David Moursund's To Write List

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This IAE-pedia page has generated quite a bit of traffic since its creation in August, 2010. As of September, 2016 it has had nearly 46,000 visits. I believe this is because it contains ideas that many students and other writers consider to be useful.

Using Quotations to Start a Document

I start many of my writings with one or more quotations. Here are three that I believe are particularly appropriate to this document:

“I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.” (Helen Keller; American author, political activist, and lecturer; 1880-1968.)
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.” (Margaret Mead; American cultural anthropologist; 1901–1978.)
"The strongest memory is not as strong as the weakest ink." (Confucius; Chinese thinker and social philosopher, whose teachings and philosophy have deeply influenced Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Taiwanese and Vietnamese thought and life; 551 BC-479 BC.)

Over the years, I have created two collections of such quotations. As I read, I constantly look for appropriate additions to my lists. See:

This project of collecting quotations is an example of a never-ending writing task. It gives me satisfaction when I add to and make use of the lists.

Foundation for Much of My Writing

For many years, my writing and other scholarly activities have been driven by my desire to help improve education at all levels and throughout the world. As I write, I think about whether what I am presenting to my audience will help them to contribute to achieving the goal of improving education.

In my daily reading, writing, and thinking, I often encounter topics that interest me and that I want to share with others. Since I created the Information Age Education company after my full retirement in 2007, usually this encounter results in me doing one or more of the following:

  1. Communicate with one or more people about what I have just read. Such communications(face-to face, email, telephone, etc.) are a joyful and important part of my life.
  2. Do some editing (additions, deletions, corrections) to one of the current IAE documents.
  3. Add to lists that I keep that contain possible writing and editing topics.
  4. Write or start writing a IAE Blog entry, IAE Newsletter, IAE-pedia entry, or book.

If I fail to do one or more of the tasks in my list, I usually forget most of what I have just read. You have heard the expression, "Use it or lose it." The same expression tends to hold for what I read. I am hopeful that a few ideas from what I read have been assimilated into my brain, well mixed in with things that I think that I already know. But, the details of much that I read are soon forgotten unless I make use of them.

This observation summarizes a substantial amount of educational research. We know that a "memorize and regurgitate" form of education does not work nearly as well as a "learn and make use of what you learn" type of education.

Think about a fifth grade student who is learning to do arithmetic with fractions. Where, in this students everyday life either outside of the math class or outside of school does this student routinely encounter such computational tasks?

I am not saying that fractions are not an important part of our number system. Rather, think about the challenge to teachers who want their students to gain an understanding of what is being taught through students routine use of what is being taught. And, did you ever wonder about when and how the decision was made to have fractions be an important part of the fifth grade math curriculum?

Such thinking and questioning is grist for a writer wanting to explore and help improve the math education curriculum.

IAE Publications

Information Age Education currently publishes four types of free materials. These are listed below.

  • IAE-pedia. This "pedia" has about 295 entries and is currently averaging about 2,000 hits per day. Click here to see a list of documents in the IAE-pedia.
  • IAE Blog. The IAE Blog has more than 380 entries.
Complete contents of all IAE Blog Entries.
List by title (with links to complete entries).
  • IAE Newsletter. This free, twice-monthly newsletter has published more than 190 issues. Click here to access the complete contents of all newsletters and (if you want to) get a free subscription to the IAE Newsletter.
  • IAE Books. IAE has published about 60 books that currently are available for free downloads.
Books authored or co-authored by David Moursund.
Books authored or co-authored by Bob Albrecht.
Books co-edited by Robert Sylwester and David Moursund.

Some Very Challenging Question

Informal and formal education are a lifelong endeavor for each of us. I suspect that most adults can readily find fault with the education systems that they were enrolled in as well as in the education systems that today's students are enrolled in.

When I think and talk about improving education at all levels and throughout the world, I immediately encounter the problem of deciding what constitutes an improvement. After all, "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder." Clearly I am faced by the situations:

  1. Every person is unique. No two learners are exactly alike. When two different students experience the exact same instructional content, teaching processes, and assessment, the results will not be identical.
  2. Both individual and groups (organizations) have opinions as to what constitutes a good education.

There is considerable agreement that changes designed to improve our educational system should be research based. Typically such a view of education picks one or more measures of a student's education. For example, the researchers may be looking for a better way to teach math at the fifth grade level. They may select widely used math tests that are applicable to such students. They will divide students into two or more groups (for example, boys and girls who will receive the treatment and similar students who will not), and use the resulting test scores to determine the effectiveness of the treatment.

Of course, who is to say that the tests actually measure what we are trying to accomplish in math education? Is there universal (or, at least widespread) agreement on what constitutes the goals of math education and good measures of the extent to which these goals are being met?

Moreover, a fifth grader's math education began at birth—or, even earlier as the yet to be born child's brain detects patterns of sound, movement, and so on. Perhaps the research efforts and possible curriculum changes should focus on much younger children?

I have written extensively about improving math education. Top down and bottom up are two quite general ways to think about improving math education.

In top down, experts and/or "the powers that be" specify the curriculum content, pedagogy, and assessment. This tends to be a "one size fits all" approach and largely ignores individual student differences.

In bottom up, the focus is on the needs of individual students. People talk about each student meeting his or her individual potentials. Of course, this is quite complex. It isn't just that students vary considerably in their inherent abilities to learn math. There are individual differences in the desire to learn math. Such desires may be strongly influenced by nurture (for example, home environment) and the individual students changes over time.

Change Agents

I am particularly interested in computer technology as a change agent in our informal and formal educations systems. Computers are a powerful change agent, and their capabilities continue to change at a rapid pace.

Educational cognitive neuroscience (brain science) is another powerful and rapidly changing change agent.

Drugs and other medical approaches that enhance brain performance and capabilities are another powerful change agent.

And, of course, we now have genetic engineering.

These types of change agents present a major challenge to our current education systems. Thus, they are all grist for education researchers and writers.

However, there are other types of change agents. For example, consider global warming, the increasing shortage of fresh water, our losing battle with sustainability, medical problems such as Ebola and disease carrying mosquitoes, racial, ethnic, and religious prejudices, quality of life and income inequalities, and so on. Surely such problems should be having an impact on curriculum content!

My point is that our formal education systems tend to be slow to change and their pace of change currently seems inadequate to the types of challenges mentioned above.

Possible IAE Writing Projects and Areas

The remainder of this IAE-pedia document consists of topics that are quite suitable for addition to the IAE collection of free material. Many are topics that particularly interest me. I have written on some of the topics, and I continue to find all of the topics quite interesting.

If you would like to write on one or more of these topics, please contact me (David Moursund) moursund@uoregon.edu. Remember that IAE does not pay its authors and the materials it publishes are available free on the Web through a Creative Commons license.

If you have ideas for topics not included in my list, please feel free to contact me about them.


Reading and writing were invented (developed) a little more than 5,000 years ago. They added a new dimension to the storage and sharing of information. In terms of human development, reading and writing were a major game changer.

It took about 5,000 years before it became commonplace to believe that all children should learn to read and write, and that the educational opportunity to gain a basic education is a human birthright. For example, quoting from http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/:

Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
(1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.
(2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.
(3) Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.

Quoting from http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=42829&Cr=literacy&Cr1=#.UqjtxqUs4hY:

7 September 2012 – United Nations officials have stressed the importance of literacy in accelerating peace and development, calling for greater efforts to enable children, youth and adults to read, write and transform their lives.
This year's International Literacy Day, observed annually on 8 September, has a special focus on the fundamental relationship between literacy and peace.
“We must not allow conflict to deprive children and adults of the crucial opportunity of literacy. Literacy is a fundamental human right, and the foundation of all education and lifelong learning,” the Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Irina Bokova, said in her message for the Day, which the agency has been marking for more than four decades. [Bold added for emphasis.]
She added that literacy transforms the lives of people, allowing them to make informed choices and empowering them individuals to become agents of change.
“Lasting peace depends on the development of literate citizenship and access to education for all. Amidst political upheaval and escalating violence in many parts of the world, literacy must be a priority in the peace-building agenda of all nations,” she stated.

We accept that reading and writing are a basic literacy. We now have Information and Communication Technology that strongly affects. I find it interesting to read about students with their slate tablets and the relatively few books that were common in schools a hundred and fifty years ago. We can now provide every students with access to the world's largest library (the Web) and communication system (the Internet). We have not yet begun to wisely integrate such facilities into curriculum, instruction, and assessment.

You are probably familiar with the idea of students learning to "read across the curriculum." Perhaps this should be rephrased as wanting students to learn to "read across the accumulated knowledge of the human race."

Or, how about voice input to computer systems. Why learn to read if one can speak a question to a computer system and get it to provide a good and useful answer?

A simple example of this reading and voice input issue is learning to read a printed map versus learning to use a GPS system. Perhaps relatively few students now need to learn to read and make use of a printed map.

On average, people in the United States are reading less hard copy print materials than in the past. One can argue that this is made up for by spending more time reading email, text messages, Web documents, and so on. And, of course, they are spending a lot of time playing electronic games.

So, let's narrow the topic a little. When I was a child, reading was one of my favorite pastimes. We had radio—another important pastime—but we did not have TV until I was 16 years old. At that time my parents bought a black and while TV set. We were able to receive a small number of quite fuzzy channels.

Now, on average, young people read far fewer stories and books for entertainment than when I was young. They play far more electronic games. They also spend lots of time using communications technology facilities such as social networks.

Think of an interactive multi-player game as a type of book—as an adventure story. Playing the game has some of the characteristics of reading a book. One has to use their imagination and thinking skills to understand what is going on. The "play" may be quite complex and it can take a long time to learn the environment and characters. In addition, in the game, one can be an active participant, and one's participation changes what is going on in the game. Also, in such a game one interacts with (collaborates with, competes with) other game players. Thus, in some sense, playing such a video game fills (is significantly replacing) an entertainment niche that was formerly filled by reading for entertainment.

Of course, reading is far more than just a form of entertainment. Reading is part of the reading/writing combination used to communicate with oneself and others. Reading allows us to receive information from people who are far removed from us in terms of distance and time. Our current educational system is built around the idea of learning to read and then reading to learn. By the time a child finishes third grade, the child is expected to be able to read well enough to have reading be a significant source of information to be learned and a significant aid to learning. The emphasis on reading to learn increases steadily as a student progresses through school.

So, we have a basic issue. Is our educational system going to be able to appropriately adjust to the changing reading (or, reading and writing) skills of students, or will schools and our overall society be able to maintain maintain the basic literacy skills of students at a level that is needed to facilitate students getting a good education?

Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation

A healthy human brain is naturally curious and has great capacity to learn. I summarize this by saying that most people are born with an intrinsic curiosity and creative drive to explore their environments—to learn about and learn from their environments.

However, our world is so full of things and experiences that are intrinsically interesting to a child that conflicts arise as to how a child's learning time should be spent. Parents, teachers, and politicians all make decisions about what they want students to be interested in and learn. They attempt to make these things interesting, and hope that students will become intrinsically interested in them.

Stakeholders such as parents, teachers, and politicians are all aware of how children find various forms of entertainment to be intrinsically interesting and motivating. All ask, why can't we develop educational materials that are equally intrinsically interesting and motivating, but that are also designed to help students get a high quality education—to learn faster and better, and with better long-term retention.

This situation has led to a number of studies and large scale implementations of computer technology into schools. It has also led to many parents providing their children with "education-oriented" computer-based forms of entertainment. While there has been considerable research on computer-assisted learning, we still lack adequate research on many aspects of wide-scale integration of computer technology into our schools.

Here is an example of research on motivation:

McCaslin, Mary (2008). Learning motivation: The role of opportunity. Teachers College Record. Retrieved 12/11/2013 from http://www.tcrecord.org/Content.asp?ContentID=15281. Quoting from this article:
Background/Context: Student motivation typically has been studied as it relates to extrinsic (e.g., reinforcement) and intrinsic (e.g., choice) sources of influence. Our observation of Grades 3–5 classrooms engaged in Comprehensive School Reform (CSR), however, unexpectedly indicated that opportunities for both rewards and choice were scarce. This study sought to better understand what might influence student motivation in these settings.
Purpose: The purpose of this study was (1) to listen to students to understand how they talked about school, classroom learning, and related issues that appeared to matter to them; (2) to observe students in their daily negotiations of school tasks, challenges, and relationships; (3) to then design survey measures to capture these students’ perspectives and motivational dynamics; and (4) to determine if the apparent student motivational dynamics generalized to other students in similar contexts.
Conclusions/Recommendations: The central theme to emerge from the participant observation study was the key role of opportunity in students’ learning motivation and motivation to learn. Motivational opportunities were organized into three types: supports, challenges, and threats. Each was represented in survey measures that appear useful in capturing the motivational dispositions and beliefs about school of students in Grades 3–5 in similar contexts.

In 2012-2013, the Los Angeles Unified School District began a huge investment in providing tablet computers to students. Many people believe that this project is not well supported by appropriate research and planning. Here is an article discussing the situation:

Deamicis, Carmel (10/24/2013). Uh oh, Los Angeles school district's $30 million iPad program falls flat. Retrieved 12/11/2013 from http://pando.com/2013/10/24/uh-oh-los-angeles-school-districts-30-million-ipad-program-falls-flat/. Quoting from the article:
So, problem no. 1: the budget is already out of control.
Problem no. 2, also reported by the LA Times: 300 hundred students who got their hands on the iPads wasted no time in disassembling the firewall installed to keep them from accessing super fun sites like Facebook, YouTube, and YouPorn. Shocker! Who didn’t see that coming from a mile away?
On the bright side I guess the LA school district can pat itself on the back for having such resourceful and independent students. On the other, slightly less bright side, they can sleep easy knowing students are making great use of the $30 million dollar school investment every night at home by accessing porn, playing video games, cyber bullying, catching up on episodes of “Pretty Little Liars,” and other productive teenage activities.
Or not, given that the school officials immediately suspended the program and collected the iPads back at three affected campuses [mentioned earlier in the article as examples of schools that had serious implementation problems] .
So, obviously, the news on the one-to-one device front isn’t great. The one-to-one device concept is a popular one in education today, referring to the idea that every student at every school should have a tablet or computer for educational purposes. Then, they can complete their homework using intelligent software programs that we’ve written about, like TenMarks or [1]

Study Skills

All students learn various study skills—on their own through experience and/or through being taught. My impression is that the "average" level of skills knowledge and implementation by students is quite low. Below is a New York Times reference.

Nankani, Sandhya (9/13/2010). Learn your lesson: Using effective study strategies. The Learning Network. Retrieved 9/15/2010 from http://learning.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/09/13/learn-your-lesson-using-effective-study-strategies/. See also http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/07/health/views/07mind.html?_r=1.

For a free course on Using a Computer for Study, see http://www.open.edu/openlearn/science-maths-technology/computing-and-ict/information-and-communication-technologies/using-computer-study/content-section-0.

Quoting from the Open University site:

The internet is a fantastic source of information for any student, but how do you evaluate the information each site provides? This free course, Using a computer for study, will help you assess the benefits of information technology, providing guidance on the protocols for using email, online conferencing and real time chat as methods of communication.
After studying this course, you should be able to:
  • understand how computers can be useful for studying
  • know the minimum computer specifications for a course or institution
  • understand what can be done on the web
  • understand how and where to find out more about computers and how they work
  • know how to back up files

By: [http://www.open.edu/openlearn/institutions/the-open-university The Open University.

  • Duration 6 hours
  • Updated Monday 14th March 2016
  • Introductory level

Posted under Information and Communication Technologies

The topic of learning to learn is challenging. How does one best learn math? Compare and contrast this with how one best learns to read Shakespeare plays or how one learns to play a new computer game.

In brief summary, there has been quite a bit of research on study skills. Think about how the research applies to groups of people, and how it applies to a single student. The bottom line, in some sense, is that each student is unique and that the nature of what is to be studied (learned) strongly affects how one should study it.

Thus, the teacher in each discipline area at each grade level has a responsibility for teaching research-based, discipline-specific and grade-level appropriate study skills, information about how to learn the discipline. Each student has a responsibility for individualizing this information—gaining personally relevant knowledge and skills.

Here is a fundamental question. Teachers have had years of experience in developing their own study skills and helping their students to develop study skills. But, as computers become readily available, students study in a computer environment. Is there a good strong transfer of learning from "paper and pencil" study skills to computer-based study skills. Here is some research on the topic:

Smith, S. (8/30/2010). Technology hasn't helped students' study skills, research finds. Faculty Focus, retrieved 9/17/2016 from http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/teaching-and-learning/technology-hasnt-helped-students-study-skills-research-finds/.

Quoting from this document:

The research, published this month in The Journal of Educational Psychology, found that students tend to study on computers as they would with traditional texts: They mindlessly over-copy long passages verbatim, take incomplete or linear notes, build lengthy outlines that make it difficult to connect related information, and rely on memory drills like re-reading text or recopying notes.
Meanwhile, undergraduates in the study scored 29 to 63 percentage points higher on tests when they used study techniques like recording complete notes, creating comparative charts, building associations, and crafting practice questions on their screens. [Bold added for emphasis.]
“Our study showed that achievement really takes off when students are prompted to use more powerful strategies when studying computer materials,” said the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Ken Kiewra, an expert in study methods and one of the authors of the study.

HIICAL: Highly Interactive Intelligent Computer-Assisted Learning

The IAE-pedia contains several brief treatments of this topic as a part of other topics, but there is no specific page treating the topic in depth.

Recently I have started using the term HIIICAL: Highly Individualized Interactive Intelligent Computer-Assisted Learning.

The major underlying idea is that timely and relevant feedback is essential in learning. One-to-one tutoring is especially effective in eduction because of two things:

  1. New content being presented can be more carefully aligned with the learner's current knowledge, skills, and interests.
  2. Feedback can be immediate, personalized, and the basis for an interactive dialog.

Brain Science Mythologies

For a brief treatment of this topic see my 11/6/2010 IAE-Blog entry.

This is an interesting and fun topic. For example, you probably have heard the myth that the typical human brain uses only 10% of its capabilities. I suppose this myth can be used to suggest that there is this huge reservoir of unused capabilities that can be tapped into through better education or if one would just learn to try harder.

Of course, you have also heard about the idea of "use it or lose it" in terms of one's learning, and you have hear of the ideas of brain plasticity and re-purposing of neurons. If there is a collection of neurons that are not being used, they will be taken over by some other active part of the brain—they will be re-purposed.

Recently I read a 1979 article about brain mythologies. So, this topic seems to have a fairly long history. I suppose that phrenology is part of that history. My recent Google search of the expression brain mythologies turned up a lot of well-researched articles about brain mythologies (neuromythologies).

Daniel Pink

Students are generally being rewarded by being given an important tool that all should have. Hmm. See Daniel Pink's book that discusses reward structures for lower-order work and for higher-order work.

Note also the recent research on the value of giving rewards to teachers whose students make more gains on test scores. (September 2010). The reward structure that was studied had no effect. Early in 2011, I read an article that presented some evidence of success in offering college students money for earning good grades.

A related reading:

Communities of Practice at http://www.ewenger.com/theory/communities_of_practice_intro.htm

Daniel Pink and his book titled Drive.

First is biological. Second is extrinsic; third is Type 1. Type 1 behavior is a way of thinking and an approach to business grounded in the real science of human motivation and powered by our third drive—our innate need to direct our own lives, to learn and create new things, and to do better by ourselves and our world. Hmm. Creativity. This has long been recognized as a driver.

How are health care and education alike? They both are concerned with the well being of people. They both contribute to the bettering of the human condition. See the sequence of IAE Newsletter articles written by Dave Moursund and Bob Sylwester. They can be accessed via the "Free IAE Newsletter" in the top part of the menu on the left side of this page.

Daniel Pink's book is mainly about motivating works in business and industry. From that point of view it is a book about business and economics.

But, every once in a while in the book he includes examples of research in education and suggestions that his ideas apply to all both students and their teachers. This "apples and oranges" type of analysis is helpful, just like the IAE-Newsletters "apples and oranges of Education and Health Care" provide useful insights.

The fundamental theme in Pink's book is that there are three major themes of motivation that need to be considered:

1. Biological. This is a type of intrinsic motivation that is a strong driver in the live all of us.

2. Extrinsic—especially rewards and punishments; especially if-then contingencies. If you don't shown up for work on time, I will dock your pay. Continue to do that, and I will fire you. If you work overtime, I will pay you time -and-a-half. If we meet our sales goals for this month, I will take all of you out to a nice dinner.

3. Intrinsic, especially for those who have their baseline needs being met. They have fair, decent, competitive wages and work conditions. They, offer the type of reward that is not based on if-then. Rather think in terms of personal satisfaction, making a difference in the world, contributing to the welfare of other, expressing one's creativity, and so on.

Autonomy: task, time, team, and technique. This comes from others, but is mentioned in the Pink book.

Decreasing Dropout Rates in Distance Learning Courses

http://www.naehcy.org. This study tried out various ways to decrease dropout rates, and none of the methods tried produced a significant decrease. Here are two of my conjectures:

1. People are inherently social creatures. It is built into our genes to be social creatures and to learn in social, interactive, small, face-to-face groups.

2. Our current educational system is not designed to educate or train students to learn in a distance learning environment. It does not help students to learn to function with that level of independence and self-responsiiblity.

Carol Dweck

See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carol_Dweck. Her work and insights are outstanding!

Mihály Csíkszentmihályi and the Topic of Flow

See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mihaly_Csikszentmihalyi. I have read his book on "flow" and think of it as "fight on!" I certainly have experienced flow in some of my activities.

Also see:

Stuart, Keith (8/11/2010). What do we mean when we call a game 'immersive'? guardian.co.uk. Retrieved 8/13/2010 from http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/gamesblog/2010/aug/10/games-science-of-immersion. Quoting from the article:
ow do you know you are immersed in a game? There are lots of obvious signifiers: time passes unnoticed; you become unaware of events or people around you; your heart rate quickens in scary or exciting sections; you empathize with the characters... Basic stuff. But while we can reel off the symptoms, what are the causes? And why do many games get it wrong?

Auxiliary Memory

See the IAE-pedia article, Two Brains Are Better than One. http://iae-pedia.org/Two_Brains_Are_Better_Than_One. In retrospect, this document should have been about three brains being better than two. The third brain in the discussion is the Reading & Writing brain.

Student Autonomy

Quoting from an email message written by John Gardner on June 30, 2010:

Hello all. I am thoroughly enjoying this conversation and look forward to a time when there are many answers as well as many questions! I don’t know anything about anything, but that doesn’t stop me from having opinions on everything. After all I am an American voter. I am absolutely convinced that students will learn better if they have the ability to learn at their own pace from excellent material that can be accessed multi-modaly. The previous conversations clue me that autonomy has nothing to do with automobiles, so maybe this is autonomy?
Anyhow to be serious for once, I’d like to add to the questions. “What students do not benefit from autonomy?” My guess is “none”, but I’ll also guess that I would be very hard pressed to find a way to prove it. We seem to be very good at training students not to be autonomous! For many years I taught an advanced undergrad course on computer interfacing that had as its only requirement that students do a project. The only rule was that the project involve computer interfacing. I refused to assign any topics, and students hated me. By the end of the course they didn’t hate me anymore, and in later years many returned to tell me that it was the pivotal course in their lives, the first time that they had to actually THINK independently. It was the first time they were totally autonomous. I am sure that one would get very different results trying to answer my question if the tests were run before or after that course.
I’m enjoying this thread and hope that my comments don’t have the same effect on you that I did when I was young and joined a group of young women. Tom is wrong. Girls are much more difficult than math.
John Gardner

Roles of Education and Health Care in Improving Quality of Life


Brain Exercises and Cognition


Harrell, Eden. Study: Brain exercises don’t improve cognition. TIME/CNN. Retrieved 8/31/2010 from http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1983306,00.html Quoting from the article:
You’ve probably heard it before: the brain is a muscle that can be strengthened. It’s an assumption that has spawned a multimillion-dollar computer-game industry of electronic brainteasers and memory games. But in the largest study of these games to date, a team of British researchers has found that healthy adults who undertake computer-based ‘brain training’ do not improve their mental fitness in any significant way.
The study, published online on Tuesday by the journal Nature, tracked 11,430 participants through a six-week online study. The participants were divided into three groups: the first group undertook basic reasoning, planning and problem-solving activities (like choosing the ‘odd one out’ of a group of four objects); the second completed more complex exercises of memory, attention, math and visual-spatial processing that were designed to mimic popular brain-training computer games and programs; and the control group was asked to use the Internet to research answers to trivia questions. (See different workouts for your brain.)


"It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education." (Albert Einstein; German-born theoretical physicist and 1921 Nobel Prize winner; 1879-1955.)

Humans are naturally curious. Does our educational system help or hinder? This topic is vaguely related to creativity. Recent research suggests that the level of creativity of our students is declining as compared to the past.

Bronson, Po, and Ashley, Merry (7/12/2010). Forget brainstorming. Newsweek. Retrieved 8/31/2010 from http://www.newsweek.com/2010/07/12/forget-brainstorming.html. Quoting from the article:

Brainstorming in a group became popular in 1953 with the publication of a business book, Applied Imagination. But it’s been proven not to work since 1958, when Yale researchers found that the technique actually reduced a team’s creative output: the same number of people generate more and better ideas separately than together. In fact, according to University of Oklahoma professor Michael Mumford, half of the commonly used techniques intended to spur creativity don’t work, or even have a negative impact. As for most commercially available creativity training, Mumford doesn’t mince words: it’s “garbage.” Whether for adults or kids, the worst of these programs focus solely on imagination exercises, expression of feelings, or imagery. They pander to an easy, unchallenging notion that all you have to do is let your natural creativity out of its shell. However, there are some techniques that do boost the creative process:
  • Don't tell someone to be 'creative.'
  • Get moving.
  • Take a break.
  • Reduce [television] screen time.
  • Explore other cultures.
  • Follow a passion.
  • Ditch the suggestion box.

Peer and Self-instruction

The Tom Sawyer effect. Convince others that whitewashing a fence (or whatever you are doing) is really fun.) Now, if I could just convince more of my readers that it would be fun to add a document to the IAE-pedia!. It is interesting to think about why so many well-educated people (who have lots to share) resist doing "serious" writing.

The bars of soap example. Peer instruction. Soap: http://esa.un.org/iys/docs/san_lib_docs/Handwashing_Handbook.pdf. The Handwashing Handbook A guide for developing a hygiene promotion program to increase handwashing with soap.

Computer in the wall example. Retrieved 8/13/2010 from http://www.greenstar.org/butterflies/Hole-in-the-Wall.htm. Here is a short description of this work:

An Indian physicist puts a PC with a high speed internet connection in a wall in the slums and watches what happens. Based on the results, he talks about issues of digital divide, computer education and kids, the dynamics of the third world getting online.

New Delhi physicist Sugata Mitra has a radical proposal for bringing his country's next generation into the Information Age. Retrieved 8/13/2010 from http://www.ncl.ac.uk/ecls/staff/profile/sugata.mitra Newcastle University. Quoting from a Businessweek Online Daily Briefing, March 2, 2000, edited by Paul Judge:

Kids learn how to play quite complex games from each other and on their own. Similarly for using various aspects of ICT—especially the T part, and multimedia downloading, recording, and playback devices, Twitter, Facebook. His wiki: http://sugatam.wikispaces.com/


Creativity is one of the three components in Robert Sternberg's theory of multiple intelligences. Computer-based tools are being developed to speed up (enhance?) creativity. See http://cordis.europa.eu/ictresults/index.cfm?section=news&tpl=article&BrowsingType=Features&ID=91413. Quoting from the article:

"It is like Wikipedia, people get a real kick out of participating, and now it has millions of articles, and all because Web 2.0 lets people do what they would like to do anyway. But with Web 2.0 they are connecting with people immediately," Luccini stresses.
InnoTube also boasts a host of enhancements to all these relatively common Web 2.0 elements. For example, users can look at a type of 'mind-map' showing the links between different users who like the same content, and Luccini emphasises that there is an inherent value to such ‘connected knowledge’; it helps highlight information that will probably be useful even if you have no idea the information is there.
"If you like somebody's choices for one item, chances are that you will like it for another. If you are interested in a subject that one user covers very well, you will probably find lots of information you were not aware of in the files she or he recommends," he says.
There is almost no end to the enhancements INSEAD’s CALT has added to their package. People can communicate asynchronously, by starting forums around particular content or topics, or synchronously by using instant messaging, chat and video chat, public or private.

One creates by making use of available media, tools, and so on. When we create new tools (such as computer graphics), we create new outlets for or tools for use in creativity.

Bronson, Po, and Ashley, Merry (7/10/2010). The creativity crisis. Newsweek. Retrieved 8/31/2010 from http://www.newsweek.com/2010/07/10/the-creativity-crisis.html. Quoting from the article:

Like intelligence tests, Torrance’s test—a 90-minute series of discrete tasks, administered by a psychologist—has been taken by millions worldwide in 50 languages. Yet there is one crucial difference between IQ and CQ scores. With intelligence, there is a phenomenon called the Flynn effect—each generation, scores go up about 10 points. Enriched environments are making kids smarter. With creativity, a reverse trend has just been identified and is being reported for the first time here: American creativity scores are falling.
Kyung Hee Kim at the College of William & Mary discovered this in May, after analyzing almost 300,000 Torrance scores of children and adults. Kim found creativity scores had been steadily rising, just like IQ scores, until 1990. Since then, creativity scores have consistently inched downward. “It’s very clear, and the decrease is very significant,” Kim says. It is the scores of younger children in America—from kindergarten through sixth grade—for whom the decline is “most serious.”

Another quote from the same article:

In the 50 years since Schwarzrock and the others took their tests, scholars—first led by Torrance, now his colleague, Garnet Millar—have been tracking the children, recording every patent earned, every business founded, every research paper published, and every grant awarded. They tallied the books, dances, radio shows, art exhibitions, software programs, advertising campaigns, hardware innovations, music compositions, public policies (written or implemented), leadership positions, invited lectures, and buildings designed.

Here are three references:

IAE Newsletter - Issue 34, January, 2010. This issue of the newsletter explores the topic of creativity by artificially intelligent computer systems. Keep in mind the idea that human intelligence and creativity may well be quite a bit different than computer intelligence and creativity—but both are of value to us.

IAE Newsletter - Issue 33, January, 2010. This issue of the newsletter explores biological creativity.

Comin, Laura. (03/02/11) The Scientist: Prof. Bailey Explores Human Creativity and Machines. Cornell Daily Sun. Retrieved 3/2/2011 from http://www.cornellsun.com/section/science/content/2011/03/02/scientist-prof-bailey-explores-human-creativity-and-machines.

Cornell University professor Graeme Bailey is studying the ability of computers to mimic human creativity. Bailey says the divide between computer science and art is fading, and he is researching how computer algorithms can be used to create original works of art, and how those creations lead to a universal statement about human self-awareness and perception. "If we as computer scientists are hoping to build machines which can create effective art, then we must understand what psychologists and artists understand about human perception," Bailey says. In 2005, Bailey, composer Steve Stucky, and psychology professor Carol Krumhansl created the Computing in the Arts minor at Cornell. The concentration enables students to create works of art with computers, focusing on different disciplines including music, psychology, dance, film, and art. Bailey says computers will eventually be able to create original works of art indistinguishable from human-created works.

Quality of Life

The issue of "Quality of Life" is a standard one in medicine and health care. My recent Google search of the expression quality of life returned about 340 million results. There are a large number of factors that contribute to one's quality of life. These are given varying levels of importance by different people. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quality-of-life_index.

Thus, some people will give a relatively high ranking to how their formal schooling has contributed to their quality of life, and some will give it a relatively low ranking. At the time they are undergoing their middle school and high school education, for example, many students feel that the schooling is a "pain in the neck" and the time and effort it requires is decreasing their quality of life. Others will point to certain subjects or certain teachers, arguing that these particular subjects or teachers are "good" or "bad" in contributing to their quality of life. Years later, their retrospective insights may be different from the ones they had at the time.

The "Game" of Mathematics

Currently Bob Albrecht and I are writing a book, Using Math Games and Word Problems to Increase the Math Maturity of K-8 Students. The book discusses math maturity and explores a number of games that can be played with dice or dominoes that can help to increase math maturity.

In writing material for this book, it occurred to me to start thinking about math itself as a type of game. This thinking led me to writing an email to my friend Gene Maier:

Lately I have been working with Bob Albrecht writing a book on games in education for use at the elementary and middle school level, and that help engage students in activities that will increase their levels of math maturity.
The other day I noticed that I had previously written a sentence that mentioned "the game of mathematics." By that, I had in mind that math is a game.
Yesterday I thought more about what the concept of the game of mathematics might mean and whether it was relevant to my insights into math education. Math has rules, goals to be accomplished, strategies to be developed and used, and so on.
How is this the same and how is it different from a computer-based simulation? Hmm. Think of math as a simulation game. The simulations (models) that are developed often are usefully accurate models of problem situations that people want to study in many different disciplines. A math model (or a computer simulation) does not need to be perfect to be highly useful.

Gene Maier responded on August 23, 2010:

It would never have occurred to me to compare math to a computer simulation, but I can see the possibilities, especially for those who draw their math from physical settings.
I have a difficult time coming up with a definition of mathematics other than it's somewhere between an art and a science that evolves from an examination of number and space. It is somewhat like a game, but with a flexible set of rules. One changes the rules to suit one's need or fancies; the rules are not immutable; and a lot of mathematics grows out of examining what happens when the rules are changed. Also, contrary to popular opinion, there's a wide range of legitimate moves one can make to reach one's goal and people are always inventing new ones; so it's not a static game. Math comes with a caveat that's not there in ordinary games: You can make up your own rules as long as they are logically sound, and even that, as the article Bob Sylwester (see below) forwarded points out, is subject to debate.

Note: The article referred to is:

Elwes, Richard (8/16/2010). To infinity and beyond: The struggle to save arithmetic. NewScientist. Retrieved 8/24/2010 from http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20727731.300-to-infinity-and-beyond-the-struggle-to-save-arithmetic.html?page=1. The article discusses some new results on incompleteness in math.

How Do Search Engines "Do Their Thing"?

It is easy to learn to use a search engine. However, it is not easy to learn to be a skilled user of a search engine—and there are lots of different search engines. What do we want our students to learn about search engines?

One useful article is Searching for better research habits (9/30/2010). Inside Higher Education. Retrieved 9/30/2010 from http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2010/09/29/search. Quoting from this article:

“Students do not have adequate information literacy skills when they come to college, and this goes for even high-achieving students,” said Asher, the lead research anthropologist at the Enthographic Research in Illinois Academic Libraries (ERIAL) Project, which recently studied the search habits of more than 600 Illinois students spanning a range of institutions and demographic groups. …
Asher moved swiftly through a few slides featuring excerpts from interviews with students, each eliciting both chuckles and gasps from the audience of librarians and technologists. “I’m just trusting Google to know what are the good resources,” responded one sophomore biology student.
“Of all the students that I interviewed, not a single one of them could give an adequate conceptual definition of how Google returns results,” said Asher. Not even those “who should know better,” like computer science students. The word “magic” came up a lot, he noted.

Active Learning

Active learning is a "buzz expression" in education. The general idea is that teachers want students to be actively engaged in learning what the teacher is teaching. Here is a useful reference:

Weimer, Maryellen (2/9/2011). Defining active learning. Faculty Focus. Retrieved 2/14/2011 from http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/teaching-professor-blog/defining-active-learning/?c=FF&t=F110209. Quoting from the article:

The Greenwood Dictionary of Education defines active learning as “The process of having students engage in some activity that forces them to reflect upon ideas and how they are using those ideas." Requiring students to regularly assess their own degree of understanding and skill at handling concepts or problems in a particular discipline. The attainment of knowledge by participating or contributing. The process of keeping students mentally, and often physically, active in their learning through activities that involve them in gathering information, thinking and problem solving.

Games in Education

For edutopia's 12/11/2013 updated collection of tips, tools, and examples of successful game-based learning and assessment, see http://www.edutopia.org/game-based-learning-resources?utm_source=SilverpopMailing&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=121113%20enews%20%28actives%20AB%2030percent%206-9AM%2040K%20throttle%29%20remainder&utm_content=&spMailingID=7563243&spUserID=MjcyNzM4OTkzNDUS1&spJobID=104666696&spReportId=MTA0NjY2Njk2S0

Self Assessment

The IAE-pedia article on Self Assessment is a good introduction to this topic. Retrieved 8/21/2010 from http://iae-pedia.org/Self_Assessment.

The following article discusses student preparation for college as measured by ACT college-entrance exam scores.

Banchero, Stephanie (8/18/2010). Stagnate scores at high schools. Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 8/21/2010 from http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703824304575435831555726858.html. Quoting from the article:
New data show that fewer than 25% of 2010 graduates who took the ACT college-entrance exam possessed the academic skills necessary to pass entry-level courses, despite modest gains in college-readiness among U.S high-school students in the last few years.
The results raise questions about how well the nation's high schools are preparing students for college, and show the challenge facing the Obama administration in its effort to raise educational standards. The administration won bipartisan support for its education policies early on, but faces a tough fight in the fall over the rewrite and reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind program....
The ACT is taken by students in every state but is most popular in the Midwest. About 47% of the 2010 graduating class, 1.6 million students, sat for the exam, which is accepted at most U.S. colleges. The ACT is an achievement test that measures students' mastery of high-school curriculum and the skills they'll need to pass first-year college courses.
The average ACT composite score has actually fallen since 2007, after increasing during the five-year period before that. This year, the average composite was 21.0, compared with 21.1 last year and 21.2 in 2007. The test is scored on a 1-36 point scale.

It seems to me that one of the things this means is that students are being mislead. They take the courses and achieve the grades that they are told will prepare them for college. However, they are not prepared.

This suggests the need for honest rigorous self-assessment instruments. Every student should have free and easy access to instruments that provide fair, valid, reliable information about how well they are prepared for college, or prepared for a particular type of employment that does not require college.

Computers and Music Education

A nice summary of progress in using computers in college level music education is provided in the 2013 article Music Education Goes to College.

IAE-pedia Stub Pages Exist for Topics Listed in this Section

I consider each of the following to be an important topic, and have started an IAE-pedia page for each one.

1. Charter Schools.

2. Personalized Medicine and Education.

3. Learned Helplessness.

4. Robotics and Education.

5. What Is Social Science?

6. Knowledge Discovery and Data-mining.

Topics I Hope Others Will Write About

When I created the IAE-pedia, I hoped that lots of people would contribute articles. The reality has been that only a modest number of articles have been contributed.

If you would like to contribute an article, please contact me. I will offer you both encouragement and help! Email me at moursund@uoregon.edu.

Here are some topics that I feel are very important, but are ones that I don't feel qualified to write about.

1. Graphic Arts and Education. See, for example:

When Hippocrates said that "life is short, art is long," he did not mean that art outlives the artist. The "father of medicine" instead diagnosed a basic fact of life: true art or skill takes a lifetime of effort to perfect, and the path is fraught with "occasional crises, perilous experiences, and difficult judgments." Technology is the "art" at the forefront of our changing world, and we're here to help it all, even the difficult judgments.

2. What student should be learning about human cognitive neuroscience (the human brain) during K-12 education.

3. Computers and music, especially as they relate to music education.


This page was created by David Moursund.