Four Short Readings for the EDST 114
EDST 114 is a course required of students planning to
enter the Elementary Education Integrated Licensure
preservice teacher education program at the University of
Oregon. Each of the Four Readings is a very brief document
focusing on an important IT idea. Each includes several
discussion questions that can be used in small groups or
with a whole class.These were developed for use in the
2000-2001 version of the course. Somewhat similar brief
articles were developed for use in earlier versions of the
Enhance One's Mental and Physical Capabilities
Five Brain Tools
Dave Moursund 9/14/00
Until about 10,000 years ago, the people of the earth
were hunters and gatherers, living in small, wandering
groups. It is estimated that the total world population at
that time was approximately 10 million people. The
development of agriculture led to major changes in society.
No longer were groups of people nomadic--rather they settled
where they could grow and harvest crops. The Agricultural
Age brought with it increasing population densities and the
development of large cities. It provided the environment
that led to the development of writing and reading.
About 200 years ago, the Agricultural Age began to fade
and the Industrial Age began to emerge. Our
great-grandparents and grandparents saw the rapid movement
from a society with a significant portion of its people
involved in agriculture to an increasing emphasis on
industry. Today we are seeing a rapid evolution from an
industrial society to an information society.
The following is quoted from the October 1845 issue of
It is estimated that the power of steam in Great
Britain is equal to the labor of 170,000,000 men, in a
population of only 28,000,000.
The Industrial Revolution--fueled by steam power--began
in Great Britain in the late 1700s. The quote indicated that
50 years into this Industrial Revolution, the installed base
of steam power was equivalent (in terms of pure physical
power) to about six times the physical power of the entire
population of Great Britain. A somewhat different way of
representing this information is that the total steam power
amounted to a little more than one horsepower per person.
That is, one horsepower is about the same as five or six
"person power." (The next time you push down the gas pedal
on the 100 horsepower gasoline engine in a car think about
By 1845, Great Britain was the industrial powerhouse of
the world. Of course, not every person in Great Britain was
working in a factory that made use of steam power. We can
speculate that perhaps the average factory worker was making
use of steam power equivalent to the physical power of a
hundred strong people. It was this factor of 100 change that
led Great Britain to its world dominance in industrial
The following quote is from the 1994 edition of the
Britain did not long remain the only country to
experience an Industrial Revolution. Attempts to specify
dates for the Industrial Revolution in other countries
are controversial and not particularly rewarding.
Nonetheless, scholars generally agree that the Industrial
Revolution occurred in France, Belgium, Germany, and the
United States about the middle of the 19th century; in
Sweden and Japan toward the end of the century; in Russia
and Canada just after the turn of the 20th century; and
in parts of Latin America, the Middle East, Central and
southern Asia, and Africa about or after the middle of
the 20th century.
Steam and other forms of power have transformed the
societies of the earth during the past 200 years. While not
every country was affected at the same time, and while not
all people have been affected equally, it is evident that
the Industrial Revolution produced great changes.
Of course, the Industrial Revolution in Great Britain and
elsewhere was much more than just supplementing the physical
power of workers. It also meant steady advances in
manufacturing methods, science, and technology. All of these
things together led to substantial increases in the
productivity of individual workers.
Many of the early factories had terrible working
conditions. Moreover, factory owners soon found that quite
young children could do a number of the jobs, and required
less pay than adults. This situation eventually led to the
development of child labor laws. It also led to the
development of public schools with required attendance. The
public schools that were developed had a number of
"factory-like" characteristics. Indeed, one of the goals was
to prepare students to eventually work in factories. The
factory-like, Industrial Age model of education is still
with us--but the world has changed substantially since this
model of education was developed.
The Industrial Revolution was an enormous change in a
world that had been mainly agrarian for the previous 10,000
years. The change had both positive and negative components.
For example, the cost of manufactured goods decreased, so
more people could afford to have more of these goods. But,
working conditions in factories were often terrible. Some
people and some nations benefited more than others. In
retrospect, it is easy to point out how the Industrial
Revolution contributed to pollution in individual countries
and the world. If we can see the "evils" of the Industrial
Revolution, can we perhaps predict the problems that may be
created by the Information Age?
To Think About
- Think about what life in England might have been like
in the early 1800s as large numbers of people were moving
from the farm to work in factories located in cities. Who
"gained" and who "lost" by the changes that were going in
this society? For each group you name, what was gained
and/or what was lost? For example, did the children of
farm families that moved to the city have an improved
quality of life?
- The Industrial Revolution began in Great Britain, but
it eventually spread to much of the rest of the world.
Even today, however, there are a number of agrarian
countries that are trying to industrialize, or to move
past the Industrial Age into the Information Age. What
are advantages and disadvantages to a country in moving
being an agrarian nation into being an industrial nation
at the current time?
Dave Moursund 9/14/00
"The enormous size and variety of its
collections make the United States Library of Congress
the largest library in the world. Comprised of
approximately 115 million items in virtually all formats,
languages, and subjects, these collections are the single
most comprehensive accumulation of human expression ever
assembled. True to the Jeffersonian ideal, the
collections are broad in scope, including research
materials in more that 450 languages, over 35 scripts,
and in many media"
And, of course, we know that there is a great deal of
human knowledge that is not stored in the US Library of
Congress. Many different nations have very large national
libraries, with most of their contents being in the language
of the people of that nation. You would not expect that the
US Library of Congress would have millions of books in
Russian, millions of books in Chinese, and so on.
Large libraries are but one sign of our current
Information Age. During the past 50 years, the United States
has moved from being an Industrial Age nation to being an
Information Age nation. At the current time, fewer that 3%
of workers work directly in agricultural jobs, and fewer
than 18% of the workers work in industrial manufacturing
jobs. The great majority of all workers in the United States
now make use of computers and computer-based communication
systems while on the job. Their work often requires high
level thinking, problem solving, and working with other
people. Increasingly, people use brain power, rather than
brawn, on the job. They have Information Age jobs.
This is a huge change to have occurred in just 50 years,
and a rapid pace of change is continuing. For example, the
libraries of the world are now being computerized. The Web
(which can be thought of as a global library) is continuing
to grow very rapidly. More than half of the homes in the
United States have a general purpose computer. Increasingly,
this computer has an Internet connection. (In August 2000,
52% of US households had Internet access.) The majority of
students entering college own a computer, and they know how
to use a word processor, email, and the Web. E-commerce
(buying and selling via the Web) is expanding very rapidly.
And, it will not surprise you to learn that during the
four-year period 1998-2002, it is estimated that the total
number of telephones in the world will double, mainly due to
the proliferation of cell phones. (Worldwide production of
cell phones for the year 2000 is estimated to exceed 600
million phones. This is one cell phone for every 10 people
on earth.) We are just beginning to see the mass production
of telephones that can access the Internet and be used for
Needless to say, the Information Age and its continuing
rapid pace of change raises some interesting and difficult
educational questions. What constitutes a good education for
life in an Information Age society?
Here is an analogy that will help you understand some of
the difficulties inherent to this question. You know that
farm tools and factory tools greatly increase worker
productivity. They are aids to the physical capabilities of
the human body. On the farm, for example, these tools and
our steadily increasing knowledge of agriculture make it
possible for less than 3% of the United States workforce to
produce enough food to feed the nation and supply a healthy
surplus for export.
Now, we are mass-producing tools that aid the human
brain, such as computers and the Internet. These tools have
a certain type of "intelligence." For example, the best
chess player in the world is a computer. The same holds true
for checkers and backgammon. Many of us now take for granted
the spelling checker built into a word processor. Many of us
take for granted the weather forecasts that we receive from
the news media. The production of these forecasts depends on
the fasted supercomputers that are currently available.
Increasingly, computers are routinely used to solve
problems and accomplish tasks that formerly were done by
people with a high level of education and experience--or,
that cannot be done without the use of computers. Thus we
are led to the question: If a computer can solve or help
solve a type of problem that we currently have students
learn to solve by hand, should this situation lead to
changes in our educational system? Put another way, should
we teach students how to compete with computers, or should
we teach them to work with computers? In the Information Age
workplace, the answer is that people and computers work
together to solve problems and accomplish tasks.
To Think About
- Over the past 50 years, the United States has change
from being an Industrial Age nation to being an
Information Age nation. What people or groups of people
have benefited the most from this change? What people or
groups of people have benefited the least (indeed,
perhaps have had negative benefits) from this
- Think about some of the courses you are currently
taking or have taken recently. Which one provides the
best example of students learning to work effectively
with brain tools to solve problems and accomplish tasks?
Which one provides the best example of students not
learning to work effectively with brain tools to solve
problems and accomplish tasks? If you are doing this as a
group activity, share your results in the group. Then,
look for patterns in the types of courses that fall into
each of the two categories.
Enhance One's Mental and Physical Capabilities
Dave Moursund 9/14/00
Reading, writing, and mathematics are tools that enhance
one's mental capabilities. We will call them brain tools.
The spear, hoe, and bicycle are tools that enhance one's
physical abilities. We will call then body tools. Brain and
body tools have changed the way that people communicate,
solve problems, and accomplish tasks.
Figure 1 captures the essence of a person or team of
people working with brain and body tools to solve problems,
answer questions, and accomplish tasks. The brain tools and
body tools are getting steadily better, propelled by
continued rapid progress in science, engineering,
technology, and all other areas of human intellectual
endeavor. IT is playing a major role in the development of
new brain and body tools. As the figure indicates, formal
and informal education are needed to learn to make effective
use of the brain and body tools.
Figure 1. PQT team.
Some brain and body tools are so "natural" that they
require relatively little education and skill building in
order to use them effectively. Very young children learn to
turn the pages of a picture book. Very young children learn
how to turn on a TV set and to change channels. But learning
to read, write, and do arithmetic takes years of formal
education and experience.
The types of tools we are describing share an important
characteristic. Although it may have taken a "genius" to
invent each of the tools, the tools can be mass-produced and
mass distributed. I know how to read and write, but I did
not invent reading and writing. I know how to ride a
bicycle, but I did not invent the bicycle. I know how to use
a computer, but I did not invent the computer and I do not
know how to build a computer.
The development on a new tool (be it a brain tool or a
body tool) may lead to great changes in a society. For
example, a little over 10,000 years ago, all people on our
planet were hunters and gatherers. Population density was
low, because it takes a lot of land to sustain even a small
number of people living by hunting and gathering. There was
a very slow pace of change, with the life of one generation
being nearly the same as the life of the next generation
Agriculture had not yet been invented.
Beginning about 10,000 years ago, people began to develop
the tools and knowledge of agriculture. Crops were planted,
tended, and harvested. Farm animals such as goats were
raised. Tools, such as hoe, rake, and fences were developed.
Once invented, knowledge of how to make and use these tools
was readily passed on to other people and from generation to
generation. Children did not need to go to school in order
to learn how to construct and use these tools.
Agriculture changed the world. The total population of
the earth at the time the Agriculture Age began was
considerably less than 1% of what it is today. (Estimates
are that it was perhaps 10 million people, or a little less
than 0.2% of the current worldwide population. That is, we
now have a number of mega-cities with populations that
exceed the world population of 10,000 years ago.) There were
no cities or even large villages. Agriculture made it
possible for people to develop villages, and some of these
grew into large cities. Agriculture made it possible for
some people to specialize in activities that did not
directly produce the food, clothing, and shelter needed for
survival. For example, a person might specialize in
decorative clothing and jewelry making, and pass this
knowledge/skill on to an apprentice. The master artist could
world full time for many years gaining increased knowledge
The Agriculture Age brought many problems. A village
often had a desirable location, such as near the confluence
of two rivers, near fertile ground, and on a trade route.
This location had to be defended against hostile tribes and
villages. As population grew, there was the possibility of
mass starvation if the crops failed or the animal herds
died. There was the need to plan for the storage and
distribution of the accumulated production of food.
Although hunter/gathers continued to exist in many
locations throughout the world, eventually most of the
world's population became farmers. The world's population
grew. Agricultural success led to the development of cities.
However, farming dominated. When the Revolutionary War began
in the United States in 1776, about 90% of the population
lived on farms.
Now, less than 3% of the United States population lives
on farms. The Agricultural Age gave way to the Industrial
Age, and the Industrial Age has now given way the
Information Age. The pace of change is quickening.
To Think About
Each of the short articles in this series ends with some
questions to think about. These can be explored individually
or as group activities in a class.
- Make a list of advantages and disadvantages of
agriculture and farming versus a hunter-gatherer form of
life. Then decide what types or groups of hunter-gatherer
people most likely benefited the most from the transition
into a farming mode of life, and which may have had
little or even negative benefits from this
- Make a list of tools that you frequently use.
Classify each as primarily a brain tool, primarily a body
tool, or a reasonably-balanced mixture of the two. Then
briefly discuss how your life would be affected if you no
longer had access to these tools.
- Take the same list that you developed in (2) above.
For each tool, make an estimate of how many total hours
of formal education, informal education, and practice it
has taken you to gain your current level of knowledge and
skill in using the tool. For example, perhaps it is taken
you 10,000 hours to achieve your current level of reading
and writing skills. Perhaps it took you 500 hours to
achieve your current levels of car driving skills.
Five Brain Tools
Dave Moursund 9/14/00
Humans have developed a number of body tools and brain
tools that extend their capabilities. This document briefly
examines five brain tools that have greatly extended the
capabilities of the human brain. These tools are:
- Writing: reading and writing literacy, beginning
about 3,100 BC. Greatly aided by Gutenberg's development
of moveable type and mass production of printing in about
- Mathematics: mathematics literacy, beginning about
- Science: science literacy, beginning about 1,500
- Computers: computer literacy, beginning about 1950
AD. Many school districts have set a goal of having all
of their graduates be computer literate.
- Internet: Internet literacy, beginning about 1990 AD.
Internet use has spread rapidly, and it is now a common
component of K-12 schooling.
All five of these tools share much in common. They are an
aid to communication, and they are an aid to representing
and solving problems. A person who knows how to make
effective use of these tools is empowered--the person can do
many things that cannot be done with the use of these brain
You have a high level of reading and writing literacy,
gained through many years of formal schooling and many
thousands of hours of practice. You know how reading and
writing supplement the memory capacity of the human brain.
You know how books can be used to store information,
distribute it around the world, and preserve the information
for future generations. You know that Reading and writing
are an aid to processing information. For example, you know
the value of "revise, revise, revise" when writing a long
and complex paper.
You also know that reading and writing literacy has
greatly changed the societies of our world. Gutenberg's
movable-type printing press was used to print copies of the
Bible, and of thousands of other books. This, in turn
facilitated large numbers of people to learn to read. It led
to the Reformatio--the development of the Protestant
Mathematics is a powerful aid to representing and solving
"math problems." For example, consider counting and simple
arithmetic. Your informal and formal education have helped
you learn to count, and to do the four basic arithmetic
operations. Very few people can do multi-digit
multiplication or division in their heads. Instead, we learn
"paper and pencil" algorithms. Through formal schooling, we
extend our knowledge of simple arithmetic to working with
decimals and fractions, then to algebra and geometry.
Mathematicians have been extending this field of knowledge
for more than 5,000 years. Mathematics is an indispensable
tool of science and engineering, and an everyday tool of all
of us. (And, of course you know that calculators and
computers are now an important aid to the brain tool we call
Formal science is based on "scientific method" in which
people develop and carefully test their hypotheses. Science
includes very careful descriptions and classification. Thus,
for example, we describe and classify plants and insects. As
science, the use of scientific method, and the accumulation
of scientific knowledge grew, science was split into many
different fields, such as astronomy, biology, chemistry, and
physics. Progress in science, technology, and medicine has
certainly changed our world.
Notice that the last two brain tools on the
list--computers and the Internet--are relatively new
developments. The computer is a tool specifically designed
for the storage and processing of information. The Internet
is specifically designed for the storage and communication
of information. Both build on the previous brain tools in
the list. Both greatly extend the capabilities of the human
Perhaps you find the Internet particularly exciting.
Through the Internet you can communicate with people
throughout the world. The Web is like a global library, and
it is relatively easy to learn to develop Web documents
(publish on the Web). You are living at a time in with the
Internet is rapidly changing the societies of our world.
To Think About
- Consider the inhabitants of a city-state at the time
that reading and writing had just been invented. Which
people or groups of people tended to gain the most
benefit from the invention of reading and writing? Which
tended to gain little benefit, or even negative benefit?
In each case, explain why you feel your classification of
groups or people is correct.
- Repeat (1) for each of the other four brain tools
discussed in this document. Look for patterns of who is
empowered and who is disempowered by the development of
these brain tools.