A Message to All Parents of School-age Students

David Moursund

Professor Emeritus, College of Education

University of Oregon

This free Information Age Education Newsletter is edited by Dave Moursund, edited by Ann Lathrop, and produced by Ken Loge. The newsletter is one component of the Information Age Education (IAE) and Advancement of Globally Appropriate Technology and Education (AGATE) publications.
All back issues of the newsletter and subscription information are available online. A number of the newsletters are available in Spanish on the AGATE website mentioned above.

My most recent free book, published in May 2021, The Future of AI in Our Schools, was published last month. This short 75-page book is available free online at https://moursundagatefoundation.org/2021/05/the-future-of-ai-in-our-schools/. In my personal opinion, this is the most important and best book I have ever written. Please share the book with others you think might enjoy it. It currently is available only in English, but soon will be available in Spanish as well.

An earlier free book, The Fourth R (Second Edition) is available free in both and Spanish (https://moursundagatefoundation.org/2018/07/the-fourth-r-second-edition/). The unifying theme of the 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.

These recent books have now had a combined total of about 150,000 page-views. My various free web available publications—with no paid ads—have had a total of approximately 20 million page views over the past dozen years.

As indicated in previous newsletters, I have lung cancer. My treatment began with ten radiation sessions. I have completed these, and the side effects have been minimal. I have begun the chemo and immuno treatment. The first “round” included two hours of anti-nausea and four hours of chemo on the first day, followed by two hours of chemo on the second day and two hours of immuno on the third day. This three-day treatment is followed by two weeks and four days off, then a repeat. In total, this three-day treatment occurs four times. My mental attitude is very positive, and the many expressions of strong encouragement that I have received from my readers around the world have been very helpful in strengthening my resolve to survive.

I like to quote these lines from Robert Frost, “The woods are lovely, dark, and deep, but I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep.” This current and the following newsletters, a book that I am now completing, and a number of future writing projects are part of my current goals.

The following section has a Flesch-Kincaid reading level of about grade 10.5. I believe that some version of this section should be provided to the parents and/or guardians of all of today’s school-age students. Likely each school and/or school district will want to modify the content to fit their specific programs of instruction.A Message to All Parents of School-age Students

The use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is now an everyday part of almost all aspects our lives. This is not new news. Quoting from a 1997-98 issue of Cause/Effect:

Information technology (IT) is a defining force affecting all areas of society well into the next century, changing every institution, every business, and every individual in profound ways. Technology itself has changed dramatically in the past fifteen years.

The article notes the very rapid progress that has been occurring in the development of computer technology. “Within fifteen short years we have [achieved] on the order of one thousand times better algorithms, five hundred thousand times more computing power per individual, and five hundred million times more mobility of information.”

This rapid pace of change is continuing. Our children are growing up in a world that is very different from the world that their grandparents and parents grew up in. This means that the school system and education that once served them well is faced by the challenges of these technological changes. However, here is a very important current statement from Bill Gates, one of the world leaders in developing computer technology, “Technology is just a tool. In terms of getting kids working together and motivating them, the teacher is the most important.”

ICT is being used increasingly and in many different ways in our everyday classrooms. But, we still need to focus on helping students to develop people skills and knowledge about themselves. Indeed, children now face the added challenge of learning to interact with other children and with adults in a high-tech, web-connected world. Increasingly addictive computerized games and other forms of entertainment now available also take children’s attention away from more traditional education and social interactions.

Humans developed the reading and writing of text nearly 5,500 years ago. The world’s first schools emphasized learning to read and write text. Today’s schools teach reading and writing, but they also help students learn to make effective use of their reading and writing as an aid to learning other subject areas. Now we have interactive multimedia that combines text with audio and video materials. Individual students are able to control their pace through these materials. In addition, the materials can gather information from individual students in order to adjust what is being presented to better meet the needs of each individual student.

Students need to learn to read and write multimedia, to use interactive multimedia documents in their learning, and to routinely make use of these skills. Teachers need to acquire the skills that allow them to help students with this new learning.

We also know that computers can solve a very wide range of the types of problems that schools currently teach students to solve by hand. Math provides many examples of this. It seems clear that students need to understand the meaning and concept of multiplication and division of multi-digit numbers and improper fractions. But, do students still need to learn to develop speed and accuracy in doing such calculations by hand? This often can become a major challenge to many students, and one that probably contributes very little to their understanding of mathematics.

The same type of observation holds in many other areas. Consider the skills needed to make effective use of a card catalogue as an aid to retrieving information from a physical library. This now has been replaced by the use of Web search engines. Indeed, the easy, rapid access to the Web raises another issue. What do we want students to memorize and what we just want them to understand and to be able to retrieve from the Web? And, of course, this raises the issue of helping students learn to recognize “fake news” that is deliberately falsified information published on the Web.

As you can see, students and their teachers face a new set of challenges. Moreover, the pace of change of computer technology ensures that any “solutions” we develop and implement today will be outmoded in a few years. Today’s students need to learn to learn—and to deal with new situations—rather than to gain an education that was designed years ago for a very slowly changing world.

As Bill Gates emphasized in the quotation given earlier, one very important goal of education is to have teachers who can help students to develop their social and interactive skills together with increasing their knowledge of themselves. They need to learn to work together to solve problems and accomplish tasks. They also need to learn to be tolerant of and to work with others who are different from themselves.

As a parent, you may remember your schooling as a class of 20 to 25 or frequently more students being taught by an individual teacher. Even in elementary school, however, it was common to divide readers into three different levels of reading skill. This allowed the teacher to work with smaller, more homogeneous groups of students while the other students did seatwork activities.

We have known for many years that one-on-one tutoring is much more effective than an individual teacher working with a medium-sized or larger group of students. But, our public schools cannot afford to provide this level of instruction to all students. (It does provide this level of instruction to some special needs students.)

Today we have Artificial Intelligence-based computer assisted instruction. The availability and capability of AI-based instructional material is steadily increasing. The Covid-19 pandemic has shown us that many students are quite successful in using this AI-based mode of instruction—even though they had previously received no instruction and practice to help them to gain this skill.

We know that many students can easily pick up some aspects of computer technology—such as cell phones, digital cameras, and computer games. This suggests that learning with the use of computer technology is certainly not beyond the capabilities of typical students. However, the curriculum content, instructional techniques, and methods of assessment will all need to change significantly from what today’s parents and grandparents experienced in schools. This is likely to prove to be stressful to parents and guardians. But, it also will provide an opportunity for them to learn from their children and/or to learn with and at the same time as their children. Your children’s teachers and school administrators look forward to working with you as you and your children venture into this new world of education.


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.