Moursund's IT in Education Home Page

Four Readings for the EDST 114 Course

EDST 114 is a course required of students planning to enter the Elementary Education Integrated Licensure preservice teacher education program at the University of Oregon. Each of the Four Readings is a very brief document focusing on an important Information and Communication Technology (ICT) idea. Each includes several discussion questions that can be used in small groups or with a whole class.These were developed for use in the 2000-2001 version of the course. Somewhat similar brief articles were developed for use in earlier versions of the course.


The Industrial Revolution

The Information Age

Tools to Enhance One's Mental and Physical Capabilities

Five Brain Tools


The Industrial Revolution

Dave Moursund 9/14/00

Until about 10,000 years ago, the people of the earth were hunters and gatherers, living in small, wandering groups. It is estimated that the total world population at that time was approximately 10 million people. The development of agriculture led to major changes in society. No longer were groups of people nomadic--rather they settled where they could grow and harvest crops. The Agricultural Age brought with it increasing population densities and the development of large cities. It provided the environment that led to the development of writing and reading.

The Agriculture Age lasted about 10,000 years. At the time of the American revolutionary War, for exmaple, about 90% of the populatoin lived on farms. About 200 years ago, the Industrial Age began to emerge. Our great-grandparents and grandparents saw the rapid movement from a society with a significant portion of its people involved in agriculture to an increasing emphasis on industry. Today we are seeing a rapid evolution from an industrial society to an information society.

The following is quoted from the October 1845 issue of Scientific American:

It is estimated that the power of steam in Great Britain is equal to the labor of 170,000,000 men, in a population of only 28,000,000.

The Industrial Revolution--fueled by steam power--began in Great Britain in the late 1700s. The quote indicated that 50 years into this Industrial Revolution, the installed base of steam power was equivalent (in terms of pure physical power) to about six times the physical power of the entire population of Great Britain. A somewhat different way of representing this information is that the total steam power amounted to a little more than one horsepower per person. That is, one horsepower is about the same as five or six "person power." (The next time you push down the gas pedal on the 200 horsepower gasoline engine in a car think about that statistic!)

By 1845, Great Britain was the industrial powerhouse of the world. Of course, not every person in Great Britain was working in a factory that made use of steam power. We can speculate that perhaps the average factory worker was making use of steam power equivalent to the physical power of a hundred strong people. It was this factor of 100 change that led Great Britain to its world dominance in industrial manufacturing.

The following quote is from the 1994 edition of the Microsoft Encarta:

Britain did not long remain the only country to experience an Industrial Revolution. Attempts to specify dates for the Industrial Revolution in other countries are controversial and not particularly rewarding. Nonetheless, scholars generally agree that the Industrial Revolution occurred in France, Belgium, Germany, and the United States about the middle of the 19th century; in Sweden and Japan toward the end of the century; in Russia and Canada just after the turn of the 20th century; and in parts of Latin America, the Middle East, Central and southern Asia, and Africa about or after the middle of the 20th century.

Steam and other forms of power have transformed the societies of the earth during the past 200 years. While not every country was affected at the same time, and while not all people have been affected equally, it is evident that the Industrial Revolution produced great changes.

Of course, the Industrial Revolution in Great Britain and elsewhere was much more than just supplementing the physical power of workers. It also meant steady advances in manufacturing methods, science, and technology. All of these things together led to substantial increases in the productivity of individual workers.

Many of the early factories had terrible working conditions. Moreover, factory owners soon found that quite young children could do a number of the jobs, and required less pay than adults. This situation eventually led to the development of child labor laws. It also led to the development of public schools with required attendance. The public schools that were developed had a number of "factory-like" characteristics. Indeed, one of the goals was to prepare students to eventually work in factories. The factory-like, Industrial Age model of education is still with us--but the world has changed substantially since this model of education was developed.

The Industrial Revolution was an enormous change in a world that had been mainly agrarian for the previous 10,000 years. The change had both positive and negative components. For example, the cost of manufactured goods decreased, so more people could afford to have more of these goods. But, working conditions in factories were often terrible. Some people and some nations benefited more than others. In retrospect, it is easy to point out how the Industrial Revolution contributed to pollution in individual countries and the world. If we can see the "evils" of the Industrial Revolution, can we perhaps predict the problems that may be created by the Information Age?

To Think About

  1. Think about what life in England might have been like in the early 1800s as large numbers of people were moving from the farm to work in factories located in cities. Who "gained" and who "lost" by the changes that were going in this society? For each group you name, what was gained and/or what was lost? For example, did the children of farm families that moved to the city have an improved quality of life?
  2. The Industrial Revolution began in Great Britain, but it eventually spread to much of the rest of the world. Even today, however, there are a number of agrarian countries that are trying to industrialize, or to move past the Industrial Age into the Information Age. What are advantages and disadvantages to a country in moving from being an agrarian nation into being an industrial nation at the current time?

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The Information Age

Dave Moursund 9/14/00

"The enormous size and variety of its collections make the United States Library of Congress the largest library in the world. Comprised of approximately 115 million items in virtually all formats, languages, and subjects, these collections are the single most comprehensive accumulation of human expression ever assembled. True to the Jeffersonian ideal, the collections are broad in scope, including research materials in more that 450 languages, over 35 scripts, and in many media" (

And, of course, we know that there is a great deal of human knowledge that is not stored in the US Library of Congress. Many different nations have very large national libraries, with most of their contents being in the language of the people of that nation. You would not expect that the US Library of Congress would have millions of books in Russian, millions of books in Chinese, and so on.

Large libraries are but one sign of our current Information Age. During the past 50 years, the United States has moved from being an Industrial Age nation to being an Information Age nation. At the current time, fewer that 3% of workers work directly in agricultural jobs, and fewer than 18% of the workers work in industrial manufacturing jobs. The great majority of all workers in the United States now make use of computers and computer-based communication systems while on the job. Their work often requires high level thinking, problem solving, and working with other people. Increasingly, people use brain power, rather than brawn, on the job. They have Information Age jobs.

This is a huge change to have occurred in just 50 years, and a rapid pace of change is continuing. For example, the libraries of the world are now being computerized. The Web (which can be thought of as a global library) is continuing to grow very rapidly. More than half of the homes in the United States have a general purpose computer. Increasingly, this computer has an Internet connection. (In August 2000, 52% of US households had Internet access.) The majority of students entering college own a computer, and they know how to use a word processor, email, and the Web. E-commerce (buying and selling via the Web) is expanding very rapidly. And, it will not surprise you to learn that during the four-year period 1998-2002, it is estimated that the total number of telephones in the world will double, mainly due to the proliferation of cell phones. (Worldwide production of cell phones for the year 2000 is estimated to exceed 600 million phones. This is one cell phone for every 10 people on earth.) We are just beginning to see the mass production of telephones that can access the Internet and be used for Web browsing.

Needless to say, the Information Age and its continuing rapid pace of change raises some interesting and difficult educational questions. What constitutes a good education for life in an Information Age society?

Here is an analogy that will help you understand some of the difficulties inherent to this question. You know that farm tools and factory tools greatly increase worker productivity. They are aids to the physical capabilities of the human body. On the farm, for example, these tools and our steadily increasing knowledge of agriculture make it possible for less than 3% of the United States workforce to produce enough food to feed the nation and supply a healthy surplus for export.

Now, we are mass-producing tools that aid the human brain, such as computers and the Internet. These tools have a certain type of "intelligence." For example, the best chess player in the world is a computer. The same holds true for checkers and backgammon. Many of us now take for granted the spelling checker built into a word processor. Many of us take for granted the weather forecasts that we receive from the news media. The production of these forecasts depends on the fasted supercomputers that are currently available.

Increasingly, computers are routinely used to solve problems and accomplish tasks that formerly were done by people with a high level of education and experience--or, that cannot be done without the use of computers. Thus we are led to the question: If a computer can solve or help solve a type of problem that we currently have students learn to solve by hand, should this situation lead to changes in our educational system? Put another way, should we teach students how to compete with computers, or should we teach them to work with computers? In the Information Age workplace, the answer is that people and computers work together to solve problems and accomplish tasks.

To Think About

  1. Over the past 50 years, the United States has change from being an Industrial Age nation to being an Information Age nation. What people or groups of people have benefited the most from this change? What people or groups of people have benefited the least (indeed, perhaps have had negative benefits) from this change.
  2. Think about some of the courses you are currently taking or have taken recently. Which one provides the best example of students learning to work effectively with Information and Communication Technology (ICT) tools to solve problems and accomplish tasks? Which one provides the best example of students not learning to work effectively with ICT tools to solve problems and accomplish tasks? If you are doing this as a group activity, share your results in the group. Then, look for patterns in the types of courses that fall into each of the two categories.

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Tools to Enhance One's Mental and Physical Capabilities

Dave Moursund 9/14/00

Reading, writing, and mathematics are tools that enhance one's mental capabilities. We will call them brain tools. The spear, hoe, and bicycle are tools that enhance one's physical abilities. We will call then body tools. Brain and body tools have changed the way that people communicate, solve problems, and accomplish tasks.

Figure 1 captures the essence of a person or team of people working with brain and body tools to solve problems, answer questions, and accomplish tasks. The brain tools and body tools are getting steadily better, propelled by continued rapid progress in science, engineering, technology, and all other areas of human intellectual endeavor. Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is playing a major role in the development of new brain and body tools. As the figure indicates, formal and informal education are needed to learn to make effective use of the brain and body tools.

Figure 1. PQT team.

Some brain and body tools are so "natural" that they require relatively little education and skill building in order to use them effectively. Very young children learn to turn the pages of a picture book. Very young children learn how to turn on a TV set and to change channels. But learning to read, write, and do arithmetic takes years of formal education and experience.

The types of tools we are describing share an important characteristic. Although it may have taken a "genius" to invent each of the tools, the tools can be mass-produced and mass distributed. I know how to read and write, but I did not invent reading and writing. I know how to ride a bicycle, but I did not invent the bicycle. I know how to use a computer, but I did not invent the computer and I do not know how to build a computer.

The development on a new tool (be it a brain tool or a body tool) may lead to great changes in a society. For example, a little over 10,000 years ago, all people on our planet were hunters and gatherers. Population density was low, because it takes a lot of land to sustain even a small number of people living by hunting and gathering. There was a very slow pace of change, with the life of one generation being nearly the same as the life of the next generation Agriculture had not yet been invented.

Beginning about 10,000 years ago, people began to develop the tools and knowledge of agriculture. Crops were planted, tended, and harvested. Farm animals such as goats were raised. Tools, such as hoe, rake, and fences were developed. Once invented, knowledge of how to make and use these tools was readily passed on to other people and from generation to generation. Children did not need to go to school in order to learn how to construct and use these tools.

Agriculture changed the world. The total population of the earth at the time the Agriculture Age began was perhaps 10 million people, or a little less than 0.2% of the current worldwide population. That is, we now have a number of mega-cities with populations that exceed the world population of 10,000 years ago. There were no cities or even large villages. Agriculture made it possible for people to develop villages, and some of these grew into large cities. Agriculture made it possible for some people to specialize in activities that did not directly produce the food, clothing, and shelter needed for survival. For example, a person might specialize in decorative clothing and jewelry making, and pass this knowledge/skill on to an apprentice. The master artist could world full time for many years gaining increased knowledge and skills.

The Agriculture Age brought many problems. A village often had a desirable location, such as near the confluence of two rivers, near fertile ground, and on a trade route. This location had to be defended against hostile tribes and villages. As population grew, there was the possibility of mass starvation if the crops failed or the animal herds died. There was the need to plan for the storage and distribution of the accumulated production of food.

Although hunter/gathers continued to exist in many locations throughout the world, eventually most of the world's population became farmers. The world's population grew. Agricultural success led to the development of cities. However, farming dominated. When the Revolutionary War began in the United States in 1776, about 90% of the population lived on farms.

Now, less than 3% of the United States population lives on farms. The Agricultural Age gave way to the Industrial Age, and the Industrial Age has now given way the Information Age. The pace of change is quickening.

To Think About

Each of the short articles in this series ends with some questions to think about. These can be explored individually or as group activities in a class.

  1. Make a list of advantages and disadvantages of agriculture and farming versus a hunter-gatherer form of life. Then decide what types or groups of hunter-gatherer people most likely benefited the most from the transition into a farming mode of life, and which may have had little or even negative benefits from this transition.
  2. Make a list of tools that you frequently use. Classify each as primarily a brain tool, primarily a body tool, or a reasonably-balanced mixture of the two. Then briefly discuss how your life would be affected if you no longer had access to these tools.
  3. Take the same list that you developed in (2) above. For each tool, make an estimate of how many total hours of formal education, informal education, and practice it has taken you to gain your current level of knowledge and skill in using the tool. For example, perhaps it is taken you 5,000 hours to achieve your current level of reading and writing skills. Perhaps it took you 500 hours to achieve your current levels of car driving skills.

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Five Brain Tools

Dave Moursund 9/14/00

Humans have developed a number of body tools and brain tools that extend their capabilities. This document briefly examines five brain tools that have greatly extended the capabilities of the human brain. These tools are:

  1. Writing: reading and writing literacy, beginning about 3,100 BC. Greatly aided by Gutenberg's development of moveable type and mass production of printing in about 1450 AD.
  2. Mathematics: mathematics literacy, beginning about 3,100 BC.
  3. Science: science literacy, beginning about 1,500 BC.
  4. Computers: computer literacy, beginning about 1950 AD. Many school districts have set a goal of having all of their graduates be computer literate.
  5. Internet: Internet literacy, beginning about 1990 AD. Internet use has spread rapidly, and it is now a common component of K-12 schooling.

All five of these tools share much in common. They are an aid to communication, and they are an aid to representing and solving problems. A person who knows how to make effective use of these tools is empowered--the person can do many things that cannot be done without the use of these brain tools.

You have a high level of reading and writing literacy, gained through many years of formal schooling and many thousands of hours of practice. You know how reading and writing supplement the memory capacity of the human brain. You know how books can be used to store information, distribute it around the world, and preserve the information for future generations. You know that reading and writing are an aid to processing information. For example, you know the value of "revise, revise, revise" when writing a long and complex paper.

You also know that reading and writing literacy has greatly changed the societies of our world. Gutenberg's movable-type printing press was used to print copies of the Bible and of thousands of other books. This, in turn facilitated and encouraged large numbers of people to learn to read. It led to the Reformation--the development of the Protestant churches.

Mathematics is a powerful aid to representing and solving "math problems." For example, consider counting and simple arithmetic. Your informal and formal education have helped you learn to count, and to do the four basic arithmetic operations. Very few people can do multi-digit multiplication or division in their heads. Instead, we learn "paper and pencil" algorithms. Through formal schooling, we extend our knowledge of simple arithmetic to working with decimals and fractions, then to algebra and geometry. Mathematicians have been extending this field of knowledge for more than 5,000 years. Mathematics is an indispensable tool of science and engineering, and an everyday tool of all of us. (And, of course you know that calculators and computers are now an important aid to the brain tool we call mathematics.)

Formal science is based on "scientific method" in which people develop and carefully test their hypotheses. Science includes very careful descriptions and classification. Thus, for example, we describe and classify plants and insects. As science, the use of scientific method, and the accumulation of scientific knowledge grew, science was split into many different fields, such as astronomy, biology, chemistry, and physics. Progress in science, technology, and medicine has certainly changed our world.

Notice that the last two brain tools on the list--computers and the Internet--are relatively new developments. The computer is a tool specifically designed for the storage and processing of information. The Internet is specifically designed for the storage and communication of information. Both build on the previous brain tools in the list. Both greatly extend the capabilities of the human brain.

Perhaps you find the Internet particularly exciting. Through the Internet you can communicate with people throughout the world. The Web is like a global library, and it is relatively easy to learn to develop Web documents (publish on the Web). You are living at a time in with the Internet is rapidly changing the societies of our world.

To Think About

  1. Consider the inhabitants of a city-state at the time that reading and writing had just been invented. Which people or groups of people tended to gain the most benefit from the invention of reading and writing? Which tended to gain little benefit, or even negative benefit? In each case, explain why you feel your classification of groups or people is correct.
  2. Repeat (1) for each of the other four brain tools discussed in this document. Look for patterns of who is empowered and who is disempowered by the development of these brain tools.

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