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

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

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

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

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

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

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. . . .”

Educational Technology Publications books open and free


Posted on 8th September 2009 by Judy Breck in Open Content

Having written some articles, edited a special issue, and being a Contributing Editor for Educational Technology Magazine, I am proud to pass along news of the publishing company’s big step into open content.

For nearly 50 years, Educational Technology Publications has been a choice publisher of those doing the finest, most up-to-date thinking in the education field. On its website the company reports having been at the forefront of every important new trend in the development of the field throughout the past five decades.

Now they have jumped to the forefront of the open content trend in publishing. Publisher Lawrence Lipsitz writes to me in an email: “we are now placing all pages of all of our more than 300 books published since 1969, including even the most recently published books, both in-print and out-of-print books, with the GoogleBooks program, available for full-text search and reading. Every page of every book. Close to 200 are “live” now, with Google processing the remainder daily. In the first ten days, there were about 25,000 page views (with only some of the books available for viewing at the time). This is all open and free.”

Scientists discuss iridescence in squid


Posted on 18th August 2009 by Judy Breck in Animals, Biology, Learn nodes and Open Content

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CreatureCast Episode 1 from Casey Dunn on Vimeo.

This 8-minute video on iridescence in squid contains nuggets of insight into several scientific topics: cells, visible spectrum, animal behavior, and more. As you watch the sketches, you listen in as two biologists, Sophia Tintori and Alison Sweeney, discuss how and why squid use iridescence.

In my last post I wrote that incoming content from the internet is key to education. This video from is a way to let a shining squid into the studies at a school or on an individual student’s mobile device — offering interesting and enlightening knowledge.

Via SEED Daily Zeitgeist

Why open knowledge is better knowledge for students


Posted on 20th May 2009 by Judy Breck in Open Content and Schools We Have Now

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What our kids learn in schools is censored by the textbook selection process. They learn a standard take on knowledge as written in textbooks and selected by state governments. In recent years there has been loud clatter about how students might learn the wrong thing on the internet. In its early years, we would defend online knowledge by saying that in the open internet at least students are exposed to the spectrum of ideas on subjects.

Through methodology of the search industry, open internet knowledge now not only offers varying takes on subjects. It offers broadly vetted material. Google’s towering success is based on elevating webpages that are liked and respected in the open golden swamp of the internet. This open vetting process has become highly refined and effective under the intensive pressures for quality results from the e-commerce sector (with educators barely noticing).

Meanwhile, as Seed Magazine reports today, the textbook narrowness expensively reigns on in schools. For example, pretty much nationwide, our kids learn the science Texas thinks they should:

. . . because of the state’s enormous purchasing power for textbooks, Texas’s standards will ultimately affect textbooks nationwide. The board spent more than $200 million on K-12 textbooks last year—buying more high school science books than any other state. “Publishers typically write their textbooks to Texas standards and then sell those books to smaller states,” explains Kathy Miller of the civil liberties watchdog Texas Freedom Network. If the board rejects a textbook, it can destroy a publisher.

Library of Congress Flickr model key for education


Posted on 12th January 2009 by Judy Breck in Findability, Open Content and SEO

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When I look at the photo with this post, I can probably tell you things about it that you would not know, because we have different expertise. I remember New Mexico of the 1940s, where this photo was taken. As a child I rode several time in the back of a truck that looked just like the one in the picture. (It was really fun!) I also have a memory of a gas station, much like this one. We bought RC Cola there.

Folks who are experts can pass on what they know by linking to and tagging the webpages they respect. This sort of thing has happened spontaneously from the beginning of the internet. A couple of bright guys saw it happening and invented Google. Doing it in a thoroughgoing manner by academic experts is overdue. The answer to complaints that it is hard to find the right webpages to study are best resolved when experts who know subjects to link to those pages and tag them with keywords from their expertise.

The following is from the new report by the Library of Congress of their Photos on Flick project. What follows from the report of this project describes challenges the academic world has not yet met. Opening educational resources online is vital. Experts need also “to give them love” as the search engine optimization experts say, by optimizing them in ways we can all find them.

The Library of Congress, like many cultural heritage organizations, faces a number of challenges as it seeks to increase discovery and use of its collections. A major concern is making historical and special format materials easier to find in order to be useful for educational and other pursuits. At the same time, resources are limited to provide detailed descriptions and historical context for the many thousands of items in research collections. The Library also faces competition for the attention of an online community that has ever-expanding choices of where to pursue its interests.

One solution worth exploring is to participate directly in existing Web 2.0 communities that offer social networking functionality. Reaching out to unknown as well as known audiences can attract more people to comment, share, and interact with libraries. Taking collections to where people are already engaged in community conversations might also encourage visits to a library’s Web site where the full wealth of resources are available.

Wise word to edu from mobile guru on App Store


Posted on 22nd July 2008 by Judy Breck in Findability

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Mobile expert Enrique Ortiz at About Mobility Weblog describes the power that ease of discovery has for delivering content. He writes in the context of mobile, and the huge success of the new Apple App Store, which I have been extolling for its new way of making content available. The new mechanisms of the App Store are illustrating, as Enrique says, “that people WILL” use what they can discover.

“Discovering” begins by finding something you want online. Educators can increase the use of open educational resources by making them findable. To join in a major way in the cascade from the App Store (and its inevitable clones), education assets will need to be not only findable in these environments, but downloadable and useful, as Enrique says:

Awesome, 10 million downloads, in just 3 days.

I (and others) knew it all along, and proves the point I we have been making again and again and arguing for a long time: that people WILL download applications, if the problem w/ downloading (i.e. discovery) is solved. (Of course, the app must be useful to begin with) — see

>iPhone SDK, the App Store, the iPhone on the Enterprise . . . .

Apple solved it, and everyone is happy… Andriod MUST solve it, if they want to be successful w.r.t. local apps. Java ME doesn’t have a solution to this, and that is a problem. And Mobile Widgets also need a discovery solution. Ease of discovery must always be part of the mobile solution: being it a search box, an icon on the home page of the handset, a mobile widget, or side-loading…

One way edu could make open educational resources discoverable is by pointing to them with learn nodes that are easily findable blog-like little webpages for micro topics that are within the resources. (Resources have to be open for this to work. The App Store makes both open (free) and for sale apps available, which is literally a mixed bag.)

Harvard Crimson “All for Open Access”


Posted on 5th October 2007 by Judy Breck in Open Content

An editorial this week by the Crimson Staff headlined: Let’s welcome the end of for-profit academic publishing. The Crimson also reports what is happening in an article: Profs Might Make Their Articles Free.

The editorial is an excellent explanation and advocacy of the open future of academic publishing, and continues beyond these opening paragraphs with comments on the effect on peer review and its hope that other institutions will follow suit:

It seems that the for-profit academic publishing industry�s days are numbered. The model it was built on depended on the necessity of ink and paper for its viability. But today, the Internet has made the exchange and storage of information and ideas so cheap, that taxing the free marketplace of ideas and knowledge that academia is founded upon no longer makes economic sense.

Enter the open access movement, which is slowly marching its way across academia. The open access movement seeks to displace the expensive, subscription-only elite journals that have long held a stranglehold on academic papers by publishing scholarly works online for free or at very low cost. Currently, the cost of subscribing to traditional scholarly journals is prohibitive for individuals and organizations (such as nonprofits) that would appreciate and benefit from access to articles the forefront of research and academia. . . .

Via Joho the Blog

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Boston Public Library Consortium choose open digitizing


Posted on 1st October 2007 by Judy Breck in Open Content

In an announcement last week, Boston Public Library President Bernard Margolis said that in choosing book-scanning by the Open Content Alliance, “we are doing what libraries are supposed to do.” The announcement explains:

The Boston Library Consortium, Inc. (BLC) today announced a major partnership with the Open Content Alliance (OCA) to “build a freely accessible library of digital materials from all 19 member institutions.” With the move, the BLC becomes the first large-scale consortium to embark on such a self-funded digitization project with the OCA. The effort will draw on the vast collective resources of the BLC members to make “high-resolution, downloadable, reusable files of public domain materials,” using Internet Archive technology, for roughly ten cents a page. The scanning center for the BLC/OCA partnership is located at the Boston Public Library (BPL).

The announcement comes shortly after OCA founder Brewster Kahle told Library Journal that Boston Public Library officials had chosen not to pursue the chance to participate in commercial projects, choosing instead to work with OCA. “Revolutions aren’t started by majorities,” Kahle said. “They come from leaders who see things that need to be done. Boston Public Library, for example, has been courted by Google, but it has said it is going to remain open.”

Doron Weber, program director, Universal Access to Recorded Knowledge, at the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, a financial supporter of the OCA since its inception, also praised the BLC. “Unlike corporate-backed efforts by Google, Microsoft, Amazon et al, which all impose different, albeit understandable, levels of restriction,” Weber said, “the BLC has shown libraries all across the country the right way to take institutional responsibility and manage this historic transition to a universal digital archive that serves the needs of scholars, researchers and the general public without compromise.” BPL President Bernard Margolis said, succinctly, “we are doing what libraries are supposed to do.”
Full announcement

Via Chronicle of Higher Education

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The New York Times opens its knowledge treasures


Posted on 21st September 2007 by Judy Breck in Open Content

new york times rembrandt guide

This week the New York Times dropped the walls around its gardens of knowledge, making current materials and most of those in its archives open and free to Internet visitors. An example of what this means is that the excellent interactive, narrated A Guide to “The Age of Rembrandt” that went online today will stay open. Until the new policy went into effect this week, marvelous knowledge assets like this Guide would be online for a few days and then disappear into a paid archive.

Although the payment was a nuisance for scholars, the pay wall was much more hurtful in a different way. Because the wall was there, it was not possible for websites to link to the Guide. Students, teachers, painters those who wanted to include the Guide as part of a report, lesson or study could not. Now they can.

Kudos to the Times! Wonderful!

Added October 15, 2007: The Metropolitan Museum of Art podcast page offers a narration of the exhibit by Walter Liedtke, Curator of European Paintings at the museum.

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Wikipedia: give to the golden age of learning


Posted on 1st January 2006 by Judy Breck in Open Content

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On his blog today, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales has an appeal for contributions. Wikipedia is the work of a handful of volunteers, led by Wales. It is free. It is at least as accurate as Encyclopedia Britannica (per a survey which I cannot link to because is NOT free). This is why Wales says he does Wikipedia (and why support for Wikipedia advances the digital global golden age of learning):

I cant speak for everyone, but I can speak for myself.

Im doing this for the child in Africa who is going to use free textbooks and reference works produced by our community and find a solution to the crushing poverty that surrounds him. But for this child, a website on the Internet is not enough; we need to find ways to get our work to people in a form they can actually use.

And Im doing this for my own daughter, who I hope will grow up in a world where culture is free, not proprietary, where control of knowledge is in the hands of people everywhere, with basic works they can adopt, modify, and share freely without asking permission from anyone.

Were already taking back the Internet. With your help, we can take back the world.

via SmartMobs