Ignoring intertwingularity was education’s shark jump

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Posted on 7th February 2010 by Judy Breck in Findability | Schools we now have

Jumping the shark, as we see Fonzie doing, is the point at which something absurd is done, followed by ongoing efforts to revive an enterprise. Ignoring the intertwingularity is the shark jump for established education. Schooling is on a path of increasingly under serving youngsters and education as it was known in the 20th century is petering out.

Meanwhile there is great news: the connection handschooling can make for a student to the intertwingularity is now real and quickly getting more effective and spreading.

The reason handschooling is so hopeful is that it can put an individual student in touch with the intertwingularity. That connection can be made regardless of the “schooling” situation and status of that individual student, who could: be in a school where students score high on standards, be in a failing school that does poorly by schooling standards, schooled at home, not have a school to go to.

The fact of the matter is that handschooling — when it tips with enough of the world’s youngsters connected to the intertwingularity — will force the reconfiguring of established education. That reconfiguring is sketched whimsically in stories taking place in the future in my book Intertwingle, if you are interested. The point of this website is to bring handschooling into focus now.

So what is the intertwingularity?

The word was coined in 1974 by Ted Nelson, as Wikipedia states, “to express the complexity of interrelations in human knowledge.” The beautiful, spontaneous, serendipitous gift to learning that has emerged in the internet is a network that does indeed interface the complexities of interrelation of human knowledge. That network is what I call in handschooling.com the intertwingularity. At the end of this post, I have included, from my book 109 IDEAS FOR VIRTUAL LEARNING, some paragraphs describing the first time I realized the intertwingularity was out there. (Then ten years ago, I did not yet know of Ted Stevens’ word, but I saw exactly what he described — and it was, as I write below, mysterious.)

A brief history of the intertwingularity so far:

  • What is known by humankind has poured into the open internet and there, following network laws, emerged as the intertwingularity.
  • Established education has held the internet at arms length, attempting at best to organize and judge some of the online knowledge, but not deigning to recognizes or engage the intertwingularity of knowledge formed naturally in the network.
  • Education practice has continued to divide and disconnect human knowledge into standards and grades, continuing the increasingly dark art of shoehorning knowledge relations into standards and curricula (instead of letting them intertwingle).
  • Opposite to education’s standards and curricula, the interwingulatity is emergent from the knowledge placed online by experts and authorities in knowledge fields, and is naturally vetted by network laws (think how Google puts the best stuff at the top).
  • By being individually owned and operated, the mobile internet browser has became able to connect its owner to the complexities of interrelation of human knowledge — the intertwingularity.
  • The intertwingularity has created a global knowledge commons where everyone who connects to it literally learns from the same virtual page — with very big time implications for world understanding.
  • The future of learning has become not about what we do in schooling: it is now about how soon we engage our learning generation with the intertwingularity.
  • We can connect individual kids to the intertwingularity right now through handschooling. Let’s do it!

How I first glimpsed the intertwingularity in 2000, when I was contentmaster of HomeworkCentral.com*

I had hung a large sign above my desk quoting Stephen Jay Gould and saying: Like bureaucracy, knowledge has an inexorable tendency to ramify as it grows. I had been watching the cascade of knowledge onto the Internet for many months, and assumed it was ramifying—branching out into smaller and smaller twigs of smaller topics. I was wrong, and so was Dr. Gould. I began to catch on when I noticed something that still strikes me as mysterious and is, at the least, counterintuitive. It was something actually happening among our packets and not in the least foreseen or planned by the extremely intelligent and knowledgeable team that was building the HomeworkCentral.com content collection. An example would be the surprising behavior of a packet of links collected by one of our historians on the subject of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 a.d., which buried Pompeii and Herculaneum. The packet would keep showing up in different places! Click into the packet comprised of packets on the mechanisms of volcanoes and the Vesuvius disaster packet would be linked in as an example in the dangerous lava flows packet. In the city planning packet exactly the same Vesuvius packet would be part of a packet on choosing a city location (not next to a volcano!). The same Vesuvius packet would also show up in European history, perhaps in two or more subpackets, say for ancient Italy and archaeological rediscovery. The classical art preserved beneath the lava also prompted our art editor to link in the Vesuvius disaster there. Clearly what was going on was not ramifcation—not branching. Every time I encountered the Vesuvius disaster packet in a different subject, the Vesuvius packet was a node in a different network from the last one. Each network was shaped by meaning—science, planning, history, art—cognitive stuff.

The part that mystified me and I still find counterintuitive is that all of this is virtual and dynamic. It is not possible to pin down simultaneously the many ideas that issue from the different patterns of connections formed in the subjects. That is very similar to, if not the same thing, as the lack of the ongoing existence of an idea in your brain and mine. In both cases when connections are active an idea is happening. But we digress. What is important is that the connectivity is real, visible, and a new medium for interfacing what is known by humankind.

Quoted from: Judy Breck, 109 IDEAS FOR VIRTUAL LEARNING, Idea #59.

*HomeworkCentral.com was the largest – in terms of content and traffic – open study subject website during the Dotcom boom: 150,000 links, 35,000 study subjects, 4 million hits per month in spring 2000.

1 Comments
  1. GeekMom » Blog Archive » Geek Dad Spreads Parental Intelligence says:

    [...] Make the Best Horses and Parenting for a Peaceful World. I’ve learned about concepts such as intertwingularity. I’ve become acquainted with the views of passionate writers and opinion-makers. Even when I [...]

    7th February 2010 at 8:31 am

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