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My first 28 cents

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Posted on 31st December 2008 by Judy Breck in Networks

Yesterday, I activated Google AdSense on my blogs. Today I am $0.28 richer. Not bad for a one-day run on New Year’s Eve, of websites about education study subjects. This is a bit of history for me, since I have not had ads before. It is my first 28 cents, and it will be taxable in 2008. The amount for 2009 is completely conjecture tonight.

Nonetheless, I wanted to share with the good folks who read my blog, my genuine pleasure at being a little bit richer.

The outlier creating power of mobiles

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Posted on 30th December 2008 by Judy Breck in Connective Expression and Mobile Learning

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Today on NRO, Thomas Sowell reviews Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers. As the subtitle states, the book is “The story of success.” Sowell writes that: “The theme running through this book is that spectacular individual achievements — outliers — are not simply a matter of personal merit but come out of a background of special circumstances that enable outstanding individual ability to lead to performances far beyond the norm.”

Sowell also makes this comment:

One of the most inspiring chapters in Outliers is about a KIPP charter school serving minority students, whose academic performances far exceed those of other minority students, even though these students were selected by lottery, rather than on the basis of ability.

A lot could be done to support and expand such schools. . . .

But there is more happening — something very hopeful, and likely to already be nudging new outliers This time minority kids are not at a disadvantage.

My guess (passion) is that having the internet in a pocket is a brain power boost that is creating the the next decade’s smartest twenty-somethings. By the decade after that, hand-held knowledge input will have made significant knowledge acquisition no longer outlierish.

Usually still, schools discourage the independence that knowledge-in-my-pocket gives kids. A lot could be done to get schools to recognize and encourage the new knowledge tool. The serendipity for minority students in using the internet on their individual mobile devices is that the machines are incapable of prejudice. When you use the internet on your mobile, the little machine has no idea what color you are or who is your daddy.

Doing learning on the bus

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Posted on 29th December 2008 by Judy Breck in Mobile Learning and Networks

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The Wall Street Journal lead tech story today is headlined: Internet Access Turns School Buses Into Rolling Classrooms. The note on the picture tells us: “A program providing wireless Internet access on buses enables high-school senior Ethan Clement to do classwork online during long rides to and from school in rural Arkansas, and offers her advanced classes and far-flung mentors.”

The tipping point toward mobile learning is coming closer, but inertia lingers. It is interesting that the following section from the WSJ story excuses dropouts so easily — letting the fault be a bumpy bus.

In any event, for Ms. Clement, connecting is smoothing a road into science:

The project, known as the Aspirnaut Initiative, gives some high-performing students laptops or video iPods and sets them up with online courses and educational videos during their long bus rides to and from school — a round trip that often starts before dawn and ends after dark.

A number of participants have dropped out, unable to focus on studying as the bus bumps along gravel roads. But for students such as Ethan, the Aspirnaut Initiative has opened new worlds. The two college professors who run the program have become her mentors. For the first time, she said, she feels confident that she can aspire to a career in science. “It’s not just for big-city people with good connections,” she said.


Quick tour of CERN particle physics

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Posted on 29th December 2008 by Judy Breck in Subject Sampler

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A little tour narrated by quarking ducks introduces CERN with an interactive show: “Particle Physics – A Keyhole to the Birth of Time.” The duck show is part of CERN’s website which describes Europe’s collaborative work in particle physics. CERN is the home of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), which is expected to make fundamental physics discoveries possible in 2009. The quick tour by the ducks is a good way to get started in following LHC in the new year.

Library of Congress Flickr pilot scores crowd sourcing success

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Posted on 28th December 2008 by Judy Breck in Emerging Online Knowledge, Golden Age of Learning and Open Content

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In January 2008 the Library of Congress loaded a few thousand images into Flickr and asked the user community to place tags and give comments. It was an experiment to see how crowdsourcing “might enhance the quality of the information we are able to provide about our collections, while also finding innovative ways to get those collections out to people who might have an avid interest in them.” These words are from a post on the Library of Congress Blog.

This is a top-tier experiment in open content online, and a powerful illustration of the value of open input into content resources.

The LOC’s blog is written by Matt Raymond, the Library’s Director of Communications, who says in the post reported here that “we’ve been bowled over by the response” to the crowdsourcing project. The post links to a full report and summary of LOC/Flickr project pilot. Raymond’s overview says,in part:

Milestone for Library’s Flickr Pilot

Only nine months into the Library of Congress’ pilot project placing Library photos on the Web site Flickr, the photos have drawn more than 10 million views, 7,166 comments and more than 67,000 tags, according to a new report from the project team overseeing the lively project.

“The popularity and impact of the pilot have been remarkable,” said Michelle Springer, project manager for digital initiatives in the Office of Strategic Initiatives, who said total views reached 10 million in October. The site is averaging 500,000 views a month, she said, adding that Flickr members have marked 79 percent of the photos as “favorites.”

The report recommends that the Library of Congress continue to participate in The Commons and explore other Web 2.0 communities.

The pilot launched early this year.

The report details how the Flickr project has increased awareness of collections in the Library’s Prints and Photographs Division and sparked creative interaction with them. It has also given Library staff experience in social tagging and Web 2.0 community input and cast the Library in a leadership role for other cultural and government communities exploring Web 2.0 possibilities.

Yelling “Get a horse!” is old hat

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Posted on 27th December 2008 by Judy Breck in Networks and Open Content

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The image on the right above shows my Grandfather Louis Merrick Breck in 1907, driving what my Dad, his son, remembered was El Paso, Texas’ 17th automobile. It was a fine Pope Toledo. The image at the left shows the Brecks a generation earlier when my Grandfather was a boy — when it took a horse to move a carraige.

The Pope Toledo that was my Grandfather’s pride and joy was noisy, bumpy, slow, not very well-protected in bad weather, and received quite a few “Get a horse!” jeers from sidewalks and wagons. I would argue, though, that the kind of change an individual’s education is undergoing had already happened for personal transportation by the time my Grandfather was sporting his Pope Toledo.

For transportation the change was from horses to the motor: you still had the carriage but the power source was fundamentally different. The coolest green hybrids coming off the automoblie assembly lines of the future will still be powered by motors, not horses.

For education the fundamental change we have now gone through is from scattered resources to networked: you still have the facts, skills, ideas to be learned, but now they are interconnected. The 3Rs, humanities, sciences, technologies learned through the future’s coolest devices and grandest social networks will all be connected in cognitive patterns.

As motors took over powering carriages, networking powers learning resources. Yelling “Get a horse!” was old hat. Doing unconnected education is old hat today.

Particle physics in simple terms

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Posted on 25th December 2008 by Judy Breck in Physics and Subject Sampler

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Subatomic road map

Quarked Adventures in the Subatomic Universe teaches particle physics in simple terms. There are games and other activities for small children, but the Subatomic Universe Roadmap and the Glossary integrated with the map are an excellent introductory primer for anyone on the subatomic structure of the world around us and the cosmos.

A more extensive glossary can be found at the CERN ATLAS experimental site.

New Scientist Best videos of 2008

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Posted on 25th December 2008 by Judy Breck in Emerging Online Knowledge and Open Content

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The New Scientist page of Best videos of 2008 page features a compiled video of the Top 5 for the year. The #1 video is the first ever video footage of human ovulation. The rat neuron robot video was another of my favorites. Other winners are an ancient calculator, traffic jam analysis, and very deep sea feeding.

Mistletoe Meds go back at least to Hippocrates

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Posted on 24th December 2008 by Judy Breck in Open Content

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In a seasonally appropriate report, Discovery News describes the healing powers of mistletoe. In addition to whatever Christmas kisses under the plant contribute to well being, the European Journal of Integrative Medicine reports a lot of good can be done by mistletoe in other ways:

Over the course of a few decades, cancer patients who added mistletoe preparations to their standard therapies lived an average of half a year longer. The two related studies, conducted by different teams, found that other cancer patients, including individuals suffering from pancreatic cancer, experienced reduced drug reactions, could better withstand chemotherapy, and had prolonged remission periods with the added fermented mistletoe preparations.

Ziegler explained that, “mistletoe is an old medical drug in Europe, particularly in Germany, and goes back at least to Hippocrates.”

“The exact mechanism of its (healing) actions are not known,” she said, adding that prior studies, both on animals and in the lab, have indicated it curbs the growth of cancerous tumors.

Holiday celebrants, however, should never just munch on mistletoe, as-is. Reports are mixed concerning the possible toxicity of the American version of the plant. While Ziegler says, “Viscum album preparations are extremely well tolerated,” patients should consult their doctors before taking any such treatment.

Cheetah kiss demos internet zooming into reality

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Posted on 23rd December 2008 by Judy Breck in Animals, Emerging Online Knowledge, Golden Age of Learning and Networks

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The image of the baby cheetah accepting a puppy playmate is a remarkable peek into the world of animal conservation. As the Cincinnati Zoo blogger tells us:

Had to highlight this one shot out of the group. This is THE moment! Nose-to-nose greeting, no stress. Even a little cheetah lick to a puppy’s nose. Then it turned to play immediately in Tommy T and Pow Wow’s world. Success!

Cheetah Days is a blog that is following three little cheetahs as they grow up under the knowledgeable affection of a team of zoo scientists and keepers. The meeting of the cheetah Tommy T and puppy Pow Wow was featured today on ZooBorns.com where online visitors are treated to pictures of babies of many species born in zoos around the world. Along with the pictures is a great deal of animal science and conservation information provided by the experts in animals who manage the zoos and write the blogs.

UPDATE: More pictures, and watch the meeting on video.

Molecule movie enriches emergent education

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Posted on 22nd December 2008 by Judy Breck in Biology

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This little still image is a piece of an animated gif in which you can see a single myosin molecule undergo a conformational change in real time. This little movie of a very little piece of reality is on the Biocurious biophysics blog in a post by blogger Andre Brown, a PhD student at the University of Pennsylvania.

Little pieces of knowledge showcased by experts are the gold of the internet swamp — nodes available for emergent patterns of ideas that are the rich resources of emergent education.

Listen to Lessig lucidity on copyright and remix

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Posted on 21st December 2008 by Judy Breck in Connective Expression, Golden Age of Learning, Networks and Open Content

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This video of a December 12, 2008 talk by Lawrence Lessig is 50 minutes long, and I found the time spent amply rewarded. The video is the best explanation I have ever lasted through (the subject can be sleep inducing) of the issues around copyright, remixing, piracy — and several related issues. Larry Lessig’s lucidity in itself is always enjoyable. He is a clarifier and wise advocate of openness and rights in the new era of digital communication. He is doing important explaining on behalf of the generation now children.

Reindeer flotation and gender of Santa’s reindeer

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Posted on 20th December 2008 by Judy Breck in Emerging Online Knowledge


Learn a lot about the key Christmas Ungulate at the University of Alaska Reindeer Research Program website. Major sections include meat science, range management nutrition, animal health, radio and satellite telemetry — all fields with important futures for the generation now most interested in reindeer for their services to Santa Claus.

The drawing of the floating reindeer is from the Reindeer Research Program’s fun and educational slideshow. In a related area of inquiry, Yahoo! News has this article: Wildlife experts ponder gender of Santa’s reindeer.

Why it is unacceptable for online learning content not to be connected

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Posted on 19th December 2008 by Judy Breck in Networks, Open Content and Uncategorized

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What follows is THE BEST story I have ever heard illustrating why only openly connected learning content is cognitively robust online. Regrettably, there are valuable collections in walled gardens at Britannica, the Wall Street Journal, and many universities, libraries, and journals. It was fabulous when the New York Times made all its content open and connectible. It is a shame that Nature does not do so.

The following is a story Murray Gell-Mann tells in The Quark and The Jaguar (p. 21). The point it makes applies to the wasteful failure to offer cognitive richness that occurs when online content is not connected. The conversation took place in the 1950s.

The late, great Hungarian-American physicist Leo Szilard invited a colleague and me to attend an international meeting on arms control. My colleague, “Murph” Goldberger (later president of Caltech and then director of the Institute of Advanced Study in Princeton), replied that he could attend only the second half of the meeting. Leo turned to me, and I said that I could attend only the first half. Murph and I then asked if we could share an invitation. Leo thought for a moment and then told us, “No, it is no good; your neurons are not interconnected.”

Sony PSP delivered 25 million page views last month

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Posted on 19th December 2008 by Judy Breck in Mobile Learning

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In this interesting MobHappy post, Russell Buckley gives this breakdown of mobile surfing devices:

In the US, 8% of all such pages are served over wifi, which is a pretty impressive figure and has increased by 5% since August – so we’re seeing fast growth of the trend. But for iPhone, this figure rises to an amazing 42%.

In the UK, the stat is also 8% for total usage and a staggering 56% from the iPhone.

In both markets, the iPod Touch is the second biggest device for consumption of mobile web pages, beating the Nokia N95 into third place in the UK and the Sony PlayStation Portable in the US. Yes, that means that 25 million page views were viewed last month on a PSP.

The last sentence in the quote reminds us that there are more devices than mobile phones out there being used by individuals to access the internet. It is a fair guess that most of those using PSP are student aged. These devices could be used for learning from internet knowledge pages.

I used to rant in this blog, saying that kids already had mobile devices in their pockets, and that we needed to make those devices into good ones for accessing the internet. As the statistics above make plain, the whole internet is now right in their hands.