What to do for kids while education roils

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Posted on 21st June 2010 by Judy Breck in Mobiles | Next | Obamaschool | Schools we now have

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These are great words, with definitions from Merriam-Webster:

Roil means: to make turbid by stirring up the sediment or dregs

These are the origins of turbid: Latin turbidus confused, disordered, turbid, from turba confusion, tumult, crowd; akin to Latin turbare to throw into disorder, disturb, make turbid

Turbulence means: wild unruly disorderly commotion : disposition to stormy unruliness : violent agitation or disturbance : great perturbation : disorderly or tumultuous conduct

In many ways, education is roiling. Money is running out, teachers unions picket, textbook committees argue through the night, politicians promise, parents anguish, pundits prattle — and the goal of elevating learning for yet another generation eludes us.

This disorder and commotion are forcing consideration of what children do all day while they are growing up. Under the umbrella term “education,” issues of culture and nurture loom larger and larger. In a Politico article today, Congresswoman Judy Chu (D-Calif) sketches turbulence in the life of kids who are prevented from focusing on learning.

How long will education be turbidus? Who and what can fix it? Or will education fix itself, with the sediment and dregs that have been stirred up settling into a new pattern in a changing world. I think the latter is true: education will reconfigure itself around the network of what is known by humankind that is emergent on the internet. The world will become a far better place because all the young global generation will connect to the same virtual pages online to learn their knowledge. Separately, and largely locally, what kids do all day will be resolved in many different ways.

Already we can put individual students into the calming future.

While education roils on, we can snatch one mind at a time out of the turbulence. The action is simple: provide the youngster a mobile device and connection that provide him with his own web browser. We may not soon replace the turbid schools Judy Cho describes, but this very day, she could provide a student there with his own connection to what is known by humankind.

Education needs an emergence wake-up call

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Posted on 19th June 2010 by Judy Breck in Findability | Next

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As emergence shook biology loose from physics in the 20th century, emergence will pry preconceived curricula from the natural networking of knowledge. So far, the education establishment has shrugged off the emergence of knowledge online, and hence is blithely unaware that human learning is entering a global golden age.

Paul Davies described in Edge, how scientists have had to stop shrugging and work to understand the reality and power of emergence:

Although scientists have long had an inclination to shrug aside such questions concerning the source of the laws of physics, the mood has now shifted considerably. Part of the reason is the growing acceptance that the emergence of life in the universe, and hence the existence of observers like ourselves, depends rather sensitively on the form of the laws. If the laws of physics were just any old ragbag of rules, life would almost certainly not exist. [First published as an OpEd piece by The New York Times, November 24, 2007]

Davies writes from the perspective of complexity science, which includes the probing of networks. In the 20th century, as DNA was understood and the functioning of biology was studied at increasing depths of complexity, physicists were toppled from their kingship of science. Emergence, Organization & Dynamics of Living Systems (as the Santa Fe Institute calls it) has taken a place next to physics in our understanding of science and the cosmos. We are overdue in placing emergence as a pillar of pedagogy.

The rise of the internet has caused what is known by humankind to relocate into the network matrix formed by the open internet. Because knowledge itself is a network — as is our brain where we use and emerge knowledge — knowledge does what comes naturally when it gets into the internet: it emerges. In an elegance too beautiful to be untrue, knowledge on the internet resonates with knowledge in the learning mind. They mirror each other as the mind learns and thinks about the emergent knowledge it encounters online.

The education establishment did not create online emergent knowledge anymore than the physicists created emergent life. Both are discoveries. Knowledge has always emerged in our minds — but very new is the internet matrix where knowledge can emerge virtually for us to study and learn.

BTW: Social networking is something entirely different than the networking of knowledge. Both are huge for learning. Social networking, as it relates to education, has to do with people interacting about knowledge. Emergent knowledge is about algebra interacting with calculus, French history emerging from Roman Gaul, the ecology of rice connecting to theories of famine — all the stuff like that which is known, learned, and thought about by humankind.

What would John have done with a smart phone?

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Posted on 12th June 2010 by Judy Breck in Equality | Mobiles | Next

What would the slave boys shown in a newly discovered 1860ish photo have been able to do if they had had mobile devices connected to the internet in their pockets? The discovery of the photo, with its attached record of John’s sale for $1,150 in 1854, is causing an outpouring of remarks about the way slave children were treated a century and a half ago.

There are those who would assume that the social stuff would have to come first to open the doors for a slave boy: political emancipation, financial support, social acceptance of his different skin color. Fifteen decades after this picture was taken, there are still many children for whom political/social barriers remain. They are still trapped in real and virtual kinds of slavery of many sorts in lots of places around the world.

When the picture was taken, there was no way to connect the actual John shown in the photo with knowledge beyond his slave shack and his master’s grounds. Today it is possible to connect every child on earth individually with the sum total of what is known by humankind. We can put all that into every youngster’s pocket. Certainly there would be some — many! — who would break beyond their shacks and the limits set by their masters.

Save a teacher and some trees with virtual resources

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Posted on 10th June 2010 by Judy Breck in Mobiles | Next | Obamaschool | Politics

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As failing socialized education once more is cutting teachers and looking to pour federal tax paid money to save salaries of some of them, why not do something different: cut textbook costs by delivering learning content using mobiles. Roughly speaking, one teacher’s salary of $100,000 could provide 100 students with a smart phone for each and an access plan for each lasting many months.

But why fire the teacher? Why spend more at the federal level, increasing the deficit? Why cut down more trees to create paper to print resources that are out-of-date before ink is rolled?

Instead, we can chop down the local textbook/analog budget, then use the money saved to equip students with mobiles. That way, we keep the teachers out of the budget cutting morass. By saving billions through virtual resources, money remains for human teachers.

There is a picture of Congressional Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey in an article today in Politico: Dems eye stimulus to pay teachers. There is no suggestion in the Politico report of any answer to school money woes except to fire teachers or pay them by sending federal dollars to states. Obey, a chastened liberal is quitting Congress — yet another sign that the socialist solutions he has long supported are not working.

Education needs something new, and we have it! In fact pivotal positive innovation is not only possible, but unstoppable. Wrongheaded actions like perpetuating the status quo through federal money dumps slow innovation down, especially for the failing schools that are perpetuating a dependent class. But as the Obeys fade from the failing big government era, we will enter a global golden age of learning.

Handschooling is a major driver toward that golden age. As it delivers the global knowledge commons online, handschooling is moving learning back to the local level and into the hands of individual learners.

Let’s use the money crunch that is worrying Obey’s brow. It is an opportunity to speed up the switch to virtual resources and save some teachers — and quite a few trees while we are at it.

When higher education’s bubble bursts

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Posted on 7th June 2010 by Judy Breck in Next | Schools we now have

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Will the bursting of the higher education bubble give college-age people time to focus on acquiring useful knowledge? That conclusion can be drawn from reading an article in the Washington Examiner.

The laws of networking have burst many bubbles, including analog ways of doing things across a range from scheduling travel, finding a job, meeting a spouse, collecting music, publishing news, and on and on. The Examiner article has interesting answers to this question that it poses:

So what happens if the bubble collapses? Will it be a tragedy, with millions of Americans losing their path to higher-paying jobs?
Maybe not. College is often described as a path to prosperity, but is it? A college education can help people make more money in three different ways. . .

The first of the three points by the article authors involves acquiring skills to become economically productive. The other two are about gaining credentials and establishing a workplace network. The analysis given in the article is well worth reading toward understanding what lies ahead under the notion of education.

But also, think how cool this is: With the college three-ring circus diminishing, people in their late teens and early twenties can spend real, quality time interacting with knowledge — essentially all accessible in the device in their hands and able to travel with them. Could the fun time partying — important to building later workplace networks — be replaced by adventures in chemistry labs, archaeology digs, jungle explorations, or apprenticeships in hospitals, transportation control hubs, and construction sites?

The bursting of the higher education bubble will surely mean that eager young minds will soon have more time to engage what is known by humankind. And don’t you think the networks born of knowledge engagement will be more worthwhile than those that emerge from higher education as we know it now?

Short Obama coattails could hold black kids down

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Posted on 3rd June 2010 by Judy Breck in Uncategorized

An article in Politico.com today about “Short Obama coattails for black pols“  begins:

Barack Obama’s historic 2008 victory was supposed to herald a new era in American politics, one in which the conventional wisdom that there were limits to how far ambitious African-American politicians could expect to go — nationally or statewide — had been demolished.

[The article continues, describing a "stunning defeat" for one black politician running for high office, and how another was "crushed."]

What might be happening to the Obama coattails that black youngsters saw themselves riding into Ivy League schools and elite circles of prestige and power?

Disturbingly, at least to me, is the near total focus by the Obama education policy on some improvement in the so-called “failing” schools — which are, of course, very often overwhelmingly black. He has promised that by 2020 every public school student will be prepared to enter college — which at best would include a few accepted by the Harvard and very many more by the increasingly dumbed down remedial post-high school institutions.

Improving “failing” schools by enough to meet a middling goal ten years from now is not providing anything close to what Obama himself enjoyed in his education: elite prep school in Hawaii, classy college in California, vaunted university in New York City — and later Harvard Law School.

Yes, young Barry showed that a man with an African father could be elected President. But he is not showing a response to the belief of young blacks who enthusiastically responded when he said “Yes we can.” Promising to fix failing schools by ten years from now is a lame way of telling the kids stuck in bad schools today: “No you cannot.”

But they CAN take schooling into their own hands, creating their own coattails by showing that there are not limits to how far ambitious African-American students can expect to go.

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