This newsletter is a continuation of the previous newsletter in which I began the exploration of possible impacts of Information Communication and Technology (ICT) on the goals of education (Moursund & Ricketts, 2020, link). Upon further reflection on the content of that newsletter, I have decided that two very important ideas need more emphasis.
This current newsletter includes these two ideas. When the previous newsletter becomes part of my forthcoming book on ICTing and Mathing Across the History Curriculum, modifications will be made to include these two ideas in the discussion of goals 1-4.
Many of the 14 goals of education being discussed in these two newsletters begin with the words all students. No mention is made about students with special needs (Villegas, 6/29/2017, link):
[In 1975] the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (EHA) gave children with disabilities specific legal rights to an education. Until this time, many students with disabilities were not allowed to attend school at all. The act contained a provision stating that students with disabilities should be placed in least restrictive environment (LRE) in order to allow the maximum possible opportunity to interact with non-disabled peers. Separate schooling may only occur when the nature or severity of the disability is such that instructional goals cannot be achieved in the regular classroom. The law also contained a due process clause that guarantees an impartial hearing to resolve conflicts between the parents of disabled children and the school system.
Goal 4 discussed in the previous newsletter emphasizes students achieving their full potentials. The goal states:
Goal 4. Full Potential: All students are knowingly working toward achieving and increasing their healthful physical, mental, and emotional lifelong potentials. [Bold added for emphasis.]
It may well be that some severely cognitively challenged students cannot understand what it means to knowingly work toward achieving various learning goals. Such students might well benefit through participation in a formal program of study designed to fit their special needs.
In the book I am writing, this goal will be restated as:
Goal 4. Full Potential: All students participate in an education designed to improve their current and future quality of life. This education emphasizes improving their physical, mental, and emotional lifelong potentials.
The previous newsletter began with the quotation:
“The future is here. It’s just not widely distributed yet.” (William Gibson; American-Canadian writer who coined the term cyberspace in his short story “Burning Chrome” and later popularized the concept in his debut novel, Neuromancer; 1948-.)
This quotation was a unifying theme in that newsletter, and continues to play the same role here. Both newsletters focus on a future of ubiquitous and steadily improving ICT. However, the availability of computer facilities in schools, and the effectiveness of their uses, varies hugely across the United States. And, as might be expected, there are huge variations from country to country across the world.
William Gibson’s “not widely distributed yet” future of education includes:
Many other areas of computer use are relevant to education and other important components of quality of life. Consider progress being made in genetic engineering, medicine, and aids to increasing longevity. This progress may well lead to today’s students living longer and healthier lives than their parents and grandparents. In summary, today’s newborns face a potentially long life in a world of continuing significant changes. Their informal and formal education, especially during their early childhood and school years, must be designed to help prepare them for adult life in an ever more rapidly changing world.
Goal 5. Basic Skills: All students gain a working knowledge of speaking and listening, observing (including visual literacy), reading and writing, mathematics, logic, and the storage, retrieval, and communication of information. All students learn to solve problems, accomplish tasks, deal with novel situations, and carry out other higher-order cognitive activities that make effective use of these basic skills.
Comment: Historically, this set of basic skills has been found to be appropriate for most students. Nowadays, most children are raised in an environment where their family and caregivers have knowledge and skills in these basics somewhat comparable to other families in their village, town, or community. Thus, a child’s home and community environment contribute substantially to learning these basic skills.
Technological progress in communication and transportation has made the world “smaller,” has increased the level of performance that children are expected to gain through their formal and informal education, and has greatly changed the world in which today’s children live. The informal and formal education and life experiences of children growing up a hundred years ago are insufficient for today’s children. And, of course, what is appropriate and adequate for today’s children will not suffice for their children and grandchildren.
The overriding question is to determine what constitutes a good collection of basic knowledge and skills that children can be learning that will serve them well in their further education and in the changing world they will face as adults. The previous IAE Newsletter provided some of my insights into possible answers to this question. I have enjoyed puzzling over the issues and sharing my ideas. But, the question is much large than either I or any small group of planners can address effectively. Moreover, solutions will require significant changes in the informal and formal education of people of all ages throughout the world.
In summary, I believe that Goal 5 is a very good and long-lasting goal. However, what constitutes the basics, what constitutes contemporary standards, and what constitutes a good education need to be under continual careful scrutiny and appropriate revision. My free book, The Fourth R (second edition), presents Reasoning/Computational Thinking as an addition to the traditional three basics of Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic (Math) (Moursund, 2018a, link to English version; Moursund, 2018b, link to Spanish version.)
Goal 6. Setting and Achieving Personal Learning Goals: A possible alternate title for this goal is Self-assessment and Self-improvement. All students learn to self-assess, to set personal goals based on these assessments, and to work to achieve these personal goals.
Comment: A key aspect of Goal 6 is learning to accept personal responsibility for one’s learning. We want students to be skilled at deciding for themselves the information and skills that they want to learn, and then take personal responsibility for achieving the necessary learning. You can see some of this type of activity in a young child frequently asking “why” questions. As a child matures, this might well turn into a “who, what, where, when, why, how” set of questions and discussions with a parent, teacher, or other person.
This type of behavior can be fostered in schooling. However, it is a major challenge. Students frequently ask (or think to themselves), “Why do I have to learn this?” A teacher who brushes over this question with statements such as, “It will be on the test” or “It is in the required syllabus” is doing students a great disservice and missing an important teaching/learning opportunity.
You likely have heard about Socrates sitting on one end of a log posing questions, and a student on the other end of the log puzzling over possible answers. The idea is that an individual conversation with a wise person is a powerful aid to learning, and one that helps to explain why having a personal tutor is such a powerful aid to learning.
Now, think about the Web as a type of Socrates, with the student, parent, teacher, or some other source posing questions, and then the student making use of the Web as an aid to answering them. The Web (or, the best of current Highly Interactive Intelligent Computer-Assisted Learning materials) can be thought of as a type of Socrates. Of course, such a computerized Socrates is not like a real, human Socrates, or even a good human tutor. But, it is far better than nothing, and it is available to billions of people. I strongly believe that Goal 6 needs to be expanded to include a strong focus on students becoming skilled at learning on their own with the computer aids that already are readily available and that are improving in quantity, quality, and effectiveness.
Goal 7. General Education: All students have appreciation for, knowledge about, and understanding of a number of general areas of education, including:
Comment: A good education is a balance between breadth and depth, and it varies considerably from person to person. The well-known English writer Thomas Huxley addressed this topic about 150 years ago when he wrote, “Try to learn something about everything and everything about something”.
Huxley’s suggestion is that a good education consists of both breadth and depth. I find this to be an interesting idea. However, the totality of human knowledge already is overwhelmingly large and continues to grow ever more rapidly. First, consider learning “everything about something”. Unless the “something” is a tiny area, this is impossible. Suppose you are a medical doctor or other type of medical professional. It is absolutely impossible to keep up with the million or so important medical reports and papers published each year (National Library of Medicine, 2019, link):
MEDLINE is the U.S. National Library of Medicine® (NLM) premier bibliographic database that contains more than 26 million references to journal articles in life sciences with a concentration on biomedicine.
What the Internet and Web do for education is to make it possible to find information about essentially any conceivable topic. As mentioned in the previous newsletter, the amount of computer storage needed to contain the current Web is roughly equivalent to the amount of storage needed to store 20 billion full-length novels. A good education includes having developed substantial skill in being able to make effective use of the Web in whatever discipline areas one is studying.
Goal 8. Lifelong Learning: All students learn how to learn from the resources available to them, and how to make effective use of what they learn. They also learn to recognize when the resources available are inadequate, and they develop knowledge and skill in seeking out and learning to make use of other resources to meet their personal specific needs. They develop an inquiring attitude and self-confidence that allows them to pursue life’s options. They have the knowledge, skills, and habits of mind needed to deal effectively with changes that affect them.
Comment: I believe that this is one of most important goals of education. The future will include more and more computerized devices that have an increasing level of physical and cognitive (artificial intelligence) capabilities. Students need to learn to live their daily lives in a continually changing environment. Examples of change include global warming, the recent Coronavirus Pandemic and other global health problems, many people living in extreme poverty, and an increasing number of creatures going extinct. Such changes require a lifetime of informal and directed learning activities. I like to think of this as a modernization of the following quote from Frederick Douglass, the American freed slave who became an ardent abolitionist, orator, and writer, “Once you learn to read, you will be forever free”.
Unfortunately, many of the available information resources reflect strong biases, and some contain outright fake/false information. A lifetime of learning includes a lifetime of encounters with such information content and sources (Farmer, 5/31/2018, link). Clearly, an important aspect of a good education is developing habits of mind, knowledge, and skills in detecting and challenging fake news.
Goal 9. Problem Solving: All students make use of decision-making and problem-solving skills and tools, including the higher-order skills of analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. All students pose and solve problems, making routine and creative use of their overall knowledge and skills, and of currently available technologies.
Comment: Notice the last three words in this statement. ICT has become an important aid to solving problems and accomplishing tasks in every discipline of study in our current schools (Moursund, 6/4/2029, link). It also has produced artificial intelligence, big data, and related new disciplines. Our schools have not yet adequately dealt with the question:
If ICT can significantly help in solving a type of problem or accomplishing a type of task that is deemed important in the curriculum, how should this affect the curriculum content, instructional processes, and assessment in this part of the curriculum?
Consider two general types of problems/tasks:
Outside of the school environment, people faced by problems and tasks can make use of the Internet, Web, and other resources such as their colleagues. Our schools need to address this “fact of life” in their design and implementation of curriculum content, instructional processes, and assessment.
Goal 10. Responsible Citizenship: All students act as informed, productive, and responsible members of countries, of the organizations to which they give allegiance, and as members of humanity as a whole.
Comment: This is a very broad goal. Think about an individual student becoming informed, productive, and responsible. Can you provide definitions of these three terms that are adequate to cover the full range of children? Remember that children vary considerably in terms of their innate physical and cognitive abilities. Moreover, illness and injuries may produce drastic changes in these innate abilities.
It is common to say that the goals of education are to produce high school graduates who are career and/or college ready. However, many students do not complete high school for a variety of reasons, and many others lack the innate physical and/or cognitive abilities needed to complete a traditional high school degree.
Thus, it is a major task to explore the possible impacts of current and future ICT in their education. Here are two brief examples:
Goal 11. Social Skills: All students interact publicly and privately with peers and adults in a socially acceptable and positive fashion.
Comment: Information and Communication Technology has brought us new forms of communication and social interaction, including desktop conferencing, picture phones, instant messaging, email, groupware, and video conferencing. The Coronavirus Pandemic has fostered a greatly expanded need for video conferencing and other online conferencing skills. Thus, each child faces the need to develop both the traditional face-to-face communication and social skills, and also the Internet-assisted skills.
When I was a child, my parents had a (landline) telephone, but I don’t recall using it for what we now call social networking. Cellphones were still far in the future. Now, in the United States, most teenagers have smartphones (Schlosser, 6/1/2018, link):
Thanks to nearly universal access to smartphones, nearly half of American teenagers surveyed say they use the internet “almost constantly,” according to Pew. The 45 percent figure is nearly double the 24 percent who were categorized in this way in the 2014-15 survey. For another 44 percent, internet access happens several times a day; thus, nine-in-10 teens are online at least multiple times per day.
Social networking is certainly a social communication game changer. It still amuses me to see a small group of teenagers sitting together, each engaged in a smartphone conversation. Most of the smartphone conversations are with people remotely located. However, occasionally a member of the group will orally share a few words with another member, or perhaps with the whole group.
Many adults fear that children are not developing needed face-to-face communication and social skills. Sherry Turkle has written extensively about this problem. Her 2012 TED Talk on this topic has had nearly 6 million views and is available in 36 languages (Turkle, February, 2012, link).
Goal 12. Information and Communication Technology (ICT): All students have appropriate knowledge and skills for using our rapidly changing ICT as well as related technologies relevant to their lives and our world.
Comment: ICT is both a discipline in its own right and a driving force for change in education and in many different areas of technology, science, and research. The term Computational Thinking captures the idea of people solving problems and accomplishing tasks using the combined cognitive powers of themselves and of computers. Computational Thinking is becoming a standard component of each academic discipline (Moursund, 2018a, link; Moursund, 2018b, link; Moursund, 2020b, link).
Fifty years ago, as computers began to become commonly available, visionary educators started to consider the issue of what students should and/or need not learn about computers. Historically, the idea of computer literacy for all students was proposed by Art Luehrmann and others in the early 1970’s (Luehrmann, 1972, link; Moursund, 1983, link); Moursund, 2020a, link). From early on, a major issue was having students learn to program computers versus having students make use of programs written by others to help them solve problems and accomplish tasks. At that time, there was a quite limited number of computer problem-solving aids developed specifically for use by precollege students.
I find it interesting that this issue has not yet been settled. Then and now, the issue is not whether children can learn to write computer programs, and whether schools can afford to provide suitable learning environments for this teaching/learning task. We have ample evidence that children can learn to write computer programs, and that this is not prohibitedly expensive. Thus, the issues are deeper. Is this a good use of student time? Can we provide computer-knowledgeable teachers, and also the necessary hardware, software, and connectivity? How do teachers who have little computer knowledge deal with students who want to make use of computers and computer programming to do their daily assignments and term projects? What changes in school curriculum content, teaching processes, and assessment will be necessary if a significant percentage of students have programming skills and want to continue to develop these skills in their day-to-day schooling?
I like to consider an analogy between reading/writing and using computer programs written by others versus also knowing how to program. Using the computer facilities provided by others is somewhat akin to reading. Programming is somewhat akin to writing. The goal of those supporting computer programming for all is not one of trying to make every student into a professional programmer. Similarly, the goal of having all students learn to write is not to have every student become a professional writer.
It is clear to me and to most educators that we want all students to gain knowledge and skill in using computers to help solve the problems and accomplish the tasks they encounter in their lives, both in and outside of school, both today and in their futures. Making effective use of the many different widely used types of computer software requires some insights into computer programming.
Goal 13. Assessment: The various components of an educational system that contribute to accomplishing the goals (such as those listed above) are assessed in a timely and appropriate manner. The assessments provide formative, summative, and long-term impact evaluative data that can be used in maintaining and improving the quality of the educational system.
Comment: In the past few decades, the issue of authentic assessment has received increasing attention. However, our traditional methods of testing, together with an increasing emphasis on teaching to the test, are not proving to be an effective way to improve education. As ICT is more thoroughly integrated into curriculum content, the authentic assessment of student learning becomes a new challenge to educational systems.
We are used to dealing with the assessment challenge in the reading, writing, and arithmetic components of the basics of education. Over the years, we have developed curriculum that students follow for many years to increase their knowledge and skills in these basics.
Consider the use of the computer as a tool in each discipline that students study in school, and their use of computers throughout their lives outside of schools. What do we want our students to learn about such uses of ICT? How do we go about assessing the progress they are making toward mastering these types of knowledge and skill? Clearly, we have a very long road ahead of us in this endeavor, especially because the capabilities of computers are continuing to increase.
This is a very difficult question as compared to deciding that we want students to learn to read, and then assessing their year-by-year progress in learning to read as they proceed through school.
Consider the parallel issue of topic of computational thinking (Moursund, 2020b, link). Since ICT has now become an important component of essentially every content area taught in our schools, we are faced by the need to provide authentic assessment of what students are learning about computational thinking in each of the disciplines they are studying. This, during a time that artificial intelligence is making rapid progress!
Goal 14. Accountability: All educational systems are accountable to key stakeholder groups, including:
Comment: Our educational systems must be accountable to the major stakeholders named in the bulleted list. This is a very complex and ongoing challenge. Accountability includes the gathering, careful analysis, appropriate dissemination, and effective use of information from formative, summative, and long-term residual impact assessments that are fair, reliable, valid, and timely. (Wow! That is a mouthful!)
Nowadays, computers are a major aid to the collection and analysis of such data. But, such data is vulnerable to misuse and attack. Thus, our educational systems face the triple challenge of deciding what data to gather, accurately gathering the data, and safeguarding both the contents and use of the data.
It also is difficult to make changes to our educational systems
because of the need to address the widely divergent interests of the
various stakeholders. However, this democratic approach to our
educational systems also is one of its strengths.
I believe it would be appropriate to add still one more stakeholder to the bulleted list given above: The world, humanity, and all other life on earth.
You have heard the statement, “Think globally, act locally”. My variation on this is, “Think and act both globally and locally” (Moursund, 9/17/2019, link). I believe that all students need to have a local, regional, national, and global perspective.
An educational system is a compromise among known teaching and learning theories, current and other possible teaching practices, stakeholders, goals of education, and insights into how the world is changing. The goals of education discussed in this and the previous newsletter have proven flexible enough to have stood the tests of time. However, ICT is a powerful and rapidly improving change agent. The best analogy I can come up with is to compare computers in education today with reading, writing, and arithmetic at the time schools were first being developed more than 50 centuries ago. Schools have certainly come a long way during these 50 centuries. But, we currently are having trouble figuring out where we want schools to be a mere 50 years from now.
The responses of our current educational systems to the Coronavirus Pandemic have shown the great strength and flexibility of schooling throughout the world. In some countries, the temporary, makeshift arrangements will likely lead to substantial long-term changes in the nature and amount of use of computer-assisted learning. An increasing number of school districts are recognizing the need for all students to have good computer access and connectivity to the Internet, both at school and at home, and to learn to be effective learners in such an environment.
Farmer, L. (5/31/2018). Using LibGuide to recognize fake news. IAE Newsletter. Retrieved 7/12/2020 from http://i-a-e.org/newsletters/IAE-Newsletter-2018-234.html.
Hanna, J. (2/17/2011). Computer finishes off human opponents on 'Jeopardy!' CNN.com. Retrieved 7/9/2020 from http://www.cnn.com/2011/TECH/innovation/02/16/jeopardy.watson/index.html.
Luehrmann, A. (1972). Should the computer teach the student, or vice versa? In Taylor, R., ed., The computer in school: Tutor, tool, tutee. New York: Teachers College. Retrieved 2/27/2020 from http://www.citejournal.org/vol2/iss3/seminal/seminalarticle1.pdf.
Moursund, D. (2020a). Arthur Luehrmann. IAE-pedia. Retrieved 7/8/2020 http://iae-pedia.org/Arthur_Luehrmann.
Moursund, D (2020b). Computational thinking. IAE-pedia. Retrieved 7/12/2020 from http://iae-pedia.org/Computational_Thinking.
Moursund, D. (9/17/2019). Think and act both globally and locally. IAE Blog. Retrieved 7/12/2020 from https://i-a-e.org/blog2/entry/think-and-act-both-globally-and-locally.html.
Moursund, D. (2018a). The fourth R (Second edition). Eugene, OR: Information Age Education. Retrieved 6/24/2020 from http://iae-pedia.org/. Download the English version of the Microsoft Word file from http://i-a-e.org/downloads/free-ebooks-by-dave-moursund/307-the-fourth-r-second-edition.html.
Moursund, D. (2018b). La cuarta R (Segunda edición). Eugene, OR: Information Age Education. Retrieved the Spanish version 6/25/2020 from http://iae-pedia.org/La_Cuarta_R_(Segunda_Edici%C3%B3n).
Moursund, D. (11/15/2018). Quality of life. IAE Blog. Retrieved 7/11/2020 from http://i-a-e.org/newsletters/IAE-Newsletter-2018-245.html.
Moursund, D. (1983). Precollege computer literacy: A personal computing approach. Eugene, OR: Information Age Education. (This 27-page booklet is a “golden oldie.") PDF file retrieved 7/8/2020 from http://i-a-e.org/downloads/doc_download/30-precollege-computer-literacy-a-personal-computing-approach.html.
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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 http://iaepedia.org/David_Moursund_Books .
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 http://iaepedia.org/Main_Page#IAE_in_a_Nutshell . 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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