My SmartMobs.com blog team colleague Marius Chitosca has posted a piece to day titled: Global Text Project – free education for the disadvantaged. He explains the mechanisms and goals of the project, which is based at the University of Georgia. For those interested in open publishing in education, Marius’ post is well worth reading.
In recent weeks, as GoldenSwamp has been undergoing development, I have been sporadic in posting the Carnivals of the Mobilists. That will be corrected from now on. All of the Carnivals are here. The latest is Carnival of the Mobilists #101 at Martin’s Mobile Technology Page.
I have done a 180 degree turn concerning education woes: I think the perfect storm already hit education, decades ago. Now lovely lights twinkle on the horizon and golden days of learning lie ahead. This and future Golden Swamp posts will develop this new Golden Learning theme and category.
We begin with an article about The Million program proposed by David Droga last week at Advertising Age’s Idea Conference in New York. This is the crux of the approach, from an Advertising Age article about the Droga proposal:
Mr. Droga — a self-professed “advertising man” — looked beyond his field. “We went back to [the Department of Education] with a technology idea wrapped around advertising.”
The result is The Million program. Referring to the amount of students in the New York City public school system, the program involves giving away free mobile phones packed with learning tools such as a thesaurus, spell checks and an extra-help tip line to each student. The more a student uses these learning applications, the more rewards — discounts for movies, sneakers, clothes and music downloads, as well as air-time minutes and text messages — are unlocked. Additional incentives for achievement and attendance, including congratulatory voice-mail messages from, say, Derek Jeter or a wake-up call from Jay-Z, are also planned.
“What’s cooler than the iPhone is something that has almost as many applications but is free,” Mr. Droga said. In addition, the phone’s exclusive nature — only public-school students will be able to reap the benefits of it — may drive up the “badge factor,” adding to its appeal.
Naturally, there’ll be room for brands to latch onto the cause. The hardware provider, based on the video Mr. Droga showed at the conference, appears to be Motorola, though he wouldn’t confirm it. He also declined to name the service provider that’s been chosen. There’ll also be some room for advertising on the phone. After all, the phones, while provided for free to the students, won’t be completely without cost. As such, marketers will be able to infiltrate the students’ world through “responsible” sponsorships.
The pivotal value for learning that providing these phones to students would achieve is not even mentioned above. Thesauruses, spell checks and tips have important learning value. But the mobiles that the students would possess would also-and this is THE BIG ALSO-open up the Internet to them in their hands.
What only months ago was a negative in mobile learning-that walled gardens would let only elite students benefit-is wonderfully changed by The Million project approach set in the venue of more powerfully broadband mobiles. Learning applications built into handsets can vary, and provide ways for ads to fund them-while the handset itself will open the One Web Internet global knowledge commons to the student in whose hand it is held.
This landmark achievement is hosted by Abhishek Tiwari. Drop by to click into the best mobile blog posts of the week. As mobile muscles flex – taking prominence in more and more venues in coming months – the Carnival of the Mobilists rolls on. It is a great guide to mobile developments and news, written by bloggers who are making the developments and the news.
Speaking at the Mobile Internet World conference in Boston, Tim Berners-Lee described the mobile initiative at W3C, which he heads, had announced a new W3C developer tool for testing website/mobile device compatibility. An article from Technology Review reports Sir Tim’s speech:
The overarching goal of the initiative, according to Berners-Lee, is to keep content available regardless of the devices available to a person. “I like being able to choose my hardware separately from choosing my software, and separately from choosing my content,” Berners-Lee said at the conference. There needs to be just one Web, he explained, and it needs to work on phones.
Many websites are far from Berners-Lee’s vision. Some developers don’t have websites that work with mobile devices and don’t make mobile versions of their sites, seeing this as an added technical headache. For developers who do want their websites to be available everywhere, a common practice is to build special versions of sites for mobile devices, with pared-down features and, sometimes, content.
In some parts of the world, the mobile phone is the primary way that people access the Internet, and content should be available to those people as much as it is to people using a desktop computer. The system doesn’t work well for those in wealthier nations, either. Users with devices such as the iPhone want to be able to access sites from their mobile device at the full capability that the iPhone has, says Matt Womer, the W3C’s mobile-Web-initiative lead for North America. Users don’t want to see a pared-down site.
On the other hand, Womer notes that mobile-device users shouldn’t be forced to download large images or be redirected to several different pages, since users pay by the kilobyte.
A front page article in the New York Times today includes these new findings from “landmark studies”:
“One [study] concluded that kindergartners who are identified as troubled do as well academically as their peers in elementary school. The other found that children with attention deficit disorders suffer primarily from a delay in brain development, not from a deficit or flaw.”
The lockstep grades and standards of the schools we now have are inflexible against the remedies these findings suggest. What the studies are saying is all children are not ready to learn at the same time.
The above image is from a discussion in a book I wrote about How We Will Learn in the 21st Century. Under the system we are used to “looking at the boy and the ruler above” we would expect him to learn “Animal Names” in the second grade. If his brain had not matured by second grade to the point where he could do this learning task, his frustration could vent in bad behavior. Online knowledge resources are not divided into sequences; they are distributed in linked natural networks of meaning. A child bored with “Animal Names” in the second grade can explore into more complex topics. Later maturers can move at any time through the networks to catch-up on what they might have missed when they were younger.
An article in Locus Online is a concise explanation of Creative Commons and of the expanding copyright creative paralysis that led to the need for CC. Think of this question: why can’t we remix Mickey Mouse and other aging Disney properties when, as Doctorow writes: “think of how Walt Disney was able to adapt works by Lewis Carroll and Washington Irving without permission or payment” ?
Now developing is a division of Creative Commons called ccLearn whose mission of relevance to the ideas of Golden Swamp is: to minimize barriers to sharing and reuse of educational materials, legal barriers, technical barriers, and social barriers.
The image on left is also a more general model for the way knowledge and ideas emerge from the Internet. A student attempting to learn about, for example the Cathedral of Notre Dame, is no longer limited to a pre-cast summary in a textbook or printed encyclopedia. The student can assemble facts, opinions and stories about the famed cathedral until the model she ends up recreating and learning is far more accurate, detailed and current than her pre-Internet sources would have been.
The Dallas Morning News reports this week: Grand Prairie schools welcome iPods in classrooms. The news story describes fifth graders who are reinforcing physics lessons by setting them to music on devices their school district paid $73,114 to provide to them:
“This is tech generation. So, when we think of instructing students, we have to think of different ways of teaching,” said Whitt’s principal, Alisha Crumley. “To get their attention in class, we have to keep up.”
Ms. Chavez created her latest hit using GarageBand, Apple’s software that allows users to record, edit and mix their own song.
“My kids are jamming out to science,” she said. “It’s so much more fun than taking notes in a book. Come TAKS time, they’re going to be singing that song.”
Ms. Chavez said her next song might be a takeoff on Joan Jett’s “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll.” She’ll call it “I Love Rocks and Solids.”
This is exactly the opposite of the approach of the Mayor of New York and others who spend money and time taking handheld devices away from students. Go figure . . .
As I explain on a page you can click to here, I chose the name “GoldenSwamp” as my home on the Internet because, to put it informally: the Internet is a swamp, and it is full of gold. I am convinced that education needs to understand and act upon the nature of the Internet – which is the theme of my blog. As several years have now passed since I made the choice of the GoldenSwamp name, both the swamp character and presence of gold have proven increasingly valid.
In a fascinating post by Stuart Henshall about a keynote speech by David Snowden, these ideas are elaborated. I will not attempt to reinterpret what is said in the post, except to give you these snippets. Think about gold in the swamps that are our brains and the Internet:
. . . Dave Snowden is really focused on how we do the sense-making. He says the human brain doesn’t make decision on the basis of a rational ordered process. People scan at most 2 to 8 percent of what they view and then the first patterns they see they lock into.
So if I go to extreme fragmentation and a loose adaptive contextual framework then I can create a more flexible adaptive system
This snippet explains why I am building the new learnodes.com blog:
The brains makes sense based on fragments.. Blogs are closer to the way our brains are supposed to work. Ergo! If you don’t have a blog strategy you don’t have a chance at a knowledge strategy. If you don’t have a knowledge strategy you don’t stand a chance of getting out of the cell you have constrained yourself to!
The Chronicle of Higher Education’s news brief on The Wired Campus has a report today titled Social Networks Let Scholars Remix Their Articles. The article mentions 3 networks, including Pronetos Professor’s Network, which describes itself as follows:
Pronetos is the social network for scholars.
It is a home for University Faculty, Graduate Students, and Research Professionals of every academic discipline who want to be recognized as leaders in their field.
Pronetos gives you a platform to network and collaborate with your colleagues all over the world.
With Pronetos you have a forum for building ideas, a place to keep up with the latest trends and topics in your field, and the ability to nurture your professional legacy.
The biker above is a piece of an image from a group of winners in a Creative Commons China Photo Content competition. A ceremony was held this week in the National Library in Beijing, as reported by Joi Ito who attended the event. The full image in which the biker appear is here.
I am struck by the symbolism in the full image of the Chinese biker crossing the bridge from isolation of recent decades into the global digital creative commons. That’s a beautiful thing.
Over the summer I have served as guest editor for a special issue of Educational Technology magazine on the theme of Opening Educational Resources. This issue has been mailed to the print subscribers, and is not available thus far online. The publisher has given me permission to reprint the article I wrote that is included in the issue and you can read here: When Educational Resources Are Open, by Judy Breck.
There is something of a multi-faceted flap underway, as reported this afternoon in the New York Times, that has come up yet again publicly because word of a proposal under consideration slipped out from a class at Harvard. The proposal would be to give cellphones to kids who excel academically (but no mention of using the phones for education). Yet another wrinkle has thus emerged to the controversy in the New York public schools about cellphones. I have worked as outside staff and a volunteer for nearly 30 years with these schools, which form the largest system in the world — so I know something about them. My opinion is informed; I think cellphones can help students big time.
The current cell phone brouhaha in New York schools goes like this:
The students virtually all have cellphones in their pockets,
Many parents see the phones as important for their keeping in touch with their children and for their children’s general safety.
School regulations forbid students to have cellphones on school premises because some of the kids use them as distractions and, it is said, worse.
And, to quote the Times story today: “The ban has been attacked by parents and politicians, who call it a draconian policy that endangers students. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who would have to approve . . . , has repeatedly refused to budge on the ban despite the outcries.”
Without trying to sort out the issues here, I will simply recommend today’s NYT article as something to read (and weep) to catch up on how things are going in the world’s largest school system.”
Against the backdrop of the cellphone flap, the article sketches some pieces from something else related to the pervasive troubles in the New York public schools: racism. Harvard economist Professor Roland G. Fryer is the fellow who has proffered the idea of rewarding good schoolwork with cellphones. His home page at Harvard points visitors to the website of the American Inequality Lab that he heads, from which I took the above image of the Robert Taylor Homes in Chicago. What a great place that lab is! And it includes suggestions for how we can get involved.
All of the above jells for me into this question: Why not use the cellphones as devices to learn and teach and solve several of the flap-facets at once? The phone in a kid’s pocket is an individual device, and using it individually and/or privately to learn does not raise inequality issues — it empowers without group influence. The individual emergence of kids who have knowledge holds great hope, and the personal computers that the cellphones are can deliver knowledge in richer and richer doses with every passing month. It has been endlessly frustrating through my 30-year experience for schools to attempt to educate flocks of children from projects like the Robert Taylor Homes: it keeps not happening. It is a very real hope to imagine individual youngsters in these places using their cellphones to practice vocabulary on a project like FREE Rice (if only educators would put stuff like that on cellphones and assign using them to students).
Why don’t the schools use the cell phones to deliver education?
BTW: I usually call the devices under discussion here mobiles, but since cellphones is what they are called in NY schools, I used that term in this post.