It’s History Now

Plaque commemorating the creation of Mosaic web browser by Eric Bina and Marc Andreessen, new NCSA building, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.While doing some research for an article I must complete today, I ran across this photo in Wikipedia.  The thing is that I remember this like yesterday, meeting with a tech guy at the Microelectronics Center of North Carolina (MCNC) in Raleigh, and his describing what this new World Wide Web tool, Mosaic, would do.  It seemed so fantastic, that I believe that I refused to believe it — something that would be used only among the most hi-tech with the fastest computers — surely not in the K-12.

At any rate, it wasn’t a year before I had it, and was already hearing about Netscape.

The Secret to Great Software

Last week, I had a unique opportunity — twice.  Lately, when I get to speak at a conference, I am usually doing just that, or only that.  I go in, do my gig, and then leave for another one or for some other type of appointment.  Last week, I was able to attend the entire AIMS (Association of Independent Maryland Schools) conference in St. Michaels, and all of the MICCA (Marylands ISTE affiliate) conference in Baltimore.

While at one of those events, I had a long conversation with an executive of an especially innovative instructional technology company, one I’ve talked about before.  Their specialty is tools that help students to express what they know and professional development that supports their tools.  They offer some highly innovative software as part of their catalog, but they do not develop it themselves.  They have a fail-proof method for obtaining the most creative and interesting tools.  They go to the U.K.

I’m not going to try to read too much into this, except to say that I had the very same experience in 2004, when I was able to attend the SETT Conference in Glasgow, Scotland.  We were in the heart of NCLB, and it seemed that two in three vendors in U.S. conference exhibitor halls were about products that guaranteed higher test scores.  They were about predictable outcomes.

What I saw in the U.K. was many more products that sold themselves based on unpredictable outcomes — open-ended applications that depended more on their creative use than scripted procedures.  Who are we paying attention to as we decide what and how we teach?  Dewey?  or politicians?

Image Citation:
Ozawa, Ryan. “Podcasting.” Hawaii’s Photostream. 25 Feb 2005. 2 May 2007 <>.

A Culture of Entitlement

DangerMy sappy gauge registered pretty high on this one! Please do not read to much into this post. I am just trying to understand why we seem to expect our lives to be so clean and safe. I’m exploring this from the perspective of an American in his mid 50s — which certainly influences my impressions.

Many years ago (decades), I watched a program on PBS about the tumultuous ’60s, the years of love, of protest, of experimentation with drugs, and dropping out of society.  It prefaced these years of generational contentiousness — the rise of the hippies and yippies — by going into our childhood, one that was almost as unique as that of our own children.  We were born of parents who had come of age in the Great Depression, survived a world war, and now enjoyed a golden American age of prosperity and a new culture of entitlement. 

Great diseases were cured.  An amazing road system was designed and constructed.  Machines were invented and mass-produced that would afford us leisure time that had only been enjoyed by the elite.  We grew being entitled to food, education, jobs, entertainment, and safety.  From the perspective of the Vietnam War and Civil Rights, we grew up believing that the U.S.A. was the greatest of countries and the golden hope of the future — land of the free and the brave and a land of opportunity.  Then, by our teenage years, we started slamming into the fact that our country was not always so great nor always so right.  We resented it and rebelled…

Yet, we continued to grow up with those expectations, those entitlements of prosperity, entertainment, jobs, and safety.  As news and entertainment have come to merge, we see so much more to be afraid of — fear and death.  As diseases have emerged, we wear blue gloves to protect ourselves from the deadly ailments that we hear about on the news.  We establish elaborate lockdown procedures, search airline passengers, welcome more police, build more prisons, ….

We hide from the problems, rather than solve them.  What are we doing to cure the desperation from which terrorism is born and crime grows?  What are we doing to understand sexual deviancy and predatory behavior?  What are we doing to treat drug abuse, greed, dominance, and a satisfaction to be ignorant and to practice power from that ignorance?  What are we doing to replace fear and hatred with compassionate and creative solutions to our problems?

Have we asked our children what they would do? 

Are we teaching them the learning literacies that they will need to solve these problems?

Image Citation:
Parks, J. “Safety Vision.” VaXzine’s Photostream. 23 Aug 2006. 1 May 2007 <>.