Issue Number 235 June 15, 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 more than 15,000 pageviews (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. It is currently undergoing a revision that includes updating and expansion.

Writing to Help Improve Education:

An Invitation to Write for IAE

David Moursund
Professor, Emeritus, College of Education
University of Oregon

This specific issue of the Information Age Education (IAE) Newsletter is targeted at educators who might consider writing for IAE or for other websites designed to improve education. IAE is always on the lookout for new authors to write an IAE Newsletter, a guest IAE Blog, an IAE-pedia entry, or a book on topics related to improving education. The website http://IAE-pedia.org/ provides access to the many hundreds of documents that IAE makes available free. In total, these sites have had about 14 million pageviews since I began IAE ten years ago.

IAE free publications are designed to work to improve education at all levels and throughout the world. I strongly believe that it is important to the world of education that IAE continue its long tradition of publishing materials from authors who offer divergent viewpoints on a wide variety of education-related topics.

One way to improve education is to make readily available an organized collection of relevant and authentic information on useful, doable ways to improve education. Many of you IAE readers are teachers, parents, and others who are intimately involved in education, and you have both the knowledge and the writing skills to join other IAE writers who are making contributions to the educational world through IAE publications.

We Are All Lifelong Learners and Lifelong Teachers

I consider each person to be both a lifelong learner (a lifelong student) and a lifelong teacher, helping themselves and others to learn. As a lifelong learner and lifelong teacher, you have knowledge and insights worth sharing with others. This statement is particularly true for people whose profession is teaching. Their daily work includes substantial written and oral communication. They are highly knowledgeable about the formal and informal education, knowledge, and skills of their students.

Those of you who are teachers certainly are involved in writing for students and others. You routinely do different sorts of classroom presentation writings, such as on a whiteboard, chalkboard, or an overhead projector slide. Teachers also write assignments, comments on students’ papers, tests, reports, and so on. Many teachers serve on school and/or community committees in positions that require writing reports.

In addition, many teachers write articles and newsletters for their professional and community organizations. They do this because they want to share their professional knowledge, skills, and experiences. I hope that a number of you will now decide to become an IAE author and share your extensive real-world knowledge and expertise with our IAE readers.

Writing in a World of Information Overload and Underload

A great variety and quantity of information is available on the Web. Indeed, a Web search often produces way more information than the searcher desires. This situation is called Information Overload. Alternatively, a Web searcher may find little or perhaps no useful information on a particular topic. I call this situation Information Underload (Moursund, 2017a).

When you write for publication, you need to think carefully about Information Overload and Information Underload. Research your topic on the Web. Perhaps you will find a glut of information on the topic. What do you want to say that will be newer and more useful to a potential reader than what is already there? How does your credibility stack up against the writers of information that is relatively similar to what you propose to write?

On the other hand, perhaps you have chosen a topic where your Web research suggests an Information Underload. Great! You have a chance to make a real contribution to other people who are interested in your topic.

Next, think about what you, personally, are likely to learn through the research, organizing, and writing process. Writing is certainly a learning activity and will help you to maintain and build your own expertise in such tasks.

Also, think about this from the viewpoint of your potential reader. What are you assuming your reader already knows? How will your document help to build on and extend your reader’s knowledge and skills? How will what you write lead to your reader’s having greater interest in your topic and perhaps undertake further reading and learning in the topic area?

In summary, before you become deeply engaged in actually writing on your topic, think about:
  1. What you, personally, want to achieve by doing this writing.
  2. Your intended audience, and what you want your readers to gain from reading what you have written.
Here is a slightly different way to look at these two ideas. You want what you write to help to improve education. What do you want your readers to do after they have read and thought about what you have written? Your document should suggest specific actions that your readers might take.

Researching Your Topic

Suppose that I have decided on a current topic to write about, such as improving education. I search the Web on the expression how can we improve education in America and get more than 168 million results! Wow, talk about information overload! Clearly, I need to narrow my search.

My doctorate is in Mathematics, so I decide to write in that area, searching on the expression how can we improve math education in the United States. Hmm, 101 million results. Searching for research on improving math education in the United States produces 82 million results. A yet narrower topic of the expression research on improving K-5 math education in the United States still finds just over 17 million results. Because computers are near and dear to my heart, I finally try research on using computers to improve K-5 math education in the United States. Still more than 6 million results – still way too much to read! My next search is on research published 2015-2018 on using computers to improve K-5 math education in the United States, and produces 2,890,000 results. In desperation, I try research published 2015-2018 on using computers to improve teaching problem solving in K-5 math education in the United States. This still didn’t help much, as I definitely don’t want to browse through the 1,260,000 results. This exercise in searching the Web certainly shook my faith in my Web search abilities!

I think you see the challenge you face when you decide to write on ways to improve education. You need to know your topic well enough to find out what is already known about your ideas. You want to present your “new” ideas in a context that includes what is already known and what has already been tried. This is a major challenge!

Writing for Online Reading

Writing for an online reader provides the writer with opportunities that are not available to a writer of hardcopy publications. An online document can contain elements of multimedia, such as audio and video, and can provide a certain amount of interactivity with the reader. When I am reading online, I frequently look up the meaning of a word that is unfamiliar to me. I often follow a link provided by the author or look up information I need to better understand what the author is saying.

Another advantage in writing for an online reader is the ability to provide hot links. Someone making an oral presentation must pay very careful attention to the background knowledge of the audience, not presenting at a level too much below or above their current understanding. Even a classroom teacher at a particular grade level can find this to be a major challenge because all the students at any grade level will in no sense be the same. They vary tremendously in their life experiences and in what they have learned in school and elsewhere. An online environment allows the writer to provide links to needed background information and also to partially individualize the material being presented.

In addition, the online environment can be used to increase the authenticity of the material being presented. Links to additional online materials developed by well-qualified experts can be provided as appropriate. For example, suppose I am writing about the potential value of artificially intelligent individualized online tutors. I can link the reader to extensive research on the advantages that one-on-one tutoring by humans and by computer tutor systems bring to learners (Moursund, 2017b).

Finally, as an educator writing for online readers who are also educators, you have an opportunity to remind your readers about the importance of helping their students and children learn to make effective use of online reading. There is a substantial difference between reading “straight” hardcopy text and reading in an interactive, multimedia environment in which the reader can readily follow up links and take other advantages of this reading/learning environment.

Is Shorter Better?

"I have made this letter longer than usual, only because I have not had the time to make it shorter." (Blaise Pascal; French mathematician, physicist, inventor, write, and Catholic theologian; 1623-1662).

In my writing, I frequently make use of short quotations, such as the one given above. Over the years, I have compiled two collections of quotations that I find to be very useful (Moursund, 2018a and 2018b). Each quotation is short and to the point.

Now think more about the differences between writing and speaking. Both convey information, but until we developed writing there was only the oral tradition to preserve and pass on spoken ideas over time. Writing changed that, and it also provided a powerful cognitive aid to a person thinking through and organizing ideas worthy of communication to others. That is, writing is a very powerful brain tool.

One aspect of this brain tool is the ability to revise. Of course, even when talking to a person you can realize that something you said needs to be retracted or revised. Even if your statement was perhaps incorrect or unintended, it has already been heard and processed. With writing, you can read and contemplate what you have written, and revise it if you find needed changes.

As Pascal suggests, you may be able to tighten up your message to make it shorter and more to the point. Writing in Pascal’s day was done with a quill pen and ink. Revisions were messy and might involve rewriting the entire document. I say, “Thank goodness for word processors.”

It is important that the length of a document is appropriate to the information you want to convey as well as to your readers. IAE publishes a blog with entries that can be quite short. These blogs may be ideas and/or opinion pieces, and often are not deeply rooted in scholarly research. An IAE Newsletter tends to be in the range of 1,000 to 2,000 words. There is a greater variety of length in the IAE-pedia, where articles range from a single page or less to 20 or more pages. There are no specific limits on the length of IAE books.

I find that once I begin to write a document, my brain and fingers tend to get over-energized and just keep going and going. (You have heard of the Energizer Bunny, right?) I have to keep reminding myself of the quotation from Blaise Pascal. In writing for IAE readers, it is important to get to the point and stick to the point. Shorter truly is likely to be better. Edit and re-edit until your ideas are presented concisely and clearly.

Frequently, when I begin to write a short blog entry, my deeper thinking turns it into an IAE Newsletter. A newsletter sometimes expands itself into an IAE-pedia entry, or occasionally even into a book. The important concept is to begin your own writing and research, then see where it leads you.

Final Remarks

If you are a teacher who has students completing written assignments, you may find that it helps your students to discuss and learn from the ideas presented in this IAE Newsletter.

For me, writing for publication is fun and rewarding. However, it requires considerable persistence, and often is just plain hard work. I challenge you to undertake this work as a personal project, and also as a valuable contribution to your peers on a topic that you consider to be very important.

I am looking forward to hearing from and working with all of you who decide to write for IAE.

References and Resources

Moursund, D. (2018a). Math education quotations. IAE-pedia. Retrieved 5/6/2018 from http://iae-pedia.org/Math_Education_Quotations.

Moursund, D. (2018b). Quotations collected by David Moursund. IAE-pedia. Retrieved 5/5/2018 from http://IAE-pedia.org/Quotations_Collected_by_David_Moursund.

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. (2017a). Information underload and overload. IAE-pedia. Retrieved 5/4/2018 from http://IAE-pedia.org/Information_Underload_and_Overload.

Moursund, D. (2017b). Math tutoring project. IAE-pedia. Retrieved 5/6/2018 from http://iae-pedia.org/Math_Tutoring_Project.

Moursund, D. (2016). Minimalism in education. IAE-pedia. Retrieved 5/5/2018 from http://IAE-pedia.org/Minimalism_in_Education.


About the 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 IAE books. See http://iaepedia.org/Main_Page#IAE_in_a_Nutshell. The IAE website has had about 14 million pageviews since its beginning. IAE 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 Executive 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.