I Just Learned a New Word

In my efforts to write this book about the history of educational technology (as I have witnessed it), I’m finding myself doing more reading than writing. I guess that’s normal for book-writing, though it surprises me since I am typing this mostly from my own recollections.

This morning, in my reading, I learned a new word.  It’s mesofacts.  These are facts that, when learned, seem to be dependable, longterm and applicable truths – when in fact, they are likely to change within a lifetime, and often within a few years.

In his Harvard Business Review article, Be Forwarned: Your Knowledge is Decaying  Samuel Arbesman relates an example, a hedge fund manager saying in a conversation, “Since we all know that there are 4 billion people on the planet…”  4 billion people is what I learned when I was in school, and it still surprises me when I heard that it was up to 6 billion and now 7 billion.

Arbesman says that these mesofacts are far more common than we realize.  It makes me wonder about how much of what we are expecting our students to memorize, will simply not be true in their adulthood, and may even be problematic.

This all supports something that I heard someone say a few years ago.

Any question, whose answer can be googled,
should not be on any test.  

Another epiphanic statement, which may or may not be attributable to John Dewey is,

If we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s,
we rob them of their tomorrow.


Another word I learned is scientometrics.  Its the study of the shape of how knowledge grows and spreads through a population.


Arbesman, S. (2012). Be forewarned: Your knowledge is decaying. Harvard Business Review, Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2012/11/be-forewarned-your-knowledge-i

A Nation in Decline

North Carolina anxiously awaits its grades. State law (General Statute 115C-83.15now (2013-2014 school year) directs the State Board of Education (my former employer) to award each of the state’s public schools a grade, A-F.  80% of the calculated score is based on standardized test scores.

This is, to this citizen, further evidence of the arrogance of North Carolina’s pompously conservative law makers.  Is their goal, to improve the state’s public schools, when there actions are designed to make it easier for parents to judge their community schools at the same time that they continue to cut staff and instructional materials?  

An October 2013 NC Policy Watch article itemized the effects of state’s education budget (2013-2014), as reported by 34 local mostly conservative news outlets in 34 NC towns.  Among other degradations to North Carolina children, the cuts totaled the loss of 364 more teachers, 901 more teacher assistants and $8,226,774 for textbooks and instructional materials.

By coincidence a publication just released by the Southern Education Foundation reports that students in American schools, who qualify for free and reduced lunches, now outnumber those who do not. 51% of U.S. public school students are low income children.  Of North Carolina’s Students, 53% are low income, and to our south, 58% of South Carolina and 60% of Georgia public school students are low income.

I especially appreciated the statement made by SEF Vice President Steve Suitts.

“No longer can we consider the problems and needs of low income students simply a matter of fairness…  Their success or failure in the public schools will determine the entire body of human capital and educational potential that the nation will possess in the future. Without improving the educational support that the nation provides its low income students – students with the largest needs and usually with the least support — the trends of the last decade will be prologue for a nation not at risk, but a nation in decline…”

20 Mbps & We’re Still Searching for the Same Stuff

I’ve been doing a lot of deep digging while working on my book about the history of technology in education – as I’ve seen it.  This afternoon, I happened upon some online handouts for one of my first keynotes and its slidedeck.  The address was called, “The Three Ts of Teaching in the Twenty-First Century.”  It appears to have been delivered in November of 2000.

On one of the opening slides, I had listed the ten most searched for terms of that month.  As a comparison, I found the top ten searches on Google in 2014, and have listed them as well.

November 2000 2014
10 Pokemon 10 Sochi Olympics
91 Napster 91 Frozen
81 Playstation 2 81 ISIS
71 NFL 7Conchita Wurst
Florida Recount Flappy Bird
Britney Spears ALS Ice Bucket Challenge
Thanksgiving Malaysia Airlines
Dragonball Ebola
Election 2000 World Cup
Christmas Robin Williams

I was actually surprised how little it’s changed?  We have video games, sports, entertainment with a peppering of world-shaping issues.

Marimuse Interview

In 1993, while I was working at the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction and exploring the educational potentials of the, then emerging, Internet, I ran across an intriguing and inspiring summer project being conducted at Maricopa Community College in Phoenix, Arizona.

With the local school district, they invited a diverse group of students who would be entering fourth, fifth or sixth grades (all at-risk of failure) into a MUD  or Multi-User Domain.  Essentially, a MUD is a text-based virtual environment.  Think SecondLife  where the environment is read about, instead of seen graphically.

This particular MUD was empty, flat asphalt.  These students, some of whom you couldn’t get to write their names in a classroom, were challenged to create a virtual city in the MUD, by learning a simple programming language and describing its buildings, parks and their own virtual homes, in all their richness, with words.

You can read what Howard Rheingold had to say about the project here.

At the end of the project, I invited a number of the organizers and volunteers to a virtual office I was maintaining at MIT’s MediaMOO, where my avatar was known as Peiohpah.  There I interviewed the team about their experience. I had acquired a virtual video camera, which recorded the exchanges.

Here is a portion of that interview played back on Pei’s TV.

[on Pei's TV]  ***********************************[on Pei's TV]  **   C a m p   M a r i M U S E   **[on Pei's TV]  **  An Interview with the staff  **[on Pei's TV]  **  of the first virtual **[on Pei's TV]  ** Computer Camp **[on Pei's TV]  ***********************************[on Pei's TV][on Pei's TV]  . . . the camera pans left to right over Pei's Studio [on Pei's TV]  A cozy corner with two comfortable sofas   arranged for conversation in front of a large   picture of a schoolhouse. Curiously, the   walls of the schoolhouse appear to be   transparent. There is a copy of Tuesday's   *New York Times* on an end table. [on Pei's TV]  Lila smiles at the camera [on Pei's TV]  Pei says, "I'm here with a few friends today   to talk about a project that they have been   involved in this summer, Camp MariMUSE.  I   call them friends although I have never met   them face-to-face, and don't even know the   sounds of their voices.  Yet I have   profoundly enjoyed their companionship by   interacting not only with their words, but   with their imaginations, and -- most   importantly to this interview -- with their   innovation." [on Pei's TV]  Pei turns to the rest of the group. [on Pei's TV]  Miss-K says, "Hi, Pei" [on Pei's TV]  Avalon  looks toward Pei, pleased to be   here. [on Pei's TV]  Pei says, "Why don't we start with my guests   introducing them selves." [on Pei's TV]  Woody waves to TV land [on Pei's TV]  Miss-K giggles [on Pei's TV]  Lila says, ""I am Lila on the MariMuse, a   volunteer for the project.  I am a student   at Phoenix college, a returning student" [on Pei's TV]  Avalon says, "I am Billie Hughes aka Avalon   on MariMUSE.  I worked with the team that   first brought Muse to Phoenix College." [on Pei's TV]  Pei senses that another member of the   MariMUSE team is looking for them and   disappears suddenly for parts unknown. [on Pei's TV]  Lila waits for Pei to return [on Pei's TV]  Miss-K says, "I am Miss-K on the Muse, and   Susan Oram in RL (Real life) -- the school   librarian at Longview Elementary School. " [on Pei's TV]  Pei has arrived. [on Pei's TV]  Wlad materializes out of thin air. [on Pei's TV]  Pei says, "Hi Wlad!" [on Pei's TV]  Woody says, "I am Rod Brashear, Woody on   Marimuse.  I am a student at Arizona State   Universtiy-West and also work for the   Arizona Department of Education.  I   volunteered to be involved with the Longview   project." [on Pei's TV]  Lila waves to Wlad, and thinks she has seen   him before ;)" [on Pei's TV]  Miss-K says, "Hi, Wlad" [on Pei's TV]  Pei says, "Wlad, would you introduce   yourself?" [on Pei's TV]  Wlad says, "Hi, and I am Jim Walters.  I   work at Pheonix College and am intensely   interested in this medium." [on Pei's TV]  Pei says, "Is that everyone?" [on Pei's TV]  Lila thinks that is all for the moment,   Platoon will join us later" [on Pei's TV]  Wlad says, "Thanks" [on Pei's TV]  Avalon turns toward Pei,anticipating a   question." [on Pei's TV]  Pei reads from his clipboard, then faces   Avalon. [on Pei's TV]  Pei says, "Avalon, would you begin by   explaining how Camp MariMUSE came to be?" [on Pei's TV]  Avalon says, "Wlad and I were in the library   one day when the Dean walked in.  We were   excited about what Muse was doing for our   college students.  She suggested we do a   summer camp for kids." [on Pei's TV]  Avalon says, "We jumped at the chance and   the rest is history." [on Pei's TV]  Wlad says, "Avalon had heard a rumor that   Joanne, the principal at Longview, might be   supportive of a technology linked proposal.   So we set out to meet with her." [on Pei's TV]  Woody says, "wlad and Av planted a seed and   didn't realize how big the tree would be. [on Pei's TV]  Lila says, "...and still growing!" [on Pei's TV]  Miss-K says, "it's rather like falling into   the rabbit's hole with Alice." [on Pei's TV]  Pei grins with understanding [on Pei's TV]  Lila laughs at the rabbit hole analogy [on Pei's TV]  Pei says, "So it began as an environment for   college student?" [on Pei's TV]  Wlad says, "We did try to start with the   basis that it could accommodate learners of   all ages." [on Pei's TV]  Wlad says, "But college students were the   group we began with because that was the   group we had access to." [on Pei's TV]  Avalon says, "We tried it first with our own   students, but always dreamed of a huge one   room school for learners of all ages." [on Pei's TV]  Miss-K says, "The dream is starting to come   true, isn't it?" [on Pei's TV]  Lila nods agreement [on Pei's TV]  Wlad says, "We took some risks in bringing   in some of our own students, then to try to   offer a class entirely in this environment." [on Pei's TV]  Pei turns to Miss-K. [on Pei's TV]  Pei says, "Miss-K,  Could you describe some   of the landmarks of MariMUSE that your   campers saw when they first entered the   MUSE?" [on Pei's TV]  Woody notices sweat on the brow of Miss-k. [on Pei's TV]  Lila hands Miss-K a tissue [on Pei's TV]  Miss-K smiles sickly! [on Pei's TV]  Pei reaches over and touches Miss-K's hand! [on Pei's TV]  Miss-K says, "Well, we went to Lady   Starlight's castle first. " [on Pei's TV]  Pei's eyes widen with excitement. [on Pei's TV]  Miss-K says, "We also visited some of the   places the first group of campers had   created.  Also, Some of the campers spent   quite a lot of time in an amusement park." [on Pei's TV]  Wlad says, "A couple of the volunteers had   created a space station that was the initial   home of all the Longview campers." [on Pei's TV]  Pei says, "Tell me about the students who   participated in Camp MariMUSE?" [on Pei's TV]  Woody says, "Do you want a feel for what   they were like in RL, when they entered the   room?" [on Pei's TV]  Pei says, “Yes!"[on Pei's TV]  Avalon sits back listening to those who were   with the children the most to talk. [on Pei's TV]  Miss-K says, "Well, it was quite a mixed   group of children.  Our school is very   multi-ethnic and those groups were   represented at the camp." [on Pei's TV]  Avalon looks at Miss-K remembering just how   diverse the group really was. [on Pei's TV]  Lila remembers being surprised at the young   ages. [on Pei's TV]  Miss-K says, "The kids were all going into   the fourth, fifth or sixth grade.”[on Pei's TV]  Miss-K says, "The children who attended were   children who were definitely at-risk for   failure in school either because of their   back grounds or skills.  They were chosen by   the teachers at Longview on the basis of who   we thought might benefit the most. " [on Pei's TV]  Wlad says, "The first day of camp was an   exciting day.  Students had heard exciting   rumors and were very eager, with a bit of   confusion and trepidation, to come to a   college and work with the MUSE." [on Pei's TV]  Platoon materializes out of thin air. [on Pei's TV]  Platoon says, "HI Pei, sorry I interrupted" [on Pei's TV]  Pei says, "Platoon, my man! gime five!" [on Pei's TV]  Platoon ^5's Pei [on Pei's TV]  Platoon sits back and listens [on Pei's TV]  Woody says, "The first couple of days the   children were very quite and shy.  After the   comfort level was attained the kids were   conversing in the muse and RL with real   excitement and interest" [on Pei's TV]  Wlad says, "They seemed very young, and shy   and seemed to be wondering why they were   here, but then they got started began having   fun." [on Pei's TV]  Miss-K nods. [on Pei's TV]  Pei says, "How did the students first   approach the text-based virtual environment?   What was their early reaction?”[on Pei's TV]  Miss-K says, "On the first day, I heard   whispers of, "This is dumb."  By the end of   the first session, all the campers agreed it   was about the coolest thing they had ever   done.”[on Pei's TV]  Lila recalls the excitement of the children   when they left for the bus, how anxious they   were to come back the second day." [on Pei's TV]  Lila recalls how quickly the children became   conscious of correct spelling" [on Pei's TV]  Wlad says, "I had worried that the ones who   couldn't keyboard might become discouraged   and quit, but they just hung in and their   skills kept improving." [on Pei's TV]  Miss-K says, "Even this morning some kids   were asking about getting back on the system   so they wouldn't lose their keyboarding   skills." [on Pei's TV]  Pei says, "Those of you who were volunteers,   how did you assist the campers and what sort   of impact did this experience have on you   personally?" [on Pei's TV]  Platoon says, "My best the very best   experience I had was when I started paging   some of the campers and ask them if they   need help...and they responded where are   you...and i said that I am kinda far away   from you...they couldn't imagine that " [on Pei's TV]  Lady Starlight materializes out of thin air. [on Pei's TV]  Platoon says, "I thought that was so cool to   have to convince them that I am about 20   miles away from them”[on Pei's TV]  Wlad says, "She was having difficulty with   him being in the same virtual room with   her." [on Pei's TV]  Lila says, "To build on Platoon's comments,   one child initially refused to believe a   volunteer was really in California." [on Pei's TV]  Pei smiles [on Pei's TV]  Lady Starlight says, "And another looked for   a volunteer in the disk drive." [on Pei's TV]  Wlad ecalls one student looking in the disk   drive slot trying to see Angus." [on Pei's TV]  Pei laughs and laughs and laughs [on Pei's TV]  Lila laughs at the remembrance [on Pei's TV]  Pei says, "What, exactly,   did the MariMUSE campers do on a daily   basis?" [on Pei's TV]  Woody pulls out his muse curriculum daily   guide. [on Pei's TV]  Miss-K says, "every day the students were   asked to complete a journal entry.  They   also wrote at least one article per week for   the newsletter.  They were also responsible   for doing some creating in the MUSE." [on Pei's TV]  Wlad recalls some of the homework and how   serious the students were about getting   together their descriptions and setting   their character names. [on Pei's TV]  Azure_Guest says, "What amazed me was that   they were so unwilling to leave for break." [on Pei's TV]  Woody adds that they felt three hours was   too short of a day on the muse.  [on Pei's TV]  Lila says, "Do you remember how Ginji would   go home, make her sister help her research   so the cave could be exactly what she   wanted? [on Pei's TV]  Wlad says, "At the end of the first week,   the students were wanting to come in over   the weekend..” [on Pei's TV]  Lady Starlight says, "They were all very   proud of their work." [on Pei's TV]  Miss-K says, "Ginji wears her Phoenix   College t-shirt often." [on Pei's TV]  Avalon says, "Above all, we learned that   this medium was exciting to students, it   captivated them despite its text-base.  And,   they could handle the coding.  They were   reading and writing for 3 hours a day,   thinking and problem solving, and loving   it." [on Pei's TV]  Woody says, "It taped the intrinsic   motivation of all the persons connected to   the program.  Students Teachers, and   volunteers." [on Pei's TV]  Pei nods. [on Pei's TV]  Pei says, "Have the kids come back to school   yet?  If so, what are they saying about the   MUSE now?" [on Pei's TV]  Miss-K says, "Everyday I am asked, WHEN can   I come back on line?" [on Pei's TV]  Wlad says, "The children are eager to get   back on-line and are stating that they have   projects to work on, and they really want to   check their mail." [on Pei's TV]  Miss-K says, "I called all the MUSE kids   into the library this morning and they were   all talking at once.  They did not want to   leave to go back to class." [on Pei's TV]  Avalon says, "We believe we are just seeing   the tip of the iceberg.  We believe we are   on the wave of the future.  This medium is a   window to a new way of learning." [on Pei's TV]  Avalon looks at Miss-K remembering the child   who said, “You don't think I am stupid, do   you?” [on Pei's TV]  Miss-K says, "The kids are so proud of the   NY Times article.  They all want copies of   it." [on Pei's TV]  Pei says, "How did the parents react to Camp   MariMUSE?" [on Pei's TV]  Miss-K says, "We had an enormous turn out on   the parent day.  We were amazed.  The   parents are especially proud of their   children.  I think it raises their self-   esteem too." [on Pei's TV]  Lila says, "Many parents had to take off   work, with no pay, to attend any function to   which they were invited.  Such as   graduation" [on Pei's TV]  Wlad says, "Some even rode over on the   school bus to be here." [on Pei's TV]  Woody says, "When the parents first met with   us, PC volunteers and Wlad, There was a very   small turn out.  After the camp was over   there was almost 100 percent parent   participation." [on Pei's TV]  Lila says, "Running Wind's parents went to   great lengths to attend graduation, they   VERY proud of him and his accomplishments." [on Pei's TV]  Wlad says, "And parents who had never heard   their children talk about what they were   doing at school were getting rave reviews   and daily updates on the camp activities." [on Pei's TV]  Avalon says, "We invited the superintendent   who was amazed at the children's creativity   and the amount of writing they did.  We also   invited state representatives who felt the   excitement.  And we had parents who knew   their kids were really excited about and   successful with learning." [on Pei's TV]  Wlad says, "On graduation day, it really   felt like one big family celebration." [on Pei's TV]  Wlad laughs remembering how he helped   Running wind entertain two of his   younger relatives. [on Pei's TV]  Avalon says, "Remember, this was only a 3   week camp.  All of this happened in 3 short   weeks." [on Pei's TV]  Lila shakes her head, and says, "Hard to   believe we did all that in 3 weeks." [on Pei's TV]  Pei 's heart is full! [on Pei's TV]  Woody throws time out the door. [on Pei's TV]  Pei says, "Were there any real surprises?" [on Pei's TV]  Miss-K says, "It seemed like a magical   time." [on Pei's TV]  Lady Starlight nods. [on Pei's TV]  Lila says, "I was very impressed with the   increase in global awareness." [on Pei's TV]  Miss-K says, "I was blown away by the   research that the students initiated!" [on Pei's TV]  Avalon says, "One of the other teachers   committed this week about how important it   was for these kids to see the volunteers   from the college working at their jobs,   volunteering, and going to class.  It   helped them see they could go to college   too." [on Pei's TV]  Miss-K says, "It was a time of being   completely accepted." [on Pei's TV]  Avalon grins at Miss-K. [on Pei's TV]  Platoon  says, "it was a time of beeing   equal" [on Pei's TV]  Miss-K says, "Actually, I still get misty   eyed about it. " [on Pei's TV]  Avalon hands an embroidered hankie to Miss-K. [on Pei's TV]  Miss-K giggles [on Pei's TV]  Pei says, "What plans do you have for the   future of MariMUSE?”[on Pei's TV]  Avalon has been assigned to work on grant   writing and assessment so we can continue   and can learn as we proceed into the future.   This is a major commitment from the college   to a very important project. [on Pei's TV]  Woody boogies about the future. [on Pei's TV]  Wlad says, "By the 15th of September, we   should have 12 terminals installed at   Longview for the students to use.  There   will be a 9600 baud modem line to the   college.  We know that the equipment will   work with that speed.  We want something   that will work right away, so that we can   get the kids back on-line."  [on Pei's TV]  Miss-K squeals in delight [on Pei's TV]  Pei applauds [on Pei's TV]  Miss-K will never get anything done once   those terminals are in! [on Pei's TV]  Pei rolls in the floor laughing [on Pei's TV]  Avalon grins and grins and grins with   excitement about the future. [on Pei's TV]  Miss-K wrings her hands thinking of so much   to do and so little time. [on Pei's TV]  Avalon says, "We have very strong support   from the Longview, Phoenix College and the   district offices to continue and build on   this." [on Pei's TV]  Pei looks at his watch and turns back to the   camera. [on Pei's TV]  Pei says, "Viewers...I am speechless!" [on Pei's TV]  Miss-K smiles [on Pei's TV]  Pei says, "Except to say that I am deeply   moved by these people and what they have   accomplished this summer.  It is impossible   to know all the consequences of how they and   the experiences they have provided have   touched the lives of a handful of children   this summer.  Or how the technologies and   techniques they are pioneering will effect   lives in the future.  But my bet is that it’s   enormous.”[on Pei's TV]  From MediaMOO, this is Peiohpah saying "good   night!"

In re-reading this interview I was struck by four ideas.

  1. The campers were engage in self-directed learning, because they were doing something with what they were learning. 
  2. Their enthusiasm had nothing to do with slick graphics and booming sound effects. It was text. 
  3. The campers were working hard, though they might not have called it work. Students who are engaged in this type of learning experience often call it, “Hard play.” 
  4. There seems to be a direct relationship between learner-engagement and parent-engagement. 
  5. Young Learners need to see adults model meaningful learning.