Getting to the Second Order: Moving Beyond Amplification uses of Information and Communications Technology in Education
Moursund, D.G. (2002). Getting to the second order:
Moving beyond amplification uses of information and
communications technology in education. Learning and Leading with Technology. v30 n1 pp6-. Available at http://uoregon.edu/~moursund/dave/Article&
I am pleased to have the opportunity to write for the first issue in Volume 30 of Learning & Leading with Technology. When I started this periodical nearly 30 years ago, I gave little thought as to what its future might be.
Like L&L, the field of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in education has come a long way--but it has just scratched the surface of what is to come. During the past three decades, ICT has had some limited effect on curriculum content, instructional processes, assessment, and the professional lives of educators. But, for the most part our educational system has been "business as usual," with many small (incremental) changes. In total, our educational system has not changed much during this time.
Contrast this with the ICT-based changes outside of our educational system (Christensen, 2000; Moursund, 2001). There have been substantial gains in productivity attributed to ICT. Many new companies have been created and have prospered, and many other companies have proven unable to effectively deal with ICT-related changes.
My prediction is that the next three decades will see ICT being a disruptive force in education. Large changes will occur, and many of our schools and school systems that attempt to follow the "traditional" path of the past decades will not prosper. This article looks at where ICT in education is headed and what educators can do now to help significantly improve the quality of education our students are receiving.
On May 6, 1954, Roger Bannister became the first person to break the 4-minute barrier in the mile foot race. Since then, through better training, changes in the track surface, better running shoes, and so on, the world record for the mile has been broken a number of times, and it is now about 3 minutes 43 seconds. This is an excellent example of incremental change, with small changes occurring from time to time. Note that the total improvement has been less than 8%.
Now, think about two possible goals in people movement:
Clearly, the more sophisticated technology that is allowed in achieving the second goal has made it easy for most people to break the 4-minute mile. Indeed, the technology need not be very sophisticated. Bicyclists and motorcyclists can move faster than the fastest runners. The first locomotives powered by steam engines were not an incremental change in transportation--they were a revolutionary change that contributed to significant changes in our society.
Amplification Versus Second-Order Change
To a considerable extent, new inventions are first used to "amplify" (do better, faster) what we are already doing (Moursund, 1997). Thus, a word processor can be used like an electric typewriter that has a memory. Using a word processor like an electric typewriter is an amplification (i.e., first-order) use of ICT. This type of use eventually led to desktop publication, a second-order use of the technology. Desktop publishing includes:
The word processor and desktop publishing facilitate the "revise, revise, revise" and the publishing phase of process writing. Desktop publishing was a disruptive technology, and it substantially changed the publishing industry.
Three conditions need to be satisfied to move from first-order to second-order applications of ICT:
For desktop publishing, the appropriate hardware and software became re available with the introduction of the Macintosh computer and desktop laser printer in 1984. Many people in publishing recognized the potential and were intrinsically motivated to move to desktop publishing. Through self-instruction, learning from their peers, and workshops and longer courses, a large number of people achieved levels of expertise that met their needs.
Some people would claim that our K-12 students have also made the move, because essentially all high school graduates know how to use a word processor. However, for most of them, use of a word processor is essentially at the amplification level and is far from meeting contemporary standards for desktop publishing.
Essentially the same analysis holds for developing and publishing documents in an interactive multimedia environment, and for a number of other uses of ICT. Many students and teachers find a variety of ICT applications to be intrinsically motivating. However, relatively few K-12 students have moved significantly beyond the amplification level in their uses.
Why is this? Let's go back to the three conditions necessary to move from first-order to second-order use.
ICT in Math Education
The same type of analysis as was used with desktop publishing is relevant to math education, but additional issues will emerge. (Author's note: Read more about ICT in math education in Moursund, 2002a.) Moreover, the approach used here can be applied to other disciplines.
Begin with a set of goals for education in the discipline being analyzed. In math education, we want students to:
Let's briefly analyze the potential for ICT to affect these goals.
Let's return to our three-item list of what is needed to move from first order to second order, and look at it from a math education point of view.
Very few teachers answer "yes" to all of these questions. It is evident that it takes significant training and education to move beyond the amplification level in use of a simple calculator. The learning effort required for more powerful calculators and for computers is much larger.
Now, let's imagine what would constitute moving math education into broad-based second-order ICT applications. Again, I follow my list of three necessary conditions for this.
Each academic discipline addresses the issues of representing and solving the problems within the discipline. In this section, I use the term problem solving to encompass a variety of tasks such as:
Figure 1 illustrates six steps that might occur as one encounters and works to solve a math problem situation. The same type of diagram exists for each discipline area. At the current time, however, the point I am trying to make is perhaps best illustrated in math.
Figure 1. Diagram of math problem solving.
The six steps are:
Estimates are that approximately 75% of K-12 math education time is spent helping students learn to do step 3 with reasonable speed and accuracy. Thus, the time spent learning the other steps is quite limited.
Step 3 is what calculators and computers do best. That is, the great majority of the K-12 math education curriculum consists in teaching students to compete with machines! This suggests that we might decrease the time spent in teaching by-hand methods of doing step 3, and spend the time that is saved in developing greater skill in doing all of the other steps. This would represent a substantial change in math education.
Remember, the analysis in this section focused on math. However, the diagram of Figure 1 is applicable in any academic discipline. Steady progress in each discipline is increasing the number of step 3 procedures that can be carried out by an ICT system and in which ICT is a major help to a person carrying out a procedure.
Science of Teaching and Learning
There is a large and rapidly growing body of knowledge called the Science of Teaching and Learning (Bransford et al., 2000). This research and practice-based knowledge provides a foundation for substantial improvements in our educational system. The problem, however, is how to achieve widespread implementation of this research and practice-based knowledge.
One way to think about this is to consider what can be mass produced and/or mass distributed, and what cannot. For example, it is very difficult to change the educational knowledge and skills of a few million teachers. It is relatively easy to mass-produce and mass distribute four-function handheld calculators. Although the writing of a book or a piece of software is typically done by a small number of people (not mass production), a book or software itself can be mass reproduced and mass distributed.
If ICT is going to help in substantially improving education, it will be through aspects of curriculum content, instructional processes, and assessment that can be mass-produced and/or mass-reproduced, and mass-distributed. The following list provides some examples. It provides some insights into the future of education.
The totality of human knowledge continues to grow quite rapidly. Thus, our educational system is faced by content-related problems:
ICT can help students to learn more, better, and faster. Still, such improvements are incremental. They are not second-order changes. They cannot hope to begin to make a dent into the rapidly growing totality of human knowledge.
ICT can solve many of the problems and accomplish many of the tasks that students are currently learning to do by hand. Moreover, ICT can help students become substantially more productive in solving problems and accomplishing tasks. If appropriately educated, a student working with an ICT system can far out perform a student who lacks such an aid in a wide range of problem-solving tasks. Our educational system will be significantly change education in the next three decades as it incorporates the idea of educating students and ICT to work together.
For ICT-using teachers, the message is clear. Work to move yourself and your students--your curriculum, instruction and assessment--from amplification (first-order) uses of ICT to second-order uses of ICT.
Fast ForWord: http://www.nationalspeech.com/products
Bransford, J. D., Brown, A. L., & Cocking R. R. (Eds.). (2000). How people learn: Brain, mind, experience, and school. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.
Christensen, C. (2000). The innovator's dilemma: When new technologies cause great firms to fail. New York: Harper Business.
Moursund, D. G. (1997). Beyond amplification. Learning & Leading with Technology, 24(8), 4-5.
Moursund, D. G. (2001). The innovative educator's dilemma. Learning & Leading with Technology, 28(8), 4-5, 16.
Moursund, D. G. (2002a). Improving mathematics education [Online]. Available: http://darkwing.uoregon.edu/~moursund/Math/.
Moursund, D. G. (2002b). Increasing your expertise as a problem solver: Some roles of computers [Online]. Available: http://darkwing.uoregon.edu/~moursund/PSBook1996/index.htm.
Computer-Assisted Learning (CAL): Includes drill and practice, tutorials, simulations, and virtual realities designed to help students learn. CAL includes the "Help" features built into software applications and can be a component of a Web-based distance learning course.
Constructivism: The learning theory that students construct knowledge by building on their current knowledge. This theory helps make the distinction between teachers teaching and students learning, and it supports the need for individualization of instruction.
Disruptive Technology: A new technology that is disruptive to a current business or way of doing things. For example, the automobile was disruptive to the horse and buggy industry; the microcomputer and word processing software were disruptive to the typewriter industry.
Highly Interactive Intelligent Computer-Assisted Instruction (HIICAL): Begin with CAL. Design it so there is a great deal of interaction between the computer and the learner. Enhance this with artificial intelligence to improve the quality of the instruction and the interaction. The result is HIICAL. For more, see L&L 28(7).
Information and Communications Technology (ICT): ICT is an expansion on the term information technology (IT) designed to stress that communications technology such as the Internet is an important component of the field.
Intelligent Computer-Assisted Learning (ICAL): Use of artificial intelligence to improve CAL. For example, an ICAL system may contain models of the learner, the curriculum content, the teaching process, assessment, reward structures, and so on. These are combined and used in an intelligent fashion to increase the quality, quantity, and speed of student learning.