Justin Oberman of MoPocket, host of this week’s Carnival of the Mobilists, includes in his reviews the recent GoldenSwamp post about the good behavior of teenagers in pocketing their mobiles during movies. Including my post in the Carnival is a help to spreading the trust that I think we can have for teenagers in allowing their mobile devices to be used in school for learning.
Under the full title Literacy Debate: Online, R U Really Reading? this week’s New York Times article about adolescent Internet reading has been emailed most by readers. In the second “Most Popular” category “BLOGGED,” the online reading article comes in second to Blogging’s Glass Ceiling. A detail from one of the illustrations to the online reading article is shown above this post; the full illustration, full size is here. The image source is New Literacies Research Lab of the University of Connecticut.
The illustration, and the parts of the New York Times article that discuss online reading, are excellent introductions into the connective powers released by reading within a network. Very much is said and written about the social networking teenagers are doing. This time the focus is on the networking of ideas and knowledge that operate online. There is a rich resonance between the networking of abdominal anatomy in the illustration and the networking of the same ideas in the mind of the learner who views and reads these online materials.
My guess is that the article is “Most Popular” with NY Times readers because it does a very good job of explaining something that I, for one, think is the Internet’s most useful gift to the younger generations: engagement of knowledge in network format that mirrors their mind in content and context. As the kids will tell us, it’s awesome.
Mobile interaction with the Internet on my iPhoneG3, shown above, is much better than the Internet via a desktop computer was in the late 1990s. I know because I was there. Back then I was in charge of gathering the links for learning for a channel of Jumbo!.com. We called the project by a series of changing names: HomeworkHeaven.com, NoSweat.com, and HomeworkCentral.com. In 1999, HomeworkCentral sold off Jumbo! At that point 4 million visitors a month came to HomeworkCentral to learn from links interfaced no better than they are on my iPhone.
In my role as contentmaster — starting in the spring of 1997 and through the rest of the 1990s — I collected links myself, hired and directed a staff of graduate students who collected and organized links for their subject, and wrote a weekly review of “top links” that I found. One of the earliest links I found and reviewed was “Astronomy Picture of the Day” (APOD), shown in the image with this post. It began in 1995 and has always been one of the superior and most popular learning links on the Internet.
This week I bought the iPhone shown in my hand in the image. APOD is on the screen of both my iPhone and my Mac desktop machine. In the now eleven years I have focused most of my work on collecting and reviewing links, I can think of nothing as transitional as what the iPhone has shown me: The fact is that what I can now hold in my hand in the iPhone is not only the Internet that is as good as it was in the 1990s; the iPhone is better!
Of course all mobile phones do not yet have the Internet delivery of the iPhone. Certainly the delivery by the iPhone and mobiles of every sort will only get better. BUT the transition has happened. The mobile is superior to an Internet stuck to a desk. I don’t know how laptops and mobiles will come together and perhaps specialize for different types of learning.
But I would bet all the stars in APOD’s archive that the Internet delivered by pocket mobiles will be the core device for accessing knowledge for learning — and that will be true globally. There will not be a separate “mobile learning.” The Internet’s role in future learning will be the delivery of the One Web through a mobile carried by the learner.
For education, or any cognitive content, in the new cloud concept for the open Internet the action is at the node level. Education’s traditional trees of subject matter and curricula cannot hold their form in the mushy dynamics of the content cloud that is billowing up from multiplying server farms. These old forms of resources can be placed on static webpages, but bundled as they are, the elements of ideas these static pages warehouse cannot effectively participate in the pattern forming emergence of networked learning resources.
In the illustration for this post, I combined a graphic of a learn node with an image of a synapse from the work of the Sanger Institute’s team on Genes to Cognition. The team is led by Dr. Seth Grant who has given permission to use the graphic to illustrate ideas about Net content. It is compelling to compare the synapse and the node in the cloud where related bits of ideas are present at the same url. Without the interconnections at the smallest unit in the Net cloud, there are no patterns — there is no emergence of concepts and context. This fact resonates with what the Sanger team says about synapses:
The synapse the junction between nerve cells is the most important component of the nervous system. It not only transmits electrical information between neurons, but also is responsible for converting the electrical signals into biochemical changes of long term memory. Using proteomic methods, our laboratory and others have characterised the composition of synapses, which are made of 1-2000 proteins. These proteins are organised into multiprotein complexes that act as molecular machines.
Educators are challenged to get into this same kind of investigation, into using node level connectivity to form learning resources in the cloud.
Mobile expert Enrique Ortiz at About Mobility Weblog describes the power that ease of discovery has for delivering content. He writes in the context of mobile, and the huge success of the new Apple App Store, which I have been extolling for its new way of making content available. The new mechanisms of the App Store are illustrating, as Enrique says, “that people WILL” use what they can discover.
“Discovering” begins by finding something you want online. Educators can increase the use of open educational resources by making them findable. To join in a major way in the cascade from the App Store (and its inevitable clones), education assets will need to be not only findable in these environments, but downloadable and useful, as Enrique says:
Awesome, 10 million downloads, in just 3 days.
I (and others) knew it all along, and proves the point I we have been making again and again and arguing for a long time: that people WILL download applications, if the problem w/ downloading (i.e. discovery) is solved. (Of course, the app must be useful to begin with) — see
Apple solved it, and everyone is happy… Andriod MUST solve it, if they want to be successful w.r.t. local apps. Java ME doesn’t have a solution to this, and that is a problem. And Mobile Widgets also need a discovery solution. Ease of discovery must always be part of the mobile solution: being it a search box, an icon on the home page of the handset, a mobile widget, or side-loading…
One way edu could make open educational resources discoverable is by pointing to them with learn nodes that are easily findable blog-like little webpages for micro topics that are within the resources. (Resources have to be open for this to work. The App Store makes both open (free) and for sale apps available, which is literally a mixed bag.)
This afternoon I went to first showing of the afternoon of the new Batman movie, “The Dark Knight.” About ten minutes before the scheduled start of the trailers ahead of the movie, I entered the theater seating about 300 — one of seven in the multiplex on Third Avenue at 86th Street in Manhattan. The screen was dark and the theater about half filled, mostly with teenagers. As I came down the darkened aisle from the back I noticed the rows were dotted with little lights, which were the screens of mobile devices the kids were using as they waited for things to start happening on the screen.
A major excuse given for prohibiting students from bringing their mobiles into schools is that the kids will use them to disrupt class time. The deportment of the same age group that is not trusted by schools was certainly not a problem today. The little screens were turned off when the entertainment began and there was no sound from any of the devices that interrupted the movie. This group of young people demonstrated that they use their mobiles a lot — and that they can resist interrupting when that is appropriate. Sure, Batman is more interesting than school work usually is, but maybe by using the mobiles for some of the education activities we can make that more interesting for this generation.
It is interesting too that trust sells movie tickets — as two ferryboats full of people demonstrate in this movie that is a huge hit with teenagers.
In a blog post today titled “The iPhone iPod Touch Platform and Education” by Al Briggs at WeDeliverElephants.com, Al capsulizes why the new App Store from Apple does everything right for education. He says “lets get stared getting content on to these devices,” and gives us reasons, including these:
So what does this have to do with education? Well once you get over the ease of installation – the apps are great – the feel and way they work is so simple they look like they have been designed for a 4 year old – but lets be honest that is what we all want – simple and elegant. I hope that Apple have style guidelines and that they are insisting on developers keeping to them before then can have a place in the App Store.
Yes OK, but what does this have to do with education? Well easy to use and easy to get hold of applications that are engaging and accessible and on devices that students can fit in their pocket have never been available before. Technically all this has been possible, but not on a real device that is being purchased by real students, and working in such an easy elegant way.
Today I found a new friend who shares the avid interest in the underlying workings of the Internet. He is a doctor. We were talking about how diversity of inheritance makes us robust and contributes to longevity. He mentioned the word “heterozygous.” I did not know the word, but understood the meaning in the context of our conversation. I said that what he meant was why we have to feel sorry for Cheetahs, and he nodded.
Webster tells us that heterozygous refers to having the two alleles at corresponding loci on homologous chromosomes different for one or more loci.
A node on the Internet is much like a cell in biology. Like the cell, the node (such as a webpage, or any other item with a url) contains information that affects the other nodes to which it links. The quality of the information in the nodes has everything to do with how richly the nodes can link to other nodes to emerge robust patterns. A paucity of diversity among interacting cells weakens life — as it has done for the cheetahs.
Then Lo: Why not work toward heterozygous learn nodes for online education. Surely thinking itself is enriched by the heterozygosity of ideas. If this delightful word helps us think beyond doling out cookie-cutter ideas to our children, it is a mouthful worth chewing on.
But there is much more to the concept here. Having the variety of information labelled in cell biology as within alleles would correspond to varying patterns of knowledge among nodes on a subject for education. The synergy of the complexities sustains robustness in life and in learning that is stimulated by the mirroring of what is known by the Internet.
Sound the trumpets!! The walls around education’s gardens are falling down. Starting tomorrow, learning nodes and nuggets can be created a zillion ways and connected to by students in the open App Store.
Opening tomorrow, the Apple App Store is a pooling of “for sale” stuff with knickknacks and nodes of free innovation bubbling up from the golden swamp. (“Golden swamp” being the chaos that is the open Net.) The App Store is set up to connect the individual mobile phone owner with individual applications — purchased or free — with the mobile owner in making the choice and decision.
In the following excerpt from today’s New York Times story about the App Store, the point is made about which operating system might win for mobiles. An underlying principle bigger than any single operating system — and the incredibly wonderful thing that Apple has done — is that apps can openly interact with mobile users, content creators, and each other. Steve Jobs and Apple have made that openness real at the App Store, taking a large step into the global golden age of learning.
When Apple opens its online App Store for iPhone software on Thursday, Steven P. Jobs will be making an attempt to dominate the next generation of computing as it moves toward Internet-connected mobile devices.
The store, which will offer more than 500 software applications, including games, educational programs, mobile commerce and business productivity tools, may be a far more important development than the iPhone 3G, which goes on sale at the same time. An abundance of software could make the iPhone’s operating system dominant among an abundance of competing phones.
Today I was looking at the real estate ad shown here. It was on a webpage of the New York Times online. Included in the list of features on the page – along with “Floorplans,” “Map of Area,” Print the listing,” etc. – was “send to Mobile NEW.” To test the service, I clicked on the new mobile feature. A pop-up window asked for a “To” phone number, had a textbox for “From” and a checkbox to accept terms and conditions. When I filled in the boxes and clicked “Send to Phone” a text message arrived in my Sidekick mobile. The text in the message gave essential facts about the real estate listing and a url I could click to open the listing in the Sidekick’s web browser – as you can see in the image.
As mobile learning emerges in coming months and years, a ready-to-adopt methodology for delivering knowledge to student phones is this one. If apartment listings can be delivered to mobiles this way, so can any online module of knowledge. For example: art museum websites could set up their sections on each painting and statue to be sent for a mobile; the venerable Astronomy Picture of the Day could be mobilized thusly; experts and academics who blog about subject content could set up their posts to go to a mobile; etc., etc.
The methodology here is open and uses the one Web principle. That’s the right way to do it.
The new movie “Wall-E” is getting lots of rave reviews. Here’s mine:
The movie reminds us what fools we are to settle for how things are – that we are just not bothering to think about doing something different. Below is a section from a column by Frank Rich in the New York Times. He uses the “Wall-E” story to compare the U.S. Presidential campaigns to the people in the movie who are blissfully oblivious to their inexcusable lethargy. Rich’s column seems to have struck a cord because it is number 5 today on the list of stories most often emailed from the NY Times.
When I read the excerpt from the column quoted below I thought that what caused the children to clap their small hands was a hope they sense that adults will break through to a future children already understand. As readers of this blog know, my purpose in writing it is to propose that we can and should move education into a learning environment not trashed by mouldering theories and artifacts from the pre-digital, unconnected world. Our children already know that such a future-engaged world is a few clicks away in the billowing digital commons of knowledge and learning. The kids are tugged by an unmistakable summons to remake the world of learning. We adults can take part now in that remaking, and like the movie ending, can expect future generations to learn happily ever after .
From Frank Rich’s column:
One of the great things about art, including popular art, is that it can hit audiences at a profound level beyond words. That includes children. The kids at “Wall-E” [in the audience when Rich saw the movie] were never restless, despite the movie’s often melancholy mood and few belly laughs. They seemed to instinctually understand what “Wall-E” was saying; they didn’t pepper their chaperones with questions along the way. At the end they clapped their small hands. What they applauded was not some banal cartoonish triumph of good over evil but a gentle, if unmistakable, summons to remake the world before time runs out.
Cory Doctorow published on BoingBoing.net this interesting commentator’s take on liberty in general and the new issues of freedom in the Internet. Barlow says in this message that the Internet has created a new right to know. He says that there are forces against that freedom, but that: “I think we will prevail, and if we don’t prevail we will certainly have a great time trying.”
Wikipedia tells us that “John Perry Barlow (born October 3, 1947) is an American poet, essayist, retired Wyoming cattle rancher, political activist and former lyricist for the Grateful Dead. He is also known to be a cyberlibertarian, and was one of the founding members of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.”
An online game called foldit – Solve Puzzles for Science is enlisting the brain power of players for real science. As the game website explains: “Foldit attempts to predict the structure of a protein by taking advantage of humans’ puzzle-solving intuitions and having people play competitively to fold the best proteins.”
Wow, what a way to teach biology! The young generation’s love of online games is channeled into designing new proteins with therapeutic properties. Play the video above and you are likely to learn something too. There are more foldit videos here.