Issue Number 268 October 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. Fourteen of the newsletters are available in Spanish. In addition, seven free books based on the newsletters are available.

Dave Moursund’s newly revised and updated book, The Fourth R (Second Edition), is now available in both English and Spanish (Moursund, 2018a, link; Moursund, 2018b, 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, 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 over 72,000 page-views and downloads. More than 15,500 of these are the Spanish edition.

Information and Communication Technology in
Problem Solving Across the Curriculum


David Moursund
Professor Emeritus, College of Education
University of Oregon

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

Comment from David Moursund. The discipline of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) that has been developing during the past 75 years is changing everything. While no longer in its infancy, ICT is far from being a mature, fully developed discipline. Perhaps it is best described as being in is early childhood.

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” (Nelson Mandela; South African anti-apartheid revolutionary, politician, and Nobel Peace Prize winner who served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999; 1918-2013.)

Comment from David Moursund. Our current PreK-12 education system was not designed for rapid change. The pace of change of ICT is overwhelming our school systems’ ability to accommodate and make effective use of this new technology.

“Nothing could be more absurd than an experiment in which computers are placed in a classroom where nothing else is changed.” (Seymour Papert; South African/American mathematician, computer scientist, and educator; 1928-2016.)

Comment from David Moursund. This statement by Papert was made nearly 30 years ago. Since then, many billions of dollars have been spent bringing ICT into our schools. On average, the ICT-based changes that have been made in classrooms have been quite modest, even disappointing in many ways. Compare the school changes, for example, with the vastly greater changes brought about by online shopping, by smartphones, by social media, in research, etc.

“The only person who is educated is the one who has learned how to learn and change.” (Carl Rogers; American psychologist; 1902-1987.)

Comment from David Moursund. Rogers’ statement suggests that two of the most important goals of schooling are students learning to learn and students learning to deal effectively with change. Ask yourself: How well are you personally and how well are our educational systems doing in these two endeavors?
 
David Moursund’s Newest Book-writing Project

Over the past decade, I have written many IAE Blogs and IAE Newsletters that relate to the challenge of changing our PreK-12 schools to take more effective advantage of the tools we call Information and Communication Technology (ICT). Now, I am beginning the task of organizing this mass of material into a form that will be more useful to preservice and inservice teachers, as well as to others who are interested in improving the education of our children. Here are some unifying questions.

  1. What can and what should students learn about use of ICT to help solve the  problems and accomplish the tasks that they are learning about in school?
  2. How can the appropriate use of ICT help to make education more authentic and cost effective, and to better prepare students for their futures?
  3. How do we prepare preservice and inservice teachers to implement our findings as we make progress in answering the two questions given above?

During my long writing career, I have authored, co-authored, and edited a large number of books that are available free to read and download on the IAE-pedia site (Moursund, 2019, link). So, I know how to write a book. But, this particular writing task is not like any I have faced before. The body of material I am trying to encompass is vast and rapidly changing. Our formal pre-college educational systems that I often refer to as schooling (in contrast to informal education that includes sports programs, clubs, all the many activities students engage in beyond the formal school day) also are vast. Sadly, our formal schooling often tends in many ways to be strongly resistant to change. Just for the fun of it think, about the challenge of improving the schooling, or school-based parts of education, versus the challenge of improving the informal education outside-of-school parts of education.

After long and careful thought, I have decided that my usual approach to writing and publishing books will not serve my needs nor the needs of my readers in this project. So, I have decided to try a new approach.

Traditionally, an author of an academic book develops a manuscript and submits it to a publisher. If the manuscript is accepted for publication, it is revised to accommodate suggestions of “experts” who have reviewed the manuscript. It is then copyedited, and a large number of copies are printed to be sold. If the book sells well, eventually a second and perhaps subsequent editions are prepared and published.

Contrast this with much of the writing that I have done in recent years and made available free on my IAE websites. There, I can make changes and can add new articles whenever I want to do so. This reminds me of when I was a teacher. After a class ended, I could evaluate how successful it was, then make corrections and additions for the next class meeting. Moreover, for each course that I taught, I could make changes based on what I had done the previous time I taught the course and what I had learned since then. In this sense, classroom teaching is an organic endeavor—one that has the ability to grow and evolve in response to new insights and more current data. When a course is heavily dependent on a printed textbook and other hardcopy documents, this decreases the organicity of the course.

As each chapter of this new book that I am currently writing is completed, it will be published online and made available free. If a new chapter requires revision of one or more previous chapters, those changes will be made. In that sense, the emerging book will indeed be highly organic.

Of course, this is not a new idea. I “borrowed” this idea from the publishers of the Wikipedia and other writers and publishers who have used a similar approach. The point is that my IAE-pedia, the Wikipedia, and many other electronic publications are works in progress that are made available free to their readers. They are never completed, published, and sold in the old-fashioned manner that has traditionally been used with hardcopy books.

As this writing project moves forward, I more than ever need and welcome comments and suggestions from my readers.

Intended Audience

The new book being introduced in this IAE Newsletter is intended specifically for preservice and inservice PreK-12 teachers, and for others who are interested in helping to improve precollege education. It will provide readers with many ideas to think about, but it will not provide detailed lesson plans that teachers can immediately incorporate into the curriculum content, instructional processes, and assessment activities that make up a typical school day.

The book will also prove useful to parents (especially those who home school their children), all people involved in raising children, and tutors working at the precollege level. Remember that each of us is a lifelong learner (student) and a lifelong teacher. Every interaction we have with another person and every thought we have is both a teaching and a learning experience. Our brains are learning and teaching 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Problem Solving Is Part of Every Discipline of Study

Many students immediately think about mathematics when they hear the term problem solving. It is certainly true that problem solving is an important part of math. But, problem solving is an important part of every discipline of study.


Definition of Discipline of Study

Each academic discipline or area of study can be defined by a combination of several general ideas:

  • The types of problems, tasks, and activities it addresses.
  • Its accumulated accomplishments such as results, achievements, products, performances, scope, power, uses, impact on the societies of the world, and so on.
  • Its history, culture, and language, including notation and special vocabulary.
  • Its methods of teaching, learning, assessment, and thinking. What it does to preserve and sustain its work and pass it on to future generations.
  • Its tools, methodologies, and types of evidence and arguments used in solving problems, accomplishing tasks, and recording and sharing accumulated results.
  • The knowledge and skills that separate and distinguish among: a) a novice; b) a person who has a personally useful level of competence; c) a reasonably competent person; d) an expert; and e) a world-class expert.

This definition is intended to fit the disciplines of study that we had long before the first electronic digital computer was built, and to accommodate new disciplines of study that will be developed in the future. I suggest that you spend a few minutes thinking about current and possible future roles of ICT in each of the six bulleted items listed above. Which one or two of these do you think is being or will be the most changed by ICT in the next decade or so? Would this question be useful for small group and whole class discussion with students you teach?

Definition of Problem

Here is a definition of problem that fits well in many different disciplines. You (personally) have a problem if the following four conditions are satisfied:

  1. You have a clearly defined given initial situation.
  2. You have a clearly defined goal (a desired end situation). Some writers talk about having multiple goals in a problem. However, such a multiple-goal situation can be broken down into a number of single-goal problems.
  3. You have a clearly defined set of resources that may be applicable in helping you move from the given initial situation to the desired goal situation. These typically include some of your time, knowledge, and skills. Resources might include money, the Web, the telecommunication system, computers, friends, teachers, and so on. There may be specified limitations on resources, such as rules, regulations, guidelines, and time lines for what you are allowed to do in attempting to solve a particular problem.
  4. You have some ownership—you are committed to using some of your own resources, such as your knowledge, skills, time, and money, to achieve the desired final goal.

Problem solving includes:

  • Question situations: recognizing, posing, clarifying, and answering questions.
  • Problem situations: recognizing, posing, clarifying, and then solving problems.
  • Task situations: recognizing, posing, clarifying, and accomplishing tasks.
  • Decision situations: recognizing, posing, clarifying, and making good decisions.
  • Using higher-order critical, creative, wise, and foresightful thinking to do all of the above. Sometimes the goal is to do work that others can confidently build on. Such results can be shared, demonstrated, or used as a product, performance, or presentation.

In many problem-solving situations, ICT and computerized tools are resources of the type mentioned in the #3 part of the definition of a problem. These resources have grown more powerful over the years. That is one reason why it is so important to thoroughly integrate teaching the use of ICT in problem solving into the basic fabric of the total school curriculum. This topic is discussed in my free online book, The Fourth R (Second Edition) (Moursund, 2018a, link; Moursund, 2018b, link).

The #4 part of the problem definition is particularly important. Unless you have ownership—through an appropriate combination of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation—you (personally)  do not have a problem. Motivation, especially intrinsic motivation, is a huge topic in its own right.

For example, you glance at the headlines in your local newspaper and see that a drought and/or warfare in a particular country is pushing hundreds of thousands of people to the verge of starvation. For you, this tragic situation meets the first three components of the definition of a problem. Moreover, the story touches your heart. But what, if anything, can or will you do about it? It is one thing for a problem situation to touch your heart. It is another situation entirely for you to decide to commit some of your own time, money, and other resources in an attempt to help solve the problem.

Now, think about the types of “problems” that we assign to students in school. Many students look at these assigned tasks as seatwork/homework and mentally respond, “I couldn't care less. These are just make-work busy-work—a hoop that I am supposed to jump through.” That is, these students have no ownership of the assigned problems.

A good teacher creates learning situations in which students are willingly engaged—intrinsically and extrinsically motivated—in working on problems and tasks that they consider to be personally relevant and important. I believe a student is entitled to have answers to questions such as:

  1. How does learning the course content and doing the assignments empower or benefit me now and/or in the future?
  2. Why do I need to memorize this? When I need to know this, I can quickly look it up on the Web.

Of course, answers need to be appropriate to a student’s current cognitive development, knowledge, and interests. This can be a challenging task! Small group and whole class discussions may prove useful in this endeavor.

Spend some time thinking about the specific subject area disciplines you teach, and the problems inherent to those disciplines. Next, identify some problems within these disciplines where ICT is a useful aid to helping to solve the problems. Engage your students in exploring these topics in small groups or whole class discussions. Encourage them to think about the various other disciplines they are currently studying, and have them identify some of the key problems in each of these disciplines. Then lead them to explore how ICT might help in working toward solutions for these problems.

Computer games and social networking are major challenges to both schooling and informal education. The developers of computer games and social networking systems have become highly skilled in making their products so intrinsically motivating that they can lead to significant changes in the ways that people want to spend their time. In extreme cases, users may actually become addicted.

Teachers and parents both face this ICT challenge. A partial approach to dealing with this challenge is frequent and open discussion with students about the problem. My personal observation is that children are born liking to play. Indeed, Maria Montessori, told us that “Play is the work of the child” (Wikipedia, 2019, link). Both informal education and schooling must help children learn that responsible adulthood definitely includes time for play, but there is so much more to life than play (Moursund, 7/31/2019, link).

Taking Responsibility for Your Own Learning

Remember, I am writing for an audience that encompasses all PreK-12 teachers as well as a number of other educators and parents. My expectation is that you, personally, have the knowledge, skills, maturity, and intrinsic motivation to take responsibility for your own learning in the areas that are most relevant to your needs, both on and off your job.

If you are a teacher, your school and school district have a responsibility to provide you with general purpose inservice related to ICT. However, you cannot expect that your school or school district will provide you with the detailed inservice instruction that will meet all of your more specific professional needs. It is up to you to take responsibility for your own future education. Teach yourself to find aids on the Web that help address your inservice needs. Many are free, but some charge for the services they provide. Think of this task as role modeling what you want your students to learn to do in their own lives. When you learn an important new idea that is relevant to your teaching, share it with your students.

As you gain in ICT knowledge and skills, incorporate these into whatever areas you teach. Moreover, develop skill in bringing your students into the conversation. What do your students know about the ICT aspects of each specific topic you are teaching in a particular day? Ask them! Seek answers that reveal their knowledge, skills, and thoughts about ICT. This can be one of the most important aspects of what you do to improve your capacity to appropriately integrate ICT into your everyday teaching. In addition, it will help you to learn what your students know, and you may be able to create an opportunity for them to share what they know with their fellow students. All of this is essential to being a good teacher.

As an example, consider playing electronic games. Essentially, each game presents the game player with problems and then provides feedback on their progress toward solving the problems. My free book about games and problem solving, Introduction to Problem Solving in the Information Age, is available on the Web (Moursund, 1/20/2016, link). This book will help you to better understand the roles of game playing in learning about problem solving and will increase your knowledge about the discipline of problem solving. It will also help you to facilitate your students doing some transfer of learning from their ICT knowledge and skills to the topics you want them to learn about in school.

As a final challenge to all PreK-12 teachers, think about the essential need for today’s students to learn to read and write not only in the hardcopy print media world, but also in an artificially intelligent, interactive, hypermedia world. They also need to learn that this is a world in which it is quite easy to publish fake news. As you teach, you need to continually ask yourself how you can be certain that what you are teaching is not fake news. You need to help your students learn how to detect and/or avoid fake news, both in their schooling and in the informal education of their everyday lives (Farmer, 5/31/2018, link).

Final Remarks

The development of reading and writing more than 4,000 years ago certainly changed the course of human history. Some 4,000 years of research and development making use of these brain tools led us to the 1950s, when the first general purpose electronic digital computers became commercially available. Now, less than 70 years later, such computers are ubiquitous. Actually, saying “such computers” is a major understatement. The price to performance ratio of computers has decreased by a factor of more than a million during this time. The Internet and Web have revolutionized telecommunication and provided worldwide access to a massively huge and steadily growing online library. Artificial intelligence is making steady progress and can solve a broad range of types of problems that people previously solved by hand and/or were unable to solve. Robots and computerized factories are making significant changes in worldwide employment. And this list goes on as the pace of change continues to accelerate.

Think of a child who is just now entering a preschool program of child care and instruction, a child who may well have an adult life expectancy of 80 years—or much more, depending on the success of research on extending human life being made possible by ICT. Our current PreK-12 educational system needs considerable revision in order to meet the needs of this child who faces a long adult life in a rapidly changing world.

References and Resources

Farmer, L. (5/31/2018). Using LibGuide to recognize fake news. IAE Newsletter. Retrieved 10/19/2019 from https://i-a-e.org/newsletters/IAE-Newsletter-2018-234.html.

Moursund, D. (2019). IAE books. IAE-pedia. Retrieved 10/19/2019 from https://i-a-e.org/downloads/free-ebooks-by-dave-moursund.html.

Moursund, D. (October, 2019). What the future is bringing us. IAE-pedia. Retrieved 10/2/2019 from http://iae-pedia.org/What_the_Future_is_Bringing_Us.

Moursund, D. (7/31/2019). Challenging questions about the future of computer technology in education. IAE Newsletter. Retrieved 10/24/2019 from https://i-a-e.org/newsletters/IAE-Newsletter-2019-262.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. (2/14/2018). Education for a high tech and high touch world. IAE Newsletter. Retrieved 10/20/2019 from https://i-a-e.org/newsletters/IAE-Newsletter-2018-227.html.

Moursund, D. (9/26/2016). Artificial intelligence. IAE-pedia. Retrieved 10/20/2019 from http://iae-pedia.org/Artificial_Intelligence.

Moursund, D.G. (2007). Introduction to problem solving in the information age. Eugene, OR: Information Age Education. Retrieved 10/20/2019 from http://i-a-e.org/downloads/doc_download/7-introduction-to-problem-solving-in-the-information-age.html.

Wikipedia (2019). Maria Montessori. Retrieved 10/21/2019 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maria_Montessori.

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.