Issue Number 262 July 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 most recent book, The Fourth R (Second Edition), is now also available in a Spanish translation of the second edition, La Cuarta R (Moursund, 2018a, link; Moursund, 2018b, link). The unifying theme 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 in September, 2018. The three books have now had a combined total of more than 47,500 page-views and downloads.

Challenging Questions About the Future of
Computer Technology in Education

David Moursund
Professor Emeritus, College of Education
University of Oregon

Introduction

The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) celebrated its 40th anniversary at a recent conference held in Philadelphia in late June, 2019 (ISTE, 7/30/2019, link).

I was honored at the conference as their 1979 founder.

Prior to the conference, I had spent a half-hour on the phone talking with Richard Culatta, ISTE’s current CEO. Among other topics, he asked for some of my ideas about improving ISTE. One of the ideas I presented was that ISTE might place an increasing emphasis on helping to improve education throughout the world, with special emphasis on the so-called second world and third world countries.

The United Nations supports education as an inalienable human right of all people. The world is doing much better in some countries than in others. Article 26 of its 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights states (Moursund, 10/31/2018, link):

Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit. [Bold added for emphasis.]

In essence, I was just sharing with Culatta current information about the goals of my non-profit company, Information Age Education (IAE). I established IAE in 2007, shortly after I retired from the University Oregon and a number of years after I was no longer actively involved in the ISTE leadership. IAE provides a wide range of free materials designed to help improve education at all levels and throughout the world (Moursund, 6/14/2019, link).

Improving Education

It is easy to talk about the general idea of improving worldwide education. It is much more difficult to actually plan and implement changes that will result in significant and lasting improvements of the education being received by the children and adults of our world.

For example, brain science provides us with the information that learning is a 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week activity. We are all learning all of the time, even when we are asleep. Formal schooling is just one part of one’s total and ongoing lifelong education. Thus, we need to take brain science research into consideration when we explore ways to improve education.

As another important example, we know that growing up in a “rich” educational environment, both in and outside of school, is a considerable aid to the development of one’s brain and cognitive capabilities. Growing up in poverty—which often includes a much less than ideal personal learning and cognitive development environment—can be a major detriment to the development of one’s brain and education.

We also know that every interaction between two people, even just a short conversation, is both a learning and a teaching event. Each of us is a lifelong teacher as well as being a lifelong learner.

In some sense, each of us also is a lifelong researcher as we continually think about ways to solve the problems and accomplish the tasks that face us. Our communication skills and social structures allow us to share such personal research work with others. Our growing world wealth helps to fund research by people who specialize in working to solve problems and accomplish tasks that are important to large numbers of people. For example, think about worldwide efforts to develop medicines to help people with AIDS, and to help prevent and/or cure diseases such as Ebola and malaria.

The totality of collected and readily available information is growing very rapidly. This has been true for hundreds of years, but the Internet and Web have greatly speeded up this process. Moreover, our electronic libraries today are not only more readily accessible than hardcopy print materials, they are steadily becoming more intelligent. The discipline of artificial intelligence (AI) was established in 1945 and has certainly become a world changer (Lewis, 12/4/2014, link).

In summary, as lifelong learners, lifelong teachers, and lifelong researchers, we now are working in a world where artificially-intelligent technology is steadily increasing in capability. This provides us with worldwide connectivity to other people and to a global and increasingly intelligent library that is expanding at an astounding rate. You can see that improving the lifelong education of each individual person is a humongous challenge!

The 2019 ISTE Conference

In his conference keynote address, Richard Culatta, ISTE’s CEO, presented some ideas about the current state of technology in education and where it is headed. He also raised some challenging questions that we educators face. I am impressed by his future vision as well as by his ISTE leadership.

It total, the conference included more than a thousand sessions and activities where educators from around the world presented and discussed the many ways that modern technology can be used to improve curriculum content, teaching, and assessment. It also was interesting to explore the wide array of new instructional materials in the exhibit halls.

My own ISTE 2019 conference session was organized as a sequence of questions posed by the moderators and audience. The unifying theme was improving our current educational systems to better meet the needs of today’s and tomorrow’s students. The moderators were Mila Thomas Fuller (Past President of ISTE) and Neal Strudler (a very long-time ISTE leader and one of my doctoral students in the field of Computers in Education.) Audience members were encouraged to write their questions on index cards that were collected and given to the moderators.

The focus of this current newsletter is a question from Anita McAnear. She joined the ISTE staff in 1983 and took a major leadership role, both in ISTE publications and ISTE conferences until her retirement a few years ago. Anita asks, “What do we want the future [of technology in education] to hold?”

This IAE Newsletter is the first of several newsletters that will respond to this question, as well as to several other questions from the audience and from the session planners that I did not have time to address. Eventually these newsletters will be part of a short book that I plan to write for preservice teachers, inservice teachers, parents, and others who are interested in improving education. The book will be made available free on the Information Age Education site.

The book’s goal will be to help to improve education at the PreK-12 level in all subject areas and throughout the world. I realize this is rather a grandiose idea for one short book. Remember, however, that ISTE was but a dream when I founded it in 1979. ISTE is now a worldwide non-profit professional society, with more than 15,000 attendees from 83 countries attending its 2019 conference.

The Internet and the Web

I was fortunate to grow up in a home environment that included many books as well as two well-educated parents. Sadly, there still are children in our world growing up today in home environments where one or both parents and/or guardians are illiterate or have a very low level of education, and where there are few or no books and other reading materials.

For many years, a variety of projects around the world have collected used books and distributed them to such book-needy families. As computer connectivity and electricity or solar-powered battery charger technology comes to many of these homes, it is now feasible to provide these children with free tablet computers such as the Kindle Fire 7. In some of my ongoing educational projects, I have given away a number of these tablet computers, many purchased for about $30 each. These tablet computers have many of the features of a Smartphone (Dziedzic, 3/12/2018, link).

My point is that it is now technically and economically feasible to equip almost all children in the world with such technology for use in schools and for other uses. This technology provides access to the Web, by far the world’s largest library. It provides access to many tens of thousands of free books (Singh (8/28/2018). It also provides free courseware—computer software designed to help teaching and learning.

However, access to books and courseware does not automatically make a child into a well-educated, responsible, and caring adult. Moreover, access to online materials includes access to fake new and deliberately deceiving publications. It provides access to computer-based games and other forms of entertainment that may well be addictive, and some may teach (inculcate) values that many of us may consider to be inappropriate. It provides students with access to materials that many adults would wish to prohibit. These are major problems that our home, neighborhood, and school environments have not yet learned to address appropriately and successfully. Thus, as we consider possible roles of technology in improving our informal and formal educational systems, we also must carefully consider the potential downsides of this technology and its uses in education.

More About the Future

What do we want the future to hold in terms of the rapidly growing capabilities of the Internet and the Web? These new technologies make it possible for a person to use reading, writing, and speech to communicate quickly in many ways: orally face-to-face with individuals or groups; written texts, email, letters; online oral and written conversation with people throughout the world. The current yearly worldwide production of smartphones, tablet computers, laptop computers, and desktop computers is roughly one for every four people on earth. I find it mind-blowing to consider being able to produce and sell 1.4 billion smartphone a year (Holst, 3/20/2019, link; Holst, 2/6/2019, link). Artificial intelligence is now bringing us relatively good, fast translation of both written and oral communications in a large number of different languages. Even more impressive, to me, is that we now are able to use instantaneous translation to have a real-time conversation with someone speaking a language different from our own.

Well before writing was invented, people drew pictures that aided in communication over time and distance. Writing can be thought of as a sequence of pictures/symbols/letters used as codes to represent spoken words. Long before the invention of metal type and Gutenberg’s printing press, people made wood carvings that could be used in making multiple copies of a picture in a written document (Wikipedia, 2019, link). Now, we have computer graphics that make it very easy to add still and motion graphics to documents being communicated via the Internet.

The first schools were developed shortly after the invention of reading, writing, and math, and these were based on using the written symbols and corresponding oral language. We have had more than 5,000 years of experience in developing and implementing schools and curriculum based on these inventions.

Think about the previous three paragraphs in terms of what important, significant changes we could make today in our school curriculum content, instructional processes, and assessment that might better help students learn to make effective use of new technologies. As you do this thinking, be sure to consider the years of instruction that it takes to bring students to a level that enables them to meet current standards in oral and written communication. While we can increase the number of years of required, recommended, and/or available schooling provided to learners, the pace of improvements in technology far outstrips such minor changes in our educational systems. To me, this suggests that that we need to think outside the box and explore much more fundamental and substantial changes to curriculum content, instructional processes, and assessment in our educational systems. These ideas are discussed throughout my recent (free) book, The Fourth R (Second Edition), now also available in Spanish, La Cuarta R (Moursund, 2018a, link; Moursund, 2018b, link).

Final Remarks
  1. Children have an (amazing) capability of learning to make effective use of computer technology. A significant amount of this learning can and does occur in informal (outside of school) settings.
  2. Computer technology can empower students to solve problems and accomplish tasks that are relevant to their current and future lives.
  3. Access to electronic communication systems and the Web expose children (and all of us) to both good and bad materials. This is a growing educational challenge, because the totality of unedited and uncensored materials available on the Web is overwhelmingly large and is growing quite rapidly.


You have heard the trite statement, “Computers are here to stay.” My guess is that fifty years from now, when people look at their children’s schools, they will find two things:

  1. We will still have school buildings and schools where groups of students regularly come together to face curriculum content, instructional processes, and assessment that bears a strong resemblance to today’s schools. This “coming together” and developing knowledge and skills in interacting with other people will continue to be an important part of schooling.
  2. Computer use will be routinely and fully integrated into curriculum content, instructional processes, and assessment at all grade levels and across the full curriculum.

I believe the next fifty years will lead to more changes to education than we have had since the development of reading and writing 5,400 years ago. These 50 years of changes will be built on what we have learned about teaching and learning during the past 5,400 years. The changes will be driven both by continued progress in technology and by continued progress in the theories of teaching, learning, and the human brain.

The next several newsletters will explore more deeply the changes that I believe are likely to occur.

References and Resources

Dziedzic, D. (3/12/2018). Alexa lets you make calls, send messages from your tablet. Retrieved 7/26/2019 from https://www.cnet.com/news/amazon-alexa-makes-calls-with-your-tablet-easier/.

Holst, A. (3/20/2019). Smartphone production volume worldwide from 2015 to 2021 (in million units). Statista. Retrieved 7/20/2019 from https://www.statista.com/statistics/742517/global-smartphone-production-volume/.

Holst, A (2/6/2019). Shipment forecast of laptops, desktop PCs and tablets worldwide from 2010 to 2023 (in million units). Statista. Retrieved 7/20/2019 from https://www.statista.com/statistics/272595/global-shipments-forecast-for-tablets-laptops-and-desktop-pcs/.

ISTE (7/30/2019). International Society for Technology in Education. Retrieved 7/30/2019 from https://www.iste.org/.

Lewis, T. (12/4/2014). A brief history of artificial intelligence. Live Science. Retrieved 7/21/2019 from https://www.livescience.com/49007-history-of-artificial-intelligence.html.

Moursund, D. (2019). David Moursund books. IAE-pedia. Retrieved 6/11/2019 from http://iae-pedia.org/David_Moursund_Books.

Moursund, D. (6/14/2019). Information Age Education. IAE-pedia. Retrieved 7/22/2019 from http://iae-pedia.org/Main_Page.

Moursund, D. (6/9/2019). Forecasting possible futures of education. IAE Blog. Retrieved 7/12/2019 from https://i-a-e.org/iae-blog/entry/forecasting-possible-futures-of-education.html.

Moursund, D. (10/31/2018). Inalienable rights of children. IAE Newsletter. Retrieved 7/25/2019 from https://i-a-e.org/newsletters/IAE-Newsletter-2018-244.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.

Moursund, D. (2018a). 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. See the Spanish edition, La cuarta R, below.

Moursund, D. (2018b). La cuarta R. Eugene, OR: Information Age Education. Retrieved 3/21/2019 from http://iae-pedia.org/La_Cuarta_R_(Segunda_Edici%C3%B3n).

Singh, K. (8/28/2018). 11 places for thrifty bookworms to download free e-books. Mashable. Retrieved 7/26/2019 from https://mashable.com/article/free-ebooks/.

Wikipedia (2019). Printing. Retrieved 7/20/2019 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Printing.

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.