New Shape of Learning & the Wikipedia

I finally got around to reading through the latest issue of EduTopia. Congratulations again to Will Richardson and a wonderful article. I was also please to see an article in the recent Learning & Leading with Technology by Doug Johnson on the Wikipedia. It was a very easy to read and comprehensive article, and it took me back to a blog post I wrote a few weeks ago the day after we changed our minds about Pluto.

I went back and did a little more research, examining the edits that were made on the article for the Solar System in the Wikipedia during that day. It was an interesting day, August 24. It opened with five edits starting shortly after 5:00 AM and ending just before 8:00 AM. Then it quieted down, as astronomers met in Prague. the announcement came and the BBC posted a news flash that “Pluto Loses Status as a Planet“, Thursday, 24 August 2006, 13:34 GMT. In less than 60 seconds, the Wikipedia article is updated with the following line of text added.

On August 26, 2006, it was decided that Pluto was, in fact, ”not” a planet, lowering the number of planets from nine to eight.

Over the next few minutes new images were added, text changed, deleted, and added, and the article changed before the world. The content was ready to go regardless of the verdict.  Between 13:34 GMT and midnight, the article was edited 90 times.

Do we have any examples to compare this to? ..any metaphors?

A relevant saying is frequently recited, attributed alternately to Benjamin Franklin, William Randolph Hearst, and AJ Liebling.  It goes

“The power of the press belongs to those who own one!”

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Textbook Exchange

A few days ago I published a blog entry entitled The Rise and Fall of the Hit — and the Textbook Industry. It was originally posted in the Technology & Learning Magazine blog on Monday. London education consultant, Terry Freedman and I engaged in a short discussion that I rather enjoyed, and am compiling here, as much for my record as for yours.

In my post, I concluded…

…So! I got to thinking. Could this happen to the textbook industry?

  • What if teachers and pre-service education students started writing little chunks of content, worthy of their textbooks.
  • What if a file-sharing network emerged where teachers could search,access, and download snippets of content from each other — world-wide?
  • What if teachers started assembling this shared content into theirMoodle sites, or someone writes an open source application specificallydesigned to become the next-gen digital textbook?
  • What if we could stop buying text books, and use the money toprovide every teacher and learner with access to the world of digitalnetworked content.

Our homework assignments would change just a bit…


Ya’ll read the chapter and answer the questions at the end!


Ya’ll read the chapter and then validate it by Friday!

The Rise and Fall of the … Textbook Industry

Friend, and fellow Tech Learning Blogarati, Terry Freedman, posted a counter-point entry the next day, Reports of the death of the textbook have been exaggerated, in which he concluded…

What pundits like Dave Warlick and others seem to relish is thesituation in which I. together with my students, can develop our owntextbook. The only thing then standing between me and the failure of mystudents would be the high-stakes testing regime that we all love tohate.

Perhaps we could replace objective examinations with some sort oftouchy-feely alternative. Using our own textbooks to prepare for ourown collaboratively-produced tests, all our students would pass. Itwould, of course, be completely self-referential, and thereforemeaningless, and potential employers and institutions of highereducation will need to do what more and more of them in the UK aredoing already: set their own entrance examinations which students haveto take regardless of their graduation grades.

Reports of death…exaggerated

Please do read Terry’s entire post. It is a compelling and important read.

Of course, I posted a reply, poking fun, but mostly trying to roll the ball back toward center.

Re: Reports of the Death of Textbooks…
Posted on 10/03/2006 09:39 AM EDT


A very good post, here. Mind-in-the-clouds,wild-eyed idealists like me would make a real mess of things, if itweren’t down-to-earth, feet on solid ground spokespeople like you. Weall need a curmudgeon ;)

I’mjust kidding about the curmudgeon thing, because you are absolutelyright. Teaching and learning that is seated in reality needs roots anda sense of authority. But does that authority come from the standards,from the textbook, from the teacher’s professionalism, or from thestudent’s skill in finding the truth themselves. I would maintain thatit’s a combination of all of these and more.

That textbooks willbecome digital, there is no doubt. That teachers produce their ownteaching materials has been happening for years. That students mustlearn to tell the difference between what is true and valuable, andwhat is not, is an imperative. The result will be a reinvention of thetextbook. I don’t know if we’ll continue to call it a textbook, what itwill look like, or how it will behave. I would hope that the textbookindustry wakes up and adapts quickly, because I believe that we needthem. But change will happen, with or without.

The bottom lineis that lifelong learners need to be able to create and cultivate theirown learning experiences, and this is something that needs to be a partof what and how our children learn.

Again, thanks for the counter-point. I do, sincerely, appreciate it.

And Terry wrote…

Death of the textbook
Posted on 10/03/2006 02:12 PM EDT

ROFL. Thanks, David. It’s ok to call me a curmudgeon: my wife isconvinced I’m lining myself up for some sort of Grumpy Old Man of theYear Award. I was, of course, partly being deliberately provocative, toget a debate going <g>

Regardingauthority: I was thinking about that too. I agree with your analysis.Also, I think the authority comes from all the other stuff we bring tothe party, eg involvement in various groups and activities, personalhistory and so on.

Life is a tug-of-war, and it’s fun, if we tug with a smile!

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Prensky in Montgomery County

Marc PrenskyChris Lehmann has posted some good notes from Marc Prinsky’s keynote at the Montgomery Tech & Learning Conference.

Here are my notes from the presentation… with very little commentary, justthe stuff that I was hearing and seeing as he spoke… Marcie and Iwere both really struck by how much his points were echoed in whatwe’re trying to do at SLA.

Mark Prensky at the Montgomery Tech and Learning Conference – Practical Theory

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Overflow for Google Earth Presentation

Several attendees of the South Carolina EdTech conference have very generously commented on my keynote presentation yesterday in Myrtle Beach — in front of a most hospitable and enthusiastic audience. A couple of the comments suggested that, like many keynotes at ed tech conferences, I am preaching to the choir, that they do not need to hear how important technology is.

Well, obviously I need to work on my presentations, because I think that technologist, more than anyone else, need to hear the message that I deliver when I talk about learning and literacy. The conclusion that I stated, both at the end and at the beginning of my presentation was this — and please forgive my shouting, but:



and I said,




I showed the picture of Martin, my son, sitting in his cockpit (sofa) playing his video game, listening to his iPod, and IMing his friends, and I suggested that if he were to reflect on his experience, and try to identify what it is that is the root of what he is doing, he would say nothing about technology. He was say that it’s the information that he sees, types into his controller and keyboard, listens to in his headset and speaks into the microphone. For our kids, its the new information landscape that they are interacting with.

I think that if technologists spent less time thinking about the machine, and more time thinking about providing a new information landscape in the teaching and learning experiences of their schools, then we may make better use of the machines.

Again, what a wonderfully warm and gracious audience the SCEdTech was. I certainly wish that I could have stayed for the second day of the conference.

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This is Web 2.0 —- this is Learning 2.0

Tracy Weeks, at PargoNet, does a pretty good job of describing what happens in Web 2.0 in her recent post about experiences at the NCSLMA conference this week.

am on day 2 of the NCSLMA conference. I have attended several sessions
at this point which discuss the use of Web 2.0 in its various
implementations in K-12 Library Media Programs. No matter how many
times I attend sessions like this I always learn something new – and
what is so comfortingnis that, from my observations, so is everyone
else – including the presenters!

For example, the last session was on using
iPods in education. The presenters were sharing their experiences and
when questions were posed by session attendees that they could not
answer, someone in the audience would pipe up with their knowledge!
This evolved into a discussion session rather than a presentation
session with everyone sharing their individual experiences and ideas –
the result being that I walked away with a much richer set of
information to take back to my schools than if I had only had access to
the info the presenters brought to the table.

Conference Conversations « PargoNet

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Something New from Pew — Web 2.0

The Pew Internet in American Life project just published a new report about Web 2.0, Riding the Waves of “Web 2.0” (pdf).  The report does a pretty good job of defining the concepts of the new web, borrowing heavily from O’Reilly (who seems to have corner limited rights to the term).

This uncharacteristically short report offers some interesting data. Still, only 8% of Internet users have created or worked on their own blog. I only find that interesting (Feb – Apr 2006). What I find to be important is that between a quarter and a third of Internet users have contributed in some way to the global network, from taking “..materials found online — like songs, text or images — and remixed it into your own artistic creation” (18%) to sharing “..files from your own computer with others online” (26%) to rating “..a product, service or person using an online rating system” (30%). We are increasingly feeling like participants in the network of content, not merely consumers. part of the report that I found interesting was a graph comparing the number of Wikipedia users, and users of Encarta. Why do people seem to be flocking to the Wikipedia?

  • Is it because of the buzz?
  • Is it because it’s new and must be better?
  • Is it because there are more articles?
  • Is it because the articles tend to be richer?
  • Is it because the information is more up-to-date?
  • Is it because it belongs to us?

What do you think?

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Session on Video Games

This article is being moblogged, so please forgive typos and awkward wording

I just walking into a session on video games, a few mintues late. The presenter, Jared Seay, just showed a commercial of a video game that allows you select your own military leader and fight wars in history. He is including information about research in video game learning. He has mentioned specifically the new James Paul Gee book (maybe it isn’t new).

Check out Gee’s 36 learning principals that are built into good games. This seems to be important and it plugs into what I’ve talked about, getting down to the video game experience, and figuring out what makes the game play such a powerful learning experience. The presenter is also talking about how the plots of tv shows are going much deeper, with multiple plots and sub plots. He’s making the connection with the Flinn affect, where our general intellegence is increasting. He (the presenter) suggests that our children’s entertainment experience is preparing them better for the types of things that IQ tests measure.

He’s now talking about Prensky’s difference between digital natives and immigrants

Play is work, and work is play!

How about helping students learn, by asking them to make games.

Here’s a new accornym — COTS — Commercial Off-The-Shelf games. He mentions Age of Empires, Civilization, Sim City, and Law & Order CSI. He also mentions Cruise Ship Typcoon, Roller Coaster Tycoon as examples of games where it’s the game play that is educational, not the content of the game. Making History is evidently the holy grail of the educational video gaming product ( I’ll have to take a look at that. This game covers much of the 20th century. Students work, representing a country, and trying to stay in power. I wonder about asking students to do something like this for homework. Then, you teach history, in class, in the same old way, but bring in student comments on various aspects of the history as they apply to the student’s country. The student becomes the expert.

Rather than embedding the game in the learning,
We should embed learning in the game.

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Why Hadn’t I thought of This

Take this
Insert a little Myrtle Beach induced imagination

and you get this…

I’m still shuttering from the very idea of it. What we’ve been screaming for for years, and didn’t even know it. It was on the table of a conference booth, at the end of one of the aisles, yesterday in Myrtle Beach. The first thing I thought, when I first laid eyes, was — an 8-track tape player!

But then, I looked more closely, and it became clear — and the ground shook under my feet. You put your old 8-track tape in the slot in the front, a stack of blank CDs in the round opening in the top, and it converts your priceless old 8-Tracks into CDs.

OMG, The Tams, Otis Redding, the Jackson 5 —– they can live again!

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Seeing Through Walls

I attended the Exhibitor’s Reception last night at the South Carolina EdTech conference. I saw lots of old friends, some new companies (mostly selling the same stuff), and some good food, even for a vegetarian. My friend, David Staton, was there in the Apple booth, and he was telling me about the new server that will be coming out with the next Apple OS. He said that there will be a wiki engine that is Ajax-based. He described it to me, and I kept seeing, in my mind, a slate. Basically, it becomes so intuitive in operation that the wiki web page becomes almost like a slate. That easy to edit, not only with text but with images — chalk in hand.

I also wandered up to a booth in the back, obviously set up by a middle school. There were pictures taken with digital cameras, a laptop computer, some cameras, and I asked the two teachers, sitting behind the table, to explain. They told me about how their classes had connected with other classes from around the world (North America, South America, Africa, from memory), and they exchanged pictures and other information.

So I asked my eternal question, that I ask teachers what are showing off this sort of thing, “Why?” No I entirely expected them to say, “Technology skills! Students need to learn to use digital cameras, and and all this other stuff.”

BUT, that’s not what I heard. They said, “To pass the social studies test!” Now most of the time, “to perform better on the test,” is also the wrong answer (in my opinion). However, I thought about this for a moment, and then asked, “So in the test, your students are asked questions about other countries?”

“Yes!” They replied.

“So you’re helping your students prepare to answer these questions, by having your students ask the world.”


To these teachers, the classrooms have stopped being containers. These teachers have started seeing through their classroom walls.

It’s moments like these that rock my world!

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An Interesting Leap in the Right Direction

In a comment on yesterday’s blog posting about the Long Tail and the future of the textbook, David Edwards linked me over to a post by

Here’san interesting twist to the idea of a personal learning environmetn (PLE) – a product called NoteMesh, descibed as…

free service that allows college students in the same classes to share
notes with each other. It works by creating a wiki for individual
classes that users can edit. Users are free to post their own lecture
notes or contribute to existing lecture notes. The idea is that users
in the same class can collaboratively create a definitive source for
lecture notes.”

I know a numberof teachers who
currently use public wiki spaces like Jotspot or SeedWiki to create
wikis for their students to work on documents collaboratively, but this
takes that a step further by providing a little more in the environment
– features akin to a learning management system – where the class as a
whole can manage the notes they make in relation to a particular course.

Derek’s Blog: NoteMesh – Collaborate to Graduate

I think that this is headed in the right direction. It’s a lot like the claim I made yesterday in my Web 2.0 Workshop, that, “if I were still teaching history, I would never make another study guide for my students. Part of their job, as my students, is to make their own study guide using the classroom wiki. Basically, their job is to take notes, share them, and format their notes so that they would become an effective study guide.”

But I think it has to go further before the “digital textbook” (or what ever we call it), makes the traditional pulp-based textbook completely obsolete. I think that the teacher who assigns reading (or viewing or listening) to the class needs to be able to empower conversation within the context of the assignment and to attach the conversation to the assigned reading. Basically, the teacher could attach a message board to any or all paragraphs in the assigned reading, so that students could collaboratively and conversationally annotate the work.

I think that it all has to be connected and it all has to be conversation.

But that’s just me.

2¢ worth

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