population well. The focus can be on making only slight improvements in
doing what has been working reasonably well in the past.
Over thousands of years, the pace of human-related change has been
increasing. Examples of major changes include the development of
agriculture, the development of reading and writing, the industrial
revolution, and the information age. To many of us, the current pace of
technological change seems overwhelming. See What the Future is Bringing Us.
We are also beset with changes such as rapid population growth, wide
scale poverty, increasing environmental problems, global warming, and
the potentials of worldwide spread of diseases. How do these changes
affect our educational systems and our endeavors to improve education?
During these 5,000 years we have developed both technology and teaching
methods that make universal literacy feasible. The printing press is an
example of such technology. As might be expected, however, we have not
decided on a “one, best” way to teach reading and writing. But, we have
made considerable progress in bringing literacy to large populations of
quite diverse learners. Our research has helped us to devise teaching
methodologies that better fit the various needs of all our students.
The reading/writing example is illustrative of all technology-based
change. A problem is identified. Human intelligence develops a way to
address the problem. The pace and breadth of adoption of a proposed
solution may be quite slow, but it also can be quite fast. The
development and wide-scale implementation of polio vaccines provide a
good example of a quite rapid implementation of a solution to a major
medical problem. Our educational system has never experienced such a
remarkable worldwide success. For example, see the seven-part IAE
Newsletter series on Education and Health Care; the first article is
issue number 45 in the list available at http://i-a-e.org/iae-newsletter.html.
Teaching all students to read and write does not solve the overall
education problem, any more than teaching all students to cover their
sneezes and wash their hands before meals solves all health problems.
In addition, the read/write problem is exacerbated by Information and
Communication Technology (ICT) that can aid in teaching/learning to
read and write–but can also significantly decrease some of the
traditional needs for reading and writing (why read the book, just
watch the video or listen to the audio recording). ICT often takes
students’ minds and interests away from the usual schooling endeavors.
We are living at a time in which the pace of change of our formal
schooling system is not keeping pace with the pace of changes in the
world. There is a growing schism between the potential and the
actualities that most students face. Remember, if you have ideas
related to any of these topics that you want to share, please contact David Moursund or Robert Sylwester. In addition, as each newsletter is published, you will have the opportunity to add comments.
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