Internet in the Sewers

Super-Fast Broadband Via the Sewer System : EcoWorldly:

As is so often the case, simple ideas seem to have manifest benefits and using sewer systems to lay fibre optic cables is a case in point. ((Charnley, Pem. “Super-Fast Broadband Via the Sewer System.” [Weblog EcoWorldly] 11 May 2008. Green Options Media Production. 12 May 2008

Pem Charnley, through EcoWorldly, describesthe coastal town of Bournemouth, UK, as the seaside resort where many go to die.  Jack Dee quipps that shop windows are fitted with bi-focals.

Yet, it seems that these oldsters are kicking up their heels, on the Net.  While most of the rest of the U.K. struggles with slower consumer Internet speeds, the citizens of Bournemouth are going full fibre, and their going to do it fast — not buy digging up swathes of countryside.  They’re going to run it through the sewers.

According to SkyNews, more than 88,000 homes and businesses will be able to access the Internet at speeds up to 100Mbps under the scheme, considerably faster than the rates of other UK residents.  H2O, a fibre firm, is funding the project at £30 million.

There are fears that the UK is falling behind the rest of the world when it comes to broadband speeds, with three operators in France offering speeds of between 50 and 100Mbps. ((“Online Via Sewers: First Town Unveiled.” Sky News 8 May 2008 12 May 2008,,30000-1315371,00.html.))

Another ” Aha! ” Video

Picture of Learning to Change VideoLearning to Change is from the DigitalArts Alliance, of Pearson Foundation, and CoSN. A lot of it, I’d heard, and I continue to be intrigued by Stephen Heppell’s concept of the “Nearly Now!”

But the statement that really struck me was the first one, delivered by Keith Krueger, CEO of CoSN. He said that…

The U.S. Department of Commerce Ranked 55 industry sectors by their level of IT intensiveness. Education was ranked number 55 — below coal mining.

Picture of TableThe first thing I want to do, when I hear something like this is to go find it — the source. It didn’t take very long. I added some key words from the statement, and hyphened out some words that were getting in the way, and came up with a PDF, Digital Economy 2002, from the Economics and Statistics Administration ( Page 50 features the list of 55 by IT-intensity, ranking by the ratio of individual industry ITEQ/FTE compared to the overall ITEQ/FTE.

ITEQ/FTE = information technology equipment/full-time equivalent (worker) ((Bergsten, C. Fred. The United States and the World Economy: Foreign Economic Policy for the Next Decade. Peterson Institute, 2005.))

Also among the folks sharing their wisdom in this video are Yong Zhao, Cheryl Lemke, Susan Patrick, Chris Dede, Daniel Pink, Ken Kay, etc.

Added May 11, 2008

I worried over this blog post during our drive to the mountains yesterday, thinking about the emotional impact of Krueger’s statement. It delivers, I think, the right message and it does so compellingly. However, as I think about the 54 industries that rank higher than Education Services in their level of technology intensity, I asked my self whether I thought that education should be using more technology (includes machinery) than coal mining. I’m pretty happy, for the sake of those coal miners, that they have sophisticated and powerful technologies to assist them. For the sake of our goals to provide an education that is relevant to our children and their future, it’s probably an effective statement.  But our job is to find and then facilitate the appropriate technologies to help prepare our children for the future they will create.

DOPA Returns — with a New Fear Focus

Picture from Second Life
Image from the C|Net article, of a press conference, staged in Second Life last year, by California Democrat George Miller.
It’s SecondLife, and Illinois congressman, Mark Kirk (up for re-election), held a press conference on Tuesday, in front of a library, where he highlighted the “dangers” of the virtual world…. ((Broache, Anne. “Ban ‘Second Life’ in Schools and Libraries, Republican Congressman Says.” [Weblog NewsBlog] 7 May 2008. C|Net Networks, Inc. 8 May 2008 <>.))

I’m not surprised. History has shown that this kind of fear-mongering can be quite successful in getting elected. SecondLife is certainly no place for kids, and I do not believe that I have encountered a single school that doesn’t block the service — except where there are well moderated instructional programs in place that utilize the MUSE.

But Kirk’s approach is to protect children from danger by further walling up their classrooms, and I just don’t see the logic, especially when children spend most of their online time at home.

Perhaps Linden Labs should do more to assure that kids stay out-world. MySpace recently announced, with Washington State Attorney General, Rob McKenna, that they would institute new procedures and resources to further protect children while working their social networks. Among the actions, MySpace promises…

…to respond within 72 hours to complaints about inappropriate content and commit more staff and/or resources to review and classify photographs and discussion groups.

In the press release, Attorney General McKenna said,

Every day, around 50,000 sex offenders are on the Internet, lurking in chat rooms and on sites where kids and teens congregate.” ((Washington State Office of the Attorney General. (14 Jan 2008). Attorney General McKenna announces nationwide agreement with MySpace to protect kids online (18786). Olympia.

Does anybody know where he got those numbers?

This Stood Out

Picture of School Book Bag ContentsI’m working on a little AUP project and have been going through various examples, reading things like:

Pagers, laser pointers, cell phones, or other electronic devices not part of the instructional program will not be allowed in school.

Students are not allowed to use, wear, possess or store in their locker: cellular telephones, communication beepers, other electronic communication devices, including all ‘look alikes,’ at school during the regular school day or at school-sponsored events.

The board prohibits possession of laser pointers and attachments, cellular telephones, and telephone paging devices by students on school grounds, on buses and other vehicles provided by the district, and at school-sponsored events.

Then, taking a minute to thumb through the April issue of Technology & Learning Magazine (Welcome Kevin Hogan), I ran across six schools in Brooklyn who have given cell phones to their students — a total of about 2,500. Each phone is preloaded with with 130 minutes of talk time. Students can be rewarded with additional minutes for good behavior, attendance, homework, and test scores.

Teachers are using the phones to send text messages about assignments and upcoming exams. All of this within a school district (New York City Department of Education) that has banned cell-phones and other personal ICTs from schools. [Image ((Albert. “What’s in my bag? / Que hay en mi mochila?.” Albert!’s Photostream. 30 Jul 2007. 8 May 2008 <>.))]

Go for it!

“Here Comes Every One” — What do You Do With Them?

Book CoverIt’s a book by Clay Shirky, who, after only a little research, I’m surprised that I’d not heard of before.  Here’s an excerpt from a rather long blog post by Shirky, “..a lightly editied transcript from a speech (he) gave at the Web 2.0 conference..”

Gin, Television, and Social Surplus – Here Comes Everybody:

I started telling her (Television Producer) about the Wikipedia article on Pluto. You may remember that Pluto got kicked out of the planet club a couple of years ago, so all of a sudden there was all of this activity on Wikipedia. The talk pages light up, people are editing the article like mad, and the whole community is in an ruckus–“How should we characterize this change in Pluto’s status?” And a little bit at a time they move the article–fighting offstage all the while–from, “Pluto is the ninth planet,” to “Pluto is an odd-shaped rock with an odd-shaped orbit at the edge of the solar system.”

So I tell her all this stuff, and I think, “Okay, we’re going to have a conversation about authority or social construction or whatever.” That wasn’t her question. She heard this story and she shook her head and said, “Where do people find the time?” That was her question. And I just kind of snapped. And I said, “No one who works in TV gets to ask that question. You know where the time comes from. It comes from the cognitive surplus you’ve been masking for 50 years.”

Thanks to Jeff Utecht, whose Twitter post pointed his followers to this story (Gin, Television, and Social Surplus) — about how the critical technology, for the early phase of the industrial revolution, was gin.  The sudden and dramatic changes that many people experienced in moving from agricultural to industrial economy was, according to Shirky’s source, a generation of people pickled with gin.

He suggests in this very interesting piece, that the sitcom, and in a broader sense, Television, served the same purpose during our shift to an information economy.  The critical question is, “What do we do with the surplus of social capital, as we wake up from the television binge.”  He describes some intriguing examples, but…

My question is, “What would we, educators, find ourselves with a surplus of, if we were to suddenly be able to rid our selves of the constraints that cost our time and efforts?

More Slick Media

Page from Flypmedia
Page from Flypmedia (click to enlarge)
Here’s another one from the category of learnable media.  Shared by David Weinberger, via Twitter ((Weinberger, David. “Status.” Twitter. May 6 2008. 6 May 2008 <>.)) this afternoon,  Flypmedia is a slick and highly interactive magazine.  Leafing pages, as old as the technique is, still makes me yearn for the perfect e-reader device.  It just makes my laptop feel so behind the times.

But this tool goes much further with interactive content, such as the map to the right that changes red to blue before your eyes, with the click of the appropriate 2008 Democratic Candidate (see right).

There are numerous content drawers that can be drawn down and then tucked back away, and the are almost all used quite practically, without overdoing the motion.  I am especially impressed with the responsiveness of the videos that are liberally scattered throughout the publication without crowding out the text.

Another sign of things to come, folks!

Beach Reading

It is customary for us to suggest books for summer reading during the few weeks that many educators have to retool and re-energize.

Two books have had me almost totally engrossed over the past several weeks, preventing me from spending the time I should with more professional explorations.  They are both fairly dramatic departures from the author’s usual themes of mystery and international intrigue.  Ken Follet spent more than three years writing the first of these books, Pillars of the Earth, finally published in 1989.  The book covers the lives of several families in the town of Kingsbridge, England, and the building of a great cathedral.  The fictitious characters become wrapped up in some of the historic events of the 12th century, including the assassination of Thomas Beckett.

The second book I’d like to suggest is the sequel, World Without End, published in 2007.  The second novel carries the story on, two centuries later, with descendants from the first book.  The historic context is the Hundred Years War and the Black Death (morte grande)

These two books eloquently describe the economic workings of the town, the impressive engineering that was known, discovered, or invented, and the iron control exercised by the nobility and the church over the affairs and aspirations of common folk.

Both of these books are difficult to put down and can ruin your chances of getting anything else done during the day.

Have a great summer!

Another Model for Textbooks of the Future?

Screen Shot of iCueI use to write a lot about the possibilities of fully digital and networked textbooks (or what ever we’ll call them).  My ideas were largely speculative — from my own limited imagination.  But now, it seems that just about every day I run across some new web application or service that yells at me, “This is what students should be learning from today.”

The latest was brought to my attention in one of Stephen Downes’ daily jewels entitled iCue.  It describes a new product (iCue), resulting from a partnership between NBC and MIT.  From Stephen’s post:

This free online platform is targeted to students and lifelong learners ages 13 and up and features patented technology to engage students in collective, problem-solving gaming oriented to core curriculum (U.S. History, Government and Politics and Language Arts).

The basis of this site (according to the tour page) is the Cue Card, which houses an assortment of searchable and organizable video clips from the NBC News Archives regarding the current and past campaigns.  Each clip is housed in an interesting tool that wraps around it: discussion, note-taking, personal tagging, video transcript, and background information, including description, source, and keywords.  Snagged video cards are stored in a personal archive, and archives can be shared with friends.

Timeline Game
Connection Game

There is a lot of Social Network in this tool with a fairly facebook-modeled profile page and discussion forums for “safe” online conversations.  The site also provides daily “thought starters” aimed at what is currently in the news.

There are also some interesting games integrated into iCue.  Timeline asks you to select from a bin of video cards, arranging them in chronological order.  There is also a classic, Concentration.  But the twist is that the player must match videos with other videos that are related through with similar keywords.

The most interesting game, to me, is Connection.  You are given two unrelated video cards, and must connect them by selecting related cards from a bin, working your way to a connection.

It is a very cool tool related to what has become a wholly uninspiring topic.  The first video that I selected featured an interview with one of the presidential candidates, conducted by an interviewer who seemed to think that we’re all hard-of-hearing.  The questions consisted of repeated accusations regarding the candidates character, after the interviewer had expressed regret over the campaign’s inability to get to the issues.  It all seems aimed toward people who would rather act emotionally than intelligently.  ..and I’m not knocking emotion.  But I’ve also not been drawn to pay a lot of attention to this years campaigns.

I have to confess that as I started researching the candidates (at 2:15AM) for today’s North Carolina Primary, I felt more confident in the coverage by Wikipedia than just about anything else I looked at — and I’m not sure why.  Perhaps it’s because, of all of the sources I found, Wikipedia was the only site that was juried in some way.

Whispers from the Past

Picture from WELL Party 1
Picture from WELL Party 2
Picture from WELL Party 3

I’m waiting here for a Skype call from a client who wants me to talk with their art and music teachers about 21st century skills and the creative arts. While waiting, decided to scan through my aggregator and ran across this reference from Smart Mobs about two recent video blogs by Howard Rheingold, including interviews from The WELL, circa 1989. It’s a reminder that social networking goes much further back than MySpace and Facebook, that people have inhabited the digital networks for many years — since before I had even heard of the Internet (1990).

Enjoy, and please forgive me if I’m the 20th person in your social network to suggest these videos:

From the WELL:

Teaching Creativity

A recent report (Ready to Innovate/pdf) from The Conference Board and Americans for the Arts, in partnership with the American Association of School Administrators (AASA), reminds us that creativity, and integral part of innovation, is among the top five skills that will become more important over the next five years.  Yet, according to their survey, school superintendents and American business executives differ in some significant ways in what this means.

Which best demonstrates creativity?
From the Report
The table to the right (click to enlarge) compares the ranking that employers (business executives) and superintendents give to various aspects of creativity.  Yet it is not the ranking that concerns me the most.  It is the list.

Certainly this is a complex issue, provoking conversations that we have not had before — at lease during the thirty years that I have been an educator.  ..and there is value in analyzing and deconstructing something that we need to teach into component skills and observable behaviors.  It is our nature.  I do it all the time. 

However, it is also our tendency to teach a topic or skill by breaking it down and teaching its component elements.  Although this is useful, we often lose the overall message of the topic or intent and spirit of the skill by focusing in on its parts.  I hope that this does not happen as we start to pay explicit attention to student (and teacher) creativity.

One statement in the report resonated strongly with me.

Educators and employers both feel they have a responsibility for instilling creativity in the U.S. workforce (85% Superintendents, 61% employers). ((The Conference Board, Corporate Voices for Working Families, Partnership for 21st Century Skills, Society for Human Resource Management. Are They Really Ready to Work? Employers’ Perspectives on the Basic Knowledge and Applied Skills of New Entrants to the 21st Century U.S. Workforce. Research Report BED-06, 2006.))

It seems to me that one of the best ways that we can promote creativity in our learners is by demonstrating it as educators and as master learners.  Although there is value in lessons about problem identification and articulation and tolerance of ambiguity, I think that producing a generation of creative citizens will not come from lessons about creativity, but from a different kind of lesson that makes room for, invites, and values creativity.

2¢ Worth!