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Computers and Problem Solving:
A Workshop for Educators

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 License.

Moursund, D.G. (1986, 1988). Computers and Problem Solving: A Workshop for Educators. Originally published by the International Council for Computers in Education. Reprinted in November 2004.

Click here for PDF file of the book.

Click here for Microsoft Word file of this book. Note that this may download the document to your desktop so that you need to open it from there. The title of the document is PS Workshop 11-20-04.doc.

Click here for Table of Contents.

Click here for Original Preface to the book.

Click here for Preface to the November 2004 reprint of the book.


Table of Contents

Contents 2
Original Preface 3
Preface for the 2004 Reprinting 4
Part 1: What is a Problem? 5
Part 2: Key Ideas in Problem Solving 13
Part 3: Roles of Computers in Problem Solving 22
Part 4: Accumulated Knowledge of Humans 30
Part 5: Effective Procedures 37
Part 6: Conclusions and Recommendations 46
Appendix A: Active Listening 51
Appendix B: Thoughts on Computer Programming 53
References 58


Over the past few years I have presented a large number of Leadership Development Workshops for educators involved with instructional uses of computers. Many of these workshops contain a major component on roles of computers in problem solving.

Gradually the problem-solving component of these workshops has taken on a life of its own and has grown into a self-contained workshop. Typically this workshop is a half-day or a full day in length, although it expands or contracts to fit the particular amount of time available. The materials are easily expanded to a much longer workshop, since problem solving is a relatively large and complex field.

Problem solving is an important aspect of every academic discipline, and computers are useful aids in solving a wide variety of problems. Thus, my problem solving workshops are designed for mixed audiences. They typically include a mixture of elementary and secondary school teachers and administrators, as well as computer coordinators and college faculty. Moreover, the computer backgrounds and interests of workshop participants vary widely.

Needless to say, preparing and presenting a workshop to meet the needs of such a diverse group is a challenging task. After a workshop is completed, I mentally review the content and process of the workshop. I search for strengths and weaknesses. What went well? What needs improvement?

One conclusion I have reached is that workshop participants need to have in hand and carry away a written document that captures the essence of the content and process of the workshop. The document needs to be relatively easy and fun to read. It needs to contain some new ideas and to reinforce ideas covered in the workshop. It needs to suggest applications of the workshop content and to encourage participants to use some of these applications. In a nutshell, that describes the purpose of this booklet.

For me, a workshop is a delightful environment for interacting with educators, trying out new ideas, and working to improve our educational system. A workshop is a balance between content and process. It involves substantial interaction among the participants and with the workshop facilitator.

It is relatively easy to capture the content of a workshop in print. But print does not lend itself well to capturing process. Moreover, reading a book all by yourself is quite a bit different than participating with an excited group of educators in a group learning process. Thus, readers of this booklet will have to mentally recreate the excitement and the group process by drawing upon their own teaching and workshop experiences.

I want to thank all people who have participated in my workshops. They have allowed me to grow, and they have contributed many of the ideas in this booklet.

Dave Moursund
May 1986, 1988

Preface for the 2004 Reprinting

I am older than I used to be. And, I am younger than I eventually will be. It is interesting to look forward, to see what is coming down the pike. It is also interesting to look back, and to see what was.

During the past few days, I participated in a Blue Ribbon Panel hosted by Learning Point Associates. The current North Central Regional Educational Laboratory (NCREL) is a wholly owned subsidiary of Learning Point Associates. The purpose of the meeting of the Blue Ribbon Panel was to look toward the future of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in Education and to aid NCREL in its work. During the meeting I had the opportunity to listen to a large number of very bright people share their insights into the future of ICT in education. In preparation for the meeting, the participants were provided with some documents that I have written about possible futures. In addition, I participated in the discussions at the meeting.

During my “off” time at the meeting, I reformatted Computers and Problem Solving: A Workshop for Educators into the form you are now reading. That allowed me to carefully read the old document. I found it interesting that many of the old ideas are still quite current.

How can that be? The answer lies in the nature of problem solving. While computer technology continues to make rapid strides, the underlying ideas of problem solving with and without computer technology remain much the same. In the future, as in the past, problem solving lies at the very heart of every academic discipline. In the future, as in the past, higher-order thinking and problem solving are core goals in education.

In my opinion, Computers and Problem Solving: A Workshop for Educators is still a very useful book. The original text has been modified by the addition of a few commas and a change of the word “which” to “that” in a couple of places. The original illustrations (designed to lighten up the text) have not been included. Appendix B, which was written for use in a revision of the book that did not occur, has been added for historical purposes. I am pleased that this book can be made available (at no charge) to those who wish to access it through the Web.

David Moursund
November 2004