Category Archives: Open Content

Saving the Internet, One ISP at a Time…

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Since my last post on the Net Neutrality debate, there have been some developments that are positive. On August 1st, the FCC punished ComCast for illegally blocking Internet content. For the full story, see the SavetheInternet site, and particularly this post on the historic FCC decision. An excerpt:

In a landmark decision, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin and Commissioners Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein approved a bipartisan “enforcement order” that would require Comcast to stop blocking and publicly disclose its methods for manipulating Internet traffic.

Tests by the Associated Press and others showed that Comcast blocked users’ legal peer-to-peer transmissions by sending fake signals that cut off the connection between file-sharers. Today’s decision follows a months-long FCC investigation, launched in response to a complaint from Free Press and Public Knowledge urging the federal agency to stop Comcast’s blocking.

More detailed information on the FCC decision can also be found here. This is good news, also for education. However, heavy filtering of Internet content is still common practice in many schools. Unfortunately, the FCC can’t help us there …

And as stated here , “This victory is monumental. But the fight to safeguard Net Neutrality is far from over.”

Image Credit: http://www.savetheinternet.com

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Net Neutrality Debate Still Far From Over, and the Saga Continues

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Even though I’ve been writing mostly on mobile devices and learning as of late, the Net Neutrality issue is one that continues to be just as important (and connected to mobile as well, with the current push toward developing the mobile web further. SavetheInternet.com posted a guest piece by John Kerry yesterday asking for feedback about Net Neutrality. And feedback he got!! It’s actually more interesting to read than the post itself. There were 101 responses as of the writing of this post.

In short, people who commented on Kerry’s post unanimously support Net Neutrality and condemn the big ISPs such as Comcast. Their comments can be roughly sorted into the following categories:

  • Protection of people’s rights such as freedom of speech against government and big corporate interests. According to Dale: The brilliance of the internet is that it provides everyone with an equal voice, an equal chance to be heard. To excel, to fail and to try again. To express alternate views in a world dominated by big commercial interests or repressive/regressive governments. To allow anyone to control this medium for purely commercial gain it, is to silence the voices we may most need to hear. Read also DynamicUno’s comments.
  • Protection of small businesses: for example, Internetman states that I am a small business owner of an internet-based travel business. My wife and I rely exclusively on our websites for income. Because of network neutrality, we are able to compete for business with such giants as Microsoft’s Expedia, Travelocity and Orbitz and make a very good living. If network neutrality was removed, our entire livelihood would be destroyed. I can’t afford to pay any premiums just to put my business on the same level playing field as these internet titans, I would have no option but to fold my business.
  • Curbing big ISP abuses against customers and small ISPs: As cookseytalbott states: look at their behavior, censoring email from political sites, throttling applications like bittorrent, not fixing the golden mile, breech of privacy agreements for government domestic spying, not tending to massive bot nets on infected PC’s on their networks, random blacklisting of IP’s.

While education is mentioned here and there, mainly with regards to access to information for research and learning, it is not mentioned much. Imagine what could/would happen if government allowed the telcos (in this case Comcast and SBC) to basically control all Internet traffic. It is analogous to the ways in which governments and churches controlled society in the Middle Ages, by controlling the education of its people. Few people learned to read and write, and what they learned was determined mostly by the church, backed by the government. It wasn’t until the printing press (the Internet of the Middle Ages) was invented that things started to change, and many in power feared that the printing press would ultimately put them out of business. 

A free and unregulated Internet is a necessity for a democracy to work in today’s world. A democracy needs people who can think, be creative, have access to information that covers more than one point of view, and can express their opinions without the fear of being silenced by those in power who happen to disagree.

In any event, Net Neutrality is and remains an extremely important issue that seems to be disregarded by most major media outlets (I wonder why….). And as Crystal states in her comments:

If the internet does not remain free, you can change the Pledge of Allegiance to this

“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United Corporations of America and to the profits for which they stand, two nations, divided, with plenty for the favored few and slavery for the rest of us.”

A free people need education and information in order to act intelligently.

Please post your feedback here or with, even better, Kerry’s post.

Image Credit: http://www.savetheinternet.com

Carnival of the Mobilists #110

 

Mobile Messaging 2.0 is the site for this week’s Carnival of the Mobilists, also the start of the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, which I wouldn’t mind visiting sometime. Some good links to musings about open mobile networks, which makes me wonder about the kind of impact a true open and mobile network could have on learning (and maybe education too….).

Image Credit: Carnival of the Mobilists, Logo: http://www.mobili.st/images/cotm-button.jpg

Special Issue of Educational Technology Magazine on Mobile Computing: Update

The special issue of Educational Technology Magazine on Mobile Computing that I guest edited with Phil Vahey is now online in its entirety. Thanks go to Educational Technology Publishers for providing us free access. Free is good 🙂 . For the table of contents, please see my original post about the issue.

The Importance of Open Content

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This one’s been sitting on my “to write” list for quite some time now, but a visit to the university library yesterday reminded me of it.

The idea of open content online is a simple one.  As Judy Breck has written in 109 Ideas for Virtual Learning, and  in this article:

Open content for learning, which is the substance of the global virtual knowledge ecology, is free, reusable, connectable learning subject content within the open Internet. It is easy to assume open content is applauded because it is altruistic for content creators to let what they produce be used charitably, for free. A much more fundamental advantage is the openness in the sense of being connectible to all other open content. Any content that is closed in the connective sense will atrophy in a withering that will ultimately punish those who sought proprietary profit.

I agree with Judy that access and connectibility are key ingredients. To that I would add (and this is by no means a complete list)

  • creativity: learners creating content; prime examples are Wikipedia, Curriki, and any of the myriad of media sharing sites that are out there;
  • accuracy: if content is open, created by many, and used for learning, it should be accurate. Wikipedia has been at the center of the accuracy discussion. If you ask me, I’d put more faith in Wikipedia content than the average textbook, because I know online content is up-to-date, multimodal, and checked by many (relatively speaking) for accuracy;
  • quality: see “accuracy”. If content is open, created by many, and used for learning, it should be good;
  • the power of groups and collaboration: many small ideas lead to big ones; examples of this include Google Image Labeler and Photosynth (Microsoft Live Labs): , as described in this earlier post.

Obviously, open content does bring with it its own issues that will need to be addressed, such as

  • access: does “open” mean “unfiltered”? 
  • copyright: Creative Commons is a workable solution for this issue. It’s a matter of content creators being willing to use Creative Commons instead of more traditional forms of copyright. A good example is Gilmor’s We the Media
  • authority: or the importance of source. See e.g. this post by David Warlick.

What triggered my memory to write this post was a somewhat forced trip to the university library yesterday. I was working on a paper and a tight deadline when I was looking for some specific information on the history of cell phones and cell phone use. I figured, no problem, hopped on the Internet, searched wikipedia, ran some queries through Google and Google Scholar, but lo and behold, I couldn’t find the info, or if I thought I had, it was inaccessible because it was through a subscription service.

Finally, I turned to our library to look for a book or two on the topic. Usually, this isn’t a problem, as our library has a nice service where you can order the books and library staff will pull the book for you and order it. All I have to do is go pick it up (in past years, they would even deliver to your office). Anyway, because that usually takes a day or two I had no choice but to go get the book myself. According to the database the book was readily available on the shelf.

To make a long story short, I finally found the book on one of the sorting shelves (and out of order) after 30 minutes of searching. The trip to the library took me about an hour, time I could have spent writing if the information I needed had been readily and openly available online.

Of course, in a formal educational environment an occurence like this tends to have larger consequences, as teachers and students don’t have the kind of time that I do to go peruse the library for an extended period of time. Immediate access to digital information online and in the classroom is key to maintain the flow of learning.

Another interesting observation here is my dissatisfaction with the whole affair. A few years ago going out and getting the book wouldn’t have been that big of a deal. However, with the pervasiveness of the Internet and online resources, I think immediacy of access is something that we’ve come to expect; I know I have …

Image credit: “Open”, tribalicious photostream:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/tribalicious/185151669/

The Future of Education?

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Here is the latest article in Time on the future of education, entitled “How to Bring Our Schools out of the 20th Century“, which I ran across via a this post by David Truss (which is worthy of a separate post in itself). For a change, the authors of the article focus on

the big public conversation the nation is not having about education, the one that will ultimately determine not merely whether some fraction of our children get “left behind” but also whether an entire generation of kids will fail to make the grade in the global economy because they can’t think their way through abstract problems, work in teams, distinguish good information from bad or speak a language other than English.

Various people have already commented on this piece, including the likes of Will Richardson, David Warlick, and Wesley Fryer. All good posts, so no need to rehash their thoughts here. And by the way, the contents of the Time article are by no means limited to the United States. In fact, the article reminded me of a conversation I had with Graham Brown-Martin of HandheldLearning on mobile technologies and learning which included statements like:

Building schools for the future should not be about the architecture, but what school means. Is the school a building or a community, is a fundamental question; is school a community where learners with mobile tools can access information in different locations?

School has been a state-provided nanny. Is that really what we want educational systems to be about moving forward?” Kids need to be taken care of, but should be more than child care. Maybe kids should be at school to play and at home to learn. And what impact does that have on society?

Schools are going to be digitized out. You have to think in terms of Web 2.0 technology, different learning objects that are available everywhere, eventually we find something that we can understand.

With mobile technologies we are seeing a change. Students can assemble their own learning materials. Teachers will still be around, not replaced by technology. There will actually be more teachers, making all this stuff, making materials for learners. Inevitably, the definition of teacher is going to change from caretaker to teacher.

Maybe these are some of the conversations we should start having….

Image Credit: Nadya Peek’s photostream:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/nadya/172147016/

Information Is Ubiquitous Too

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I’m trying to get caught up on my blog/news reading today, and ran across Jeff Utecht’s post “Why you are not in control of information“, which reposts the latest state of the blogosphere as reported by Dave Sifry in this post on Technorati.

Without going into much of the details (the numbers are literally running off the charts), it is obvious that the amount of information that is available to us and our students is literally exploding (and I’m just talking about the Internet blogosphere). Does that mean all of this information is good? Absolutely not. Does it mean that as teachers we are still in control of the information we teach to our kids? Even less so.

The proliferation of open content on the Internet is making it even more important these days to teach kids digital and information literacy skills as I wrote about earlier in my Information Literacy post. Instead of trying to cram more content into the school day because students need to know it “for the test”, why not focus more on the skills that will help kids deal with the flood of information our society throws at them every waking hour of the day? After all, to quote Albert Einstein, “Information is not knowledge”…

Image credit: Dave Sifry @ Technorati:
http://technorati.com/weblog/2006/11/161.html

PS: And of course, right after I wrote this post I ran across this article in eSchoolNews via this David Warlick’s blog post.