Issue Number 228 February 28, 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 11,000 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 Future Employment

David Moursund
Professor Emeritus, College of Education
University of Oregon


The previous IAE Newsletter presented some commonly used criteria in screening job applicants. For each criterion, the article contains a brief discussion of possible roles of an applicant’s Information and Communication Technology knowledge and skills (Moursund, 2/14/2018). This current newsletter addresses several major future employment and education related issues.

The following quote is about a 300-pound security robot that currently rents for $7 per hour. It is from the article, Clocking In: A Daily Look at the Workplace of the Future (MIT Technology Review, 1/24/2018).

Despite their numerous mishaps—they were one of our biggest technology failures of 2017—Knightscope is still raising millions for its security robots. In fact, the company just announced $25 million in funding. Fifty of their stout 300-pound bots are currently deployed in 14 states around the US, bringing in $7 an hour each—less than the wage of a human security guard. [Bold added for emphasis.]

The next quote is from Lee Mathews’ article, 400 Burger Per Hour Robot Will Put Teenagers Out of Work (Mathews, 6/15/2017.

We already showed you an autonomous grillmaster that can monitor and flip an entire grill full of patties. Today’s bot is even more versatile. Not only can it cook the patty, but it can also dice up fresh toppings like tomatoes, pickles, and onions … and it can even deftly stack everything on a toasted bun.

Robots … will work and work and work as long as they’re properly maintained and allowed to function the way they were designed to function. Even a complex robot like this one that costs around $30,000 will pay for itself rather quickly. [Bold added for emphasis.]

Although we have had industrial robots for many years, most have had a very low level of artificial intelligence (AI). Reread the quote about the $7 per hour security guard robot. It consists of a physical machine and an AI “brain.” The brain part of this robot can be improved over time by the use of a more powerful computer and by improvements in AI. Updated software can quickly and at little expense be installed in all of the company’s security robots. The fact that we already have robots that are useful as security guards means that in the future we will have better and better robot security guards. The fact that this particular one rents for $7 per hour indicates that eventually many human security guards will be replaced.

Factory Automation

The Industrial Age began about 250 years ago (New World Encyclopedia, n.d.). Large factories, powered by steam engines, produced “revolutionary” changes in the manufacturing of a wide range of products. Prior to that time, most people lived and worked on farms. Now, in the United States, only about two percent of the work force is needed to produce enough food for the whole country and for quite a bit of export.
Initially, the Industrial Age was not based on highly automated machines, and we certainly did not have computers and robots at that time. Many of the jobs were so mindless that they could be done by young children. This competition for the jobs, as well as general agreements that it was wrong for children to be working long hours in factories, led to the development of public schools with required attendance in England.
In the United States, the Industrial Age officially ended and the Information Age officially began in 1956. At that time, the number of white collar workers first exceeded the number of blue collar workers in the country (Moursund, 2017). It wasn’t computers that produced this change. The mass production of computers was just getting started, and industrial manufacturing remained a major source of jobs. Part of this change is discussed in Heather Long’s article, U.S. Has Lost 5 Million Manufacturing Jobs Since 2000 (Long, 3/29/2016). Quoting from her article:

In 1960, about one in four American workers had a job in manufacturing. Today fewer than one in 10 are employed in the sector, according to government data.

Call it the Great Shift. Workers transitioned from the fields to the factories. Now they are moving from factories to service counters and health care centers. The fastest growing jobs in America now are nurses, personal care aides, cooks, waiters, retail salespersons and operations managers.

What this data tells us is that in the past our country has adjusted to the major changes of moving from an agricultural economy to an industrial economy, and then from an industrial economy to a service economy. We are just starting the move to an AI economy.

Here is an interesting question. Will an AI economy favor women over men when it comes to employment? Rebecca Searles argues “yes” in her article, The Future of AI Will Be Female (Searles, 1/10/2018). Quoting from this article:

“Humans are going to find meaningful work if they can do the things that machines can’t do well,” says Ed Hess, a professor of business administration at University of Virginia. “And that’s higher-order thinking—critical, creative, innovative, imaginative thinking.”

In order to remain relevant in the new world of work, we’ll need to lean in to the skills that make us most human. Psychologists, social workers, elementary school teachers: These kinds of careers require a real understanding of what it means to be a person. Job numbers support this argument: As automation creeps in, fields that interact with machines such as construction work, factory work, and machine operation are declining rapidly, while occupations that place a premium on interpersonal skills, like those in the healthcare field, are seeing explosive growth.

Soft and Hard Skills

This section is based on Paul Petrone’s article, The Skills Companies Need Most in 2018—And the Courses to Get Them (Petrone, 1/12/2018). In this article, he distinguishes between soft skills and hard skills. Very roughly speaking, soft skills are what I call “people” skills. In the High Tech/High Touch model discussed in the previous IAE Newsletter, these are High Touch. Hard skills are somewhat analogous to High Tech (Moursund, 2/14/2018). Quoting from the article:

First, let’s start with the skills all professionals should learn, regardless of what they do. These are “soft” skills, although in practice they are anything but: 57 percent of leaders say soft skills are more important than hard skills.

So, what are the soft skills companies need most in 2018? To find out, we surveyed 2,000 business leaders and asked them the soft skills they’d most like to see their employees learn. [Bold added for emphasis.]

The 2,000 business leaders who were surveyed suggested leadership, communication, collaboration, and time management as their top four soft skills.

The article then lists 25 hard skills, based on a database that the company LinkedIn maintains. Examples include: Cloud and Distributed Computing, Statistical Analysis and Data Mining, Middleware and Integration Software, Web Architecture and Development Framework, and User Interface Design. Essentially all of the items in this list of hard skills involve Information and Communication Technology uses in large businesses.

Two Possible Futures of Employment

Those who are optimistic about future employment forecast that we will make the change from a service economy to a AI economy, and that this will not devastate employment. Those who are pessimistic forecast the change to an AI economy will lead to a huge decrease in employment. I find it interesting to browse the literature and find so many articles arguing for one or the other of these two forecasts.

Here is a quote from Think Your Job is Safe from ‘Bots? Too Bad (MIT Technology Review, 1/26/2018):

We all think robots won't take our jobs. That's wrong—we just can't say how wrong.

The news: A poll shows 94 percent of US workers think it's unlikely they'll lose a job to a robot. That includes folks in highly automatable roles, like warehouse staff. [They are] wrong: Data shows automation is already changing the work force. Between 1990 and 2007, 670,000 jobs in local US labor markets were lost to robots.

But: The future is hard to predict. We rounded up every study we could find on what automation will do to jobs and found just one firm conclusion: no one agrees. [Bold added for emphasis.]

A list of some of the forecasts is available in Erin Winick’s article, Every Study We Could Find on What Automation Will Do To Jobs, In One Chart (Winick, 1/25/2018). In brief summary, the findings reported in the article are that “There are about as many opinions as there are experts.”

Final Remarks

I wonder how such diametrically opposed groups of forecasters have emerged (Krakovsky, January, 2018). And, if the future is that uncertain, what should our schools be doing in terms of preparing today’s students for their future?
My conclusion is that our educational systems should:
  • Prepare students for change. Students need to develop the skills and habits of mind to be lifelong, self-responsible, and self-motivated learners who can learn about and adjust to the changes that are going on in their world.
  • Prepare students for the types of employment being predicted by the forecasters who forecast there will be plenty of jobs. Thus, help them to develop both soft and hard skills.
  • Prepare students to make use of their leisure time in ways that add to their quality of life and help them to be responsible, caring adults. I believe that, over the long run, there is a good chance that the average work week will decrease in length. I hope that the increased leisure time will not all be spent playing mindless computer games.
References and Resources

Krakovsky, M. (January, 2018). The new jobs. Communications of the ACM. Retrieved 1/22/2018 from

Long, H. (3/29/2016). U.S. has lost 5 million manufacturing jobs since 2000. CNN. Retrieved 1/24/2018 from

Mathews. L. (6/15/2017). 400 burger per hour robot will put teenagers out of work. Retrieved 1/24/2018 from

MIT Technology Review (1/26/2018). Think your job is safe from 'bots? Too bad. Retrieved 1/26 2/18 from

MIT Technology Review (1/24/2018). Clocking in: A daily look at the workplace of the future. Retrieved 1/24/2018 from

Moursund, D. (2/14/2018). Education for a high tech and high touch world. IAE Newsletter. Retrieved 2/1/2018 from

Moursund, D. (2017). Information age. IAE-pedia. Retrieved 1/24/2018 from

New World Encyclopedia (n.d.). History of the Industrial Revolution. Retrieved 1/24/2018 from

Petrone, P. (1/12/2018). The skills companies need most in 2018—And the courses to get them. Linkedin Learning. Retrieved 1/24/2018 from

Searles, R. (1/10/2018). The future of AI will be female. Quartz Media. Retrieved 1/22/2018 from

Winick, E. (1/25/2018). Every study we could find on what automation will do to jobs, in one chart. MIT Technology Review. Retrieved 1/26/2018 from

Free Educational Resources from IAE

Moursund, D. (2017). Free educational videos. IAE-pedia. Retrieved 7/14/2017 from

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

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

Moursund, D. (2017). TED talks. IAE-pedia. Retrieved 7/14/2017 from

IAE publishes and makes available four free online resources:

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

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 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.


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