Objects are not building materials of the content in the Net because the two components of a network are nodes and links. I suppose subconsciously I have thought of the node as an object. In recent weeks I have learned things that make me realize that the node is not a container but a connector. I suppose we could call it a connecting object, but it is certainly not essentially a content object. Like the origin of the meaning of the word “node,” it is a knot. What we engage as meaning in the Net is not one or more objects; what we engage as meaning is a pattern that emerges as a pattern of connections among nodes.
Perhaps we do routinely create Net content (webpages, etc.) as content objects. At the least, we should always make such objects into connectors as well as containers. That would mean tagging them and SEOing them. Much more on this soon . . .
LINKS TO TALK 06.28.08: The Flash talk cluster I used during the talk is here: Cloud Education, and the report of the conference here: Microlearning.
VIDEO OF THE TALK: With thanks to Teemu Arina, a video of my talk is online at his vimeo.com.
The image with this post is one I have prepared for my talk this Friday in Innsbruck, Austria at the Microlearning2008 Conference. I will seek to convince the audience that these two things are crucial to the future of learning:
Delivering the cloud to individual students is the key mobile role for education.
The node junction between web assets is the most important component of online learning.
As education now roars down the road into the dynamic cloud of open content, the proprietary aspects of learning can and likely will continue as underground enterprises. There will be confidential archives, some tutoring inside walled gardens, subscriptions journals (alas!), and distance learning for hire. I am not judging these – that is a separate issue. And surely, there are aspects of education that should and always will remain private.
Nonetheless, the vast new open network that cloud computing is billowing up makes the open-one-web a stunning opportunity to deliver and optimize open knowledge to billions of people. The new generations will visit the cloud through their mobiles. The optimization will be done at the micro level of the content – which is why at the node junction lies the most important opportunity to give juice and trust to educational enlightenment.
Holland soccer fan host Mark Hooft sets up the Carnival of the Mobiists tents with this week’s best mobile blogging among colorful carnival images from The World’s Greatest Game! Included is GoldenSwamp’s new goal-setting 3-part policy for moving education into the future
Blue Brain Project models and images simulate, as they describe it: “The cerebral cortex, the convoluted “grey matter” that makes up 80% of the human brain, is responsible for our ability to remember, think, reflect, empathize, communicate, adapt to new situations and plan for the future. ”
The Learning Standards we impose on children are in little boxes, as the superimposed image above illustrated in a post I wrote a couple of days ago. As a follow up to that post, I suggest you view Blue Brain Project’s video called Flying through the column!
One can only wonder how ideas packaged in little boxes could become become useful in the awesomely networked structure the Blue Brain Project lets us fly through.
Today on the front page of the New York Times there are two stories about education: one about approaches various Democratic supporters are pushing; one about Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings’ campaign to preserve No Child Left Behind. There is nothing new for education proposed from either camp! The drawing of the baby suckling the mobile is on the same New York Times front page, with an article headlined: “So Young, and So Gadgeted.” While our toddlers grab onto their networked future lives, politicians bicker over their tinkering with the past sort of education.
If I were a candidate for office, this is what I would propose:
No more pencils, no textbooks, no more searching gobbledygook.
The policy that little rhyme sets out is 3 major steps, to be accomplished in 3 years. Too much too soon? I don’t think so. Let’s start at least talking about moving education into the future so it will be ready for babies the age of the one in the drawing. I propose that candidates for elective office support this 3-part Education Policy:
“No more pencils refers to the basic device a student uses to work with educational resources. The first major new education policy is to provide every student and every teacher with his or her own mobile device for interacting with the Net and, as support for the devices, to provide free wireless connectivity at all schools, libraries, and other learning environments. Children can use pencils to draw, and we will teach them handwriting. But the priority will be to get a mobile device into their hands to use for learning.
“No textbooks, is quite literal here. All educational resources will become digital and open online within three years. Printed textbooks will be removed from all schools from preschool through college. The purchase and use of printed resources of any kind will no longer be authorized or funded for educational systems. At first these materials will be replicated online for free, open access. Over time the open educational resources that are the core of the new learning will be improved to become network-native, taking advantage of network platform techniques for enhancing interfacing, connectivity, and context. They will all remain open and free to use for anyone connected to the Net.
No more searching gobbledygook means the frustrations and misperceptions of searching quality materials online will be cleared away as education teaches itself how to implement findability and networked learning. I know that searching gobbledygook may seem like a strange phrase, but that is exactly why I used it. The online world—and discussions about it—have been pretty much gobbledgook so far as education is concerned since the Internet first came along. We need to understand and take advantage of the vast online knowledge resources our kids could be using, and to optimize them so they are finable in context.
On the left above is a screen shot of Science Standards from the Illinois State Board of Education (you can download the pdf from this page). On the right above is a drawing of a Synapse phosphoproteome network from the Genes to Cognition team at the Sanger Institute. The full size version of the image above is here.
I put the Illinois Learning Standards and the Synapse side-by-side to suggest that we require students to learn subjects inside of little boxes, while students think about them in highly connected networks. The boxes in the Standards are separated from each other in all sorts of ways: living things are in different boxes than processes of the Earth. Different things about the same subject are spread out over five different grade levels. There seems little chance of having a thought that relates an early box in “A” to a late box in “E.”
Yet the news for the future is very, very good! The beautiful Sanger Institute drawing of the synapse network looks an awfully lot like what subject knowledge does when we put in on to the open Internet. Students’ synapses would seem naturally to mesh with online learning because both are networks. Learners can – as the drawing suggests – start at most any point or level in a subject and follow what they are thinking and learning to connect it to any and all other points.
On another blog, Learnodes.com, I am attempting to stimulate patterns that connect knowledge to learn by forming a node of related webpages. My premise is that educators can and do build rich learning content in this way – by connecting networks that form patterns of knowledge in context.
This morning the New York Science Times has an article titled Brainpower May Lie in Complexity of Synapses about the work of Dr. Seth Grant at the Sanger Institute. Since the Times article is from a Nature Neuroscience article that is closed to the general Net visitor ($32 to download the article – and even then it can’t be linked to), I went to the Sanger Institute website and located a press release there describing Dr. Grant’s work. Another Sanger Institute page has the image at the right, which I think it is altogether fair for me to call a biological “learn node.” The page with the image explains research titled “Genes to Cognition,” in part this way:
Our research focuses on understanding the synapse and the multiprotein machines using an integrated set of experimental strategies including genome wide and specific gene studies. We aim to understand the logic behind the complexity of molecular organisation of the synapse using these strategies . . . .
For educators, this exploration of brain function suggests a fascinating challenge to understand how the connectivity nodes of the Net participate in interfacing human ideas for learning. Surely, stimulating patterns of ideas by creating online learn nodes holds promise for education. Experts in subjects can, and frequently do, devise nodes that connect webpages they respect – making learn nodes something like what is suggested in the image above.
The purple dot near the top, that is spewing something toward the vertical rods, brings to mind a term from SEO (search engine optimization). The SEO guys talk about “giving juice” to webpages by linking to them. If you are an expert in some learning subject and make a node among wepages you respect, you are giving them juice – puffing at them like the purple dot is doing. How very 21st century is that !!
The guy, of course, in the image is Steve Jobs. This time he is one stage today in San Francisco where, as Yahoo! News headlined: Apple unveils upgraded iPhone with faster Internet. I added the Blackberry on the left because I heard something on the radio today about a Blackberry about to arrive that is even cooler than Apple’s new iPhone.
Students who own these mobile devices have major learning advantages. The time is coming at us fast when we can to get them to every student. Shifting some of the big time funds education spends on analog textbooks can speed that day. Here are some numbers from the Yahoo! story: “An 8 gigabyte model is to sell for $199 starting July 11. A 16 gigabyte model will cost $299. The devices are to roll out initially in 22 countries.” These mobiles are down to less than the cost of about three of the textbooks our kids lug in their backpacks. College kids pay more for a year’s textbooks than they would pay for one of the phones in the image, plus its wireless plan to be connected to vast knowledge on the Net.
The Microsoft CEO’s prediction begs the question about education’s multibillion dollar textbook industry: Steve Ballmer predicts in today’s Washington Post: “ there will be no media consumption left in 10 years that is not delivered over an IP network.” Ballmer’s point is that making media “more interactive” is the effect of delivering via the Internet. The same would be true of delivering open educational resources that way. Our kids, like Ballmer’s son, interact playing Xbox in the evening and trudge to school with their studies isolated in textbooks in their backpacks. Can we predict that in 10 years the textbook delivery will no longer be in paper form? If not, why not?
From the Ballmer Washington Post interview:
Question: What is your outlook for the future of media?
Steve Ballmer: In the next 10 years, the whole world of media, communications and advertising are going to be turned upside down — my opinion.
Here are the premises I have. Number one, there will be no media consumption left in 10 years that is not delivered over an IP network. There will be no newspapers, no magazines that are delivered in paper form. Everything gets delivered in an electronic form. 10 years?
Yeah. If it’s 14 or if it’s 8, it’s immaterial to my fundamental point. . . . If we want TV to be more interactive, you’ll deliver it over an IP network. I mean, it’s sort of funny today. My son will stay up all night basically playing Xbox Live with friends that are in various parts of the world, and yet I can’t sit there in front of the TV and have the same kind of a social interaction around my favorite basketball game or golf match. It’s just because one of these things is delivered over an IP network and the other is not. . . .
Educators have piloted Location-Based-Services as a promising aspect of mobile learning – but mobile services have not been up to the task. A London Times report that the mobile industry is about to make location-based-services reliable:
“Lots of people are working out ways of using Bluetooth or social networking or GPS to do these things,” says Helen Keegan, managing director of Beepmarketing and a mobile marketing blogger. “People are already working out some cool and exciting services.” . . .
Combined with mobile internet access, which liberates the web from homes and offices, location-based services – LBS – promise new ways of getting highly personalised information. Maps, directions, traffic news, restaurant recommendations, shopping price guides – the more this information can be targeted to a specific location, the more useful and valuable it becomes . . .
The technical ability to offer location-based services is not new, but fledgling products and services created in the past few years have faced so many obstacles that until very recently they stood little chance of mainstream success. Now, at last, the hardware and software is coming together, the network is more robust, the cost of mobile data tariffs is falling and consumer interest is beginning to grow.
People who gave up on the mobile web after getting frustrated with patchy signal strength, clunky phones and cumbersome interfaces are being lured back by slimmer handsets, slicker browsers and better websites.
This image is from an interactive Tiger test in today’s New York Times. It is a cool, interactive window in a NY Times online page. You can click either side to see a persuasive argument for two opposing points of view. In this case, the two sides are 1) Tiger Woods is the best athlete ever, and 2) Tiger is not the greatest athlete ever. After you click each of the sides and learn what the videos have to tell you, you can then vote.
As the Net matures and broadband allows more and more interaction, audio, and video, more and more possibilities open up for getting students thinking, and giving them knowledge in interesting ways. A format like the Tiger test could be a way to teach two opposing theories in history, or science, or literature.
Perhaps we could do poems, putting on one side: Walter Adolphe Roberts’ Tiger Lily and on the other side William Blake’s The Tiger. The dark side would clearly be Blake:
Tiger, tiger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?