Category Archives: Society

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

Becta’s Emerging Technologies for Learning, Volume 3

Becta has just published the third volume in its series Emerging technologies for learning, an annual publication. This series is worth a read, and I’ve gotten a lot of good ideas from it in years past. This year’s line-up includes articles on

Given the impressive line-up of authors I have to say that I’m proud and a little humbled to have been asked to contribute to the 2008 volume of the series. Highly recommended!!

Image credit: “nptechtag”; cambodia4kidsorg’s photostream:
http://flickr.com/photos/cambodia4kidsorg/1343334854/

Handheld Learning 2007, Day 1, Reflections on Pedagogy, John Traxler

Fourth presentation: John Traxler: Society, Technology, Education, and Learning Heading Towards 2012.

Technology predictions should be the easy part of 2012 (linearity, extrapolation?).

Idea of convergence, will it happen, or will we see divergence, e.g. the PSP or iPod? Is it an issue of personal preference? (interesting thought and I think he’s probably got a point. While some technology may be converging , like smart phones, many very popular devices are purposely not).
Technological trends:
• Miniaturization , virtual keyboards, etc.
• Pervasive computing, like the Internet-enabled fridge.
• Wearable computing
So is technology really the issue for education? Or is it economic activity, spiritual use of mobiles, etc. that will have an impact on education? Technology is important and it’s moving, but there are lots of other changes in our society that have a direct instrumental impact on teaching and learning, and the curriculum (my question is: so why isn’t the curriculum changing then??).
Are we creating a different kind of virtual community? A new kind of accessing and generating knowledge, e.g. citizen journalism? If so, what are the implications for education?

Literature on the sociology of mobility. What exactly does this mean? What impact is it having on society, schools, teaching and learning? How is it affecting emotional, f2f relationships, concepts of time and space, mobiles as creating perpetual contact?

Communication-surveillance-education??? Are the three somehow related?? (This is a very interesting question. With all the communication and networking tools we’ve got today, pervasive surveillance is not that far off, in many places it already exists (think traffic and security cameras, of which there are plenty in the Westminster area in London, where this conference is being held). Where does education fit into this picture?)

Changes to knowledge: access to information/data/knowledge …
• is easy and convenient (but structured/chunked and consumed differently)
• anytime, anywere
• just-in-time, just-for-me
 Example: wapedia
Diagram by Tom Brown, University of Pretoria: what’s beyond constructivism? (see this paper, for more info, the diagram is on p. 14). Are we going from knowledge adoption to creation to navigation?? (or connectivism, as some call it). Traxler thinks that this is not happening (yet), because of the still existing contrast between learning in static environments (formal education) v. increasingly mobile society.

Carnival of the Mobilists #93, and the Power of Mobile

Just in time for me to read before heading over to Europe is this week’s Carnival of the Mobilists (#93), hosted by Communities Dominate Brands. My favorite post of this week’s Carnival is probably the one about the use of cell phones in Myanmar/Burma, to record the civil unrest that has been taking place. This event is also an illustration of once again, the powerful roll that mobile phones can play as a medium to not only report news as it happens (see also this account on SmartMobs), but also to rally large groups of people for a cause. As a Reuters article from Sept 24 states (as quoted in the MobileActive Blog),

the military generals are “caught in a rare dilemma,” exacerbated by the presence of mobile phones:

They can either come down hard on the Buddhist monks leading the protests — and risk turning pockets of dissent into nationwide outrage as reports and grainy mobile phone images of revered, maroon-robed men and boys being beaten up leak out. Or they can give them a free rein to march round a few cities and towns — and risk the movement spreading across the country, and into other social groups, such as the students or civil servants, the other key players in the 1988 uprising.

More info on the issue of using mobile phones in the Burma/Myanmar protests can be found in this MobileActive post, with links to other sources as well.

Obviously, this situation is very similar to the protest in the Phillipines as described by Rheingold in Smart Mobs (see also here). Both are examples of the potential power of mobile phones as a medium to share information and take action, as described by David Cushman:

Now the media (the power to move minds) is in everyone’s hands – Literally with a mobile phone.
So, as the Burmese people shoot video of what’s happening – and share it with each other and the world – does this bring true power to the people? Knowledge is power – information shared is power growing exponentially. … The Burmese are sharing their problem with the world. But, like all communities of purpose, if we aren’t prepared to respond, in real time, then all their sharing is for nothing.
Share the problem. Defeat it.

The important question for me is though, are we truly preparing our students for a world in which information is often shared virally, and actions are based on this information, actions that can have far-reaching consequences? Are students, in the words of Cushman, prepared to respond in real time?

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

Map of Future Forces Affecting Education: 2006-2016

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KnowledgeWorks out of Cincinnati, OH created a Map of Future Forces Affecting Education last year. I got my hands on a paper copy during a keynote presentation of a National Science Foundation meeting in Washington DC this week. An electronic version and a link to download a paper version can be found here.

It’s an interesting map in that it lists half a dozen external forces that will affect education in the next decade in the areas of family and community, markets, institutions, educators and learning, and tools and practics. With regards to digital tools, it is noteworthy that the focus seems to be on mobile and connected devices, in an environment that favors personalization/customization AND networking/connectedness at the same time.

Another item worth noting is “the end of cyberspace” being one of the drivers of change, meaning that

places and objects are becoming increasingly embedded with digital information and linked through connective media into social networks. The result is the end of the distinction between cyberspace and real space.

This is more along the lines of the concept of ubiquitous computing I’ve written about on this forum before, but one in which mobile technologies definitely worth a role.

Even though the map was created from a US perspective, I’m sure at least parts of it apply to other contexts. It is interesting to navigate through and investigate, both in digital and paper formats.

Crossposted to the Handheld Learning Forum

Image Credit: “Futuristic Space Travel”, Jay Khemani’s photostream;
http://flickr.com/photos/jay/11836041

NECC, Day 3, Tradeshow

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I visited the tradeshow at NECC today, as I usually do. Despite the fact that its one of the bigger tradeshows for ed tech, I’ve been pretty disappointed with it in the past two years and this year was no different.

There was too much of this (again):

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and not a whole lot of

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or

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Can you spot the oxymoron here? Look closely:

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And this is the LAST thing I expected to see!

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I could have written the same post last year (the proof is in the pudding, as this post on the Handheldlearning forum shows).

So, while this is a somewhat sarcastic look at the tradeshow, it is also a sad reflection of the technology reality in many schools. (management, standardized assessment, blocking/banning). It also makes me wonder how technology priorities are shaped in schools and who they are shaped by. It seems as if the ed tech industry is pushing a lot of the same stuff into schools, without asking teachers and students what it is they REALLY need.

And it hasn’t changed much in the past three years or so… bummer.

Image credits: me, except for the NECC logo.

Can We Have Too Much Technology?

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Maybe my reading has been a little one-sided lately, the weather is tempting me to spend more time outside, or it’s the fact that I’m trying to prepare for NECC while my cubicle is filled to the brim with new stuff for our research lab, but it sure has gotten me to think about the question whether there is such a thing as too much technology. Digital tools can be great, make our lives easier, and provide affordances for learning that we otherwise wouldn’t have. I have written plenty about that. However, I’ve also written about the idea that connected and connecting technologies don’t necessarily make us feel more connected, as well as the importance of balance.

Louv writes in Last child in the woods that in many ways we are losing touch with the most important part of our lives, and that is the environment that we live in (nature/Earth, whatever you want to call it). He specifically mentions that technology (more specifically computers and the Internet) is partially to blame for that, in that it provides merely a window into our world, cutting off many of our senses such as touch and smell. I agree with Louv here in that experiencing nature and the outdoors requires more than the visual and auditory senses. While it is great that I can go visit the rainforest or arctic by way of the Internet, I have a much more profound experience in nature by observing it in my own back yard.

In addition, Honore argues in his In praise of slowness, that while technology allows us to do things faster and more efficiently, essential parts of an experience may get lost in the process. Examples include cooking, health, relationships, and yes, education. Again, the question becomes, how much is too much?

John Naisbitt probably says it best in his High tech, high touch, as he talks about the ever inceasing importance of balance and that:

High touch must begin to inform high tech. High tech * high touch now means consciously integrating technology integrating technology into our lives… if progress is to be meaningful.

He goes on to say that often we develop and introduce new technologies faster than we can adapt to them. Just because we can create new technologies doesn’t mean we have to, at least not at the speed that we are able to. The current development of cell phone technology or web 2.0 tools are good examples of this. While these technologies are great, sometimes I wonder if we aren’t just jumping to whatever the latest gadget is just because it’s there, not because we should.

Don’t get me wrong, digital technologies are extremely important in our society today, including in our schools. However, I wonder if some of the backlash against these tools happens because of the fact that we are moving too fast, and hop from one tool to the next, from desktops and web 1.0, to laptops, mobile devices, web 2.0, podcasting, blogging, and wikis, and who knows what it will be next year….

So the question really becomes one of opportunity costs: what are we losing out on by our (over)emphasis and dependence on technology and our neverending quest for the lastest, fastest, and coolest tool? This is not a nostalgic call for a return to “simpler times”, but rather a challenge to think more critically about how we use digital technologies in our lives, including in education. In my opinion, this is something that’s really missing in schools. Schools are struggling to keep up even though they are investing lots of money and time into getting basic technology into classrooms (while simultaneously trying to figure out how to block access to more advanced tools). The thinking that does take place has more to do with how to block access to “dangerous and distracting” tools than to teach and learn about meaningful, responsible, and safe use of these tools, and that includes knowing when to embrace technology and when to push it back.

Finally, I think more of this type of thinking needs to happen in the ed blogosphere as well. While there is much quality writing on using new technologies for teaching and learning, I think we need to focus more on:

  • What technologies are best/most useful…. for the current realities of school. Some work, some don’t, at least in formal educational settings;
  • How we need to change teaching/learning and educational systems to meet the demands of society and technology;
  • How we need to change society and technology to meet the needs of education (it works both ways!);
  • How we need to change the mindsets of those in education to prepare students for the world beyond school

I wonder if the current lack of real answers to these questions has led to frustration among the likes of Will Richardson, who seems to be struggling as of late with his quest in bringing about real change. What do you think?

Image credit: “Truck”; simondavidson’s photostream:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/suzanneandsimon/439015062/