Issue Number 243 October 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.

Dave Moursund’s newly revised and updated book, The Fourth R (Second Edition) is now available in both English and Spanish. The thesis of this 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, the second edition in August, 2018, and the Spanish translation of the second edition in September, 2018. The three books have now had a combined 22,000 page-views and downloads (Moursund, December, 2016; August, 2018; September, 2018).

Information Age Education Documents in Translation (Part 2)

David Moursund
Professor Emeritus, College of Education
University of Oregon

Part 1 of this two-part IAE Newsletter series discussed three important ideas:

  1. IAE’s and AGATE’s desire to reach out to the entire world. Their goal is to help to improve worldwide quality of life through appropriate use of education and technology.

  2. Examples of the language challenge of distributing information to the whole world. The Wikipedia and TED Talks provide excellent examples of starting with English-only materials and then reaching out to other audiences in more than 100 different languages.

  3. An invitation to the reader to become an IAE translator and thus help to achieve the goal of reaching out to the entire world.

Part 2 explores the world’s progress that has been made in computer translation and repeats the invitation to its readers to become IAE translators.

A Personal Language Story

The mathematics doctoral program that I was enrolled in at the University of Wisconsin from 1959 to 1963 required students to demonstrate the ability to translate math documents from two different “foreign” languages into English. I took two years of French and a year of Latin while in high school, and five quarters of German in college. During my graduate work I spent quite a bit of time reviewing my French and German, and learning math-related vocabulary in order to meet this language requirement.

While I was doing this, the early computer-based language translation programs were being developed. They were not very good at the time, but is seemed obvious to me that they would continue to improve and eventually exceed my rather limited translation capabilities. Thus, I was somewhat peeved to have to spend my valuable time—when I could be learning and doing math—to prepare for the two language exams.

Computers first became commercially available in the early 1950s, and language translation was an early problem of interest to linguists. Quoting from the Wikipedia (2018):

In the 1950s, machine translation became a reality in research, although references to the subject can be found as early as the 17th century (Machine translation). The Georgetown experiment, which involved successful fully automatic translation of more than sixty Russian sentences into English in 1954, was one of the earliest recorded projects. Researchers of the Georgetown experiment asserted their belief that machine translation would be a solved problem within three to five years. In the Soviet Union, similar experiments were performed shortly after. Consequently, the success of the experiment ushered in an era of significant funding for machine translation research in the United States. The achieved progress was much slower than expected; in 1966, the Automatic Language Processing Advisory Committee report found that ten years of research had not fulfilled the expectations of the Georgetown experiment and resulted in dramatically reduced funding. [Bold added for emphasis.]

The bolded sentence in the quoted material reflected my views when I was in graduate school. However, the researchers and I were terribly wrong. Now, some 50 years later, it is interesting to look at the progress that has occurred.

Machine Translations

The good news is that computer translation software has improved markedly over the past half century. As this software continues to improve, computer translations have become increasingly useful in a number of different situations. For example, if I receive an email message written in a language that I do not know, I make use of the free online service named Google Translate (n.d.). The Google Translate free service accepts as input a document that is up to 5,000 characters in length, in any of 103 languages. In addition, there are a number of other free language translation by computer sites now available online.

Quoting from Physics arXiv Preprint Server (9/5/2018):

The technique of using a neural network to translate text from one language into another has improved by leaps and bounds in recent years, thanks to the ongoing breakthroughs in machine learning and artificial intelligence. So it is not really a surprise that machines have approached the performance of humans. Indeed, computational linguists have good evidence to back up this claim.

This statement about success in machine translation is based on a sentence by sentence evaluation of translated text. Quoting from the same research article:

The adequacy of a translation is determined by professional human translators who read both the original text and the translation to see how well it expresses the meaning of the source. Fluency is judged by monolingual readers who see only the translation and determine how well it is expressed in English.

Researchers have developed a new measure to compare the performance of machine and human translators at the document level. Quoting again from the same research article, in their study:

They asked professional translators to assess how well machines and humans translated over 100 news articles written in Chinese into English. The examiners rated each translation for adequacy and fluency at the sentence level but, crucially also at the level of the entire document.

The results make for interesting reading. To start with, Laubli and co found no significance difference in the way professional translators rated the adequacy of machine- and human-translated sentences. By this measure, humans and machines are equally good translators, which is in line with previous findings.

However, when it comes to evaluating the entire document, human translations are rated as more adequate and more fluent than machine translations. “Human raters assessing adequacy and fluency show a stronger preference for human over machine translation." [Bold added for emphasis.] 

Using Machine Translations for Plagiarism

Perhaps you have heard about the idea of plagiarizing by using machine translations. A student with an assignment to write an essay on a specific topic locates a suitable essay on the Web. The student then uses a computer to translates the essay into a second language, and then that translation into a third language. Finally, the computer is used to translate the essay back into the original language. The student cleans up the most glaring errors and submits the essay to the teacher. In the “good old days” this result was an essay that was different enough from the online original that the teacher might not recognize it as plagiarism. Indeed, after such a triple translation, the student’s essay might well not even be detected by the various online computer programs that have been designed to detect plagiarism.

Just for the fun of it, I decided to try out this machine translation process on three paragraphs summarizing my most recent book, The Fourth R (Second Edition) (Moursund, August, 2018). I used Google Translate (n.d.)

English Original

This newly revised and updated 97-page book is about the 4th R of Reasoning/Computational Thinking. Like Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic (Reading, ‘Riting, and ‘Rithmetic), the 4th R of Reasoning/Computational Thinking is both a discipline of study in its own right as well as being an aid to representing and solving problems throughout the curriculum and at all grade levels.

Reasoning/Computational Thinking makes use of one’s brain working together with the computer brains and other capabilities of Information and Communication Technology (ICT)–especially Artificial Intelligence–to represent and solve problems.

The book’s intended audience is preservice and inservice teachers at the PreK-12 levels, as well as parents, other educators, and all people interested in improving education at these levels. The emphasis is on defining and securing widespread acceptance of adding a new 4th R to the traditional list of Reading, ‘Riting, and ‘Rithmetic. My recommendation is that this 4th R should be thoroughly integrated into the traditional 3 Rs across all grade levels and across all curriculum areas.

German Translation of Original English

Dieses neu überarbeitete und aktualisierte 97-seitige Buch befasst sich mit dem 4. R of Reasoning / Computational Thinking. Wie Lesen, Schreiben und Arithmetik (Lesen, Riten und Rithmetik) ist das 4. R des Denkens / Denkens sowohl eine eigene Disziplin als auch eine Hilfe bei der Darstellung und Lösung von Problemen im gesamten Lehrplan und auf allen Klassenstufen.

Reasoning / Computational Thinking nutzt das Gehirn, um mit den Computergehirnen und anderen Fähigkeiten der Informations- und Kommunikationstechnologie (ICT) - insbesondere der Künstlichen Intelligenz - Probleme darzustellen und zu lösen.

Zielgruppe des Buches sind Vorbereitungs- und Betreuungslehrer auf der PreK-12-Ebene sowie Eltern, andere Pädagogen und alle Personen, die daran interessiert sind, die Bildung auf diesen Stufen zu verbessern. Der Schwerpunkt liegt auf der Definition und Sicherung der weitverbreiteten Akzeptanz, ein neues 4. R in die traditionelle Liste von Reading, "Ritting" und "Rithmetic" aufzunehmen. Meine Empfehlung ist, dass diese 4. R gründlich in die traditionellen 3 R über alle Klassenstufen und über alle Lehrplanbereiche hinweg integriert werden sollte.

Chinese Translation of German Translation

這本新修訂和更新的97頁書是關於推理/計算思維的第4個R。如閱讀,寫作和算術(閱 讀,儀式和Rithmetik)是思維的第4行/思想既是 紀律和演示文稿中的幫助和各個學科和各個年級的問題的解決。
推理/計算思維的大腦使用與計算機的大腦和信息通信技術和(ICT)的其他功能進行溝通 - 代表和解決的問題 - 尤其是人工智能。
該書的目標群體是PreK-12級別的預備和指導教師,以及父母,其他教育工作者和任何有興趣改善這些級別教育的人。重點在於定義和確保在傳統的 閱讀,Ritting和Rithmetic列表中添加新的第4個R的廣泛接受。我的建議是,第4輪R應該完全融入所有年級和所有課程領域的傳統 3R。

English Translation of Chinese Translation

This newly revised and updated 97-page book is the fourth R on reasoning/computational thinking. Reading, writing and arithmetic (reading, ritual and Rithmetik) are the 4th line of thinking/thoughts that are both help in discipline and presentations and solutions to problems in all disciplines and grades.

The brain of reasoning/computational thinking uses communication with the computer's brain and other functions of information and communication technologies and (ICT) - to represent and solve problems - especially artificial intelligence.

The target group of the book is PreK-12 level preparation and instructors, as well as parents, other educators and anyone interested in improving these levels of education. The focus is on defining and ensuring a broad acceptance of the new 4th R in the traditional reading, Ritting and Rithmetic lists. My suggestion is that Round 4 R should be fully integrated into the traditional 3R of all grades and all course areas.

I think that Google Translate did a reasonably good job. However, the results are not as good as a good human (or a collection of human translators) would have done. For example, the German translation did not preserve the bold face in the original, such as Reading, ‘Riting, and ‘Rithmetic, so this did not make it into the final English result. But, that is a minor error.

For a more interesting  problem, compare the last two sentences below, taken from the original and the final documents.

(Original.) The emphasis is on defining and securing widespread acceptance of adding a new 4th R to the traditional list of Reading, ‘Riting, and ‘Rithmetic. My recommendation is that this 4th R should be thoroughly integrated into the traditional 3 Rs across all grade levels and across all curriculum areas.

(Final.) The focus is on defining and ensuring a broad acceptance of the new 4th R in the traditional reading, Riting and Rithmetic lists. My suggestion is that Round 4 R should be fully integrated into the traditional 3R of all grades and all course areas.

The first sentence shows how translation may result in a sentence that correctly conveys the message, except that Ritting and Rithmetic deviates enough from the original that it would easily be detected by a teacher reading the essay. The second sentence contains the expressions Round 4 R and the traditional 3R. The first is an incorrect translation and the second is poor English.

Remember, the computer program doing the translation has no understanding whatsoever of the meaning of what is being written. It has no knowledge of the terms reading, writing, and arithmetic, nor of the fact that these traditionally are referred to as the three Rs.

This example also provides insight into the value to a child of growing up in a linguistically rich environment. To really understand oral or written messages in one’s native language, one must have general background knowledge about the information being communicated. Children growing up in a linguistically rich environment gain a broader vocabulary and understanding of the vocabulary than children who do not have this advantage. This same concept helps to explain why travel and school field trips are an important part of a child’s education.

An aside: Performing this sequence of translations is somewhat like playing the Gossip Game (n.d.). This is a child’s game. A group of children are arranged in a circle, and one child (the starter) is given a short message. The starter whispers the message to the child to his/her left, who whispers it to the next child, and so on until it arrives back at the starter. The starter then says both the original message and the final message to the group. Usually the final message is terribly garbled by this sequence of message whisperings.

Machine Processing of Oral Language Text

Many people now use voice input to a computer. Indeed, voice input that produces text, followed by computer translation, and then voice output makes it relatively easy to carry on a somewhat limited conversation between two people who do not know each other’s spoken languages. But remember that, for effective communication, these two people need to have considerable knowledge in common.

Quoting again from the Wikipedia (2018):

The first computer-based speech-synthesis systems originated in the late 1950s. Noriko Umeda et al. developed the first general English text-to-speech system in 1968 at the Electrotechnical Laboratory, Japan. In 1961 physicist John Larry Kelly, Jr and his colleague Louis Gerstman used an IBM 704 computer to synthesize speech, an event among the most prominent in the history of Bell Labs. Kelly's voice recorder synthesizer (vocoder) recreated the song "Daisy Bell", with musical accompaniment from Max Mathews. Coincidentally, Arthur C. Clarke was visiting his friend and colleague John Pierce at the Bell Labs Murray Hill facility. Clarke was so impressed by the demonstration that he used it in the climactic scene of his screenplay for his novel 2001: A Space Odyssey, where the HAL 9000 computer sings the same song as astronaut Dave Bowman puts it to sleep.

A Repeated Invitation to Become an IAE Translator

As noted in Part 1 of this newsletter series, IAE is looking for volunteers who will translate IAE documents into other languages. You can learn more about this project in the IAE-pedia entry, Information Age Education (IAE) in Translation at Interested readers can contact David Moursund at

Your help will be appreciated!

Final Remarks

In terms of transportation, communication, disease and medicine, and collected knowledge, our world is growing smaller. With its steady increase in population, our world is also growing more crowded. Each person is inherently a citizen of this world and needs an education that helps to support having a decent quality of life in this world. This education includes learning to communicate effectively with others throughout the world and to be a responsible adult citizen of the world.

References and Resources

Google Translate (n.d.). Retrieved 8/26/2018 from

Gossip Game (n.d.). Retrieved 9/26 2018 from

Moursund, D. (September, 2018). The Fourth R (Second Edition). Spanish Edition. Retrieved 8/12/2018. Retrieved 9/21/2018 from Download the Microsoft Word file from Download the PDF file from

Moursund, D. (August, 2018). The Fourth R (Second Edition). Retrieved 8/12/2018 from Download the Microsoft Word file from Download the PDF file from

Moursund, D. (8/15/2018). Information Age Education (IAE) in translation. IAE-pedia. Retrieved 9/13/2018 from

Moursund, D. (December, 2016). The Fourth R. Retrieved 9/23/2018 from Download the Microsoft Word file from Download the PDF file from

Physics arXiv Preprint Server (9/5/2018). Human translators are still on top—for now. Retrieved 9/6/2018 from

TED Talks (2018). Technology, entertainment and design. Retrieved 9/23/2018 from

Wikipedia (2018). History of machine translation. Retrieved 9/23/2018 from


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 .

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 . 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.


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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