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Carnival of the Mobilists #97

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Posted on 29th October 2007 by Judy Breck in Carnival of the Mobilists

Deals, analysis, locations, mobile phone stuff, widget topics, and more — are covered. and framed by handsome graphics this week at Andreas Constantinou’s Vision Mobile Forum Carnival #97.

And here’s a post, this week too, about the Carnival on WorldChanging, which poster Emily Gertz headlines: The Best of Mobile Blogging, Every Week. She gives me a new title in this quote: Mobilist ‘godmother’ Judy Breck reports on Smartmobs how students are “sorting out student mobile rights at school“ . . . .

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Cloud learning . . . same idea as swamp

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Posted on 26th October 2007 by Judy Breck in Open Content

This morning I read through the latest post by Ajit Jaokar on his Open Gardens blog. This is Ajit’s synopsis of his post:

Beyond Web 2.0 is still more Web 2.0(for now). The full impact of Web 2.0 will be felt only in 2008 and beyond. The Semantic web is not the future of Web20. The full impact of Web 20 itself has yet to be felt because Web 20 technologies like cloud computing and ‘umbrella social networks’ (i.e. social networks encompassing the personal web, enterprise and the mobile web and incorporating presence) are still emerging and will gather momentum in 2008 and beyond.

As usual, Ajit’s writing in this long post is loaded with crisp and deep insights into the virtual world. Thinking later about what I had read, this idea resurfaced: Ajit wrote: the data has to ideally reside in the ‘Cloud’.

In terms of the Internet, the Cloud has come to mean for most people something like out there in cyberspace instead of on hard drives and servers. But what if we think of the Cloud as being miscellaneous pieces instead of hierarchies. If we do that we can see this Cloud as what David Weinberger has written about in Everything Is MIscellaneous and what I mean when I blog about the GoldenSwamp.

In terms of a network, nodes are the smallest pieces; when nodes are linked together they make the next step up in size of hunks, which are patterns of linked nodes. It seems fair to say that for a cloud, stuff that is miscellaneous and the small stuff in a swamp are all nodes. Cloud is actually the best word here for a world of smallest things, which is what nodes are.

It is worth using this analogy in understanding that educational resources online have not yet managed to move much toward the cloud phase. Most online education stuff is embedded in structures like curricula and courses, which are patterns and not miscellaneous. GoldenSwamp.com is dedicated to writing about the cloud of learning resources that surely will be crucial in the learning enlightenment that lies ahead. Patterns are not inherently bad, but nodes that are free to participate in more than one pattern offer a richer learning environment. Cloud learning would be such an environment.

A metaphor for what open education resources will do

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Posted on 24th October 2007 by Judy Breck in Open Content

The Introduction to Brett O’Connor’s book deli.icio.us Mashups contains this super explanation of what can happen to a venue in the open Internet. You need to read what he writes before I can tell you how it illuminates changes challenging the keepers of education resources:

Think of it this way: What would happen if all the great chefs in the world made available to the general public their recipes, kitchens, tools, and techniques, along with a free invitation to adapt, change, mutate, and release their original works into something new and perhaps even better? Obviously, a lot of very bad food would be made, but there’s also the slim chance that there are some aspiring chefs out there who have never had access to such tools and techniques but have always had talent and good ideas and will make something truly great.

Of course, in the real world this would probably never happen. This is because most chefs want to keep their recipes and techniques secret. However, the same metaphor when applied to web services is actually pretty practical . . . .

To understand the challenge of opening educational resources, we can look at the chefs. It is certainly true that the chefs of education have been at best slow to open their knowledge and tools online. We are in a very exciting time when the sorts of mashups that O’Connor writes about are becoming commonplace in creative venues — but not much in education.

Some will say education should remain closed, like a kitchen that produces good cuisine.
Others will say that keeping things closed lets no-so-great learning fare avoid competition.
Some will say mashups in education degrade knowledge; others will say mashups stimulate learning.
I, for one, am convinced that without the openness and mashups learning and teaching decay and disappoint the new generations.

Our sleeping brain is a golden swamp

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Posted on 23rd October 2007 by Judy Breck in Emerging Online Knowledge

Today’s New York Times Science Times is a special section on the developing science of sleep. The lead article, quoted below, is called An Active, Purposeful Machine That Comes Out at NIght to Play.

The name of this blog is based on the idea that the Internet is a swamp, yet in it floats the gold of knowledge and enlightenment. Because a swamp is an open ecology where things can slosh together, mixing, matching and juggling ideas is possible. My view is that learning is far more powerful in such a swamp, than in the standardized, compartmentalized cubicles of our usual way of schooling.

Thinking of the brain as also an open swamp, where the gold of ideas slosh about and find the meaning that we call what we know — in that context, learning from the open Internet is strikingly parallel to REM sleep. You are probably thinking I am really stretching the analogy. But what else is thinking and learning than mixing, matching and juggling? I think the following, from the sleep article, will describe in the context of a sleeping brain what learning in and from the Internet can produce.

It is likely during REM, some scientists argue, that the brain proceeds to mix, match and juggle the memory traces it has preserved, looking for hidden connections that help make sense of the world. Life experience is cut up and reordered, sifted and shuffled again. This process could account for the cockeyed, disjointed scenes that occur during dreams: the kaleidoscope of distilled experience is being turned.

It also might account for that golden gift often attributed to a night’s sleep: inspiration.

To hear some people tell it, a night’s sleep changed their world. It was reportedly during sleep that the Russian scientist Dmitri Mendeleev’s periodic table of the elements tumbled into place. Friedrich August Kekule, a 19th-century chemist, said he worked out the chemical structure of the benzine ring — an important discovery — when he dreamed of a snake biting its tail. Athletes, including the golfer Jack Nicklaus, have also talked about insight coming during sleep.

Slight corrections in technique are revealed; sand traps are averted; mountains move.

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Ataturk expertise and enthusiasm

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Posted on 22nd October 2007 by Judy Breck in Open Content

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ataturk turkish first president

Go to new version of this post at Learnodes.com 

In the countless hours I have spent for over a decade scouring the Internet to locate high-quality learning websites, I have become a fan of the genre that captures the web author’s expertise and enthusiasm for a particular subject. I found one today. As crises seems to be stirring in Turkey, I started looking around for some historical information, and found Ataturk.com, subtitled The founder of the Turkish Republic and its first President.

As he reveals in one of the pages of this extensive site, the author is a man named Cent who was born and raised in Turkey, and now lives in the Untied States. I, for one, value what I can learn about Ataturk and about Turkey, past and present, from this man’s work in creating the website. I doubt that he would claim to be an objective scholar, but think his affection for and the personal experience he has with Turkey present facets of understanding that objectivity cannot provide. Raising a flag to enlightenment, Ataturk.com’s homepage banner quotes these words:

“The humankind is consisted of two sexes, woman and man. Is it possible that a mass is improved by the improvement of only one part and ignore other? Is it possible that if half of a mass is tied to earth with chains and the other half can soar into skies?”
– M.K. Ataturk

It seems to me that the availability of many viewpoints and nuances of memories and understanding that are available for a historical subject online do a couple of constructive things. For one thing, they do not let revisionists rewrite history and then completely bury other views. Secondly, the inevitable networking of viewpoints on a topic that the open Internet generates provides a mechanism for the emergence of consensus, and dare I say, of truth.

Peer review does not scale

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Posted on 17th October 2007 by Judy Breck in Open Content

Everything Is Miscellaneous author David Weinberger posts some reflections on peer review on his Joho the Blog. For one thing, it doesn’t scale, he writes:

I recognize the value of peer review. It not only directs our attention to worthwhile research, it is part of an editorial process that improves articles before they’re published. But peer review doesn’t scale. There’s so much research being done. A lot of it is good work but isn’t important enough to merit the investment in a traditional peer review process (including the failed hypotheses that we were taught in school were not failures at all).

There are several other reasons in the post why peer review does not suffice to put new research into the open. You may well think I am too simplistic about it, but I am convinced that network laws themselves are the most effective sieve allowing the cream of new ideas to emerge into the commons. In fact I would go farther: new research kept private to await peer review is degraded by being outside of the open networking from which superior knowledge emerges.

Of networks, diabetes and golden learning

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Posted on 16th October 2007 by Judy Breck in Networks

diabetes body illustration

GoldenSwamp.com is focused on explaining that the Internet is, indeed, a swamp—but it is now the place where the golden knowledge for human learning can be found. An article today in the New York Times Science section explains how a network of factors—not just a few simple ones—gives rise to diabetes. A click to the article will take you to the explanation excerpted below, and to a full-size view of the above graphic illustrating the network of factors involved in diabetes.

This network understanding is new, and being discovered in fields as diverse as biology, electrical engineering, cognitive and information sciences, and many more. It is one of the grand discoveries of our time. A golden age of learning awaits us once we apply this understanding to education.

The most direct and practical way to begin applying networks to education is to open up knowledge resources and interconnect nodes to form clusters, thus emerging ideas. The pre-network way we still use is to focus on a few standard bits of knowledge for a subject, putting them together in standardized ways. Our traditional approach is like explaining diabetes with just 3 set factors: pancreas, liver and fat. Education will move into the 21st century enlightenment when it begins “focusing on the cross-talk between more” sources. When learning emerges from networking like that, it is transformed from dull to golden.

Think about teaching, studying and learning a subject playing by the network principles that are now illuminating diabetes:

Until very recently, the regulation of glucose — how much sugar is present in a person’s blood, how much is taken up by cells for fuel, and how much is released from energy stores — was regarded as a conversation between a few key players: the pancreas, the liver, muscle and fat.

Now, however, the party is proving to be much louder and more complex than anyone had shown before.

New research suggests that a hormone from the skeleton, of all places, may influence how the body handles sugar. Mounting evidence also demonstrates that signals from the immune system, the brain and the gut play critical roles in controlling glucose and lipid metabolism. (The findings are mainly relevant to Type 2 diabetes, the more common kind, which comes on in adulthood.)

Focusing on the cross-talk between more different organs, cells and molecules represents a “very important change in our paradigm” for understanding how the body handles glucose, said Dr. C. Ronald Kahn, a diabetes researcher and professor at Harvard Medical School.

Griefers need not close knowledge as they complicate interactive learning

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Posted on 15th October 2007 by Judy Breck in Open Content

“Griefer is a slang term used to describe a player in an online video game who plays the game simply to cause grief to other players …” (Wikipedia) Let’s add to that meaning: spammers, pedophiles and academic cheats.

A fundamental key to opening the global commons of learning is to understand that subject matter and the social activities of teaching/learning are not the same thing. The process of teaching/learning is not the content that is being communicated. That fact is fodder for philosophical discourse—but on a threshold, practical level, the difference is absolutely key to moving ahead with opening knowledge content to everyone within in Internet.

As an example of knowledge content we can look at Hubblesite.org. This website is wide open for anyone to visit—but it is not vulnerable to griefers:

There is no game they can play where they could cause grief.
Griefers can’t confuse discussion because the FAQ simply asks and answers set questions.
Spam cannot be attached because contact is limited to using a monitored comment box.
Pedophiles cannot identify or contact children as they are learning from the Hubble materials.

In vivid contrast, when interactions of educators and students for the process of learning takes place online, griefers are a danger, as is sketched in the following exchange about the beginning of University of New Orleans courses in Second LIfe, from a Discussion at the Chronicle of Higher Education:

Question from Janet Moore, Sloan-C:
What type of disclaimer is needed in a course that uses a MUVE (multi-user virtual environments)? What should be the wording for the disclaimer. If a student suffers mental anguish because of trouble in SL – or if a griefer attacks during class — or… what type of warnings should be placed on the website of the course. What is UNO doing its island about this issue? Also, if institutions acceptable use policies for SL, what kinds of things are included in the policies? Thanks for your advice.

Merrill L. Johnson:
These are very important questions. First, we restrict access to our island. Anybody who comes to the island has to be a member of the “University of New Orleans” Group. While membership is open and will not (and has not) stopped everybody, membership does stop the more casual griefer. The downside, of course, is that we also stop the educational “tourist” who wants to see what we are doing.

Second, we have a policy that we attach to syllabi that warns students about the social excesses they may encounter in SL. We also tell students that the minute they leave the island, just as when they leave the RL campus, they are on their own and are not permitted to represent the University in their actions, unless they are doing field work.

We have not had a griefer attack on the virtual campus when students have been present. They are warned in advance.

Will educators, kids or sheer inevitability bring mobiles into schools?

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Posted on 9th October 2007 by Judy Breck in Mobile Learning

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new jersey kids learning ipods

This afternoon the above picture was part of a story that appeared on the front page of the online New York Times with the headline: In Some Schools, iPods Are Required Listening. The article begins:

UNION CITY, N.J., Oct. 8 – A ban on iPods is so strictly enforced at Jose Marti Middle School that as many as three a week are confiscated from students – and returned only to their parents.

But even as students have been told to leave their iPods at home, the school here in Hudson County has been handing out the portable digital players to help bilingual students with limited English ability sharpen their vocabulary and grammar by singing along to popular songs.

Next month, the Union City district will give out 300 iPods at its schools as part of a $130,000 experiment in one of New Jersey’s poorest urban school systems. The effort has spurred a handful of other districts in the state, including the ones in Perth Amboy and South Brunswick, to start their own iPod programs in the last year, and the project has drawn the attention of educators from Westchester County to Monrovia, Calif.

The spread of iPods into classrooms comes at a time when many school districts across the country have outlawed the portable players from their buildings – along with cellphones and DVD players

And then comes the standard explanation, as the article continues:

because they pose a distraction, or worse, to students. In some cases, students have been caught cheating on tests by loading answers, mathematical formulas and notes onto their iPods.

The article is well researched and thought out – and well worth reading for the insight it provides into the reality of schools in 2007: kids, teachers and other staff almost all have mobile computers that are personal devices – handheld and wireless. These devices are cellphones, iPods and the like. Are youngsters today so easy to distract and willing to cheat that the devices cannot be brought into the learning equation? Let’s hope not. I certainly don’t thinks so.

Carnival of Mobilists 94 themed worldwide connected

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Posted on 8th October 2007 by Judy Breck in Carnival of the Mobilists

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The Carnival rolled out its midway today at taptology with a vibrant theme: The Worldwide Connected � with topics from web3.0 to free speech, and from Burmese dissent to UFO sightings. The Carnival includes GoldenSwamp’s birthday post remembering Sputnik.

Harvard Crimson “All for Open Access”

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Posted on 5th October 2007 by Judy Breck in Open Content

An editorial this week by the Crimson Staff headlined: Let’s welcome the end of for-profit academic publishing. The Crimson also reports what is happening in an article: Profs Might Make Their Articles Free.

The editorial is an excellent explanation and advocacy of the open future of academic publishing, and continues beyond these opening paragraphs with comments on the effect on peer review and its hope that other institutions will follow suit:

It seems that the for-profit academic publishing industry�s days are numbered. The model it was built on depended on the necessity of ink and paper for its viability. But today, the Internet has made the exchange and storage of information and ideas so cheap, that taxing the free marketplace of ideas and knowledge that academia is founded upon no longer makes economic sense.

Enter the open access movement, which is slowly marching its way across academia. The open access movement seeks to displace the expensive, subscription-only elite journals that have long held a stranglehold on academic papers by publishing scholarly works online for free or at very low cost. Currently, the cost of subscribing to traditional scholarly journals is prohibitive for individuals and organizations (such as nonprofits) that would appreciate and benefit from access to articles the forefront of research and academia. . . .

Via Joho the Blog

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David Pogue on why the one laptop per child project may be in peril

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Posted on 3rd October 2007 by Judy Breck in Mobile Learning

one laptop per child

Pogue writes in a New York Times article about the marvels of the XO machine just about to become available by the millions. It has been designed and developed to connect individual children in underdeveloped countries with the Internet. Pogue has the rare courage to explain the problems the project is now encountering, now that it is really beginning to happen. What could be the obstacle to millions of little kids all over the world having their own machines to interact with the Internet. As Pogue says so well, the problem is us:

No, the biggest obstacle to the XO’s success is not technology — it’s already a wonder — but fear. Overseas ministers of education fear that changing the status quo might risk their jobs. Big-name computer makers fear that the XO will steal away an overlooked two-billion-person market. Critics fear that the poorest countries need food, malaria protection and clean water far more than computers.

(The founder, Nicholas Negroponte’s, response: “Nobody I know would say, “By the way, let’s hold off on education.’ Education happens to be a solution to all of those same problems.”)

But the XO deserves to overcome those fears. Despite all the obstacles and doubters, O.L.P.C. has come up with a laptop that’s tough and simple enough for hot, humid, dusty locales; cool enough to keep young minds engaged, both at school and at home; and open, flexible and collaborative enough to support a million different teaching and learning styles.

It’s a technological breakthrough, for sure. Now let’s just hope it breaks through the human barriers.

Watch David Pogue video review of the XO here.

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Krushchev son says threats can be used in a positive or negative way

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Posted on 3rd October 2007 by Judy Breck in Mobile Learning

sergei khrushchev sputnik

Those of us who remember the launch of Sputnik, 50 years ago this week, know it set America on a new course in education. What was instantly felt as a blow to the leadership of the USA launched a revival of science and technology teaching in the schools. Educators recognized that they were responsible to a new young generation that needed to be prepared to compete with and surpass Soviet science and technology.

The picture above is of young Sergei Khrushchev, Soviet dictator Nikita’s son, flanked by cosmonauts Valentina Tereshkova and Yuri Gagarin, 1963. It is on loan from Sergei Khrushchev’s personal collection to the website of Brown University where he now teaches.

A story this week in Space Daily — prompted by the Sputnik anniversary — includes observations by Sergei Khrushchev, who is a year older than I am. I remember too, and agree with what he says:

On October 4, 1957, the shiny, 58-centimeter (23-inch) spherical satellite beamed its now famous distorted beeps back to earth, announcing the start of man’s conquest of space.

The next day, the official Soviet newspaper Pravda gave Sputnik a few lines.

The space launch was at first perceived as just another breakthrough in Soviet technology, said the son of Krushchev, who ruled from 1953-1964.

“It was proving that we were on the right road” technologically, he said.

For the United States, instead, Sputnik boosted awareness about the challenge of space at the height of the Cold War, Sergei Krushchev said.

“It was a wakeup call for the US,” he said. “All threats are creating this paranoia that can be used in a positive or negative way. The fear after Sputnik was used in a positive way, with consequences on education.”

In its effort to win the space race, the United States revised academic programs and increased funding for the study of science and a presidential advisor for sciences was appointed. Eventually, in July 1958, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) came into being.

“It was no space race with the USSR, it was an American race with itself,” Sergei Kruschchev said.

I propose that educators today thus far are not using a blossoming paranoia in a positive way: they don’t want even to see at school the mobiles that students in today’s young generation almost all now have in their pockets. This failure to notice a fundamental of the future is particularly thoroughgoing in the USA and other traditional education cultures. Banning mobile phones from classrooms is like trying to reach the moon with propeller driven aircraft. Educators need to wakeup to the potential role of the mobiles in the highest quality learning ever known that lies ahead. Educators need to invent mobile learning or those young people for whom they are responsible will not finish well in the race for learning.

Boston Public Library Consortium choose open digitizing

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Posted on 1st October 2007 by Judy Breck in Open Content

In an announcement last week, Boston Public Library President Bernard Margolis said that in choosing book-scanning by the Open Content Alliance, “we are doing what libraries are supposed to do.” The announcement explains:

The Boston Library Consortium, Inc. (BLC) today announced a major partnership with the Open Content Alliance (OCA) to “build a freely accessible library of digital materials from all 19 member institutions.” With the move, the BLC becomes the first large-scale consortium to embark on such a self-funded digitization project with the OCA. The effort will draw on the vast collective resources of the BLC members to make “high-resolution, downloadable, reusable files of public domain materials,” using Internet Archive technology, for roughly ten cents a page. The scanning center for the BLC/OCA partnership is located at the Boston Public Library (BPL).

The announcement comes shortly after OCA founder Brewster Kahle told Library Journal that Boston Public Library officials had chosen not to pursue the chance to participate in commercial projects, choosing instead to work with OCA. “Revolutions aren’t started by majorities,” Kahle said. “They come from leaders who see things that need to be done. Boston Public Library, for example, has been courted by Google, but it has said it is going to remain open.”

Doron Weber, program director, Universal Access to Recorded Knowledge, at the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, a financial supporter of the OCA since its inception, also praised the BLC. “Unlike corporate-backed efforts by Google, Microsoft, Amazon et al, which all impose different, albeit understandable, levels of restriction,” Weber said, “the BLC has shown libraries all across the country the right way to take institutional responsibility and manage this historic transition to a universal digital archive that serves the needs of scholars, researchers and the general public without compromise.” BPL President Bernard Margolis said, succinctly, “we are doing what libraries are supposed to do.”
Full announcement

Via Chronicle of Higher Education

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