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David Moursund Honored at ISTE 2019 Conference


I (David Moursund) am currently at the 2019 International Society for Technology in Education 40th anniversary conference in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I founded ISTE in 1979, and now I am being honored as ISTE’s founder.

There are roughly 15,000 registered attendees at the conference, plus about 3,000 people running the exhibits. These people are from 73 countries and nearly all 50 states in the U.S.

This is quite a dramatic change from the conference of about 300 people who gathered 40 years ago in Iowa where ISTE’s predecessor, the International Council for Computers in Education (ICCE), held its first meeting.

To be more exact, it is somewhat incorrect to call this first meeting an ISTE conference. Its official title was the Tenth Computer Conference in the Undergraduate Curriculum, and the first nine had been funded by the National Science Foundation. The focus in the early years of the conference was on uses of computers in the undergraduate college curriculum. The focus shifted more and more to K-12 education, and the conference became ISTE’s conference.

I did a question-and-answer panel presentation as part of this ISTE 2019 conference program. About 45 minutes of the hour-long session consisted of my answering questions from the audience and from the other panel members about a combination of the future of PreK-12 education and the impact of Artificial Intelligence on this future.

I began my presentation with a brief summary of some ideas I had been thinking about for the past two days. Here is a quick summary of these ideas, ones that I believe can and should help guide major changes in our schools during the coming years. This is what I said:

You have all heard the statement, “Think globally, act locally.” The word “act” means to recognize problems and take appropriate actions to help to solve the problems. Here is my current version of this statement.

Think globally, regionally, locally, and personally. Act globally, regionally, locally, and personally. That is, think and act holding the idea that anything you do affects the whole world, the country in which you are living, the local area (community) in which you are living, and your personal life. A good education prepares a student to be a self-motivated and capable learner and problem solver in order to do such thinking and acting over the full range of a student’s interests and capabilities.

This thinking and acting requires knowledge of the tools that people have developed to aid their physical and cognitive capabilities in posing and then solving problems, both in their personal and public lives. Thus, as new tools such as smart phones, the Web, and Artificial Intelligence continue to evolve and become more powerful, education must change in order to appropriately prepare students who will be routinely using such tools.

Here is an example that I like to use in such discussions. Writing is a valuable aid to organizing one’s thoughts and communicating them to others. Currently, much time in writing instruction is spent on teaching spelling, grammar, punctuation, and legible hand writing. What should that time be spent on when we have AI-using computers that accept voice input, correctly spell the spoken words, correct errors in grammar, inserts correct punctuation, and prints the final copy? When the computer has doubts because of homonyms, the meaning of a sentence, or similar questions, the computer will ask the writer what meaning is intended.

Math provides an interesting parallel. My estimate is that well over half of math education time in PreK-12 is spent on students learning to use pencil, paper, and eraser to do “by hand” things that computers can do much faster and more accurately.

Both writing and math are very important subject areas, ones that I certainly don’t want to see disappear from the curriculum. What I do want is for students to learn to communicate effectively in writing and to use math effectively in a world that has very good aids to carrying out some of the mechanics (essentially, the non-thinking parts) in using writing and math to solve problems and accomplish tasks.

Final Remarks

Every aspect of the PreK-12 curriculum needs to be carefully and regularly reconsidered and most likely revised because of the steadily improving capabilities of intelligent computers and robots. One of the roles of human teachers is to be able to role model appropriate and effective use of such aids to our physical and cognitive capabilities. This means, of course, that all teachers need to have a significant amount of time to learn and to practice using AI and computer technology in order to be able to fully integrate it into the broad range of their teaching activities.

What You Can Do

Reread the key ideas that I used to start my conference presentation. They do not provide details about what you need to do as a parent, teacher, school administrator, or other who is concerned with education today. However, these ideas do provide a way to think about the changes that are needed right now, ideas that will challenge our educational system for the foreseeable future. Learn to routinely incorporate this type of thinking into whatever aspects of education you are involved in. Remember, you are a lifelong learner and a lifelong teacher, and every interaction you have with another person is both a learning and a teaching experience. Develop a habit of analyzing such interactions in terms of the educational needs of yourself and others.

References and Resources

Moursund, D. (2018). The Fourth R (Second Edition). Retrieved 6/23/2019 from Download the Microsoft Word file from Download the PDF file from

Moursund, D. (September, 2018). The Fourth R (Second Edition). Spanish Edition. Retrieved 8/12/2018. Retrieved 9/21/2018 from Download the Microsoft Word file from Download the PDF file from


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Monday, 10 May 2021

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