Human networking blinds educators to the internet’s prime gift to learning

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

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Until educators see the difference between human learning networks and knowledge networks the internet’s biggest gift to education will continue to be missed. Sure, it is great for students to network among each other in their lessons. But forget that for a bit and look here at something else.

In the illustration above some to of the relationships of historical events and factors are linked in a network. You are not looking at something a textbook can do: what you see takes an open network to form the relationships and emergent patterns! Until the 21st century no such medium for studying knowledge existed. Now look at what has happened:
- Everything known by humankind is embedded in the open internet!!
- The internet is an unlimited network of nodes that can be linked by relationships, right or wrong.
- Spontaneously — through use by knowledgeable people — the best patterns of links emerge so everybody can find them (the core idea of Google).

No one even knew these kinds of networks existed until 1998 when they were discovered. For the past decade, network science has become a major factor in many other sciences. Biology is a prime example. The American Revolution image above was adapted from the cover of the current issue of the Journal of Cell Research.

So where are the educators? Mostly they are chopping up subject knowledge into grades and standards, and printing them in textbooks . When they talk about education networks it is in terms of people — not how nodes of knowledge relate to explain The Shot Heard Around the World. Educators are long overdue in using the natural network ability to organize, vet, and emerge human knowledge.

RESPONSE TO COMMENT ONE: Only stuff like some living molecules and human knowledge — stuff that is inherently, structurally a network — will form patterns in an open network matrix as we now have in the internet. Pedagogy, for example, is seldom network compatible. The stunning surprise education has missed so far is how what we know and teach is, itself, a network. But then, that makes sense when you think about it: what we know is the product of the human mind, which is a network too. Human knowledge — like relationships in the American Revolution — learned by the mind from the internet is a matter of mirroring between two networks. Gorgeous!

Machinery of Life — and of knowledge

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Posted on 25th March 2010 by Judy Breck in Findability | Schools we now have

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Very recently, scientists have been discovering how life operates at a molecular level. BIOCURIOUS is a terrific place to keep an eye on this work. The scientists there have been posting on the subject since 2005, including writing and illustrating The Molecule of the Month. A review last fall of David Goodall’s The Machinery of Life is an example of the excellent molecular knowledge openly available at BIOCURIOUS.

As government education clings to standards, grades levels, curricula, and textbooks, science has created a grand open commons online of presentations of what it known in many fields. Molecular and other sciences that are discovering the mechanisms of smaller and smaller biological bits as they create and sustain life present a remarkable model for how knowledge forms online.

A crucial step for future education is to appreciate and harness the connectivity of molecules of facts and ideas to understand how their patterns emerge knowledge. These inherent processes in networks make knowledge findable. Regrettably the machinery of networked knowledge pretty much gets ignored by old school educational resources.

School meltdown and the black mobile gap

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Posted on 22nd March 2010 by Judy Breck in Mobiles | Obamaschool | Schools we now have | Testing and assessment

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As described here in an earlier post, young African Americans are accessing the web 1.5 hours a day on mobile, compared to .5 for white youths. The potential here is to send failing government schools into meltdown. I know, for example, a black New York City teenager who is qualifying for a software engineering entry job online, having dropped out of an awful high school uptown.

A Napster-like knowledge network is emerging out there. Testing is arriving online too. This individual web access to learning subjects and certification is in principle no different from how kids a decade ago accessed their music.

Do you suppose that while the Obama/Duncan government take over pays off all the top down school people, that the kids will do education Napster-like and empty schools? Why not? Surely Wikipedia is a Napster of learning, as Wired Campus reported last week.

For the same reason the music industry experienced in the Napster meltdown, students are approaching a threshold beyond which they can walk out of school and learn whatever they want from the schooling in their hand. This description from Wikipedia of Napster may outline the meltdown that lies ahead for government education:

Napster was an online music file sharing service created by Shawn Fanning while he was attending Northeastern University in Boston. The service operated between June 1999 and July 2001. Its technology allowed people to easily share their MP3 files with other participants, bypassing the established market for such songs and thus leading to the music industry’s accusations of massive copyright violations. Although the original service was shut down by court order, it paved the way for decentralized peer-to-peer file-distribution programs, which have been much harder to control.

You are thinking kids just use their mobiles to play games and text. We will see . . .

Ken Robinson on standardized testing

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Posted on 22nd March 2010 by Judy Breck in Schools we now have | Testing and assessment

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In this five-minute interview Ken Robinson discusses with Bonnie Hunt why standardized testing is harmful to the individual development of children. He includes a key thought that is part of network theory, though he does not talk of it in network terms: configuring a pattern around a center. Of course standardized testing does the opposite of letting a child center learning around an individual talent.

Robinson explains near the end of the video that “kids give you messages” about what they are drawn to, which in a network environment is a potential center around which their education could be shaped. Robinson says that “when you find your talent, your whole life changes. . . . If education is not about finding the life that’s purpose is meaningful fulfillment, then what is it about?”

Via Education Futures

The Matthew Effect is the power law of small world networks

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Posted on 10th February 2010 by Judy Breck in Findability

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John Wilbanks writes in SEEDMAGAZINE this week about the Matthew Effect: “When it comes to scientific publishing and fame, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.” The effect is named from this explanation by Jesus of a parable: “For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.” —Matthew 25:29

Wilbanks describes in the article, that the Matthew effect is observable in scientific publication: “famous scientists reap more credit than unknowns.” As it does in the parable, the effect on scientists ends up causing “weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Something very interesting is going on here. The Matthew effect is a characteristic of small world networks. The effect has several names: Pareto principle, power law, long tail, and preferential attachment. Google essentially operates on this principle because the links most favored and attached go to the top of the search engine results.

What seems to be happening for scientific publication is NOT that this principle is operating, but quite the opposite. Peer review and other non-network mechanisms are actually gumming up the networks: the most creative and productive scientists are not getting the recognition.

This false Matthew-like effect is critical to recognize for online findability. That findability MUST make the best resources the richest or the vetting visions for the open knowledge commons are badly downgraded.

And lo! After describing the false elevations occurring from scientific citation, Wilbanks writes:

Multidimensionality is one of the only counters to the Matthew Effect we have available. In forums where this kind of meritocracy prevails over seniority, like Linux or Wikipedia, the Matthew Effect is much less pronounced. And we have the capacity to measure each of these individual factors of a scientist’s work, using the basic discourse of the Web: the blog, the wiki, the comment, the trackback. We can find out who is talented in a lab, not just who was smart enough to hire that talent. As we develop the ability to measure multiple dimensions of scientific knowledge creation, dissemination, and re-use, we open up a new way to recognize excellence. What we can measure, we can value.

Surely, this fairness emerging from measurability in the open internet is the actual Matthew effect: the power law. The deserving scientists rise to the head of the curve and others trail out into the curve’s long tail. What scientists have been griping about as the Matthew effect is constricted by peer review and ambitions. In the open internet, that sort of thing is much harder to do and the real Matthew effect determines who gets rich — selecting there, as Google does, the better quality stuff.

Hat tip to John Wilbanks: Great article in SEED, but I could not resist tweaking the irony of the Matthew effect language.

Online knowledge organizes itself better than educators can do it

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Posted on 25th January 2010 by Judy Breck in Findability

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mirrorToBrainA recent GoldenSwamp.com post posits how knowledge for learning is growing as a superorganism from which everyone on earth can learn. That superorganism is a network that lives within the open internet. The first image (above) sketches how the learning mind, which is a network, can directly apprehend patterns of knowledge from the network that forms the superorganism online of what is known by humankind. That apprehending can be thought of as the mind mirroring patterns it encounters on the internet.

If the learning mind can apprehend knowledge patterns from the emergent knowledge online, why then is it that we spend $$ billions every year on systems of knowledge delivery to education that look something like the second image (below)? Would it not make more sense to curate the online knowledge nodes and network, refining them to signal among themselves to create cognitive patterns to mirror directly into learning minds?
mirrorToCurriculum
The education establishment has assumed from the beginning of the internet era that it was they who should judge, select, and organize knowledge to be learned that is located on the internet. There is a fatal flaw in those assumptions: in the open internet, the knowledge self-judges, self-selects, and organizes itself better than those things can be done by educators because human knowledge is itself a network and obeys network laws. My statement here is radical, I know. It is also a fact of the internet that is morphing learning resources into the superorganism of what is known by humankind. It is a truth too beautiful not to be true and enormously hopeful for the global future.

The subject networks in the images above are from the Map of Science, which is described in PLoS One.  The networking — linking — among subjects has occurred naturally. When you look at the map you are seeing real world online cognitive connectivity.