Moursund's IT in Education Home Page


Volume 11 1983-84 Editorial (with Retrospective Comments)

Reprinted with permission from Learning and Leading with Technology (c) 1983-84, ISTE (the International Society for Technology in Education. 800.336.5191 (U.S. & Canada) or 541.302.3777,, Reprint permission does not constitute an endorsement by ISTE of the product, training, or course.

1. August1983 In Search of Controversy.
2. September 1983 Greener Grass
2. October 1983 Twenty Years Ago
3. November 1983 ICLEP (Individual Computer Literacy Education Plan): A Powerful Idea
4. Dec./Jan. 1983-84 Logo Frightens Me
6. February 1984 38 Billion Curriculum Units: Thoughts on Fully Integrating Individualized instruction
7. March 1984 The Two-Percent Solution
8. April 1984 Equity
9. May 1984 You Are ICCE

In Search of Controversy

Moursund, David (August 1983). In Search of Controversy. The Computing Teacher. V11 N1.

A few days ago I received a phone call from a television reporter for a leading morning television news show. The reporter indicated that she had found a person who was strongly against computers in education and was now looking for a strong proponent for computers in education. She was looking for controversy—the spice of reporting.

This was not my first brush with a search for controversy. A few weeks earlier I was interviewed by a newspaper reporter who insisted that controversy was essential to the article he wanted to write. Controversy attracts readers and sells newspapers.

My response to the television reporter was to give a five-minute overview of computers in education, pointing out how each of the major themes can lead to controversy. I then proceeded to give sample arguments for each side of each issue. Actually, I was rather impressed with my skills as a university professor. But evidently the reporter wasn't, as she rapidly brought the conversation to a close. I think she decided that I was not an adequate proponent for instructional use of computers.

I enjoy a good argument and I do have some skills as a debater. But something about the media's search for controversy in computers-in-education rubs me the wrong way. There are important problems and the problems deserve to be fully aired. But the goal is to improve education, not to sell newspapers or to increase television viewing.

The list of controversial issues which follows is not intended to be exhaustive. Rather, it is intended to demonstrate that there are indeed many hard issues that have not been resolved. I have not made any attempt to order these issues by importance. All are important, as are many others not listed here. I would like to receive letters from TCT readers, listing the issues of most concern to them.

  1. Women in computing. The parallel is often drawn with the area of women and mathematics education. Women are under-represented in computer class enrollments beginning in junior high school and continuing through the doctorate. Why, and what can or should we try to do about this?
  2. Haves versus have-nots. Computers are evenly distributed. Children with wealthy parents are more apt to have home computers. Wealthy school districts and high-tuition private schools tend to have more computers than other districts or schools. What role should state and federal government play in helping to equalize computer access?
  3. Drill and practice versus “deeper” levels of computer usage. Some schools use their computers mainly for drill and practice on conventional subject matter, while others have students involved with word processing, electronic spreadsheets, information retrieval systems, Logo and other programming languages. What are the best uses of computer in an educational environment?
  4. Computer literacy. While most educators agree that this is a good thing, there is little agreement as to the meaning of computer literacy. Is it a course? Does it include programming in a language such as BASIC, Logo or Pascal? Can it be taught by teachers who have only a very low level of computer knowledge and experience?
  5. Teacher education. Should all current teachers be required to become computers-in-education literate? Should preservice teachers be required to take computers-in-education courses? In conjunction with 4. above, should teachers be required to integrate computer-related ideas into the courses they currently offer?
  6. Software for networks or multiple users. Many schools now have a number of microcomputers, a network or a timeshared system. Should a school have to buy multiple copies of each piece of software it uses? How can the needs of students and their schools be balanced against the needs of software developers and distributors?
  7. Quality of software. Good quality educational software is very difficult and expensive to develop. How should we deal with less-than-good educational software and what can be done to facilitate the rapid development and dissemination of better quality educational software?
  8. Content of the conventional curriculum. More and more we will find that computers are a significant aid to solving the problems being studied throughout the curriculum. If a computer can help solve a certain type of problem, what should a student learn to do mentally, aided by pencil and paper, or aided by computer?
  9. State and national leadership. What role should state and federal government play in computers-in-education? Should they provide planning, leadership and money? How can government activity be coordinated with that of state and national computers-in-education organizations and with the work of local school districts?
  10. Publisher control of curriculum. For years we have known that books and other print materials are the dominant source of curriculum content. In essence, a small number of publishers determine the curriculum. Is it appropriate that this continue to happen as computers become the dominant instructional delivery system?
  11. Computer languages. The current argument seems to be BASIC versus Logo versus Pascal. Others favor Ada, C or COMAL. Some very knowledgeable people argue that BASIC is perhaps the worst thing that has ever happened in the computer field, while other equally qualified people are working to have BASIC taught to all precollege students.
  12. High technology. Computers are only part of what is now called “high technology,” and high technology is only part of what might be taught in schools. Is the current educational balance among science, social science and humanities appropriate? How can we foster the uniquely human talents and skills in a world that seems to place more and more emphasis upon technology?

Greener Grass

Moursund, David ( November 1983). Greener Grass. The Computing Teacher. V11 N2.

I do a lot of traveling, giving talks at computers-in-education conferences, consulting, and doing workshops. In the past few months I have been in New Jersey, Alberta (Canada), Texas, New Mexico, Victoria (Canada), New South Wales (Australia), and Idaho. I have talked with people from dozens of other states and provinces.

Surprisingly, I hear the same message again and again. It goes something like this. “I know we are not doing too well here. We only have [what follows is a long list of hardware]. We are only making use of [what follows is a long list of software]. We are only using computers for [what follows is a long list of computer applications at various grade levels]. Our teacher inservice program is only [what follows is a list of courses and teachers that are receiving training].”

I interpret these revelations in two ways. Sometimes they are a search for approval, a search for confirmation that this represents good progress. More frequently, however, the speaker is representing a deeply held feeling that others are doing better. “We are making some progress, but I am quite sure that others are doing better. Help us to catch up.”

Nowhere have I seen this more strongly than in my recent trip to Australia. I was left with the impression that one of Australia's national pastimes is feeling somewhat inadequate. Thus, much of my time in Australia was spent reassuring people that they are doing just as well as others; that they are slightly ahead in some areas and slightly behind in others. Australian grass is the same color as the grass in other places I have visited.

Actually, the Australian grass seemed quite green and its color is improving rapidly. Each state in Australia has a computers-in-education group. These groups recently joined to form a national computers-in-education organization. I gave several talks at their national conference. Representatives from the state of Tasmania spoke about their inservice program that reached two-fifths of all of their teachers last year, and of the computer curriculum they are integrating at the K-12 level.

I met with the director for a state department of education group in New South Wales which has resources and authority to function on a statewide basis. I met with a number of computers-in-education leaders who were as qualified as the leaders I have met in other places. Women seem well represented among the leaders—perhaps at a higher percentage level than I have seen elsewhere.

To be honest, I was impressed!

And to be doubly honest, I am impressed by the progress of every place I visit. This progress represents education at its best—enthusiastic, energetic, intelligent, dedicated educators working to learn a new field and to translate their knowledge into improvements in education for students. It is these people who are at the very heart of progress in education.

Lest Australians become complacent, however, I did detect one major potential difficulty. The Australian education pay scale does not include steps for earning additional credit hours or higher degrees. One of the major incentives for continuing to learn more about one's own field and other areas is missing.

Many things can motivate a teacher to continue to learn, to try new ideas, to work hard. Money is one of these for some teachers. For others it may be professional pride, a feeling of responsibility to their students or personal satisfaction in their own intellectual growth. Whatever it takes for a particular teacher, we must try to find it. The essence of the current movement for computers in education is not the hardware and software. It is the people, with their knowledge, skills and involvement.

One of the strongest motivators is peer recognition and the positive strokes provided by one's fellow educators. Educators like to be told that they are doing a good job and that what they are doing is important. They need, and deserve, recognition for their extra efforts, for the personal sacrifices they are making to do their jobs better.

Right now the general public is not particularly supportive of education. Rather than providing educators with positive strokes, the general public has become increasingly unsupportive and critical of education. This is leading many educators to believe that the grass must be greener somewhere outside of education. Indeed, it is evident that some educators who are working very hard to learn about computers hope to use this knowledge to leave education. Why should one stay in education when the field is so poorly supported or appreciated by the general public?

My personal feeling is that this situation is bottoming out and that public support of education is beginning to grow. But while we wait for this to happen, we can help ourselves. The next time you see an educator do something you like, offer a compliment. It's as simple as that. Be generous with your positive strokes. By doing so you will make a significant contribution to the improvement of our educational system.

Oh yes, about that green grass. There is no doubt that the grass often looks greener on the other side of the fence. On closer inspection, though, it seldom is. In western Oregon, however, the grass is especially green. Of course, some people might attribute this to rain…

Twenty Years Ago

I have begun two of my recent talks by discussing what computers in education was like about 20 years ago. This was easy to do because my first serious involvement with computers in education occurred in the summer of 1963. I had finished my doctorate six months earlier and was spending part of the summer in helping to teach some bright high school students a little about computer-related mathematics.

By 1963 the computer industry was well into the second generation of hardware. Transistorized computers with core memory were widely available in universities and large colleges. ALGOL, COBOL and FORTRAN had made their debuts, as had fairly sophisticated batch processing systems and the initial time-shared systems. BASIC was under development at Dartmouth.

The university I was attending graduated its first Ph.D. in computer science in 1963, although they didn't call it by that name. Quite a few computer science departments existed by then, but some universities resisted their establishment more than others.

The profession of computer science was well established. Indeed, the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) had been in existence since 1947 and was growing rapidly. In the 1960s the ACM took a substantial interest in college-level computers in education. The “Curriculum ‘68” report contributed substantially to defining an appropriate undergraduate computer science curriculum.

Computer assisted instruction was well established by 1963. While there were many small projects, perhaps most interesting historically is the PLATO project that began at the University of Illinois in 1959. By 1963 this project was well underway and beginning to receive national attention.

Computers were already in some precollege education systems and the teacher education problem was already being attacked. Richard Andree of the University of Oklahoma was active in teacher education and publishing articles about computers in precollege education by 1958. (I'm sure there were other pioneers in the late '50s or even earlier. I just happen to know Richard Andree and have seen some of his early papers.)

This type of historical perspective is fun, and it can also be useful. Suppose that you were magically transported back in time to the year 1963 with your current knowledge of computers and education. What type of advice and leadership might you have provided to the emerging field of computers in precollege education? That is, what should we have started doing in 1963 to help computers in education today?

One can examine various aspects of computers in education to come up with ideas. For example, consider hardware. It was already evident in 1963 that hardware would continue to improve rapidly, with substantial decreases in price-to-performance ratio and continued improvements in reliability. Your 1983 knowledge probably would have made little difference.

Or, consider software. Perhaps you could have hastened the development of Pascal or Logo. You could have helped broaden people's perspective about programming languages. You might have caused the expression “user-friendly software” to come into earlier usage. But to a large extent the software field was moving as fast as it could.

However, the mention of Logo is an important idea. Few people in 1963 imagined that eventually we would have a language especially designed for young students and that computers would become a useful tool in the elementary school. Consequently, few people did appropriate underlying research and development.

A government agency could have funded several K-12 experimental computers in education schools. Work in understanding what computer-related ideas were most appropriately taught at the different grade levels and how to integrate computer-related ideas throughout the curriculum could have been studied. Development of an entire K-12 curriculum that assumed easy computer access for all students could have begun.

Certainly the results from such experimental work would be valuable today. And this suggests another important idea. Who are the leaders of computers in precollege education today? Many are people who were beginning their careers 20 or more years ago. Could we have done something to help develop more of these leaders? Certainly!

But what does all this have to do with today? I think the answer is obvious. Over the next 20 years we will continue to make very rapid hardware and software progress. Computers will become available to all students on an easy access, everyday basis. But, where are we headed? Who is doing the needed research? Where are the experimental schools? Where are the curriculum development projects? Are we producing enough potential leaders?

The United States government and governments in a number of other countries are concerned with the current quality of education. They are especially concerned with technology and with computers. What should they be doing? I feel that the previous paragraph provides one answer. Look to the future and make some long term investments. Fund the research, the curriculum development, the leadership development. This type of funding is essential to orderly and high quality progress in the field of computers in precollege education.

Retrospective Comments 12/27/04

This editorial was first published in the October 1983 issue of The Computing Teacher. It provides an historical perspective of the field of computers in education. Later it was included as an Appendix in my book, The Computer Coordinator (1992).

For me, 1983 was approximately 20 years after I first got started working in the field of computers in education In the summer of 1983 I did some teaching in a summer program for Talented and Gifted high school students who were learning about computers. I had finished my doctorate in mathematics (numerical analysis) earlier in the year, and was looking forward to moving to East Lansing, Michigan where I had a position jointly between the Mathematics Department and the Computing Center.

I spent four years at Michigan State University (1963-1967), and I ran National Science Foundation summer institutes in mathematics (with a strong computer orientation) during the last two of those years.

I then moved to the University of Oregon, with a joint appointment between the Mathematics Department and the Computing Center. I helped start a Computer Science Department there in 1969 and served as the first department head, 1969-1975.

During the subsequent years the leadership in the CS Department made it quite clear that they had little interest in the field of Computers in Precollege Education. Thus it was "a natural" that I began to develop close relationships with faculty in the College of Education who were interested in Math Education (and, eventually, Computers in Education).

In 1970 a student (Mike Neill, a local Junior High School science teacher) came to me and asked about whether the University of Oregon had a doctorate program in the field of computers in education. I met with Keith Acheson (a math education faculty member in the College of Education), explained the situation, and he said "yes." The "logic" that we agreed upon was that the Computer Science Department was created as a split off from the Mathematics Department, and clearly a doctorate program in computers in education was merely a part of the existing doctorate programs in mathematics education being offered through the College of Education.

The historical records for the College of Education indicate that I had an appointment in the College of Education starting in 1982. I has a courtesy appointment for some number of years before then, and I worked with a number of doctoral students in the field of computers in education during the 1970s. I don't recall when I completely dropped by affiliation with the CS Department.

In any event, the transition from the CS department to the College of Education was an unsettling time of my life. My new home (the College of Education) was a much more pleasant place to be!

By 1983, Microcomputers had been around for quite a while. Apple was prospering, and IBM was a participant in the field. From a hardware point of view, the field of computers in education was doing well. (Just recently, in December 2004, IBM sold its Microcomputer division to a company in China. Apple is "hanging in there," but has only a very modest percentage of the worldwide microcomputer market.)

ICLEP (Individual Computer Literacy Education Plan): A Powerful Idea

Moursund, David (November 1983). ICLEP (Individual Computer Literacy Education Plan): A Powerful Idea. The Computing Teacher. V11 N4

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Seymour Papert's book Mindstorms: Logo, Computers and Powerful Ideas, describing the general ideas of Logo and its potential impact upon education. Perhaps the most intriguing concept in the book was that of a “powerful idea.” Of course, we have all seen powerful ideas before. Democracy is a powerful idea, as is universal literacy. A powerful idea can be understood, accepted and supported by large numbers of people. A really powerful idea, such as a particular form of religion, may change the world. Papert's ideas and Logo may help to change education.

But education is very resistant to change. Thus, it may take quite a few powerful ideas to produce a significant change. I believe that an Individual Computer Literacy Education Plan for educators (and for students as they become educationally more self-sufficient) is a powerful idea that can help change education. The concept is simple enough. Every educator should assume responsibility for his/her own computers-in-education literacy and should consciously develop a plan to acquire a professional level of computer literacy.

Every educator is aware of computers. It is impossible to live in our society without being exposed to computers via movies and television, advertising, actual computers at school and in people's homes, articles in professional journals and magazines, etc. All educators have made conscious or unconscious decisions about how they will deal with computers about how computers will be involved with their professional and non-professional lives.

Often an educator's “computer decision” is based upon relatively little factual knowledge and upon facts that change rapidly with time. An educator may have had exposure to a computer while in college many years ago. That first impression lingers and perhaps dominates, even though it is only vaguely related to today's inexpensive, interactive, graphics-oriented microcomputer system. An educator may have had a computer course, poorly taught and not particularly appropriate to the educator's needs. This may have left a lasting impression that computers are a difficult topic, certainly beyond the capabilities of most young students.

Alternatively, an educator may have been exposed to a “dream world” such as an elementary classroom full of microcomputers and Logo disks, with students taught by an exceptionally capable teacher with a deep knowledge of Logo and discovery-based learning. The educator may be aware of word processing and equate this with all students learning to write both well and often. The educator may be aware that computers can solve equations and graph functions—this may be equated with a complete revision of the mathematics curriculum. The educator may be aware of electronic spreadsheet programs and equate this with a complete revision of the accounting curriculum.

In either case, educators need a modern, realistic awareness of the current and potential capabilities of computers as well as their limitations. Such an awareness can be gained through a modest amount of reading, hands-on experience, talking to people and thinking about computers. It might come from attendance at a computer conference or participation in a computer workshop.

What comes next? An ICLEP—an Individual Computer Literacy Education Plan. Each educator has a substantial professional level of knowledge and skills in education. But the nature of the knowledge and skills varies tremendously among educators. The elementary school teacher has little need for the subject matter specialty knowledge of the secondary school physics teacher or the administrative skills of the district superintendent. Clearly, each educator has need for computer literacy knowledge and skills suited to his or her own role in education.

Who is best suited to determine the individual computer literacy levels of knowledge and skills needed by various educators? To a very large extent it is the educators themselves! Certainly outside help is desirable, especially in gaining initial computer awareness. But who am I to try to tell elementary school music or art specialists what they need to know about computers to do their job in a professional manner? Who am I to try to tell a school principal, a health teacher, a social studies teacher and an industrial arts teacher what they need to know to continue to be professionals in their respective areas of education?

The key to this is professionalism. Most educators look upon themselves as professionals—highly trained and skilled in performing their jobs. They have confidence in their knowledge and skills, as well as in their ability to gain additional knowledge and skills.

Each educator needs to be encouraged to consciously develop an ICLEP. An educator's ICLEP consists of two main parts. The first part is a plan for gaining general computer literacy such as one might expect of all educators. Such a plan should take into consideration that educators are college educated and serve as role models to their students.

The second part of an ICLEP should be specific to the educator's particular professional responsibilities. This may need to change quite rapidly as computers become readily available to students and they develop skill in their use.

An ICLEP includes both short- and long-term goals. It includes specific objectives and ways to measure progress toward these objectives. It includes timelines and check points, specific times or points where progress is reviewed, goals and objectives are considered and new goals and objectives are set.

An ICLEP is well suited to educators, since educators are well educated, professional level adults. But what about students? Certainly it is not reasonable to expect a first grade student to accept prime responsibility for developing an ICLEP. But how much responsibility might a ninth grader take? As a student progresses through our educational system, it is reasonable that the student assume more and more individual responsibility for his/her education. One major goal of the educational system should be to help students acquire the maturity and wisdom to accept and deal with this responsibility.

Computer literacy is an excellent area in which to give students an opportunity to assume and practice this individual responsibility. This is especially true because the opportunities for acquiring a high and functional level of computer literacy are by no means fully institutionalized. Students can and do learn a great deal about computers at home, at friends' homes, at science museums and libraries, etc.

Your role as an educator should be clear. Not only should you have your own ICLEP, but you should help students develop their own ICLEPs. Even in the first grade, students can begin to accept responsibility for their own education. Our formal, in-school educational system is only part of a student's opportunity to learn. Early and frequent encouragement should be given to all students to make education an all-day, everyday, lifetime experience.

Logo Frightens Me

Moursund, David (December-January 1983-84). Logo Frightens Me. The Computing Teacher. Vol. 11 No. 5.

I first encountered Logo about ten years ago, and even then I was quite impressed. Since then I have frequently supported Logo in my writing, teaching and public speaking engagements. ICCE has supported Logo through a column in The Computing Teacher, and this is the second Logo issue of TCT. ICCE is publishing a book on Logo (See “Logo in the Classroom—Session 1,” p. 67).

I have learned quite a bit about Logo and its uses, and I encourage all of my computers in education students to do the same. Recently, I co-directed a doctorate thesis that centered on teaching teachers to teach students to use Logo.

On the surface I am a strong supporter of Logo. But deep down in me there is some fear associated with Logo's role in education.

My fear ruts two parts. First, I fear that Logo is being oversold. Some people are developing unreasonable and unrealizable expectations about what Logo can do for education.

Second, I fear that Logo will not reach its potential. Understanding the Logo phenomenon is difficult. It is accompanied by an almost-religious enthusiasm. In talking with many Logo-oriented educators, I am led to believe that Logo not only will make their students computer literate and substantially improve their problem-solving skills, but will make a major contribution to rectifying many of the current ills of education. These claims may prove to be true, but it is important to acknowledge that, to date, such deeply-held beliefs in Logo go largely unsubstantiated. A number of my graduate students have done careful surveys of the Logo literature, searching for solid research to back up the widely-voiced claims. The literature is sparse. It consists mainly of descriptions of teachers using Logo with students, most concluding that students enjoyed using Logo to draw pictures. One could say the same thing about students provided with a set of paints and a brush.

That is not to say there is no research on Logo. The Brookline project, for example, gave us a strong hint of Logo's potential. But one must view with suspicion an experiment in which the elementary school teacher has a doctorate in engineering. Indeed, few of the so-called experiments have been done making use of "ordinary" teachers-those with a very modest level of training, experience and interest in the computer field.

The very heart of much Logo-based instruction is what is often called discovery-based learning. Discovery-based learning has been extensively researched and has substantial merit. But its effective implementation requires well-trained, skilled, committed teachers. Logo by itself cannot create the teacher-related parts of a sound educational environment.

Teachers often equate a minimal level of success in using Logo with students becoming computer literate and becoming much better problem solvers. This reflects very little depth of insight into the various components of computer literacy. It reflects almost no insight into problem solving or into potential roles of computers (or Logo) as an aid to problem solving.

It feels to me like Logo has been oversold. Marketing experts have done their job, but that isn't what has oversold Logo. Educators have done it to themselves. In looking for "the answer" in computing, these educators have latched onto Logo. It obviously is part of an answer, but transforming a partial solution into a panacea is damaging, both to education and to the potential of Logo.

Logo can be a powerful aid to learning. Perhaps your definition of computer literacy includes learning to write and debug programs to solve problems. Perhaps you want your students to develop insight into top-down analysis, stepwise refinement and problem or program segmentation. Perhaps you would like your students to study aspects of a specific content area through a discovery approach.

Logo is an excellent vehicle to achieve these goals. But not without the help of a knowledgeable teacher and suitable curriculum materials. Logo by itself will do little for most students. Certainly there will be rare exceptions—students who learn Logo and explore concepts on their own to create interesting and challenging projects. But most students require knowledgeable and experienced teachers, as well as good curriculum materials.

Now we are at the very heart of my fear. Logo is a wonderful language, but a Logo-equipped computer system is not a teacher-proof educational tool. Most teachers require a substantial amount of computer education and experience to even begin to help their students to realize the potentials of a Logo computer system. And that is only a beginning. What happens to such students in the months and years that follow, as they have continued access to computers? Where will they receive guidance and help in their endeavors to learn more of the potentials of Logo and computers?

For me, a pattern of answers is beginning to appear. Computers will have a profound impact upon education. Eventually more of the needed research will be done, so we will have increased knowledge of ways to use computers effectively.

If we are willing to settle overall for a mediocre education, decreased reliance upon teachers and increased reliance upon computers can help us achieve the goal. But if we have higher aspirations, such as students achieving their full potential, then highly qualified teachers will be more important than ever. Attracting and holding good teachers, providing them with high quality preservice and inservice education, supporting them with appropriate resources-these are keys to improving our educational system. I believe in the potential of Logo, but I believe much more strongly in the part educators will play in its effective use. This Logo-oriented issue of The Computing Teacher gives good evidence of the progress being made.

38 Billion Curriculum Units: Thoughts on Fully Integrating Individualized instruction.

Moursund, David (February 1984). 38 Billion Curriculum Units: Thoughts on Fully Integrating Individualized instruction. The Computing Teacher. V11 N6.

A frequent theme in these editorials is that computers should be fully integrated into the curriculum at all grade levels. This means that computers as an aid to problem solving and computers as a source of problems should be integrated into every discipline—in art and music as well as in math and science. Full integration also means that instruction in any one discipline takes into consideration and builds upon previous instruction in every other discipline to the extent that this is appropriate.

Along with full integration of computers, I generally support the idea of individualization of instruction. I don't recall having read definitive research on the merits of individualized instruction, but it has intuitive appeal.

For simplicity, let us assume that the entire K-12 curriculum could be divided into twelve major strands (themes, subjects). A particular student might be at grade level in some strands and above or below grade level in other strands.

It is evident that instruction in one strand needs to consider instruction and a student's level in other strands. For example, suppose that a fifth grade student is at grade level in math but is two years below grade level in reading. The student is beginning a unit on word problems. If these word problems assume a fifth grade reading level, the student is apt to do poorly.

But what about the content of the word problems? These draw upon the student's knowledge of the world. A problem might have to do with buying or selling, with the speed of cars or airplanes, with the population of cities and countries, with ideas from science or medicine. This type of integration of ideas from other disciplines might make the math more interesting and relevant.

Now, let's analyze this situation more carefully. Suppose that almost all students are within two years of their designated grade levels in all strands. This would mean, for example, that a typical student designated as a fifth grader might range, from third grade level in one or two strands up to seventh grade level in other strands. Of course, some students will vary beyond this range, but this model will assume that does not occur.

In a fully integrated individualized program of study, a student would use instructional materials suited to his/her levels in the various strands. Our hypothetical designated fifth grader might need sixth grade level math content based upon fourth grade reading ability, seventh grade knowledge of history and world affairs, and third grade art skills.

Now for a little arithmetic. In this simple model for individualized instruction, suppose a designated fifth grader wants to do an individualized math lesson. Let us assume that we want the math lesson to be at the student's current math level and to appropriately reflect the student's levels in all other strands. For simplicity, assume just five possible levels in each strand. This means we are not breaking things down more finely, such as to tenths of grade levels. This will need to be 5 raised to the 12th power (which is close to a quarter of a billion) different versions of this math lesson! If we now multiply by the 13 grade levels and the 12 strands we find a need for about 38 billion different year-long curriculum units.

These numbers suggest why we will never have a fully integrated and individualized collection of curriculum materials. They also point to the difficulty of even beginning to integrate computers into the content of the existing K-12 curriculum.

I can think of three ways to attack this problem. First, there is the traditional approach of introducing a new, non-integrated strand into the curriculum. We could develop a K-12 computer and information science curriculum strand, making every effort to keep it as independent of other knowledge as possible.

But such complete independence is obviously impossible, so we are led to the second traditional approach. Each strand builds upon other strands when absolutely necessary, but usually at a minimal level. Authors of eleventh grade math or computer materials often (perhaps as a selling point) claim the materials are at an eighth or ninth grade reading level. Some college level computer materials claim that they require no math beyond the eighth grade level.

Such a lack of full integration cuts down on the number of different curriculum units needed for individualization. But still, the number of curriculum units required would remain very large. Thus, a third idea. Rather than placing the burden of individualization upon developers of curriculum materials, why not place the burden upon the learner?

What a novel idea! A student should assume responsibility for his/her education. Obviously this idea must be adjusted to a student's developmental level. A sixth grade student is able to take much more responsibility for learning than is a first grader. The overall instructional system would need to be designed to give increasing responsibility to students as they grow in ability to handle this responsibility. The ultimate goal would be to become fully responsible for one's own learning.

While some students make considerable progress toward this ultimate goal, on the average our current school system does a rather poor job in this area. It is interesting to contemplate why, and to think about the role that computer-assisted learning might play. My personal feeling is that CAL could play a major role and that it will lead to substantially increased student responsibility for learning. But this responsibility can come without computers. All educators should be trying to help their students to become independent, self-responsible learners.

The Two-Percent Solution

Moursund, David (March 1984). The Two-Percent Solution .The Computing Teacher. V11 N7.

I am frequently asked how much money schools should be spending for instructional use of computers. My answer is that it depends upon the goals set by the school or district.

But that answer is less than satisfying to administrators in a school district just beginning to make a serious commitment to the instructional use of computers. Administrators need help in determining the level of expenses and nature of the commitment that may be necessary over the long run.

With these people I discuss The Two-Percent Solution. The idea is simple enough. Let's see what could happen if a school district budgeted two percent of its funds, year after year, for instructional computing. Some districts might obtain this level of funding by a reallocation of current funds. But since budgets have been so tight for so long, this is unlikely in most districts. As an alternative, one could imagine the taxpayers in a district passing a special perpetual tax that adds two percent to the district's budget. Or, one might imagine a one-percent tax and a reallocation of current funds to generate the other one percent. An analysis of how two percent of a district's current budget might be used for instructional computing helps one to understand how much money is actually needed.

Two percent is an arbitrary figure, but one can find many colleges and universities that have that level of expenditure for instructional computing purposes. Also, the use of a percentage figure relates expenditures to a district's overall funding level. This is important because funding levels vary widely. A recent issue of The Wall Street Journal discussed a school in Alaska that had a budget of $16,000 per student per year. The same article noted that the average for the United States is about $2,500 per student per year, with some states having an average per-pupil yearly expenditure of under $2,000.

Where will the two percent go? I suggest four major categories of expenditures, with a reasonable level of funding for each. A fifth category, a contingency fund, is suggested to take care of unforeseen expenses. Keep in mind that these are merely suggestions; they can lead to insight into what a particular school district might do.

  1. Hardware: Approximately one-half of the total funds.
  2. Software, print materials and other support materials: Approximately one-sixth of the total funds.
  3. Inservice education: Approximately one-twelfth of the total funds. This provides initial and continuing training for administrators, teachers, support personnel and aides.
  4. Computer coordinators: Approximately one-sixth of the total funds. This might be used at both a district and a building level.
  5. Contingency: Approximately one-twelfth of the total funds. In the first year, all of this might be used to supplement inservice education. In subsequent years it might be used in the other categories, or for some new purpose such as remodeling a room for a computer lab.

This sort of allocation assumes that office space, janitorial services, ongoing administrative and staff support, and other miscellaneous expenses will N part of the general school district budget and will not be specifically deducted from instructional computing funds.

To make this concrete, suppose we look at a school district with 5,000 students and a budget of $2,500 per student per year. The Two-Percent Solution allocates $50 per student per year for instructional computing.

Category Per Pupil Total
1. Hardware $25.00 $125,000
2. Software & Materials $ 8.33 $41,667
3. Inservice Education $4.17 $20,833
4. Coordinator $8.33 $41,667
5. Contingency $4.17 $20,833

The figure that tends to be most interesting to school district administrators is the money for hardware. What can one buy with $25 per student per year? The answer obviously depends upon the particular equipment being purchased. A recent ad in my town's local newspaper indicated one could purchase a 64K machine with one disk drive, printer and monochrome monitor for about $900. The ad was for a very widely sold computer system from a reputable local dealer.

The same newspaper contained an ad for a Timex-Sinclair Model 1000 system, 16K expansion module and three software tapes at a special discount price of $29.97. A tape recorder and television set are needed to make this into a usable system.

The $900 figure might be considered adequate for a low to middle-priced microcomputer. You can expect that the quality of machine that this amount of money can buy will continue to improve rapidly in the future. Many school districts are purchasing more expensive microcomputers, but they usually obtain a substantial discount from the list price.

Now a couple of assumptions are needed. A typical school doesn't want a printer on every microcomputer, and it's likely the school will want some dual disk systems. As a school obtains a quantity of machines, it is likely some will be networked using a floppy or hard disk system. This may cut the average cost of a user station. Let us assume that the average cost of a user station will be about $900. Let's also assure that such systems will have a four-year life span, with maintenance costs averaging $100 per machine over the four years. An equivalent way of expressing this is to assume that $1,000 provides a user station that functions for four years and is then completely worn out.

A particular school district may decide to purchase computers costing much more than is assumed above. Such machines might have a longer life span, different maintenance costs and so on. The point is, the explicit example given here serves as a model a district can use to analyze its own situation.

Continuing the example, the first year's funds would purchase approximately one machine per 40 students. (The current average in the United States is approximately one machine per 120 students, or a third of what would be achieved in the first year.) The second year's funds would bring the average to one machine per 20 students; the steady state situation in the fourth and subsequent years would be one machine per ten students. This analysis ignores whatever computers a district might already own.

An average of one machine per ten students is equivalent to about a half-hour of machine time per student per day. If computers are going to have a significant impact upon our overall educational system, we should be able to see the beginning of the impact with this average level of computer usage.

This hardware analysis suggests that an average school district, by spending one percent of its budget every year for hardware, will eventually have about one microcomputer per ten students. That is about 12 times the current average in the United States. If computer prices continue to decline, or if machines have a longer life span, then an even higher ratio will be achieved. Alternately, if a district selects more expensive hardware, it will achieve a lower ratio of machines per student.

The money allocated for software, manuals, books, films and related support material is substantial but may prove inadequate, as classroom sets of textbooks and expendable workbooks may be quite expensive. One way to analyze this is to look at various categories of instructional computing. The categories I use are learning/teaching about computers, learning/teaching using computers and learning/teaching incorporating computers. Each category requires differing amounts and types of software, support materials and teacher knowledge. Learning/teaching about computers requires relatively little software beyond the language translators and operating system. It does require books, films and other media, and it requires quite knowledgeable teachers.

Learning/teaching using computers (usually called computer-assisted learning) can require a substantial software library. Currently the costs of such software are high and the total quantity of good software is still quite limited. We can expect a continued rapid growth in the availability of good computer-assisted learning software. We will probably find that vendors will make available multiple copies of software, or software for local networks, at quite good prices.

Learning/teaching incorporating computers requires changes in the content of the conventional curriculum. A typing course might become a word processing course, requiring word processing software and perhaps a typing tutor program. A bookkeeping course might be substantially changed by providing electronic spreadsheet and accounting software. A science lab might be changed by a package of programs for the on-line control of experiments and the collection and processing of data. A math course might require a substantial library of graphic, equation-solving and symbol-manipulation software.

A different way to view this expenditure category is that the $1,000 machine will have $333 of software, print materials and other support materials. This is quite a bit if all of these materials have a long lifespan and can be used by a variety of students. For example, a single rental film might be viewed by many hundreds of students and a reference book may be useful for several years. A growing library of commercial software might be supplemented by carefully screened public domain software.

The money for inservice education of administrators, teachers, support personnel and aides will allow for initial and continued growth in their knowledge and skills. If a district has not yet put much money into computer-related inservice education, the first year's expenditures probably need to be above one-twelfth of the total funds. This can be done by drawing upon the contingency fund.

It is important to realize that inservice education must continue beyond the initial effort. The level of knowledge needed when there is only one microcomputer per 120 students is quite different from what is needed when there is one microcomputer for every ten students. At this level we could begin to see substantial changes in the content of current non-computer courses. This will require extensive inservice education as well as funds to support curriculum development and revision.

The funds and training effort need not be evenly spread among all educators. Likely it will prove desirable for each school to have a building-level coordinator with some release time from regular teaching duties. While all educators need an elementary working-tool level of computer knowledge, these building-level coordinators will need substantially more knowledge as part of their jobs. They will pass on some of their knowledge and skill. Some of the inservice education funds could be used to facilitate this much higher level of training.

Finally, we come to the computer coordinator funds. In four years a 5,000-student school district will have about 500 microcomputer systems valued at approximately a half-million dollars. The district may have several hundred thousand dollars invested in software and other support materials. This is a substantial investment. A district computer coordinator will have a wide range of duties including supervising hardware and software acquisition, assisting in a large inservice education program, and working with curriculum committees to integrate computers into the curriculum.

Some of the district computer coordinator funds might be used at the building level-especially in large districts. The idea of building-level computer coordinators is very important. Consider an elementary school with 400-500 students. Under the model being discussed, this school might eventually have 40 or more microcomputers.

The fifth category, the contingency fund, can be used for a wide variety of purposes. As stated earlier, it might be used to supplement teacher inservice monies, especially in the beginning, or for remodeling.

Funds could also be provided for:

  • Accessing large-scale data banks;
  • Special-purpose peripherals such as videodisc equipment;
  • Hardware and software for students to borrow for home use;
  • Establishing a community (neighborhood) school to provide community access to instructional computing equipment.

Possible uses of the contingency fund seem endless.

The Two-Percent Solution provides an interesting model to explore certain aspects of the future of computers in instruction. Most important is the idea of a permanent commitment to a reasonable level of funding. Most school districts have not yet made this sort of commitment. They are purchasing equipment using entitlement funds, block grants, grants from foundations, money from parent/teacher organizations, and so on. They are giving “one shot” teacher training workshops with little or no follow-up or opportunity for deeper training. They have not yet done the necessary planning for computers to have a significant and continuing long term impact upon the overall content and process of education.

Two percent is a good initial goal. It is enough money to establish a solid program of instructional use of computers. Two percent will probably prove quite inadequate over the long run. Perhaps a few years from now I will be writing an editorial on The Five-Percent Solution.

Permission to reproduce is granted.


Note added to the 2005 reprint. This particular editorial included a “permission to reprint” at the end of the article, as indicated above the dashed line.

Retrospective Comment 1/13/05

In retrospect, I suspect that this was one of my most successful and most referenced editorials. It provided a solid percentage figure that could be used as a target by schools and school districts.

I remember a meeting in New Mexico when I was doing a presentation for the school administrators in a large district. During part of the workshop there was a separate meeting where I got to talk with the Superintendent and some of his high level staff. I explained the 2% solution. The superintendent leaned over to his assistant superintendent for finance and asked in a whisper loud enough for me to hear: "Can we get 2%?" The financial person thought a little, did a little figuring on a piece of paper, and said, "Yes."

The editorial suggests that sometime in the future I might be writing a 5% editorial. That proved to be a conservative forecast. IN The N% Solution I suggested a bottom figure of 10%. Still later I wrote a 15% editorial. All three of these editorials can be accessed at:

Moursund, D.G. (March 1984, 1993, 1999). Three Editorials on What We Should Be Spending on IT in Education. Accessed 1/13/05:

He it, the year 2005. On a nationwide basis, I think we have now achieved The 2% Solution and perhaps moved a little above it. This has occurred mainly through the Federal Funding that has been available, especially through the E-Rate. A history of this funding is available at: Accessed 1/13/05:

There is a substantial discussion of what schools should be spending on ICT in the document: Report to the President on the Use of Technology to Strengthen K-12 Education in the United States March 1997. Accessed 1/13/05:

A number of colleges and universaities have now reached the 5% level in their spending for instruciotnal use of comptuers. PreK-12 education is moving very slowly in that direction.


Moursund, David (April 1988). Equity. The Computing Teacher.V11 N8.

The term “equity” is emotion-laden and means different things to different people. But for most people equity conjures up serious problems which they feel need to be addressed. These problems can be addressed by federal, state and local governmental agencies. They can be addressed by churches, professional societies and political parties. They can be addressed by school systems, parent groups and other local organizations. And they can be addressed by each individual.

This editorial focuses on the individual. What can you do? Obviously, it is impossible for me to tailor an answer specifically for each reader. Instead, I will outline an approach that may help you answer the question for yourself.

Every educator has a personal philosophy of education. This philosophy covers general goals and how these goals might be achieved. Often one's educational philosophy is closely tied in with one's overall views on religion, life and humanity. For example, many educators are very people-oriented. They want to help students to grow-to achieve their full potentials. Others see education as an instrument to help support and develop a particular religious or ethnic viewpoint. Whatever your philosophy, you use it consciously and unconsciously to make day-to-day and long-term decisions. It profoundly affects your interactions with students and other people.

An educator's personal philosophy of education is apt to be quite complex. In essence it is a reflection of one's total knowledge, skills and life experiences. Thus, it is a difficult task to define explicitly one's educational philosophy. But that is where I ask you to begin. Spend a few minutes summarizing your educational philosophy mentally or on paper before reading on.

My personal educational philosophy is based on what I consider to be some of the most important goals of education. I support many goals of education, but two general categories tend to stand out.

1. Individual Student Goals: Education should help each student to achieve his/her full potential.

2. Collective Goals: Education should help support community, regional, national and worldwide interests.

Individual Student Goals focus on one student at a time. Each student has potential. With the proper help, through education and other means, this potential can be realized. Each student is vitally important.

The focus of Collective Goals is on the whole world, entire nations and large political subdivisions. To a large extent, governments support education to further their political ideals and power bases. In free world countries, for example, it is essential to have informed citizens, people who understand the general political and economic ideas of their country and who are willing to help decide what actions their governments should take.

I support goals of both types, and I see considerable overlap between the two categories. But there are substantial differences.

To a large extent, Collective Goals are something that the ubiquitous “they” should be concerned with and should “do something” about. “They” might be the national government, a state or provincial government, big business or some other large organization. “They” are often far removed from me. The responsibility for taking appropriate actions, the responsibility for change, lies almost entirely, outside my domain of activity. Here I am deliberately painting a narrow picture to make a point. Each of us has some influence beyond our immediate acquaintances. Actually, I am somewhat involved in the national and international scene, and I feel that I sometimes make a small contribution. But to a large extent I do feel powerless at such levels.

Individual Student Goals are different. I interact daily with individual students. I talk with individual teachers, individual parents and individual school administrators. It is here, in my one-on-one interactions with people, that my personal philosophy of education is most evident. And it is here that I feel I can actually do something to address problems of equity. Let me give an example.

One part of my educational philosophy is that I should treat all students equally. But I invariably and deliberately violate that philosophy when it comes to certain equity issues. To be specific, for many years I have not treated women equally. Rather, I have tried to treat them a little better than I treat men. This is a very personal thing. It is deep-rooted, perhaps based upon the fact that my mother struggled to be a college mathematics teacher when that was a man's domain. Or, perhaps it is based on the fact that my wife is a college professor and professional therapist, and I have high hopes for all my children (two girls, two boys).

I want to make this example as clear as possible. My personal philosophy of education is strongly rooted in helping each individual student achieve his/her full potential. But I feel that the nature of our society puts extra barriers in the path of a woman who seeks a professional career in science and math-related areas. While some of these barriers constitute outright discrimination, most are more subtle and difficult to combat.

I cannot solve this problem for all women. Indeed, I probably cannot solve this problem for even one woman. But I can certainly help, and I can help at a level that may make a significant difference for an individual woman. For me this has been very important. I can point to specific examples where what I have done has made a difference.

It is at the level of single individuals, in your one-on-one interactions, that you get the best chance to implement your ideas of equity. Examine your own educational philosophy. Decide what is most important to you. Then think about how questions of equity are related to your philosophy. Now you are at the very heart of the equity issue. You can make a difference!

You are ICCE

Moursund, David (May 1984). You are ICCE. The Computing Teacher. Vol. 11 No. 9.

ICCE is a non-profit professional society of educators involved in instructional uses of computers. ICCE is 15,000 Individual Members and 43 Organization Members. ICCE is you and thousands of other educators who believe that computers can play a significant role in improving education. And ICCE needs your help!

As a professional society, ICCE publishes The Computing Teacher, the SIG Bulletin and a number of booklets. It has developed and disseminated a software policy statement concerning copyright and piracy. It interacts with other professional societies—for example, through its Technical Liaison Committees. It is establishing Special Interest Groups for computer coordinators, teacher educators, educational administrators and other special groups. It has a committee working on teacher certification. It co-sponsors the National Educational Computing Conference and has co-sponsored other major conferences. ICCE's Organization Members sponsor a number of high-quality regional conferences.

Since its formation in 1979, ICCE has grown steadily and rapidly, approximately doubling in size each year. But this past four months has seen a marked slowing in the growth rate. A budget that has always been tight has become tighter. Some projects have been curtailed and other desirable projects have not been started.

This slowdown in growth has occurred while the growth of computers in schools has continued at a rapid pace. We suspect that the slowdown is due to the rapidly increasing competition ICCE is facing.

Most educators do not think of their professional societies as businesses. But ICCE, as well as other professional societies, has a business/financial existence. It has income and expenses, employees and products. Considered as a business, ICCE has two general types of potential competitors:

  • Non-profit professional societies in the computer field and in other fields.
  • For-profit commercial publishing companies that publish magazines, books and journals.

ICCE is now by far the largest professional society for precollege instructional use of computers. It actively cooperates with other professional societies, both in the computer field and in other fields. Such cooperation is mutually beneficial and is good for education. Thus, ICCE's “competition” with professional societies is quite friendly in nature; we have no indication that such competition is financially damaging to ICCE.

But the competition from commercial publishing companies is something else. Consider just the magazine publishers. They fall into three major categories:

  • Brand specific: These magazines generally have the name of a specific brand or model of computer in their title. Most brand-specific magazines are not particularly educationally oriented. But the brand specificity makes the contents easy for owners of the brand to use; the title alone is a major selling point.
  • General purpose: Byte and Creative Computing are two well-known examples. Often such publications carry some education articles in each issue and may devote one issue per year almost entirely to education.
  • Computer education: Classroom Computer Learning and the publications from Scholastic Inc. such as Electronic Learning are well-known examples. These publications are specifically designed for educators and/or their students.

An individual educator or a school has a limited amount of money to spend on computer-related periodicals. Often this forces decisions to be made between publications of professional societies and magazines of the three types listed above.

So what does this mean to ICCE? From a business point of view, ICCE has two distinct advantages over commercial publishers. First, ICCE is a professional society of educators committed to improving education. These Individual Members are educational leaders in their schools and districts. Their loyalty to ICCE and support of its professional activities is strong.

Second, ICCE has Organization Members that run conferences and publish newsletters. These conferences and newsletters reach and involve educators at the grassroots level. No commercial publisher has such a grassroots support system.

The essence of the situation is one of non-profit professional societies versus for-profit publishing companies. Each has a distinct and important role to play in each academic field. In the computer field these distinctions are blurred, perhaps partly due to the newness of the field and its high dependence upon hardware.

Over the long run I feel the distinction between non-profit professional societies and for-profit publishing companies in the computer field will become clearer. A professional society is grassroots driven. Its members select its officers and board of directors. Its members decide what projects are to be undertaken and how resources are to be allocated. And, critically important, professional societies make extensive use of volunteers.

Of course ICCE has a paid staff, and this staff is quite dedicated. But who do you think writes the articles appearing in The Computing Teacher and the SIG Bulletin? Who referees these articles? Where do you think the software, book and film reviews come from? In all cases the answer is volunteers! Who served on the committee that developed the software policy statement? Who serves on the ICCE Board of Directors or the teacher certification committee? Again, the answer is unpaid volunteers. These people are using ICCE as a channel through which they can contribute some of their time and energy to computer education.

I hope my message is clear. The future of ICCE lies with you and thousands of other educators. There are many ways you can help. Write a letter to the ICCE editors expressing an opinion on an article that has been published or a topic you would like to see covered. Volunteer to referee articles or be a reviewer of software, books or films. Write an article for The Computing Teacher or the SIG Bulletin. Work to start a local chapter of a SIG in your community. Support Access Organization Members by attending and participating in their conferences. Work to promote the field of instructional uses of computers at all levels. Continue to improve your own computer-related educational skills.

Remember, you are ICCE. You are a member of a healthy and leading professional society. This society represents you as you represent it. Your continued support is appreciativeness it makes a difference.