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.
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. . . .
Home Access scheme to provide internet access to low-income families has gone live in England. Silicon.com 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 Silicon.com 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.
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 Amazon.com.
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!
In 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.
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.
The 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.
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?
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?
- How else should educators anticipate the handschooling era that is fast upon us?
As 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.
NEXUS ONE AND THE TABLET by Michael S. Malone
. . . 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.
A 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 GoldenSwamp.com blog where I advocate that the time has come for education to engage the network power of online knowledge.
In 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:
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.
A recent GoldenSwamp.com 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.
Our 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.”
The 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.
Before 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.
Since 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.
Since 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.]
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 . . . .
The 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.
This week, Congress voted to end a proven program that was sending achieving District of Columbia students to private schools where they were successful students. The Washington Post headline called it ‘Duplicitous and Shameful’ in a report that begins:
The waiting is finally over for some of the District of Columbia’s most ambitious school children and their parents. Democrats in Congress voted to kill the District’s Opportunity Scholarship Program, which provides 1,700 disadvantaged kids with vouchers worth up to $7,500 per year to attend a private school. . . .
In terrible schools across America, students are supposed to learn subject standards that keep going lower, and little help is usually available in learning even the less and less of government controlled expectations.
The illustration I have made and posted above indicates a new choice.
On the left, government — state and federal — decide what kids learn.
On the right, a student uses a mobile internet browser to engage unlimited knowledge.
As more and more kids put a smartphone in their pockets, they each can connect to the global knowledge commons. Students like those who were dismissed from good schools this week by the politicians have a choice to go where knowledge is selected in the open internet.
As to the knowledge available online, we should no longer let the education establishment hold the internet judgmentally at arms length. Every education energy should work to optimize the full range of study subjects online knowledge to be findable for those who teach and learn.
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.
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.