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Gloves in cultural history


Posted on 27th June 2009 by Judy Breck in Emerging Online Knowledge

When I moved from El Paso to New York City in 1968, I brought with me perhaps a couple of dozen pairs of gloves. At least half of them were white, and I remember that one was an elbow-length pair of kid (leather) gloves. When I was in high school in the early 1950s, gloves were (along with hats) standard apparel for going to ladies teas, riding on an airplane or train, and going to church. The long kid ones were to wear when going to a formal dance in a long gown.

A lot of things happened in 1968, with the Hippies and all that — and wearing ladies gloves pretty much ended in the wake. My glove collection sat through the 1970s and into the 1980s in a drawer, unworn. In the mid-1980s I was working at a large Wall Street law firm. One of those Decembers a paralegal came to my desk to ask for a contribution to Santa Claus. She explained that the paralegals had gotten a “Letter to Santa Claus” from the Post Office and were collecting to answer the wish of a junior high school teacher in the South Bronx who had written it. The teacher wrote that the children (more…)

Not just choice, but equal knowledge for all students


Posted on 26th June 2009 by Judy Breck in Emerging Online Knowledge, Golden Age of Learning, Mobile & Ubiquitous, Mobile Learning and Networks

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We still have school imbalance savage inequalities described by Jonathan Kozol in 1992. The imbalance is getting worse: Now, kids who have their own mobile Internet devices — laptops and smartphones — have a new, important advantage over youngsters in failing schools. The analog resources of public schooling are designed to let most students settle for a median of C+, like the high point on a bell curve. Things are very different at the ends of the bell curve. Their is deep failure and dropping out at one end. At the other end an elite is excelling with the help of Internet access through mobile devices that individual students own. Examples: private prep schools, a scattering of exceptional schools in wealthy districts, and homeschoolers.

The simple fix is to give every student his or her own mobile wireless access to the Internet.
Google Chairman and CEO Eric Schmidt told the June 2009 graduates of Carnegie Mellon University that ubiquitous information is coming and that it is important because it is “a tremendous equalizer.” Dumping many billions of dollars on the bell curve system of schools we have now will not equalize the opportunity of students. Some students will still be in failing schools, most will be near the C+ average, a few will have every advantage. If all have devices they will be learning from the same virtual page, and in that they will be equal.

This is the week the internet took over


Posted on 23rd June 2009 by Judy Breck in Emerging Online Knowledge and Findability

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The new go-to public information medium is now the internet. That has happened because the truth about what was happening in Iran has been coming primarily through the internet.

For me, noticing the change was very direct. It was not the first such change I have experienced. In the 1940s and 1950s we waited for LIFE magazine to arrive to see pictures of the important events of the week before. Although we had two good newspapers in El Paso, Texas where I was then growing up, the news was largely local and the images were few and pretty grainy. LIFE’s broad, rich pages were the main medium for us to see our larger world. In the 1960s and 1970s, television brought us Walter Cronkite and the anchors who followed him to show and describe to us what was happening in the world. The role of TV as the go-to place for me when something was happening did not change again until this week.

The turning point for me was when I came across a tweet on #Iranelection that mentioned a woman having been shot in Tehran. I clicked through to YouTube and landed on the video of Neda’s death. I saw it — and watched it in horror — hours before it began to be mentioned in cable or television news, much less printed in a newspaper.

There are those who think our children should have what they learn pre-packaged in textbooks. I certainly appreciate having been able to learn from textbooks back in my schooldays — when books and magazines like LIFE were the only sources we had. That is no longer true. Children live in a world where the internet now dominates the dissemination of knowledge.

Washington Post and Carnival post DC smartphones piece


Posted on 15th June 2009 by Judy Breck in Carnival of the Mobilists

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Because I linked the piece I wrote yesterday Give smartphones to Washington DC students, to the Washington Post article that prompted me to write in, the WP linked back to GoldenSwamp. Welcome to Post readers!

The same piece was accepted in this week’s Carnival of the Mobilists #178. Welcome Carnivalers! The lovely lady in the red hat is from the Carnival, hosted this week by Volker Hirsch.

Give smartphones to Washington DC students


Posted on 14th June 2009 by Judy Breck in Mobile & Ubiquitous, Mobile Learning and Schools We Have Now

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The failures of the Washington DC public school system are detailed in a long article today in the Washington Post about Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee. Appointed in 2007 to head the school system that is supposed to educate children who live in our nation’s capital, Rhee is quoted in the article with this frank assessment:

“The reality in Washington, D.C., is that we continue to fail the majority of kids who are put in our care every day,” she said at a panel discussion last month. In a draft five-year action plan, introduced in October, she targets 2013 as the year when the D.C. student experience will be “dramatically different.”

The four years from now to 2013 is the standard length of high school! Yuk: an entering freshman this fall can hope to graduate from a dramatically different school in four years.

Something that could bring some potent immediate equality to the DC high school students is to give each of them a smartphone like The President and all the important people on Capitol Hill have — with full access to browse the internet. The smartphone in a student’s hand does not know what color she is or to what school he is assigned. The smartphone is unaware of who the student is who is browsing the internet’s vast knowledge. As I reported here last week, Google CEO told this year’s Carnegie Mellon graduates that “Information is a tremendous equalizer.”

Are you thinking the kids would not use their smartphones to learn? Maybe all of them will not take full academic advantage of personal access to the internet. Yet dubious negative expectations cannot justify confining yet another 4-year crop of DC teenagers to the failing public high schools without internet access of their own. You can be very sure kids at the schools where the “important” people in Washington send them will have that access. The smartphones the public school students would use do not have the negative expectations of their owners that a lot of people in Washington have.

Online a student can learn feminism or Burke and both


Posted on 13th June 2009 by Judy Breck in Open Content and Schools We Have Now

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A Wall Street Journal writer conservative writer’s headline complains today about the University Curriculum that: If they can find time for feminist theory, they can find time for Edmund Burke.

In the age of the internet, the censorship of curricula is getting more and more ridiculous. In the humanities or sciences, it is no longer the university where the most recent, vetted, and complete knowledge is available. Wherever we are on the political spectrum, I cannot imagine we would want to send our kids to a place where a curriculum gives them only a slice of a subject selected by the faculty.

Lessons learned on a massively multiplayer online game


Posted on 10th June 2009 by Judy Breck in Golden Age of Learning, Schools We Have Now and games

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Watch “a dude who has learned very little in any world, real or virtual,” says the article posting this video in a story about the Games+Learning+Society Conference now underway at the University of Wisconsin.

There is some profanity in the video that reminds me of overhearing my little brother and his friend talking to each other when they were about 13-years-old. The voices you hear are real people, whose physical location could be anywhere on earth where there is a sufficient internet connection to play the massively multiplayer online game (MMO) World of Warcraft (WoW).

The scene you will watch in the video is played out by avatars, each representing and controlled remotely by a human player in WoW. You will see why the human resources industry has begun to pay attention to people whose resumes include proven leadership in games like WoW. Clearly the “dude” here will not want to put this incident on his resume.

One of the knee jerk responses to proposing learning on the internet is that schools provide socialization for students. The “dude” here may not think of his experience as socialization, but there is no doubt he learned a thing or two about organizing people — the hard way. Because his learning was virtual, only his avatar needs to fall on his sword. This virtual venue is emerging as a major aspect of education.

Power law reveals elitism in public schooling that we can fix


Posted on 9th June 2009 by Judy Breck in Mobile & Ubiquitous, Mobile Learning and Schools We Have Now

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It is a safe guess that in the best public schools at least 80 percent of students have their own access to the internet through their laptop or smart phone. It is unlikely that even 20 percent of students in the worst public schools have such access. The 80/20 Rule is an expression of the power law, and here makes clear one of today’s education’s heels on the necks of non-elite kids.

Great pertinent news today is the new $99 price for a smart phone by Apple, last year’s iPhone. We have strained and groaned too long at leaving no child behind a standard line of mediocrity. We can now afford (at just $99 per child) to give them all a tool to pursue each’s own curiosity and inherent ability. How can we afford not to do that? Sure, there is more than the cost of the smartphone itself. You have to add about $1000 per year per student for a wireless plan so the internet can be browsed on the smartphone. The cost of public education is roughly $10,000 per year, so smartphone cost is around ten percent of that. It seems certain that smartphone costs will go down and that using the devices instead of printed textbooks will save a great deal of money.

Thinking about students in public schools as populating a bell curve masks the elitism. It makes the kids without the access to 21st century knowledge riches within the internet seem to be okay. We have assumed too long from the bell curve that they are in that safe middle somewhere. We feel good about trying to move some of them up the steep side of the bell curve. Yet I would bet my G3 that 80/20 individual internet access mirrors 80/20 school achievement.

It gets easier and cheaper to fix the inequity revealed by the power law: To provide every teacher and student with a mobile device to browse the internet. We have strained and groaned too long at leaving no child behind a standard line of mediocrity. We can now afford (at just $99 per child) to give them all a tool to pursue each’s own curiosity and inherent ability. How can we afford not to do that?

Why we should educate kids by the power law not the bell curve

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Posted on 7th June 2009 by Judy Breck in Networks and Schools We Have Now


Here is something that seriously cracks the “bell curve” theory for measuring the potential of children for learning. A “mathematical note” in Wikipedia’s article on the “Pareto principle” has HUGE implications for why the way we do K-12 school fails:

The Pareto Principle is an illustration of a “Power law” relationship, which also occurs in phenomena such as brush-fires and earthquakes. Because it is self-similar over a wide range of magnitudes, it produces outcomes completely different from Gaussian Distribution phenomena. This fact explains the frequent breakdowns of sophisticated financial instruments, which are modeled on the assumption that a Gaussian relationship is appropriate to—for example—stock movement sizes. (Bell curves are Gaussian.)

Think about this: Network science has shown that the internet follows what math calls the power law and Chris Anderson calls the long tail. Ant Wrangler Jake McKee illustrates that when people play in community spaces online, the 90-9-1 principle describes their participation: the power law again. Jakob Nielsen tells us: “In most online communities, 90% of users are lurkers who never contribute, 9% of users contribute a little, and 1% of users account for almost all the action.” AND: The knowledge education is meant to teach is a small world network, as such obeying the power law, as illustrated in Los Alamos’ new Map of Science.

Kids do not all have abilities in the same subjects at the same time. My hunch is that there are 20% of children who are good at each of the things we try to teach them, so we should find out what each child is good at and deliver enough of that to make him or her rise to the top 9% or even 1% in that subject. Doing that is operating within power law. Instead, by using the bell curve, our schools have frequent breakdowns because the Gaussian relationship is not appropriate.

Our grade level and standards model of schooling cannot operate by the power law, but long tail online learning is natural and will thrive in the open internet.

I will be writing much more about this soon.

Eric Schmidt: “Information is a tremendous equalizer”

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Posted on 6th June 2009 by Judy Breck in Findability, Networks and Schools We Have Now

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One of the giants of the network industry predicts the internet will deliver all information to all people. Speaking to Carnegie Mellon University graduates, Google Chairman and CEO Eric Schmidt said:

Why is ubiquitous information so important? Why is it so important that we have access to all this?

It’s a tremendous equalizer. In our lifetime literally — certainly in yours if not mine — essentially every human being on the planet will have access to every piece of information on the planet. This is a remarkable achievement. God knows what these people will do, and it’s going to be pretty amazing.

The CEO of Google is not talking about building universities on a physical campuses the way Andrew Carnegie and the Mellon family did in Pittsburgh in the boom times of the industrial age. He is telling us access to all information to all people will be through the internet.

The 2009 CMU graduates to whom Schmidt spoke are information-elites, having attended one of the world’s great universities where information is open and plentiful. Graduates in 2009 from most other universities and colleges have had less access to information through their school. The slide away from information equality is steep and fast from there to those who do not graduate or even attend traditional schools. There is no chance that we can provide ubiquitous information and the equality it delivers by building more schools across the planet.

The inequity of information delivery will be overcome! Ubiquitous information and the equality it will bring will be sped up by optimizing open access online during the five or so years ahead it will take for mobile internet access to spread to essentially everyone on earth.

Via: Jeff Jarvis’ BuzzMachine

Networks will platform 21st century learning


Posted on 5th June 2009 by Judy Breck in Golden Age of Learning, Networks and Open Content

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The internet is a network platform in which humankind is embedding everything it knows. Educators who are building the future of learning are using the networked, embedded knowledge that the internet contains. It is important for educators to no longer hold the internet off judgmentally. Educators should be hands-on optimizing and connecting knowledge online. The image above shows the reason why: it is how networks connect.

The column going up the right side of the illustration with this post visualizes how knowledge grows in a network. A student’s mind is a network. The internet is a network. Knowledge is a network. It all meshes, and that is a beautiful thing about the new education.

Click this line to watch the video from which the right column is taken. Imagine as you watch that what is spreading is in a student’s mind. Connecting as a richer and richer network as the student learns is his understanding of biology, of the topics to the left of the column in the image above. (Actually the video depicts the spreading pattern of a Bluetooth mobile phone virus — but networks follow their own laws regardless of what is embedded in them.)

I made this illustration with boy and the K-12 ruler several years ago to show how school grades and standards chop apart ideas that need to connect to be understood. I added the right column today because I think it is a powerful visualization how open online content does the opposite of the traditional grades/standards chop chop. Networks connect ideas and deepen context causing learning.

A National Science Foundation press release explains more about the video.

Digital Defoe mirrors author’s “complex network”


Posted on 5th June 2009 by Judy Breck in Literature and Networks

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A distinguished new offering in the digital humanities, Digital Defoe was reported on by Wired Campus yesterday in a review titled 18th-Century Literature Gets a Makeover on the Web. We learn in the report that: “The site was created by the Defoe Society, an international group that studies the work of Daniel Defoe, an 18th-century English writer most famous for his story of Robinson Crusoe, a man shipwrecked on an island. Defoe is considered by some to be the founder of the English novel.”

My contention that the internet can showcase educational content in powerful new ways, by mirroring the inherent network structure of learning, is directly confirmed by the approach the scholars have taken in building Digital Defoe. (more…)

No entry at school into the new “third place”


Posted on 2nd June 2009 by Judy Breck in Schools We Have Now

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Virtual worlds and MMOs (Massively Multiplay Online Games) are off limits for kids at school. Does that means kids who cannot afford the new “third place” on their own don’t get to go there.

A WoW (World of Warcraft) news story this winter begins: “This is interesting — a researcher at the University of Wisconsin-Madison . . . says that World of Warcraft is an emerging new ‘third place.’ That is, it’s a place in between your work and home where you make friends and otherwise interact with new people. Starbucks has even used the term in their actual marketing (to try to make their coffee shops a hangout more than just a place that you stop by and grab a cuppa joe), and WoW isn’t even the first videogame to fit the critera — Sony advertised the Playstation 2 as a ‘third place’ in Europe.”

A conference I attended last week included sessions on learning methods within MMOs. We learned how games like WoW are teaching design, social, strategy, leadership and other skills.

Most students in our schools are not allowed to venture into MMOs while in school because, generally speaking, the adults there are behind the learning curve for online activities. Caution and suspicion barriers are high.

In an MMO session at the conference last week, an ahead of the curve teacher spoke up from the audience with an impassioned plea to make “the price point” for MMOs affordable in schools. (more…)

Spending billions to save the schools, not kids


Posted on 2nd June 2009 by Judy Breck in Golden Age of Learning and Schools We Have Now

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New media learning is a viable option to the grim picture painted in today’s New York Times article about Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s “Tough Challenges Ahead in U.S. Effort to Reshape Failing Schools.”

Let’s get real here! Two different things are happening in education. Continuing these different trends for learning will drive an underclass further under while increasingly engaging elite kids in the new 21st century learning methodology.

HAPPENING #1 (as described in the NYT article today)
We are going spending $77 billion focusing on closing and reopening failing schools. (Dollar amount from the White House website: $77 billion for reforms to strengthen elementary and secondary education.) (more…)

Searching on mobile is a peek at the future


Posted on 2nd June 2009 by Judy Breck in Carnival of the Mobilists


This week’s Carnival of the Mobilists #176 is hosted by Vero at Taptu: the alternative search machine. The alternative, that Taptu, among other visionaries, is leading is mobile search. You can take a peek at a key aspect of mobile future at Taptu, and have a weekly look at all things mobile on the Carnival of the Mobilists as it moves among the leading mobilist bloggers.