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Kids Getting Closer To The Golden Swamp

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Posted on 31st March 2005 by Judy Breck in Open Content

Edutopia News 3.30.05 edition has an update here about the status of online learning in secondary schools. The article also links to this multimedia presentation on the subject by The George Lucas Educational Foundation and the Southern Regional Education Board.

The reports are enormously heartening. They are not, however, about the golden swamp. Only once in them does a student mention going “deeper into the internet.” The golden swamp is about the open content he would find there that represents virtually everything known by humankind in a developing global knowledge commons. Surely the teachers and students in the presentation are pioneering a major component of the future of learning: online pedagogy. That pedagogy is only beginning at the secondary school level to engage the cognitive riches of the golden swamp. The messenger (teacher) and message (knowledge) are best kept separate in our thinking or we are in danger of spawning another education establishment that makes its own materials instead of going deeper into the internet – as the student who coined the phase seemed very pleased to get to do.

Auschwitz Flashback

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Posted on 29th March 2005 by Judy Breck in Subject Sampler

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PBS has recast broadcast materials using the full pallet of digital expressive tools here to describe Auschwitz. The interactive Flash presentation is centered around the dreadful Nazi death camp and includes descriptions of what was going on at the time “inside the Nazi state.”

The Race Is On: Cellphone Or Laptop?

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Posted on 28th March 2005 by Judy Breck in Mobile & Ubiquitous

Cellphone Art Gallery
Which one will replace the backpacks kids lug to school? A few posts ago we featured here a report about how $100 laptops are in the pipe for delivering content for learning. Today the New York Times has a tech story here about a street art gallery for a cell phone. The lead in sentence is:

Besides good takeout, it seems there are few things now that cannot be sent to a cellphone – games, pictures, videos, Top 40 music, live television and soon, companies promise, full-length feature films. So why not contemporary art?

So why not reading, writing, arithmetic, geography, science . . . . ? Why not virtual textbooks? Homework assignments?

Around The TC Block

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Posted on 27th March 2005 by Judy Breck in Mobile & Ubiquitous

Teachers College Columbia University In September 2004, the Technology Support Newsletter for Students at Teachers College set out this schedule:

TC’s wireless access has been expanded. The renovated Library and all of Grace Dodge Hall now have wireless access in addition to the locations set up last year: the Cafeteria, Everett Lounge, and several classrooms in Thompson and Horace Mann. . . . Wireless access will become available in Main Hall by December of this year. The remaining campus buildings will be covered by the end of August, proceeding clockwise around the block.

These grand old buildings where 20th century education was in significant part conceived are entering the unfolding ubiquitous computing arena where 21st century education is emerging. John Dewey’s ghost is probably tapping with his thumbbones on a virtual Hiptop in a dusty turret.

Dumping On Dayton

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Posted on 27th March 2005 by Judy Breck in Schools We Have Now

The main point of the New York Times article today about charter schools in Dayton, Ohio is that there may be too many. The article is here. It raises all sorts of suspicions that dumping dozens of charter schools into a city of less than 200,000 people is not a good thing. Why? Although the article is artfully written to seem balanced, its thrust is to put charter schools on the defensive. The proven record of failure belongs to the public schools who are as artful as they come at practicing a focused offense as their own defense.

Good News, Scary News

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Posted on 19th March 2005 by Judy Breck in Mobile & Ubiquitous

A New York Times front page story this morning here reports 10 million homes in the United States now have WI-FI. The spread of wireless internet access to college campuses is mentioned too. All of this is good news for online learning. But the Times tells us about the connectivity in a very different and, they seem to think, scary context. It was ever thus! The scary news is that identity thieves and pornographers are sometimes using our open networks, which provide access up to 200 feet. That is pretty scary: a bad guy lurking within 200 feet of the kitchen table where Junior is doing his homework on a wireless laptop. And this quotation from a sleuth who looks for these bad guys would surely scare almost any reader:

How would you feel if you’re sitting at home and meanwhile someone is using your Wi-Fi to hack a bank or hack a company and downloads a million credit card numbers, which happens all the time?

Now, wait a minute. Does that mean I could sit at home and do the same thing? It seems to me it is up to the bank and company that have those numbers to protect them from hacking. The other example meant to cause fear of WI-FI is this:

police spotted a wrong-way driver ‘with a laptop on the passenger seat showing a child pornography movie that he had downloaded using the wireless connection in a nearby house’

Is the reader supposed to assume from that sad image that the people in the house should not have open WI-FI? What would we assume if the weirdo were showing her a porno magazine? Censor the press??? Now the New York Times would not like that at all. The traditional drumbeat of mainstream media against the internet is bad news indeed. Click here for a report on WI-FI in schools that gives a different example of a kid sitting in a car using a wireless laptop – that includes this comment:

‘I’ve heard stories of students on the weekend sitting in their parents’ car just outside school, accessing the network,’ Mr. Sprague said. Wireless access, he said, ‘enables learning to happen when it is convenient for the student and teacher.

Monmartre Black Cat Cafe

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Posted on 18th March 2005 by Judy Breck in Subject Sampler


Chat Noir (Black Cat) was the name of a Paris cafe that opened in 1881 and quickly became a gathering spot for avant-guard artists. The black cat theme appeared in some of their drawings and posters. The above image is from a poster by Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen titled Tournée du Chat Noir. It is part of a new exhibit at the National Gallery in Washington featuring Toulouse-Lautrec and Monmartre. A wonderful selection of images and text from the exhibit is online here.

MIT’s $100 Poles For Fishing Knowledge

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Posted on 18th March 2005 by Judy Breck in Mobile & Ubiquitous

The plans are described here being pursued at MIT’s Media Lab to produce $100 wireless laptops for school kids in developing countries . The concept is large scale: shipping 200 million in 2007 may be possible and the price will be kept down by accepting orders not larger than 1 million units. The under $100 per unit will come in as less than the cost of textbooks for its student owner during the useable life of a laptop. Every kid who gets a laptop will receive a pole for fishing knowledge out of the golden swamp.

Code Book Revision

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Posted on 16th March 2005 by Judy Breck in Blogs, Wikis and Swarms

Lawrence Lessig has put the revision of his 1999 book Code and Other Laws of Cyberspaceem online here. The site is a wiki which makes it possible for anyone anywhere to jump in to revise the book. There should be a wiki like this one for every textbook used in schools and the printing of textbooks should cease. That would be a big boon to human learning and saving the trees.
Thanks to Dan Gillmor.

Sun and Moon at Lucerne

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Posted on 14th March 2005 by Judy Breck in Subject Sampler


MetroSuisse is the weather service of Switzerland. In their website here which is offered in Deutsch, Francais, Italiano and English, the Swiss weather guys have included a science section. There are great little with primers on topics like The Ten Main Cloud Types and Sun and Moon at Lucerne. Webpages like these from a legion of experts across the world are a major new absolutely free resource for education.

Textbook Critique From Argentina

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Posted on 13th March 2005 by Judy Breck in Schools We Have Now

Listed here are 21 cogent reasons why textbooks are inferior to online learning. The perspective, which comes from Argentina, lists all the usual suspects like how quickly textbooks go out-of-date and information that is limited and restricted within a book. There are a couple of new ones to me on the list. For one thing, tree-huggers should think about the paper consumption of the massive textbook industry. For another, reason #2 from this South American point of view is:

The smaller a country, the less likely the textbooks used in its classrooms were written in that country. On the Internet, local authors can publish material on all subjects in a manner appropriate for their own country.

I suppose even if the two textbooks said exactly the same thing about the history of Argentina, as an Argentine school teacher I would pick the one published in Buenos Aries, not Illinois or California. Even better would be to go online and look at articles on the subject from several sources.

Openness Protects Openness

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Posted on 10th March 2005 by Judy Breck in Open Content

Dan Gillmor’s report here of a committee at work today in Madrid contains profound insights into the mechanism bringing about the global golden age we now are entering.

Textbook Wiki-Made

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Posted on 9th March 2005 by Judy Breck in Blogs, Wikis and Swarms

Here is an online textbook emerging as a wiki. Anyone can edit it. So far 167 subject articles are being developed. With over $4 billion spent annually in the USA alone on textbooks the wiki way has stupendous promise! Just the ability to keep subjects up-to-date means the wiki-made textbook superior to print. The $4 billion saved is lavish icing on the cake of a wiki-textbook future.
Thanks to Stephen’s Web .

Car Window As A Video Game

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Posted on 8th March 2005 by Judy Breck in Mobile & Ubiquitous

Microsoft has just funded an iteration of a game kids can play in their car seats using objects they see passing by as they move down the highway. Read here where the idea is going. There are plans to let kids in more than one moving car participate in the same game. This is a marvelous switch from the little ones slipping into a virtual world through a screen. Their traveling laptop becomes a modelling tool for the real world. What could be better than honing the observation and inter-car communication skills of tomorrow’s drivers?

Clickable Croc – and wrestling, briefly

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Posted on 3rd March 2005 by Judy Breck in Subject Sampler

The PBS crocodile page here has a clickable image with facts about croc anatomy. There is a lot more about these ancient and frightening reptile on related pages. The wrestling with crocs section quotes an expert on what it would be like to fall into the Nile amid a group of wild Nile crocodiles. He says,

. . . if it was a hot day and they were in a feeding frenzy, I don’t think you’d have two seconds to remember your name.