Information Age Education
   Issue Number 197
November, 2016   

This free Information Age Education Newsletter is edited by Dave Moursund 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, six free books based on the newsletters are available: Validity and Credibility of Information; Education for Students’ Futures; 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.

Ongoing and New World Problems

David Moursund
Emeritus Professor of Education
University of Oregon

“The future is here. It's just not widely distributed yet.” (William Gibson; American-Canadian writer who coined the term “cyberspace” in his short story “Burning Chrome” and later popularized the concept in his debut novel, Neuromancer; 1948-.)"

“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 BC-399 BC.)"

This is the third in a sequence of five IAE Newsletters focusing on possible changes designed to significantly improve our educational systems. The first explored Robert Branson’s Upper Limit Hypothesis (Branson, 1987). Branson argues that it will take a major paradigm shift (probably based on computer technology) to significantly improve educational outcomes.

The second of the newsletters explored some of the challenges of setting and improving educational goals, effectively implementing our educational goals, and developing good measures of how well we are achieving the goals. Remember, every student is unique, and education is a very complex and challenging endeavor.

This third newsletter lists and briefly discusses a number of ongoing and new changes in our world. These are affecting and/or probably should be affecting education.

Past, Present, and Future Problems

For a child, life is full of new things. That’s just the way it is. For those of us adults who have been around for a number of years, each day brings some new things, but there is also a lot of “same-o, same-o.”

We all know that today’s children are tomorrow’s adults, and so they need to be introduced to the major problems they will face as adults. Many of these problems are global. And, problem solving is a core component of each discipline that students study in school.

This IAE Newsletter lists and briefly discusses some of the global problems that I believe should be addressed in precollege education. This is not intended to be a comprehensive list. Rather, it is intended to illustrate the breadth and complexity of the world that we want our children to learn about.

One Historical Example

My father was born in 1901. Cars using internal combustion engines existed by then, but it was years before one first made it to his small town in Texas.

Think about some of the things you know about cars and trucks, gasoline and diesel fuel, highways, traffic accidents, and learning to be a safe and responsible driver. Think about the world’s oil production and distribution systems, wars motivated by gaining or maintaining access to oil, air pollution, and so on. Suppose you were a teacher a hundred years ago, but had relatively good foresight about what was to come in the world of ground transportation. What would you want your students to learn about this area?

While you are pondering this question, it may occur to you to ask the same question about ocean liners and airplanes. The internal combustion engine certainly was a world changer. Some of the changes have been for the better, and some have been quite bad. Hold these thoughts in mind as you think about some of the problems and changes our world (and schools) currently face.

World Problems

My recent Google search of the expression world problems produced well over 800 million results. Google provided me with links to articles such as the following:
  • Fifteen Major Current Environmental Problems (CFF, n.d.).

  • The Ten Biggest Problems in the World According to the European Union (Jardine, 10/7/2011). This article was written before Great Britain decided to withdraw from the European Union. However, the EU economic situation was number three in the list.

  • Ten Most Critical Problems in the World Today (Loudenback, 8/23/2016).

  • Top Ten Third World Problems (PEI Staff, 2016).

  • The World’s Biggest Problems (WBP, 2016).
I found it interesting to read and compare a number of different lists. There are considerable overlaps in the lists I examined.

I built my own list, and I hope you will build a personal list. By “personal,” I mean that items in your list are ones that you feel strongly enough about so that you are willing to expend some of your time, energy, and other resources to help address the problems.

Part of Dave Moursund’s List

Here is part of my list, with the items in alphabetical order.
  • Accountability and transparency at individual, corporate, organization, and government levels. (I want to know what they are doing for us and to us.)

  • Big and little brother and sister are watching you. Privacy is rapidly disappearing.

  • Climate change: global warming and changing weather patterns. (We humans have messed up the world’s climate and weather. Now we are trying to do something about this problem situation.)

  • Cognitive Neuroscience, especially as it applies to education and to quality of life.

  • Education for all, with special emphasis on worldwide education for disadvantaged people and women. Also, education to understand and appropriately be involved in dealing with the problems in this list.

  • Energy, with special emphasis on sustainable, non-polluting energy. (Will progress in science and technology substantially help in solving the world’s energy problems?)

  • Food, water, clothing, shelter, and other basics. Fresh water is a major and growing problem.

  • Gender inequalities.

  • Effective instructional uses of Information and Communication Technology (ICT). This is a yin and yang situation. It is discussed in detail in the next IAE Newsletter.

  • Medical care. How to provide all people with basic and more advanced medical care.

  • Pollution of air, land, and water.

  • Population growth and aging population.

  • Quality of life. Related topics include poverty, jobs and decent-paying jobs, and huge economic inequalities.

  • Racism and religious bigotry.

  • Shrinking world. Think in terms of transportation, communication, and competition for jobs.

  • Sustainability (species extinction). Conspicuous consumption is a related topic.

  • Terrorism at local levels; large-scale conflicts (war); refugees.

  • Weapons of mass destruction.
As you think about these problems, pick out one or more that really concerns you. For these, ask yourself what are you personally doing to help address the problems and what you think our schools should be teaching students about them.

I have selected two items from my list for further discussion in the remainder of this IAE Newsletter. A third, Information and Communication Technology ICT) will be discussed in the next newsletter.

#1: Climate Change

I live quite near the Pacific Ocean. A rising ocean, a massive earthquake, or a huge storm could devastate the region in which I live. The same can be said for 20 percent or so of the world’s (human) population. I have no reason to believe that humans cause earthquakes along major fault lines, but I am absolutely convinced that humans are a major contributor to rising oceans and substantial changes in the weather.

While each of us can do a little to help, this is a global problem. I have found it interesting to follow the machinations of individuals, companies, nations, and the whole world as they have come to grips with the seriousness of this problem. I am quite concerned that, so far, we are doing “too little, too late.”

The human race has survived and prospered through people learning to cooperate with each other in small groups, such as families, clans, and small tribes. We are not nearly so successful at city, state, national, and international levels.

It is pleasing to note that the Paris Accord on climate change has received enough votes to go into effect beginning November 4, 2016 (United Nations, 11/4/2016).

Formal and informal education, travel, and opportunities to get to know the “others” can all help. Schools provide an environment in which people from all kinds of backgrounds can learn to work together toward common goals. Schools in the United States (and in many other parts of the world) have vast opportunities for improvement in such endeavors. In terms of Upper Limit Theory, we have by no means reached our upper limits.

One very powerful approach to problem solving is to break a big problem into smaller, more manageable pieces. Climate change, as well as many of the other global problems, lend themselves to actions by individuals and small groups at the local level. Perhaps the following quote comes to your mind: “Think globally, act locally.” I believe such thinking should be thoroughly integrated into the education of our children.

#2. Quality of Life

Our world currently is making considerable progress in improving the average level of quality of life of its people. But, there are huge disparities. I see this all of the time where I live and as I travel. I am deeply saddened when I read about homeless and hungry school-age children in my city, state, and nation. I am constantly exposed to evidence of huge quality of life disparities throughout the world.

Our world has the resources and capabilities to greatly improve the average quality of life of all its people. This problem requires a combination of thinking and acting at the local community, city, state, nation, and international levels. There is plenty for all of us to do.

At a local school level, ponder these questions:
  • Why should any children come to school hungry, without adequate clothing and school supplies, and having spent a night without adequate shelter?

  • Why should any children leave school at the end of the day facing a night without appropriate food and shelter?

  • Why should any children be fearful of serious bullying injury, or death as they travel to and from school, or spend time in school?

  • Why should any students receive less than a good education due to inadequate school staffing and facilities?
You may want to add to the list. Each of us can learn about our local community. Each of us can help to think and act locally to help address such problems. And, each of us can support governments that are committed to addressing such problems at city, state, national, and global levels.

What You Can Do

Think both locally and globally. And take actions in situations where you strongly want to, and are able to, make a significant difference. Through your individual efforts, the world can become a better place for our children.

References and Resources

Branson, R.K. (1987). Why schools can’t improve: The upper limit hypothesis. Journal of Instructional Development. Retrieved 9/29/2016 from http://www.indiana.edu/~syschang/decatur/2007_fall/documents/1-1_3-2_branson_upper_limit.pdf.

CFF (n.d.). Fifteen major current environmental problems. Conserving Energy Futures. Retrieved 10/14/2016 from http://www.conserve-energy-future.com/15-current-environmental-problems.php.

Jardine, N. (10/7/2011). The 10 biggest problems in the world according to the European Union. Business Insider. Retrieved 10/13/2016 from http://www.businessinsider.com/the-10-biggest-problems-in-the-world-according-to-the-eu-2011-10.

Loudenback, T. (8/23/2016). The 10 most critical problems in the world, according to millennials. Business Insider. Retrieved 10/13/2016 from http://www.businessinsider.com/world-economic-forum-world-biggest-problems-concerning-millennials-2016-8.

Moursund, D. (7/20/2016). Reporting on educational changes throughout the world. IAE Blog. Retrieved 10/14/2016 from http://i-a-e.org/iae-blog/entry/reporting-on-educational-changes-throughout-the-world.html.

Moursund, D. (6/22/2016). Neuroscience, global education, and world cooperation on problem solving. IAE Blog. Retrieved 10/14/2016 from http://i-a-e.org/iae-blog/entry/neuroscience-global-education-and-world-cooperation-on-problem-solving.html.

Moursund, D. (4/16/2016). What you (and others) can do. IAE Blog. Retrieved 10/14/2016 from http://i-a-e.org/iae-blog/entry/what-you-and-others-can-do.html.

PEI Staff (2016). Top ten Third World problems. PEI Mag. Retrieved 10/14/2016 from http://www.peimag.com/top-10-third-world-problems/.

United Nations (11/4/2016). Framework Convention on Climate Change. Retrieved 11/4/2016 from http://ufccc.it/paris_agreement/items.9485.php.

WBP (2016). The world’s biggest problems. Arlington Institute. Retrieved 10/13/2016 from http://www.arlingtoninstitute.org/wbp/portal/home.

Author

David Moursund is an Emeritus Professor of Education at the University of Oregon, and co-editor 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.

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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.