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Visionary minimalism – how education has viewed the Internet

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Posted on 29th August 2008 by Judy Breck in Golden Age of Learning and Schools We Have Now


In discussing the liberal methodology of Barack Obama, Cass Sunstein writes in The New Republic:

When he offers visionary approaches, he does so as a visionary minimalist–that is, as someone who attempts to accommodate, rather than to repudiate, the defining beliefs of most Americans. His reluctance to challenge people’s deepest commitments might turn out to be what makes ambitious plans possible–notwithstanding the hopes of the far left and the cartoons of the far right.

It is revealing to shift the lens of visionary minimalism to education. Since the Internet appeared on education’s radar a decade ago, accommodating the new medium of knowledge and communication to traditional education instead of challenging defining beliefs of educators has been routine.

Removing the minimalism from the vision for education would mean repudiating the laundry list of “fixing the schools” accommodations. The education sector could then define and pursue a new vision of adapting learning to the now dominate knowledge delivery medium, the Internet.

The education sector’s wide open mobile opportunity

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Posted on 27th August 2008 by Judy Breck in Mobile Learning

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The announcement this week of the Future Mobile Awards 2008 does not include a category for education. Its Content and Applications Stream is made up of these categories: Web 2.0, Search, Advertising, Gambling, Games, Music, TV, Adult, and UGC (user generated content).

The awards sponsor Juniper Research describes their purpose: The Future Mobile Awards are given to companies that we believe have made significant progress within their sector during the previous year, and are now poised to make considerable market impact in the future.

Put together the pieces:

The education industry rakes in billions of dollars annually just to produce printed textbooks.
Learning is in large part a connecting/communicating process, and mobile is in the connecting/communicating business.
Youngsters (think students) around the world are demanding and getting mobile phones.

The opportunities in for mobile education sector appear to be wide open. Why have they not blossomed, as other sectors have?

I think this is what is actually happening: As it has gotten broader band, mobile is emerging as the primary tool of learning/education — with One-Web interfacing knowledge resources to an individual student device that enables collaborative learning. The ecology of enlightenment that is emerging will support new education dynamics. These dynamics are:

The knowledge to be learned forms an open network commons within the cloud and the students and teachers both use their mobiles to interface that knowledge via the One Web and to collaborate in the learning process.

Real education will not be academic

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Posted on 23rd August 2008 by Judy Breck in Carnival of the Mobilists, Connective Expression, Networks and Schools We Have Now

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Reading through the conclusion of Charles Murray’s Real Education sharpens my non-academic vision of the future of learning. (The word academy means school. Academic ability is the ability to learn school subjects.) Murray’s conclusions are about an elite with academic ability, K-12 schools that teach a core liberal education, and less young people attending college. Murray explains this far better than I can. If the Internet had not developed, I would agree wholeheartedly with him. But the Internet is here and conforming learning to this marvelous new ecology of enlightenment is the job at hand for educators.

On pages 90-91, Murray writes: “. . . the Internet is revolutionizing everything.” And: “. . . the technology is still in its early stages of development and the rate of improvement breathtaking. . . .”

Yes, and the notion of academic ability is not exempt from that revolution. Murray’s underlying premise in Real Education is that because students differ in academic ability, their schooling should differ. But schooling itself (academics as we have known them) are obsolete vehicles for packaging and delivering learning resources: that by which we have measured intelligence has broken down. The reason for the break down is that fundamentals of how academies deliver learning are incompatible with networks (the open Internet). The hierarchies of courses, curricula, and school grades cannot be shoehorned into networks. The old school methods unbundle.

Here is an example of unbundling: From page 81 of Real Education — an excerpt from a curriculum for third graders includes for science this goal: “Use a prism to learn about the spectrum.” From the hierarchical core of subjects used in the example, third grade students will be taught to a test about prisms at a level thought to be appropriate for nine-year-olds. The prism at third grade level is embedded in a science curriculum.

This example of academic science as third grade subject organization unbundles when a student of any age begins clicking through webpages about prisms like these: Prism refraction applet, Discover of the nature of light, Reflection grating systems, and Color theory. Including, but hardly limited to, what a third grader can learn, these webpages and their links are a network of ideas in which a learner can travel to whatever level an individual student’s and moment’s curiosity beckon.

The academy (schools as we have known them for delivering knowledge) will be obsolete — to put it in 2008 device terms — as soon as iPhone-grade mobile devices deliver the Internet to most of the world’s children. That will happen within a few years. It could happen very fast if we set it as a high priority.

There may well be a general sort of intelligence that determines how much knowledge about prisms different individual children can ultimately acquire. Patterns of learning seem certain to change when not every kid is not expected to grasp the prism/spectum concepts at age nine. The conceptualizing of intelligence by measuring success at pre-Internet academies (schools) needs to be abandoned. Just as the Internet is impelling the re-conceptualization of literacy, intelligence needs to be measured by network ability, not academics. My guess is that network learning creates not one brainy elite — as an academy does — but elites composed of varying patterns of individuals whose talents emerge at different stages of maturation into different masteries of different subjects.

Science online and open begins to replace crazy old model


Posted on 21st August 2008 by Judy Breck in Connective Expression, Emerging Online Knowledge, Networks and Open Content

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A Boston Globe article today by Carolyn Y. Johnson is headlined Out in the open: Some scientists sharing results. This is the unbundling of publishing down a path that ignores peer review. Once again, network laws that energize emergence are impelling this remarkably revolutionary trend. Like textbook print publishers, the peer review priests can do little but watch as their old model — now perceived as crazy (see below) — becomes obsolete.

[The young MIT biological engineer Barry] Canton is part of a peaceful insurgency in science that is beginning to pry open an endeavor that still communicates its cutting-edge discoveries in much the same way it has since Ben Franklin was experimenting with lightning. Papers are published in research journals after being reviewed by specialists to ensure that the methods and conclusions are sound, a process that can take many months.

“We’re a generation who expects all information is a Google search away,” Canton said. “Not only is it a Google search away, but it’s also released immediately. As soon as it happens, the video is up on YouTube and on all the blogs. The old model feels kind of crazy when you’re used to this instant information.”

Openness has always been an integral part of science, with scientists presenting findings in journals or at conferences. But the open-science movement, with many of its leaders in the Boston area, encourages scientists to share techniques and even their work long before they are ready to present results, when they are devising research questions, running experiments, and analyzing data. In such open forums, the wisdom of the crowd could offer the ultimate form of peer review. And scientific information, they say, should be available without the hefty subscription fees charged by most journals.

It is an attempt to bring the kind of revolutionary and disruptive change to the laboratory that the Internet has already wrought on the music and print media industries. The idea is that opening up science could speed discoveries, increase collaboration, and transform the field in unforeseen ways.

Via Joho the Blog

Real education will be unbundled

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Posted on 21st August 2008 by Judy Breck in Uncategorized

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Going out on a limb, I will comment some here on the book before finishing reading Charles Murray’s Real Education. So far (I am up to page 66), Murray is saying strong, accurate, and needed things about education as it is today and is clearing up false views about altering the “academic ability” of students. But will his analysis hold true when learning shifts fundamentally to the Internet? I don’t think so because the idea of “academic ability” will lose meaning when schools (academies) no longer organize study subjects and patterns by which students learn.

The real education of the future will be unbundled, and schools will no longer regulate and standardize knowledge. Study subjects will be emergent from the open Internet and directly engaged and learned by individual students. That is a compete change for the schools we have now where students are offered knowledge selected by schools and standards writers and delivered in graded hierarchies. On page 61 of Real Education is this sample of many similar sentences: Fourth-graders at the 25th percentile increased their mean score by three points between 2002 and 2007.

When education is unbundled, such a sentence will not make sense. Kids will no longer be bundled by grade and subjects will no longer be shoehorned into hierarchies to mesh with grades.

With the unbundling of education that is now underway, should we have schools? That is the question where we should begin. I’ll bet Murray will have some important insight into this as I keep reading. I’ll let you know in future posts.

Real Education today can become an engine of enlightenment


Posted on 19th August 2008 by Judy Breck in Schools We Have Now

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Last night I saw a television interview of Charles Murray about his brand new book Real Education: Four Simple Truths for Bringing America’s Schools Back to Reality. As soon as the stores open, I plan to walk over to the neighborhood Barnes & Noble to buy the book. I don’t want to wait for delivery from Amazon, where the book, published today, is already #945 in sales. What is doubtlessly very important about this book is that it advocates huge change for education. Murray’s ideas are not more diddling around.

But I worry from what I heard last night and read in the Amazon review, that Murray may have missed the biggest factor and opportunity for morphing our failing education into an engine of enlightenment. For one thing, even in his title, Murray is assuming — as we have for many decades — that the solution for education is doing something for schools. Murray’s title calls it: “bringing America’s Schools Back to Reality.” (OK, since he is advocating many less students go to college, he is at least in part outside of the fix-the-schools box.) I think we need to do something more like: keep schools K-20 only if they prove some worth, and otherwise change them or abandon schools as places to acquire knowledge and academic competence.

Murray’s four simple truths are now being fundamentally shaped by the the open Internet. Here are his four, along with my brief reaction:

1. Children have different abilitiesthe full range of knowledge is offered in open Internet, syncing with the ability of any student, from specialized astrophysicist to auto mechanic
2. Half of the children are below average — individual children can engage their exact level of understanding of a subject online
3. Too many children go to college — knowledge interaction with the Internet releases college from many academic functions so that “colleges” can come out of the closet as the social/cultural experiences they essentially are becoming.
4. America’s future depends on the gifted – and these individuals already do and primarily will both acquire knowledge from the Internet and network in their field online.

I’ll post more when I have read Real Education. Meanwhile hats off to Murray for a major stand against the education status quo. We must rethink education in major ways. The education sector is far behind in understanding and using the connecting digital world. Real education of the future will be found there.

Mobile big thinkers niche conference


Posted on 16th August 2008 by Judy Breck in Mobile & Ubiquitous

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OpenGardens/Futuretext mobile guru Ajit Jaokar has sent an invitation to Golden Swamp friends sign up for Mobile Web Megatrends. It is a niche conference highlighting big idea thinkers, several of whom Golden Swamp is proud to claim as friends.

The Mobile Web Megatrends is a unique one day event that addresses the strategy and best practices relating to key current trends for the Mobile Web.

The simple idea behind Mobile Web Megatrends is to create a small, niche event focused on developments that are key to the Mobile Web currently (2008/2009)

This means that the event will be much more focused and granular.. For instance – we don’t want to talk about ‘Nokia’ but rather about Nokia S40 6th edition which has implications for the mass market. Similarly, Opera Mobile 9.5 is significant due to features such as implementation of Google Gears. Thus, the event will have a much more granular, interactive focus than other events.

Text learning, on paper should crossover like this


Posted on 15th August 2008 by Judy Breck in Mobile Learning and Schools We Have Now

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In a post at MobHappy, the mobile phone experts write with justified sarcasm about how slowly newspapers have moved into mobile — where, of course, youngsters play digital games. There is a powerful parallel here to the creeping pace of mobile learning. If mobile phone owners can do a crossword puzzle the way USA TODAY does it with mobiles, imagine what educators could deliver for students to practice and learn such subjects as spelling, grammar, geography name places, chemical elements, etc. etc.

Carlo’s lament at MobHappy is easy to transpose into thinking about the paper-based learning our kids continue to endure:

Apparently, back in the day, people used to fill in these things called “Crossword Puzzles” that were printed in these other things called “newspapers”, instead of playing solitare or Snake or Tetris on their mobile phone. USA Today, one of these “newspapers”, and a quite large one at that, appears to be attempting to drag aficionados of these paper-based games into the modern era by bridging the gap between dead trees and phones with a word game based on the letters on a phone’s keypad.

Thanks MobHappy, for the image which I lifted :)

A synapse called GOOG-411


Posted on 14th August 2008 by Judy Breck in Connective Expression

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Google has a new free service:

You can call from any phone, state a business (think: order pizza) and location, connect to the business, and get that business’s service (pizza delivery). I have posted recently on how the synapse in the brain and the connectors (nodes) in the Internet are a major key to creating learning patterns in the open Internet. GOOG-411 is an Internet node that functions just like a synapse in the brain, connecting remote stuff.

Educators could think of GOOG-411 as a model for a learning network synapse/node. With a future edu-service, could a student input a query for current data for oceanography, astronomy, electoral polling — any of many location based subjects — and get the current data as quickly as Google now delivers your pizza? Sure. Somebody just needs to do it.

Golden Swamp is on vacation


Posted on 5th August 2008 by Judy Breck in Uncategorized


Returning online on August 12 – and wishing you happy dog days of August!

Carnival of the Mobilists #135


Posted on 4th August 2008 by Judy Breck in Carnival of the Mobilists

The Carnival this week includes a comment on the GoldenSwamp post about online reading skills. Dropping by the Carnival each week is an ideal way to keep up with the best blogging on mobile.

Education and the internet: the twain connect not


Posted on 1st August 2008 by Judy Breck in Mobile Learning and Schools We Have Now

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A pathfinding new book The Hyperlinked Society does not included education as a topic.
A PajamasMedia blog post this morning titled “A ‘To-Do’ List for the Next Education President” does not mention the Internet.
These are astounding disconnects by adults as youngsters in middle school, and all children younger than that, have never known a world without the internet.

PREDICTION: Within the next 3 years at the most education will experience the same magnitude of change that it did when our great-grandparents realized schooling should be preparing the new generation for the industrial age. Now that mobile devices are beginning to deliver the internet well, and the kids have the mobiles in their pockets, the platform for that change is in place. When the twain of education and the internet connect at last, global enlightenment will soon follow.