Two Future Trends

Well it was blazing when I got here…

I’m settled in my warm hotel room, only steps from a blazing fire in the lobby.  OK, it isn’t that cold outside — 90f in Burlington, Vermont.  But the angle of the sun and a percistent chill in the air tells me that I’m definately in a different latitude.

I’m often amazed at what I get when I type things like future in Flickr’s search box. [Image ((Jack. “Looking to the Future.” 5150fantast’s Flickr Photostream. 13 June 2007. 19 Oct 2008 <>. ))]

Glancing through my aggregator I discovered the Executive summary of the World Future Society’s Annual Outlook Report — Top 10 Forecasts for 2009 and Beyond.  I won’t go through all of them, except to say, “Careful what you say, no need to renew your drivers license, and Did you sneeze?”

Two of the forecasts struck me, as an educator.  Number four says, “Careers, and the college majors for preparing for them, are becoming more specialized.”  The article goes on to say,

An increase in unusual college majors may foretell the growth of unique new career specialties. Instead of simply majoring in business, more students are beginning to explore niche majors such as sustainable business, strategic intelligence, and entrepreneurship. Other unusual majors that are capturing students’ imaginations: neuroscience and nanotechnology, computer and digital forensics, and comic book art. Scoff not: The market for comic books and graphic novels in the United States has grown 12% since 2006.

In an age when we parents say, “Oh, she’s just 22, she’s too young to know what she wants to do,” it appears that knowing exactly what you want to do at 22, or 18, or 16, may be what our children will need.  It’s my belief that our relentless focus on the basics, have helped to produce a generation of students who have few real passions, beyond the artificial targets of their personal information experiences.

What might schools look like that task themselves with graduating students with passions instead of just transcripts?

The second forecast that struck me is actually quite similar.  Number six says that, “professional knowledge will become obsolete almost as quickly as it’s acquired.”

Most professions will require continuous instruction and retraining. Rapid changes in the job market and work-related technologies will necessitate job education for almost every worker. At any given moment, a substantial portion of the labor force will be in job retraining programs.

Personally, I’m not so sure that education, at least as we typically think about it, will intrude quite so much into our everyday lives.  However, I have no doubts that we will be learning, unlearning, and relearning for much, if not all of our days.  I’m not sure that we will spend so much time being retrained, as making a little bit of learning a part of every day’s experiences.

What do schools look like, who task themselves with graduating students who have taken on learning as part of the lifestyle — learning lifestyle.

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Broadband Future & Connecting the Real

I ran across a Judy Breck post just now in my aggregator, announcing a new book by Chetan Sharman and Vern Fotheringham.  Of special interest is Mark Anderson’s forward, which can be downloaded.

Judy includes a number of quote from the foreword in her blog, but the one that struck me was,

Wireless broadband is the point of a spear which, in every country in the world, will drive progress in education, economic development, health and medicine, agriculture, markets, family welfare, technological and scientific advances, and general communications. . . .

She also double-clicks,

Consider K12 education, which promises to become the largest market segment for computers sometime during this next decade.

We wring our hands about how we’re going to pay for all of the hardware and seem, to often, to ignore the bandwidth that will be required when we want our students to have access to rich networked multimedia content.

Click for an enlargement of the iPhone screen

Considering the network, it’s confession time.  I am an iPhone Apps junkie.  I download the things on a whim, impressed by the capabilities, only to discover weeks later that they have almost no practical application what so ever.  However, I happened upon one today, that just might prove useful.

SnapTell is a free iPhone app that… Well here’s the description:

Snap a picture of the cover of any Book, DVD, CD, or Video game and within seconds see a rating, description and links to Amazon, Wikipedia, IMDb and more.  If you like the item, click on a link to buy it right away.

The company seems to have plans for broadening its image recognition technology into other applications involving connecting the “real” to the network.

And finally, in the business of connecting the real, I shot this photo a few weeks ago in San Francisco and have since featured it as my laptops desktop image.  Having my mind a bit much on Twitter this morning, I tested Twitpic by posting a portion of the photo to Twitters asking what it was.  In less than five minutes I had a number of responses, most pointing me to GoCar, a service where you rent this little two-seater, and it plays an audio tour of the city, linking where you are with the appropriate audio file by GPS.

I like the car!

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Living in a Hyper-linked World

Well, I write how I’m going to be more relaxed in my blogging, and then I run across this:

From the CINeSPACE Project Video

I often, as a kick, describe to my audiences a proposed device ( called GPS Toe Rings, which vibrate on appropriate toes, indicating the direction the walker should turn.  CINeSPACE kicks this up a notch.  The device, developed in Spain and partially funded by the EU, utilizes GPS, optical and inertial tracking, and semantic technologies to become your personal tour guide, presenting multimedia information about your place and its time.

You’ll be able to rent them at Tourist information centers and airports, starting in 2009 with virtual tours of Glasgow, San Sebastian, and Venice. ((Piquepaille, Roland. “Discovering Venice with a CINeSPACE Device.” [Weblog Roland Piquepaille’s Technology Trends] 6 Oct 2008. 16 Oct 2008 <>. ))

This YouTube hosted video says,

CINeSPACE is a tool to bring our cultural heritage to the foreground, a visualizer, if you will, of our collective past.  In the place being visited, it stimulates a relationship of past knowledge to conscious and unconscious mind through the use of multimedia archives.

The project has three main audiences in its sights.  First, and most obviously, casual tourists, who want to experience the depth of the city, without having to follow the fellow with the pink tophat.  Secondly, it wants to create “..a personalised, interactive and city-specific experience for film tourists, based around locations where well known films have been shot..”  Finally, its interactive nature will enable film professionals to scout out locations for upcoming movies, uploading stills and video from the site for staff to consider in the studio. ((“Home Page.” CINeSPACE. Sixth Framework Programme, The European Union, and Information Society Technologies. 16 Oct 2008 <>.))

I see school all over this.

In a sense, what is coming with these new multimedia and locative technologies is a world of school and a school of world.

The world doesn’t stop at the door of the classroom, and the learning doesn’t stop at its walls.

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Less Authority – What a Relief

I arrived at my destination about 15 minutes later than I’d intended to because I kept stopping to take pictures.
[Click to Enlarge]

It has become apparent to me over the past few weeks, that my blog, 2¢ Worth, has declined in its ranking/cred/authority/whatever, which I’ve known was going to happen.  There were, at one time, a  handful of educator-bloggers who were hammering out their daily experiences, reflections, and wisdom.  Many of them have retained their position — and for very good reason.

But now, there are many more young teacher-philosophers, who have taken up the challenge to articulate, through their daily writings, a new way of thinking about teaching and learn for this very interesting time in which we live.  They’re smart!  They are talented writers!  ..and I’ve never really consider myself that much of either.

For me, I never aimed to be a “Top 5K,” A-dog blogger, and never felt comfortable under that kind of limelight.  I say in the “about” page of this blog,

(My blog) is a diary of my greater mind, my experiences, observations, and reflections, mixed in with the responses of an eclectic community of readers — who are often the smarter part of me. It is a conversation. I blog to learn.

So, I’m going to relax a bit — and without apology, I’ll write about the comfort of a small airport, the changing of the leaves, the frustrations of rootlessness, and those frequent conversations with educators, who alter my thinking in profound ways.

I’ve always taken my work and my mission very seriously.  That’s not changing.  But I’ve never really taking myself all that seriously — and I’d like to treat my blog just that way.

The pennies keep falling.  Some will be shinny, and some will be sharp…

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Life ‘Round Here

This is a portion of the project home page.
The photo is by Hamad Al Falasi

I just had an e-mail conversation with South Carolina Educator, Chris Craft.  Kinda clunky sitting by my e-mail client, but we really needed more than 140 characters.

Chris reminded me of a project he has going on called Life ‘Round Here.  He asks classes/students, age 10 to 13, to publish digital stories about what it’s really like to live where they live.  The stories must be in English or have English subtitles.  You can see many of last years submissions here, though many of the videos are no longer available.  What I saw, I was quite impressed with.

There’s an FAQ page, pictures related to the project, and parameters for participating.

Great luck to you, Chris…

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Apple Story, The Day After…

I’m sitting at the Apple store, the day after a Steve Jobs announcement and it’s packed, and the new MacBooks aren’t even here.  Martin’s MacBook Pro crashed yesterday, flashing question mark imposed over a rather empty looking folder.  Seems like the last time I was here waiting my turn, so sort of new iPhone had just been introduced, and folks were busy.

I’m number 3 now.

I was just informed that the new MacBooks are here but not on the floor. A very excited young woman beside me just bought one.  When are these things going to be as sleek and feature tempting as they can possibly be.

I’m number 2 now.

Sure doesn’t look like there’s a recession on the horizon here.

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A Customer Oriented Airport

Port Columbus International AirportThis is another one to be filed under “No practical application what so ever!”  But I spend so much time in so many airports that I can help but evaluate them.  The range from the urban airport that is so insensitive to the needs of its travelers that it disconnects all of power outlets, leaving laptop travelers to wonder around, like starved vampires, looking for just one live source for electricity.  To be charitable, there may be a problem with the electrical system, but it’s something I’d fix right away.

Then there’s the service airport.  I’m sitting in the Port Columbus International Airport, much larger than I’d expected.  It’s open, they have free WiFi, and about ever six gates, there is an open space available with caf? style tables arranged casually for customers who need a table top to make best use of their down time.

Travel like this ain’t glamorous.  But when you’re treaded like a customer, then you remember it.

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Multimedia & Literacy

I just uploaded my K12 Online presentation, just in under the wire.  I’d read the guidelines a while back, and remembered the limit being 40 minutes.  So my presentation video was 38 minutes long.  Then, re-reading the guidelines this morning, I discovered yet more evidence of my faulty recollection cells, limit is 20 minutes.  So I cut it back, and uploaded.  The original (director’s cut) version will likely be made available at some point after the K12 Online Conference.

I’m now at the airport, sitting in an American Airlines gate, and they’ve just announced an oversold situation.  $300 voucher for anyone who’ll fly to Chicago, by way of Washington, three hours from now.  Often, I’ll take them up on it, but not today.  I’ve already made first class.  Gotta love Platinum and all those other heavy metals.

What’s left of a million dollar studio.

One of my stops last week was Sidney, New York, about forty minutes up the river from Binghamton.  I was impressed with the school, especially its interest in multimedia as part of the high school’s curriculum.  Their tech director, Mike Dionne, told the story of a local corporation, who invested a million plus dollars for studio equipment for their corporate communications, professional development production, and other multimedia work — a couple of rooms worth of stuff.  It was not many years before the equipment was obsolete, so the high school got it for free.

Mike pointed out to me, what was left, and that his students are now doing the same work with software installed on standard computers.

By contrast, the video I just uploaded to the K12 Online Conference (which includes some machinima), and the virtual workshop I did last week for a school in Wisconsin, was all done from my laptop, using software that was either free or pre-installed on my computer.

My personal control room including all free or pre-installed software and built-in camera.

Many of our students are playing with these tool, creating their own videos and machinimas, doing it for fun, and earning audience.  This increasingly ubiquitous access to multimedia production technology makes me wonder what affect it has on basic communication skills for the future — literacy.

I see the pressures to expand our notions of basic communication skills coming from two directions.  First, there is the challenge of gaining your audience’s attention.  We’re overwhelmed by information, having to choose from a bewildering array of sources, all competing for our attention.  It means that communication must now utilize combinations of text, images, sound, video, and animation, arranged appropriately for an audience, in order to accomplish your goal.

But from the other direction, we find ourselves with amazingly sophisticated tools: video cameras costing less than a hundred dollars, software that comes pre-installed on our computers, free software and web services that can turn our standard computers into world-reaching broadcast stations, and a growing virtual world that can be turned into a movie set.

Again, what impact might this have on basic communication skills?  What skills are our students already practicing, and what new avenues of conversation are they defining and bringing with them into their future?  There is, of course, no simple answer.  I personally doubt that creating a list of communication competencies would serve us well.  The best thing we can do is to open up as many avenues of connection and conversation as we can — to give our students opportunity, support, and encouragement to develop their communication skills by communicating richly and authentically.

“Political Streams” • Social News, Social Truth [question mark here]

Microsoft’s Political Streams

By way of Data Minings, Matthew Hurst, I’ve been playing around with Microsoft’s Political Streams.  It’s there first application built upon the Social Streams platform (of which I could not find very much explanation).  As I understand it, from the description page and playing around with the tool, Political Streams tracks various news stories, and social media, such as blogs, and lists the ones that are most currently “popular.”  By popular, I assume the most read.  There is an indicator as to whether the pieces is rising or dropping in popularity.

The tool also extracts the names of people and places that appear in the news (and blogs), indicating whether they are on the rise or falling in popularity.  The interface is fairly straight forward, unless I’m missing something, and in concept, I’m pretty impressed with the delivery and the potential.  Through this popularity-based news service, I learned of evidence that Barack Obama is a terrorist, and about McCain’s Nazi-cocaine connections. I walk away, informed.

OK, I watched about 15 minutes of the vice presidential debates, mostly for entertainment value — and have to say that I was not entirely unimpressed with Palin — a surprise.  I won’t say any more than that.  I also, being in a hotel room with no Netflix tucked in my computer bag, watched the last presidential debate, and turned away pretty disgusted.

I believe that both McCain and Obama are honorable men — both of whom are better than we deserve.  We are demanding reasons to hate one candidate or the other, to see him as the opponent of our world view — which has largely come out of a buffet style information experience.  Some of us like meat.  Some of us like vegetables.  But when we were growing up, our parents (hopefully) made us eat our spinach.  Probably not the best analogy.  My wife’s a vegetarian.

So am I blasting the social information environment?  Nope!  It is not going away and it has huge value today and great potential for the future.  What concerns me deeply is that we, as a whole, may not be ready for it.  Will we mature as a result of an immersion in the environment.  I hope so.  Are our schools helping the rising generation to make better use of it?  Not yet, but we’re starting to.  Literacy 2.0…

Returning to, “If it’s not about the technology?”

On September 24, I posted the question here, “If ‘It’s not about the technology,’ then what is it about?”  The response was overwhelming, by my standards, and I finally took some time this morning to read through all of the comments, and to post some of my own.

To get a visual sense of what came out of the conversation, and partly for the fun of it, I popped the comments into Wordle and made the tag cloud below.

Wordle Tag Cloud

Reading through the comments, I jotted down some of the key terms and phrases and counted up the times that they occurred.  Here is the list, sized by their frequency but arranged by their occurrence.

  1. Students
  2. Maintaining Democracy

  3. Pedagogy
  4. Communication/Conversation
  5. Collaboration
  6. Exploring

  7. Differentiating
  8. Creating
  9. Expressing

  10. Interpreting
  11. Learning
  12. Problem Solving
  13. Connections
  14. Skills
  15. relationships
  16. Not just learning something, but doing something with it.
  17. The Story