Information Age Education
   Issue Number 132
February, 2014   

This free Information Age Education Newsletter is written by Dave Moursund and Bob Sylwester, and produced by Ken Loge. The newsletter is one component of the Information Age Education project.

All back issues of the newsletter and subscription information are available online. In addition, three free books based on the newsletters are available: Consciousness and Morality: Recent Research Developments, Creating an Appropriate 21st Century Education, and Common Core State Standards for Education in America.

This article begins a new series of futures-oriented newsletters whose unifying theme is forecasting and understanding possible changes in policy/practice that have the potential to significantly improve education. Such changes might occur in content, teaching processes, assessment, or some other aspect of education.  (This article is an adaptation of the 2013 mid-December Newsletter #128, which basically was an announcement to seek authors for the series).

Education for Students’ Futures
Part 1: Introduction

David Moursund
Emeritus Professor of Education
University of Oregon

The unifying theme of this futures-oriented series of newsletters is forecasting and understanding possible educational changes that have the potential to significantly improve education. Changes might be in content, teaching processes, assessment, or some other aspect of education.

Here is an example of educational challenges brought on by technology change. A little more than 5,000 years ago reading and writing were invented. This can be thought of as a technological development. During the past 5,000 years we have developed technology that helps support reading and writing, and we have developed teaching methods that make universal literacy feasible. The printing press is an excellent example of such technology.

The Internet and Web can be thought of as examples of technology that build on and greatly enhance reading and writing. Texting, with its cryptic messages and abbreviations, is certainly a challenge to our educational system. The easy integration of pictures, video, and sound into text, with delivery via the Web, is another technological challenge to our educational system. As a personal example, I thoroughly enjoy being able to quickly access dictionary definitions and Web articles for new words and ideas I encounter when reading online. This has certainly changed reading for me.

What the Future Is Bringing Us

For a number of years, the IAE-pedia has included annual series of brief summaries of articles focusing on What the Future is Bringing Us. The articles tend to be business oriented, but some include potential applications to education. Here is one example.

IBM recently published its annual five-year forecast for technological changes (Relaxnews, 12/17/2013). Quoting from the article:

IBM said that its annual forecast of five ways technology will change lives in the coming five years was "driven by a new era of cognitive systems where machines will learn, reason, and engage with us in a more natural and personalized way.”

Education is one of the five topics covered in IBM’s forecast. IBM foresees "classrooms of the future" equipped with systems that track and analyze each student's progress to tailor an individualized curriculum and help teachers target learning techniques. Quoting again from the article:

"Basically, the classroom learns you," IBM vice president of innovation Bernie Meyerson told AFP. "It is surprisingly straight-forward to do."

The forecast is saying that we have the knowledge and technology to greatly individualize instruction. Years of research in computer-assisted learning have led to the current “computer tutor” forms of Highly Interactive Intelligent Computer-assisted Learning (HIICAL) systems. We know what can be done with HIICAL, and we are making significant progress in this technological enhancement of instruction. The forecast is that we will make even more rapid progress in the near future.

IBM’s forecast then goes on to list specific applications of the steadily increasing artificial intelligence of computer systems. In essence, there are many complex problems that people and our societies face, and computer technology can help to address these problems.

Responding to the Challenge

There is one major issue missing from IBM’s education forecast. If a computer can solve or greatly help in solving a category of problems, what do we want our schools to help students learn about this category of problems? It is easy to forecast that we will make progress in individualizing instruction. But, will we make progress in significantly changing the content of the curriculum?

This is a very challenging question, because there are so many stakeholder groups involved in the curriculum content issue. As adults, we function in an open book, open computer, open connectivity environment that includes a steadily increasing collection of powerful computerized tools that help us at work, at play, and in other “authentic” daily tasks. Most of the assessment systems used in our current educational systems are not authentic. Quoting Grant Wiggins, a world leader in the field of authentic assessment:

Assessment is authentic when we directly examine student performance on worthy intellectual tasks. Traditional assessment, by contract, relies on indirect or proxy 'items'—efficient, simplistic substitutes from which we think valid inferences can be made about the student's performance at those valued challenges.

Will the next five years see significant movement towards authentic assessment in which students are provided with the same types of computer tools as adults routinely use in their jobs?

This topic will be covered in detail in a future IAE Newsletter. The remainder of the current newsletter provides additional general topics that will likely be addressed in the “futures” series of IAE Newsletters and its resultant book.

Some Examples of Potential Newsletter Topics

Education Begins in the Home

We know that a great deal of a child’s education occurs in his or her home and comes from parents, guardians, close relatives, caregivers, siblings, and friends. As we make progress in improving the overall education of our population, we also improve the informal home education environments, and thus we improve the education of children.

We know that a successful policy of universal education and of providing every home with aids to education (such as making printed and electronic books readily available) leads to improvements in education. Via research we can compare and contrast this approach with one of providing all homes with easy access to entertainment-oriented television, Web-based audio/video, electronic games, and social networking connectivity. Which approach best supports improvements in our current educational systems? Is the wave of electronic technology entertainment helping or negating progress in universal education?

With these, as with many other aspects of informal and formal education, we can ask, “What does the research show?” What can we do to better and more broadly implement those changes in home environments that the research shows will improve our educational systems?

Changing Cultures

For thousands of years, a child grew up in a small clan or tribe, and assimilated the culture of this small group. Gradually, populations increased, travel became easier, and the “size” of a particular cultural group grew. Now we have cultural groups whose membership dominates an entire country or region of the world, and also constitutes a significant percentage of the population of many other countries.

In addition, we have new types of cultural groups made possible by computer technology. Social networking provides a good example. Facebook’s membership is more than a seventh of the world’s total population. Through Facebook and other social networks, a person may have dozens, hundreds, or thousands of “friends.”

We also have computer game cultures. Some networked computer games have millions of players immersed in the culture of a particular game. For players who are deeply immersed, the game becomes a part of their culture and everyday life.

In brief summary, many children are now growing up to be multicultural in the traditional definition of a culture, and also multicultural in terms of participating actively in multiple social networks and gaming networks worldwide. How does and/or should this affect our educational system?

Individualization of Instruction

Since the earliest development of reading and writing, a small number of students have had the advantage of individual tutors. This one-on-one mode of teaching and learning is the “gold standard” of education.

As our societies made the decision to educate a much larger percentage of their children, schools were developed in which an individual teacher taught classes of a large number of students. This is much less expensive than providing each student with one or more tutors. However, it also is much less effective.

We now have the technology to provide students with “computer tutors.” A computer tutor has some characteristics of a human tutor, and it can provide a great deal of individualization. At the current time, many schools are providing students with a mixture of human-based teaching in classes of 20 to 40 or more students, combined with more individualized computer-based instruction. The computer-based instructional systems are becoming better and more available. What does the future hold for very individualized Highly Interactive, Intelligent Computer-assisted Learning?

Empowering Students

This theme focuses on ways students might take more responsibility for their own education. This includes helping students become skilled in: a) using the broad range of technology-based aids to learning on their own, and b) setting and achieving personal learning goals and gaining skills in self-assessment of progress toward achieving these goals. Empowering students includes developing safeguards to prevent their “gaming the system” by cheating and finding other ways that students try to avoid the kind of “good” learning that leads to increased levels of expertise, transfers to other disciplines, and transfers to the future.

Globally Oriented Education

Through improvements in transportation and communication, the world is growing “smaller.” Our students need to be prepared for adult life in which there is worldwide competition for jobs and businesses. In a “smaller” world, people need to deal with ethnic, religious, cultural, and language diversity. They need to effectively participate in human efforts to deal with global problems such as: a) health and medicine; b) sustainability; c) over-population; d) global warming; e) civil wars and wars between countries; f) poverty; g) an increasing shortage of fresh water; and h) crimes against humanity and other violations of international laws.

Final Remarks

We are living at a time in which the pace of change of our formal schooling system is not keeping pace with the pace of changes in the world. There is a growing schism between the world that students face outside of school and the world they face in school.

We are seeking authors who will contribute their ideas and speculations for major changes to improve the educational systems of their states, nations, and the world. If you have ideas that you want to share, please contact David Moursund or Robert Sylwester. In addition, as each newsletter is published, you will have the opportunity to add comments.


Moursund, D. (n.d.). Artificial intelligence. IAE-pedia. Retrieved 2/26/2014 from

Moursund, D. (9/5/2013). Educating students for their possible futures. IAE Blog. Retrieved 2/26/2014 from

Moursund, D. (2/16/2013). General educational goals in the United States. IAE Blog. Retrieved 2/26/2014 from

Moursund, D. (12/26/2012). Predictions about the future of computer technology. IAE Blog. Retrieved 2/26/2014 from

Relaxnews (12/17/2013). IBM sees five tech-powered changes in next five years. Yahoo News. Retrieved 12/20/2013 from

Sylwester, R., & Moursund, D., eds. (August 2012). Creating an appropriate 21st century education. Eugene, OR: Information Age Education. Download the PDF file from and the Microsoft Word file from

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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, a Website containing free books and articles at, a Blog at, and the free newsletter you are now reading. See all back issues of the Blog at and all back issues of the Newsletter at