Home Page of Problem Solving Book

Introduction to the Book

Chapter 1: Introduction to Problem Solving

Chapter 2: Overview of Resources in Problem Solving

Chapter 3: Intelligence as Resource

Chapter 4: Tools as Resource

Chapter 5: Accumulated Knowledge as Resource

Chapter 6: Education and Training as Resource

Chapter 7: A Computer System

Chapter 8: Personal Productivity Tools

Chapter 9: Computer Programming

Chapter 10

Summary of Key Ideas

Activities and Self-Assessment

References and Resources

Search Engine in Lieu of Index


Chapter 10: Final Remarks

The focus of this book is on gaining increased expertise in problem-solving domains that interest you. In many domains, the computer is now a routine aid to problem solving; that is, it has become a cost-effective and versatile resource. Thus, you are faced with the problem [[situation]] of deciding what you will learn about using computers.

Summary of Key Ideas

This book has covered a number of key ideas about problem solving and the roles of computers in problem solving. Here are a few of them:

  1. Your time is a limiting factor.
    • You can spend learning-time before you encounter a problem. Here the idea is learning to learn, acquiring a broad base of knowledge, and laying the foundation for "just in time" learning.
    • You can spend learning-time when you encounter a problem. This is "just in time" learning.
    • You can learn as you solve problems. Experts tend to expand their horizons in this manner. They deliberately seek out difficult problems and use them as a vehicle to expand their expertise. They are reflective and mindful. This is an effective way to combine problem-solving time and learning-time.
      • [[Throughout my professional career, I have found that preparing for teaching classes, presenting talks, and doing workshops has been a useful aid to learning. Moreover, I have found that writing has been a very useful aid to learning. Writing is a reflective practice.]]
  2. You have many and varied talents and potentials. Some of these are summarized in the theory of multiple intelligences developed by Howard Gardner. Robert Sternberg provides a somewhat different definition of intelligence, and David Perkins provides still another analysis of intelligence. All of these definitions support the idea that you can improve your ability to perform in an intelligent manner. However, it takes time, hard work, and persistence to develop [[and maintain]]your talents.
  3. As you learn, pay attention to transfer of learning. The low-road/high-road theory of transfer may provide you with a useful starting point. Metacognition, mindfulness, and reflexiveness are essential. Intrinsic motivation and ownership of the learning task can be a big help; thus, you may want to concentrate your learning efforts in domains that really interest you.
  4. A computer system is a rapidly changing and rapidly improving tool. This rapid pace of change will continue for many more years. Time invested in learning to use a computer as an aid to problem solving will be repaid over and over again in the future. You will be investing this time in a tool that will become more and more powerful.
  5. In many ways, we are just at the beginning of the Information Age. More and more information is being digitized. We have more and more connectivity, such as having access to the Information Superhighway. We have more and more computing power that can be used to process digitized information to help solve problems and accomplish tasks. This suggests that if you are not already a comfortable user of computers and the Information Superhighway, you should give careful consideration to becoming one.
  6. Most people are far behind the frontiers of state-of-the-art usage of computer tools in their domains of expertise. Their pace of learning is slower than the pace of change of computer technology within their domains. That is, most people are falling further behind. This suggests that a paradigm shift is needed; knowledge workers need to spend more of their time learning and helping their colleagues learn. This also suggests that in domains where the computer is an especially useful tool, many young students can quickly surpass their elders.
    1. [[This situation is especially true for teachers at the K-12 level. The nature of such teaching jobs is that they are time intensive, leaving relatively little time for scholarly reading and trying out "deep" new ideas. All teachers learn on the job. But, relatively few are learning Information and Communications Technology at a level that meets contemporary standards, such as those developed by the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE). My personal recommendation is that teachers need to enhance their on-the-job learning opportunities, so that more "learning by doing" occurs.]]
  7. Most real-world problems are interdisciplinary. That is, they cut across traditional disciplines and traditional domains. This creates an interesting difficulty for students. By dint of many years of hard work, you can develop a high level of expertise in one or two domains. You will then be good at solving a wide range of problems that occur in these domains. However, you will be quite restricted in solving most problems, since most problems cut across a number of different disciplines.

    Alternatively, you can elect to pursue the domain of interdisciplinary problem solving. An expert in this domain is good at facilitating the assembly and use of the range of resources needed to solve problems that cut across traditional domains and traditional disciplines. This domain of expertise requires a broad range of knowledge, ability to learn quickly, good communication skills, and good ability to work with a wide range of people. And, of course, the computer is one of the tools that helps glue these many and varied abilities together.

  8. The term "intelligent digital connectivity" summarizes ideas from personal and group productivity tools, the Information Superhighway, the digitization of many different kinds of information, and the computer as a powerful tool. Intelligent digital connectivity is changing the way that business and industry work (Peters, 1994). It is making it possible for people located throughout the world to work together on a specific problem. Teams are quickly assembled, they accomplish their task, and are then disbanded. This "just in time" assembling of human resources is the [[a]] wave of the future.
  9. Intelligent digital connectivity has spawned the idea of [[knowledge and]] distributed intelligence. A system consisting of people, computers with artificial intelligence, intelligent networks, and groupware is a powerful aid to solving problems and accomplishing tasks. Each of the components of such a system is improving over time--some much more rapidly than others. For example, the human component improves through education and experience in working in such a distributed intelligence problem-solving environment. Such progress is slow relative to the rate of improvements in the speed and power of computer hardware and computer networks.

Businesses throughout the world are increasing their awareness of the ideas in the preceding list. Increasingly, a business identifies a problem, assembles a team of people to work on the problem, and then disburses the team when the problem has been solved. Team members may be located throughout the world, connected by the Information Superhighway. Some of the team members may be regular employees of the business, but others may be independent contractors who have a high level of expertise in the domain of the problem. Individual members of the team may have to learn a great deal about the specific problem in a short time.

This model of problem solving is one in which there is worldwide competition for expertise. It is a model of worldwide competition for the most precious resource--the time and energy of creatively intelligent experts. You can improve your competitive position by learning to make effective use of the ideas covered in this book.

Activities and Self-Assessment

  1. Analyze your strengths and weaknesses as a domain-specific problem solver and as an interdisciplinary problem solver. As you continue to pursue education and a career, are you focusing on one specific domain? If so, does this domain fit well with your strengths? Alternatively, if your focus is interdisciplinary, in what ways are you building on your specific strengths and interests? [[Note that teaching, even it is within a narrow domain, is an interdisciplinary activity. Similarly, communicating with your peers is an interdisciplinary activity.]]
  2. Analyze your current and future job potential from the viewpoint of continued rapid progress in worldwide intelligent digital connectivity and in distributed intelligence.
  3. Think about some of the ideas that you have encountered in this book. Make a list of some of the ideas that seem most relevant to you. Pay particular attention to your reflexiveness, high-road transfer of learning, and distributed intelligence. Analyze your list. What are you doing to make use of the ideas on your list?

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