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Kids do not know SEO

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Posted on 31st January 2008 by Judy Breck in Golden Age of Learning

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Yesterday I made a presentation to a group of about 30 gifted teenagers (15-19 year-olds) about opportunities blogging and the burgeoning search engine optimization (SEO) field offered them now and in the future. I explained how they could make money writing blog posts, and that doing so in high school and college was a very effective way to hone their writing talent and build a skill they could use in many ways throughout their lives.

To introduce the SEO discussion, I quoted an email I received this week from a colleague in the open education efforts: “I have been connecting with friends in Silicon Valley that have knowledge of SEO gurus. Given the enormous economic impact of an optimized site, hot SEO people are among the highest compensated folks in the web-industry these days.” The kids were amazed. Only a couple of them had heard of search engine optimization.

I had begun the talk by telling the group that the book in the picture I was projecting on the screen we were looking at was my textbook from 1958, the year I graduated from college. I explained that I have kept the book because in terms of what has happened in biology in the past 50 years, the book is now quite quaint: it does not mention DNA.

For the young people in my audience, SEO is apparently in the same state of obscurity as DNA was when I was their age. In 1958, Crick and Watson had discovered the double helix and the genetic coding method it held for replicating life. Biologists have worked through the half century since to understand the new science of genetics and to implement its powers. In 1958 the huge implications we now know of DNA were barely hinted.

Can it be that the network structures over which search is being optimized as the 21st century method of commerce and communication are discoveries as important as DNA was? I think they are. The challenge for educators is to understand the new network science and to implement its powers for learning.

Using SEO for education means optimizing open education resources (OER) so the search engines can find them when students look for what they want to learn. Just because kids are early adopters of computers, we cannot assume they should have to figure out SEO for learning resources. They don’t yet know what that is, best I can tell.

Morning in Education


Posted on 29th January 2008 by Judy Breck in Schools We Have Now

Although I make a point in writing for not to use this as a political pulpit, this morning I cannot resist commenting on the Presidential Primaries. It was actually reading a New York Times story about President Bush’s State of the Union address that prompted this post. Called “Camelot ‘08 Overshadows Bush Speech,” the story included these observations of the President’s attitude:

There was nothing mournful or valedictory about Mr. Bush’s delivery of his seventh State of the Union address, a speech that acknowledged, however briefly, that the economy is in trouble. Mr. Bush, looking fresh and rested, made a point of sounding good-humored as he delivered less-than-glowing news.

At times, it seemed as if Mr. Bush was determined to turn the clock back before his presidency and his father’s, as if to reclaim, one last time, the mantle of Ronald Reagan.

As the recent endorsements of Barack Obama by Ted and Caroline Kennedy have set primary coverage buzzing, optimism and melancholy for good times are the big story line for politics this morning. Sadly, in the past couple of weeks Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I have a dream” version of the optimism of morning and happy synergy of Camelot has been clouded by some folks not capable of dreams beyond their own ambition.

As we attempt to understand and guide education into a very changed digital and networked future let us understand that Reagan, JFK and King show us a valid strength. “The great communicator” Ronald Reagan’s words are the most simple and powerful: Morning in Education. We can understand what that will be through the Camelot model of the Kennedys. No one has set the path more clearly than Dr. King with his “I have a dream” vision.

Poppycock? Too optimistic? Education has problems too dark for morning to shine in. Schools are no Camelot. Kids cheat and cannot be trusted. Children cannot overcome bad things that happen at home. Teaching is more a discipline challenge than passing along knowledge. Meeting minimal standards is a victory for kids; they are not as able to achieve as we were in the old days.

There is a habit by a lot of people of thinking and saying these negative things, and effectively giving up on fixing education. Yet there is nothing as effective in keeping things the way they are as saying: “Nothing can be changed.” The status quo and those invested in it are powerfully protected.

It really is now “Morning in Education.” The coming of digital technologies and the global open Internet have made it impossible to learn only in the digital dark, to be excluded very much longer from the new Camelot commons of open education, and not to catch the dream of the dawning golden age of learning.

Our grand optimists do not give us poppycock. They provide our first peek into good new days as they are arriving.

Peer-review will now be reviewed by bloggers


Posted on 23rd January 2008 by Judy Breck in Open Content and Uncategorized

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Since almost the earliest days of the Internet, education establishment voices have complained that open online education risked a pot full of faulty materials. They have routinely cautioned students against false online information and used this mistrust as a fundamental reason not to embrace the Internet in teaching and learning, or at least to do so skeptically.

Today a new project that launched online, BPR3 Bloggers for Peer-Reviewed Research Reporting, is a means for the pot to keep up with what is going on in the kettle, and to point it out when black smudge takes the shine off of the kettle. BPR2 identifies itself as: . . . the news blog for, which strives to identify serious academic blog posts about peer-reviewed research with an aggregation site where others can look to find the best academic blogging on the Net.

BPR3 is using the open Internet to review peer-review. Founder Dave Munger explains why it is being launched:

The system of peer review, the bulwark of academic publishing, has served scholars for centuries. The principle behind the system is simple: If experts in a field find a research report noteworthy, then that report deserves to be published.

But who is an “expert”? And who decides who the experts are? . . . .

A Wired Campus report on BPR3 says:

The idea, writes co-creator Dave Munger, is to allow researchers to learn about new peer-reviewed research without relying on press releases or news reports.

Each post itself is peer-reviewed — registered bloggers on can report post that don’t fall in line with the site’s guidelines.

This, evidently, is part of the growing effort to ease communication in the research community, à la Big Think.

It seems likely that good results will occur here, as so often when the best of analog and online learning work together. The pot and the kettle can will keep a virtual eye on each other.

Geotagging is very, very cool pedagogically


Posted on 19th January 2008 by Judy Breck in Mobile & Ubiquitous

Putting together geotagging for learning content with the GPS enable mobile devices students have offers rich potential for learning. The Associated Press has a report today on how geotagging is emerging for online photos. The report explains:

. . . the growing number of uses for geotagging, which is largely practiced by tech-savvy and professional photographers but is likely to expand. Global positioning is becoming omnipresent as more cell phones and digital cameras have built-in GPS support.

”It’s something that will become integral to the way digital imaging works,” said Aimee Baldridge, a New York-based writer and photographer who tracks trends with digital imaging. ”I think it’s definitely headed for the mainstream.”

If a picture is worth a thousand words, a picture with geotagging can add a few hundred more.

Educators should be jumping on this potential as geotagging takes hold. In the future, images students learn from can be digitally linked to myriad materials from the same geographical location. A student can also use her mobile phone or camera to record images that have their geographical location embedded in them. That will bring very broad new dimensions to the classic classroom activity of “show and tell.”

More profoundly, it will build the ability of small pieces of knowledge to call up their own context, which is very, very cool pedagogically.

Imagining today’s teen as an apprentice to Thomas Edison


Posted on 18th January 2008 by Judy Breck in Schools We Have Now

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How much could today’s teen learn by working in Thomas Edison’s lab? A new report from the Lemelson-MIT Invention Index says: “A vast majority of teens (79 percent) believe there is value in hands-on, project-based science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education and learning in high school.”

Even fairly late in the 20th century hands-on lab experience meant working in a place that still looked much like Edison’s laboratories. Even fairly late in the 20th century, teens learned much of their science hands-on in brick and mortar labs at school or on apprenticeships.

Edison’s laboratory had no computers, no Internet access to information and no real-time collaboration. His references came from books and letters. You will think of other differences. Have we switched our viewpoint away from idealizing a school lab as something like Edison’s was?

Today’s teens have computers in their pockets, do not remember the pre-Internet days, and collaborate throughout the day in real time. Only at school are they primarily required to use books to find information. You will think of other ways today’s teens are different from those of us who felt we were in touch with the real world when we had created a chemical reaction in a test tube on a school lab table.

On the Edison National Historic Site page where the above picture is found, the legend under the picture reads: “Thomas Edison always maintained that chemistry was his favorite science, and chemistry was indeed integral to most of the laboratory’s work.” Educators need to figure out what a lab would look like today for a gifted young inventor with the potential of a Thomas Edison. A teen Edison today would surely stand proudly among devices to access the virtual world for information and virtual experimentation.

We must be sure our 20th century minds are released from idealizing old Tom Edison’s lab before we can think freshly about what today’s teens need to nurture their inventive gifts.

A big step toward golden swamp driven research


Posted on 15th January 2008 by Judy Breck in Mobile Learning

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Adrift. Dysfunctional. Desperately needing a change. These words begin a Chronicle of Higher Education report called “Strains and Joys Color Mergers Between Libraries and Tech Units.” The article describes merging library and tech as the fix toward the desperately need change. From the perspective of the new information swamp, research needs to be served by connecting the nodes of pertinent information (gold) to each other and to the individual doing the research. The article describes what seems to be a big step in that direction. Here is some of what it says, describing what is being done at Xavier University in Cincinnati:

The solution was to scrap traditional library and technology units in favor of one with librarians and technology experts working side by side, responding to students’ needs for immediate, round-the-clock access to electronic data and interactive Web applications.

A $28-million building called the Learning Commons will be erected to house the organization and serve as a center for various educational programs. Users will be able to get technical help, use multimedia software at any one of a bank of computers, view the library’s online holdings, and have their reference questions answered.

The library, which will be attached to the new building, is being refashioned as simply a warehouse for books.

Xavier is among at least three dozen colleges that have taken the drastic step of merging their library and technology departments. The mergers are happening at small liberal-arts colleges after take-charge leaders — usually CIO’s — arrive and see traditional boundaries between library and technology work blurring. Those leaders observe increasing amounts of scholarship being digitized, students doing research online, library books sitting unused, and a constant stream of requests for computer and Web support. They want the flexibility to allocate funds where they are most needed, be it hiring an instructional technologist or purchasing an e-book collection.

Blog posts can be gold in the swamp


Posted on 14th January 2008 by Judy Breck in Emerging Online Knowledge and Golden Age of Learning

Below an entire story from today’s The Wired Campus is quoted.  As the first sentence says, this report is for skeptics about the role blog posts can have in emergent scholarship.

January 14, 2008

Blogs Are Increasingly Venues for Scholarship, Librarians Are Told

For those who are skeptical that blogs can really change the face of publishing and scholarship, consider the case of Reed A. Cartwright. A postdoctoral geneticist at the University of Georgia, Mr. Cartwright posted his random thoughts on a mutant plant gene on his blog in March 2005.

Six months later a plant geneticist at the University California at Davis contacted Mr. Cartwright after reading his post. The California researcher said that he had coincidentally arrived at the same hypothesis offered by Mr. Cartwright, and that he was about to publish his research in Plant Cell. The plant geneticist said he felt obligated to acknowledge Mr. Cartwright’s blog post and offered to make him a co-author of his article. Mr. Cartwright, who is not a plant geneticist, accepted the offer.

A group of librarians at the American Library Association midwinter conference heard that story Saturday from Andre Brown, a doctoral student in physics and astronomy at the University of Pennsylvania. Mr. Brown wanted to impress on the librarians that blogs are increasingly being used by scientific researchers for sharing of ideas and developing new ones. Mr. Brown himself helps run a blog for biophysicists. —Andrea L. Foster

Carnival of the Mobilists #106


Posted on 14th January 2008 by Judy Breck in Carnival of the Mobilists

Drop by the sizzling pink web world of Xellular Identity for this week’s powerful post-packed collection of the best mobile blogging of the week.

Professors using YouTube format is network natural pedagogy

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Posted on 9th January 2008 by Judy Breck in Open Content

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An article in The Chronicle of Higher Education describes the proliferating videos by college professors at YouTube, and the move of colleges and universities toward setting up their own official YouTube channels. The article begins:

Forget Lonelygirl15, YouTube’s 2006 online video phenom. Professors are the latest YouTube stars. The popularity of their appearances on YouTube and other video-sharing sites may end up opening up the classroom and making teaching—which once took place behind closed doors—a more public art.

What’s more, Web video opens a new form of public intellectualism to scholars looking to participate in an increasingly visual culture.

The creation and offering openly online of individual videos is a promising network natural contrast to the e-learning format that has thus far dominated higher education over the Internet years. The standard e-learning model has been thought of as a course, with a curriculum, lessons, resources and instruction. Those sorts of hierarchical content repositionings from the books and paper past are forced and awkward in the online network setting. A piece of a professor’s teaching offered on a video is, by contrast, a perfect node of pedagogy for the open network that is the Internet.

On January 29, The Wired Campus updated this report with more examples.

Junk in the GoldenSwamp may help the best learning links emerge


Posted on 8th January 2008 by Judy Breck in Networks

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Natalie Angier has written an essay in today’s Science Times that has opened a new area of analogy for the GoldenSwamp: viruses are to life something like what questionable webpages are to the online knowledge commons. Educators recoil from the “junk” on the Internet. Angier points out that: “Scientists initially dismissed the viral elements in our chromosomes as so much tagalong ‘junk DNA.’”

virus.jpgWe do not know yet what the evolved Internet will be in terms of how it will organize and interface human knowledge. We do know that Google caused a transitional mutation when it captured the selective choices of users to push superior content. We can say Google’s underlying mechanism is to let users pick out the good stuff from the junk. The effect is that users organize gold within the swamp. Maybe the swampiness is necessary for something like this to be going on: “higher organisms have in fact co-opted viral genes and reworked them into the source code for major biological innovations . . . .”

David Weinberger’s terrific book Everything Is Miscellaneous describes Internet content as looking very much like Balint Zsako‘s illustration (shown with this post) from the Times for the biological virus swamp. The same kind of rules may operate with viruses and the miscellaneousness of Internet content. The result: order out of chaos. An example of a powerful analogy of such a thing for viruses is our own immune system. In the spirit only of provocative analogy, it is fascinating to read from Angier’s article:

Yet viruses have not only taken; they have also repaid us in ways we are just beginning to tally. “Viral elements are a large part of the genetic material of almost all organisms,” said Dr. Sharp, who won a Nobel Prize for elucidating details of our genetic code. Base for nucleic base, he said, “we humans are well over 50 percent viral.”

Scientists initially dismissed the viral elements in our chromosomes as so much tagalong “junk DNA.” But more recently some researchers have proposed that higher organisms have in fact co-opted viral genes and reworked them into the source code for major biological innovations, according to Luis P. Villarreal, director of the Center for Virus Research at the University of California, Irvine.

Some genes involved in the growth of the mammalian placenta, for example, have a distinctly viral character, as do genes underlying the recombinant powers of our adaptive immune system — precisely the part that helps us fight off viruses.

In fact, it may well have been through taking genomic tips from our viral tormentors that we became so adept at keeping them at bay.

“Our bodies spontaneously recover from viruses more so than overwhelming bacterial infections,” said Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “Viral infections have shaped the nature of the human immune system, and we have adapted to mount a very effective response against most of the viruses that we confront.” Vaccines accentuate this facility, he added, which is why vaccination programs have been most successful in preventing viral diseases.

Carnival #105 with new mobile blogging for 2008


Posted on 7th January 2008 by Judy Breck in Carnival of the Mobilists

Drop by Carnival of the Mobilists #105 that just opened today at Mobile Point of View by Paul Ruppert to read the bloggers who know mobile best setting the thinking for the exciting mobile months ahead. Paul also has some nice words about the new GoldenSwamp design. He says it’s very kewl. Thanks Paul!!

A phone with a mobile browser is knowledge in my pocket


Posted on 5th January 2008 by Judy Breck in Mobile & Ubiquitous

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The image here is grabbed from one on a MobHappy post called “More On the Tipping Point.” The post’s author Carlo Longino writes:

. . . the bit underneath that’s interesting, the “or go to using your mobile browser.” Yahoo’s confident enough that people will know their phone has a browser, know how to use it, and be comfortable enough to access the service that they’ll put it in mass-market campaigns. Nice.

The rules against mobile phones in classrooms have been made before the tipping point Carlo writes about. Before the phones had workable Internet browsers many school people decided that the nuisance factors of the devices justified forbidding them in classrooms. The Internet browser tipping point has changed that. Denying a phone with a viable browser is denying access to online knowledge.

It is time to re-think the classroom role of the device most of the new generation already has in its pocket. As the tipping point becomes a cascade, and the mobile phone warps fully into a usable and then dominant way to interact with knowledge on the Internet, excluding mobile phones from classrooms will warp from a discipline role into something harder and harder to distinguish from censorship. The interesting, and increasingly pressing, question for school people is not how to keep kids from using mobile phones in classrooms. It is time to focus on how to use the digital entry of knowledge into their pockets to enrich their learning.

What knowledge looks like on the Internet


Posted on 3rd January 2008 by Judy Breck in Networks

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For the purposes of GoldenSwamp’s core message, these images of the cerebral cortex give striking insight into the knowledge patterning within Internet. They are a visual analogy: they represent for us the closest images I know of for what the Internet looks like. There is not much of a leap here because both the cerebral cortex and the Internet are networks that process information.

The 3 parts of the image above are screenshots posted this month in the Gallery at the Blue Brain Project. The originals can be seen by clicking the following links to the Blue Brain Project website: Left image, middle image, right image. They represent, left to right, a single neuron, inside the network, and an entire neocortical column. In effect, they let us zoom out visually from a single brain cell to a view of the rich network of brain cells such as the neuron, to a “microcircuit” in which the first 2 images are located within within the cerebral cortex. The images are copyrighted by the Blue Brain Project. GoldenSwamp refers you to that website to examine these and other still images in the Gallery, along with video clips that provide new ways to visualize the mammalian brain.

netcloseup.jpgHere is the sort of analogy these images support: When you want to relate the ideas in the 3 books shown here, you must read the books and then use your brain to connect what they say in various patterns. When the content of the 3 books is within an open interconnected network such as the brain or the Internet, the connectivity is already built-in.

In the top image, let’s say the red neuron is United States history, the yellow British history and the pink native American history. At Saratoga the US won a battle against the Brits with native American participation. The connections can be linked in the network of the brain and the network of the Internet. When the books are stacked or together on a shelf, there are no links available among the ideas within the books except in the mind of someone who reads all three of them.

The Internet does that connecting of ideas in near real time, mirroring (primitively) what the brain does. Though the mirror is primitive, it is essentially accurate. I understand that what this post says is no more than analogy. The Blue Brain Project has this disclaimer: “Although we may one day acheive insights into the basic nature of intelligence and consciousness using this tool, the Blue Brain Project is focused on creating a physiological simulation for biomedical applications.” About the Blue Brain Project

What is extremely interesting here is that quite literally, nodes of American, British and Native American history DO CONNECT within the Internet. My website is dedicated to showing examples of those kinds of connections.

Education 08: ruminating on paths not taken is corrosive


Posted on 1st January 2008 by Judy Breck in Emerging Online Knowledge


New Year’s Cocktail: Regret With a Dash of Bitters is the headline today of a New York Times Health article, which is illustrated by Geraldine Georges’ drawing about darkness posted here. There is expert advice given about the corrosiveness of looking back. It is wise, we are told:

“to forestall the traditional morning-after descent into self-examination, that lonely echo chamber of what should and could be. Ghosts roam around down there, after all, and they are the worst kind — alternate versions of oneself. . . . Lost possible selves, some psychologists call them. Others are more blunt: the person you could have been.

“Over the past decade and a half, psychologists have studied how regrets — large and small, recent and distant — affect people’s mental well-being. They have shown, convincingly though not surprisingly, that ruminating on paths not taken is an emotionally corrosive exercise.”

What would education be like for students now in school if the education industry had joined other major sectors like commerce, media, politics (and yes, porn) in an all out effort to understand and use the new connective world of the Internet? We can only imagine, and doing so is a corrosive exercise.

A New Year offers new paths. For education in 2008 the path into the Internet is wide and wonderful, while rutted, bumby paths of education’s past become increasingly weed-covered and muddied. Our hang-over can soon be gone and the global golden age of learning awaits.

Happy New Year!