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The cloud will unbundle the tower


Posted on 28th October 2008 by Judy Breck in Findability and Networks

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In previous posts, I have written about the unbundling effect of migrating education content into the open network online. As I explained in the previous post, I picked up the word from Nicholas Carr’s book The Big Switch in which he has a chapter titled “The Great Unbundling.”

The underlying mechanism in the online cloud that forces the unbundling is that little pieces need to be free to connect. Ideas, meaning, varieties of concepts emerge as different patterns among little pieces. In the network platform online, it is the law: nodes and links, which are little pieces and their connections. Bundles of little pieces locked into just one arrangement as a fact of their bundling stall knowledge emergence online. Unbundling is also crucial to online findability.

Yesterday I discovered the following description of bundling on this list: “Ten threads have influenced the makeup of Western higher education’s tapestry in this millennium . . . .” The quotation is from a new book Educause released this week: The Tower and The Cloud: Higher Education in the Age of Cloud Computing. In the first chapter, the book’s editor Richard N. Katz explains a change the cloud demands of the tower:

5. Academic activities are bundled. . . . Bundling academic offerings into programs and courses of instruction enables (and masks) a complex system of cross subsidies that make it possible for institutions to provide for study in those disciplines that may be impractical or out of favor. This insulates colleges and universities to an extent from pressures to be fashionable. From a narrower consumer perspective, bundling allows these institutions to offer—or even require students to take—instruction they have available rather than instruction that students (or employers) may want.

UPDATE: As I have read farther into the Katz chapter, I have discovered that (starting on page 14) there is a subsection on “Unbundling,” which Katz discusses as one of “four disruptive forces [that] are bearing down on higher education at this very moment: unbundling; demand-pull; ubiquitous access; and the rise of the pure property view of ideas” — as described by University of Virginia Vice President James Hilton. For a look at these sources, the full text can be downloaded as a pdf: The Tower and The Cloud.

How do you find what you want and how do you know it is true?


Posted on 27th October 2008 by Judy Breck in Emerging Online Knowledge, Findability, Mobile Learning, Networks and Open Content


This except is from the draft introduction to the handbook I am writing on findability. Wonderfully, Howard Rheingold seems able always to get to the crux of things:

“All of the world’s knowledge is in the air to be plucked down by our telephone. Of course it’s also all the world’s disinformation, misinformation, spam, porn, Nigerian frauds, urban legends, hoaxes. So how do you find what you want and how do you know that it’s true? Those seem like to me both extremely important questions today . . . .”
Howard Rheingold, interview by Jaap van de Geer, October 2008

As he does so very well, Howard Rheingold went straight to the heart of our global communication morass, in his answer above to a Dutch interviewer. Finding what you want and knowing if it is true are more and more challenging and more and more perplexing as the internet engulfs us in a seemingly chaotic virtual ocean of everything we know and very much of what we do.

Thumbing through index cards in little drawers and sticking our noses into stacks of books to find knowledge and check its truth is very twentieth century. Those old methods cannot reach into the digital-only versions of the latest and most accurate knowledge that is to be found only through a browser window into the new information realm.

The answer to Rheingold’s question is to change both where we look and the way we ascertain truthfulness:

Finding what you want: Look in the full and online ocean, staying clear of digital knowledge that is artificially molded into analog shapes and storage.

Ascertaining what is true: Let the laws and methods of the entirely new medium for human information that govern what happens in the ocean provide you with the most recent, accurate, and in-context truth available on earth. [Hint: start with the network laws.]

The time has come to let a wide range of management principles of the past move aside so we can work toward understanding the new global medium from which all of the world’s knowledge—and junk—can be plucked by the mobile computer in what we are still calling a phone.

Teemu’s word mycelium defines the golden swamp


Posted on 21st October 2008 by Judy Breck in Golden Age of Learning, Mobile & Ubiquitous and Networks

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Teemu Arina has a new post on his blog that is prompted by his upcoming talk at Mobile Monday Amsterdam. The title of the post is How Mobile is Changing our Society. As I always do from Teemu, I learned several things from this essay. One of them was this new word: mycelium.

Teemu writes: “An entirely new thing is emerging from this interconnected electronic mycelium.” Webster’s unabridged dictionary defines mycelium as:

: the mass of interwoven hyphae that forms especially the vegetative portion of the thallus of a fungus and that in the larger forms (as the mushrooms) forms cobwebby filaments penetrating the substrate but in many smaller fungi (as most parasitic forms) is invisible to the naked eye but ramifies through the substrate or tissues of the host usually producing its spore fruits on the surface; also : a similar mass of filaments formed by a higher bacterium

This chaotic jumble reflects well what it is like for us to look now at the proliferating cables, satellites, wires, and glass we are told somehow platform the internet. The virtual connectivity that emerges from it all is, however, transformational.

Teemu has given us another name for what is mushrooming invisibly around our planet: the interconnected electronic mycelium. George Gilder called it the telecosm. Calling it the cloud is sliding into our vocabulary from the smaller mycelium that comes to hover over a server farm. I like to call it the golden swamp. The simplest name is network.

By whatever name it goes, that new place will dominate human communication far into the future. I am now redirecting this blog from writing about the concept we call “education” because that concept is mired in the analog past. What is known by humankind is now mirrored from the mycelium. The meaning of learning has become to engage knowledge there.

Carnival of the Mobilists #146 blogs about smartphones


Posted on 20th October 2008 by Judy Breck in Carnival of the Mobilists

The Carnival comes to you from Andrew Grill’s London Calling where it features blog posts from the mobile world focussed this week on Earls Court and Symbian’s annual Smartphone Show.  There is a Carnival book tent with our own GoldenSwamp post about mobilist Chetan Sharma’s new book Wireless Broadband.

How to get search engines put your stuff near the top


Posted on 19th October 2008 by Judy Breck in Connective Expression and SEO

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If you are an expert in an academic subject, the process the advertising world calls search engine optimization (SEO) is a way you can get what you know into online study and conversation. With SEO you can get your webpages to the top of the SERPS (search engine result pages).

The bare bones SEO are these two steps:

First, be sure meaningful keywords for your webpage appear in its URL, title, first few words of text, and the anchor text (which is made up of the words you highlight in your text to hyperlink to another page.)

The second aspect is to lure respected people in the subject your webpage is about to link to your page. Anyone who links to your webpage gives it what SEO folks call juice, and the more respected the linker is, the more juice is received by your webpage.

At’s sister blog, I am experimenting with creating small landing pages that are SEOed for academic subjects. The following is an example of how SEO and giving juice are actually quite effective and powerful.

Last week I created a blog post (a blog post is a webpage) titled Learn Node: How Fish Muscles Work. If you will click to this fish muscle learn node, you will see that the URL, title, first words of the text, and anchor text all repeat words that describe the subject of the landing page (this blog post). If someone lands on this page, they will find three excellent links highlighted to lead them to fish muscle knowledge.

Within 2 days after I published this blog post, search engine spiders had found it, it was evaluated at Google, and it showed up as #2 on Google when I searched for “how fish muscles work”.

Something else very interesting happened. One of the links I had featured in my learn node about fish muscles is a webpage from Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole. The webpage is excellent science about Opsanus tau, a very ugly fish whose swim bladder muscles are the fastest twitching muscles in the vertebrate world. The Woods Hole page had no SEO. The title of the webpage (sounds like a cosmetics ad!) is “It’s Not Going to Win Any Beauty Contests But . . . “; the URL identifies it only as “labnotes/6.3/beauty”, there are few hints in the first paragraphs of the muscle information in the webpage, and there are no outgoing links with anchor text.

Nonetheless, when I included the Woods Hole webpage in my “How Fish Muscles Work” learn node that I SEOed — lo, the Woods Hole webpage appeared on Google’s first page of SERPS as #3 link! The image above shows that both the learnode I made and the Woods Hole page I linked to had enough SEO juice to jump to the top of the SERPS.

Silly as this language may seem, it is of fundamental importance for delivering knowledge to students and colleagues in our new connected age.

Mobility and equalization are coming


Posted on 19th October 2008 by Judy Breck in Mobile Learning, Terrorism Undermined and Wireless Broadband

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This post continues my previous post about the remarkably important forecasts in the foreword to Vern Fotheringham and Chetan Sharma’s new book Wireless Broadband: Conflict and Convergence. Its foreword is by Mark Anderson, CEO of Strategic News Service, who is known for his ability to predict trends into the future. In the following two brief paragraphs, Anderson hits two education nails on the head: mobility and equalization. Education will not be able to go merrily along the analog path into the future while these powerful forces change everything else:

As though the global trends named here were not sufficient drivers to warrant attention to wireless broadband, there is another, equally compelling set of accelerants, all coming under the umbrella title of mobility. On every level, from lifelong residence to lifestyle to work, humans are becoming more mobile by the decade, and wireline bandwidth, while growing, is increasingly not appropriate to our needs. Cars today have more computers in them than houses, but get a small fraction of the comparative bandwidth. That will change.

Finally, it is worth noting that wireless bandwidth will be the Great Equalizer of this century, providing citizens and countries equal access to the world’s information and commerce. Countries which, like China (yet to move to 3G), choose to put politics ahead of this trend, will become case examples of what not to do, while those such as India which push aggressively for wireless bandwidth will be emulated worldwide, for the hope and prosperity which this form of being connected can bring.

Wireless Broadband and future education


Posted on 17th October 2008 by Judy Breck in Mobile & Ubiquitous, Mobile Learning and Wireless Broadband

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Today I received Chetan Sharma’s email announcing that the book he has co-written with Vern Fotheringham has been released. Its title is Wireless Broadband: Conflict and Convergence. Its foreword is by Mark Anderson, CEO of Strategic News Service, who is known for his ability to predict trends in to the future.

I downloaded the foreword and salute the following quotations from Anderson that move the education sector from the backwaters of the internet world right up front with the most important:

Wireless broadband is the point of a spear which, in every country in the world, will drive progress in education, economic development, health and medicine, agriculture, markets, family welfare, technological and scientific advances, and general communications. . . .

In fact, we seem, as a planet, to be on the verge of a mammoth deployment of bandwidth, and my guess is that the great preponderance of those cycles will be delivered wirelessly. . . .

Consider K12 education, which promises to become the largest market segment for computers sometime during this next decade. While everyone is wondering where the funds will come from for one computer for each student (and teacher), most planners are overlooking a more important question: bandwidth.

How much [bandwidth] does one student need? Do they want to watch movies? Of course! Well, that’s about 1.5 Mbps. Does the teacher want them to be able to watch the same movies as the other children in the class? Of course! How many kids in the room, maybe 30? All right, that’s 45 Mbps. And how many classrooms in the building? Perhaps 15 or more, plus a library, assembly room, etc.; perhaps the building needs 675 Mbps. Whoa! How do you get it, and who is going to pay for it? This may be the largest problem facing modern elementary education today.

It is this insatiability for cycles which puts wireless in the foreground: wires (and fiber) just can’t keep up. For the moment, and as long as fiber remains the fatter pipe, one can picture the globe as though two kinds of wildfire were consuming it: first comes the wireless provision, followed in the cities by the wired provision. If wireless becomes the fatter pipe—and there are reasons to think this could happen—all fiber bets are off.

Whither education? A 3-part policy: take two


Posted on 16th October 2008 by Judy Breck in Schools We Have Now

Over the summer I thought a lot about what the education sector should/must do to get really into the internet wave and upgrade into the 21st century. Last night in the third USA Presidential campaign debate, both candidates lamented the often sorry state of education. Neither candidate mentioned anything about the internet where the student generation is moving at warp speed. They, and other leaders across the board need the suggestions of the internet sector. Here are mine:

Schools K-20 should do these three things fully and now:

Mobiles for students, green the books, no more searching gobbledygook.

If you are a reader, you will recognize that this formula is an update of one I proposed last June: No more pencils, no textbooks, no more searching gobbledygook. The proposal is the same, with a slightly new take on the wording. The newly refined three points now give the structure to the Golden Swamp 21st Century Learning Handbook that I am writing. These are the key ideas:

Mobiles for students: Personal mobile computers — varying from laptops to smartphones to future morphs — will deliver the internet and thereby directly deliver the knowledge to be learned to each student. Education as the 21st century civil rights issue, as John McCain said in the debate last night. Mobiles address education discrimination in a powerful new way: The same online knowledge from the internet will display on the mobile screen of a child of color in a ghetto as does on the screen of a preppy kid under a lovely tree on a private school lawn. A mobile is not aware of its owner’s social, cultural, or racial identity.

Green the books: Educational institutions will buy and use no more textbooks and other educational resources that are printed on paper.

No more searching gobbledygook: Knowledge experts, educators, students, and the fully learning community will optimize educational resources for search engines, syndicate them to users, place them in social networks, and otherwise make certain that virtual knowledge is emergent into the open internet. (A major portion of the handbook I am preparing will describe how to do this important optimization work.)

Tech has ruled content in the digital world — but that is changing


Posted on 15th October 2008 by Judy Breck in Emerging Online Knowledge, Findability, Mobile & Ubiquitous, Mobile Learning and Open Content

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A powerful example of the trend toward content being served by tech is the Kyte Mobile Producer software. Kyte delivers the same content to the full range of devices that interface internet content — at the same time! That is an important step forward for teaching, learning, and educational collaboration. Think for example of the news this month that researchers at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) have generated a digital zebrafish embryo which is the first complete developmental blueprint of a vertebrate, as shown in the image. In the days of print — and even recently in digital media — students and teachers would get this news from different periodicals, books, and lectures as the information trickled differently to various outlets. With Kyte, the news from EMBL could be distributed as the same content at the same time: to desktop computers, mobiles, blogs, video channels, social networks, and chat groups (think: study groups for edu :) .

Gannon Hall, KYTE Chief Marketing Officer, shown above in a demo video of the new software, puts it this way: Kyte is a “universal digital media platform. . . . The power of Kyte really lies in the distribution of content and user engagement.” Kyte provides this list of features:

Kyte Mobile Producer delivers live video streaming over 3G and WiFi networks from your Nokia N-series (N95, N96) device and enables you to distribute that content across the web by embedding your own Kyte video channel into blogs & social networks. Everyone can produce and distribute live videos now across the web directly from your Nokia S60/Symbian smartphone!
Kyte also delivers web audience interaction and community-building via live group chat on your Kyte channel.
Kyte also features a mobile-optimized website for viewing live Kyte channnels on your Nokia smartphone!

Carnival of the Mobilists #145


Posted on 13th October 2008 by Judy Breck in Carnival of the Mobilists, Mobile Learning and Uncategorized

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Whilst the economy may be in systemic melt-down the world of mobile blogging continues to go from strength to strength. So beat the gloom with this week’s round up of the blogosphere’s best mobile reportage at Carnival of the Mobilists 145 touching down at mjelly -  whoop whoop!

Our thanks to James Cooper, Carnival Host for this upbeat barking for Golden Swamp:

“In a similar vein, Judy Breck, the Carnival Queen has contributed a post suggesting that Mobile is part of a silver lining to the economic mess, at least for education, given that networked forms of learning are so much cheaper to deliver than traditional class-room based teaching.  The post has has received a lot of interest and comments on her blog.”

Green education will swap paper textbooks for online versions

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Posted on 12th October 2008 by Judy Breck in Mobile Learning and Schools We Have Now

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Textbooks consume tons of paper from trees we will not have to chop down when education switches to using online — paperless — learning resources. Making schooling green will help importantly in the cause of this poster image from Conservation International.

Perhaps this idea has been advocated on college campuses and in school administrations. Perhaps it has not seemed practical until recently to actually quit printing textbooks — mainly because the computer knowledge-delivery technology was not yet fully developed. But now the switch can be made with not only the more than equivalent delivery of what is in the books. Paperless textbooks will save money, save the kids’ lower backs, and save the trees.

Pressing on into the connected future of education


Posted on 10th October 2008 by Judy Breck in Golden Age of Learning, Mobile Learning and Networks


Economic free falls have a way of clearing the way for innovators. The huge education sector of our economy will certainly be shaken by the huge withdrawal of cash from the status quo. In the following upbeat predications by Hugh Hewlitt, he is thinking about politics. But why not apply this frame of mind to pressing on into the connected future of education:

There is also a new economy humming along powered by millions of highly connected Millennials doing business in new and very different ways. I know a number of them, and most of you do as well. They are outside of old structures and busy designing an economic future. For them, the collapse of stock prices is the greatest investment opportunity of their young lives since they can buy their first shares at these ridiculously low prices. Those of us who invest every month are in fact going to get some greatly discounted shares for a bit, and when the market recovers, please remember that. . . .

Not many Americans are thinking about “pressing on into the future” today, but they will be next week or next month. (In fact, enough of them might so carefully consider the future to give Obama a huge shock at the polls.) A NASCAR nation loves its fast economy, but as with fast cars, there are some spectacular wrecks along the way. We are watching one right now. At its conclusion –which may have already arrived, we just can’t know– a shaken crowd will exhale, fret a bit and mourn the real damage, and then look forward to the next race. “Gentlemen, start your engines” will mark all of 2009, no matter who is president.

I wonder how many web star-ups launched this week? did, and probably a few thousand others. More will follow next week, and in ten thousand industries many hundreds of thousands of engineers will continue to innovate and design. Yes, the Christmas sales season will be slow, and car sales awful, but one thing is certain –Americans will be buying cars for a long long time. There are lots and lots of newly unemployed investment bankers, and most of them are enormously talented folks who will now take that talent away from banking and into the American economy at some other point. Think of the seeding that is going on in front of us.

The money crisis spread quickly by network rules, so can education change


Posted on 10th October 2008 by Judy Breck in Mobile Learning, Networks and Schools We Have Now

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  Xf9Cfbcnke0 Rdyyhpsikoi Aaaaaaaaasg Rx1Iuzrrrag S400 FalstaffKen Carroll included this illustration in a post on his blog yesterday about my recent post on how the economic crunch will speed networked learning. This picture (thanks Ken!) pretty well describes the experiences of those of us who have advocated reconfiguring education to take advantage of the internet through the past years of analog slogging.

I appreciate Ken’s agreement with me here — and his bigger vision that he draws throughout his post:

And Judy is exactly right when she suggests the power of mobile learning in this scenario. But there are, in fact, entirely new conceptions of what a university education should be that go way beyond this. This is not news, but that conversation is going to get louder.

The conclusion to the post Ken writes is a powerful call to action. Here is my suggestion for beginning individual action — how first steps can be taken right now while the economic crises loudly demands money cuts:

  • If you are a teacher, abandon the printed textbook in your own classroom. Authorize/accept no new printed textbooks — ever. If your school won’t let you take this position, complain as much as you can.
  • If you are a parent, ask your kids’ teachers to use online resources. Guide their college choices toward paperless schools (the kids will approve!).
  • If you are an administrator, oppose buying printed textbooks. Free online textbooks will save education institutions and students billions of dollars annually.
  • If you are a student demand full provision of mobile access where you attend school. Smart phones and the new generation of mini laptops like Inspiron and Acer cost under $500. Including wireless costs, these devices provide students with all the content on the internet, instead of a few expensive books to lug around.

Network laws cause big things to start from little actions. Changes spread virally in networks, with the potential — once they are affirmed by the wisdom of the crowd — to cascade! If for example, college students began individually not to buy printed textbooks there is the potential for a tipping point and cascade that would have saved college students in the USA alone $3.6 billion dollars in new printed textbooks this year. There’s some powerful networked learning economics in that !

Many thanks to Stephen Downes for spreading this conversation!

The economic crunch will speed networked learning


Posted on 8th October 2008 by Judy Breck in Connective Expression, Emerging Online Knowledge, Golden Age of Learning, Mobile Learning, Networks and Open Content

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When network laws are followed, learning and teaching are far less costly than in cash-devouring 20th century schools. Just for overall starters:

  • One virtual textbook can serve essentially unlimited students while costing almost nothing — instead of costing hundreds of thousands of dollars, euros, yen, etc. only to be worn out and become obsolete very quickly.
  • Talented, knowledgeable teachers can reach students far and wide who are seeking to benefit from their expertise — serving many more students than they can in a 20th century type classroom, and at no cost increase.
  • Mobile devices that students own are multiples cheaper in device cost and maintenance than school based PCs — and the connectivity is both spreading and getting cheaper, FAST!

Education needs re-tooling to engage the virtual world of knowledge. There are at least these pieces of very good news about that:

  • The knowledge students will learn is already online, and more accurate and up-to-date there than in older school resources like textbooks and overworked subject teachers.
  • Connected learning will save billions in current education spending — some of which can redirected to setting up open knowledge network access for all students, and to providing them with mobile computers. For starters, we could freeze any further spending on printed textbooks, which would save school systems and students billions.

About a Handbook for 21st Century Education


Posted on 6th October 2008 by Judy Breck in Uncategorized

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The Handbook is a new project begun in September 2008. It collects articles from this blog that describe the morphing underway from analog-geographically based delivery of knowledge for learning to the digital ecology of enlightenment used in common by everyone on earth.

The handbook will be designed for the individual who wants to take part in putting knowledge assets online so they can be reached by the most learners.