Category Archives: Netherlands

This Was Supposed to Be a Day of Celebration

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From CNN: “Dutch police charged a man with trying to attack the royal family Thursday after he crashed a car near a bus carrying Queen Beatrix and her family, police said. Four people were killed and 13 injured in the incident in the Dutch town of Apeldoorn, about 45 miles east of Amsterdam.”

Can’t really say too much about what happened at the festivities in Apeldoorn today, other than that what happened is very sad, and will have a lasting impact in the Netherland and expatriates (like myself). What was supposed to be a festive day for the royal family and above all, the country, ended in tragedy:

Coverage from CNN, and from the NOS (in Dutch)

For background info on Queen’s Day, a national holiday in the Netherlands, see here and here.

Image Credit: “Nederland buigt het hoofd na vier doden en nog een heel stel (zwaar)gewonden in Apeldoorn” from grwsh marcel’s photostream:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/32654402@N00/3488310935/

Preparing to Attend Handheld Learning 2007, or the Wild, Wacky, Wireless, and Wonderful World of Mobile Learning

Handheld Learning 2007

I can’t believe I’ll be at the Handheld Learning conference in London in only a few short weeks. Besides having an opportunity to make the quick jump from London to Amsterdam to visit relatives before the conference, I’m really looking forward to the event itself, as it has gotten quite the reputation.

I will be doing two presentations while I’m there, fitting them in with this year’s theme of Learning while Mobile. They are described below. The full program is on the conference site. If you’d like to attend the Handheld Learning conference, register before it is sold out (like last year). Discount codes can be found at Tony Vincent’s Learning in Hand and the moblearn blog.

How to Create 21st Century Learners:

How do we create 21st century learners? This is a complex question that is puzzling educators across the world. As we all know, society has been changing in faster and more complex ways than ever before. Knowledge is growing at exponential rates, digital tools we use are constantly changing, the nature of family and community are in flux, markets are shifting, and institutions constantly have to reinvent themselves.

We are now preparing children for a world that will have jobs that don’t exist yet, tools that haven’t been invented yet, and problems we don’t know are problems yet. The distinction between the physical and digital is becoming increasingly blurred as well.

What should learning in such an unpredictable environment look like? This presentation will provide a brief glimpse of what the not-so-distant future of education might bring, including increased personalization and customization, learning in context, networking, and of course, the role of digital technologies.

Related links: (Map of Future Forces Affecting Education)

Citizen Journalism

In November 2004, Dutch film maker  Theo van Gogh’s body was captured by a passer-by on a mobile phone minutes after he was murdered. The picture appeared on the pages of the Telegraaf, a daily Amsterdam newspaper, and made the news globally. The next month, images n(see e.g. here and here) and videos of the Asian tsunami were available on the Internet within minutes of the waves crashing ashore. When bombs exploded in London’s public transportation in July 2005, citizen reporters were on the scene before the major news networks got there. Almost immediately following the explosions, commuters in the Underground uploaded pictures and video to the Internet, using their mobile phones to capture and transmit the events as they were unfolding.

News reporting as we used to know it is changing. Younger generations are turning away from traditional media outlets in ever-increasing numbers, and instead are using mobile and networked technologies and web-based tools to collaboratively (re)create, analyze, share, and digest what is happening in their world. A new generation of digital storytellers and citizen journalists has emerged, blurring the boundaries between producers and consumers of news.

This session will focus on the implications for education of this trend, including the need to prepare students to actively and critically partake in an evermore global, digital, and participatory culture; an increasing responsibility to teach and learn about how to deal with the massive amounts of information that are literally at our fingertips; and emerging ethical issues such as copyright, privacy versus the right to know, and honesty in editing online content.
It is funny how when we try to predict the future we often end up looking back. In the case of reporting the news, there are strong indications that we may return to a time when storytelling and pamphleteering were vital ways of sharing information and passing it from generation to generation. The only difference is that this time, storytelling will no longer be oral and local, but digital and global.

Related links: (Gillmor’s We the media; the Media Center’s Synapse on the future of news; Annandale’s article in the Thunderbird; and many, many more).

Image Credit: Handheld Learning Conference Logo: http://www.handheldlearning2007.com/images/hl2007-logo.png

Cell Phones in Schools? Part II

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I read a post on Ewan McGregor’s blog this morning entitled “Dutch mobiles in primary school: turn that phone on!” and couldn’t resist commenting, as it is after all a description of technology use in Dutch schools :). The project is using 4G cell phones for teacher and student reflection on learning, focusing on the multimedia capabilities (vod, pod, and mp3) of these phones.

A couple of observations related to this post:

Ewan reports that “the very pragmatic Dutch have no issues letting the parents and students pick up the tab of this apparently enhancing education experience. Is that such a bad thing?” My answer to this question is NO! Yes, I’m aware of digital divide issues when some parents can afford to buy their kids the technology and others can’t, but the current and most prevalent practice of schools providing technology to students doesn’t work for a variety of reasons:

  • If schools can’t afford technology, nobody has access;
  • If schools can afford technology, student and teacher use is often restricted by filters, limited functionality for the sake of security (or to make the tech person’s job easier);
  • Technology is only used during the school day and in school (this is esp. detrimental for mobile technologies which are designed to be, well, mobile);
  • Because of the previous bullet point, technology used in schools is not seen by student as a lifelong learning tool.

I’ve said this before, but I really believe that we will get to a point where students, not schools, will provide the technology for learning, and it will be up to the schools to make a wide variety of devices work together, using ad hoc, wireless networks.

Another thing I’d like to point out is the concept of Homo Zappiens, described by Prof. Wim Veen, which Ewan’s post links to as well. Veen describes the net generation in an interesting way. A few excerpts from his article:

Homo Zappiens is the generation that has grown up using three devices from early childhood on: the TV remote control, the PC mouse and the cell phone. These three devices have enabled today’s’ children to control information flows, to deal with information overload, and to select information properly, swiftly and according to their needs.

Note that the devices Veen mentions are all small and mobile, AND that the focus is on controlling and using information, not technology (along the lines of what David Warlick has been saying all along).

The net generation considers school as a meeting place for friends rather than a learning environment. School does not challenge them sufficiently for learning and take the risk of getting disconnected from their audience.

Nothing new here, but another voice to add to the discussion related to the need to revamp schools to change this attitude.

Parents are concerned that their kids are only playing games, surfing the net, watching TV and hardly go out for sports or never read a book. This is all understandable, but instead of looking at children from the point of view of what they should do according to school and parents, let’s look into what they actually do. By using the web, playing PC games and zapping TV channels, they develop critical learning skills that are extremely useful in an information society.

Emphasis added by me. Here is where a big part of the problem lies. It’s easy to blame the kids for not fitting into the existing system. It’s much more difficult for schools and parents to take a long, hard look at themselves and reflect on whether their point of view is still tenable in a society that is driven by digital, networked information.

Finally, Veen provides a list of skills that Homo Zappiens has:

  • Scanning skills: looking at a variety of digital information formats on a screen and deciding where to go or what to do next;
  • Multi-tasking: doing many things at once;
  • Processing discontinued information: “processing various interrupted information flows and extracting meaningful knowledge out of them. This skill helps kids to deal with huge amounts of information effectively.
  • Non-linear learning: information on the Web is organized in this way. Starting to use something without reading the manual is another good example, because it becomes learning by trial and error instead of a linear process.

Veen argues that, by and large, schools are not taking advantage of these skills, and I tend to agree. It’s an important component of the reason why there is such a disconnect between kids and schools, because schools tend to focus on text-based information, single-tasking, and linear information and processes.

And as Veen concludes with this question, so will I: “Western countries have invested huge amounts of money and effort in restructuring their old industrial economies into modern service-oriented societies. Isn’t it strange we did not the same with our education system?

Image Credit: Wim Kok: 
http://www.flickr.com/photos/wim_kok/214355992/