Issue Number 238 July 31, 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.

New Free IAE Book: The Fourth R (Second Edition)

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

IAE is pleased to announce the July 2018 publication of The Fourth R (Second Edition). This newly revised and updated 97-page book is about the 4th R of R easoning/Computational Thinking. The entire book is available free online at Microsoft Word , PDF , HTML (Moursund, 7/25/2018).

Like Reading, ‘Riting, and ‘Rithmetic, the 4th R of R easoning/Computational Thinking is both a discipline of study in its own right as well as being an aid to representing and solving problems throughout the curriculum and at all grade levels. R easoning/Computational Thinking makes use of one’s own brain working together with the computer brains and other capabilities of Information and Communication Technology (ICT), and especially Artificial Intelligence, to represent and solve problems.

The book’s intended audience is preservice and inservice teachers at the PreK-12 levels, parents, other educators, and all people interested in improving education at these levels. The emphasis is on defining and securing widespread acceptance of adding this new 4th R to the traditional list of Reading, ‘Riting, and ‘Rithmetic. My recommendation is that this 4th R should be thoroughly integrated into the traditional 3 Rs across all grade levels and across all curriculum areas.

The 4th R is both a content area and a general-purpose tool useful throughout all areas of human endeavor. Like the 3 Rs of Reading, ‘Riting, and ‘R ithmetic, the 4th R of Reasoning/Computational Thinking is foundational in a modern education.

The 4th R has already been integrated into the informal education of the daily lives of a great many children, especially in the economically developed nations of the world. We know that children begin to explore and use the 4 Rs in their infancy, and the use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is now commonplace in schools and homes. However, we are making slow progress in thoroughly integrating the 4th R into the everyday and all-day school curriculum at a level commensurate with the emphasis we place on the first 3 Rs.

The first edition of The Fourth R was published in December, 2016, and has had a combined total of more than 18,000 page-views and downloads. The Fourth R (Second Edition) contains essentially all of the content of the first edition, thoroughly revised and updated. The book consists of Part 1 (six chapters) and Part 2 (nine appendices).

The major change is the addition of one completely new chapter, Learning to Do and Doing to Learn, and one new appendix, Thoughts About a Modern Mathematics Education. All of the reference links have been tested and updated, and a number of new References and Resources have been added. This second edition is about 30% longer than the first edition. The original book is still available free online at Microsoft Word , PDF , HTML (Moursund, 12/18/2016).

The remainder of this newsletter provides an introduction to IAE’s newest book, The Fourth R (Second Edition). It consists of content extracted from the prefaces and the first chapter of the book.

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The Fourth R (Second Edition)

David Moursund

Preface to Part 1 (Chapters)


"The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves."(John Adams; American statesman and Founding Father who served as the first Vice President and then the second President of the United States; 1735-1826.)

Part 1 presents a rationale for the thorough integration of the 4th R throughout the curriculum and in all aspects of preservice and inservice teacher education. It assumes that all readers of this book are familiar with the 3 Rs of Reading, ‘ Riting, and ‘Rithmetic that have formed the foundational content of schooling for more than 5,000 years. These 3 Rs are both important disciplines of study in their own right, and also very important components of the various disciplines that make up PreK-12 education.

I believe that a good education is a birthright of all children. This point of view has been strongly supported by the United Nations (UN) since its inception. The 1948 United Nations Declaration of Human Rights states in Article 26 (United Nations, 1948):

(1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.

(2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.

(3) Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.

Chapter 1 introduces the 4th R of Reasoning/Computational Thinking (Information and Communication Technology) as both a discipline of study in its own right and as a new fundamental component of the other disciplines that students study in PreK-12 education.

Chapter 2 presents Robert Branson’s Upper Limit hypothesis that only a major paradigm shift, such as the extensive use of Information and Communication Technology in education, can propel our education results to new, higher levels.

Chapter 3 lists some of the problems our world faces in the 21st century. Information and Communication Technology is both a source of some of these problems and an aid to addressing many of them.

Chapter 4 proposes some approaches to improving education in order to help prepare students to become adults who have the knowledge and skills needed to help them to address the many major problems our world faces.

Chapter 5 considers the 4th R as both an aid to learning and as an aid to making use of one’s learning.

Chapter 6 outlines some of my personal philosophy of computers in education and encourages readers to develop and implement their own personal philosophy of computers in education.

Preface to Part 2 (Appendices)


“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, humanitarian, and devout Catholic; 1870-1952.)

Since its inception, IAE has published well over 400 IAE Blog entries. Part 2 reprints slightly edited and updated versions of eight of these that I believe supplement and help to explain various ideas covered in chapters 1-6. Appendix 8 is new in this edition.

Appendix 1 provides an overview of problem solving and creative problem solving, background information that will be useful to many readers of this book.

Appendix 2 discusses reinventing our educational systems. Fully integrating the 4th R of Reasoning/Computational Thinking into our schools, from the PreK level through graduate school, would certainly constitute a reinvention!

Appendix 3 focuses on Quality of Life. For me, this is a very important topic. In the same sense that I consider a good education to be a birthright, I believe that a decent quality of life is also a birthright.

Appendix 4 explores virtual reality (VR). VR is already here. It is beginning to be a powerful force in entertainment, and it certainly has the capabilities of being a powerful aid to education.

Appendix 5 proposes the possibility that computers will eventually become more intelligent than humans. What will it do to the quality of life of humans if this actually happens? We know that some aspects of this have already occurred.

Appendix 6 presents the issues of Information Underload and Overload. ICT adds to our information overload, but also can help us to better deal with this overload. The 4th R must address the issue of deciding what we want students to memorize and what we want them to be able to just “look up,” understand, and effectively use in a timely fashion.

Appendix 7 discusses the idea that each teacher–indeed, all of us–might benefit by having a personal, computerized Digital Filing Cabinet designed and organized to fit our own individual information storage and retrieval needs.

Appendix 8 considers some of the changes that Information and Communication Technology (ICT) has brought to mathematics. It draws on an article by Keith Devlin, a leading math educator. Devlin presents the argument that ICT should be integrated into the math and other curriculum areas starting at the earliest levels of formal schooling.

Appendix 9 provides links to selected lists of free educational resources that may be especially useful to teachers.

Chapter 1

Adding a 4th to the 3 Rs of Education


“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; 1928-2016.)

The 3 Rs of Reading, ‘R iting, and ‘Rithmetic (math) in our schools today are both disciplines of study and tools that are useful across all curriculum areas. In the early 1970s, when computers began to be widely available, Art Luehrmann and other computer-oriented educational leaders strongly recommended that all students should become Computer Literate. Many suggested that all students should learn some computer programming and that all should learn to make effective use of some basic computer tools.

Clearly, Computer Science is an important discipline in its own right and computers are also a powerful aid to representing and solving problems throughout the curriculum. That is, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is both a discipline of study and a broad-based tool, just as are the 3 Rs.

More recently, the term Computational Thinking has come into common use. This term can be thought of as describing our current insights into Computer Literacy (Carnegie Mellon, n.d.). Quoting from this website:

Computational Thinking is the thought processes involved in formulating problems and their solutions so that the solutions are represented in a form that can be effectively carried out by an information-processing agent.

The “information-processing agent” referred to here is typically a human, a computer (including robots) and/or some combination of the two. More broadly, we certainly want to include the brains of other living creatures. For example, a person using a guide dog is included in this definition. The Wikipedia provides the definition:

Computational Thinking (CT) is the thought processes involved in formulating a problem and expressing its solution(s) in such a way that a computer–human or machine–can effectively carry out.

Pay careful attention to the emphasis on computer brains and human brains working together to solve problems and accomplish tasks. That is a unifying theme in this and subsequent chapters of the book.

Computational Thinking is a “mouthful” and it seems to me it would be difficult to convince our educational systems that all students should be learning the 3 Rs as well as Computational Thinking. Hmmm. How about learning the 3 Rs and Computational Reasoning? Aha! A 4th R! However, I thought, why make use of a new term (computational reasoning) when the term computational thinking is already in wide use? Hence, I decided on the terminology Reasoning/Computational Thinking for the 4th R.

Many people have thought about adding a 4th R to the traditional 3 Rs of Reading, ‘R iting, and ‘Rithmetic. My 6/24/2018 Google search of the expression 4Rs in education produced about 124,000 results. Considerable browsing led me to the conclusion that people writing about a 4th R in education tended to be interested in variations of R esponsibility, Respect, Resourcefulness, Responsiveness, and Religion. All of these suggested additions to the 3 Rs miss the point that each of the 3 Rs is both a discipline of study and a fundamental cognitive tool that useful in all disciplines of study. The new 4th R of Reasoning/Computational Thinking is an addition to these three fundamental tools.

Information and Communication Technology (ICT)

[Not included in this newsletter.]

Artificial Intelligence Today

[Not included in this newsletter.]

From the Industrial Age to the Knowledge Age

[Not included in this newsletter.]

Educational Change Agents

[Not included in this newsletter.]

Integrating the 4th R into Education

An obvious challenge to integrating the 4th R into education is the cost of the needed hardware, software, and connectivity. But, the economically developed nations are well along in meeting that challenge. The cost is modest relative to the total costs of education in these economically developed nations.

Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is changing the first 3 Rs. Let’s use writing, one of the current 3 Rs, as an example. We have long included the use of graphic images as part of writing for books, magazines, and journal articles. But, “ordinary” people could not take a photograph and integrate it into their written letters and other writings. Now, children can easily accomplish this task of adding images as they write using a computer. Indeed, they can easily make use of video in their “written” communications.

The huge educational challenge will be to fully integrate ICT capabilities and uses into the teaching, learning, and use of the current 3 Rs. As students begin to learn the conventional 3 Rs starting in PreK or earlier, the 4th R comes into play. Their teachers need to be familiar with the appropriate roles of ICT throughout the PreK curriculum as well as in the everyday life of students outside of school. Curriculum content, instructional processes, and assessment all need to change to reflect students learning to make routine use of the 4th R in each of the first 3 Rs.

This challenge applies to teachers at all grade levels. We expect teachers at all levels and in all subject areas to have an appropriate level of reading, writing, and arithmetic knowledge and skills. By the time a person obtains teacher certification, that person has been studying and making use of reading, writing, and arithmetic for about 17 or 18 years of schooling (kindergarten through a bachelor’s or master’s degree). The task of bringing all current teachers and all new teachers up to this same level of 4th R knowledge is indeed daunting!

ICT-based Aids to Learning the 4 Rs and Other Curriculum Content

The development of reading, writing, and arithmetic created a need for formal schooling and certainly changed the world. During the more than 5,000 years since these tools were first developed, our educational systems have gradually become better at teaching the 3 Rs. However, this progress seems to have nearly plateaued perhaps 20 years ago. This is discussed in more detail in chapter 2.

Through the work of Benjamin Bloom and others, we have long known that a knowledgeable and skilled individual tutor is a powerful aid to learning. For many years, educators have been working on developing computer-assisted learning systems that incorporate some of the characteristics of an individual tutor.

Here is a challenging topic to ponder. Once a student learns the basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic, why does this person require additional years of formal schooling in order to advance his or her education? What is there about having students coming together in a school, with classes of 20 to 30 or more students in a class, that is superior to just providing students with books? Thomas Edison touched on this question more than a hundred years ago:

“Books will soon be obsolete in the schools.... Scholars will soon be able to instruct through the eye. It is possible to touch every branch of human knowledge with the motion picture.” (Thomas A. Edison; American inventor and businessman; quotation from 1913; 1847-1931.)

We now have a growing number of Highly Interactive, Intelligent Computer-assisted Learning (HIICAL) systems. While these have not yet reached the level of highly skilled individual tutors, they have surpassed many of the skills of teachers working with classes of 20 to 40 or more students. We can look forward to the time that HIICAL-based units of instruction and full courses span the curriculum. Learning to learn from HIICAL systems is a key component of a modern education.

We also have a growing number of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). These multimedia online courses are typically designed both to present audio/visual information online and to involve student interactions online. While originally developed for use in higher education, they are seeing increasing use at the precollege level.

HIICAL systems and MOOCs can make use of information stored on the Web, voice input, voice output, computerized language translation, and so on. Such instruction typically requires students to read online and/or offline materials, in addition to using the online presentations and demonstrations. Typically, such a course can be thought of as combining books with video in an interactive manner. Thus, a modern version Thomas Edison’s forecast about books might say:

“Students above the grade school level coming together in large grade-level groups taught by a grade-level teacher will soon be obsolete. Instead, students will learn through HIICAL appropriate to their previous educational attainments, and at both times and places fitting the individual needs of students and their caregivers.”

Good HIICAL systems and MOOCs are both tutor and tool. That is, the software used in these instructional systems can solve or help to solve a very wide range of problems. This is a key idea, so let’s carry it a little further. We are used to the idea of learning to read and then reading to learn. We are also used to the idea of the Web as a gigantic online library that can help in solving a very wide range of problems. Thus, think of the Web as both a tool and an aid to learning, much as we think of learning to read and then reading to learn. Combining access to interactive online instruction with access to information on the Web can offer students an excellent online learning experience.

Final Remarks

We are well along in moving from the Information Age into the Knowledge Age. In the future, artificial intelligence and other computer-based aids to posing, representing, and solving problems will greatly supplement the physical and cognitive capabilities of humans. This ongoing change will require corresponding changes to all levels of our educational systems.

Our educational systems can be greatly improved by the thorough integration of the newly defined and expanded 4 Rs of Reading, ‘Riting, ‘R ithmetic, and Reasoning/Computational Thinking. Our educational systems will also be improved by integrating the routine use of HIICAL into the curriculum at all levels.

I suspect that most people do not understand the magnitude of the staff development challenges faced by current teachers and the changes that will need to occur in our preservice teacher education programs. Our current educational systems are based on curriculum content, pedagogical processes, and assessment that are thoroughly intertwined with a 3 Rs -based educational system, one that largely ignores the 4th R.

The 4th R greatly adds to and changes the current 3 Rs. In addition, it is both a large content area in its own right, and it is a major change agent in curriculum, instruction, and assessment. I believe the 4th R will produce more change in education than all of the changes we have seen since the current 3 Rs became such a powerful force in our educational systems when the first schools were developed about 5,000 years ago.

The magnitude of this challenge suggests that we need a major change in preservice and inservice education. The task of being a professional teacher must include substantially more time and resources for staff development than our schools currently provide. Learning on the job must become a much larger part of being a professional teacher.


Carnegie Mellon (n.d.). Center for Computational Thinking. Retrieved 6/18/2018 from .

Moursund, D. (7/25/2018). The Fourth R (Second Edition). Retrieved 7/26/2018 from . Download the Microsoft Word file from . Download the PDF file from .

Moursund, D. (12/18/2016) The Fourth R. Retrieved 7/26/2018 from . Download the Microsoft Word file from . Download the PDF file from .

United Nations (1948). United Nations Declaration of Human Rights. Retrieved 6/24/2018 from .

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 (now published by ISTE as Empowered Learner).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 .

Following his retirement 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 . The IAE websites have had over14 million page-views. 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.


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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, a Website containing free books and articles at, a Blog at, and the free newsletter you are now reading. See all back issues of the Blog at and all back issues of the Newsletter at