Issue Number 267 October 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, link1, link2). 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, and the second edition in August, 2018. The Spanish translation of the second edition, La Cuarta R, was published in September, 2018. The three books have now had a combined total of well over 71,000 page-views and downloads. More than 15,000 of these are the Spanish edition.

Advice to a Fairly New Educator

David Moursund
Professor Emeritus, College of Education
University of Oregon

“Interestingly, very few people have a clear idea on how to improve the quality of life.” (Eraldo Banovac; Republic of Croatia energy expert and university professor; 1955-.)
Comment from David Moursund: A good education can contribute substantially to a person’s quality of life. Teachers need to have a good understanding of how the work they do contributes to their students’ quality of life.

“Education is a human right with immense power to transform. On its foundation rest the cornerstones of freedom, democracy and sustainable human development.” (Kofi Annan; Ghanaian diplomat, seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations, winner of 2001 Peace Prize; 1938-2018.)

“A new technology does not add something, it changes everything.” (Neil Postman; American author, educator, media theorist, and cultural critic; 1931-2003.)

The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) held its 40th anniversary conference this past June in Philadelphia. I was pleased to be honored as the founder of ISTE 40 years earlier (Moursund, 6/25/2019, link). A few days later, I received an interesting email message from an attendee who had worked as a volunteer at the conference. Quoting from the email:

First, I would like to say that I am honored to have met you, especially while I was volunteering. I have only been a member for five years, and I have devoted hundreds of hours to ISTE because I believe in the organization, the same one that you founded.

If you have any advice for a fairly new educator, I would love to hear it. Thank you so much for the work that you did in founding ISTE and for valuing the contributions of volunteers like me. [Bold added for emphasis.]
 
My Response, and Advice to All Precollege Teachers

I believe the advice I sent in response to this young teacher can prove useful to a great many preservice and inservice teachers who are thinking about the future of education. The first section below is a slightly revised version of this advice. It is primarily career-oriented and especially for young teachers. The next three sections that follow were not in my email reply, and are ones that I consider to be important to all teachers.

Thanks for your message and challenging question. In terms of being a teacher, it seems to me the challenge is in developing a personal plan that balances looking backward (continuing to do what schools are currently doing) while also looking into the future.

To a large extent, the field of Information Communication and Technology (ICT) in education is not looking forward nearly as much as I think that it should. Rather, it more often appears to be looking at more fun and attention-grabbing ways to try to accomplish what we have been doing in the past.

For example, think about how reading and writing have changed the world. They provided both a new aid to communication and a new aid to thinking and solving problems. Now, the communication aspects of new technologies make it seem more like reading and writing on steroids. Add in voice input and output, language translation, the ability to solve a very wide range of problems, and artificial intelligence. I find it fun to compare how the inventing of reading and writing changed the world and to ask myself if computers will have a still larger impact. Suppose that instructional technology turns out to be an even greater change agent than reading and writing, as they build on and add to our traditional reading and writing. Every teacher teaches reading and writing. Think about and carefully implement plans for what you will you do, using your computer background and interest, to help your students to become reading and writing literate in an interactive, multimedia reading and writing environment.

How can schools and teachers best take advantage of these new opportunities? This is a hard question. I suggest that you build your own teaching and other professional career by clearly stating and then addressing this and other hard questions.

You know, of course, that children begin to learn to read well before they start school, and many make some progress in writing before starting school. Thus, by the end of the 12th grade, children have had their entire life learning to speak and listen, and more than ¾ of their life learning to use reading and writing as an aid to communication, solving problems, and accomplishing tasks. It seems obvious to me that eventually this same level of involvement with computers will become commonplace.

I have written about such ideas in my (free) book, The Fourth R, available in English and Spanish (Moursund, 2018a, link; Moursund 2018b, link). If you have not already read the book, I strongly recommend that you do so, and that you share it freely with friends and colleagues.

One more bit of advice. Take a look at my IAE Blog entry, Forecasting Possible Futures of Education (Moursund, 6/19/2019, link). Make your own list of the types of problems you want your students to learn to address. Weave instruction on these topics throughout your curriculum, together with ways that ICT can help to address such problems.

Think BIG.

Sincerely yours,

David Moursund
Three More Key Suggestions to All Teachers

The response given above is quite general in purpose, but misses a number of points that I believe to be very important. This section contains three examples.

1.   Be an Educational Leader

The world faces a number of very difficult problems. As a teacher, you have knowledge and skills to help galvanize people to work together to help solve these problems. My most recent newsletter lists and briefly discusses nine of these global problems (Moursund, 9/30/2019, link).

You, personally, do not have the resources to solve even one of these problems. But you, together with millions of other teachers, are a potent change agent. In the U.S. alone, there were about 3.6 million full-time-equivalent K-12 teachers in 2017 (NCES, 2019, link). Since the U.S. has less than five percent of the world’s population, this suggests that there are well over 60 million K-12 teachers in the world. That is certainly a potential force to be reckoned with! Collectively, these teachers can change our pre-college schooling system and address other global problems.

Greta Thunberg’s continuing efforts urging world leaders to be more actively engaged in the word’s climate crisis provides a good student-level example (Miller, et al., 8/28/2019, link). What can you and other teachers do to help students become more engaged in addressing this crisis and others that will strongly affect their futures? Suppose that hundreds of thousands of pre-college teachers decided that the climate crisis and other global problems are topics suitable for including in their everyday curriculum. It takes some ingenuity to work this topic into each of the various disciplines taught in our K-12 schools, but every teacher has the knowledge and skills to do this. Students are certainly interested, as demonstrated by their recent worldwide participation in a protest (Kaplan, et al., 9/19/2019, link).

2: Help Students to Become Better at Solving Problems

PreK-12 schools have many goals. Two of my recent IAE Newsletters have discussed how ICT is affecting 14 of these goals (Moursund, 8/31/2019, link; Moursund, 9/15/2019, link). The ninth of these goals is problem solving.

Problem Solving: Students make use of decision-making and problem-solving skills and tools, including the higher-order skills of analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. Students pose and solve problems, making routine and creative use of their overall knowledge and skills, and currently available resource materials.

One approach to studying the history of humankind is to study the tools that our predecessors developed. Several million years before the first homo sapiens, our distant ancestors developed stone tools. By appropriately striking certain stones together, a sharp edge (a cutting edge) could be created. This proved to be a very important survival tool as well as an aid to improving quality of life (Moursund, 11/15/2018, link).

The ability to make and use fire as a tool dates back about a million years, and is often considered to be a major turning point in our prehistory (Wikipedia, 2019, link.) Warmth, light at night, and cooked food certainly helped to improve quality of life. Today’s new ICT tools are fast becoming another major turning point in history. Every teacher faces the challenge of helping to provide today’s students with an education that includes learning to make effective use of these new ICT tools they will work with throughout their adult lives.

Each discipline of study is characterized by the particular types of problems and tasks it encompasses, its accumulated results, its tools and methodologies, new problems and tasks it is addressing, its teaching practices, and so on. If we use a broad enough definition of tool (for example, include speaking and listening as tools), then all of education can be thought of as helping people learn to make use of tools. Early on, some people became much more skilled in creating/building these tools than were others, so the making of tools and the using of tools gradually became two separate collections of knowledge and skill.

ICT provides good examples of this. In today’s world, even very young children can become skilled at using a Smartphone as a tool for communication. The myriad processes that actually go into making a Smartphone and its associated telecommunication systems are a long, complex task, and one that very few of us will ever learn. Moreover, this information brings us to a fundamental question in informal and formal education: “What do people need to know (understand) about using and/or making the various tools that are now commonplace in our world?” This is just part of the still more complex issue of what constitutes a good education that helps to prepare students for their possible futures?

A very wide range of today’s problems can be solved by the currently available ICT tools, such as computer hardware and software (including artificial intelligence), the Internet and Web, computerized machines and robots, and so on.

Progress in ICT has had and continues to have a major impact on every discipline of study—some much more than on others. A future-oriented education both prepares students to make effective use of currently available ICT aids to problem solving, and also includes an orientation that helps them to prepare for the much more powerful ICT tools of their future.

Every discipline of study includes a collection of discipline-specific facts. Quite frequently now, when I am talking to a person, a fact-based question comes up. One of us immediately uses voice input to a Smartphone to seek an answer. We listen to the answer, perhaps integrating it into our conversation, and the conversation continues. It takes knowledge and practice to be able to effectively and skillfully use this ICT capability. Also consider fake news. It takes considerable knowledge and skills to detect and circumvent the fake news that is now routinely bombarding us (Farmer, 5/31/2018, link).

Finally, often the most basic and important part of problem solving is making effective use of one’s brain. This now involves learning to use Computational Thinking, a term popularized by Jeannette Wing to describe the process of combining human and computer “intelligence” to solve problems and accomplish tasks more effectively (Guzdial, 3/22/2011, link). The focus of my new free book, The Fourth R, is on the importance of adding Reasoning/Computational Thinking to the traditional 3Rs of Reading, ‘Riting, and ‘Rithmetic across all curriculum areas and at all grade levels (Moursund, 2018a, link; Moursund 2018b, link).

There are two key ideas here. First, each discipline of study is defined by the types of problems and tasks it studies. Second, ICT is now a powerful aid to studying every academic discipline taught in our schools, and provides tools useful in solving the problems and accomplishing the tasks in each of these disciplines. These aids are steadily improving. Thus, every teacher is faced by a steadily growing ICT challenge! If you want to help to educate today’s students for their future adult lives, you need to understand and make effective use of the ICT aids to knowledge and skills appropriate to this challenge in the various disciplines you teach.

3. Help for Students Who Are Growing Up in Poverty

There is ample evidence of the negative educational impact on a child who is growing up in poverty (National Academies, 2019, link). All teachers know this, and many individual teachers address this problem through their personal efforts. For example, many teachers use their own money to provide needed supplies for their classrooms, and often to meet some of their students’ needs as well.

The U.S. Federal Government funds a very extensive free breakfast and lunch program in schools, especially aimed at children living in poverty (School Nutrition Association, 2019, link). Federal and state programs also provide an extensive medical care system that is an important aid to these children and their families. These are parts of a multi-pronged approach to dealing with poverty. Sadly, other huge problems such as many people working at jobs paying well below a living wage, inadequate housing, inadequate medical and dental care, and homelessness still exist and are not receiving adequate relief.

In brief summary, we can provide resources to people living in poverty, and we can provide education, living-wage job opportunities, and other resources that will help people to rise from poverty. Some countries accomplish this task much better than others. We in the United States need to be doing a great deal more to address this poverty issue and thereby reduce the documented negative educational impact of poverty on our children.

I can imagine a near future when teachers in a school with many students living in poverty-stricken families will routinely be seen marching outside their school (not, of course, when they are doing their assigned teaching duties). These teachers will be carrying signs calling for more and better local, regional, state, and national efforts to solve the poverty-related problems that many of their students face each day.

What You Can Do
Today’s teachers are now encountering students who have considerable knowledge and skill in using ICT. For example, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology provides free software and educational materials to support the programming language Scratch that was designed specifically for young children. Scratch has been used by millions of students in more than 150 different countries and is available in more than 40 languages (Scratch, 2019, link). 

When one or more of the students you teach knows far more about ICT than you, how will you handle the situation? I suggest the following approach. Since you have far more life experience, general knowledge, and teaching skills than your students, you can learn from them and thereby role model people of all ages learning from other people. Moreover, you can use this situation to help your students understand that they have knowledge and skills that “oldsters” do not have, and that all of them can help other people to learn.

I have previously written about the importance of the idea that all people must learn to think and to act both globally and locally (Moursund, 9/17/2019, link). This idea represents a major shift from the older adage of “think globally, act locally” by now emphasizing the idea that each of us is both a citizen of the world and a citizen of local, state, and national governments. We thus have connections and responsibilities both globally and locally. Today’s teachers and students, indeed all of us, must all now “think AND act globally,” at the same time as we “think AND act locally.” The Scratch programming language project mentioned above and the Wikipedia are good examples of projects employing this type of thinking.

Teachers throughout the world are in positions to be able to teach this expanded way of thinking to their students, and to encourage them to “think and act globally and locally.” I hope that you will decide that this is a very good goal to work toward, and that you will encourage your students and colleagues to join you in doing so.

References and Resources

CenteFarmer, L. (5/31/2018). Using LibGuide to recognize fake news. IAE Newsletter. Retrieved 10/11/2019 from https://i-a-e.org/newsletters/IAE-Newsletter-2018-234.html.

Guzdial, M. (3/22/2011). A definition of computational thinking from Jeannette Wing. Computing Education Research Blog. Retrieved 10/12/2019 from https://computinged.wordpress.com/2011/03/22/a-definition-of-computational-thinking-from-jeanette-wing/.

Kaplan, S., Lumpkin, L., & Dennis, B. (9/2019). ‘We will make them hear us’: Millions of youths around the world strike for action. The Washington Post. Retrieved 10/10/2019 from https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=2ahUKEwjc3uSp_
JLlAhUHt54KHdc4CyMQtwIwAHoECAQQAQ&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.washington
post.com%2Fclimate-environment%2F2019%2F09%2F20%2Fmillions-youth-around-world-are-striking-friday-climate-action%2F&usg=AOvVaw3EtSzUZdx5JOvtA6BXFCCH.

Miller, R.W., Lumpkin, L., & Sanchez, O. (8/28/2019). Greta Thunberg, youth climate activist sailing across the Atlantic Ocean, completes voyage. USA Today. Retrieved 10/10/2019 from https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2019/08/28/greta-thunberg-completes-atlantic-ocean-voyage-un-climate-meeeting/2139310001/.

Moursund, D. (9/30/2019). Education to help address biodiversity and other global challenges. IAE Newsletter. Retrieved 10/10/2019 from https://i-a-e.org/newsletters/IAE-Newsletter-2019-266.html.

Moursund, D. (9/17/2019). Think and act both globally and locally. IAE Blog. Retrieved 10/10/2019 from https://i-a-e.org/iae-blog/entry/think-and-act-both-globally-and-locally.html..

Moursund, D. (9/15/2019). Goals in informal education and formal schooling: Part 2. IAE Newsletter. Retrieved 10/6/2019 from https://i-a-e.org/newsletters/IAE-Newsletter-2019-265.html.

Moursund, D. (8/31/2019). Goals in informal education and formal schooling: Part 1. IAE Newsletter. Retrieved 10/10/2019 from https://i-a-e.org/newsletters/IAE-Newsletter-2019-264.html.

Moursund, D. (6/25/2019). David Moursund honored at ISTE 2019 conference. IAE Blog. Retrieved 10/12/219 from https://i-a-e.org/iae-blog.html?start=5.

Moursund, D. (6/19/2019). Forecasting possible futures of education. IAE Blog. Retrieved 10/6/2019 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 10/12/2019 from http://iae-pedia.org/The_Fourth_R.

Moursund, D. (2018b). La Cuarta R. Eugene, OR: Information Age Education. Retrieved 10/12/2019 from http://iae-pedia.org/La_Cuarta_R_(Segunda_Edici%C3%B3n).

Moursund, D. (11/15/2018). Quality of life. Part 1: Overview. IAE Newsletter. Retrieved 10/11/2019 from https://i-a-e.org/newsletters/IAE-Newsletter-2018-245.html.

National Academies (2019). A roadmap to reducing child poverty. The National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine. Retrieved 10/9/2019 from https://www.nap.edu/catalog/25246/a-roadmap-to-reducing-child-poverty.

NCES (2019). Fast facts. National Center for Education Statistics. Retrieved 10/10/2019 from https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=28.

School Nutrition Association (2019). School meal trends & stats. Retrieved 10/1/2019 from https://schoolnutrition.org/aboutschoolmeals/schoolmealtrendsstats/.

Scratch (2019). About the Scratch programming language. Retrieved 10/12/2019 from https://scratch.mit.edu/.

Wikipedia (2019). Control of fire by early humans. Retrieved 01/11/2019 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Control_of_fire_by_early_humans.

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.