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Tribute to Ted Sizer who respected adolescents


Posted on 23rd October 2009 by Judy Breck in Golden Age of Learning and Mobile Learning

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Theodore Sizer, whose obituary is in the New York Times today, saw a crucial key which unlocks individual education. As the obituary concludes: “He wrote in [his 1997 best seller] Horace’s Compromise, ”Horace Smith and his ablest colleagues may be the key to better high schools, but it is respected adolescents who will shape them.”

Adolescents who are respected are not the kids you find in failing schools and especially in United States inner city black schools. Dumping money on these schools demeans the student body even more. It resonates as failure that speeds a downward cycle of expectations that form of an underclass of can’t do kids. This underclass becomes a growing source of leftish political and union support, casting a deepening shadow on American democracy.

Ted Sizer did great work in creating schools where the adolescents were respected — beginning in the 1980s. It is now becoming much easier for any adolescent to avoid the demeaning expectations. We have a powerful new tool for eliminating the respect problem. The kid who uses his or her smartphone to browse the web connecting to knowledge and assessment options is not judged by its virtual teacher and tester. The mobile source of knowledge in the kid’s pocket does not know if its owner is in South Chicago, South Korea, or Southampton. It does not know if the individual connecting in is male or female, black or asian or white, or what grades school has given this person.

The experience young Sizer had that taught him individual adolescents can achieve is explained in the obituary of this remarkable and extremely insightful and constructive educator. Although in the experience this describes the pressure to achieve was group support, notice that it is the individual who is proven to be able to perform. In the virtual world of learning online, every adolescent is respected.

Theodore Ryland Sizer was born in New Haven on June 23, 1932. His father, also named Theodore, was an art historian at Yale. After earning a bachelor’s degree in English from Yale in 1953, the younger Mr. Sizer served as an Army artillery officer, an experience that would set the course of his professional life.

Few of the young soldiers who served under him had completed high school, but when treated as valued members of a cohesive group they learned new skills readily, he found.

“Whatever troops you got had to deliver,” Professor Sizer told Phi Delta Kappan magazine in 1996. “If one person didn’t do it, he put everybody’s life at stake. That made a deep impression.”

Little things acting together make music, molecules and ideas


Posted on 17th October 2009 by Judy Breck in Biology, Connective Expression, Emerging Online Knowledge, Golden swamp defined, Music and Open Content

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The thesis of golden swamp is that what we learn and know emerges in network patterns from little pieces — and that can happen in the idea ecosystem of the open internet as it does in our minds. Big, static structures like curricula do not work well in the open ecology, and need to be unbundled into small pieces that can interact freely.

The two marvelous videos embedded above and below show the dynamics of small pieces emerging into music and molecules. That is very similar to what happens when you or I think. That is also what happens online when a learner connects interlinkable bits of knowledge.

The narrator of the molecule video says that, “Ribosomes can make any kind of protein. It just depends on what kind of genetic message you feed it on the RNA.” The music machine is also being fed a string of information code which it follows to activate the balls. Future curricula will include strings of information to activate online patterns of virtual bits of what is known by humankind.

Optical conveyor belt gathers up molecules


Posted on 16th October 2009 by Judy Breck in Chemistry and Subject Sampler

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Watch the video above to see a very recent advance in molecular science — the kind that would take months or years to reach classrooms before the edge of human knowledge moved online.

A Chemistry World post this week explains:

The researchers placed a thin film of water containing single stranded DNA molecules between a glass surface and a metal-coated base. By heating a spot on the base with an infrared laser a thermal gradient is created in the fluid layer, with cooler fluid at the top. This pushes the DNA molecules towards the top of the film. The laser is then scanned in a radial pattern from the centre; as the laser spot moves it heats up the fluid locally causing changes in viscosity which result in contraction and expansion of the fluid either side of the moving spot, which causes the fluid to flow outwards, away from the centre. The layer of fluid above this moving ‘belt’ moves in the opposite direction to conserve mass. In this way, the molecules, which have been drawn to the upper layer of the fluid by the initial heating, are pulled towards the central spot, where they accumulate.

conveyorWeinert and Braun showed that high concentrations of DNA can be accumulated within a few seconds when carried on the conveyor. ‘The mechanism does not require microfluidics, electrodes, or surface modifications,’ the researchers say. ‘As a result, the trap can be dynamically relocated. The optical conveyor can be used to enhance diffusion-limited surface reactions, redirect cellular signalling, observe individual biomolecules over a prolonged time, or approach single-molecule chemistry in bulk water.’

Find more selected chemistry links in the GoldenSwamp Study Subjects.

Connecting ideas on the nano internet


Posted on 15th October 2009 by Judy Breck in Connective Expression, Emerging Online Knowledge, Findability and Networks


The image in the illustration above shows how a string that binds to different parts of a string of DNA causes a new configuration. Why not use the same principle to bind the meaning of small hunks of meaning in the open online ecology? When you think about it, something like that is already happening through tagging. Webpages with the same tags are clumped together during keyword searching.

Most importantly, the principle that is illustrated suggests what could be done by working at the nano level of the internet to enrich content. The illustration demonstrates that reducing ideas to their very small components makes possible new and multiple combinations. Typical educational curricula start from the whole big idea, restricting the flexibility of the pieces that compose the subject.

You will see that I am extrapolating an idea that is a stretch from the subject in the TED talk by Paul Rothemund where I found the illustration. It is a very interesting talk on DNA Origami. Clicking the illustration will take you to the talk.

GoldenSwamp’s New Ideas Changing Learning Project


Posted on 12th October 2009 by Judy Breck in Golden Age of Learning and Golden swamp defined


A new project called Ideas Changing Learning is beginning to come online as part of GoldenSwamp. As new pages and sections are added, I will write blog posts here introducing them. There are now four beginning pages of the project online:

New ideas are changing learning home and introductory page

Golden swamp defined
Handschooling defined
The idea of learning from the same page

As I continuing blogging here on the GoldenSwamp blog, I will link to the project pages for background about my topics. Everything I write about is focused on what the picture posted above illustrates: 21st century children will learn in new ways. We need to understand the new learning, develop the good things about it — getting our heads out of the 20th century.

The little girl in the picture with me above will live into the 22nd century if she reaches the age of 92. She will not remember the schools we knew in the 20th century. She has contemporaries in many parts of the planet who have no schools. There are many kids her age who are headed into schools, even in the most developed countries, that will leave them in an underclass. There are millions of girls her age who will not be allowed to attend school.

There are new ideas for learning that can end these and other education shortages and failures. We can help. I am working to explain how at and its new Ideas Changing Learning project.

And someday text vooks


Posted on 1st October 2009 by Judy Breck in Mobile Learning and Schools We Have Now

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The inertia of established education is stark to see in a New York Times article today: Curling Up With Hybrid Books, Videos Included. Here are some excerpts:

For more than 500 years the book has been a remarkably stable entity: a coherent string of connected words, printed on paper and bound between covers.

But in the age of the iPhone, Kindle and YouTube, the notion of the book is becoming increasingly elastic as publishers mash together text, video and Web features in a scramble to keep readers interested in an archaic form of entertainment . . . .

The new hybrids add much more. In one of the Simon & Schuster vooks, a fitness and diet title, readers can click on videos that show them how to perform the exercises. A beauty book contains videos that demonstrate how to make homemade skin-care potions.

Not just how-tos are getting the cinematic work-up. Simon & Schuster is also releasing two digital novels combining text with videos a minute or 90 seconds long that supplement — and in some cases advance — the story line.

So, what about the obvious “vook” approach to school books? A word search shows neither “school” nor “textbook” is mentioned in this hybrid book round-up article.

School vooks can — and I feel certain — will soon be a mainstay of the new handschooling that will emerge around mobiles. We are in the age of the iPhone, Kindle and YouTube. Here is an opportunity for the mobile industry to tap into the billions spent every year on textbooks — an archaic form of curricula.

The kids will love text vooks and learn from them. If vooks teach homemade skin-care potions, why not physics? What are educators waiting for?