Puppets on a string

CC0 License: https://www.pexels.com/photo/bag-electronics-girl-hands-359757/

 The post is inspired by a L2talk I did at the Learning2 Europe conference in Warsaw.

“every storyteller has a bias – and so does every platform”-  Andrew Postman  “My Dad Predicted Trump in 1985 – It’s Not Orwell, He Warned, It’s Brave New World.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 02 Feb. 2017

I am an addict. Are you too? Don’t you hate it when you can’t find your phone, and a friend has to call it.  Maybe the first thing you did this morning was check your phone and the last thing you did today was check your phone.  Think of it, we walk and text, and even drive and text. Have you had this happen,  you are in a social situation and you go the bathroom  to check an update. You are standing on a street corner and suddenly realize you are on your phone swiping at it, unconsciously. Then there is the feeling you get when you post a picture on a social media feed. The “likes” start coming in. It feels good, really good,  and then you check back and back. You post an update and there no “likes”.  You start wondering to yourself what is going on?

(CC BY 2.0) Photo taken by Angus MacAskill “Rat” https://www.flickr.com/photos/19951543@N00/3908678004/

I am sure you’ve heard about B.J Skinner’s rat experiment. The first rat had a lever in its cage, and every time it hit the lever food would come out. The second rat in the same set-up, hit the lever and nothing came out, no food. The third rat, same set-up, when it hit the lever a little food came out, then nothing, and then a lot, and then nothing again. The third rat developed an addiction. It quickly realized as long as it hit the lever it had a chance of getting some food.  This is called the principal of variable rewards. That feel good feeling, the dopamine rush. Behavior design as explained in this article (Scientist who make our apps addictive by Ian Leslie 1843 Economist October.November 2016) is a critical part of every app development. Tech companies employ behavior economist, psychologist, and psychiatrists in the creation, design and curation of our apps ecosystems to ensure we keep coming back.

So many of our interactions with devices are subconscious.  In Eric Pickersgill thought provoking photos series “Removed” (do spend some time on the link) he highlights the idea of being alone together as Sherry Turkle so aptly describes in her book Alone Together. We are often physically together with another person in a space sometimes even intimately but our mind’s burrowed in a phone.

As adults, we are quick t0 point the finger at kids for not being able to manage their screen-time. Think of this, the first time an infant will interact with a digital device is watching a parent using one. What does it feel like for a child in a pram looking up at their parent to only see a blank expression immersed in their smartphone.  The dinner table conversation interrupted by parents checking work emails. Mary Aiken in her book “ The Cyber Effect” states we are asking the wrong question.  Mary Aiken writes “We should not be asking at what age is it appropriate to give a digital device to an infant, but be asking the question when is it appropriate for an adult to interact with a digital device in front of an infant.”

A good example of behavior design is Snapchat and the new feature “streaks“.  The idea of streaks if you have a dialogue with a friend over 24 hours and you continue this over days, a flame emoji shows up.  In tandem a number counting your interactions keeps tally. Should one of you stop posting, an hour glass shows up giving you a heads up that the streak will disappear if you do not stay on. For adolescent’s social media relationships can be a gauge of their social capital.  Streaks adds a layer of complexity to the interactions.

I am not against digital devices. I have been working in Education Technology as a coach, coordinator, IT Director and Director of eLearning for over 20 years. I love the seamless and frictionless experience of our digital environments.

By Jim McDougall from Glasgow, Scotland (Puppets on a String Uploaded by Snowmanradio) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
It is a fact that our online data  (health apps, social media, travel, online games, GPS, shopping, search etc…) is collected, analyzed, and then sold to third parties,  or curated to give us a personalized online experiences with a clear goal to manipulate our behaviors. We as educators have an ethical responsibility to be skeptical of behavior design’s narrative. Let us challenge our learning communities to question the complexity and consequences of behavior design in our lives. Stuffing a digital citizenship lesson for 15 minutes during a Friday morning advisory is not enough. We need to make this narrative an integral part of the living curriculum.

Do we want to end up being puppets pulled by the strings of choreographed digital ecosystems which we do not control?

I think it is important to understand schools are most likely the last place where children interact with digital devices with balance and pedagogic purpose. We cannot take this for granted.

If we ignore behavior design we will loose something. Free will. I and you do not want to lose this.

John @ http://beyonddigital.org

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Hal, is in the house.

Harvest
Fall Harvest Photo jmikton

A colleague of mine and her Kindergartners were busy exploring where an egg comes from. “Was it born like a baby? Does it grow on its own? Where do they come from? Different perspectives and ideas were shared enthusiastically. The children discussed and challenged each other with their theories. At the end of the activity, one child turned to her partner and said, “when I get home, I’ll ask Siri for the answer.” A routine response in our classrooms? Or an important moment to understand that artificial intelligence (AI)  has embedded itself in our day to day lives? For a generation of children who have been raised on iPads and Siri,  AI – with a name and voice like a human – is as ubiquitous as any other technology.

AI is a tool that learns, anticipates and predicts. It provides us with instantaneous information or completes routine tasks remotely. The Amazon Echo and Google Home, two new devices that have recently gained traction, have begun to enter the home as personal assistants. The Echo and Home are two of many voice-activated AI assistants that tap into vast artificial intelligence networks. They aggregate information based on our digital footprints and predict our habits based on a learning algorithm that engages continuously with the data we share on our digital devices.

A shift has occurred in our relationship with AI and the impact is profound. It is the seamless adaptation of AI into our lives – a frictionless experience that is slowly making us dependent on this predictive technology. This new relationship meets our unique taste and needs, and only gets better the more it knows about us. Over time, this is changing the way our brain functions when interacting in the digital world. This short video by AcademicEarth.org -“ Cognitive Offloading,” is a reminder of the neurological changes AI is having on our learning.  We collectively feel more and more comfortable subcontracting out tasks to AI. The term ” let me google this” is an example.

For educators, this shift is showing up in our classrooms informally and in some instances invisibly.  Artificial intelligences are important elements of the devices which exist in our school tool kits. These include mobile devices, apps, browsers, search engines, smartwatches, and more. Writer and professor Jason Ohler asks an important question in his article “Bio-Hacked Students On the Outer Edge of Digital Citizenship”. How should we, as educators, shift the curation of a scholastic experience when students come to the classroom with embedded or wearable artificial intelligences? This alters the value of the commodity of knowledge in the classroom and highlights a potentially new hierarchy where AI supplements a user’s expertise. Suddenly, we have 24/7 access to predictive and anticipatory information which has the potential to disrupt the independent learning experience of a typical classroom. In his article “Artificial intelligence is the next giant leap in education“, Alex Wood reflects on the role AI could play in education.

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source: <https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/f/f6/HAL9000.svg/2000px-HAL9000.svg.png&gt;

Coming to terms with these exponential changes takes time to digest. As educators, we need to understand that engagement and critical thinking are vital components of education, especially as AI shifts the classroom narrative. The ethical issues which surround these exponential changes are here now. The complacency that schools engage with in the discourse of what it means to be in a world dominated by AI is a tension we cannot ignore.

What will a world look like when companies can remotely delete pictures and videos which do not fit a predefined perspective fueled by an AI?  Danny Yadron questions this in his article “Apple gets patent for remotely disabling iPhone cameras.” What will a world look like when you scan a person’s image on the street and instantly receive their aggregated digital profile? In Shawn Walker”s  “Face recognition app taking Russia by storm may bring end to public anonymity  ” he shares the dynamics of the “FindFace” application, reminding us of the reality at our doorstep.

As educators, we have a unique opportunity to design curriculums around the narrative of artificial intelligence. We need to be encouraging our students to not only be good digital citizens but proactive digital leaders who understand the complexity of a world fueled by artificial AI. Schools should promote the skills and inquiry mindsets which provide students with the capacity to harness the power and opportunities of AI and not become complacent with the technology. Ultimately, we want our students to be active leaders and architects of AI’s continued growth. As educators, we have a responsibility to ensure our students have a working understanding of how to navigate a complex and changing world fueled by artificial intelligence for the good of future generations.

John@beyonddigital.org

 

 

 

Living in a “GAFA” world.

Think of what Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon services and products you use daily. How much are they a vehicle for communications, work, social life, purchases and tasks? How often do you connect to them? Count the number. How many? Surprised? Now, out of the 4 companies, how many do you use? Or do you not. The reality is that you probably use at least one, if not all of the four, very frequently.

Lac Leman, Rolle Switzerland -photo J.Mikton

Welcome to the “GAFA” (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon) world. The”GAFA” world is where most of humanity’s internet users and consumers work, communicate, socialize, learn, entertain themselves, and share, in services provided by one, two, three or all four of these companies: the “GAFA” grids.

We have become comfortable with “GAFA’” being part of our lives in multiple venues, and as a result, schools, educators, students and parents are investing significant amounts of monies into “GAFA”. It is an essential component of our ability to function at school and at home, and the collective convenience and seamless experience of “GAFA” intoxicates us.

In Terry Heick’s (@TeachThought) thoughtful article “How Google Impacts The Way Students Think”,  he highlights how learners working in a Google ecosystem develop an appetite for a black and white information age.  The expectation? Immediate answers, 24/7. The convenience of this immediacy creates an illusion of thinking, but actually disengages the user from deep critical thinking. It does this by simplifying the process of gathering information and giving the impression it is all connected.

In order to have a constant infusion of innovation and creativity, “GAFA” also hungers for start-up companies. By absorbing these companies, they are able to facilitate the pollination of ideas, products and services and enrich their ability to generate more seamless methods of connectivity. In this way “GAFA’s” largeness and versatility is engrained in all aspects of our lives

This innovation also provides “GAFA” with opportunities to tie our lives closer together with multiple platforms and venues in a frictionless environment. Examples of this reach are Amazon’s cloud service, which hosts large architectures of company websites, services, and databases, including the CIA’s; Google moving into the home with Nest and pursuing the development of artificial intelligence (Dark Blue Labs and Vision Factory); Apple’s acquisition of Affectiva, a company that specializes in emotion recognition, and investments in health apps and services; and Facebook’s expansion into virtual reality.  Making its services ubiquitous, as with the “free wi-fi-with-check-in ”in hotels and small businesses. Its purchase of “Whatsapp” is another example of how a “GAFA” company spent billions on an innovative service.

The algorithms provide a treasure trove of information with which to understand our behavior, habits, aspirations and desires.  In Raffi Khatchadourian’s  article “We Know How You Feel”, we are reminded that the hunger for data is tied to a hunger for emotional interactions. In Shelley Podolyn’s New York Times article, “If an Algorithm Wrote This, How Would You Even Know?”,  she highlights the level of sophistication of writing algorithms generating news articles and books. In tandem, the growth of “The Internet of Eyes“ in objects we interact with, as part of the “ Internet of Things.” brings about a new dynamic to data mining. It is a reminder that many of these algorithms being designed within “GAFA” play an almost non-negotiable role in our lives.

Many schools believe that their curriculum’s should allow for authentic connections to the world around them. What about “GAFA”?  Should we as learners, guides, mentors, and facilitators highlight “GAFA”? Is this important? Should its presence be considered in our learning outcomes?  To ignore “GAFA” is to create a disconnect with present changes that are reshaping all of our lives. It sidelines a reality that is the future. What does “GAFA” mean, to us, our schools, community and educational institutions? Schools have a responsibility to ensure this is part of the curricular discourse.  We need to construct learning moments and scaffold time to pause, reflect, understand, explain and critically think about what it is to live in a “GAFA” world.

If personal privacy, independent thought, critical thinking, differentiation, balanced perspectives, mindfulness and our capacity to be unique are in our school’s mission, we need to address what it means to be curated by “GAFA”.  Will we not lose an important aspect of humanity, if we continue to ignore “GAFA”?

John@beyonddigital

P.S: Next time you are at a Starbucks drinking your coffee remember that the free wifi is a “GAFA” gift!

Disrupt Me!

 Disruption has already happend IBM:
Disruption has already happend IBM: Source: IBM http://www.ibmforentrepreneurs.com

Disruption for many people generates discomfort, shakes the status quo and breaks routines. We all have an emotional response to this process: for some hesitation, doubt, confusion, fear, anger, bewilderment, and for others excitement, rejuvenation, inspiration, motivation and energizing or a combination of the above.

The Digital Disruption Has Already Happened”  image on twitter challenged my own thinking, and as I unpacked this with a group of students we all had to take time to unravel what this meant to us. After a healthy discussion we came to a common understanding that each of these companies generated a  “disruption” armed with ideas and models that completely reshape the economic contract of the business world. The disruption challenged a set of expectations, routines and structures, thus redefining what it means to provide a particular service. In the process,  the relationship between worker, employer, customer and their social contracts was also redefined. As these models of disruption become part of our economic ecosystem, a whole new paradigm faces us. A good example of this process is featured in this article “The Last Kodak Moment?” (Economist)

As the students and I further discussed what this means to us here in the classroom, we started realizing a distinct disconnect between the objectives and outcomes of our learning in school and the reality that this image represents. There are two worlds working in very different realms with no clear bridge creating a meaningful authentic connection between them. As one student shared after seeing this video in class, “mmm I find it odd that we are not learning how to make these things in school, or understand how they work or maybe fix them.”

Yes, the world around us is changing rapidly, very rapidly, we know this, we are aware of this, we state this, and are impacted by this daily.  However, our role is often that of the passive consumer, unconsciously sucked in by the addictive seamless convenience of the services these disruptions deliver. In our passivity and growing dependence we seem willing to sideline a more critical reflection of what this disruption is doing to us. The engines of this disruption: creativity, machine learning, algorithms, and innovation are driving the ecosystems which are quickly becoming non negotiables with our work and social flows. These disruptions are inevitable and not bad or good, they are part of today’s economic narrative that impacts us all locally and globally.

But in the bubble of “school” there is a sense that it is okay not to engage with this concretely, giving ourselves permission to continue focusing on learning objectives and outcomes tied to a past. As Michael Wesch shares in this TedTalk: From Knowledgeable to Knowledge-Able,  what we teach, what we engage as “musts” as part of the learning contract are disconnected from the pressing realities surrounding us. This lack of authentic connection and scaffolding which should provide the skills and cognitive capacity to critically engage with the rapidly changing world are watered down to suit our own educational comfort zone and established routines, which have worked so well for us in the past.

Schools are keen to talk about teaching to students’ future and as George Couros share in his book ” Innovators Mindset”, its all our future and all of us need to understand and engage with it concretely, not just the kids. Education rhetoric is rich with 21 century skills terminology and on the surface we are okay to dabble with some ideas and changes, but not at the level where we truly have taken on a deep understanding as educators about what this disruption is doing to our world and how we can act as concierges of learning. We need to ensure our students are not simply consumers of the disruption but empowered creators and active participants of the disruption.

A disruption needs to occur in schools with professional development. In a video by Frank Barrett in the Harvard Business Review “To Innovate, Disrupt Your Routine” he highlights the importance of leaders ability to engage in a process where routines are disrupted to generate opportunities for creativity. As an example he uses the wonderful analogy of Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue album and the disruption he facilitated, disrupting routines which had the group enter a discomfort and then supporting them to create something new that changed the face of Jazz.

It is often the case, and I am generalizing here, that professional development in schools is focused on pedagogy framed by comfort zones that generate no disruption, learning framed with limited clear connections to the real world, lecture style delivery, and bulleted PowerPoints squeezed at the end of a long day of work. This dynamic can generate a level of disconnect, cynicism and passivity by participants, and dilutes the connection between what we teach and how we tie learning to be authentic and connected to the pressing realities surrounding us.

School leaders need to first disrupt their own professional development. They also need to be bold and challenge their own comfort zones. Through this act, we then experience first hand the process described by Frank Barrett in the Harvard Business Review, and will be willing to mentor leadership teams and faculty to go through a similar process with explicit support and care. If we are going to lead and disrupt our routines to engage in a process where we innovate and create then educators need time, space, support, empathy, and meaningful scaffolding. With this we build the capacity to disrupt their own thinking and internalize how they can take ownership with the process. We need to disrupt professional development learning outcomes, so as to be able to craft a learning narrative connected to a world driven by a new economic reality; one framed by creativity, algorithms, machine learning and innovation. Through this process we can then facilitate a culture where educators become active participants of the pressing realities surrounding us and lead and mentor learning with authentic and meaningful connections to the world of disruptions we are living in.

We cannot expect to authentically connect our students’ learning environments with the rich tapestry of the world of economic disruptions without giving ourselves permission to disrupt ourselves first and shift our professional learning discourse to unpack, synthesis, connect and craft learning outcomes that explicitly provide meaningful opportunities for us to make sense of constant disruptive change, and from there as concierges of learning, choreograph an authentic learning landscape for students. “Disrupt me!”

John@beyonddigital.org

 

 

 

Stop Pretending in Education

In education, we have to stop pretending that

  • there is a separation between the digital world and the real world
  • all students have an excellent understanding of digital tools and ethics
  • technology is a learning outcome and not a tool
  • failure and open ended outcomes are bad
  • we are not in a state of constant accelerated change

Scott McLeod challenged others to participate in a conversation on how to #makeschooldifferent with the prompt “… we have to stop pretending”. In this challenge, I’d like to invite @pgreensoup  @jasonohler @arniebieber  @russiazurfluh

Control Room

=The-Profile-of-a-Modern-Teacher
Used with permission from Reid Wilson: http://www.coetail.com/wayfaringpath/

I caught a tweet about Reid Wilson’s post with this infographic and it simply jumped out at me. It got me thinking about my own learning. The idea of letting go, being open, okay to mess up, explore, tinker and celebrate being vulnerable and taking advantage of  my failures as a learning opportunity. The habits of mind Reid shared resonated with me. The powerful infographic highlights how in today’s rapidly changing world habits of mind are critical in engaging with these changes. Reid Wilson‘s  infographic does a wonderful job of challenging educators thinking and push one to reconsider the pedagogic discourse of learning in schools.

The important premise is that these new habits of mind are about educators cognitive capacity to build new frameworks with a significantly different set of behaviors and beliefs connected to a world that is in a constant state of accelerated change.

There are some concrete outside forces which come into play challenging our learning communities. The shifts caused by these outside forces are significant and only highlight the importance of seriously engaging with Reid Wilson‘s premise.

One of the biggest shifts is how the work place, employment and jobs are radically changing due to the adoption of new technologies and more importantly a break from traditional business models.  Examples like Air B and B, Uber, the apps market and the rash of start ups fueled by the E-economy are re-framing employment rules in the work place. The dynamics of this shift are nicely broken down in this article: Workers on tap @Economist. A whole generation of students in schools today, are entering a new work place being choreographed by these changes.  The social contract of employment we have lived with is being turned upside down.

If tools can be emailed at a click of a button (Nasa emails spanner to space station @BBC) and constructed in the confines of our homes with a 3D printer. How does that shift the dynamic of manufacturing and in tandem the role of design, location, innovation and production. As this develops we are seeing a re-framing of manufacturing, and it will not be about location but innovation, creativity, flexibility and adaptability.

The growing field of machine intelligence and the complex dynamics of the ethical implications are starting to challenge our own moral construct and the relationship between machines and humans. Shivon Zilis shares out an interesting graphic on her blog (the Current State of Machine Intelligence.) that delineates the companies and organizations involved in machine intelligence and the accelerated growth of areas unheard off a few years back. The growing investment tied to the development of machine intelligence coupled with the field of “learning machines” as described by  Jeremy Howard’s Tedtalk  are ushering a science fiction like future which actually is being constructed today!

These are just a few of the many new shifts changing our world, and being unpacked before our eyes. A term which encapsulates these forces well, is VUCA, an acronym for “volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity” initially coined as a military term in the 1990’s and now often shared in the context of companies and organization engaging with a variety of  leadership frameworks.

Schools and education leaders are in a unique position to engage, lead and model Reid Wilson‘s  construct of the 21 century habits of mind in response to the forces of accelerated change. Education leaders must be risk takers themselves and engage with the responsibility to scaffold, curate and facilitate this new construct that prepares not only our students for a world  of “ volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity” but the educators that are in the control room of learning.

John@ http://beyonddigital.org

Special thank you to Reid Wilson for sharing the graphic. Do make a point of checking out his blog:  http://www.wayfaringpath.com/

The Death of ” Digital”.

Santa Cruz California
Santa Cruz California

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.

John @beyonddigital.org

 

There is a needle in the haystack, Ground Control.

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.

(Source: Economist  The World 2013 and Internet 2012 in numbers by Tech Blog Pingdom and Science Daily: How Much Information Is There in the World? Feb. 11, 2011)

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.

John@ http://beyonddigital.org

Is there a new kid in town?

leanringIn 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;

  • 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!

John@ http://beyonddigital.org

When we stop being human.


Change is a constant, and however we might  forget or passively ignore the fact, it is happening behind our backs, in front of our eyes, above our heads, and at a corner we have not bothered hearing about. For me, the change we have let slide passively with little input apart from buying and always upgrading, is the hunger for digital devices. In the last few years digital devices have  become an integral part of our individual ecosystems, and without them we struggle.

A wonderful piece by the Economist It’s a smart world, explores this concept in the world of smart softwares, and in this years’ World 2013 shares out an important milestone:  “The number of connected devices to the Internet will exceed the number of people on the planet by a factor of 2 in 2013  according to Cisco, By 2020 some 27 billion unique objects will be connected wirelessly to the Internet- Economist  The World 2013

If we currently have more digital devices than human by 2 =  14 billion of these devices are part of our lives.  So if out of the 7 billion humans 2.45 billion have access to the Internet in 2011.  -“The World in 2011: ITC Facts and Figures”, International Telecommunications Unions (ITU), Geneva, 2011.”  How did 2.45 billion + humans suddenly find themselves needing 14 billion devices? Making an unscientific assumption that most digital devices need an Internet connection, but then again it is still a ridiculous amount of devices 2 per human.

The seductive commercialization of the device, and the relentless addictive capacity of its features, available, on: whenever, wherever, whatever!  2.45 billion of us have developed a need for more than one. Try this:  count how many digital devices you have at home. ( Think microwave, digital TV, laptops, tablets, phones, sat-nav, digital radio, game consoles, digital heating system, digital alarm…. and we go on) do give yours a count. Now do you see how many of us are part of the 2.45 billion needing more than one device?

To be honest is it a big deal that we have more digital devices than humans by a factor of 2. On first thought very likely not, but then if we differ, consult, communicate, access, share, update, inform, search, pay, track, publish and connect as part of a daily routine, to the point we are often not aware of it… seamlessly blended within our ecosystems fabric with which we interact, work and live by. Is it, should it be our current norm?

The digital devices are here, embedded in our lives. Have we sat back and collectively, as a conversation piece, wondered how this happened, how did suddenly we need to sleep with a smart-phone by our bed, check email during dinner, while waiting for a bus, on the toilet…. what kind of reflective process have we engaged with colleagues friends and family.  This propensity for the digital device is it a non negotiable of our own ecosystem?Snow Nebusice

Do not get me wrong, I love my digital devices, the convenience, versatility, connectedness, and ease of use, are a huge benefit to my own day.

As Terence McKenna states in the video above as the rate of change accelerates over time, the modalities, ecosystems we live by will change to a point we will not be equipped to synthesis, analysis, engage, understand control, and manage these…. it does sound like science fiction…. “By 2020 some 27 billion unique objects will be connected wirelessly to the Internet- Economist  The World 2013“, but the science fiction is becoming part of our current narrative, and somehow we have let it slip by or have we?

John@ http://beyonddigital.org