All Those Moments

Future Search from Petitinvention

From a July 2008 blog post on petitinvention about visual information search in the future.

I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the darkness at Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time like tears in rain. Time to die. ((Fancher, Hampton, and David Webb Peoples, Script. Blade Runner. Dir. Ridley Scott.” Perf. Hauer, Rutger. 1982, Film.))

Blade Runner, 1982


Some times I feel like Roy, the dying replicant (robot), lamenting the loss of one soul’s experiences — what sites he’s seen. We’ve been witness to some pretty amazing sites in just the last few years, and they have been both tumultuous and exhilarating.

We have been a part of a dizzying array of advances — and yet, change has been just slow enough that we do not see it nor do we think that much about it — amongst our every day endeavors. Of course, this paradox shouldn’t surprise us considering that as my country works hard to overhaul its healthcare system, and the world grapples in Copenhagen, to rein in global warming, what holds our attention is the infidelities of a professional golfer.

That said, I feel it is important that we, during this holiday season, be reminded that in the year 2000

  • You were probably still running Windows 98 on your PC, or OS 8 or 9 on your Mac — on which you were still using Hypercard.
  • If you used a laptop, you had to plug it into the Internet — and often through a telephone.
  • E-mail was still THE killer app because there was no MySpace.
  • To twitter was “to make high-pitched sounds, as of birds.”
  • There was no Firefox, no Flickr, and no Facebook.
  • The hottest thing going was Napster and the hottest MP3 player was the RIO, from Diamond Multimedia, with 32Mb of audio storage to brag about.  (that’s 1/2000 that of today’s iPod Touch)
  • Some of what’s happened since 2000 has not been that noticeable, such as genetically engineered corn and applications of nanotechnology.
  • Some of it, we should have noticed more, such as our exploration of the Saturnian system, and skid marks left on the surface of Mars — and most of our textbooks still call Pluto a planet.
  • The software that you used came in a box with a paper manual — and you most likely paid for it.
  • PDAs had a stylus.
  • No one had a Blackberry or iPhone, and
  • If you owned a mobile phone — it was just a phone.
  • You weren’t blogging and if you maintained a web page, it was with Dreamweaver or Microsoft Frontpage.
  • ISTE was NECC and NECC was in Atlanta, and we don’t know what was hot, because we weren’t blogging it.
  • We were not worried about China and India, and we’d just gotten through Y2K with hardly a hitch — thanks to people from China and India.
  • Yahoo! looked like this

    Yahoo in 2000

  • looked like this in 2000

  • My web site looked like this

    Landmarks for Schools in 2000

  • ..and Google pretty much looked the same that it does now.
  • Wireless Internet, iPhones, and traffic-displaying GPS would, to many, have seemed “indistinguishable from magic.”

    What, that we would call astounding (magical) today, may we take for granted ten years from now — and how prepared will the students attending our classrooms today be for that future?

  • If you were teaching in 2000, then you remember a sense of professional pride, which has been stripped away for political gain.

    In 2000, society’s most critical endeavor, education, had not yet been usurped by amateurs in Washington, and driven decades in the wrong direction by people who saw no further than the industry-modeled classrooms they’d attended decades ago.

What will 2010 bring? In the next few days, I’ll tell you…

Opening up the Networks to Learners

Brenda had promised that travel would be scaling back after last week in Edmonton — and when you look at the calendar, it certainly looks that way.  I just didn’t know that I’d be headed back up to Canada just barely more than 24 hours after landing from Alberta on Saturday.  It’s OK, though, because I have been looking forward to my work in Windsor (Greater Essex County Schools), because it will be a small part presentation and then a lot of conversation about achieving classroom 2.0 within 1.0 structures.

iPod Touches are an established part of learning at North Rowan School in Salisbury, North Carolina

I know that one of the planned actions is to open up a layer of WiFi in their schools (not sure if it’s all schools) that will be available to students and the devices they bring to school with them.  I’ve had several conversations with Essex ed tech guy, Doug Peterson, about this in the past and have been intrigued by the concept.  But while in Edmonton last week, Sid de Haan, one of the ed tech consultants with the Edmonton Public Schools told me about one high school where they’d done the same thing.  They also established a portal for their students — and I wish I had asked more questions about it.

What got me to thinking was a few statistics Sid shared with me from the first day of the launch.  At the beginning of the school day, 800 devices were already logged into the portal, accessed through the student-ready WiFi.  At lunch, it was up to 1,200 — out of a total enrollment of 2,000.  He said that they were using laptops and a lot of iPod Touches.  He also said that there were a surprising number of netbooks, that parents had bought for their children, in anticipation of the new wireless service.

Of course you’d have to examine much more data on the usage of this student-ready network to draw any hard conclusions.  But I get the feeling that, given access, most learners will find a way to jack in.  Many of them were on Facebook, I’m sure.  Many were other places that were not strictly curriculum aligned.  But we do not control the verbal conversations that students have outside of the classroom and class periods, we shouldn’t require controlled conversations through the networks — within reason.  If it were me, I’d still have some filtering going on.  But I’d open things up to most social networking services, and perhaps even set up a body of students and teachers to manage what gets filtered and what gets released.

Here’s a question. if students are bringing their own network devices into their schools and classrooms, are the schools responsible/liable for what they access?  Anyone know?

In a similar conversation with Sandra Gluth, another ed tech consultant in Edmonton, I learned about another school where a corner of the building exceeded within the reach of the wireless service of a nearby apartment.  When I was in school, we had the smoke-hole, a place on campus where smokers went to puff their cigs.  Today, they gather in an opportune spot, to tap into the networks.

Is Starbucks Killing Community?

Flickr Photo “Starbucks – makes da people – come together!” by Andre A

I frequently find myself awake at 3:00 in the morning and unable to get back to sleep.  However, I never have trouble getting to sleep at 10:30 in the evening.  It usually takes about three pages of whatever print-based fiction I have going (Terminal Experiment by Robert J. Sawyer).  But last night was an exception, when Brenda mentioned an Associated Press article that she kept running into on Sunday.  “What’s the true cost of a Starbucks Latte?” describes a book by Temple University professor, Bryant Simon. ((Matheson, Kathy. “What’s true cost of a Starbucks latte, author asks.” Associated Press 27 Sep 2009: n. pag. Web. 28 Sep 2009. <>.))  (Wonder if I’d sell more books if they were authored by Warlick David?)

The book, Everything but the Coffee: Learning about America from Starbucks, seems to be saying that you won’t learn about America in a Starbucks, because no body’s talking.  WiFi is a particular target for Simon, implying that people go to Starbucks to surf the Net, and if not merely to treat themselves to a multi-syllabic beverage, carry a status symbol, or relax in a buffered safe haven away from home — leaving no room or attention for the civic discourse that use to happen at funding depleted libraries and other public spaces.  The article states, “…that Starbucks, a private corporation, has enriched itself in part by taking advantage of Americans’ impoverished civic life.”

I think that’s a little overboard.  I told Brenda that there are slow times when many of the people at the Starbucks I write at are sitting alone at tables, tapping at their laptops.  But that’s the exception.  Most of the time the room is loud with conversation, and, from time to time, I find myself drawn into discussions with others about a variety of issues.

But even though I find myself feeling a bit defensive about Simon’s researched position, I am also sympathetic to his concerns.  I’m certain that a case could be made that we are even more engaged in civic conversation today than ever before, because of our increasingly ubiquitous access to a global digital community.  But I find it too easy and appealing to connect exclusively to people who agree with my world view.  Engaging in conversations within like-minded communities might even lead me to feel so passionately about my positions that I could become less sensitive to the positions of others on the occasions that I find myself in contact with them, behaving with less civility than I should.

The problem is not the Internet, WiFi, or even Starbucks.  The problem is us.  We simply need to learn and embrace the fact that NOTHING IS SIMPLE.

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