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Swallowing information


Posted on 30th October 2006 by Judy Breck in Subject Sampler

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The image above illustrates how in our esophagus two sphincters cooperate to facilitate swallowing. The esophagus essay from GI Motility at is not above the head of an interested youngster, yet it is the kind of detailed knowledge kids simply do not get in standardized curricula. Congratulations to for making the GI Motility section open and free. Next step: get information-packed page modules like this one on to mobile phones. General Science

The next perfect storm will hit education

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Posted on 26th October 2006 by Judy Breck in Schools We Have Now

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“Resistance is futile,” believes Richmond: although existing educational institutions are not generally embracing a digitally transformed future, “the educational sector will be dragged into the future kicking and screaming by the next perfect storm.”

The above statement by Todd Richmond is from his presentation on October 19th at the DIY [Do-It-Yourself] Media Seminar held at the Annenberg Center. You can read the report of the event here. What Richmond is say is that the same chaos that blew away the infrastructure of the music business is about to hit education. My favorite bit from the article is this idea:

The precipitating phenomenon that could turn open educational resources into a detonator of change would be the advent of digital learning objects that go viral, the “holy grail” of DIY media production; Richmond cited the Chinese Backstreet Boys video, viewed one and a quarter million times on Youtube, as an example of “going viral.”

Why not Do It Yourself to make a bunsen burner experiment for the mobile screen that is so cool it goes viral? That’s going to happen, and education ain’t never going to be the same. And that is a beautiful thing.

The Carnival of the Mobilists at MobHappy


Posted on 24th October 2006 by Judy Breck in Carnival of the Mobilists

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This week the Carnival is back home where it began a year ago. Check it out here for the week’s best mobile blog writing.

And the kids have phones


Posted on 22nd October 2006 by Judy Breck in Mobile Learning

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It is simple addition: kids with mobiles + mobile learning stuff = opportunities for kids to learn. The story here today from the BBC shows that the first part of the equation is taking care of itself:

Ofcom, the UK’s communications regulator, recently reported that 82% of 12 to 15-year-olds owned a mobile phone while just under half (49%) of 8 to 11-year-olds had one. Across both age groups, they make an average of eight calls and send 25 text messages a week.

The second part of the equation is an open door to global learning and literacy. Let’s use it!

How to do laboratory science in the 21st century

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Posted on 20th October 2006 by Judy Breck in Schools We Have Now

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bunsen burner phoneThis morning the New York Times has a story on the front page that is ten years old in its timing. It asks—as if it were newsworthy—whether virtual science is a good way to teach high school students. It seems the vaunted College Board has decided to challenge the online labs that provide experiments in mixing chemicals, dissecting tissue, and other expensive and now rare on-hands school laboratory traditions.

Maybe in 1996 these would have been worthwhile questions. But in the meantime here are some changes virtual science has caused: Detailed, realistic online labs have replaced NO labs that students would find in many schools. Virtual experiments offer experiences considered too dangerous to be done in a brick and mortar lab. Lessons using tissue spare the lives of experimental animals. Virtual experiments offer a broad range and variety of levels of difficulty impossible in a classroom full of kids.

Nonetheless complains, “Trevor Packer, the [College] board’s executive director for Advanced Placement [:] “You could have students going straight into second-year college science courses without ever having used a Bunsen burner.”

In 2006, using a Bunsen burner is an insurmountable obstacle for teenagers in failing schools, developing countries, and places with strict fire codes. With today’s technology you could easily do a virtual Bunsen burner lesson on your mobile phone screen. Yet the vaunted Gray Lady New York Times, who probably carried a story about Robert Bunsen’s burner invention in 1855, is giving front page coverage to going back to 19th century schooling. Here is some flavor of that from the NY Times article:

John Watson, an education consultant who wrote a report last year documenting virtual education’s growth, said online schools had faced lawsuits over financing and resistance by local school boards but nothing as daunting as the College Board. “This challenge threatens the advance of online education at the national level in a way that I don’t think there are precedents for,” Mr. Watson said.

The board signaled a tough position this year: “Members of the College Board insist that college-level laboratory science courses not be labeled ‘A.P.’ without a physical lab,” the board said in a letter sent to online schools in April. “Online science courses can only be labeled ‘A.P.’ if the online provider” can ensure “that students have a guided, hands-on (not virtual) laboratory experience.”

But after an outcry by online schools, the board issued an apology in June, acknowledging that “there may be new developments” in online learning that could merit its endorsement. . . .

[And what does the accrediting industry itself—of which the College Board is a prime example— show when it measures online labs?] On the 2005 administration of the A.P. biology exam, for instance, 61 percent of students nationwide earned a qualifying score of three or above on the A.P.’s five-point system. Yet 71 percent of students who took A.P. biology online through the Florida Virtual School, and 80 percent of students who took it from the Virtual High School, earned a three or higher on that test.

“The proof is in the pudding,” said Pam Birtolo, chief learning officer at the Florida Virtual School.

Carnival of the Mobilists 49


Posted on 19th October 2006 by Judy Breck in Carnival of the Mobilists

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Michael Mace at Mobile Opportunity has posted and toasted the best mobile blogging of the week here. Take a look for an outstanding opportunity to pick up some mobile insights.

Rotator Cuff Tear


Posted on 19th October 2006 by Judy Breck in Subject Sampler

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WebMD is advertising its sports injuries pages during the baseball playoffs. An example of the excellent medical information at WebMD is the section here on the common injury to pitchers, the shoulder rotator cup tear. Health sciences

Carnival of the Mobilists 48


Posted on 10th October 2006 by Judy Breck in Carnival of the Mobilists

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Musings of a Mobile Marketer hosts this week’s Carnival here. Helen Keegan’s writing is crisp and insightful, and points to terrific writing about matters mobile from around the web.

The Web in one phrase

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Posted on 8th October 2006 by Judy Breck in Open Content

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A new Pew report about what the heck Web 2.0 might mean contains this sentence: what Web 2.0 applications do: They replace the authoritative heft of traditional institutions with the surging wisdom of crowds. Those words tell us volumes when we apply them to education and the Internet. For a decade, the education industry has thrust its full heft and authority at shoehorning its traditional institutions on to the Web. The wisdom of crowds in academic subjects was squelched.

Web 2.0 is actually the emergence of what the Internet really is—a network obeying network laws. The wisdom of crowds is nothing new. The Internet has simply arrived as a global venue for this wisdom to emerge. So far the education industry has essentially firewalled this surge. Allowing our children to absorb the wisdom has been blocked.

Pluto is a dwarf online


Posted on 4th October 2006 by Judy Breck in Schools We Have Now

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On August 24, 2006 the International Astronomical Union decided that Pluto is a dwarf — stripping it of its status as a planet that it had for 76 years. One of the things this declaration did was make incorrect every printed school book that had listed nine planets. Fixing the change on planetary information websites took no more than a few minutes, providing the correct listing of eight planets. Bill Arnet provides The Nine Planets which is the most popular online source for the subject. And yes, of course, Pluto is now a dwarf there, with information about the change plus an in-depth resource on the demoted planet.

OK, so we do not lose a planet very often, but there are a lot of things that change faster and take too much time to change in textbooks. Why is it we still have printed textbooks . . . ?

Pluto image from Astronomy Picture of the Day via The Nine Planets.