Information Age Education
   Issue Number 227
February 14, 2018   

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, seven free books based on the newsletters are available: Joy of Learning; 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.

My most recent free book, The Fourth R, has had over 12,000 hits/downloads (Moursund, 12/23/2016). The 4th R (reasoning; computational thinking) is fundamental to empowering today’s students and their teachers throughout the K-12 curriculum. I strongly recommend it for all preservice and inservice PreK-12 teachers.

Education for a High Tech and High Touch World

David Moursund
Professor Emeritus, College of Education
University of Oregon

The previous IAE Newsletter discussed some principles of a good secondary school education and ways in which Information and Communication Technology (ICT) could be and/or is impacting secondary schools in the United States (Moursund, 1/31/2018).

The following long quote is from the first part of an editorial I wrote for The Computing Teacher more that 30 years ago, in November, 1985. At that time, the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) was still named the International Council for Computers in Education, and The Computing Teacher (now named Empowered Learner) was the flagship publication of this professional society that I had founded (ISTE, 2018). The focus of my editorial was Megatrends, a book by John Naisbitt (1982). Quoting from my 1985 editorial:

John Naisbitt’s Book, Megatrends

John Naisbitt’s book Megatrends: Ten New Directions Transforming Our Lives, was first published in 1982. It was a best seller and has won considerable acclaim. The second chapter of the book is titled "From Forced Technology to High Tech/ High Touch." In that chapter Naisbitt suggests "that whenever new technology is introduced into society, there must be a counterbalancing human response-that is, high touch—or the technology is rejected."

Naisbitt's high tech/high touch paradigm has interesting implications for computer education. Consider two scales, one labeled "tech" and the other labeled "touch," each running from low to high. The paradigm supports a conjecture that a person lives at some point on the "tech" scale and some point on the "touch" scale. Whatever a person's placements on these two scales, they represent a harmony or balance in their tech/touch.

The introduction of increased technology into a person's life produces an imbalance. For a person whose "tech" placement is high, additional technology represents only a modest percentage change and perhaps requires relatively little adjustment of "touch" to maintain a balance. But for a person placing low on the "tech" scale, even a modest amount of new technology may require a considerable adjustment to "touch."

High tech/high touch is a simple-minded paradigm, perhaps most useful for provoking discussion rather than providing a foundation to support educational change. But let's explore the paradigm a little more. We might guess that early adopters of computers were high-tech people. (At the same time, they might be at any spot on the "touch" scale). Such high-tech people found it easy to adjust to computer technology and are now well established as computer leaders and teachers. …

At the time I wrote this, I thought I had produced a very insightful and useful editorial. Now, in retrospect, I realize that I my thinking was rather shallow.
  1. Nesbitt’s observation about the need for both high tech and high touch in products and services has proven to be impressively accurate.

  2. I missed the boat in my first sentence of the fourth paragraph quoted above. Rather than just provoking discussion, I now feel that the high tech/high touch paradigm is core to a good, modern education. My current views on this are expressed in my previous IAE Newsletter (Moursund, 1/31/2018). Information and Communication Technology is an important aspect of education in each of the disciplines students study in school.
This current IAE Newsletter contains some of my updated thinking.

High Tech and High Touch

John Naisbitt wrote a book forecasting change. In looking at computer technology, it attempted to capture the idea that new high-tech products need to be designed with a user interface and appearance that are both pleasing to potential customers and fit their needs. Nowadays, it is clear to product developers that a new high-tech product needs to have a user interface that is easy and “natural” to use, and is physically and esthetically appealing. Apple, for example, accomplished these requirements in its first iPhone and iPad.

The following information about user interface is quoted from the Wikipedia (2018b):

The user interface (UI), in the industrial design field of human–computer interaction, is the space where interactions between humans and machines occur. The goal of this interaction is to allow effective operation and control of the machine from the human end, whilst the machine simultaneously feeds back information that aids the operators' decision-making process.

Generally, the goal of user interface design is to produce a user interface which makes it easy (self-explanatory), efficient, and enjoyable (user-friendly), [and esthetically pleasing] to operate a machine in the way which produces the desired result. This generally means that the operator needs to provide minimal input to achieve the desired output, and also that the machine minimizes undesired outputs to the human.

At the time I read the Megatrends book, I was seriously involved in the “human growth” movement. I chose to interpreted the term high touch to mainly refer to human social skills. This area of study is now titled Personal Development. Quoting from the Wikipedia (2018):

Personal development covers activities that improve awareness and identity, develop talents and potential, build human capital and facilitate employability, enhance the quality of life, and contribute to the realization of dreams and aspirations. Personal development takes place over the course of a person's entire life. Not limited to self-help, the concept involves formal and informal activities for developing others in roles such as teacher, guide, counselor, manager, life coach or mentor. When personal development takes place in the context of institutions, it refers to the methods, programs, tools, techniques, and assessment systems that support human development at the individual level in organizations. [Bold added for emphasis.]

Job Ready

In the United States, two current unifying themes in PreK-12 education are preparing students to be ready for:
  1. Job and career.

  2. Further education, and training, such as college or a vocational program.
Think about high tech and high touch in terms of employment. Even back in those “good old days” of more than 30 years ago, employers knew that in most cases they wanted employees who had technical knowledge and skills to do the job, people skills, and a number of other important qualifications. This situation has not changed much over the past three decades. For example, consider a list of ten qualification areas that current employers want in their employees (Janet, 5/23/2015). The published list includes both titles and short descriptions. In the numbered list given below, each of the 10 numbered paragraphs is quoted from (Janet, 5/23/2015). For each, I have included brief personal comments—mainly from an Information and Communication Technology (ICT) point of view.

  1. Communication Skills. The ability to communicate clearly and effectively in many mediums: by email, verbally, with lists and phone messages, on the phone, and with body language. Communication also includes listening skills and the ability to follow directions and provide feedback.

    Moursund Comment. Clearly, ICT is an important component of Communication Skills. Many of us “older folks” fear that younger people are not developing good face-to-face communication skills because so much of their leisure communication time is spent in social networking on a computer. It seems to me that we are seeing a decline in the Touch component of communication skills.

  2. Honesty. Employers want accurate and timely information regarding their business and their employees. Made a mistake? Don’t cover it up, admit it, and learn not to do it again.

    Moursund Comment. ICT is now often an aid to dishonesty by employees. For example, making use of a computer for social networking during work hours is a type of dishonesty. It is “stealing” usage of time that the employer is paying for. And, of course, stealing or making unauthorized use of a company’s files is now a serious and growing problem.

  3. Technical Competency. Most positions require certain skills that are advertised on the Job Posting. A person hired to perform certain tasks should have these skills. Improving your skills along the way is also expected.

    Moursund Comment. In terms of ICT, there are many different areas and levels of knowledge and skills. For example, grade school students readily learn to use a Smartphone to make and receive calls. But, this is a small component of being fully competent in using a typical company’s phone system. More generally, routine use of computer facilities is now expected in many different jobs. While some of the needed knowledge and skills come through on-the-job training, a lot depends on an employee’s previous ICT informal and formal education.

  4. Work Ethic. Be at work on time, do what you were hired to do, meet targets and deadlines and work to the best of your ability. What more could an employer ask?

    Moursund Comment. As a teacher, this reminds me of students who are punctual and dedicated to doing their homework and required read and showing up on time for class—and those who are not. Work ethic is certainly stressed in schools—but for some, it does not seem to take.

  5. Flexibility. Employers and their employees need to react quickly to changing business conditions. Employers need employees who can change gears and adapt as required.

    Moursund Comment. The ICT used in a company changes not only through the acquisition of new hardware and software, but also through updates and bug fixes to existing software. This situation requires employees who are flexible in accommodating to such changes and who can learn (often, on their own) on the job.

  6. Determination and Persistence. Managers will give employees challenging goals but generally they are achievable. The key is to be able to work hard and keep moving forward when you encounter obstacles.

    Moursund Comment. I think of this in terms of a combination of self-confidence, persistence, work ethic, problem-solving knowledge and skills, ad ability to deal with change. ICT is a persistent change agent.

  7. Ability to Work in Harmony with Co-Workers. Employers and managers like to have people working with them and for them who can get along with their colleagues and who can work with others effectively in different circumstances.

    Moursund Comment. Clearly this relates to personal development. Good social skills are needed in interacting with fellow employees and with customers. Even computer programmer faces this challenge. Nowadays, many computer programmers work in team environments.

  8. Eager and Willing to Add to Their Knowledge Base and Skills. As businesses change, there is often a need to find out new information, expand knowledge and explore new ways of doing things. People with an interest in learning, and a willingness to pass it on to others, become invaluable.

    Moursund Comment. Employees need the ability, skills, and willingness to learn, and this includes learning on their own. The computer is certainly a valuable resource for such endeavors. Somewhat similarly, a computer is often a valuable aid in Item 9, problem solving. Being good at information retrieval from the Web and willingness to make use of this resource when confronted by problems is certainly a valuable trait. It can often be useful to an employer if an employee has an IT background that aids in rapidly learning to make effective use of the new IT-oriented equipment a company purchases.

  9. Problem-Solving Skills. Companies are looking for people who are motivated to take on challenges with minimal direction. Employees should see when something needs to be done and react accordingly.

    Moursund Comment. Recognizing, posing, and solving problems is part of every area of human endeavor. Nowadays, ICT is a powerful aid to such endeavors. Employers want employees who bring strong problem-solving knowledge and skills to their job. Such knowledge and skills come from years of formal and informal education and practice.

  10. Loyalty. Employers want and need to be able to trust their employees to work professionally to meet the employer’s best interests. Employers do not want to hire people who require close scrutiny or who cannot be trusted to represent the company in public.

    Moursund Comment. Loyalty is a two-sided coin. Employers want loyal employees. However, employees expect to be treated justly and with respect. They want their services to be valued. I think a great many employers is the United States recognize this and act accordingly.
Final Remarks

As you can see, ICT knowledge and skills are increasingly becoming a commonly expected qualification of job applicants. Many of today’s children are developing considerable skill in using a Smartphone and computer to carry out tasks such as social networking and game playing that are important to them. However, such computer capabilities are a small part of what it takes to be an effective user of ICT on the job. For example, consider the task of researching a topic, and organizing and composing a coherent and useful report that will fit the needs of an employer. It is quite helpful to have good keyboarding skills, some desktop publication skills, the ability to read with understanding, good online research skills, and good analysis, synthesis, and problem solving skills. These are all things that can be taught in school.

For another example, consider being able to analyze the work one is doing and discern which aspects are apt to be replaced by or considerably modified by new ICT. As an employee, what does it take to develop the knowledge and skills that will help you remain a valuable employee as times change?

The next IAE Newsletter will discuss some employment trends that are important considerations for today’s students and people who are currently employed in occupations that may be greatly changed by the increasing capabilities of computers.

References and Resources

Chandra, N. (January, 2018). How one Chinese firm uses A.I. to teach English. CNBC. Retrieved 1/15/2018 from https://sg.finance.yahoo.com/news/one-chinese-firms-uses-ai-022900030.html.

Fenner, R. (1/14/2017). Alibaba's AI outguns humans in reading test. Bloomberg Technology. Retrieved 1/15/2018 from https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-01-15/alibaba-s-ai-outgunned-humans-in-key-stanford-reading-test.

ISTE (2018). International Society for Technology in Education. Retrieved 1/13/2018 from https://www.iste.org/.

Janet (5/23/2015). Top 10 qualities and skills employers are looking for. Employment North. Retrieved 1/13/2018 from https://employmentnorth.com/top-10-qualities-and-skills-employers-are-looking-for/.

Moursund, D. (1/31/2018). The Coalition of Essential Schools: Principles for a good secondary school education. IAE Newsletter. Retrieved 2/1/2018 from http://i-a-e.org/newsletters/IAE-Newsletter-2018-226.html.

Moursund, D. (12/23/2016). The fourth R. Eugene, OR: Information Age Education. Download the Microsoft Word file from http://i-a-e.org/downloads/free-ebooks-by-dave-moursund/289-the-fourth-r/file.html. Download the PDF file from http://i-a-e.org/downloads/free-ebooks-by-dave-moursund/290-the-fourth-r-1/file.html. Access the book online at http://iae-pedia.org/The_Fourth_R.

Moursund, D. (November 1985). High Tech/High Touch. The Computing Teacher. Retrieved 1/13/2018 from http://iae-pedia.org/Moursund_Editorial/High_Tech%E2%80%94High_Touch.

Naisbitt, J. (2018). John & Doris Naisbitt; International speakers and bestselling authors. Retrieved 1/13/2018 from http://www.naisbitt.com/about-us/.

Naisbitt, J. (1982). Megatrends: Ten new directions transforming our lives. NY: Warner Books.

Wikipedia (2018a). Personal development. Retrieved 1/15/2015 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Personal_development.

Wikipedia (2018b). User Interface. Retrieved 1/14/2018 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User_interface_design.

Free Educational Resources from IAE

Moursund, D. (2017). Free educational videos. IAE-pedia. Retrieved 7/14/2017 from http://iae-pedia.org/Free_Educational_Videos.

Moursund, D, (2017). Free open source software packages. IAE-pedia. Retrieved 7/14/2017 from http://iae-pedia.org/Free_Open_Source_Software_Packages.

Moursund, D. (2017). Open source and open content educational materials. IAE-pedia. Retrieved 7/14/2017 from http://iae-pedia.org/Free_Open_Source_and_Open_Content_Educational_Materials.

Moursund, D. (2017). TED talks. IAE-pedia. Retrieved 7/14/2017 from http://iae-pedia.org/TED_Talks.

IAE publishes and makes available four free online resources:
Author

David Moursund is an Emeritus Professor of Education at the University of Oregon, and 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. Information Age Education is now fully integrated into the 501(C)(3) non-profit corporation, Advancement of Globally Appropriate Technology and Education (AGATE) that was established in 2016. David Moursund is the Chief Executuve Officer of AGATE.

Email: moursund@uoregon.edu.

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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.