A College Student’s Guide to Computers in Education

Dave Moursund

University of Oregon

Email: moursund@uoregon.edu

Web: http://uoregon.edu/~moursund/dave/index.htm

Free books by Dave Moursund: http://uoregon.edu/~moursund/dave/Free.html#Books

 

Abstract

This short book is for undergraduate and graduate college and university students, and for others thinking about enrolling in higher education courses. The information and ideas presented will help you to obtain an education that will be useful to you throughout your life in our rapidly changing Information Age world.

Change is an underlying theme of this book. You are living at a time of a rapid technological change. The rate of change is increasing. Such change brings with it both threats and opportunities. You can shape your informal and formal education to diminish the threats and increase the opportunities. 

Gaining a competitive advantage is another underlying theme of the book. Whatever your areas of interest, you can gain a competitive advantage by developing a higher level of expertise in the areas and by developing an increased level of expertise in using computers in the areas. Computer technology is a powerful aid to representing and helping to solve problems and accomplish tasks in every academic discipline.

This book is a companion to A Faculty Member’s Guide to Computers in Higher Education, which is available free on the Website http://uoregon.edu/~moursund/Books/Faculty/Faculty.html. The two books share many of the same ideas, but these ideas are presented from two quite different points of view.

Copying Rights

This book is Copyright © David Moursund 2007. However, it can be accessed free on the Web in both PDF and Microsoft Word formats. This is done under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 License. More detail is available at http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/.

These copying rights allow you and others to make copies of all or parts of these materials for non-commercial purposes. You can share these materials with others you feel will benefit from using them. You can link to them from your Website.


About Dave Moursund, the Author

“The wisest mind has something yet to learn.” (George Santayana)

•      Doctorate in mathematics (specializing in numerical analysis) from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

•      Instructor, Department of Mathematics, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

•      Assistant Professor and then Associate Professor, Department of Mathematics and Computing Center (School of Engineering), Michigan State University.

•      Associate Professor, Department of Mathematics and Computing Center, University of Oregon.

•      Associate and then Full Professor, Department of Computer Science, University of Oregon.

•      Served six years as the first Head of the Computer Science Department at the University of Oregon, 1969-1975.

•      Full Professor in the College of Education at the University of Oregon for more than 20 years.

•      In 1974, started the publication that eventually became Learning and Leading with Technology, the flagship publication of the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE).

•      In 1979, founded the International Society for Technology in Education ). Headed this organization for 19 years.

•      Author or co-author of about 50 books and several hundred articles in the field of computers in education.

•      Presented about 200 workshops in the field of computers in education.

•      Served as a major professor for about 50 doctoral students (six in math, the rest in education). Served on the doctoral committees of about 25 other students.

•      Founding member of the Math Learning Center. Served on the MLC Board of Directors since its inception in 1976, and chaired the board for several years.

•      For more information about Dave Moursund and for free online, no cost access to 20 of his books and a number of articles, go to http://uoregon.edu/~moursund/dave/.

Preface 

“Fortune favors the prepared mind.” (Louis Pasteur)

This book is for students currently enrolled in higher education and students thinking of going to college. It is designed to be read online, although if you want to take the environmentally unsound approach of printing out a copy, I guess I cannot stop you. Many of us find it hard to break old habits, or to replace old habits with new habits.

Over the long run, you will likely gain considerable benefit by learning to be a fluent, online reader. Hardcopy books are not going to disappear during your lifetime or the lifetimes of your children and grandchildren. However, a rapidly increasing amount of the material being published throughout the world will mainly be available online.

Prerequisites for the Reader

The prerequisite computer knowledge assumed in this book includes some experience in using a word processor, email, a browser, and a search engine on the Web. The book is not specifically designed to increase your specific computer-based skills. Rather, it is designed to help you make decisions throughout your educational experiences—decisions that will help you to get a better education.

There is another prerequisite. It is that you have the mental maturity (a level of cognitive development and self-responsibility) to take a high level of responsibility for your own education. Important question: did you stop and reflect on what the term cognitive development means and whether you have a level of mental maturity that is up to the task of reading and learning from this book? If the expression cognitive development is not part of your working vocabulary, look it up on the Web. Take responsibility for your own education!

This Book Tells a Story About Change

Many years ago, you began the long process of becoming a fluent reader. If you are like most students, this was a rather difficult task, taking a number of years before you had a reasonable level of fluency at decoding squiggly marks on a page into meaningful patterns in your brain.

Eventually you began to read chapter books (books made up of a sequence of chapters) and you began to learn through the process of reading. The expectation is that typical students can begin to learn by reading by the end of 3rd grade and will be relatively good at it by the end of 6th or 7th grade.

Perhaps during this same time, you began to differentiate in your mind between storybooks and textbooks. A storybook tells a story and is fun to read. A textbook does not seem to tell a story, and most people don’t find textbooks particularly enjoyable to read. Not many people select a college textbook for their bedtime reading enjoyment!

During my professional career, I have written many scholarly, academic books. Although each tells a story, I am sure that most of my readers have considered the stories to be “dullsville,” and certainly not competitive with a well-written, exciting novel.

The book you are now reading tells a story about the rapidly changing world you live in, and the pursuit of a good education for responsible and successful life in this world.

This story is important to you and your future. As you read this book, think of yourself as the protagonist. Your decision to obtain a higher education is a decision to take charge of inventing your future. This future can take many paths.

Regardless of the paths you pursue in higher education, the world is going to change substantially during your lifetime. Much of this change will be due to changes in science, technology, medicine, environment, population, and other factors that you personally, all by yourself, have little control over.

What you can do is improve your levels of expertise:

•      In learning to learn in various disciplines and across disciplines.

•      In useable, applicable, knowledge and skills in areas deemed important by you and/or by others.

•      In being a responsible adult and lifelong learner.

•      In dealing with change and helping others deal with change.

Increasing Your Levels of Expertise

Higher education provides you an opportunity to increase your level of expertise in a variety of different areas. You probably have some goals in mind of what you will do with these increased levels of expertise. Thus, for example, you may be interested in gaining a level of expertise that will help you get a good job, to help you go on to further education, to become a better parent, or to be a leader in helping to solve a variety of global problems. You might want to gain an education that helps prepare to be a more responsible, contributing adult citizen of your rapidly changing community, state, nation, and world.

Computer technology is affecting every academic discipline in a typical institution of higher education. Computer technology is being:

1.   Integrated in as part of the content of each discipline, and thus is being a change agent in the content to be learned. Because computer technology is part of the content of each discipline, it is a potential part of one’s level of expertise in each discipline.

2.   Used as an aid to learning and making effective use of the content of a discipline. Expertise in learning a discipline and expertise in using one’s knowledge and skills are both affected by computer technology.

3.   Used to augment the capabilities of people’s brains.

The book includes a chapter on Human and Artificial Intelligence. Surely, you want to know more about your brain and what recent research is telling us about how the human brain functions. Surely, you want to know what your brain can do better than a computer’s “brain,” and vice versa. A theme running throughout the book is that of a team consisting of people and their machines (including computers) working together to solve problems and accomplish tasks. A modern education helps to prepare a person to be a productive and valuable member of such a team.

Most of the topics in this book are treated in a relatively easy to read, but scholarly, academic manner. Thus, for example, you will find a large number of items in the References section. Most of the items include links to Websites. The idea is to encourage you to take an increasing level of responsibility for your own education, to develop areas of interest that motivate you, and to get you into a habit of browsing and reading information sources in these areas.

The book contains a relatively extensive Index. One use of such an index is to check and/or review what you have learned by reading the book. After reading this book, look through the entries in the Index. Mentally, do a quick check of each in items of what you know about the topic and what the book has contributed to your knowledge on the topic.


Chapter 1

Introduction

“Before you become too entranced with gorgeous gadgets and mesmerizing video displays, let me remind you that information is not knowledge, knowledge is not wisdom, and wisdom is not foresight. Each grows out of the other, and we need them all.” (Arthur C. Clarke)

Sometimes students think that they can safely skip over the Preface in an academic book, since often the Preface is written mainly for the teacher in a course. In this book, the Preface is mainly intended for students. It is part of the introduction to the book. Thus, if you didn’t read the Preface, I recommend that you go back and do so.

Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is a powerful change agent. This chapter expands on the introductory materials presented in the Preface.

Technology and the underlying mathematics and sciences are cumulative, vertically structured disciplines. New developments build on the old. Improvements in transportation and communication make it easier for people to learn about and build upon the previous work of others. Some of the developments, such as the invention of writing, the development of mass produced books, and the computer make significant contributions to speeding up the world’s rate of technological and scientific development and scientific. Increasing population and improvements in worldwide education also make significant contributions to the pace of technological and scientific change.

Consequently, you live at a time when the rate of technological change is higher than it has ever been, and when the rate of change is steadily increasing.

Taking Responsibility for Your Own Learning

The fact that you can read and understand this written text indicates that you have a high level of thinking and learning ability. The fact that you are thinking about your current and future education means that you have the wisdom and foresight that I find so appealing in good students. (See the quote from Arthur C. Clarke given above.)

Your decision to begin reading this book indicates that you are inquisitive, and that you are seeking ways to improve your current and future life. Your current level of education and maturity means that you are capable of taking considerable responsibility for your learning now and in the future.

Unfortunately, one of the problems that you may face is overcoming the many years of previous schooling in which others told you what to learn and how to demonstrate your learning. Our precollege education system is slanted toward producing students who say: “Tell me what to learn, how to learn it, and how to demonstrate that I have learned it. Then, I will do what you have told me to do.” In some sense, our educational system tends to take self-responsibility away from students. 

Higher education has some propensity to reinforce the concept of tell me what to do and I will do it. Consider a different path, a path is called Being a Responsible Adult Learner. On this path, you decide what you want to learn. You make use of what you have learned in the past, including what you have learned about how to learn. You focus on strengthening your learning capabilities in areas that interest you. You make use of the myriad of resources designed to help you learn. (College courses are but one of many such resources.) You set your learning goals, and you achieve them at a level that is satisfactory to you.

Being a responsible adult learner is a lifelong challenge. As you and the world you live in change over the years, your learning interests, needs, and capabilities will change. The life of a dedicated, lifelong learner is a challenging, but awesome and rewarding journey.

Information and Communication Technology (ICT) has given us new aids to learning. For example, the Internet is a broad-based network of computer networks, a powerful aid to communication. The Web is the world’s largest library, it is growing very rapidly, and it is accessed through the Internet. The Internet and the Web together are a powerful aid to learning. It is important to your future that you become skilled in making use of the Internet and the Web as aids to communication, learning, and making use of your learning.

Writing for Online Reading

You are living at a time that is often called the Information Age. The storage, retrieval, and use of information are more important than ever. We are in the midst of a profound change, going from hardcopy storage to online storage of the collected knowledge of the human race. This change affects authors of academic books such as this one, and it affects readers of such books.

For example, as an author it costs me nothing to publish the book—that is, to make it available free on the Web. It takes only a few minutes to accomplish this task. Moreover, I can readily correct errors and update the book whenever I want.

Publishing online brings another important advantage to authors and readers. As an example, later in this book I will mention a few people who have made profound and lasting contributions to ICT. Raj Reddy of Carnegie Mellon University is an example of such a person. He has been a major world leader in robotics and Artificial Intelligence throughout his long career.

How much more should I say about Raj Reddy? I include him in this book because he is a good example of a person who has made a difference in the world of ICT. However, there are lots of such people. Thus, I certainly don’t expect that you will memorize his name and accomplishments, and remember them many years from now.

This person was raised in India, has risen to prominence in the United States and the world, and is working to improve the lives of rural people in India and throughout the world. He is a good example of a citizen of the world. Suppose that there is something about what I have said about Raj Reddy that peaks your interests. If so, you can:

•      View a video focusing of Reddy’s ideas on bringing computer connectivity and technology to poor people in third world countries, http://scil.stanford.edu/video/RajReddy.mov.

•      Read his 1995 Turing award talk on Artificial Intelligence (AI). The Turing award is the most prestigious award given by the Association for Computing Machinery. The talk provides an excellent introduction to AI and its future. See http://www.rr.cs.cmu.edu/turing.htm.

•      Read about Reddy’s Million Book project to get a million books scanned and available free on the Web,  http://www.library.cmu.edu/Libraries/MBP_FAQ.html#current. http://www.abc.net.au/rn/science/buzz/stories/s941429.htm  http://www.library.cmu.edu/Libraries/LIT/Projects/1MBooks.html

•      Get a quick overview of the field of robotics at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robot.

•      Get a quick overview of the field of Artificial Intelligence at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artificial_intelligence.

•      See Raj Reddy’s vita and some of his publications at http://www.rr.cs.cmu.edu/rrlong.html.

•      Read more about Carnegie Mellon, a world class technology university at http://www.cmu.edu/academics/schools.shtml.

Notice how this shifts the decision of what to learn and how much to learn from me (the author) to you (the reader). If you decide to explore these Web-based sources of information, you will quickly develop an island of expertise (a specific, small area of expertise) that likely exceeds that of most or perhaps all of your fellow students and your teachers.

Your exploration of Raj Reddy and his work might lead you to want to know more about Alan Turing—the Turing award is named after him. He was a pioneer in the early development of computers and Artificial Intelligence. There is lots of information about him available of the Web. Google the quoted expression “Alan Turing” and you will get more than 900,000 hits.

Why did I tell you to put the search expression in quotes? It is because a search on the unquoted expression Alan Turing will produce hits that contain the words Alan and Turing that are not necessarily connected together in the first name, last name order. Notice this “subtle” way that I have attempted to teach you a little about use of search engines on the Web. The Web is the world’s largest library, and it is a virtual library. The knowledge and skills that you gain in learning to make effective use of virtual (not hard copy) libraries will be of value to you throughout your lifetime.

Notice that a couple of the references are to materials from the Wikipedia—an online, multi-author, unrefereed, free encyclopedia. There has been considerable brouhaha—especially among teachers—concerning students making use of this unrefereed material. Personally, I find the Wikipedia quite useful and I use it frequently. In addition, it provides an excellent example of cooperative, collaborative writing. Volunteers write it, and the volunteers often rewrite each other’s writings.

Helping Yourself to get a Better Education

The goal of this book is to help you get a good education. This is a “self-help” book, in that it is designed to you learn to help yourself get a better Information Age education.

The Raj Reddy example illustrates self-help. As you read that section, you made a decision —based on intrinsic motivation, time pressures, and so on—as to whether you would make use of the Web links that I provided.

Let me give a different, concrete example of self-help. The beginning of this Preface contains the quote from Louis Pasteur: “Fortune favors the prepared mind.”

When you read this quote from Louis Pasteur, did your mind “blip” over it, or did you pause to reflect on what this statement might mean, and why this book about computer technology quoted a person who died long before the first electronic computers were built? Did you reflect on your knowledge about Louis Pasteur and how his work has affected your life? Did you consider using a search engine to look up some information about Louis Pasteur? If you looked up some information on the Web, you might have come across:

If one were to choose among the greatest benefactors of humanity, Louis Pasteur would certainly rank at the top. He solved the mysteries of rabies, anthrax, chicken cholera, and silkworm diseases, and contributed to the development of the first vaccines. He debunked the widely accepted myth of spontaneous generation, thereby setting the stage for modern biology and biochemistry. He described the scientific basis for fermentation, wine-making, and the brewing of beer. Pasteur’s work gave birth to many branches of science, and he was single handedly responsible for some of the most important theoretical concepts and practical applications of modern science. (Rhee, 1999)

One of the differences between a storybook and an academic book is the density of ideas. In a storybook, you can skip over quite a bit of the content and still get the gist of the story. It is not expected that you will reflect on the meaning of each paragraph.

In contrast, an academic book is written with the expectation that you will read and reflect. You will actively engage your mind in thinking about how the content of the textbook fits in with what you already know. You will take responsibility for reconciling differences between your current knowledge and skills, and those being discussed in the book. A decision to “blip” even one short sentence is a decision to get less from the book than might otherwise be possible. The main learning that comes from a book such as this occurs though the reader pausing to reflect, do a mental exploration, and perhaps doing additional exploration of an idea.

Assessing Your Current Education

How good has your previous informal and formal education been? Can you self-assess—that is, tell all by yourself how good you education has been?

You can think about the processes of your education, such as the time spent playing sandlot sports, board games, and computer games. You can think about your years in school, the books you have read, the music you have listened to, the video you have watched, and the conversations you have had. You can think about music lessons, sports camps, boy scouts or girl scouts, and so on. All of these are aspects of the process of your informal and formal education.

However, I want you to dig deeper. How good have the results been from your point of view and from the point of view of others? How does the quality of your education match up to expectations of your parents, your spouse or a potential spouse, your employer of a potential employer, and so on? How does you education compare with that of your peers? Does your education appropriately prepare you for the overall future that you envision for yourself? Have you learned to take responsibility for your future education and for the challenges of a responsible adult life in a rapidly changing world?

The previous paragraph provides a good example of the challenge of reading an academic book. It is written at about a 10th grade reading level. You can probably read this much text in 20 seconds or so. However, it can take a great deal of time to think about the questions and to explore answers. The paragraph is only useful to you if you spend time in reflecting about your answers.

This reflection process is key to your future informal and formal education. You have reached a level of maturity where you should be taking considerable responsibility for your own education. You have the experience, knowledge, and skills to gain an education that fits your personal needs. Only you can tell if you are achieving these types of informal and formal educational goals.

Your Personal Goals in Education

Before proceeding to the next chapter, stop for a minute and think about your goals in higher education. Here are three areas that might come to your mind:

1.      I want to increase my level of expertise in various areas that are in the college or university curriculum. I expect to receive written documentation (transcripts, certificates of accomplishment, diplomas, and so on) that helps provide evidence of my increasing expertise.

2.      I want to increase my level of expertise in a number of extracurricular areas (such as social skills, relationships with others, sports, and recreation). In cases where one can accumulate evidence of increased expertise (such as golf handicap or other spots performance), I want to have evidence of my increasing level of expertise.

3.      I want my higher education time, expense, and effort to help me increase various areas of expertise more efficiently and effectively than I could in other settings.

Note that your goals in (1) and (2) can strongly overlap. There is no find dividing line between curricular and extracurricular goals and activities. In thinking about (3), be aware that learning goes on all of the time, whether you are in school, holding down a job, raising a family, or vacationing.

As you think about your personal goals in education, think about how you can tell if you are achieving your goals. Robert Sternberg is a world-class expert in human intelligence. He defines intelligence “your skill in achieving whatever it is you want to attain in your life within your sociocultural context by capitalizing on your strengths and compensating for, or correcting, your weaknesses.” The reference (Sternberg, 2007) provides access to video (and a transcript of the video) in which Sternberg presents and discusses some of his insights into intelligence.

Whatever goals you have set for yourself, read this book with these goals in mind. This book will prove useful in moving you along the pathway of understanding and achieving your goals,

 Summary and Self-Assessment

Each chapter of this book ends with a brief section that mentions a few of the important ideas in the chapter and suggests some ways you can self-assess your understanding of these ideas. Right now, without looking back at the material in the Preface and in this chapter, try to name several ideas from the material that seem important to you.

•      If none of the ideas seem important to you, then name an idea that I thought was important enough to emphasize, and do a mental rehearsal of why this idea does not seem important to you.

•      If you cannot recall any major ideas from the material, then reflect on how you have spent your time “reading” the material without having any of the ideas actually ending up in your retrievable memory.

Now, go back and quickly browse the headings for the various sections. Select one topic that seems particularly important to you, and select one that seems relatively unimportant to you. Do a mental compare and contrast between these two topics. Do a mental rehearsal of what you would say to me (the author) about ways to improve these two sections, or why one of the sections should be deleted.

From my point of view, the single most important idea in the material is learning to take increased responsibility for one’s own education. The message to you is to set some learning goals for yourself, work to achieve these goals, and learn to self-assess your progress in achieving these goals. Of course, I hope that your personal goals will include learning various aspects of ICT!


 Chapter 2

Inventing Your Future

“The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” (Alan Kay)

“Would you tell me please, which way I ought to go from here?” asked Alice.
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to, said the Cat.” (Louis Carroll, Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland.)

Please read the “pithy” quotes at the beginning of the chapter and reflect on their possible meaning. Alan Kay has made many very significant contributions to the computer field. His name is closely associated with the development of laptop computers and with the graphic user interface (clicking on icons to make things happen) that is now standard on microcomputers. In 2003, he received the Association for Computing Machinery’s Turing Award for his lifetime of contributions to the computer field. His lifetime has, indeed, been one in which he helped to invent the future.

Throughout each day, you make decisions that will impact on your future. From time to time, you make large decisions that you know will have a significant impact on your future. Your decision to pursue higher education is a good example of inventing your future.

Predictions about the future are usually based on having good knowledge about the past and present. Thus, this chapter is based on:

1.      Information about the past and present.

2.      Some forecasts for the future.

A Little Bit of Computer History

About the time of World War II, the electronic digital computer was developed independently in England, Germany, and the United States. Alan Turing’s computer development work in England played an important role in decoding secret German messages, thus contributing substantial to England’s war efforts.

More than 50 years ago, in the late 1940s, it was not too clear that computers were here to stay. They were expensive, bulky, unreliable, and difficult to use.

The United States was the third country (after Great Britain and Germany) to begin the commercial production of electronic digital computers. The first commercially produced computer in the United States was the UNIVAC I, delivered in March 1951. Priced in the range of $1.25 million to $1.5 million, the UNIVAC I machine had about 5,200 vacuum tubes, weighed 29,000 pounds, and could perform 1,905 operations per second. Only 46 of these machines were built over a period of about seven years.

The early computers were cost effective on some jobs. For example, in certain types of repetitious calculations—such as payroll— one computer could do the work of many hundreds of people who were using electric calculators. Such massive amounts of computation were also useful in a variety of science and technology situations, such as designing nuclear weapons.

Computer technology has changed a lot since 1951. Much of this change has been made possible by the invention of the transistor. At the time the UNIVAC I was being produced, a vacuum tube cost about a dollar. The transistor had been invented only a few years earlier and initially cost many times as much as a vacuum tube. However, in many electronic circuits, a transistor could replace a vacuum tube, be much more reliable, and use much less power. Moreover, progress in transistor technology soon decreased their price (PBS, 1999).

Adjusting for inflation, in today’s dollars the cost of a UNIVAC I was in the range of $8 million to $10 million. Contrast this with today’s $1,000 laptop or desktop microcomputer that can do two billion operations per second. A rough calculation indicates that the cost per calculation has gone down by a factor of 10 billion since the early 1950s.

Ten billion! Think about that factor of change. Try to develop a useful level of understanding about this huge number and huge factor of change. 

Today’s thousand-dollar microcomputer rivals the multimillion-dollar supercomputers of 20 years ago. The torrid pace of improvement in computer price to performance ratio seems likely to continue for a number of years into the future. Thus, it might well be that 20 years from now students will be buying microcomputers that rival today’s multimillion-dollar supercomputers.

Along with substantial improvements in computer speed, the past 50 years have seen substantial improvements in computer memory, secondary storage devices, and in telecommunication systems. Price to performance ratios have improved by factors of more than a million.

Here is a specific example. Microcomputers came into widespread use in the late 1970s and early 1980s. In those days, a 5-megabyte hard disk drive for a microcomputer cost about $5,000. This is $1,000 per megabyte, or $1,000,000 per gigabyte. Now, the cost of a hard drive is less than 50-cents per gigabyte.

Here are two more specific examples. The Russian satellite Sputnik was launched into orbit in 1957. Now, dish TV and satellite-based Global Positioning Systems (GPS) are routine consumer products. The first commercial installation of fiber-optic cables for telecommunication was in 1977. Now, one fiber-optic cable can carry hundreds of thousands of phone conversations, and cables are typically installed in bundles of many cables.

Many areas of research and development depend upon ICT. In some sense, the greater the ICT dependence, the greater the rate of progress. The human genome project provides a good example of a speed up in technological progress. The project that began in 1990 and ended in 2003 cost about $300 million. Initial progress on the project was very slow. Progress speeded up considerably as the project proceeded, and most of the sequencing was complete in the last couple of years.

In 2005, the cost of sequencing a person’s genome was estimated to be about $2.2 million, and various organizations and people believe that the cost may eventually be as low as $1,000 (Wade, 2006).

These massive changes in ICT-related capabilities and price to performance ratios are major change agents. From your personal point of view, perhaps the major challenges are accommodating appropriate aspects of these changes into your everyday live, and getting an education that helps prepare you for the continuing high rate of change in ICT.

Forecasting the Future

A very short description of science is, “Science is description and prediction.” Scientists have made good progress in describing our solar system and predicting where the moons, planets, and various comets will be many years in the future. Scientists have an increasingly good understanding of astronomy, biology, chemistry, geology, physics, and many other areas of science.

However, there are many areas of scientific research where it is difficult—if not downright impossible—to make accurate long range forecasts. For example, weather forecasters regularly provide weather forecasts for the next day, week, or month. The longer into the future these forecasts go, the less accurate they become. Forecasts of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions are not very accurate.

Now, consider forecasting in areas such as the stock market, consumer purchases, and other human activity areas. While forecasters in these areas often make use of scientific methods and computers, they lack the underlying theories that make possible the accurate predictions of the sciences. Will consumers like and buy a proposed new product or service? Will a movie or TV series that is being planned attract a large audience? Will a racehorse stumble and break a leg?

Where does this leave you, as you plan for and work to achieve your higher education aspirations? What might the future look like? How can you plan for a future world that might be a lot different than our current world?