Information Age Education
   Issue Number 103
December, 2012   

This free Information Age Education Newsletter is written by Dave Moursund and Bob Sylwester, and produced by Ken Loge. The newsletter is one component of the Information Age Education project. See and the end of this newsletter. All back issues of this newsletter are available free online at

This is the third of a sequence of IAE Newsletters focusing on the Common core State Standards (CCSS) being developed by the CCSS Initiative in the United States (CCSS, 2012).

Common Core State Standards:
4 The Educational Challenge of Information
and Communication Technology (ICT)

David Moursund
Emeritus Professor
University of Oregon

In this IAE Newsletter I use the term Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to cover the full scope of the discipline of Computer and Information Science, computer applications, computerized tools, calculators, and electronic games.

Reading, writing, math, and science are the four core disciplines included in the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) Initiative. See
Reading, writing, and math aid the human brain in addressing a very wide range of problems that people routinely encounter in their everyday lives. In the PK-12 curriculum, the reading, writing, and math content tends to be relatively stable over the years. For example, research in mathematics over the past century has had little impact on the PK-12 math curriculum.

Contrast this with our rapidly growing knowledge of science and the continuing challenge of bringing new scientific knowledge into the curriculum. Science is a catchall term, as there are a great many different science disciplines. In the United States, a high school graduate may have taken courses in earth science, biology, chemistry, and physics. All of these disciplines have seen major content growth in the past century, and some of this content is quite suitable for inclusion in the PK-12 curriculum.

Quite a bit of this research progress in the sciences in recent years has been helpedindeed, made possibleby computers, a discipline now usually referred to as Computer Science or Computer and Information Science. Thus, our precollege and higher educational systems face the challenge both of this new discipline of Computer Science and the steadily growing usefulness of computer-based tools in all of the sciences, as well as in all other academic disciplines across the curriculum.

Some History

Electronic digital computers started to become commercially available in the U.S. in the early 1950s. We have now had more than 60 years of rapid and continuing growth in the capabilities and availability of computers. Greater computing power has been coupled with a continuing decrease in the cost of this power. Nowadays, many computer games and "smart phones" have roughly as much computing power as did the multimillion-dollar super computers of about 25 years ago. The price to performance ratio of electronic digital computers has improved by a factor of well over a billion during the past 60 years. My desktop computer is more than a thousand times as powerful and only a thousandth of the cost of the one computer that served the entire University of Oregon when I joined its faculty in 1967.

Sometimes this progress is compared with progress in other areas. For example, can you imagine improving the gas mileage of a car from 25 miles per gallon to 25 billion miles per gallon?

Can you imagine improving the speed of an airplane from 250 miles per hour to 250 billion miles per hour? This far exceeds the speed of light. At that speed, a flight around the Earth would take well under a thousandth of a second!

The Early Days of Computer Science

The roots of Computer Science were developed well before the first electronic digital computer. The mathematical research work of Kurt Gödel (in 1931), Alan Turing (in 1936), and Alonzo Church (in 1936) provided a theoretical foundation for developing the discipline that eventually was named Computer Science or Computer and Information Science. See

As computers became increasingly available in colleges and universities throughout the U.S., there soon became concentrations of computer courses and activity in Business Schools, Engineering Schools, and Departments of Mathematics. Business Schools were primarily interested in developing the use of computers to help solve business problems. Engineering schools were primarily interested in developing computer hardware. Mathematics departments were interested in using computers to help solve a wide range of applied math and statistics problems. And, of course, the military found a number of uses for computerssuch as in the radar-equipped distant early warning systems.

Eventually Computer Science Departments were formed at many colleges and universities. Many were in the College of Arts and Sciences, but some were in the Engineering Schools. In the U.S., the first such department was formed at Purdue University in 1962 in the Division of Mathematical Sciences. It was a graduate program, offering the masters and doctorate degrees. See
Quite early on, it became clear that one did not need to be a genius to learn to write computer programs. The programming language BASIC became available in 1964. Although specifically designed for use in college and higher levels of education, it soon became evident that even grade school students could learn to use it to write simple computer programs. See The programming language Logo became available in 1967; it was specifically designed for use in precollege education. See

And, of course, computer games were developed and "children of all ages" including adults enjoy playing them. Nowadays young children play many of these computer games even before they learn to read.

In 1972, the idea of Computer Literacy for all began to emerge based on the publications of Arthur Luehrmann (1972) and others as microcomputers came on the scene and spread rapidly into businesses, homes, and schools. See
. Some historical notes about computer literacy are available in Moursund (2012).
Eventually microcomputers were equipped with word processing, database, spreadsheet, graphics, and other productivity tools that fit the needs of a very wide range of people. Students learned to make effective use of these computer tools with only relatively little knowledge of the underlying computer science, hardware, and software. The focus on teaching computer programming in schools was gradually replaced by teaching students to use computer applications in various curriculum areas.

In the United States, the National Council of Supervisors of Mathematics and the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics first recommended the use of calculators and computers in school mathematics in 1979 and 1980. See http://darkwing.uoregon.
. Although use of calculators is now permitted on many state and national exams, their routine use as accepted tools in many school classrooms remains controversial.

The steady improvement in the price to performance ratio of computers and calculators, their increasing availability, and their relative ease of use eventually led educators to consider a series of important questions:
  1. In what ways should computers be routinely used by teachers for lesson preparation, student instruction, and record keeping?

  2. In what ways should computers be used by students as an aid to learning?

  3. When should calculators and computers be used by students to replace rote memorization and to help solve complex, challenging problems?

  4. What should students be learning about computers as an aid to the human brain, and should they be learning to write their own computer programs?

Reading, Writing, Mathing, and ICTing Across the Curriculum
The initial development of written language and the teaching of reading, writing, and math based on written language occurred more than 5,000 years ago. Reading, writing, and math help with problem solving, accumulation of knowledge, and communication over time and distance.

It took many thousands of years before widespread elementary school education that included a strong focus on reading, writing, and math became common. It is only in the last century or so that it has become generally accepted that all children should gain basic knowledge and skills in these three areas. Even today, there are hundreds of millions of school-age children in our world who have little or no access to schools teaching these basic topics.

Each of these three areas of study has both breadth and depth. This is perhaps most obvious in math, where we now require students to take math year after year, with the content each year building upon the content of previous years. In the U.S., a major goal in reading and writing is for students to gain sufficient skill in these areas by the end of the third grade so much of their future learning can be based on this literacy. Reading as an aid to learning is a well-established part of each academic discipline.
Now, we have the rapidly evolving discipline of Information and Communication Technology (ICT). The technology is an important discipline in its own right and also a powerful aid to representing and solving problems, storing and retrieving information, and automating many mental and physical tasks in all areas of the curriculum. The Common Core State Standards Initiative and other projects that seek to define the content, instructional processes, and assessment that make up the PK-12 school curriculum all face the problem of how best to integrate the power of ICT as an integral component of the content of each academic discipline.

Questions that need to be addressed include:
  1. What ICT facilities should be made available to students for use in and outside of school?

  2. What general ICT knowledge and skills should be specifically taught to all students?

  3. What discipline-specific ICT-related content should be integrated into each school curriculum area?

  4. What uses should be made of ICT by teachers for lesson development, instruction, and assessment?
My belief is that ICTing now ranks with reading, writing, and mathing as the four indispensible basics of a modern education. The goal should be for students to achieve a level of fluency, knowledge, and skills in each of these four areas that will appropriately serve them as they move on in their education and into productive and responsible adulthood in a world that will require lifelong education and adjustment to change.

Here are a few examples to illustrate what I mean by ICTing across the curriculum:
  • For a number of years, each of the sciences has used theoretical, applied, and computational approaches to representing and solving problems (Moursund, n.d.). Computer modeling, simulation, and problem solving are now important in every area of science.

  • Reading and writing now take place in an ICT environment that includes video, audio, animation, graphics, social networking, the Internet, and the Web. Our traditional definition of reading/writing literacy now needs to be modified to include communication in this new ICT environment.

  • The storage, communication, and retrieval of information is fundamental to every discipline. Thus, all students need basic knowledge and skills in information storage, processing, retrieval, evaluation, and use in our current and future Internet/Web world.

  • Creative higher-order thinking, posing and solving problems, and accomplishing tasks are part of each academic discipline. Of course, the usefulness of computer tools varies considerably from discipline to discipline. For example, the computer tools used in composing, editing, and performing music are quite different from those needed in math and the sciences.

  • Brain scientists, educational researchers, and curriculum developers are making good progress in the development of research-based Highly Interactive Intelligent Computer-Assisted Learning (HIICAL) and distance learning materials. It is important that all students learn to learn in these new ICT environments.
I like to look at such examples in terms of what a student might readily learn on his/her own, what all students should learn in their first few years of schooling, and the specific ICT-related knowledge and skills that should be integrated into the content of each discipline that students study as they progress through the grades.

Final Remarks

What is important is that we avoid having each teacher in each subject area forced to start from scratch in teaching ICT knowledge and skills to each new set of students they face. A third grade teacher needs to be able to assume that students already have an appropriate level of ICT knowledge and skills, in the same way that a third grade teacher can assume students have mastered appropriate levels of reading, writing, and math during their earlier years of schooling.

The need for and value of this vertically structured ICT curriculum as part of every PK-12 discipline area is a challenge to students, curriculum developers, teachers, and our assessment system. My next IAE Newsletter in this series will discuss the approaches taken by the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) to address these challenges.


Luehrmann, A. (1972). Should the computer teach the student, or vice-versa? Retrieved 11/20/2012 from

Moursund, D. (n.d.). Computational thinking. Retrieved 11/25/2012 from

Moursund, D. (2012). Some history about computer literacy. Retrieved 12/10/2012 from

David Moursund

David Moursund earned his doctorate in mathematics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He taught in the Mathematics Department and Computing Center at Michigan State University for four years before joining the faculty at the University of Oregon. See his vita at see

A few highlights of his professional career include founding the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), serving as ISTE's executive officer for 19 years, and establishing ISTE's flagship publication, Learning and Leading with Technology. He was a major professor or co-major professor of 82 doctoral students. He has authored or coauthored more than 60 academic books and hundreds of articles. Many of these books are available free online. See He has presented hundreds of professional talks and workshops.

In 2007, he founded Information Age Education (IAE), a non-profit company dedicated to improving teaching and learning by people of all ages throughout the world. See

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