Online Learning: Advance or Catch Up & GO!

In NC online students can graduate early, or catch up we learn about the North Carolina Virtual Public School program that allows students to take online courses, recover missing credits, earn college credit or get to college faster.  When the courses started last year enrollment began at 4,968 whereas this summer there are nearly 13,000 students taking part.

The classes use technology such as Skype software that allows for Internet phone calls, live video chats, real-time assessments and live messaging for the coursework, and allow students the flexibility to work from home or school.

North Carolina Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson delivers a quote that many schools would do well to consider:

“A student’s address does not determine a student’s access,” Atkinson said. “Just like we have social networks, we need schools to be a part of a student’s social network. This is just one step in the progression of redefining the place called school.”

Google Street Views Aussie

Just like everywhere else it’s debuted, Google’s Street View Maps are creating a stir in Australia (and stir and stir).  Especially fun is the video Google’s made for the Aussie market:

Useful resources on Street View and the buzz are the wikipedia entry and a typical page with top-sightings.  Also the Daily Telegraph has been covering the story and its readers have left comments and voted:

It would be interesting to get the demographics of the users such as age and whether they have an iPhone…

An interesting quote from “father of the Internet” and Google “evangelist” Vint Cerf might be a good inter-generational topic for discussion:

“nothing you do ever goes away, and nothing you do ever escapes notice… There isn’t any privacy, get over it.”

What do you think?

A “Vision” of Knowledge

File this post under: “Intriguing ourselves to Death”

WikipediaVisionCheck the cool new mashup of Google Maps, Wikipedia and László Kozma’s programming that he calls WikipediaVision. It’s a great illustration of the changing nature of “knowledge.” WikipediaVision provides relatively realtime markers for who just added content to Wikipedia from where and on what topic. Like the search voyeur sites, it’s easy to get caught in the experience. I paused a little while to capture what I thought was an interesting juxtaposition. Here we have someone from Florida adding content to the entry on one of the grand old repositories of knowledge.

Like the last post, I suspect that’s what’s most needed for educational change to not descend into oxymoronic cliche is to re-envision school as a place that fosters the joy of learning that WikpediaVision and most Web 2 apps amply illustrate is alive and well.

Also take a look at flickrvision, the site that inspired Kozma’s WikipediaVision.

The “outsourced brain”

socrates vrDavid Brooks’ Op-Ed piece “The Outsourced Brain” in the New York Times is a must read for educators. Beginning with a GPS goddess that gently steers the author in the right direction, Brooks goes on to invoke his use of calculators for math (a given), iTunes for musical selection, search engines for memory of spot knowledge, smart phones for all the personal details we used to memorize, and finally syncing it all together with the wisdom of crowds that actually makes such “choices” with more validity than most of our own decisions.

It’s a fresh look with a bit of tongue in cheek, but what I love is that there’s plenty of common sense that’s obvious for any who live much of life “enhanced” by the New WWW (90% of those between 12 and 25?). What I find interesting is that many teachers object on something like moral grounds: “it’s just not natural,” “not the way it should be,” “isn’t what was good enough for us,” etc. These comments remind me of two anecdotes related to change. First, we know that Socrates objected to writing as it would diminish the power of the brain and oratory. The fact that what this wisest of men said was true didn’t alter the outcome: tablets, papyrus, scribes, Gutenberg, newsprint, paperbacks, Webpages, etc. “Digging in” against change “on principle” is no more valid than excusing ones self due to skill deficits or technophobia. Professionals work within reality to continuously improve what they do.

The second anecdote I’m reminded of springs from the complaints made by the parents of many of today’s veteran teachers during the last Generation Gap. The complaints could have been about Rock ‘n’ Roll or cohabitation. Even though parents in the 60s didn’t like the, these seismic shifts, they are now mainstream: The Beatles are Muzak and living together commonplace. The point of this minor rant is that many in education have to get over the “liking it” delusion. Not liking the firestorm doesn’t dampen the flames, but turning your back on it is likely to get you burned and place our children at risk.  Maybe part of the trick is learning to live in a reality that seems so unreal?

Jimmy Wales Podcast

Jimmy WalesFor those of you who haven’t heard Jimmy Wales (of Wikipedia fame) in person, the ABC radio in Australia provides a podcast of his recent presentation here. Featured on Big Ideas, May 6, 2007, you can listen to the whole program either as streamed RealAudio or download as a podcast. I’ve been working the “open source” metaphor for renewing schools and in his presentation, Jimmy Wales used a terrific analogy comparing designing a restaurant to how schools often view potential dangers. The program is definitely worth a listen if just for this piece (it comes after about 30 minutes).