An old priest of education and online learning


Posted on 29th November 2010 by Judy Breck in Next | Obamaschool | Schools we now have

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Thomas H. Kean’ article about higher education in today’s Washington Post does not mention online learning. Referring to the Federal Department of Education, Kean writes about the Fed’s moves to regulate career college loans:

The department’s current approach is risky and illogical. Instead of focusing on crucial U.S. higher education assets – community colleges, career colleges, traditional four-year colleges and universities – it is singling out one segment. Yet this segment – career colleges – provides access for many students who might otherwise not attend college.

Tom Kean is a year older than I am, so I am not disrespectful in calling him an old priest here when he uses his respected reputation to comment on education and leaves out virtual learning. Online learning provides potential access for essentially all the world’s students to a college education and life long learning.

Hey, use the technology to engage the knowledge!


Posted on 21st November 2010 by Judy Breck in Findability | Next | Schools we now have

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The New York Times this morning has a major set of stories titled “Growing Up Digital, Wired for Distraction.” The overall conclusion is absurd!

Dutiful kids suffer themselves to do painfully boring schoolwork. Then they turn to the engaging interactive excitement found in their mobile devices. Apply a little bit of simple logic: Hey, use the technology to let them engage interactive, exciting knowledge!!

One of the teachers quoted in the article is saddened by the dwindling registration for her Latin classes. Maybe the lost students are learning Latin from Princeton’s Classical Language Instruction Project, where you can interact with Virgil and other ancients.

The logic is simple: if texting and games are addictive online, it follows that human knowledge is too. Do not think that knowledge is inherently dull, because that is simply wrong. Cynically one could say that classrooms and homework often make the most exciting knowledge very dull. Here is a small sampling of the thousands of exciting websites that use the internet to engage visitors in useful knowledge: GoldenSwamp Study Subjects.

The handschooling vanguard is the individual


Posted on 14th November 2010 by Judy Breck in Mobiles | Schools we now have


My last post dreams of something unrealistic. It is not possible for the largest school system to lead into the future of learning. I got carried away with too much hope when I wrote the post. Yesterday I came back down to earth by reading some of the regulations of the New York City Department of Education, which controls the public schools for the city.

The NYC Department of Education Internet Acceptable Use Policy is a fundamental roadblock to student use of the knowledge power of the Internet. The document is a quintessential example of government education necessarily strangled in its own regulations. Its bottom line is that students in the system can only peek now and then at learning resources online that are pre-approved by their teacher.

There is no winnable retort to government schools for people like me who want to release students to explore the online knowledge networks. The Department of Education will be sued if one kid uses its system to look at pornography. Tragedy can occurred if kids use the Department’s system to meet dangerous strangers online. The Department of Education cannot offer trust to its mass of students, and most certainly does not trust them as the lengthy regulations make clear.

And so the paradox: The best knowledge is now online and the New York City public schools will connect its students to that knowledge in only the most limited way.

The solution to this paradox has been taking form for years, and is about to cascade across the world. Privileged kids have had their own laptop for a long time. Increasingly, kids have smart phones and wireless tablets by which they can browse the internet. As wireless access rapidly spreads and the wireless devices flood the market, the young generation will individually have personal access to the best knowledge. Whether they wander into porn is not their school’s problem.

The approaching crunch for government schools is how to deal with the individual access to the internet owned by a student. In the New York City public schools have not budged:


— ALL cell phone, iPods or other electronic devices will be confiscated

— Cell phones, iPods, and ALL other electronic devices will only be returned to parents on the third TUESDAY of every month at our PTA/PC workshop between the hours of 6:00 P.M. – 8:00 P.M. in the school’s auditorium


Largest school system could be the vanguard of future learning


Posted on 11th November 2010 by Judy Breck in Mobiles | Next | Testing and assessment


If I were Cathleen P. Black, new Chancellor of the New York City public schools, these are some steps I would take:

  • Provide wireless connectivity at every New York City public school.
  • See to it that every student has a mobile device with an internet browser and paid-for 24/7 internet access.
  • Load each student’s mobile device with device apps and an index of online tutorials for 3R subjects and for the spectrum of introductory materials for math, sciences, literature, humanities, and other basic school subjects.
  • Set in motion a project to switch to online textbooks with all deliberate speed.
  • Provide online testing by subject that is not grade-level oriented. Allow NYC students to be certified by this testing if they choose to do so. The online certification would override (and eventually replace) classroom testing, allowing students to advance individually instead of by the curve of a particular group of classmates.

How wonderful it would be if Chancellor Black would place the world’s largest school system at the vanguard of future learning!!

Please do not think the kids in the school system she heads cannot lead their generation. I know them. They can.

Please, not another education reform wave!


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

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This morning politicians are peppering their purported plans for the post-election with doing something about the public (government) education at local, state, and federal level that is failing yet another generation of children. These promises are look-good, feel-good for politicians, but they never work because they keep trying to make relevant something obsolete.

Remember some of the older main waves? George H.W. Bush proclaimed himself “The Education President.” Reagan launched the private sector partnerships initiative, Clinton issued his Call to Action for American Education, and then G.W. Bush implemented No Child Left Behind. Obama is calling his program to save schooling The Race to the Top.

Certainly, enormous good will and deep concern go into these efforts, but do be wary of wasting such things down this frustrating path. Anyone considering becoming a post-2010 edu-reformer should read this WaPo article titled School reform’s meager results, written by Robert J. Samuelson when school started this year. The article gives lots of facts like these:

Since the 1960s, waves of “reform” haven’t produced meaningful achievement gains. The most reliable tests are given by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). The reading and math tests, graded on a 0-500 scale, measure 9-year-olds, 13-year-olds and 17-year-olds. In 1971, the initial year for the reading test, the average score for 17-year-olds was 285; in 2008, the average score was 286. The math test started in 1973, when 17-year-olds averaged 304; in 2008, the average was 306.

Another wave of reform efforts toward established education will sputter away as well.

The extremely good news is that a new way for a learner to individually engage knowledge is about to replace the traditional education establishment role of doling out what they are supposed to learn. Children will enter schools having mastered their 3Rs using smart mobile apps. Cardboard arithmetic flash cards will seem silly to them next to what the touch screen in their pocket offers. The internet browser an older student carries will access superior subject knowledge to that watered down for school textbooks, and do so connected to full cognitive context. The college student uses his browser to connect to the best version anywhere of anything he needs or wants to know. The effect of this knowledge emerging to an individual browser is that the student learns the most authentic, recent, and complete version of that knowledge anywhere — because of the golden swamp effect. Education will finally be doing the same thing does to place the item you want front and center on your screen.

If you feel like making education better today, avoid getting sidetracked by political promisers. Instead, start working on some of these steps that boost the next generation of kids to their ride on the real learning wave of the future — that is about to break over failed analog education and deliver youngsters into the global golden age of learning:

Get individual mobile devices to the kids in your family, and in your town. Make sure the devices are controlled by the student and not a school.

Provide learning apps for little kids

Make sure the older ones have devices with internet browsers

Support projects that paint your locality, and the planet, with wireless

There will be more steps presented here soon, and in my new eBook, which I hope to have online before Thanksgiving. Working title: The Golden Swamp Effect

Handschooling is the individual engagement of knowledge


Posted on 25th October 2010 by Judy Breck in Equality | Mobiles | Schools we now have

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It is fascinating to watch educators who blithely ignore the emergence of individual control of learning as it is empowered by mobile devices. In the report below from Associated Press, religious leaders in Iran have imposed restrictions on teaching by revising course content and eliminating courses at universities. The boy in the picture above is connecting to websites of his own choosing from anywhere on earth.

So far, the fact that they do not all have mobiles that browse the web is the major reason every kid on earth is not yet accessing knowledge the way the boy is. That is changing fast. Governments, such as China, also still have some capacity to block and censor the web.

Over the next few years, which do you think will choose what a student learns: 1. The mobile-owning student with individual direct access to open knowledge online? OR 2. The educators who shape the curricula at universities and attempt to block internet content they disapprove? Iranian Abolfazl Hassani apparently thinks it will be the educators who control what a student studies:

TEHRAN, Iran – Iran has imposed new restrictions on 12 university social sciences deemed to be based on Western schools of thought and therefore incompatible with Islamic teachings, state radio reported Sunday.

The list includes law, philosophy, management, psychology, political science and the two subjects that appear to cause the most concern among Iran’s conservative leadership — women’s studies and human rights.

“The content of the current courses in the 12 subjects is not in harmony with religious fundamentals and they are based on Western schools of thought,” senior education official Abolfazl Hassani told state radio.

Hassani said the restrictions prevent universities from opening new departments in these subjects. The government will also revise the content of current programs by up to 70 percent over the next few years, he said.

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