This book was inspired by the work of University of Virginia professor E.D. Hirsch. In 1988, he published Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know. In this best-selling book, Hirsch argued that progressivist education had let down America’s students by neglecting knowledge in the form of a shared body of information. The book includes a list of 5,000 facts, dates, famous people, works of literature, and concepts that he believed every American should know. His book and the list have proven to be quite popular (Core Knowledge Foundation, 2020, link).
Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is now a well-established part of our culture. Computer Cultural Literacy for Educators includes a large number of computer-related facts, dates, people, software (computer programs), hardware (physical machines and devices), and concepts that have become integral to this culture. Today’s teachers and their students need to become familiar with many of these computer-related people and terms. The goal of this short book is to help its readers to expand their own computer cultural literacy.
I view myself, you, and every other person as being both a lifelong teacher and a lifelong learner. Thus, in this book I use the terms teacher and educator to apply to all people reading the book. Every interaction you have with another person is a teaching and learning event for both of you. My goal in writing this and my other books is to help to improve education at all levels and throughout the world.
The primary intended audience for this book is preservice and inservice educators, and other people interested in improving our precollege educational system. The latter includes parents, School Board members, and all people who help to make decisions affecting the education of our children. I expect that most of my readers will be teachers and/or parents with school-age children.
I think of each entry as being a short story. For the most part, these “stories” range in length from a very short paragraph to a quarter of a page. However the entry on Machine Learning is about two pages in length, because I consider artificial intelligence to be one of the most important human creations of all time, perhaps second only to reading, writing, and the printing press. The entries in this newsletter are only brief segments from a modest number of the entries in the book, and do not include the many links to references that I used in my writing (these links are included in the book). The purpose of this newsletter is simply to interest you in reading the entire book.
The bulk of the book’s content is divided into two parts.
Part 1 introduces about 40 names selected from the huge number of people who have contributed to the development and use of electronic digital computers, and to the field of computers in education. Below is a short part of the list, in alphabetical order.
All of these people, and many others on my list, have made major contributions to the overall computer-related technological changes currently going on in our world.
Part 2 is a list of about 190 words and terms that frequently are used in communication about computers and their uses, including hardware, software, publications, and a number of other important computer-related ideas. For many of the terms on the list, there are links to related information, including people who made major contributions to the development of these ideas.
The words and terms presented in the book are in one alphabetical list. In writing this newsletter, I found it interesting to pick a particular category or general idea, and then to select a few entries falling into that category. Three examples of broad categories are illustrated below. Again, these are much shorter than the entries in the book and do not include the links to reference materials.
Artificial Intelligence. A branch of computer science concerned with building machines capable of performing tasks that typically require human intelligence.
Expert system. A computer program that makes use of artificial intelligence to aid in solving a type of problem or accomplishing a type of task. A 6-function electronic calculator satisfies that definition, as does a computer program that plays games such as Chess and Go at a very high level. Web browsers and language translation systems provide examples of expert systems that are in routine, widespread use today.
Machine learning. A process of using a computer to examine a very large number of examples, and then independently figure out a solution. The computer then writes its own program on how to solve the problem or accomplish the task.
Singularity (technological singularity). For years, the capabilities of artificial intelligence have been increasing steadily. A number of years ago, Ray Kurzweil predicted that the capabilities of computer-based AI would far exceed the capabilities of humans by about 2045, and called this event the Singularity.
Turing Test. In 1950, Alan Turing published an article discussing what has come to be called the Turing Test for computer intelligence.
Computer Technology-based Communication
Broadband connectivity. Connectivity to the Web ranges from very slow to very fast. The U.S. Federal Communications Commission currently defines broadband to mean at least 25 million bits per second of download speed, and 3 million bits per second of upload speed. Such specifications vary from country to country. This download speed is sufficient for reasonably high quality television reception.
Chat room. An online communication system in which two or more people can communicate simultaneously with each other by text, voice, video or combinations thereof. First used in 1947 in a text-only system developed by David Wooley and Doug Brown. Some chat rooms are designed to facilitate communication for a specific group of people, such as people playing particular computer game.
Communication satellite. An artificial earth-orbiting satellite that receives, amplifies, and resends telemetry communications signals via a transponder. In September 2020, when this entry was being written, a company owned by Elon Musk was making rapid progress in orbiting thousands of communication satellites that, together, will provide Internet connectivity to every location on earth.
E-book (electronic book). An e-book is a book or other print materials in electronic digital format designed to be read on a computer or on a device designed specifically for reading electronic books. Historians suggest that this activity was spearheaded by Douglas Engelbart and others in the early 1960s.
Smart phone. A mobile cell phone with additional features that can include a digital camera, audio recorder, email and texting capabilities, and many other features. Its large amount of computer storage and processing power provide capabilities similar to those of a microcomputer. A smart phone typically has a touchscreen interface, Internet access, and an operating system capable of running downloaded applications.
Social media. Interactive computerized communication networks that individuals and groups use to chitchat and share information, such as photos, text, music, and so on. Typically, a user’s profile and identity are stored by the computer system providing the network services.
Spam. Any kind of unwanted, unsolicited digital communication that is sent out in bulk. Spam often is associated with efforts to sell products of questionable value.
Computer Speed and Storage Capacity
Big data. The term big data is used both to describe a very large collection of data, as well as the processes of analyzing very large data sets to solve problems and accomplish tasks. The latter is also called data analytics, and typically is accomplished by the use of a combination of human brain power, artificial intelligence, and computers.
Computer simulation. The process of developing a mathematical model to be performed on a computer, one that is designed to predict the behavior of and/or the outcome of a real-world or physical system. For example, weather and climate change forecasters make extensive use of computer simulations. Other examples include car driving and airplane piloting simulators. Such simulations require very fast computers.
Exascale computer. Exascale is computing starting at 10 to the 18th operations per second—or a billion-billion operations per second. This is about a thousand times as fast as the current (2020) super computers. Expectations are that the first such computer will become operational in 2021 at the Argonne National Laboratory that is located near Chicago, Illinois.
Google. For most people, the term Google has two distinct meanings. First, there is a company named Google, Inc. started by Larry Page and Sergey Brin, and officially launched in 1998. Second, there is a search engine (a Web browser) now named Google Chrome (but usually referred to as the Google search engine, or just Google) that is by far the most widely used search engine in the world. Google makes use of a very large number of very fast computers. It typically produces a response to a search request in under one second. Using multiple computers working together, in this amount of time, Google can search through about 5.5 billion web pages. The Google search engine can process search requests in more than 70 different languages, and can automatically use Google Translate to translate retrieved documents into more than a hundred different languages.
Quantum computer. An ordinary binary bit must be either 0 or 1. A qubit (quantum bit) can essentially be both 0 and 1 at the same time. A full-scale quantum computer making full use of this technology may be millions of times as fast as today’s binary bit-based computers.
Supercomputer. A term used to describe the world’s fastest electronic digital computers. In June 2020, Japan’s Fugaku supercomputer became operational. At about 2.8 times the speed of the Summit computer, it was ranked as the world’s fastest supercomputer. It has a speed of 415 quadrillion floating point arithmetic operations per second. A quadrillion is 10 raised to the 15th , which is one thousand million million. This is about 415 million million times the speed of the 1951 UNIVAC computer.
“We have ignored cultural literacy in thinking about education. We ignore the air we breathe until it is thin or foul. Cultural literacy is the oxygen of social intercourse.” (E.D. Hirsch, Jr.; American educator and academic literary critic; 1928-.)
Technological changes are non-neutral—they certainly do not affect all people equally. Some people will benefit much more than do others from computer-related technological changes, while still other people will be disadvantaged. This non-neutral concept can be expanded to the study of all topics that examine changes in our world.
In my opinion, the two greatest human inventions in all of recorded history have been written language together with the printing press, and the electronic digital computer. Each has been a world change agent, strongly affecting our lives, both of the people who learn to use these human inventions effectively, and those who lack the opportunity and/or decide to not take advantage of such opportunities.
Both of these inventions require considerable effort to learn to use them effectively as aids to solving problems and accomplishing tasks at a contemporary level. With the three R’s, the required necessary skill and knowledge level is slow to change over the years. But, with computers and the field of Information and Communication Technology (ICT), learners face a rapidly growing and changing body of knowledge and skills.
An interesting aspect of reading is that graphic images (pictures) used in written material can be understood even by non-readers, and can be used as in aid to learning to read. Indeed, highly interactive graphics, sound, and written language Computer-Assisted Learning materials are a powerful and growing aid learning.
There are many other uses of ICT that require modest learning, but that can solve problems and accomplish tasks that are well beyond what students are learning to accomplish through our current (conventional) school curriculum.
This situation is a large and growing problem in our current educational systems. It certainly is not a problem that can be solved just by just providing students and teachers with the types of information in this Cultural Computer Literacy for Educators book. My presenting you with a long list of computer-related people and terms, and you doing the same thing for your students, does not accomplish the goal of improving computer-related cultural literacy. Only when these terms and the tools they describe become part of the working and thinking vocabulary, and also of the routine everyday life, of you and your students will my goal of helping to improve computer cultural literacy have been accomplished.
I have no expectation that teachers and others making use of my lists of people and terms will agree with all of my choices. They may or may not decide to add parts of this historical information to their everyday personal and professional lives. They may or may not be motivated to learn more about specific items I have included in my lists. Moreover, I have not attempted to make a guess at the age level or grade level when it would be appropriate to introduce these ideas to students at various grade levels in school.
However, this book can help teachers in all disciplines and at all grade levels to increase their awareness of the changes. ICT is bringing to the world. This can help them to identify ICT-related topics that are relevant to their personal needs and to those of the students they teach. I suggest that you talk with your students and other young people about the lists. Ask them for the vocabulary they use in talking with their friends about social networking, computer games, computer uses in school and at-home schooling, and so on.
I suspect that a number of my readers will want to suggest additional people and terms they believe should be added to these lists. Please use my email address (currently, Moursund@uoregon.edu), to present and briefly justify your suggestions. I’d appreciate receiving brief information about each person or term you want to add, with a link to more information about each suggestion.
In closure, I want to thank you and all of my other readers for making use of this book. Now, go forth and make good use of what you have learned!
Arai, N. (April 2019). Can a robot pass a university entrance exam? TED Talk. (Video, 13:26.) This talk explains how an AI system was able to pass university entrance exams in Japan without having any understanding of what it was reading and writing. Retrieved 10/10 2020 from https://www.ted.com/talks/noriko_arai_can_a_robot_pass_a_university_entrance_exam.
Barham, J.A. (10/16/2018). The 50 most influential living computer scientists. The Best Schools. Retrieved 7/15/2020 from https://thebestschools.org/features/most-influential-computer-scientists/.
Core Knowledge Foundation (2020). The Core Knowledge Foundation is an independent, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization based in Charlottesville, Virginia, and founded in 1986 by E. D. Hirsch. Retrieved 6/29/2020 from https://www.coreknowledge.org/about-us/.
Marr, B. (9/30,2019). The 7 biggest technology trends in 2020 everyone must get ready for now. Forbes. Retrieved 10/8/2020 from https://www.forbes.com/sites/bernardmarr/2019/09/30/the-7-biggest-technology-trends-in-2020-everyone-must-get-ready-for-now/#75f25aeb2261.
Moursund, D. (2020). Information Age Education Newsletters. Retrieved 10/10/2020 from http://iae-pedia.org/IAE_Newsletter.
Moursund, D. (2020). What the future is bringing us. The link provides access to annual entries that began in 2007. IAE-pedia. Retrieved 10/10/2020 from http://iae-pedia.org/What_the_Future_is_Bringing_Us.
Moursund, D. (2019). Women and ICT. IAE-pedia. Retrieved 9/19/2020 from http://iae-pedia.org/Women_and_ICT.
Moursund, D. (2018). La cuarta R (Segunda edición). Eugene, OR: Information Age Education. Retrieved 8/25/2020 from http://iae-pedia.org/La_Cuarta_R_(Segunda_Edici%C3%B3n).
Moursund, D. (2018). The fourth R (Second edition). Eugene, OR: Information Age Education. Retrieved 8/24/2020 from http://i-a-e.org/downloads/free-ebooks-by-dave-moursund/307-the-fourth-r-second-edition.html.
Rinconada, J. (9/6/2019). Most influential people in computer science. medium.com. Retrieved 7/25/2020 from https://medium.com/@jrinconada/most-influential-people-in-computer-science-59fe9461c51b.
Sylwester, R. (2017). 20/20 vision for 2020 challenges. IAE-pedia. Retrieved 10/8/2020 from http://iae-pedia.org/.
TED Talks (n.d.). TED and TEDx provide free access to more than 3,500 talks by well-informed, influential people on a very wide range of topics. All of these talks are educational and many are suitable for use in precollege education. Typically, they are under 18 minutes in length. For a list of general categories, see https://www.ted.com/topics. There are 927 talks in the Technology category at https://www.ted.com/topics/technology, 198 talks in the Brain category at https://www.ted.com/talks?topics%5B%5D=brain, 43 talks in the Hacking category at https://www.ted.com/topics/hack, 58 talks in the Intelligence and Artificial Intelligence category at https://www.ted.com/topics/intelligence, and so on.
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 (IAE Books, 2020, link.)
Moursund founded Information Age Education (IAE) in 2007. IAE provides free online educational materials via its IAE-pedia, IAE Newsletter, IAE Blog, and IAE books. 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 IAE and AGATE (IAE, 2020, link; AGATE, 2020, link.)
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