Issue Number 229 March 15, 2018

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) 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.

Learning 24 Hours a Day

David Moursund
Professor Emeritus, College of Education
University of Oregon


You have probably heard the derogatory order, “Get your brain in gear.” Actually, it is a rather silly statement. Your brain does not have any gears; however, it functions 24 hours a day. Equally important, it is always learning, both day and night. The electrochemical processes going on in your brain don’t stop just because you are asleep.

I recently asked myself the question, “What did I learn during the past 24 hours?” It turned out that I was not able to give a very good answer. However, the question got my brain in gear. I began by thinking about the idea that I need to learn a lot every day just to stay even, since I do a lot of forgetting every day. For those who like to deal with difficult brain questions, does the information disappear, or is it just not retrievable because the connections/pathways to it have become so weak?

I had certainly done a lot of reading during the previous 24 hours, both recreational and “scholarly, academic.” I played my two favorite computer games, caught up on my email, watched two good shows on OPB, talked with some people, and spent a good part of the day at my computer working on research and current writing projects. Also, I spent time at my gym as well as time enjoying watching children and dogs playing on the beach. The question remained, “What did I learn during this 24 hours of my life?”

More careful thinking about this question led to the newsletter you are now reading. As you read it, you will see that I didn’t stick to the topic of what I had learned in the previous 24 hours. Rather, I switched to the topic of learning by people in general—especially children.

What Did My Friends Learn in 24 Hours?

Once a week I have lunch with some of my retired colleagues from the University of Oregon College of Education. I tried out my 24 hours question with this group. Of course, this was not a high-quality research project. But, it provided me with some insights.

The results were enlightening. Each colleague selected one or two personal events from the previous day and discussed the learning that occurred during that event. Learning came from varied activities such as reading, watching television, interacting with people, and being in touch with nature.

What Does a Child Learn in 24 Hours, In and Outside School?

The remainder of this newsletter is directly addressed to parents and guardians of school-age children. Of course, it is important to all people who are concerned with the informal and formal education that our children are currently obtaining.

Think about a child returning home from a day in school. A parent or guardian asks, “What did you learn in school today?” Hmm. What kind of response is expected, and what are likely actual responses? Often, especially for older children, the answer is “Nothing, it was boring.” This is a way of saying, “I really don’t want to talk about it.” It is not a good start on a meaningful interaction and a mutual learning experience.

A typical response from a grade school child might be:

“I had a lot of fun in art today. And, we did a neat experiment in science. During PE, I ran around the track four times—a whole mile!”

That is, a child responds in terms of experiences, rather than details on what was learned.

A typical child probably does not say things like:

“In math, I learned how to multiply two multi-digit numbers. In science, I learned that photosynthesis is a process by which green plants, using energy from the sun, convert carbon dioxide, water, and other stuff into carbohydrates. In PE, I strengthened my leg muscles and increased my endurance by running for fifteen minutes at a steady pace.”
Also, a child is unlikely to say:

“I learned how to make new friends, I practiced with Pat, and now Pat is my friend.”

What Is Learning?

We tend to think about learning as something that occurs at a conscious level. But, it also occurs at a subconscious level. Quoting from the Wikipedia (2018):

Learning is the process of acquiring new or modifying existing knowledge, behaviors, skills, values, or preferences.

Human learning begins before birth and continues until death as a consequence of ongoing interactions between person and environment.

The word “environment” caught my attention. Of course, my five senses continually bring in information from my external environment. However, I am a part of my environment. I learn as I think about what I know, as my brain processes information from nerve receptors located inside my body, and even as my brain creates and experiences a dream. I sometimes think about my own thinking, i.e., use metacognition. That is an important aspect of education, both in and outside of school.

The definition of learning given above includes “modifying existing knowledge,” so practicing or relearning an already-learned skill counts as learning. In summary, you are learning all of the time, both when you are awake and when you are asleep. Your brain and body began learning well before you were born, and you will continue learning as long as you live.

It seems to me that we should help students to gain an understanding of learning as both a process and a product. We want students to learn to learn, and to make use of what they have learned. We want them to understand that learning is an ongoing process—going on both while in school and while outside of school. As children grow and mature, we want and expect them to take a steadily increasing level of responsibility for their own learning and for their use of this learning.

My Three Categories of Learning

Interactions between a parent or guardian and a child coming home from school provide learning opportunities for both the child and the adult. I like to simplify learning into three general categories:
  1. Maintaining and increasing one’s “people/social” knowledge and skills. This category includes knowledge of self and others, and all functioning that involves interacting with other people.

  2. Maintaining and increasing one’s “non-people/social” knowledge and skills. This category includes school topics such as reading, writing, math, and the other content areas. It includes learning to use personal and public transportation systems and equipment, learning to use restaurants and stores, and learning to use a wide range of tools that are part of our everyday lives.

  3. Information and communication technology (ICT), and other technology skills. These skills add new dimensions to 1 and 2 above, and often combine the two. Of course, I could just include ICT as parts of both 1 and 2, but I like to think of it as a big, powerful change agent that deserves special attention.
Think about these three general categories in the situation of a child returning home from school. School provides an environment in which students and their teachers come together and interact. Helping students to master the knowledge and skills related to social and academic interaction can be one of the most important goals of schools. ICT is of steadily growing importance in schools. The next three subsections expand on my three categories of learning.

People/Social Knowledge and Skills

Bob Sylwester, my long-time colleague and co-author, often talked with me about home schooling, public schools, and private schools. To a considerable extent, each provides a unique social-learning environment. He stressed the importance of having thoroughly integrated public schools. There, children learn to interact with other children of varying races, creeds, and wealth. They learn to be part of and to interact with a cross-section of people in their community. They learn to play together, to learn together, and to collaborate in solving problems.

So, one very important component of the after-school conversation should be about the child’s social experiences and learning. What one-on-one and small group interactions occurred? In these interactions, who did what? What were the results? What did the child/student contribute and learn?

What is a friend? What are the child’s insights into how to make and maintain friends? You can ask the same questions about you own day.

Non-People/Social Knowledge and Skills

Think about your own education. What did you learn in your precollege education that proved to be of value at the time, as you continued your education after high school, and in your life thereafter? Thinking about that may give you insights into what you want to learn from your child, and what you want your child to learn.

What content are teachers teaching in school nowadays, and what is your child actually learning? What can your child teach you about things s/he is learning that you have forgotten or never learned? This type of conversation can be a mutual learning and sharing of knowledge activity. It can easily lead to you and your child going to the Web and looking up some more information about a particular topic your child is learning.
You might want to raise questions such as these:
  • What did you learn today that will be useful to you outside of school?

  • Suppose a child mentions a topic or subject, such as xxxx. Ask, “How can you tell if you learned xxxx?” Ask, “What are some things about xxxx that you still don’t know?”

  • What ese would you like to be learning in school?
Information and Communication Technology (ICT)
and Other Technology Skills

ICT is likely a routine part of your life. Schools are struggling with deciding on and implementing appropriate roles of ICT in schools. How can and should ICT be incorporated into  curriculum content, pedagogy (teaching), and assessment?

Teachers and school administrators realize that even an inexpensive tablet computer with connectivity to the Web gives students easy access to the world’s largest library. They also realize the value of computers in writing using a word processor, perhaps including graphs, charts, and illustrations. A document written to be read on a computer can now include sound and video, and be interactive. These information/research and writing applications alone are very strong arguments for every student to have a computer for use at all times in school.

But, there is much more. For example, there is artificial intelligence (AI). Computer systems are getting more and more capable at solving problems and accomplishing tasks that previously could only be done by people using their human intelligence and education. If a computer “knows” how to solve a problem or accomplish a task, what do we want students to learn in school about solving this category of problems and accomplishing this category of tasks by hand? Nowadays, we want students to learn to work with computers, rather than to compete with them.

Thus, computers are a useful aid to teaching and learning across the curriculum. In United States schools, we expect students to learn to read well enough by the end of the third grade so that reading to learn can then be a significant component of instruction. By middle school, learning by reading may well be more than half of the teaching and learning processes.

In addition, reading and writing have changed. They have expanded to include making use of a full range of interactive media available in ICT. Year by year, we are seeing a steady increase in both the quality and quality of computer-based, interactive, multimedia instructional materials useful throughout the curriculum. I strongly believe that it is essential that students learn to learn in this environment.

You can learn more about my thought on this topic by reading my free book, The Fourth R (Moursund, 12/23/2016). It is about the 4th R of Reasoning (using both one’s brain and computer brains) to solve problems and accomplish tasks.

The current roles of ICT in your child’s education can be a very important and interesting topic for after-school conversation, and a good opportunity for you to learn from your child. In addition, you can help to create a home environment that supplements the educational uses of ICT.

This means, of course, that you must face the issue that your child would probably rather play computer games or participate in social networking than almost any other activity that is available outside of school.

Final Remarks

It is easy to be critical of the education that many of our children are receiving and to blame it all on schools. The discussion about interaction between a child and a parent or guardian upon the child returning home from a day at school is only a small part of the roles that home environments play in a child’s education.

Sadly, too many of our children are homeless (Moursund, 2/22/2017). Many children come home to an empty home. Many others come home to a babysitter, an older sibling, or someone else who either does not try to or is unable to fulfill the educational role of a dedicated parent or guardian.

Many children live in poverty, and do not have the learning opportunities that more affluent homes can provide (Moursund, 5/2/2014). Many children live in one-parent families. Many children have poorly educated parents. All of these difficulties tend to affect the quality of education that children receive outside of school.

Remember, the parent-child interaction after school is only a small part of the big picture of a child’s education from before birth to age 18. Far more of the child’s waking time is spent outside of school than in school. No matter how much we modify and fine-tune schools, this will remain the case. So, as we look to improve a child’s education, we need to look carefully at all of the learning that is occurring or could be occurring outside of school.

Now consider more specifically what your own child, grandchild, child of a friend, or perhaps a student may have learned during any 24-hour period of time. What can you do to help that child to improve on, better understand, and apply that day’s learning?

Finally, reflect again on the question, “What did I learn during the past 24 hours?” Am I keeping up, or am I falling still farther behind in areas where the world is changing? Much of the focus of this newsletter has been on computer technology. But, there are many other areas of technology that are changing rapidly. For example, think about genetic engineering, including genetically modified crops and animals. And, think about progress and problems in medicine. These are areas of rapid change.

Ask yourself, “Am I placing my emphasis and time on those aspects of my learning that I think are most important?” In other words, what are you doing to improve on the quality and personal usefulness of your own learning?

References and Resources

Moursund, D. (2017). Problem solving. IAE-pedia. Retrieved 7/14/2017 from

Moursund, D (4/21/2017). Reading and writing in today’s world IAE Blog. Retrieved 2/24/2018 from

Moursund, D. (2/22/2017). Student homelessness in the United States. IAE Blog. Retrieved 2/24/2918 from

Moursund, D. (12/23/2016). The Fourth R. Eugene, OR: Information Age Education. Download the Microsoft Word file from Download the PDF file from Access the book online at

Moursund, D. (5/2/2014). Hungry children—America’s shame. IAE Blog. Retrieved 2/24/2018 from

Wikipedia (2018). Learning. Retrieved 2/22/2018 from

Free Educational Resources from IAE

Moursund, D. (2017). Free educational videos. IAE-pedia. Retrieved 7/14/2017 from

Moursund, D, (2017). Free open source software packages. IAE-pedia. Retrieved 7/14/2017 from

Moursund, D. (2017). Open source and open content educational materials. IAE-pedia. Retrieved 7/14/2017 from

Moursund, D. (2017). TED talks. IAE-pedia. Retrieved 7/14/2017 from

IAE publishes and makes available four free online resources:

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. 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

In 2007, Moursund founded Information Age Education (IAE). IAE provides free online educational materials via its IAE-pedia, IAE Newsletter, IAE Blog, and books. See 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 Executuve Officer of AGATE.


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