In my recent newsletters, I have included brief reports on my ongoing “bout” with lung cancer. At the current time, medical science considers my type of lung cancer to be incurable. However, significant progress is occurring in extending the length and quality of life of cancer patients, and I remain very optimistic. I have competed ten days of radiation and my first round of chemo and immuno therapy, with three more such rounds to occur in the next two months. The treatment is tolerable, but certainly not fun! I am continuing to enjoy life, my work, my play, my interactions with a large number of family members and friends, and especially the pleasure of hearing from my former students about all they have been accomplishing with their own lives.
I have focused most of my professional career on the importance of making effective use of new technologies to improve precollege schooling. During my career, the changes that Information and Communication Technology (ICT) were bringing to our world have been far outstripping the adjustments our schools were making to prepare children for adult life in this rapidly changing world. This situation continues—indeed, the need to implement technological improvements in our schools becomes ever more important as the pace of technological progress continues to accelerate.
In recent years, I have added two general topics to my areas of enquiry and writing. I have written a number of articles that focus on our Quality of Life (QoL). I also have begun to think about lifelong learning versus just thinking about schooling. This IAE Newsletter focusses on these two topics.
Today’s humans are the result of about seven million yeas of evolution starting from the great apes. A typical child born today has the physical and cognitive abilities to learn to communicate in oral languages—indeed, to become multilingual. This child can learn reading, writing, and arithmetic. No other creatures on earth have such capabilities.
Schools to teach reading, writing, and arithmetic were first established a mere 5,400 or so years ago. Initially, few children attended schools and gained these basic skills. Possession of such knowledge and skills was not a significant factor in determining the QoL of children and adults in those days.
However, reading, writing, and arithmetic were world changers. Over many centuries the governments of the various nations have come to realize that having school-educated citizenry was beneficial to the country. Thus, over 5,400 years we have moved from schooling for a very few of the elite to free, required six years to twelve years of schooling (depending on the country) for most children.
In most of today’s world, a lack of such knowledge and skills tends to significantly decrease a person’s QoL. Now, about 90% of today’s children are growing up in parts of the world in which a number of years of free schooling are provided (typically, required) for all children. During my lifetime, the grades 1-12 schools in the United States have expanded to include kindergarten, and some are now moving toward providing pre-K starting at about four years of age. In addition, there is a movement toward providing two free years of post-high school “community” college or technical training.
It is relatively easy for a country to measure its educational success quantitively in terms of the number of students reached and their years of formal schooling. However, here are six important observations:
Efforts to improve schooling have been ongoing during the past century and longer. A recent book by Tom Loveless, Between the State and the Schoolhouse: Understanding the Failure of Common Core, explores Common Core, a current major movement designed to improve schooling in the United State (Lovelace, 2021, link):
Tom Loveless has written the definitive work on why federally mandated efforts to reform curriculum and instruction fail. He understands that any successful change must engage those who are expected to make the change happen: teachers. His book should be widely read to dispel the federal obsession of the past forty years with standards, accountability, and testing as levers of change. — Diane Ravitch, author of Reign of Error and Slaying Goliath.
Quoting from an August 4, 2021, interview of Tom Lovelace (https://www.yahoo.com/now/researcher-tom-loveless-common-core-190100941.html):
But a decade after they [Common Core standards] were first adopted by states, little evidence exists to show that teaching or learning was significantly improved by the vast resources poured into implementing the standards. At least one study has found students in states that were early adopters of Common Core scored slightly lower on both the National Assessment of Educational Progress’s reading and math portions. If the point of spending billions of dollars to establish the mammoth set of new learning guidelines was to make sure kids became “college- and career-ready” (to use a term that was ubiquitous around 2013), not much progress seems to have been made toward that goal. [Bold add for emphasis.]
My conversations with school-age children in recent weeks suggest that many such students consider much of their current schooling to be some combination of boring and irrelevant. That is, many students in the mid-teens who are quite capable of learning content being taught in the schools actually put minimal effort into doing so. They “get by” and are satisfied with this approach to school.
You have heard the expression, “If you can’t beat them, join them.” Many individual teachers and schools now are attempting to address this issue. They have varying levels of success. For example, some success has been reported on the use of immersive highly interactive games/simulations. My recent Google search identified a number of different research projects in this area.
Quoting from my most recent free book, The Future of AI in Our Schools http://iae-pedia.org/The_Future_of_AI_in_Our_Schools:
The issue is not whether computers can be used effectively to help teach students. Rather, the question is about the quality of teaching, and the overall nature of learning that occurs in computer-student interactions versus human teacher-student interactions, interactions between and among students in the classroom, student-parent interactions, and so on. It appears obvious to me that, both now and for quite some time to come, education can be improved by an appropriate balance among these types of interactions. It would be a major mistake to greatly decrease the human elements that are of major importance in education today.
ICT has made amazing progress during my lifetime, and this pace continues to increase ever more rapidly. Our schooling systems certainly have made substantial progress since the first schools were developed nearly 5,500 years ago. They now are attempting to determine the changes needed in curriculum content, teaching processes, and assessment in order to make more effective use of steadily improving ICT. At the same time, schools need to help prepare students for adult life in this changing world. These are daunting tasks!
It seems clear to me that schools eventually will thoroughly integrate the capabilities of human teachers and the capabilities of AI-based computer-assisted learning systems as they work to help prepare students for responsible, productive adulthood in an increasingly computerized world. Sadly, it also seems to me that, at their current rate of progress in this endeavor, schools are falling further behind!
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.)Reader Comments