Young Arabs are more connected to knowledge


Posted on 13th April 2011 by Judy Breck in Mobiles | Next | Politics


Gallup reports this week that: Young Arabs More Connected in 2010: Cell phone access jumps in low- and middle-income countries. The above chart is from the Gallup report, which begins:

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Technology’s pivotal role in the change that swept the Arab world in late 2010 and early 2011 underscores how quickly its young people are gaining access to information and communication technology. Gallup surveys conducted before the unrest show 87% of 15- to 29-year-olds across the Arab League say they have cellular phone access, up from 79% in 2009. Home and community Internet access are up, too, but not nearly as much.

These facts and figures do not indicate how many of the young Arabs have internet access on their cellphones. Surely many do, and surely smartphones are flowing into young Arab hands. Smartphones deliver handschooling because smartphones browse the Web and the Web is now where the most authentic and up-to-date resources for knowledge are located.

While Facebook and other “social networking” dominate media stories about the role of connectivity in the Arab Spring, young Arabs have schooling of the future in their hands. Are they using the Web to learn? At the very least, the boys have a device by which to explore, challenge, and add to what they are taught in school and those girls who are denied school have a means to interact with knowledge.

Truth networking shall make you free


Posted on 4th April 2011 by Judy Breck in Mobiles | Next

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Today PajamasMedia has an essay by Hege Storhaug titled: The Stifling Effect of Muhammed’s Life and Teachings on Muslim Society: We need a constructive and fact-based debate about Muhammed’s life and his meaning for society today.

Beyond the school subjects that mobile browsers are increasingly providing to students across the world, the full sweep of Truth is becoming available to each individual. That astounding fact holds enormous hope for the decades and centuries that lie ahead. That is the topic of this comment that I wrote in response to Storhaug’s essay:

There is a new, fascinating, inexorable cause for predicting the turning the tide against the centuries of oppression of individuals by Islam: the mobile Web browser! The devices are even small enough for a woman to conceal in her burqa. A lot has been written about the role of social networking in the Arab Spring: truth networking is powerfully part of this and its impact is only beginning. Within a very few years essentially every person on earth will have a way to view the broad world through his/her own browser.

Jesus told his followers at the Sermon on the Mount: “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:32) The new global networking of Truth is a glorious dawning hope for humankind.

Learn from the Web while waiting for Superman


Posted on 23rd March 2011 by Judy Breck in Mobiles | Next | Obamaschool | Schools we now have


Waiting for Superman is a GREAT movie. But something should be added!! While waiting and working for super schools with super teachers, we can do this immediately: show every kid how to learn everything known by humankind through the device they already have.

I saw Waiting for Superman this afternoon for the first time. In thinking about it afterward, I realized I could remember no mobile devices being used by any of the kids. This is both archaic and inaccurate. I can remember way back in 1999 being at a mentor meeting attended by a dozen students from New York City public high schools. We were sitting around a conference table at a business office in Manhattan. Just out of curiosity, I asked them how many were carrying cellphones. They ALL had them, and that was twelve years ago.

It is uncertain that very many more American students are truly going to have the great schools and teachers the movie longs for. It is very certain that essentially every school-age American will carry a Web browsing mobile device — and probably already are. While we are working for the great schools with great teachers, why not also work to show youngsters how to handschool themselves.

I knew a brilliant black woman from New York City who had a Ph.D from Columbia University. She gave up her other careers to work as a first grade teacher in one of the worst schools in Harlem. She explained to me: “If I can get them at that age and teach them to read, they will be okay.”

We should do all the things suggested and implied in Waiting for Superman. We should do one more thing: Teach individual students how to learn everything known through the mobile Web. That is another way to help them to be okay.

UPDATE: This Handschooling post from a year ago gives more on how learning can be done with individual devices:
Ignoring intertwingularity was education’s shark jump

T-Paw issues Call of Duty to fix education


Posted on 11th March 2011 by Judy Breck in Next | Obamaschool | Schools we now have

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At last, a Presidential candidate has leapfrogged the Blob to point out that Economics 101 will be learned from the sort of technology that makes games like Call of Duty compelling. Half way through the Des Moines Register article about T-Paw’s statement, the writer switched from her reporter role to media opinionist, concluding her story with snide dismissal of Governor Pawlenty’s suggestion.

Today’s Politico reports the excitement Microsoft’s CEO Steve Ballmer is trying to create over the use of Game technology: Ballmer: Game technology is the future for the energy industry. Ballmer declines his Call of Duty (in my view) to push game technology for education. Ballmer does not mention education in the Politico report. But then who ever does?

The day that T-Paw’s suggestion becomes a reality, all the education minions who write textbooks, prepare curricula, teach courses, grade papers for Economic 101 — all will be essentially obsolete. Students everywhere will download Economics 101 from iTunes and learn at least a great deal about the subject on their own.

In spite of what the Des Moines Register reporter writes, economics students can still have seminars, and yes, they can play football too.

Alas, Bill Gates too is absorbed by The Blob


Posted on 28th February 2011 by Judy Breck in Mobiles | Next | Schools we now have

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Bill Gates proposes another decade or two detour for public USA education in his Washington Post opinion piece today titled: How teacher development could revolutionize our schools. Good grief Gates, as we are so wont to say these days: You don’t get it.

Aaron Sorkin, in accepting an Oscar last night for his Social Network screenplay, thanked his agents, “who,” said Sorkin, “never blow my cover and reveal that I would happily do this for free”. A deeply inherent operative in human nature is that teaching is a gift, and those individuals so gifted have to be driven away from teaching with very powerful forces to get rid of them. Sadly, Bill Gates is throwing his considerable weight to just such forces.

“Teacher development” is a concept promoted by what is known in education circles as “The Blob,” described here and here. As the latter link says: “Not really a wall — they always talk about change — but rather more like quicksand, or a tar pit where ideas slowly sink out of sight leaving everything just as it had been. ”

Because teachers are born with their gift, we need to wonder what is meant by “teacher development.” We know that whatever this activity is, it supports schools of education, teacher unions, textbook and standards producers, and layers of education administrators. For all of these folks and factions, the news that the United States’ richest man has bought into the idea that teachers need to be developed is promising indeed. Gates has thrown his support to all of these, and more, “experts” who are paid to tell natural teachers how to ply their gifts.

Most natural teachers do not last long in US public school teaching. How to keep those we have, and how to win back the ones who have left in sad disgust (or much stronger disbelief)? The answer: Cut them loose from The Blob and give them access to the tools their students use in other aspects of their lives, but seldom are allowed to use in education.

Imagine a great natural teacher trekking with a couple of dozen science students through an urban, rural, or wilderness habitat. The teacher and each of his students has a personal eTablet. They are studying the life cycle of city rats, field mice, or forest shrews, respective to the habitat where they are. Or imagine a gifted math teacher in a room full kids, ages 7-14, whose interest in and aptitude for math are high. The teacher would be responding with her own knowledge and telling a kid where to go on his eTablet –  to the level of each student’s mathematical competence — not forcing upon them all some textbook writer’s idea of what math is right for ten-year-olds.

The great Gates error in his Washington Post piece is that teachers need to be “developed” to function in the system in which The Blob has entrapped our kids. Instead, the system needs to be reconfigured to welcome great teaching and engage students in knowledge networks.

Bill Gates has enough clout to help weaken The Blob so reconfiguring becomes more possible. Sadly, he seems to have abandoned this clout by being absorbed into The Blob — where he joins legion company of well intentioned would be education reformers.

Watson’s win heavily human reliant


Posted on 17th February 2011 by Judy Breck in Crowd review | Findability | Next

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I think my sister put it best, writing to me in an email: “I’ve watched the 1st 2 and am unimpressed by Watson…  AND I wonder if they gave “him” a 1/6 th of a second disadvantage to compensate for the humans.  :)    looks like an ibm ad to me… “

It was clear that Ken and Brad both knew more answers than Watson did, but could not ring in as fast. I knew several of the answers Watson “won” before Alex finished reading them. And I am no Ken or Brad! I think my sister is right, that Watson had a way to ring in faster. More important: Without the time factor on ringing in, Watson would have been left in the dust!

Perhaps Watson-like technology will become a useful way to save the tedium for humans of scanning vast data, but that data is initially created, and kept up-to-date, by humans. Even the dustiest regions of the deep web are storehouses of human data. Whatever resources Watson drew upon in the contest were assembled by humans. If something in the knowledge Watson uses changes — Chicago might rename an airport — a human-reliant device is going to have to fix Watson’s resources or he is going to give the wrong answer.

Probably artificial intelligence will one day be created, but the keys still elude us. In the meantime, I wish IBM would take on a Grand Challenge based on network science.

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