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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.

Expensive college degrees vs. job-qualifying online training


Posted on 10th December 2009 by Judy Breck in Schools We Have Now


Yahoo! News is running an article today from TIME titled College Degrees More Expensive, Worth Less in Job Market. It begins:

Employers and career experts see a growing problem in American society – an abundance of college graduates, many burdened with tuition-loan debt, heading into the work world with a degree that doesn’t mean much anymore.

The problem isn’t just a soft job market – it’s an oversupply of graduates. In 1973, a bachelor’s degree was more of a rarity, since just 47% of high school graduates went on to college. By October 2008, that number had risen to nearly 70%. . . .

Compare these heavily indebted diploma carriers with people their age qualifying for future looking jobs by taking corporate online tutorials and certification, at for example Apple or Microsoft or for careers like selling real estate. The “college graduate” ideal needs badly to be readjusted to and integrated with the practicalities and economies of learning and getting certified online.

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. courses compatible with iPhone and iPod


Posted on 19th November 2009 by Judy Breck in Mobile & Ubiquitous and Mobile Learning

Skeptics are wrong to think courses are ineffective on smartphones. If Lynda is doing it, you can be sure courses on smartphones are in demand, will be compelling, and will be profitable. is the dominant proprietary source for learning how to use Adobe, Apple, Corel, Microsoft and many other digital design software programs. Read more about’s touch compatible smartphone courses on

Little open pieces of what is known will unify virtual edu


Posted on 19th November 2009 by Judy Breck in Emerging Online Knowledge, Findability, Golden Age of Learning, Golden swamp defined, Networks and Open Content

The natural granularity of knowledge itself will inexorably cause order to emerge out of the now chaotic jumble of online education. Click “open” and “shut” in the above animation to see the simple network principle: When little pieces of what an institution or expert knows are released into the online networks of ideas, these pieces follow network laws attracting them to link as nodes into patterns of related ideas.

For the past dozen plus years, there have been many sorts of “edu” stuff put online: museum exhibits, the work of science labs, webpages by college professors and departments, lesson plans, curricula, and courses. Some of this has been OER (open educational resources). Much of it is proprietary — for sale — to schools and libraries and/or generated at universities for use within their ivy firewalls. Most of it has been bundled in big pieces, trapping the nodes of ideas in bundles of pedagogy. Like proprietary resources and the building in the animation, a course or curriculum or textbook is shut. The bits of knowledge cannot release into the open  patterning network of subjects and ideas.

OPEN AND UNBUNDLED ARE THE FIRST KEYS: As little pieces are released, they enrich the global commons, and are vetted naturally so the best of the stuff is emerged from virtual chaos.  Network laws will force and form the global commons of what is known by humankind within the open internet. I call the open portion of the internet the golden swamp because of this phenomenon.

THE THIRD KEY IS FINDABILITY: If you are an expert in some area of knowledge, you can add to the commons by putting what you know online in open and unbundled webpages. But there is one more crucial step: You need to optimize those webpages so they are findable in the network. Here are a couple of articles I have written on this third principle:

The Curious Case of the Polio Virus Learn Node
OER: The Sleeping SEO Giant

And this is my favorite example of how the network naturally elevates what is known by humankind: Tables of Elements

The 200th Carnival of the Mobilists


Posted on 16th November 2009 by Judy Breck in Carnival of the Mobilists is the blogsite this week of the 200th Carnival of the Mobilists, the weekly roundup of the very best in mobile writings from across the blogosphere. Mobilestance host Jamie Wells included in the showcased posts GoldenSwamp’s The scarcity of learning sources is contrived, the best stuff is free.

The scarcity of learning sources is contrived, the best stuff is free.


Posted on 12th November 2009 by Judy Breck in Emerging Online Knowledge, Golden Age of Learning, Mobile Learning, Networks and Politics in the swamp

The gushing spigots of money poured into analog educational materials manufacture a scarcity that belies the reality of 21st century learning resources. Billions alloted into the printed walled gardens of textbooks and digital walled gardens of for-pay school resources deepen economic woes — to say nothing of dumbing down kids because open online resources are long tail instead of bell curve, and are more and better.

Teaching and learning should now, and inevitably* will, use the open internet instead. An individual’s mobile internet browser will become the primary access to knowledge for each student and teacher. We should be working to make this happen soon. “Shame on us” when we do not do so.

I grabbed the “shame on us” phrase from a post today by Carlo Longino at a leading mobile blog called As I read the post, I realized the phenomena being described are inevitably going to reshape education. This bit is key:

The idea that “people will be more than willing to pay” is only correct in an environment of scarcity. But we’re past that point in the internet space, either wired or wireless. Any scarcity has to be contrived and manufactured, with things like walled gardens — which, of course, didn’t (and don’t) work.

Because education is “public” (socialism), the decisions about to paying are far removed from the minions spending the money. In this milieu, the scarcity myth endures, muddled up in politics, special interests, and bureaucracy. Billions are spent on educational resources that are or easily could be globally available for free online. Abraham Lincoln observed that you cannot fool all of the people all of the time. How long will taxpayers be willing to pay?

*Even if the taxpayers don’t catch on, this change is inevitable because network laws rule. Now that learning resources are emergent online, it is only a matter of time before they break down the garden walls of learning resources. What broke the grip of the music industry and is now going on with main stream media will happen soon to educational materials. It has already begun.

Let students use the magnitudes of greater knowledge


Posted on 9th November 2009 by Judy Breck in Emerging Online Knowledge, Golden Age of Learning and Open Content


School standards and grades only require students to learn a small amount about a few subjects. Kids get diplomas for getting 75% (grade C) of the limited subject matter that state standards describe for each of the very few subjects studied in schools.

So how can a youngster get a chance to learn about an image like the one above? The fresh, new, comprehensive knowledge online is now magnitudes greater than the standardized fare in schools. The more money we dump into schools that settle for very little learning as they graduate kids, the more intrenched underclasses become.

Online, what is known by humankind is emerging robustly and interconnecting richly. The image with this post is in a SEED MAGAZINE slideshow about a book of nano images: No Small Matter: Science on the Nanoscale, by Felice C. Frankel, George M. Whitesides. This intriguing image opens many ideas to a student’s mind:

Two streams of water collide with remarkable results. At the top, under the influence of pressure and gravity, the streams squirt out into a flat sheet, while surface tension draws the fluid into strands and then globes as it falls. “We often associate complex behaviors—the spontaneous formation of intricate patterns, unexpected changes over time—with systems that are themselves complicated,” Whitesides writes. “Even the simplest systems have the potential to show behaviors that confound us.”

College IT Help crowdsourcing, will OER be next?


Posted on 5th November 2009 by Judy Breck in Emerging Online Knowledge, Golden Age of Learning and Open Content

Sharing open educational resources (OER) holds enormous potential for saving educational costs. After all, much of what professors teach and students learn is largely similar everywhere. Why not source online knowledge from crowds of open resources instead of having each campus create its own firewalled virtual web resources for subjects studied on myriad campuses? For essentially every/any subject there are already excellent online open webpages; the GoldenSwamp Study Subject Sampler connects to some examples.

A new IT project,  “Colleges Try ‘Crowdsourcing’ Help Desks to Save Money,” may sketch a blueprint for crowdsourcing OER (knowledge webpages) as well as supplying IT help (people and their posts):

. . . So, in a few weeks, the university will try something different: letting computer users answer one another’s questions.

Information-technology people call this “crowdsourcing,” a buzzword that puts a positive spin on leaving the job of writing and editing to volunteers rather than hired experts. The idea is to open a Web site where students and professors can post their IT woes and share their solutions. College officials tell me they hope it will grow into a self-service support center for colleges nationwide—a kind of Wikipedia for campus computer problems.

After all, professors and students everywhere suffer from the same digital headaches: glitches in Blackboard’s online grade book, corrupted Microsoft Word files on the day a term paper is due, problems checking college e-mail messages on their iPhones, and the like . . . .

Two things to do to fix education


Posted on 2nd November 2009 by Judy Breck in Emerging Online Knowledge, Golden Age of Learning and Golden swamp defined

What if there are only two key ideas we need to push to cause 21st century education to rise like a gorgeous young phoenix from the ashes of today’s crumbling learning? I am talking globally — and I think  the interaction of these two ideas are the  key mechanism that will soon have that phoenix rising:

1. Handschooling: Getting an individual mobile device with wireless broadband browsing to every youngster, so that each of them can connect to:

2. The golden swamp: The aspect of the internet where what is known by humankind has nestled into the open online network forming a self-vetting ecosystem that allows everyone to learn from the same virtual page.

Here is a new section of, where I am beginning to elaborate these and other points: IDEAS changing learning. Dumping millions more on failing schools that perpetuate the underclasses is not the way to go. New ideas are about to change everything for the better, liberating the individual minds of the young generation.

Tribute to Ted Sizer who respected adolescents


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Little things acting together make music, molecules and ideas


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

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

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

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

Optical conveyor belt gathers up molecules


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

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

A Chemistry World post this week explains:

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

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

Find more selected chemistry links in the GoldenSwamp Study Subjects.

Connecting ideas on the nano internet


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


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

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

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