Information Age Education
   Issue Number 156
February, 2015   

This free Information Age Education Newsletter is edited by Dave Moursund and Bob Sylwester, and produced by Ken Loge. The newsletter is one component of the Information Age Education (IAE) publications.

All back issues of the newsletter and subscription information are available online. In addition, four free books based on the newsletters are available: Understanding and Mastering Complexity; Consciousness and Morality: Recent Research Developments; Creating an Appropriate 21st Century Education; and Common Core State Standards for Education in America.

This issue of the IAE Newsletter is the last of the series on Education for Student’s Futures.

Education for Students' Futures
Part 19: The Future through Quotations

David Moursund
Professor Emeritus
College of Education
University of Oregon

"We may not be able to prepare the future for our children, but we can at least prepare our children for the future." (Franklin D. Roosevelt; 32nd President of the United States; 1882-1945.)

“The purpose of education, finally, is to create in a person the ability to look at the world for him/herself.” (James Baldwin; American novelist, playwright, and civil rights activist; 1924-1987.)

“Human history becomes, more and more, a race between education and catastrophe.” (H.G. Wells; English science fiction author; 1866-1946.)

The quote from Franklin D. Roosevelt captures two important ideas:
  1. Our world is changing and we do not have as much control over these changes as we might like. Think about the time of Roosevelt’s Presidency. He began his Presidency in 1932, near the height of the U.S.’s Great Depression. He died in office in 1945, near the end of WWII. There were huge changes in the world during that time.

  2. We should provide our children with an education that prepares them for change—that provides them with the flexibility and capabilities to deal with unforeseen events and circumstances. The pace of change in our world increased rapidly during the Industrial Age that began about 250 years ago, and still more rapidly since the Information Age began in 1956.

To me, these two ideas suggest that we should do our best to make accurate forecasts of what will come from the rapid changes in our world that have been going on and show no signs of slowing. Our educational system should help prepare students for these types of changes, but also give them knowledge, skills, and flexible habits of mind that can help them to adjust to unforeseen changes. We know, for example, the number of well-paying middle class jobs is declining and that an increasing number of jobs are being done by robots and/or being outsourced to other countries.

Quotations

For many years I have been collecting quotations that resonate with my own views (Moursund, 2015). Each conveys a message that seems important to me. Each quote is from the past, and each is designed to pass on insights and wisdom to the future. As I read from my collection of quotations, I am always amazed by how smart their authors were!

I think of each quotation in my collection as a very short story and I often make use of the quotations in my writing. This final newsletter in the Education for Students’ Futures series consists of some future-oriented quotations from my collection. For each, I provide a short commentary that represents some of my beliefs about the future of education. The paragraphs after the Roosevelt quotation given above provide an example that I replicate several times in the remainder of this newsletter.

Rights of the Child

“Mankind owes to the child the best it has to give.” (United Nations Declaration of the Rights of the Child, 1959.)

“Education must be increasingly concerned about the fullest development of all children and youth, and it will be the responsibility of the school to seek learning conditions that enable each individual to reach the highest level of learning possible for her or him.” (Benjamin S. Bloom; American educational psychologist; 1913-1999.) Also see http://chapters.rowmaneducation.com/15/788/1578862434ch1.pdf.

“The most dangerous experiment we can conduct with our children is to keep schooling the same at a time when every other aspect of our society is dramatically changing.” (Chris Dede; American computer educator and futurist; from written statement to the PCAST panel, 1997.)

I believe that our current educational system and most of the on-going attempts to reform it are backward looking rather than forward looking. They focus on improving and doing better most of the same things we have been doing in the past. They do not focus on how the world has changed and the very rapid changes that continue to occur.

As I have pointed out in my IAE newsletters 145 and 146, the future will provide all students with teaching machines that can access much of the collected knowledge of the human race and provide high-quality interactive (just in time, when this is appropriate) instruction. We can prepare students for this future by giving them instruction and practice in learning in this new environment. In this type of instruction, students learn to pose researchable questions, search for and then select credible and valid answers, and understand and use the information they are retrieving.

What People Do Better than Computers

“The ability to deal with people is as purchasable a commodity as sugar or coffee and I will pay more for that ability than for any other under the sun.” (John D. Rockefeller; American industrialist and philanthropist; 1839-1937.)

"The Gross National Product does not include the beauty of our poetry or the intelligence of our public debate. It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion. It measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.” (Robert F. Kennedy; American statesman; 1925-1968.)

Education is a human endeavor. It is far more than preparing students to score well on a state, national, or international test. Indeed, I believe that our current emphasis on high-stakes tests is seriously damaging our educational system.

Education has many generally accepted goals. For one example, see the Appendix: Goals for Education in the United States in Common Core States Standards for K-12 Education in America (Moursund & Sylwester, 2013).  All 14 goals listed there are more “lofty” than scoring well on a few high-stakes tests. For example, compare learning to learn and becoming an independent, self-sufficient lifelong learner with scoring well on high stakes tests.

The success of IBM’s Watson computer in the TV game of Jeopardy suggests that we can now build computer systems that can outscore students on these types of tests (Moursund, 2/9/2011). Of course, that would be a silly use of research and development dollars. Since its success in Jeopardy, IBM has been investing heavily in developing computer systems that can work with humans in helping to solve medical and business problems (Moursund, 9/23/2012). A future-looking educational system will prepare students to work effectively with such computer capabilities rather than trying to learn to compete against them.

The basic issue is that humans can do many things better than computers, computers can do many things better than humans, and the two working together can perform better than either alone. Therein lies the future of education.

Learning by Being Involved and Doing

"I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand." (Confucius; Chinese thinker and social philosopher; 551 BC-479 BC.)

“We discovered that education is not something which the teacher does, but that it is a natural process which develops spontaneously in the human being. It is not acquired by listening to words, but in virtue of experiences in which the child acts on his environment. The teacher's task is not to talk, but to prepare and arrange a series of motives for cultural activity in a special environment made for the child.” (Maria Montessori; Italian physician, educator, philosopher, and humanitarian; 1870-1952.)

“People rarely succeed unless they have fun in what they are doing.” (Dale Carnegie; American writer and lecturer; 1888-1955.)

“Nothing could be more absurd than an experiment in which computers are placed in a classroom where nothing else is changed.” (Seymour Papert; South African/American mathematician, computer scientist, and educator; 1928-.)

I like to ask children, “What did you learn in school today?” and “What did you do in school today that was fun?” I am bothered by how often I hear answers suggesting school is boring, school is not fun, and similar disparaging remarks. When students tell me something that they studied that day, I ask the student to teach me some of what they learned. I often detect little enthusiasm or interest in the topic on the part of the student. I am reminded of the Dale Carnegie quote given above.

We know that people learn by doing things that are of interest to them. Some of what we teach in school immediately empowers students and is inherently (intrinsically) interesting and applicable in the “here and now” of a student’s life. Much is not.

Thus, it is not surprising that many students would rather engage in computer-based or face-to-face social networking, browse the Web, play computer games, or carry on other activities that provide active engagement and are more interesting and fun than what the teacher is saying and doing.

For myself, I find learning to be both fun and hard work. How can we design our educational system to be sufficiently fun and intrinsically motivating so that it will challenge students to overcome the obstacle of the necessary continuing hard work? We see this occurring in competitive sports, music and dance, and many other learning situations in which students choose to participate and seek to improve their knowledge and skills.

I am reminded of a College of Education Dean whom I met a number of years ago. His doctorate was in Music Education. When he was in the sixth grade he convinced his principal that he should be allowed to drop his math class in order to provide more time for studying and practicing music. At that time in his life, music seemed much more important than math. (I presume he eventually took more math or learned it on his own, as being a Dean certainly requires more than elementary school math.)

Final Remarks

“Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information upon it.” (Samuel Johnson; British author and father of the English dictionary; 1709-1784.)

If Samuel Johnson were alive today, he would likely add to his statement:

Skills also are of two kinds. We know a skill ourselves, or we can learn to do it and to use the requisite tools humans have developed.

Johnson might also note we know how to earn money to hire someone to do the things that we know need to be done, things that we do not have the knowledge, skill, time, or inclination to do them ourselves.

I think the following quote reaches far back in our history to provide a suitable ending to this newsletter and to the series:

"The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new." (Socrates; Greek philosopher; circa 469 BCE-399 BCE.)

References


Moursund, D. (2015). Quotations collected by David Moursund. IAE-pedia. Retrieved 1/29/2015 from http://iae-pedia.org/Quotations_Collected_by_David_Moursund.

Moursund, D. (9/23/2012). The future of IBM’s Watson computer system. IAE Blog. Retrieved 1/29/2015 from http://i-a-e.org/iae-blog/entry/the-future-of-ibm-s-watson-computer-system.html.

Moursund, D. (2/9/2011). Game of Jeopardy: Computer versus humans. IAE Blog. Retrieved 1/29/2015 from http://i-a-e.org/iae-blog/entry/game-of-jeopardy-computer-versus-humans.html.

Moursund, D., & Sylwester, R., eds. (2013). Common core states standards for K-12 education in America. Eugene, OR: Information Age Education. Free downloads. Microsoft Word: http://i-a-e.org/downloads/doc_download/249-common-core-state-standards-for-k-12-education-in-america.html. PDF: http://i-a-e.org/downloads/doc_download/249-common-core-state-standards-for-k-12-education-in-america.html.


Author

David Moursund is an Emeritus Professor of Education at the University of Oregon, and coeditor of the IAE Newsletter. His professional career includes founding the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) in 1979, serving as ISTE’s executive officer for 19 years, and establishing ISTE’s flagship publication, Learning and Leading with Technology. He was the major professor or co-major professor for 82 doctoral students. He has presented hundreds of professional talks and workshops. He has authored or coauthored more than 60 academic books and hundreds of articles. Many of these books are available free online. See http://iaepedia.org/David_Moursund_Books. In 2007, Moursund founded Information Age Education (IAE). IAE provides free online educational materials via its IAE-pedia, IAE Newsletter, IAE Blog, and books. See http://iaepedia.org/Main_Page#IAE_in_a_Nutshell.
Email: moursund@uoregon.edu.

Reader Comments

We are using the Disqus commenting system to facilitate comments and discussions pertaining to this newsletter. To use Disqus, please click the Login link below and sign in. If you have questions about how to use Disqus, please refer to this help page.


Readers may also send comments via email directly to moursund@uoregon.edu and bobsyl@uoregon.edu.

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. Current IAE activities and free materials include the IAE-pedia at http://iae-pedia.org, a Website containing free books and articles at http://i-a-e.org/, a Blog at http://i-a-e.org/iae-blog.html, and the free newsletter you are now reading. See all back issues of the Blog at http://iae-pedia.org/IAE_Blog and all back issues of the Newsletter at http://i-a-e.org/iae-newsletter.html.