Issue Number 254 March 31, 2019

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) and Advancement of Globally Appropriate Technology and Education (AGATE) 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.

Dave Moursund’s newly revised and updated book, The Fourth R (Second Edition), is now available in both English and Spanish (Moursund, 2018c). The unifying theme of the book is that the 4th R of Reasoning/Computational Thinking is fundamental to empowering today’s students and their teachers throughout the K-12 curriculum. The first edition was published in December, 2016, the second edition in August, 2018, and the Spanish translation of the second edition in September, 2018. The three books have now had a combined total of more than 35,000 page-views and downloads.

Dave Moursund’s newly revised and updated book, The Fourth R (Second Edition), is now available in both English and Spanish (Moursund, 2018, link). The unifying theme of the book is that the 4th R of Reasoning/Computational Thinking is fundamental to empowering today’s students and their teachers throughout the K-12 curriculum. The first edition was published in December, 2016, the second edition in August, 2018, and the Spanish translation of the second edition in September, 2018. The three books have now had a combined total of more than 37,000 page-views and downloads.

Note to readers: The ongoing series on ICT Tools and the Future of Education will be continued in IAE Newsletter #255.

Some Roles of ICT and Math
in the History Curriculum (Chapter 1)

David Moursund
Professor Emeritus, College of Education
University of Oregon


My December 15, 2018, IAE Newsletter is titled ICT Tools and the Future of Education, Part 1: A Brief History of Tools in Education (Moursund, 12/15/2018, link). It was followed by five more newsletters exploring various aspects of the use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) tools in education, with a heavy emphasis on applications to math education, or ICTing across the math curriculum.

The sixth newsletter in this series is titled Mathing Across the Curriculum (Moursund, 2/28/2019, link). The thesis is that both ICT and math are now common and important components of many disciplines of study. Of course, it is easy to make the case of the importance of both ICT and math in the sciences and engineering. But, how important are these two tools in other disciplines?

This question led me to undertake the task of writing this newsletter series on the topic of ICTing and mathing across the history curriculum. I chose history as a non-math discipline to explore because I wanted to see how well I could do in a subject that I have not studied formally. The last history course I took was while I was in high school. Of course, I have had more than 60 years of life experiences since then, I have read a lot about various historical topics, and I have viewed many excellent videos about important historical events. In addition, I have the Web at my fingertips.

My work on this topic soon led to a document that is far larger than a single IAE Newsletter. Indeed, it is leading to my writing a short book on ICTing and mathing across the history curriculum. Although this short book is not yet complete, I have decided that I will first publish the book as a sequence of IAE Newsletters. What follows is the first of these newsletters.

Chapter 1: Introduction

“We must welcome the future, remembering that soon it will be the past; and we must respect the past, remembering that it was once all that was humanly possible.” (George Santayana; Spanish citizen raised and educated in the United States, generally considered an American man of letters; 1863-1952.)

"Those who don't know history are destined to repeat it." (Edmund Burke; Irish statesman, author, orator, and philosopher; 1729-1797.)

Edmund Burke’s quote is the type of statement that makes good press and is often accompanied by interesting stories. However, we know that the circumstances involved in the typical historical events we study are very complex and do not exactly repeat themselves in the future.

Yet we do not require exact repetition to make such study of history quite valuable. There are many examples of times when certain aspects of history have repeated themselves. If we could accurately predict which past events might well repeat themselves, and if we don’t want such repetitions to occur, then we could attempt to change future history.

For example, consider the history of people being seriously injured or killed in automobile accidents. This number was on the rise as the number of cars on the road increased. Eventually, legislation to require the use of seatbelts was passed and history that fatalities were reduced. This tidbit of history suggests that it is possible for people to work together to learn from historical data and then to enact legislation that is for the common good.

Global warming provides a poignant example. Scientists, drawing on considerable historical data and modern science, have concluded that the current global warming is due to what we have done in the past. We know of many actions that can be taken to halt global warming and undo some of the damage to our atmosphere that has occurred.

Does history provide us with examples of how to accomplish such a worldwide task? Yes! We have the example of worldwide efforts to deal with the ozone hole at the south pole. We have the example of stopping most sales of leaded gas. More recently, working through the United Nations, broad agreement has been reached to decrease worldwide mercury pollution (United Nations, 9/25/2017, link). Thus history brings us examples and methodologies in which some global problems have been addressed successfully.

In each of these examples, a problem was identified, and evidence was presented that it was a serious problem. The evidence was based on a combination of analysis of historical records and a careful analysis of possible ways to change the current trajectory. That is, based on the evidence, predictions were made of possible futures if we continued on our current path, i.e., we engaged in future studies.

A Parallel Between the Disciplines of Mathematics and History

Mathematics is the study of patterns and relationships. In Mathematics As the Science of Patterns, Michael Fried quotes from G.H. Hardy, a very famous and productive math researcher (Fried, 2010, link):

A mathematician, like a painter or a poet, is a maker of patterns. If his patterns are more permanent than theirs, it is because they are made with ideas.

Quoting Michael Resnik, also from the Fried reference:

Why does this word ‘pattern’ seem so apt? No doubt because it connotes order, regularity, and lawfulness. Moreover, as the pattern, say, for a shirt is not cloth but the plan, scheme, or idea for a shirt, the word ‘pattern’ calls up the fact that, as one writer puts it (in a book called again Mathematics as a Science of Patterns, “in mathematics the primary subject-matter is not the individual mathematical objects but rather the structures in which they are arranged.”

History can be studied as a collection of isolated facts. But, a serious study of history is an exploration of patterns and relationships between and among past events. Thus, it not surprising that math and ICT are useful tools in the study of history.

The discipline of math, itself, has a long history. This raises some interesting questions. As students learn math in school, what aspects of the history of math do we want them to learn? For example, we use the base 10 numeration system. Presumably this is because we have 10 fingers. Why not a base five system, because of five fingers on a hand? Why not a base 20 system, because of 20 fingers and toes? Why is a minute divided into 60 seconds, and an hour into 60 minutes? Why is a day divided into 24 hours and why is a week 7 days long?

We routinely use these aspects of math and science in our everyday lives. It took many thousands of years for people to develop these ideas and to agree to use them throughout the world. This is one aspect of history that suggests the people of the world are becoming more unified.

Some Definitions of History

K. Kris Hirst has compiled a list of definitions of history (Hirst, 2/5/2019, link). She begins her website with the statement:

History is the study of the human past as it is described in the written documents left by human beings. The past, with all its decisions completed, its participants dead and its history told, is what the general public perceives as the immutable bedrock on which we historians and archaeologists stand. But as purveyors of the past, we recognize that the bedrock is really quicksand, that bits of the story are yet untold, and that what has been told comes tainted by the conditions of what we are today.

When I read this statement, I was bothered by the emphasis on written documents. We have artifacts such as tools going back a hundred thousand years and more. In much more recent years, we have had photographs, then video, and now a variety of interactive multimedia. We also have a steadily growing collection of oral histories from peoples around the world.

Advances in technology help us to gain information about the past. Have you had your DNA analyzed? This process helps tell a little bit about the story of your own past. The process requires extensive use of mathematical calculations by computers.

Hirst quotes a number of historians who have attempted to tell us what history is. Here are two examples from her website:

John Jacob Anderson (1821–1906). "History is a narration of the events which have happened among mankind, including an account of the rise and fall of nations, as well as of other great changes which have affected the political and social condition of the human race."—1876. A Manual of General History.

Arnold J. Toynbee (1889–1975). "History not used is nothing, for all intellectual life is action, like practical life, and if you don't use the stuff well, it might as well be dead."—April 17, 1955. NBC television broadcast.

Contrast these two statements. The focus of the first is on stories of the past, and the focus of the second is on using the information contained in these stories. Suppose you are a history teacher and a student asks, “Why do I need to learn this?” You might provide a two-part answer, based on the two different viewpoints given above.

E.D. Hirsch provides us with some insight into the focus of John Jacob Anderson (Wikipedia, 3/4/2019, link). Hirsch believes that communication with other people depends on our having a shared historical knowledge. In his books, he has collected a large number of facts that are part of the United States cultural heritage. For example, do you know who George Washington and Abraham Lincoln were? How about Babe Ruth and Ted Williams? What are a cotton gin and a horseless carriage? Hirsch argues that it is important for a country’s educational system to have its students memorize and understand a number of historical facts. In addition, effective communication with people from other countries requires having some knowledge of their culture and their own country-wide shared knowledge.

If you are teaching history that is built around the ideas of Arnold Toynbee’s focus, then answers to the question of “Why do I need to learn this?” are built into what you are teaching. Our history and our culture are closely intertwined. Students need to learn the lessons of history in order to use this information in their everyday living in our society.

Final Remarks

I approached this writing topic with some trepidation. As it progressed, the project turned into a lot of fun. Part of the fun is the power that good access to the Web brings to me. Another part of the fun is that history is fun!

The next newsletter (the second chapter of my emerging book) will continue to expand on the ideas of ICTing and mathing across the history curriculum.

References and Resources

Fried, M.N. (2010). Mathematics as the science of patterns. Mathematics Association of America. Retrieved 3/21/2019 from https://www.maa.org/press/periodicals/convergence/mathematics-as-the-science-of-patterns-mathematics-as-the-science-of-patterns.

Hirst, K.K. (3/22/2019). What is history? A collection of definitions. ThoughtCo. Retrieved 2/6/2019 from https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-history-collection-of-definitions-171282.

Moursund, D. (2/28/2019). ICT tools and the future of education, Part 5: Mathing across the curriculum. IAE Newsletter. Retrieved 3/21/2019 from https://i-a-e.org/newsletters/IAE-Newsletter-2019-252.html.

Moursund, D. (2018). The Fourth R (Second Edition). Eugene, OR: Information Age Education. Retrieved 3/21/2019 from http://iae-pedia.org/The_Fourth_R_(Second_Edition). Download the Microsoft Word file from http://i-a-e.org/downloads/free-ebooks-by-dave-moursund/307-the-fourth-r-second-edition.html. Download the PDF file from http://i-a-e.org/downloads/free-ebooks-by-dave-moursund/308-the-fourth-r-second-edition-1.html. Download the Spanish edition from http://iae-pedia.org/La_Cuarta_R_(Segunda_Edici%C3%B3n).

Moursund, D (12/15/2018). Information and communication technology tools and the future of education, Part 1: A brief history of tools in education. IAE Newsletter. Retrieved 3/21/2019 from https://i-a-e.org/newsletters/IAE-Newsletter-2018-247.html.

United Nations (9/25/2017). World unites against mercury pollution. Retrieved 3/3/2019 from https://www.unenvironment.org/news-and-stories/press-release/world-unites-against-mercury-pollution.

Wikipedia (2019). E.D. Hirsch. Retrieved 3/23/2019 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E._D._Hirsch.

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 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 . 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 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.