Words are a powerful vehicle for meaning and understanding, connected to individual or group perspectives, interpretations, and connections. The word “Digital” has been part of our vocabulary landscape for a long time. It was only after reading Nicholas Negroponte’s book, “Being Digital” in 1995, that I began to be aware of the term and its impact on the world to come, but in 2014, the word “digital” has now blended itself into the daily fabric of our lives. When we think of the word “digital”, it creates a sense of disconnect from our world and implies that the digital world is a separate part of our reality. However, this is no longer true. Our lives are so embedded within this digital realm that the two have become inseparable. So, I invite us to use a new set of vocabularies to frame this paradigm: Appliances, Utilities, Information Flows, Ethics and Algorithms.
Appliances are the consumables that we connect and interact with (laptops, phones, tablets, GPS, and other hardware). These tools have become the default to our connectedness; disposable and with each new version more seamless, simple and integrated.
Utilities frame our day to day interactions. These social medias, networks, email, RSS, professional learning networks and Web 2.0/ 3.0 tools have become the architectural framework of communication and information for our connected world.
Information flows are the 150,000,000 Blogs posted a year, 5 million tweets per day, 200,000 videos uploaded on YouTube daily, and the petabytes of information created, aggregated, shared, and circulated daily around the earth.
Ethics is the why, how, when, where and who of our digital footprint in today’s world. It is the wide ranging issues from Killer Robots to the impact of a Filter Bubble (where search, news, and information algorithms choreograph what information types we get based on our personal browsing habits). The curation of our online and offline privacy as governments, corporations, and organizations juggle a treasure trove of information created by our respective digital footprints, is the new ethical dilemma we all deal with, as individuals, groups and as societies at large.
Algorithms are the backbone to the intelligent softwares that inhabit the engine of the internet. These are predictive, anticipatory, intelligent and analytical. The are the lifeblood of the internet ecosystems for individuals, governments, corporations, and organizations which then create, develop, build, facilitate, monitor, analyze, synthesize and evaluate our day to day interactions. The algorithms have become the life line to the information flows, ethics, utilities and appliances.
These words are not the definitive list, but reflect a vocabulary we use both from our past and present. They highlight how the “digital” world is ingrained in our daily lives, to the point we often are not even conscious of its presence. This connectedness fueled by our devices and ecosystems now are part of the fabric of our lives, often out of our control, and a non negotiable aspect of our own participation with the day.
A critical understanding of these words and their respective dynamics should be an essential ingredient in School and Organizational curricula. We can no longer think of them as separate entities. We have inherited this reality which now has us connected in ways where opting out becomes the abnormality . These Appliances, Utilities, Information Flows, Ethics and Algorithms are part of the fabric of our world and impact us as humans both consciously and unconsciously.
This discourse needs be given equal time in all educational settings; imbedded as seamlessly in the curriculum as they are in our lives. A responsibility to highlight the power, richness and cautions that come with tying ourselves to a set of appliances, utilities, information flows, ethics and algorithms that have and will continue to change the fabric of our interactions as humans and organizations.
So how do we do this? The key is that these terms and their meanings are introduced as part of the learning landscape in all units of study. Creating authentic connections between these words and the learning environment will then scaffold a clearer understanding of their real world applications. In our school ecosystems most subjects and curricular areas are using technology, often as a separate tool, or as a side show, but, if it is so seamless and embedded in our day to day lives, then we need to translate this into our learning. One of the first steps is to give ourselves permission to change the way we work with this vocabulary. As we change the vocabulary, and with it the meaning and role of these words, we are engaging in an active learning process connected to the changing world.
To ignore this vocabulary is to short change future generations of their awareness of a world that has become more invisible, seamless and blended both in our conscious and unconscious day. The death of “digital” is here.
Yes, there is the Internet of Things: a world in parallel to ours were our devices, data, algorithms, gadgets, smart phones and digital tools interconnect, communicate, and work independently of our own input or monitoring. They provide us with efficiencies, automation, services and information, and even do things for us we often do not have time for. Some are invisible to our day to day interactions, while others are an integral part of our toolkit of our communication and of our work. The convenience, cost savings and growing reliability of the Internet of Things has become a necessary part of our daily work-flow.
This growth is somewhat unbelievable if you take the time to visualize it. We now live in a world where the amount of devices is three times the global population; a growth which shows no signs of stopping
- Looking to the future, Cisco IBSG predicts there will be 25 billion devices connected to the Internet by 2015 and 50 billion by 2020. From The Internet of Things: How the Next Evolution of the Internet Is Changing Everything by Dave Evans, April 2011 Infographic
- Between 2011 and 2020 the number of connected devices globally will grow from 9 billion to 24 billion as the benefit of connecting more and varied devices is realized. The Connected Life: A USD4.5 trillion global impact in 2020, February 2012 by Machine Research for the GSMA.
- One Trillion Sensors Embedded in Humans and Machines by 2020 David Russell Schilling | May 19th, 2013 http://www.industrytap.com/the-hybird-age/3651
So what does this mean for us? What does it mean to live in a world where our dependence on digital devices and hardware ecosystems is non negotiable? As our lives get tied up in a world of machines, how do we balance, control, monitor and engage with the Internet of Things in a manner which allows us to still feel in control?
The digital devices we use, connect and interact with have become seamless parts of our day. Many of the processes and tasks that they complete are invisible to us. Rarely do we need to take our digital devices and tools apart, or sit down and understand how they work or why they are working, and this growing disconnect between our own understanding and participation with the Internet of Things is creating a gap. A gap where we are becoming more and more sidelined; where we are no longer active but passive consumers of the Internet of Things.
The Internet of Things is predictive and intelligent. This dynamic will impact our world significantly: redefining organizations, work forces, how we function as economies and societies. In tandem, it will challenge our ethics, relationship and interactions with machines.
For educators and educational institutions, this reality should be putting pressure on how we engage and deliver learning models so we may remain relevant in a world of machines. There is no doubt that continuing with our current models still seems acceptable, but are we avoiding the present with a belief and a pedagogy rooted in our past? How much longer can we allow this disconnect to occur in the walled gardens of our educational organizations?
The fact is, the world of today, and more importantly, the world of tomorrow, needs us to re-evaluate and redefine our pedagogy. We have a responsibility to ensure that every learner is immersed in a curriculum deeply rooted in authentic, relevant, connected, personalized, differentiated and collaborative learning ecosystems. The Internet of Things and our world require all of us to be critical thinkers and problem solvers. The worlds accelerated rate of change will not wait for our hesitations and indecisiveness to radically redefine our pedagogy. To feel comfortable and continue with a system that is outdated is a terrible way to model and mentor our learners.
The future actually happened yesterday, so let us engage and be proactive in taking the dive to reshape and redesign our educational organizations to bridge the growing disconnect with the Internet of Things. It is the present and our student’s future which we need to act on.
All of us are engaged daily in the process of looking for information on the Internet, or “searching“. Sometimes, we search for clarification, facts, confirmation, projects, solutions, while other times our searches help us broaden our views, come to terms with a concept, make a plan, find a definition, or cross check a fact. Watch yourself or a friend at your next social function. Someone is bound to pull out their portable digital device (phone, tablet and/or computer) before long to make sure something that was said is correct. They might look up an actor, a city, an album, a song, a title, or an author. This is now part of our daily digital diet: a quick hop onto our device and off into the Internet to “search” for information.
- 51 million – Number of websites added during the year.
- 1.2 trillion Number of searches on Google in 2012.
- 43,339,547 gigabytes are sent across all mobile phones globally everyday.
- Humankind in 2007 successfully sent 1.9 zettabytes of information through broadcast technology such as televisions and GPS. That’s equivalent to every person in the world reading 174 newspapers every day.
- There are 5 million tweets per day enough to fill New York Times for 19 years.
- Humankind shared 65 exabytes of information through two-way telecommunications in 2007
That’s the equivalent of every person in the world communicating the contents of six newspapers every day
- 58 – Number of photos uploaded every second to Instagram.
- 5 billion – How many times per day the +1 button on Google+ is used
- 1.3 exabytes – Estimated global mobile data traffic per month in 2012.
- Bloggers post 900,000 new articles everyday.
- Over 210 billion emails are sent daily which is more than a whole year worth of letter mail in the USA.
- Daily around 200 000 videos are uploaded on youtube which will require over 600 years to view them all.
Information grows from Terabyte to Petabyte . As a human race, we cannot actually view, analyze, or keep track of all the information we generate without third party digital tools and softwares. We now defer to sophisticated algorithms and intelligent softwares to store, track, synthesis, analysis, aggregate, and deliver information in amounts we have the time and capacity to digest. And most of us today expect to have this information available non-stop, over multiple devices.
Information overload, information stress, information pollution and information anxiety are part of the narrative of the digital age. With the amount of information increasing at accelerated speeds, we have relinquished any control we once had over its exponential growth. What we need to do is develop strategies, skills and understanding on how to filter, sift, analyze and juggle information, so we feel some level of control.
As we embed ourselves in this vast information landscape and wish to remain critical thinkers, we need to be ready to retool ourselves:
- Coming to terms with the “Filter Bubble“ : this is where information is processed and delivered through algorithms based on what our viewing and search habits are, thus filtering information to our perspectives and not providing alternative views and information. The balance of information is vital to building a broad understanding of different views. Nowadays however, through the “Filter Bubble“, this balance is being diluted. We need to understand this and be able to counter it as critical thinkers.
- Developing a strong searching expertise: We need to understand the capacity of search engine tools, their variables, and limitations so we can refine and sift information in a manner which gives us manageable amounts of results.
- Be able to Aggregate: Learn how to leverage news aggregators, real time syndication, social media, micro blogging, and social bookmarking sites. These tools can help in sorting different formats, cull large amounts of information and deliver it in digestible portions for us to develop new capacities.
- Engage in Connectivism: A learning theory constructed on the idea we can learn with digital, social and cultural connections, and from this interchange build individual and/or collective capacity to gain knowledge and understanding. Through our social and professional connections create networks of expertise, knowledge, and understanding to support learning. Use the “cognitive surplus” we have available in our social and professional groups to increase our own knowledge so we can create, communicate, produce and share effectively as critical thinkers.
- “Learn, unlearn and relearn“: We need to develop the strategies and methodologies that allow us to engage effectively in this process of “learning, unlearning and relearning” daily. In tandem, we need to ensure that everyone has the opportunity, support and resources to do this.
From this point forward, there is not going to be any less information – that is a fact. As the world moves into a state of constant change, and the pace accelerates, we have a responsibility to ourselves, our peers and our communities to make the process of learning, unlearning and relearning permanent. If we do not, we could potentially lose our ability to participate as critical thinkers and control the information landscape we live in.
In todays international learning landscape the role of e-Learning -On-line learning is providing more and more opportunities for International Schools to leverage a greater capacity to provide a differentiated venue for learning to support their respective learning communities.
The growth of this learning medium in education and industry is significant, the number reflect this “ 5.6 million students took at least one on-line course in the Fall. of 2010 based on research by the Sloan Consortium” and according to US News Online Education report “65.5 percent of all chief academic officers reporting that on-line education is critical to the long-term strategy of an institution in 2011.”
Many international schools have embraced blended learning in an effort to provide resources, information, lessons, assignments and discussions outside of the traditional classroom, to enhance and support the opportunities for students to interact with the curriculum. This blended approach often facilitated through Moodle, Blackboard, Haiku and other Learning Management Systems.
In certain areas of the world these Learning Management Systems have played a critical role in supporting International Schools to deliver their curriculum and classes when the school has had to close due to environmental issues and political instability in the host country. There are many cases of this happening over the years, and this has provided essential continuity of learning, communication and support to their respective learning communities. These experiences by different international schools have given these venues greater importance and air time by schools. There is the World Virtual School Project consortium, of the 8 International School regions that over the years has been a key player in building capacity of collaboration and implementation of Learning Management Systems to support international schools around these 8 regions. There is also the Virtual High School and http://www.k12.com/ two of the many growing offerings available to schools to supplement and tap into this growing area. The IB has http://www.pamojaeducation.com/ a full IB authorized on-line learning platform which many schools are adopting to supplement their own face to face course offerings and giving smaller schools the flexibility to offer a wider scope of topics to their communities.
Today it is almost an non negotiable for International Schools not to have some presence and resource to support on-line or blended learning. The flexibility, and opportunities to extend the learning experience outside of the school walls, and ability to support students that are sick, absent, or out for personal reasons, allows learning to continue beyond the school walls has become a key ingredient to a school’s culture.
On-line learning is here to stay, and in its various forms blended learning or fully On-line learning comes in two flavours: Synchronous is live, the learner and course facilitator (teacher) interact live in real time, in a virtual classroom setting, in many ways a simulation of a real classroom live on-line, through a video feed, or a video conferencing environment such as Adobe Connect. Asynchronous is not live, but allows the learner to work at their own pace within a time-line and not at the same time as other participants or the course facilitator (teacher) often with little live interaction.
Many Universities adopting on-line learning called MOOCs (Massive open on-line course) have been getting a lot of attention in the media. Today more and more universities are adopted these eleanring platforms to deliver a variety of courses (Massive open on-line course MOOC) options some of these are free and others are fee paying. The MOOC model is set up to facilitate learning at a big scale in an open access format. This is a growing area in higher education, and something which long term will also impact International Schools. This model is already being used with a variety high schools ( an example: http://ohs.stanford.edu/) which are now offering an on-line high school in different venues and is becoming a rapidly growing market.
In industry On-line Learning has also been adopted and more and more companies and organizations are using this medium to support their workers for training and professional development purposes. The advantages of this medium for these companies and organizations are cost saving and the ability to replace in person training with on-line training.
A couple facts to help frame this growing industry;
- Global E-Learning Market to Reach US$107 Billion by 2015, According to New Report by Global Industry Analysts, Inc.
- There were an estimated 1,816,400 enrollments in distance-education courses in K-12 school districts in the USA 2009 – 2010, almost all of which were online courses. 74% of these enrollments were in high schools. (Queen, B., and Lewis, L. (2011). Distance Education Courses for Public Elementary and Secondary School Students: 2009-10 (NCES 2012-009). U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2012/2012008.pdf)
In the context of these dynamics, and the huge growth, and use of on-line learning ecosystems worldwide, for International Schools this has become an area which cannot be ignored. There is already an on-line international school in Switzerland at the International School of Bern The conveniences of these on-line ecosystems which can include schedule flexibility, ease of access, student’s having the option to control their learning, multimedia tools, potential for differentiated learning, and the costs savings are all factors to be considered.
For International Schools on-line learning is and going to continue to become an important part of our learning ecosystem. As this industry grows and continues to gain capacity, both locally and globally, to provide a robust engaging education, International Schools will need to provide this resource to their community. As educational institutions part of the 21 century learning landscape it is something we need to harness, understand and be able to deliver to our own communities of learners. If we do not, someone else will!
Somehow late in the game I have suddenly realized in the background of my life there was a war going on in my Internet and still is most likely, and without much fuss or noise it took place and I suspect is still going on. It is one of these new dimensions of war, it happens undercover, behind the scene with little fan fair and without much human interaction. So not being aware of it is somewhat understandable. According to some pundits this has been going on for a few years but recently a Security company http://www.kaspersky.com/ started noticing this virus called “Flame” and since has been trying to better understand its workings and complexity. Flame’ Virus explained: How it works and who’s behind it and Flame and Stuxnet cyber-attacks. What to me is interesting, is that potentially nation states can engage in a destructive war within the internet, damage, capture, manipulate and steal information and in return shut down, wipe out or paralyze computer systems deemed a threat, or the country with the machines deemed a threat. This is now fact, and in the last years different groups have been busy at work using this powerful technology. Is this in the headlines, part of our daily discourse, something night news talk shows are spending time on? No, not at all this is something that happens undercover behind the scenes with little information or we hear of it after the fact.
With the global information glut and overload we consume, engage and live off, we just cannot keep up or be in tune with the various events, stories, and key pieces of information that might frame a better understanding of everything that is taking place in our world. Then there is the information that does not get shared, or buried deep away from the main stream traffic, headlines and captions. As humans we tend to engage with our digital devices, apps, web environments and new technologies in removed manner, less questioning or critical at an ethical and moral level of the role these have on us as humans. The sheer convenience of the digital devices, apps, web environments and new technologies we live, work, play and entertain ourselves with, dilutes often a critical engagement in understanding how these different tools are impacting us as individuals and a society. No time with our day to day business and the bombardment of new devices, apps and technologies daily being pushed out to us, prevents avenues for us to really stop, think, question and engage with this issue.
We are at the cusp of an age where there are more digital devices than humans on the planet: Mobile devices to outnumber people on planet this year.
New Technologies, digital devices, and web environments as they become more seamless, integrated, and part of our day to day fabric for us to function as humans. We are at many levels defaulting executive decisions to these devices/environments independent of our input. I suspect most of us might feel that it is a small price to pay for the convenience of these digital devices, apps and technologies making the mundane decisions we need to engage with work, play, and living in a connected world. These two articles illustrate the wonders of some of these new technologies but at the same time test and confront our own morals and ethics.
Running repairs: An experiment on rats brings hope to the paralyzed
A big step toward ‘designer babies’ – and big questions
There has to be a cautionary tale if this convenience overrides our ability to stop and reflect, think, probe, discuss, and question the world of digital devices, web environments, and technologies we adopt. If we are happy to sub contract our digital devices and new technologies to work, care, entertain, and support our day to day lives, how far do we give up the control for the convenience of it all? This article from the Economist highlights for me “Morals and the machine: As robots grow more autonomous, society needs to develop rules to manage them“, that we need to have this conversation as educators, organizations and a society in general, and be fully engaged with what is the potential impact to us all.