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Golden Swamp goes big picture with


Posted on 28th January 2010 by Judy Breck in Emerging Online Knowledge, Findability, Golden Age of Learning, Mobile Learning, Networks, Open Content and Schools We Have Now

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A new website has been spun off of Click this line to go there to see what is a big picture of exciting new serendipitously, wonderful brand new way to learn in the 21st century.

Here is why I created, from the About section of the new website:

Handschooling will — at last — break each individual child’s learning free to go beyond the control of education establishments. Sound scary? Nothing scares me more about the future than limiting yet another young generation to the analog, tradition-dominated, doling out of a bit of this knowledge and a bit of that knowledge by some remote priesthood (pedagogical, secular, ideological, political, — yes and/or religious too).

We should all be very afraid of education policy reigning from far away. The range of control and chaos these distant pedagogues cause is wide. There is the sort that pumps gushes of money into celebrating mediocrity which perpetuates an underclass the nanny standard setters can count on to keep them in power. There are tyrannies that nurture hatred and spawn fanaticism in the young, even to the horror of blowing people up. Settling for inferior, and even destructive, education for other people’s children is all too easy when those children are in other people’s neighborhoods and towns and beyond.

While we nurture our children up close, we should strive for equal opportunity to learn for each child. Serendipitously, wonderfully — in the 21st century there is a brand new way to do just that! Handschooling has almost suddenly opened the way for every youngster across the world to learn from a global commons of that is known by humankind.

Go to

Mobile access to school standards testing creates equality


Posted on 19th January 2010 by Judy Breck in Golden Age of Learning, Mobile & Ubiquitous, Mobile Learning, Open Content, Politics in the swamp and Schools We Have Now

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Let any child anywhere use his or her mobile to take the school standards tests. All the time now the corporate training world, people learn, are tested, and are certified using their internet connection. Take a look, for example, at the Adobe Certification center.

The Washington Post reports this morning that the “Race to the Top” competition for federal grants to states for education is to increase to more than $6 billion. The core goal here is to measure how students achieve according to standards set for them. As the article reports: “Also, 48 states and the District have joined in an effort to develop a common core of rigorous educational standards to replace the current system in which states have wildly different benchmarks for what should be taught in school.”

Wow: one envisions layers and layers before the kids somehow learn — and prove their teachers have taught and they have the test answers — for whatever this common core is. Why not just put it all out there and let everybody develop and work on what students learn in the transparency of the open internet?

Why not just spend a few million dollars and put everyone’s idea of standard stuff we want kids to learn online, and test them there? Everything could be online: material that is rigorous, material that meets various benchmarks — Texas history for the kids there, and how to farm cranberries for the kids in Vermont. Very soon, tests that won respect of admissions departments and employers would emerge.

The reason this will work is that the individual mobile internet browser will belong to a single student. This ownership makes the opportunity equal for each kid who has a mobile because the nature (good, bad, or not there at all) of a classroom is taken out of the equation.

Each learner can come to the trough of online knowledge, and each can partake according to his or her own appetite. For sure, there are some youngsters in failing urban schools who could ace math tests at the college level. I have met them, I know this is true. There are struggling students in excellent schools who would benefit from studying, on the privacy of their mobile, subjects they “didn’t get” in earlier grades. Being able to get certified online gives them a way to catch up. There are young people in slums and poverty across the world for whom learning basics and more on a mobile browser is a key to their country’s future development. With a mobile browser in her had, a girl interested in astronomy, whose cultures forbids her to attend school, joins her global generation with access equal to every other student who is, for example, browsing images from the Hubble telescope.

A challenge for educators: Put online centers like the Adobe Certification webpages that teach, test, and certify school standards for math, science, technology, languages, humanities — and be sure to make those pages mobile friendly.

Learning basic history, science, math in kids’ hands

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Posted on 17th January 2010 by Judy Breck in Findability, Golden Age of Learning, Mobile & Ubiquitous, Mobile Learning, Open Content and Schools We Have Now

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Every boy in the picture above (by Griff Witte/the Washington Post) can learn basic history, science, math and more — in spite of what is reported today in a front page Washington Post story:

ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN — With a curriculum that glorifies violence in the name of Islam and ignores basic history, science and math, Pakistan’s public education system has become a major barrier to U.S. efforts to defeat extremist groups here, U.S. and Pakistani officials say. . . .

. . . according to education reform advocates here, any effort to improve the system faces the reality of intense institutional pressure to keep the schools exactly the way they are.

How widespread is this intransigence toward changing schooling? This kind of stubbornness is not just found in Islamabad. Intense pressure to keep schools as they are ranges in different places and cultures from orthodoxy to tradition to profit issues by vested interests and control demands by unions and, most sadly, a panoply of corruption.

While we deal across the planet with the inertia and intransigence that promises to perpetuate failing schools for at least another generation or two of kids, why not let the kids trapped in these schools learn the basics with handschooling? To do that, we need to get a mobile that browses the internet to each kid, and focus more on sharpening the findability online of basic subjects. Every boy in the picture above could learn his algebra from a mobile friendly tutorial in Urdu, Punjabi – and one day the full range of local languages. My guess is that many Pakistanis of their generation are already doing some handschooling beyond their school walls — or when they have no school to attend.

Dwarf dance debuts new knowledge while standards setters lock in the old


Posted on 15th January 2010 by Judy Breck in Emerging Online Knowledge, Golden Age of Learning, Mobile & Ubiquitous, Mobile Learning and Open Content

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Will school science continue to teach the long-standing problem in cosmology about how dwarf galaxies form? I don’t know if/where schools teach the dwarf problem, but I do know curriculum and testing standards lock in old knowledge to what is taught and tested.

When I watched the video above this morning, I was only the 302nd person to do so. I found it on’s The Great Beyond science news blog.

In this week’s Nature Fabio Governato and colleagues present computer simulations that appear to have solved a long-standing problem in cosmology — namely, how the standard cold dark matter model of galaxy formation can give rise to the dwarf galaxies we see around us.

The beautiful animation above shows how exploding stars are a key force in shaping dwarf galaxies.

Educators are long overdue in dancing away from locking students into subject matter that fossilizes into printed textbooks and their matching tests. As I lamented this week, Texas is doing that right now for history.

galaxyVideo180WThe education establishment has judgmentally held the internet at arms length for way too long. It is time for teaching to step into the magnificent ballet of what is known by humankind in the open internet.

And wonderfully, it is now possible to put knowledge like the dwarf dance into the hand of every child.

Carnival of the Mobilists reviews recent Golden Swamp post


Posted on 13th January 2010 by Judy Breck in Carnival of the Mobilists

Check out Carnival of the Mobilists #206, online today at mobiThinking. The carnival is a weekly round-up of fresh thinking about mobile from the leading bloggers in the field.

Texas is busy today setting standards for history to be taught for 10 years


Posted on 13th January 2010 by Judy Breck in Open Content and Schools We Have Now


For the next ten years, what kids across America will be taught about history is being set out right now by the Texas State Board of Education. Yahoo!News describes what is happening in a news story today: Texas braces for fight over social studies lessons. We learn from this report that: “Much of the conversation ahead of the hearing has turned to how much emphasis will be given to the religious beliefs of the nation’s founding fathers . . . .”

Note in the quotation below from the Yahoo! article in the sentence I have emphasized that national tests will follow these standards. So, for the next 10 years if you are a student in Ohio taking a test that will qualify you for promotion, a diploma, or college admission, you will have to know what some Texas political appointees want you to know about the religion of American’s founding fathers.

Perhaps there were some shreds of sense to this when textbooks were the basic knowledge delivery vehicle to schools. But now, the Internet provides not only a full range of views on knowledge. In the example of the religious views of the founding fathers, the Colonial Williamsburg podcast collection includes views on religion by both Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry, in their own words.

How much longer are we going to let this happen, as described by Yahoo! today? :

The State Board of Education begins hearing testimony, before a tentative vote this week on new social studies curriculum standards that will serve as the framework in Texas classrooms. But, as usual in votes before the conservative-led board, the wide-reaching guidelines are full of potential ideological flashpoints. . .  .

The curriculum it chooses will be the guideposts for teaching history and social studies to some 4.8 million K-12 students for 10 years. The standards will be used to develop state tests and by textbook publishers who develop material for the nation based on Texas, one of the largest markets. . . .

Internet home access to low-income families de-fangs savage inequalities


Posted on 13th January 2010 by Judy Breck in Mobile & Ubiquitous, Mobile Learning and Schools We Have Now

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Home Access scheme to provide internet access to low-income families has gone live in England. reports:“PC giveaway for school kids is go: 270,000 low-income families getting internet access at home courtesy of the government…”  It is hopeful to think about the possibilities here in contrast to my post yesterday about the persistent and deepening savage inequalities for children in failing American schools.

In the piloting for the program in England, the article reports: “A recent Institute of Fiscal Studies report cited by the government also states that having a computer at home could lead to a two-grade improvement in one subject at GCSE.”

The Detroit Free Press laments that: “Most Detroit Public Schools’ fourth- and eighth-graders were unable to score at a basic math level on a national test this year — marking the lowest performance in the history of the National Assessment of Educational Progress.” A two-grade improvement would be huge in Detroit.

Handschooling is a new weapon against Savage Inequalities


Posted on 11th January 2010 by Judy Breck in Mobile & Ubiquitous, Mobile Learning and Schools We Have Now

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At the end of 2009 we read this headline: Detroit students’ scores a record low on national test. This is once again the sad echo of what, in his 1991 best seller, Jonathan Kozol called Savage Inequalities: Children in America’s Schools. A quotation on the cover of Savage Inequalities from New York Times book reviewer Andrew Hacker says: “An impassioned book, laced with anger and indignation, about how our public education system scorns so many of our children.” Kozol’s powerful depiction of this national tragedy is still a best-seller, ranking today at #1343 on

Wave after wave of “school reform” has failed. We have not ended our scorn of many of our children. Detroit’s record low last year tells us, in fact, that the inequalities have only gotten deeper. Change does not happen. More of the same does not make anything different.

Different, though, has actually become possible. There is something new: let’s do it!

whoDaddyIn 1991 when Kozol’s book was published, the possibility of each child holding everything known in his or her hand was still Star Trek stuff. Today it is real and is happening. The hands in the image above belong to a fourth-grader who is the daughter of one of my nephews. Making each of our children equal to her in knowledge access is just one smartphone away. [Sure, I know homes and teachers vary -- but the equality is profound for the individual child using a mobile internet browser. The reading, writing, arithmetic, history, science, technology are just out there waiting to display on the mobile, and to be learned by whoever is peering at its screen. The device does not ask or care who your daddy is or what sort of school you attend.]

It is a savage inequality of the 21st century for any child in Detroit — anywhere — who does not own an individual mobile internet browser. Making certain that children have handschooling is a new weapon against the scorn of  inequality.

Five Star OER: Scientists explain their major new discovery about Walking Tetrapods

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Posted on 7th January 2010 by Judy Breck in Emerging Online Knowledge, Findability, Golden Age of Learning, Open Content, Paleontology and SEO

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NatureNews reported yesterday that the clock for four-legged creatures has been turned back 18 million years. Anyone connected to the internet can learn this new information from the scientists who made the discovery. The video above is narrated by one of these paleontologists and the report from NatureNews sketches the facts.

As OER (open educational resources) these materials are the footprints of the future. Previous educational resources, especially printed ones like textbooks, are now obsolete on the dating of walking tetrapods. They will continue to place walking tetrapods 18 million years later than they should be on their timelines — for months or years until they can be updated and reprinted.

scientistThe NatureNews report and video are Five Star OER because they can be used as a direct interface to students from big science in almost real time. In his narration of the video, Dr. Ahlberg says: “I have been working personally in this field since the mid-1980s. I have had over 20 publications in Nature. And this is the most important paper that I have ever worked on.”

Watch the video and I think you will agree that the learning experience is worth making sure paleontology students see it. I was only #352 to watch it on YouTube. What can educators do to make sure Walking with Tetrapods gets into the learning mainstream? There is a lot we can do by optimizing the video for learning networks and linking to it robustly. Educators can fundamentally upgrade global learning by concentration on Five Star OER, and letting go of analog resources with less learning star power.

Apple’s Tablet, as Imagined by Book Publishers

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Posted on 5th January 2010 by Judy Breck in Mobile & Ubiquitous and Mobile Learning

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This video is described on MarketWatch as “Apple’s Tablet, as Imagined by Book Publishers”:

This video created by Coursesmart, a joint venture of five textbook publishers, shows how students might use tablet-based textbooks. It is based on their own renderings, not specific applications being developed with Apple.

Terrific as the use of textbooks on the imagined device would be, Apple’s tablet will surely not be a one trick pony. In fact, a really big trick is demonstrated briefly in the video: going out to the Web to find subject matter related to a textbook topic.

As I wrote about yesterday, the new mobile devices rolling out are important heads-ups for educators. How do you imagine Apple’s Tablet from your perspective as a student or teacher, or just someone who wants to learn something?

HT: Brian

Google and Apple innovations should be heads-up for educators


Posted on 3rd January 2010 by Judy Breck in Biology, Emerging Online Knowledge, Findability, Golden Age of Learning, History, Mobile & Ubiquitous, Mobile Learning, Networks and Open Content

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How do educators anticipate new tech opportunities? Do educators think ahead, or are they still “innovating” what was new tech quite a while back? Let’s see: At Edgelings today Michael S. Malone gives us peeks at the big, cool offerings from Google and Apple due out soon. They are sketched in the excerpt from Malone quoted below about these two big things coming down the pipe:

1. “‘Webphone’, a device that uses the Internet, a la Skype, as its transmission medium and thus escaping forever the tyranny of the phone companies.” Malone does not think Google will do the Webphone in its new Nexus. If/when it does arrive, he says such a device will “stun the tech world.” When the Webphone does arrive, it will stun the education world by ending establishment control of learning content. A student with a Webphone will have individual, free access to the internet in his or her pocket. Here are some opportunities educators should be preparing for in the coming Webphone era:

  • Only open educational resources (OER) will be findable online by Webphones doing searches.
  • Because educational resources will move to the cloud, they become globally within reach.
  • Connecting to any education resource can only happen via a single url (node) making it necessary to optimize nodes for findability (or, for sure, they will not be found)
  • You may think of others . .  .

2. Apple’s new “‘category-buster,’ . . . think of an oversized iPod Touch, but no doubt with much of the functionality of a personal computer (not to mention all of those iPhone apps). It will also no doubt, have one or two very cool and unexpected new features . . . .” Of course, the iPod Touch is already a wireless way to access the internet without phone company control. Webphone changes for education again come into play. Other factors educator might anticipate in mulling how to teach toward students interacting with stuff to learn through their Apple tablet that is interfacing the internet:

  • Should, and how should, curricula and pedagogy in general intrude into the natural patterning of knowledge subjects in the open internet?
  • Can, and should, education standards writers impose grade levels upon learning resources being directly accessed by students? Here, for example, are expertly curated learning resources online; what is education’s remaining role in standardizing them, if any?
  • Library of Congress Today in History
    Molecule of the Week

  • How else should educators anticipate the handschooling era that is fast upon us?

moleculeAs this image from the Molecule of the Week reminds us, patterns of networking nodes emerge to create much of the real and virtual worlds. Educators need capture this emergent abundance from within OER. To do so education must focus on two kinds of nodes: the ones online that form OER (not the just the bundled pedagogy) and the nodes that each are a student toting 24/7 access to the internet cloud.

. . . But if any could stun the phone world it would be Google.  It too [like Apple] is full of smart, arrogant people, the company has lots of dough, and because phones are outside its core business it can in theory take a big risk without worrying about legacy issues.  For example, as many industry insiders have suggested, Google could stun the tech world – and hit Apple at its weakest point – by coming out with a “Webphone”, a device that uses the Internet, a la Skype, as its transmission medium and thus escaping forever the tyranny of the phone companies.  There’s a lot of problems with that strategy, of course, but it would certainly shock the world, and put Apple on the defense.

Unfortunately, the early reports suggest that what Google will introduce next week, the Nexus One, will be a largely conventional smartphone.  That’s a pity, because I suspect Google will never get this chance again.

Meanwhile, strong on momentum and flush with cash, Apple isn’t waiting around for the world to catch up with it.  Two weeks from now, the company is expected to introduce yet another category-buster:  this time it’s rumored to be a tablet device – think of an oversized iPod Touch, but no doubt with much of the functionality of a personal computer (not to mention all of those iPhone apps).  It will also no doubt, have one or two very cool and unexpected new features that will make it a gotta-have for Apple fanatics everywhere.  Once again, Apple will have a new product that challenges convention, seemingly obsoletes an entire multi-billion dollar industry (in this case, handheld computers) while overwhelming a second, newer industry (netbooks, such as the Kindle) and yet is still stunning to look at.

UPDATE: Coursesmart has a video imagining Apple’s tablet from the viewpoint of textbook publishers.

Take online courses to advance your career.

Is open education stuff really open, nuanced, or decided at a table?


Posted on 1st January 2010 by Judy Breck in Connective Expression, Emerging Online Knowledge, Golden Age of Learning, Golden swamp defined, Networks and Open Content

openTableA very interesting, complex conversation about what open content for education means is underway among several of the top thinkers in the field. Back in November, David Wiley wrote a post called “Defining ‘Open.’” George Siemens weighed in with “Open isn’t so open anymore” in which he took issue with David’s statement that: “open is a function of gradients (”a continuous, not binary, construct”).” David responded yesterday in detail, George has responded there. There are many comments to the posts. The Reverend also wrote about the conversation yesterday; I grabbed the open table image from that post.



I thought it would be fun to toss  illustrations into the mix, if only because I am a “stubborn, irritating, aggravating visionary” of the sort George says we need in his introductory paragraph. So let me be aggravating: It makes little difference if pedagogy is open, nuanced, or behind a wall. Curricula, courses, textbooks, lesson plans — pedagogical content — are great to have online, but are essentially analog teaching tools. As the image to the left suggests, pedagogical stuff now draws some content from the open internet, but is not using the networking laws of the internet for cognitive organization nor to mirror ideas directly to a learning mind.

Pedagogical tools and the knowledge they teach are not the same thing! It is the knowledge that must be open for learning gold to emerge from the internet swamp. Knowledge itself is network of cognitive nodes that has nestled into the online open (only open) network.  This is the theme of my blog where I advocate that the time has come for education to engage the network power of online knowledge.

openBreckIn this third image, I have suggested a pattern of knowledge emerging from where it openly networks online. The huge change when this is allowed to happen in learning is that this emergent pattern mirrors directly into the networking mind of a student. Open (yes, binary open) is absolutely necessary for every node that participates in patterns of this sort. Proof that this sort of networking is real and very powerful is illustrated in the Los Alamos Map of Science, which I used in the above illustration. Here in a larger size is a portion of that networking, captured from the reality of what is going on online with cognitive knowledge:


Web 4.0 works by nodes signaling each other and linking into patterns

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Posted on 1st January 2010 by Judy Breck in Emerging Online Knowledge, Findability, Golden swamp defined, Networks and Open Content

Exploring “Wolfram|Alpha: What is it Good For?”, this ReadWriteWeb REDUX story concludes with this speculation:

It was interesting to hear about some of the potential uses of Wolfram|Alpha. We at ReadWriteWeb think this product has a promising future. If Web 2.0 was about creating data (user generated content, to use the most familiar term for this), then the next generation of the Web is all about using that data. Wolfram|Alpha is premised on using and computing data . . . .

Use Case: Sports Watching – Imagine sitting in your sofa in the lounge, remote control in one hand and your favorite beverage in the other. You’re watching the Friday night game on TV, it’s a close game and you’re curious about which team has the better chance of winning. Why, check Wolfram|Alpha of course! In real time, Wolfram|Alpha could compute statistics about not just the history of the two teams – but the history of the location of the game, the weather, the season so far, etc. . . .

This is exciting stuff. We humans are creating content management systems that pluck a bunch of data out of the internet and manipulate that data to be useful for us. In the sports watching example, the data is made useful to a guy on a sofa watching a game in progress. If we call this use and computing of data Web 3.0, what then is Web 4.0?

Web 4.0 on has been humming away in the open internet for years, but almost completely ignored in education applications. When this powerful phenomenon manages to emerge for education into the way we interface online content, for education resources Web 4.0 will dominate Web 2.0 (creating data) and Web 3.0 (using/computing data). What I am calling Web 4.0 in this post is the fact that network laws rule. And rule they do when we let them: The essence of Google is to let network laws emerge its SERPS (search engine results pages). Amazon flings its books, all other products, reviews, rankings into a milieu governed by network laws.

Network laws function as the natural content management system of the open internet that I call the Golden Swamp. There is certainly nothing wrong with managing the content that emerges from the online networking. E-commerce caught on to that long ago, responding by developing the SEO (search engine optimization) industry to harness networking.

Web 4.0 works by nodes signaling each other and linking into patterns. If we want to manage OER (open education resources) at the level where network laws can select and vet it globally, we need to build signaling into the nodes of data that we put online.