Issue Number 261 July 15, 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, 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 43,000 page-views and downloads.

At the upcoming June 2019 annual conference of the International Society for Technology in Education, Dave Moursund will be honored for having been ISTE’s founder in 1979. This newsletter and several that will follow it are a short break in the current sequence of newsletters focusing on roles of computers and math in the history curriculum.

David Moursund’s 2019 ISTE Conference Presentation
about the
Future of Computer Technology and Education

David Moursund
Professor Emeritus, College of Education
University of Oregon

“It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” (Charles Darwin; English naturalist, geologist, and biologist; 1809-1882.)

The International Society for Technology in Education celebrated its 40th anniversary this June at the 2019 ISTE Conference in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I was honored at the conference for being the founder of ISTE in 1979. The conference had about 18,000 attendees from 83 countries. In three hours of relatively hurried browsing through the huge exhibit hall, I still was not able to visit all of the more than 400 vendor exhibits.
My conference presentation was a discussion of some possible futures of Information and Communication Technology in PreK-12 education, with the audience invited to ask questions about my insights into this future. Our moderator was Mila Thomas Fuller, out-going President of the ISTE Board and Assistant Director for Online Learning, Illinois College of Education (Fuller, 2019, link). The session was introduced by Neal Strudler, one of my early doctoral students at the University of Oregon who is now a Professor Emeritus from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Neal has been a very active long-time ISTE volunteer and productive scholar.
Neal described some of his many activities during his years as a computer-using educator (Strudler, March, 2010, link). He then asked my opinion about what progress we have made over the past 40 years with the effective integration of computer technology into our schools.
I first responded to Neal’s question and then to a number of questions from the audience. They were asked to write their questions on index cards, and to include their name and email address. I indicated that I would provide email responses to questions that I did not have time to address during my presentation. My responses to four of their questions follow.
Have you been disappointed by the amount of progress that computers have made in our K-12 schools during the past 40 years?

In the summer of 1963, I helped to teach a group of high school students how to use computers to solve math problems. In the summer of 1965, I taught a similar course to high school teachers. Subsequently, I received many years of National Science Foundation funding to teach precollege teachers about uses of computers in education. Thus, I was a 14-year veteran of teaching teachers about computers by the time I founded ISTE’s predecessor, the International Council for Computers in Education (ICCE), in 1979.

Here is a short summary of my response to Neal’s question. During all of my 56 years of working in the field of computers in education, I have expected the field to progress much more rapidly than it has. For many years I have written and talked about the following question:

If a computer can solve or greatly help in solving a type of problem or accomplishing a type of task that we want students to learn to do through their schooling, then what do we want the students to learn to do using such computer systems?

Over the years, I came to believe that as computer capabilities were developed that could meet these student needs and as computer costs became “reasonable,” school curricula would change to reflect the new computer capabilities. Significant progress has occurred. However, I am disappointed that the pace of change has been much slower than I had expected.

For example, we still think that assessment of what students have learned should consist mainly of paper-and-pencil tests. We seldom use open-book tests, and only rarely do we use open-and-connected-computer tests. But, outside of schools, in the economically advanced countries throughout the world such computer use is now routine and expected of adults at work, at play, and in their avocations.

Humans have had about 5,200 years of experience and progress in helping students learn to make routine use reading, writing, and arithmetic as they solve problems, accomplish tasks, and go about their everyday lives, both as students and outside of school. Eventually, intelligent computers and robots will fall into the same category as reading, writing, and arithmetic in terms of tools being routinely used by all students. While many schools have made significant progress in this endeavor, the pace of change in computer technology has far surpassed the rate of change toward full integration of these new technologies into the everyday schooling of students. So, in summary, we have done well, but not nearly as well as I had expected and would like to have seen.

Where should education be headed?

This question came up in various forms during my presentation. As a starting point, think about when and how today’s children first encounter computers and computerized toys. For most children in the economically developed nations today, this usually happens several years before students enter the first grade and continues during their years of schooling and beyond. Such computer technology is now an integral component in the informal education of many very young children.

Next, think about adult users of computer technology. When adults in an economically developed nation have a need to make use of computer technology at work, at play, or in other everyday aspects of their lives, many routinely do so. For example, just think in terms of the number of smartphones currently in use. Current worldwide yearly production of such devices is about one for every five people on earth.

To a large extent, educators are not looking forward nearly as much as I think they should. Rather, a continuing major focus appears to be on developing ways that are more fun and attention-grabbing for students in order to improve upon their accomplishing goals that are primarily the same goals we have been working on in the past. Contrast this approach with a strong focus on using computer technology to more fully integrate research-based progress in learning theory, brain science, and cognitive neuroscience into our PreK-12 educational systems.

For example, think about the ways that reading and writing changed the world by providing both a new aid to communication and a new aid to thinking and solving problems. In terms of communication and problem solving, today’s computers are somewhat like reading and writing on steroids as we use them for voice input and output, language translation, the ability to solve a very wide range of problems, and artificial intelligence.

I find it fun to consider how the invention of reading and writing changed the world, and to then ask myself if computers will have a still larger impact on all aspects of our modern world. My forecast is a definite YES. Suppose that my forecast proves to be correct. What will and what should our educational systems do to take full advantage of such changes?

My answer is that schooling at all levels should thoroughly integrate the widely available computer resources throughout the curriculum.

As a somewhat humorous aside, we certainly don’t hesitate to integrate the use of electric lighting in schools. But, this invention is less than 200 years old.

Now, reading and writing instruction using paper, pencil, and print technology that is much older than electric lighting needs to be redesigned to effectively use the full range of computer facilities that can so greatly extend and expand the capabilities and purposes of reading and writing.

I have written about such ideas in my (free) book, The Fourth R, with the second edition now available in both English and Spanish (Moursund, 2018a, link); Moursund, 2018b, link). The primary focus of the book is on using the combination of one’s human brain and a computer’s artificial intelligence brain to solve problems and accomplish tasks. If you have not already read the book, I strongly recommend that you do so.

On the darker side, the routine use of computers presents major threats to us as individuals, and all students need to learn about dealing with such threats. For example, we all know that computers are being use to present fake and/or strongly biased news and information to shape our personal opinions, social beliefs, purchasing processes and habits, voting habits, and so on. Our schools need to play a major role in preparing students to be responsible, informed, and caring adults in this world where Big Brother and Big Sister continually are watching each of us and working to shape our behaviors and beliefs (Farmer, 5/31/2018, link; Moursund, 8/21/2018, link).

Will bricks-and-mortar schools still be pervasive 50 years from now?

I have used this same question with a variety of other audiences, and the responses vary considerably. Perhaps half of the respondents foresee relatively little change in this physical-school model. Others suggest much more home and community-based schooling, with robots and other technology being routinely involved in teaching and assessment. Most respondents see an increasing use of online education. For my readers who are classroom teachers, I suggest that you think carefully about what aspects of your ordinary school day may be ever more strongly impacted by computer technology. For example, consider instruction presented by a teacher to a large group of students versus highly individualized and highly interactive instruction presented by an intelligent computer system.

Next, think about some of the very positive things that currently happen in bricks-and-mortar schools. Schools serve as parents and caregivers, and many provide after-school activities while parents are at work. Schools provide meals, some health services, and some counseling. Schools provide a variety of supportive services for students with diagnosed learning challenges. Schools help students learn to interact with each other, including interactions with students who are different from themselves in ethnic background, race, native language, social-economic status, etc. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, schools are a cost-effective way to provide well-educated, knowledgeable, and caring human teachers who are skilled in interacting with and assisting learners.

What about Virtual Reality?

My first encounter with virtual reality was through the Holodeck in Star Trek episodes more than 40 years ago. Some science fiction writers had come up with the idea still earlier. In the Star Trek Holodeck, the computer-generated “virtual” people are just as real, knowledgeable, and animated as the “real” people. Thus, in the Holodeck one can carry on a conversation with Albert Einstein or Isaac Newton. Perhaps you are familiar with the Turing test for artificial intelligence created by Alan Turing in 1950 (Wikipedia, 2019, link). The Holodeck computer-generated Einstein and Newton pass this Turing test.

We are familiar with the idea of talking with a skilled actor who makes a career with impersonations of Abraham Lincoln or other very important persons from the past. This is an example of a human actor-based virtual reality. How long will it be before we have “virtual” people or robots available to intelligently converse with us and with our students?

Suppose that you are reading a good novel. The author is telling you a story, and you are creating the events in your mind. In some sense, the author and you are creating a virtual reality. What is missing is the two-way interaction of your being able to ask questions and make comments to the author and/or to the characters in the novel, and then receive a reply. Progress in AI and virtual reality will someday make this possible. Today’s Conversational Agents serve as examples of progress that is being made (Harrsch, 5/15/2018, link).

Finally, think about doing experiments in a science lab where the actual scientific equipment is replaced with connections to a computer that is an impersonator of the equipment. For example, consider a fully electronic, computerized instrument such as a scanning electron microscope (Wikipedia, 2019, link). You will be unable to tell whether you are interacting with a scanning electron microscope or with a computer impersonating a scanning electron microscope.

I tend to think of this last example as being the crux of virtual reality in education. Carrying on a meaningful conversation with a computerized or actual impersonator of Abraham Lincoln can be fun and entertaining, but this is entirely different from being able to use million-dollar science instruments in a science lab. Similarly, we already have very good virtual cars, airplanes, and spaceships being used to train us to pilot such vehicles. So, I see a bright future for those types of virtual reality uses in education.

Let me carry this discussion one step further. How about a virtual classroom teacher—perhaps a robot that looks just like a human teacher? Indeed, how about providing every student with their own personal robot teacher for use both in school and at home? We have a start on this when we provide students with one-on-one computer facilities—with good connectivity—in school and in their homes. Perhaps the next step is that the computer will be replaced by an artificially intelligent robot. The combined fields of robotics and computer-assisted learning already are making significant progress in that direction. Kind of scary as well as very exciting, right?

Final Remarks

“The future is here. It's just not widely distributed yet.” (William Gibson; American-Canadian writer who coined the term “cyberspace” in his short story “Burning Chrome” and later popularized the concept in his debut novel, Neuromancer; 1948–.)

Today’s smartphone provides us with voice input and voice output, both to people and to the Web. In many ways, such an instrument is a type of robot, and certainly it is an indicator of what is to come. Also, I am amazed at the new capabilities of “smart” watches with their steadily increasing aids to detecting possible medical and other health-related problems, as the wearer provides the locomotive power for this “robot doctor,” communicator, timekeeper, and computational aid.

Memorization of facts has long been a focus in our classrooms. Many years of using flashcards and other techniques to help students memorize facts that curriculum designers consider to be important have led to the routine use of computers for similar purposes. However, this type of memorization is of decreasing importance as computer technology becomes better and better at storing and retrieving such facts. My advice is that we redesign our curriculum, instruction, and assessment to place less emphasis on rote memory, and place more emphasis on thinking, understanding, and problem solving using a combination of human and computer brains.

Spelling is one of my favorite examples, as many students find it difficult to become good spellers. Suppose that students do most of their writing via voice input and/or using a good word processor on a computer. Do they still need to gain the level of spelling skills that we currently strive for in our conventional school programs? (Personally, I have never very good at spelling. I could memorize the spellings for a list of words and do well on a test, but my long term retention of spelling such words has always been poor.)

Finally, take a look at my IAE Blog entry, Forecasting Possible Futures of Education (Moursund, 6/9/2019, link). This article lists a variety of problems facing humanity. Make your own list of the types of problems you want your students to learn to address, and ask your students to add their own ideas to the list. Weave instruction on these topics throughout your curriculum, integrated with ways that computers can help to address the problems. One of the most important things you can do for your students is to help them to improve their skills in recognizing and posing problems, and then working to solve such problems.

References and Resources

Farmer, L. (5/31/2018). Using LibGuide to recognize fake news. IAE Newsletter. Retrieved 7/1/2019 from https://i-a-e.org/newsletters/IAE-Newsletter-2018-234.html.

Fuller, M.T. (2019). Profile. Illinois College of Education. Retrieved 6/29/2019 from https://education.illinois.edu/people/mila-fuller.

Harrsch, M. (5/15/2018). Improving college students’ and others’ mental health with conversational agents. IAE Newsletter. Retrieved 7/1/2019 from https://i-a-e.org/newsletters/IAE-Newsletter-2018-233.html.

Moursund, D. (2019). David Moursund books. IAE-pedia. Retrieved 6/21/2019 from http://iae-pedia.org/David_Moursund_Books.

Moursund, D. (6/15/2019). Education for a changing world. IAE Newsletter. Retrieved 7/1/2019 from https://i-a-e.org/newsletters/IAE-Newsletter-2019-259.html.

Moursund, D (6/9/2019). Forecasting possible futures of education. IAE Blog. Retrieved 7/1/2019 from https://i-a-e.org/iae-blog/entry/forecasting-possible-futures-of-education.html.

Moursund, D. (2018a). The fourth R (Second edition). Eugene, OR: Information Age Education. Retrieved 6/21/2019 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. See the Spanish edition, La Cuarta R, below.

Moursund, D. (2018b). La cuarta R. Eugene, OR: Information Age Education. Retrieved 6/21/2019 from http://iae-pedia.org/La_Cuarta_R_(Segunda_Edici%C3%B3n).

Moursund, D. (8/21/2018). Big Brother’s growing capability to listen to and censor you. IAE Blog. Retrieved 6/30/2019 from https://i-a-e.org/iae-blog/entry/big-brother-s-growing-capability-to-listen-to-and-censor-you.html.

Moursund, D. (2/28/2018 ). Education for future employment. IAE Newsletter. Retrieved 7/1/2019 from https://i-a-e.org/newsletters/IAE-Newsletter-2018-228.html.

Moursund, D. (2/14/2018). Education for a high tech and high touch world. IAE Newsletter. Retrieved 7/1/2019 from https://i-a-e.org/newsletters/IAE-Newsletter-2018-227.html.

Strudler, N. (March, 2010). Perspectives on technology and educational change. Journal of Research on Technology in Education. Retrieved 7/1/2019 from https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/15391523.2010.10782549.

Wikipedia (2019). Turing test. Retrieved 6/30/2019 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turing_test.

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.