Should a school control student mobiles?


Posted on 6th March 2010 by Judy Breck in Equality | Mobiles


Software control like what Soti MobiControl provides to businesses was used in a recent school pilot program to allow teachers to interact with each student’s mobile, monitor what the student is doing there, and apply discipline. A month ago a school district in Pennsylvania was sued for calling down a high school student for something he was doing at home — observed by the webcam on his school-owned laptop.

How much intrusion should a school have, if any? At what age should a student be trusted keep the contents of the computer he/she uses for school private? Certainly, we would not allow college kids to be intruded on by deans of discipline who watch what they are doing on their smartphones and/or laptops.

An article from O’Reilly Radar about the recent school pilot program does a great job of describing the current state of things regarding the way schools exercise control and limit boundaries for what individuals students can do with their mobiles.

The network in the image above is from a Soti’s MobiControl video that shows how top down management of multiple mobiles works. The following are the first and last paragraphs of the pilot article. They explain the rationale for controlling student mobiles. Do you agree? I would rather trust the kids.

In most schools, cell phones are checked at the door — or at best powered off during school hours in a tacit “don’t ask, don’t tell” understanding between students and administrators. This wide-spread technology ban is a response to real concerns: if kids have unfettered instant access to the Internet at school, how do we keep them safe, how do we keep out inappropriate content, how do we prevent real-time cyberbullying, how do we even keep their attention in class when competing with messaging, gaming, and surfing? . . .

As for the issues of safety and appropriate use of the Internet, each student in the pilot has signed an acceptable use policy outlining their responsibilities as cell phone users at school. Soti’s MobiControl  software, which allows the teachers to interact with each student’s cell phone, also allows them to monitor use and apply standard classroom discipline techniques for inappropriate behavior in the virtual world — just as they manage behavior in physical hallways and on campus grounds. Not surprisingly, after some initial testing of the boundaries, a culture of responsible use quickly evolved among the students.

Can it be: standards don’t work because they are absent encodable circuitry?

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Posted on 4th March 2010 by Judy Breck in Mobiles | Schools we now have


Put positively: learning online networked knowledge surely stimulates connections in the circuitry of a child’s brain. George Will writes in his column this week, reviewing the best-selling book Nurture Shock:

Until age 21, the circuitry of a child’s brain is being completed. Bronson and Merryman report research on grade schoolers showing that “the performance gap caused by an hour’s difference in sleep was bigger than the gap between a normal fourth-grader and a normal sixth-grader.” In high school, there is a steep decline in sleep hours, and a striking correlation of sleep and grades.

Tired children have trouble retaining learning “because neurons lose their plasticity, becoming incapable of forming the new synaptic connections necessary to encode a memory. . . . The more you learned during the day, the more you need to sleep that night.”

An hour of the drill baby drill approach to teaching sets of standards may not a lot leave for connecting synapses to deal with while encoding memory in sleep. The idea of standards in itself delimits an individual youngster’s pursuit of her curiosity: The class all learns what is in the standard box in the class hour.

Compare what a student will experience spending the same hour following connections in the USGS Earthquake Hazards webpages that interconnect complex knowledge with interactive paths to follow active curiosity. Surely synapses purr into action as she clicks through the map to individual real-time earthquakes, and then to the three-dimensional global regional information when her eye catches the slab models for subduction zones.

George Will’s column is headlined: “How to ruin a child.” Another important way current child-rearing does this ruination should be added to the several in the NurtureShock book. We are ruining their potential to grasp knowledge by chopping it into standard pieces. We need to cut children’s minds free of lock-step, standardized learning that settles for a minimum and ignores the long tails of subjects. This can only be done by letting each child think individually.

Except for wandering and turned off minds, during a class hour all students are regimented to be thinking about the same knowledge at the same time. In contrast, an individual youngster clicking through earthquake knowledge on his own mobile internet browser is sending patterns of connections encountered among webpages through the circuitry of his brain. Such patterns can be complex, and are meaningful to him because they follow his focused attention and curiosity. In this example, a boy is moving beyond a few standard facts of earth science. He is exploring his way down through the long tail of authoritative, fresh, and interconnected knowledge about earthquakes.

We can suppose that if he gets a good night’s sleep interconnected understanding of earthquake knowledge will encode into memory. If he had spend the same time drilling a few earth science standards, the encoding would be not so much.

A plea to education scholars not to look backward

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Posted on 3rd March 2010 by Judy Breck in Next | Schools we now have

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“Scholar’s School Reform U-Turn Shakes Up Debate” is the headline of a New York Times article today. Here is the lede:

Diane Ravitch, the education historian who built her intellectual reputation battling progressive educators and served in the first Bush administration’s Education Department, is in the final stages of an astonishing, slow-motion about-face on almost every stand she once took on American schooling.

The article is a very interesting review of the chaos that exists now in education theory. Notice, though, that there is no mention in the article of any sort of new idea for education. The headline is about a U-Turn — which is the act of swinging around to the opposite direction to go back where you came from.

Please, no!

It frustrates me that all of the pedagogues mentioned in the article stare unblinkingly back at the 20th century, looking for methods there. That is not where answers will be found. The new century’s kids connect to knowledge on the open internet. Only by putting that fact at the core can education be reconfigured for the 21st century.

Teaching, schools, assessment need to be reconfigured around the new location of knowledge. Chester Finn comes out best in my view in this article. Yes, “blow up” the old public school system — but does he yet have step two? The article does not have a hint of what it means for education to go down the opening road ahead. Doing so means connecting every kid individually into the global knowledge commons, and around that, redesigning what students do for discourse, arts, socialization, apprenticing and the rest of what we call “education” that is not about having access to subject knowledge.

How the global knowledge commons emerges


Posted on 1st March 2010 by Judy Breck in Findability

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UPDATE March 2, 2010
Today’s New York Science Times has a terrific article about the shape of the internet. I will be posting more about what the article reports. But for now, let the record show that the final paragraph says about the scale-free (long tail, 6 degrees) network theorists: “What they’re measuring is not the physical network, it’s some virtual abstraction that’s on top of it . . . .” — they are measuring what I have depicted here as the oval. In that oval is the global knowledge commons, emerging as educators tend still to choose to use content created and organized elsewhere.

My last two posts may seem silly: Open Education Resources are a pizza and Schooling is a pizza. Yet they provide a way to see where in a general way the location of the global knowledge commons is — hovering above other layers of what we call education. The intertwingularity is the best name I know for that place. You may be thinking the place — indicated by the oval at the top of the pizzas — is something philosophical and/or metaphysical. But such thoughts are red herrings as we reconfigure education around the internet.

The place represented by the oval is where the meaning of the content of the internet intertwingles. This place cannot be identified as the physical telecosm itself, which is so eloquently described below by George Gilder. Instead, the intertwingularity emerges from the telecosm and gives birth to new phenomena such as the global economy, the blogosphere, and the global knowledge commons.

The place represented by the oval is also not the packets of zeroes and ones zooming around within the telecosm. Inside the oval is where, as the meaning of the packets intertwingles, patterns of ideas arise that a student connected into the internet can learn. The student can interact with those ideas in real time, adding to and/or changing them. That interaction is very real — not philosophical or metaphysical.

When George Gilder wrote this beautiful description of the telecosm, it was in the context that from it “will spring a new global economy.” The oval can be thought of as the location of the economic intertwingling that has revolutionized the global economy since Gilder wrote these words in 1999.

By 2010, most of what is known by humankind is already on the internet, and a lot of it is sufficiently open and unbundled to participate in the intertwingularity. Because network laws govern within the intertwingularity, the ideas there are self-vetting, with the best of them becoming the most linked and thereby emergent.

Imagine gazing at the web from far in space. To you, peering through your spectroscope, mapping the mazes of electromagnetism in its path, the Web appears as a global efflorescence, a resonant sphere of light. It is the physical phase space of the telecosm, the radiant chrysalis from which will spring a new global economy.  The luminous ball reflects Maxwell’s rainbow, with each arc of light bearing a signatory wavelength. As the mass of the traffic flows through fiber-optic trunks, it glows infrared, with the network backbones looming as focused beams of 1550-nanometer radiance running across continents and under the seas. As more and more people use wireless means to access the Net, this infrared ball grows a penumbra of microwaves, suffused with billions of moving sparks from multimegahertz teleputers or digital cellular phones. Piercing through the penumbra are rich spikes of radio frequencies confined in the coaxial cables circling through neighborhoods and hooking to each household. Spangling the Net are more than 100 million nodes of concentrated standing waves, each an Internet host, a computer with a microprocessor running at a microwave frequency from the hundreds of megahertz to the gigahertz. The radiance reaches upward between 400 and 800 miles to thousands of low-orbit satellites, each sending forth cords of “light” between Earth and sky in the Ku band between 12 and 18 gigahertz. George Gilder, Forbes ASAP, October 1, 1999

The main section FINDABILITY of is about the intertwingularity and the crucial role of experts and educators in following network laws to make what they know findable. What is not findable will not intertwingle.

The most elegant aspect of the oval is that we each have one hovering above our own brain.  Even more so than Gilder’s “telecosm,” your brain is a magnificently complex network from which ideas emerge.  In future learning the intertwingularity emerging from the internet will reflect whatever a person seeks to learn into that person’s own intertwingularity of what he or she knows and thinks.

Let’s get to work and make that so.

The global knowledge commons hovers over every school


Posted on 28th February 2010 by Judy Breck in Equality | Mobiles | Nurture

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We have been programmed to assume that what kids are taught at school is better knowledge than what they get by connecting to the internet. We are also assured that schools standardize subjects so each youngster will learn the same material — at least at a minimum.

For both of these supposed articles of faith for schooling, the opposite has become true — sometimes radically so. Yesterday the Minneapolis-St. Paul StarTribune published a column by Katherine Kersten describing a legal “battle royal” regarding a public charter school TiZA where the enrollment is mainly Somali.

We can suppose — because TiZA is a taxpayer supported public school — students will go through preparations for and taking required standards tests. But it is hard to assume that the students would not learn a lot of the material they study from the perspective of Islam. After all, their Somali parents would see that as a benefit — as a chief reason for sending their children to TiZA. The StarTribune columnist writes: “During her tenure, [a witness] says in an affidavit, she saw ‘no real distinction’ between the operations of TiZA and the Muslim American Society, with which the school shares a building.”

Schooling has always involved culture and nurture. To what extent that is good or bad is not the subject of this blog and website. Visualizing schooling as a pizza focuses thinking about the knowledge-acquiring aspect of schooling. Until recently the level where the issue of knowledge biases and slants was struggled with was among the pepperoni and onions in the above illustration: curriculum, textbooks, and what is in the library.

Handschooling is a brand-new doable step that absolutely equalizes and vastly expands the knowledge available for students — worldwide, no less — to study and learn literally from the same webpage.

To add the olives layer by providing each TiZA student with his and her own mobile web browser would not need to change any of the other layers. It would add, for each individual student, a connection to the new layer that no other generation has ever had: the global knowledge commons that emerges in the intertwingularity.

It is false to justify not letting kids have handschooling because it would be substituting the olives for the pepperoni and onions. But forbidding the olives is increasingly less possible. The world has changed for school people who would limit to their own biases what children learn. The new intertwingularity layer hovers above every school, and increasingly the new generation is connecting on its own.

OER is a pizza


Posted on 27th February 2010 by Judy Breck in Findability

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UPDATE: More about what is in the oval from the New York Science Times, and a later post here.

Open educational resources (OER for short among advocates of open online educational resources) is made up several layers of construction. The image of the pizza suggests this overall structure with these layers, from the bottom up: subject matter, designing of the subject stuff into a webpage, coding that design and content with the browser languages, establishing links among related webpages, and platforming all of that on the internet of wires, glass, and wireless signals that network, as it were, in the global ether. Yet there is more — wonderfully more.

The critical and marvelous layer hovers dynamically, invisibly, virtually at the top of the OER pizza. It is the layer where everything intertwingles. It is not there physically. Its substance is ideas.

What could I possibly mean? Let me give you an example. As I write this it is just past 4PM in New York City. That is the hour that the tsunami set off this morning by the earthquake in Chili is expected to reach the beaches of Hawaii. Thousands upon thousands of pieces of information are being sent into the internet and intertwingling there. They are connecting, forming hubs, attaching new facts, verifying warnings, and on and on. Here is a screenshot of what is pushing into the intertwingularity at 4PM.

The global knowledge commons, which is the future of OER, is emergent into the intertwingularity as a dynamic network of what is known by humankind. Added to the commons from today’s tsunami will be new knowledge now flowing in and being vetted dynamically. In the FoxNews list, for example, is “Send Your Photos.” This citizen journalism will add to our planet’s record of today’s earthquake and tsunami. Arising from many individual inputs, images will be intertwingled through vetting by editors and online clicks. Some of them will find their way into permanent collections, as order arises from today’s tsunami of input into the intertwingularity.

We are only beginning to understand the wonders of this new medium of what we know as a species. There is no question, however, about this: The freshest, most authentic, and complete repository of what is known by humankind is now openly online. In the open virtual intertwingularity this content interacts freely to emerge new and vetted knowledge. Mobile browsers make it possible to put the emerging global knowledge commons into the hands of every student. We can and should be working to make knowledge in the commons more findable. We should be reconfiguring education around the new location of of what is known by humankind.

I kick the walls when I see billions of dollars gushing toward limiting learning to low standards taught and tested in unequal schools. With handschooling — switching food metaphors — we provide the whole enchilada of knowledge to every student by connecting each one to the intertwingularity.

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