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Underlying tension for millennials against standardized education

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Posted on 3rd August 2011 by Judy Breck in Connective Expression, Golden Age of Learning and Networks

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The way Millennials live their lives — creating their own iPod playlists, designing their own Facebook pages grates against one-size-fits-all, industrial-era public education policies . . . . The preceding words are adjusted to education from a point made this week by conservative columnist Michael Barone:

In the wake of the 2008 election, I argued that there was a tension between the way Millennials lived their lives — creating their own iPod playlists, designing their own Facebook pages — and the one-size-fits-all, industrial-era welfare-state policies of the Obama Democrats.

Instead of allowing Millennials space in which they can choose their own futures, the Obama Democrats’ policies have produced a low-growth economy in which their alternatives are limited and they are forced to make do with what they can scrounge.

Every parent who has given a youngster his or her own mobile knows that an individual kid is empowered in important new ways by owning the device. That power is far more than the social connectivity the kids enjoy. As Barone points out, in the virtual world accessed through the device, the youngster is no longer constrained to a one-size-fits-all scenario such as school classrooms and curricula demand.

I think the empowerment that a personal mobile connection to the internet gives an individual is as fundamentally transitional as what occurred at these pivotal historical events:

The network science unfolding in the 21st century will continue to give us clearer understanding and a new perspective on the fact that human creativity and progress emerge from patterns of individuals. Top down power and patterns stifle, whether it is in a political campaign or a classroom.

The individual is a node in a network. We are just beginning to understand (see network science) how connectivity both gives power to nodes link out, and wisdom to crowds. Today’s Millennials are like the new Athenian voters, Brit serfs with new liberties, and America’s Minutemen — enjoying new individual liberty and ready to fight to keep it.

Great, great amounts of treasure are being poured toward giving every child a standardized education, and the system is not succeeding. Meanwhile, a new, better, individualized — and far, far cheaper — way of learning is already in the hands of Millennials.

Trees communicate using mycorrhizal network


Posted on 23rd July 2011 by Judy Breck in Emerging Online Knowledge and Networks

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Learn some fascinating facts about forest interactivity from Brian Lamb’s post Do trees communicate? Networks, networks… and from the 5-minute video by Dr. Suzanne Simard embedded there. Wow: Nature’s use of networks for sharing and managing ideas is awesome. We learn here that a forest is able to communicate among its trees which are in need of CO2, and to thereby supply the CO2 to needy trees. Fungi do the job — for real!

Dr. Simard explains (at 2:30)

. . . all these parts are working together — the fungus is working together with the trees. It’s a lot like how our brains work. In neural networks we have — our brains are comprised of neurons and axons and these neurons are physically related, but they are also almost metaphysically related because they are sending messages back and forth and they are building upon each other. It works a lot like a forest ecosystem that is comprised of overlapping networks . . .

The GoldenSwamp is devoted to the concept that knowledge is itself a network, and that it is best served in a network medium. The Web is a network medium. That is what education should use as its primary source of knowledge in teaching and learning.

In any event, you will have trouble not being fascinated by Brian’s terrific post, the sources he links to, and Dr. Simard exciting video about what happens underground in the forest.

Ocean Topics from Woods Hole go deep into watery knowledge


Posted on 8th July 2011 by Judy Breck in Biology, Geography and Networks

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Dive into Ocean Topics with Wood Hole Oceanographic Institution experts. The Deeper Discovery page is a node in the network of knowledge from one of the world’s preeminent institutions in the field of ocean studies. Topics in the Deeper Discovery collection: Antarctic ecosystem, season, circulation, ecosystem, abundance, and human impact. There are also links chosen by the Woods Hole experts to Antarctic Ecosystem resources across the Web.

The Woods Hole Ocean Topics homepage is a portal to nine other main areas of ocean study and knowledge.

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

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.

Online knowledge organizes itself better than educators can do it

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Posted on 30th December 2009 by Judy Breck in Connective Expression, Emerging Online Knowledge, Findability, Golden Age of Learning, Networks and Open Content

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A recent post posits how knowledge for learning is growing as a superorganism from which everyone on earth can learn. That superorganism is a network that lives within the open internet. The first image (above) sketches how the learning mind, which is a network, can directly apprehend patterns of knowledge from the network that forms the superorganism online of what is known by humankind. That apprehending can be thought of as the mind mirroring patterns it encounters on the internet.

If the learning mind can apprehend knowledge patterns from the emergent knowledge online, why then is it that we spend $$ billions every year on systems of knowledge delivery to education that look something like the second image (below)? Would it not make more sense to curate the online knowledge nodes and network, refining them to signal among themselves to create cognitive patterns to mirror directly into learning minds?
The education establishment has assumed from the beginning of the internet era that it was they who should judge, select, and organize knowledge to be learned that is located on the internet. There is a fatal flaw in those assumptions: in the open internet, the knowledge self-judges, self-selects, and organizes itself better than those things can be done by educators because human knowledge is itself a network and obeys network laws. My statement here is radical, I know. It is also a fact of the internet that is morphing learning resources into the superorganism of what is known by humankind. It is a truth too beautiful not to be true and enormously hopeful for the global future.

Musings on how online networking knowledge mirrors our learning brain


Posted on 29th December 2009 by Judy Breck in Emerging Online Knowledge, Findability, Golden Age of Learning, Networks, Open Content and SEO

museBrainNetworkOur brain is a network. The illustration of the brain here is from Mapping the Structural Core of Human Cerebral Cortex. The Author Summary of the article begins: “In the human brain, neural activation patterns are shaped by the underlying structural connections that form a dense network of fiber pathways linking all regions of the cerebral cortex.”

museBrainNetworkThe knowledge that our brain takes in as we learn is also a network. The networking of knowledge — study subjects that form what is known by humankind –  is illustrated in the images here from the Los Alamos Map of Science. As we use the internet to learn, we can observe and learn the patterns that emerge from knowledge networking online. The internet is the first mirror medium of the networking of ideas we have ever had. It promises a global golden age of learning. We should be using it more in education and working to stimulate its cognitive networking.

museBooksBefore the internet mirrored the networking of ideas, the main way students had for locating nodes of stuff to learn by connecting ideas is illustrated here: We would get them one-by-one out of books and then make the network of their relationships in our minds.

museCMSSince the internet came along, educators have used content management systems, curricula, and the like to harvest learning stuff nodes from the internet and organize the nodes into patterns to convey to students’ minds. This approach should be understood and developed so as to include in the harvest the naturally networking patterns of the open internet.

Educational nodes need to signal like our bacteria do

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Posted on 25th December 2009 by Judy Breck in Connective Expression, Emerging Online Knowledge, Findability, Networks, Open Content and SEO

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bodyPoliticSince the late 1990s, when I was working with education study subjects that were then pouring in to the internet, I have been convinced that what is known by humankind would form a “grand idea” online. By that, I have meant a large network, fully interconnected, of all the subjects we know — what we call academic subjects, the stuff we learn in school. That grand idea network would not and is not something that has grown from the top down. It begins as nodes that signal and connect to each other based on their meaning — the cognitive content they have that is learnable by us humans.

Can it be that the grand idea is like a superorganism, as described in a fascinating article in SEED magazine on this topic: “Our bodies harbor 100 trillion bacterial cells, outnumbering our human cells 10 to one. It’s easy to ignore this astonishing fact. Bacteria are tiny in comparison to human cells; they contribute just a few pounds to our weight and remain invisible to us.” The following are some excerpts from the article [with some comments by me] that suggest similarities between the communication among our bacteria and the behavior of knowledge online. The fundamental reason they are alike is that bacteria and bits of learnable knowledge are small pieces that communicate in network patterns.

Indeed, several scientists have begun to refer to the human body as a “superorganism” whose complexity extends far beyond what is encoded in a single genome.

The physiology of a superorganism would likely look very different from traditional human physiology. [Learning resources in libraries look very different from what is online.] There has been a great deal of research into the dynamics of communities among plants, insect colonies, and even in human society. What new insights could we gain by applying some of that knowledge to the workings of communities in our own bodies? [to the workings of knowledge when it gets online] . . . .

Even confined in their designated body parts, microbes exert their effects by churning out chemical signals for our cells to receive. [Yesterday I posted about signaling by cells and signaling by learning nodes.] Jeremy Nicholson, a chemist at Imperial College of London, has become a champion of the idea that the extent of this microbial signaling goes vastly underappreciated. Nicholson had been looking at the metabolites in human blood and urine with the hope of developing personalized drugs when he found that our bodily fluids are filled with metabolites produced by our intestinal bacteria. He now believes that the influence of gut microbes ranges from the ways in which we metabolize drugs and food to the subtle workings of our brain chemistry. [The influence is a form of connectivity.]

Scientists originally expected that the communication between animals and their symbiotic bacteria would form its own molecular language. But McFall-Ngai, an expert on animal-microbe symbiosis, says that she and other scientists have instead found beneficial relationships involving some of the same chemical messages [again: signaling connects] that had been discovered previously in pathogens. Many bacterial products that had been termed “virulence factors” or “toxins” turn out to not be inherently offensive signals; they are just part of the conversation between microbe and host. [Open educational resources (OER) often are, and need to be, able to converse (signal) each other.]

Signaling cells show education how to use online resources


Posted on 24th December 2009 by Judy Breck in Connective Expression, Emerging Online Knowledge, Findability, Networks, Open Content and SEO

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Placing OER (open educational resources) online without optimizing their components to signal is like expecting a single cell or group of cells to perform their role in isolation. Yet educators and subject experts put non-signaling lesson plans, courses, and curricula into the internet all the time. This was not surprising in the early days of the internet: educators were used to analog materials like textbooks, lesson plans, and and the separation of experts by geography. But the best knowledge for learning is now online, and education is far overdue in utilizing the cognitive connectivity of the internet.

What the e-Commerce world calls SEO (search engine optimization) is one way to give resources signals they can use to reach out to related stuff online. For OER, SEO is vital, but just a first step in the creation of signaling pathways. There are other very effective signal methods inherent in learning resources including: experts linking to (creating a network with) other OER they respect, landing pages that point (signal toward) excellent OER, and RSS-type signals that roll out expertise as it is published.

So would this signaling stuff work in a real network? Yes, and molecular biology is a very compelling model. The Wikipedia article on Cell Signaling (from which the above illustration is taken) explains:

Traditional work in biology has focused on studying individual parts of cell signaling pathways. Systems biology research helps us to understand the underlying structure of cell signaling networks and how changes in these networks may affect the transmission and flow of information. Such networks are complex systems in their organization and may exhibit a number of emergent properties . . . .

nihNetThe following excerpt is from a current article in Molecular Systems Biology. Click on the small illustration from the article at the right to see a chart of network relationships — which are the real world way in which life itself works. Instead of bundling a course or textbook in a pdf and tossing it online, how can we instead optimize the knowledge within the OER with some of these principles in the excerpt that follows by which our cells keep us alive and keep us thinking?

Despite their value in aggregating diverse and scattered information, protein networks inferred purely from data and those assembled from the literature suffer from significant and complementary weaknesses: reverse-engineered networks ignore a wealth of existing mechanistic information about individual proteins and reaction intermediates, whereas literature-based networks are too disconnected from functional data to encode input–output relationships. Thus, even the most comprehensive interactomes do not capture the logic of cellular biochemistry and—critically—cannot predict the responses of cells to specific biological stimuli. Two nodes in a node–edge graph might have a positive effect on a downstream node, but a graph alone cannot specify whether the target is active when only one upstream node is active or whether both must be on.

Network laws emerge the true and unbiased as peer review falters


Posted on 18th December 2009 by Judy Breck in Emerging Online Knowledge, Findability, Networks, Open Content and SEO

Open online science emerges to make prominent the links loved by experts and inquirers. This new selection process is a gift of the internet that is fundamentally superior to peer review by a selected few of articles before they are published. To illustrate how network laws affect online study subjects, I keep posting the Los Alamos Map of Science, as I have above, because it is an image of actual network emergence online. It illustrates the citations experts in their fields have made to articles that augment or enforce their work.

Setting aside our own views on global warming, it is instructive to compare network emergence to peer review, as it is critiqued by Martin Kozlowski’s illustration inserted in the image above. In the future will selected scientists continue “write the book” by judging their peers? Or will every shade of opinion compete in the open network where the most respected ideas will rise to prominence? I think the latter.

Here is a pertinent bit from today’s Wall Street Journal opinion piece where I found the Kozlowski drawing:

But there’s something much, much worse going on—a silencing of climate scientists, akin to filtering what goes in the bible, that will have consequences for public policy, including the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) recent categorization of carbon dioxide as a “pollutant.”

The bible I’m referring to, of course, is the refereed scientific literature. It’s our canon, and it’s all we have really had to go on in climate science (until the Internet has so rudely interrupted). When scientists make putative compendia of that literature, such as is done by the U.N. climate change panel every six years, the writers assume that the peer-reviewed literature is a true and unbiased sample of the state of climate science.
[emphasis mine]

The time is long overdue for scientists and experts in all academic fields to no longer turn their backs on the network laws that have made peer review obsolete.

Education is overdue dealing with the data deluge


Posted on 16th December 2009 by Judy Breck in Emerging Online Knowledge, Findability, Golden Age of Learning, Networks, Open Content and SEO

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It is unacceptable to teach standardized dabs of school subjects to youngsters who will be confronted in their careers by the data deluge described in Science Times this week:

In a speech given just a few weeks before he was lost at sea off the California coast in January 2007, Jim Gray, a database software pioneer and a Microsoft researcher, sketched out an argument that computing was fundamentally transforming the practice of science.

Dr. Gray called the shift a “fourth paradigm.” The first three paradigms were experimental, theoretical and, more recently, computational science. He explained this paradigm as an evolving era in which an “exaflood” of observational data was threatening to overwhelm scientists. The only way to cope with it, he argued, was a new generation of scientific computing tools to manage, visualize and analyze the data flood.

In essence, computational power created computational science, which produced the overwhelming flow of data, which now requires a computing change. It is a positive feedback loop in which the data stream becomes the data flood and sculptures a new computing landscape.

The image posted above is from a screenshot of how Google’s “Wonder wheel” search feature offers related subjects for a search for “Organelles of the Eukaryotic Cell.” The search returned about 518,000 data links for organelles.

The education establishment has dealt with the abundance of data Jim Gray described primarily by screening and choosing for students. The practice has been to deliver pre-selected knowledge items via standards, textbooks, curricula, and courses — all of which are creatures of the analog age now almost over. Education has yet to embrace the reality that computing is fundamentally transforming the practice of engaging knowledge.

Education as the selective gatekeeper to learning inevitably will be swept away by the deluge of data available in the hands and pockets of essentially all students within a handful of years. Education must, as science must, give learners access to: a positive feedback loop in which the data stream becomes the data flood and sculptures a new computing education landscape.

A major step toward a more positive feedback to education is making resources findable at the node level at the time experts put their subject knowledge online. The effect of that is to open the gates of knowledge, connecting those who know the most to those who would learn their subjects.

Network laws and the transparency of emergence


Posted on 3rd December 2009 by Judy Breck in Emerging Online Knowledge, Findability, Networks, Open Content and SEO

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Control of what is known is being pushed from the top downward by the network laws that operate in the open internet. The result is a refreshing new kind of transparency.  Two article sources quoted below from this week give examples. Roger Simon describes a cracking of elite control of climate science. Mark Zuckerberg tells Facebook folk that he is putting control of what others learn about them in each of their hands.

Any time an elite group controls information published for a subject, at least some transparency is lost in what is excluded by the elite. The hope of peer review is that only the lesser stuff is excluded (made opaque). In complete contrast, network emergence is broadly transparent. The search engine principle invented at Google sends to the top of its search results the nodes visited by the most users, with known experts given more weight. The results are a long tail, where even the least of the nodes still appear somewhere down the list.

Education has not yet let the transparency of emergence operate for its online materials much at all. Most digital learning stuff is still controlled by businesses that pay elites to structure it by grade, standard, curricula and that keep it behind pay-for-it walls. For the most part, open educational materials (OER) are repositioned structured bundles (curricula, courses, lesson plans) that do not allow nodes to emerge from within very much.

It occurred to me when I read the following articles today that this breathtakingly simple principle is at work in both: In an open network emergent patterns are transparent. When small pieces (nodes) of an open network determine what connects to what online, what emerges and its long tail of related information are all transparent. The elites then have to complete like everyone else to give weight to the nodes causing those nodes and the patterns they make to become what is most used used. In the new Facebook system, the individual can decide what nodes to open into this emergent transparency.

Roger Simon: “Climategate is about a lot more than climate. It’s about science and its relationship to politics and profit, the academy, the state and, perhaps most importantly, information control. The manner through which we learn (or thought we did) important knowledge about key aspects of our existence, the way things are hidden, has been exposed in this one instance like the Wizard of Oz.”

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg wrote this week in “An Open Letter” to members that Facebook’s regional networks are “no longer the best way to control your privacy . . . . The plan we’ve come up with is to remove regional networks completely and create a simpler model for privacy control where you can set content to be available to only your friends, friends of your friends, or everyone. We’re adding something that many of you have asked for — the ability to control who sees each individual piece of content you create or upload. In addition, we’ll also be fulfilling a request made by many of you to make the privacy settings page simpler by combining some settings. . . .”

Why burying subject matter in curricula stifles learning


Posted on 22nd November 2009 by Judy Breck in Animals, Connective Expression, Emerging Online Knowledge, Findability, Networks and Open Content

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Presenting subject matter to learn online inside of a curriculum or one of its courses causes extra steps for learners and teachers go through to find that subject matter. The illustration* above of the network structure of the internet shows why this is true.

frogByteFor example, in the network illustration above, the Frog Animal Bytes page from the San Diego Zoo could be the 4-dot webpage, with the green dot representing the upper left frog photo. Fortunately, in this case the excellent Animal Bytes pages each have their own urls, and can readily be found through searching online.

Because the Animal Bytes frog and Toad page is an independent url, it can be networked into curricula, independent study, science work and all sorts of subjects: jungles studies, flycatchers, comparative amphibians, and power jumpers, to name a few.

But when curriculum makers and aggregators make their users drill down into through curriculum to lecture to chapter before getting to the meat webpages of the subject matter, the benefits of open source and open content are pretty well lost. Putting curriculum materials online without making their knowledge assets findable on their own degrades the quality of learning. After all, can we suppose that curriculum makers will create a better frog page than the San Diego Zoo has? Yet if you look around at online curricula you will find that often (most often?) the folks who make the curricula do not connect out to the excellent resources like Animal Bytes. That needs to change.

*As I explain in my article where I first used this image, it is adapted from an article by by Natali Gulbahce and Sune Lehmann, from the BarabasiLab, and used with permission.