The Next Technology Revolution: Not in my Neighborhood

Fiber, the New Technology Revolution

This is a personal issue to me since our neighborhood in Cherryville is still waiting for wired Internet. There are only seven homes, which are not profitable to warrant bringing in the infrastructure.

I just listened to a podcast interview with Susan Crawford, a Harvard law professor and author of Fiber: The Coming Tech Revolution… For the book, she researched the conditions of fibre optic networking in Asia (Hong Kong, China, Singapore, Korea), comparing what she learned with conditions here in the U.S., as revealed by interviews with citizens and government officials at the local, state and federal levels.

Among her surprising statements were that,

  • OECD adoption of Fibre, the U.S. ranks 25th of 36 nations.
  • The World Economic Form ranks the U.S. as 27th among nations regarding their technical preparedness for future industries.

She says that we are suffering from a number of digital divides, among them are divides between urban and rural, rich and poor, and the gap between the U.S., and Asian and Nordic countries.

To Blame

First it was deregulation of the telecommunications industry in 2004. The competition has concentrated on profitable urban areas, especially affluent sections where high priced services are sold.

Second is big-money oriented governments, such as my state’s General Assembly, who passed a law in 2010 preventing municipalities from creating and running their own fibre networks. This was a response to the town of Wilson establishing their celebrated GreenLight network, which I wrote about here: /?p=4329

Links

How Much Information?

Here is something from my seemingly endless preparation of The Quiet Revolution.  It’s a story that I often related to audiences to illustrate the changing nature of the information that we are using today and our need to redefine literacy.

There was a study conducted by the University of California at Berkley called “How Much Information.” They discovered that the world generated five exabytes of information in 2002.

You are probably thinking,

If I knew what an exabyte was, I’m supposed I would be impressed.”

To clarify, if we added five exabytes of information to the Library of Congress, the largest library in the world, it would require the building of 37,000 more Libraries of Congress to hold that year’s additional information. The kicker, however, is that only one one-hundredths of one percent (00.01%) of that information ever got printed. All the rest of the new information was digital, existing as 1s and 0s and residing on the memory cells of magnetic tape, disks, optical discs and integrated circuits; and requiring digital technology and technology skills to access and use that information. If more and more of our information is digital and networked, then we can take the paper out of our future workplace.

This also begs the question, “Why are we continuing to spend so much time continuing to teach our children how to use paper when we need to be teaching them how to use light – to use digital information?

A New Education Environment

The best of my teaching resources

 When I taught Middle School Social Studies in the 1970s, I used a five-year-old textbook, a few old maps and globe, which predated WWII, a well managed but tiny school library and two stacks of ancient National Geographic Magazines, inherited from my grandparents and cut to pieces for the pictures. The New York Public Library’s upcoming release of 180,000 documents to the digital public domain is a small contribution to the vast infoscape that we learn in today. I taught with information scarcity. Today’s teachers teach in information abundance. This dramatically changes how we teach, what education looks like, and even what it means to be educated. 

Two Reasons I Won’t Use My Typical Opening Today

For the last several years, I have been opening my keynote addresses by describing something that I’ve learning in the last 24 hours. It was usually something that I’d run across on my iPad (Flipboard), or a conversation I’d had, or some other striking something that caught my eye.  Today, it would likely be the Olkaria IV Geothermal Power Plant just brought on line in Kenya with the assistance of Germany’s continued development of green energies.  I first learned about the plant from the Kenyan cab driver who took me from the St. Louis airport to my hotel yesterday.

But no story today.  The first reason is trivial though not insubstantial.  It’s time.  I’ll only have 45 minutes for my opening talk.  It’s usually closer to an hour.

The second reason is more important.  It is my audience; school librarians, students of library science, and supporters and administrators of school library programs.  I’m not launching into a demonstration of personal learning because librarians and their libraries are almost entirely about person learning.  Their patrons explore, examine, experiment and discover – in much the same ways that we all conduct our essential learning outside of school.

These authentic learning experiences are way to rare in the classrooms of our schools, and this is due not to the best intentions, reflections and inventiveness of our teachers.  It is my country’s continue obsession with market motivated and industrial methodology of public education.

Middle School 2014: A Future Fiction – Installment 2

Here is the 2nd installment of a short story I wrote as the 1st chapter of Redefining Literacy in the 21st Century, written in 2004. The setting is 2014. It starts here.

Copyright © 2004 by Linworth Publishing, Inc. Reprinted with permission from ABC-CLIO, publisher of Redefining Literacy 2.0

As the B2 bell rings, Isaac sits at his desk in the media center and touches icons on his tablet causing a white document to appear on the display, a diagram of the Bacon School campus. He then taps with his finger the location on the map corresponding with Ms. Crabtree’s classroom. Suddenly a full motion, real-time video of the classroom appears on his tablet, captured by a camera that is mounted in the back of the room near the ceiling.

An additional document slides out of the video window that lists the owners of a few dozen outside computers that are also monitoring that classroom. There are usually five to ten viewers of any one class, usually parents who are monitoring what their children are doing and how they are behaving. Many pop in just to learn. However, when there is going to be a team project presentation, many more parents, other residents of the community, and often teachers and students from other schools drop in to watch. All teams maintain Web sites that represent the progress of their work, including their work logs, considered resources, defenses, and their presentation date.

As the students begin entering Ms. Johnson’s classroom, Isaac thinks back to an encounter he had with Desmone this morning just before A2.

Earlier in the Morning

Ms. Shuni, the other Media Center Professional, had just walked into their office area from one of the classrooms, where she had been consulting with a teacher. “Konichiwa,” she said as she passed Isaac’s desk. It is Japan week.

“Konichiwa, Margaret-san,” John replies, with a prayer bow gesture.

The 32 year library media specialist walked over to her desk, fit her tablet into its cradle, and touched the print login surface of her keyboard with her thumb, causing a virtual connection between the two devices through the room’s wireless network. As she began typing an e-mail message, a group of students ambled into the media center. Mr. Johnson rose from his desk and strolled out into the larger room to see if he was needed.

Desmone, a member of Sally’s Reptiles, said something to the group she was with and then walked over to Isaac. She was visibly anxious. “Mr. Johnson, Alf got in trouble again last night.” The young man motioned to a nearby unoccupied work area, and they both walked over and sat. “Have you heard from him? Have you seen him here at school yet? Will he be here for our presentation today?”

Isaac asked the girl for her tablet and then pressed the print login with his index finger so that the information appliance could reconfigure itself for his access. He then pulled up the school’s information system, and learned that the boy’s nametag has not been registered for the day. “He isn’t in the building – yet,” said Mr. Johnson.

The library media specialist then accessed the call-in register to see if Alf’s mother had called indicating that he will not be in school that day. “His mother hasn’t called in. Right now, it looks like he will be here.” After a pause, Mr. Johnson says, “Just a minute!”

He pulled up the work folder for the Reptile’s project and accessed Alf’s video presentation, the part of the project in which he had been most engaged. Mr. Johnson touched the icon for the student’s file, then touched the menu bar at the top of the display to select “Info” from the drop down list of options. A small white document appeared with statistical information on the file including its size, type, location and other data. Mr. Johnson touched the word “history” and a second document sprang out. After reading the list of entries there, he looked up at Desmone, smiled, handed the tablet over after touching an icon to erase his configuration, and said, “I think Alf will be here today!”

As she reached for her tablet, Desmone noticed that her friends had gathered their things and were headed out of the room. She quickly thanked the educator, with some uncertainty, and turned to join her friends.

It continues here.

 

Crash Course: US History

Crash Course is back with a brand new series! You may remember I’ve posted videos from their World History and Biology series before. The Green brothers are at it again with this new series focusing in on US History. They have quite the library built up of these videos now so there’s no excuse to […]

Crash Course is back with a brand new series! You may remember I’ve posted videos from their World History and Biology series before. The Green brothers are at it again with this new series focusing in on US History. They have quite the library built up of these videos now so there’s no excuse to go take 20 minutes and learn something. Do it now!

I Never Needed to Know That

I’ve never needed to know how to balance a chemical equation. I am glad that I was exposed to the process & it’s meaning.

I ran across an interesting Edudemic blog post yesterday, 10 Things Students Won’t Need to Know When They Graduate.  I’ve listed the 10 below, but do go and read the article’s explanations.  The author, Bob Dillon, hits on something that is central to the motivation that drives much of my work.  How much of our children’s precious childhoods are we wasting teaching them things that they’ll never need to know.

Perhaps the most fun that I have in my public speaking is telling stories.  The purpose of most of these stories is to trick the audience into a particular line of thinking and then surprise them with the recognition that they’ve been here before – but that they’ve come in through a unfamiliar door and it all looks different from this direction.  My follow-up line is, “Now what do our children need to be learning today to be ready for this?”

10.How to use a mouse
9.The difference between bullying and cyberbullying
8.Memorizing MLA and APA styles requirements (I’d like to think that I had a hand in that.)
7.How to find basic reference materials in the library
6.Developing film, taking the perfect picture
5.The vocabulary terms land line and dial
4.The propaganda techniques used in thirty second television commercials
3.How to read a paper map.
2.How to place data onto a CD or DVD
1.How to read the movie listings in the newspaper
(Dillon, 2012)

I had initially planned to invite you to add to Dillon’s list of things that students won’t need to know.  But the fact is that one reason we, as educators, do not readily recognize this compelling truth and try to make sense of its profound implications is that we can not predict what our children will need to know and not need to know.  It would be nothing more than speculation.

So again, “What do our children need to be learning today?

Several ideas spring to my mind as I try to unfold this.

  1. Our children need to learn something.
  2. What they need to learn is no longer as important as it use to be.
  3. Increasing the stakes on what they learn does little more than punish our children for our own arrogance.
  4. If what they learn today may not be useful to them tomorrow, then how will they continue to learn what is?
  5. How they learn has become much more important.
  6. Perhaps the most important thing we can help our children learn, is how to teach themselves.

For the fun of it, lets try an experiment.  Rather than speculating on what our children will not need to know, I’d like you to comment on this post with an answer to this question,

What were you taught when you were in school that you have never needed to know?

I’ll post a couple of comments to start things off.

Thanks!

 

Dillon, B. (2012, August 27). [Web log message]. Retrieved from http://edudemic.com/?p=25495

Why 3D Printing & Fabrication are Important to Education

(cc) Photo by Anja C. Wagner
3D printer selbstgebaut vom ODC (self-made at the open design center, probably in Berlin)

I mentioned in my ISTE Reflection article that I thought 2012 would be the year that 3D printing and fab labs emerged as a major interest to the education world. But it’s more than just a cool technology that we’d like to see in schools.  Personal fabrication may be hugely important to us.

A couple of weeks ago, I was having coffee with my friend, neighbor and fellow blogger, Paul Gilster (Centauri Dreams).  A self-made authority on interstellar space exploration and associate with the Tau Zero Foundation, Gilster has inspired me for years, as expressed in the acknowledgments of all my books.

On that day, he told me about work toward sending small spacecraft to specific positions in space in relation to the sun.  The craft would look back at our star and utilize the bending of light caused by the sun’s gravitational force to magnify what’s on the other side.  The concept is called Gravitational Lensing, and was initially mentioned by physicist Orest Chwolson in 1924 and first quantified by Albert Einstein in 1936. In effect, we would be turning the sun into a gigantic lens, through which we would be able to see, according to Gilster, planets orbiting distant stars, continents on those worlds, and even cities, if they exist.

This is where my legs started to get wobbly.

Getting to specifics, Paul explained that to get a spacecraft to that position, about 750 astronomical units (AU) from the sun (Pluto orbits at an average of 40au), the craft would have to be very small and utilize nano scale mechanisms and even some degree of artificial intelligence.

At that point, a recurring question came to mind, which I asked,

“Assume that we’re approaching the limits of what we would practically want to do with our cell phones and personal computers, and that they’re about as small as we wish them to be, what’s going to drive further research and development in miniaturization – making things smaller?  Surely not NASA.”

I didn’t actually speak the last sentence.  But Gilster said that aside from the military, it would be personal fabrication, that we would all have our own in-house fabricators, where we would design and “print” our own cellphones, etc.  

As my son explained it to me, the lid that holds the batteries in our TV remote is broken and has been discarded.  As a result, we have to handle the remote with care to prevent the batteries from falling out.  Tape has not been a satisfactory solution.  With a 3D printer, we would simply go to the Samsung web site, look up the part and print it.  Ten minutes later (or an hour later, it doesn’t matter) the part would be sitting in our printer, where we could clip it into our remote.  One of the 3D printers that I saw at ISTE cost only $1,600.  The original Macintosh computers were nearly twice that expensive with only 128K of memory and no hard drive.  3D printers may become very important to us.

The true potential is when we can design our own remotes, with our our own sense of flair, using design software, and then print in our own homes.  Cottage industries might emerge, contests, DIY markets – and all fueled by creativity and inventiveness.

Check out the proliferation of Maker Faires and Cory Doctorow’s 2009 novel, Makers.

Now this idea of in-house fabrication and its cultural impact may seem a bit far-fetched to you.  However, if you’re old enough, you may remember a time when carrying your personal phone in your pocket might have seemed just as unlikely – a phone with which you could get weather and news reports on demand, have access to an interconnected global library, pinpoint your exact location on a map and participate in any of a million global conversations.

My question is this.  What should our children be learning today and how should they be learning it, to be ready to leverage this kind of creative opportunity?

What do you think?

The Nextbook Must Be…

 

(cc) janthepea

For a science fiction look at textbooks, read about The Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer in The Diamond Age and Ender’s desk in Ender’s Game. If you have other suggestions, please comment.

 

A couple of weeks ago, my friend, Tom Whitby, wrote a blog article, We Don’t Need No Stink’n Textbooks. I agree with his position, and was especially impressed with the list of components he compiled from Discovery Education’s Beyond the Textbook Forum.

Responding to Tom’s title, though, I am growing less unhappy with calling it a textbook.  After all, we seem to have no problem calling the device I’m writing this on, something that only a few years ago would have referred, almost exclusively, to “a number of sheets of writing paper, fastened together at one edge.”

So, granting myself permission to call it a textbook, what do I think today’s textbook should be?

Today’s textbook should:

  • Be a Companion (Mobile) – The student’s textbook should never weigh more than half that of a human brain (about 3 lb.). It should be as easy to ask, as the person sitting next to you –and through it, the reader should be able to ask the person sitting in the next room, on the next continent or a radio telescope in Australia.
  • Be an Encyclopedia Galactica ((Wikipedia contributors. “Encyclopedia Galactica.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 24 Mar. 2012. Web. 29 Mar. 2012.)) (Comprehensive and Cross-disciplined) – The textbook should provide content in a variety of formats (text, images, audio, video, animation), selectable by the reader.  It can be drilled into for deeper exploration, and issues of special interest to the reader will trigger seamless bleed-throughs from other disciplines (literature, mathematics, science, the social studies, health, etc.) – No seams! No walls! No boundaries!
  • Be a Player (Responsive & Playful) – The textbook should be active and interactive. It both reflects and magnifies the learner, the teacher, and their world – and it adapts to its interactions with each.  It does not respond with a “right” or a “wrong.”  Instead, it causes the reader to say, “that worked” or “that didn’t work.”  The textbook will also contrive long-term narrative-puzzles that reach other readers, building communities of mutual concern.  Embedded in each textbook are hidden clues that can be exposed through the productive use of the book and shared with other members of the community – the combination of which solve the puzzle.
    • Be a Sandbox (Constructable & Elastic) – The textbook is totally stackable.  Both teacher and learner (to age appropriate degrees) can remove elements, insert elements, re-sequence, edit and even hack elements.  The textbook will edit itself based on changes reader interest and the changing dynamic global information environment.
    • Be Provocative (fueled by questions) – The textbook should tactically and strategically leave things out.  It provokes questions, the answers of which provide mortar for the personal and participatory construction and reconstruction of the book.  It is always broken and always fixable, and the rules belong to the reader.
    • Be a Journal (Turn the Learner Outward) – The textbook will require the reader to observe, interact with, reflect on and work her personal environment.  The reader will talk to people, use a hammer, play a game for fun, explore a forest, and become skilled at something that does not require a computer interface.  She will report her experiences in a digital journal, which the textbook will productively adapt to, creating richer relevance for the learner.
    • Be a Personal Badge (Identity-builder) – There is an element of the textbook that is public, continually and cooperatively refined by the teacher, the reader, and reader’s family.  It is a demonstration of what the reader has learned, what she can do with what she’s learned, and what she cares about.
    • Never be turned in (Grown into a personal digital library) – The textbook grows, year after year, with new elements added, old ones edited or deleted, and continuously curated – the ongoing and ultimate goal being the construction of a personal and lifelong digital library.

    That’s two more cents worth!

      …Posted using BlogsyApp from my iPad

      A Video Game Idea

      I’d thought about this early this summer while my daughter was in the hospital. In amongst catching up with a back-log of professional reading, building out and refining her personal learning network, fleshing out lesson ideas, and concept mapping her teaching strategies – and getting well – she ran a restaurant. It was on her iPad, periodically beckoning her reading or browsing because it was time to open up the store, put the soup on, come up with discounts, and post signage, all to enjoy a successful mock revenue generating establishment, Restaurant Story.

      I was imagining a similar style of game, but with a different focus — all brought back to mind when school administration guru, Scott McLeod posted a question on his blog, “How would you Revise Principal Preparation?” At present, he has 33 comments that are well worth the time reading, including some rather outlandish ideas from me.

      But the game idea came back, a CMS style video game that challenges you to build out and maintain a school. You might start with a one room school house, adding on as you earn credit — adding a library, gym, laboratories, wings of classrooms, etc. The player would also manage a budget, allocate funds, add courses, and hire staff.

      The goal of this game IS NOT generating the best test scores. No! No!

      The goal of your school is to graduate the next Winton Marsellas, a team of biologists who cure cancer, the next Kurt Vontegut or the staff of an award winning trend-zine.

      Would a game like this, that might become popular, serve to change the conversation about schooling?  I’m just dreaming!