Curating A New Learning Experience

My local NPR station recently started playing talk radio all day (hallelujah!) and I have been wallowing in all the wonderful shows I used to listen to regularly when I lived in Dallas. Last month, I had Talk of the Nation on and Don Tapscott was talking about higher education. My ears perked up immediately and, though I had to stop listening to feed my toddler (pesky kids), I went back and found the transcript. It was a great interview with some fabulous comments from listeners. If you are at all involved in higher ed or education at all, you should read this interview.

Tapscott, author of, among other things, Wikinomics, Macrowikinomics, and Grown Up Digital said that our current education system is not only not meeting the needs of our students, but its failure to adapt since its creation will be its demise.

Tapscott said, “All these kids that have grown up collaborating and thinking differently walk into a university and they’re asked to sit there and passively listen to someone talking.” He goes on to talk about the new research that is beginning to show that not only do students learn different and multitask, but the very fact that they are multitasking and learning different is changing the way their brains function and grow. The students in our classrooms now learn different because of the world they live in and yet we are still teaching them the same way we taught people when the classroom was invented. We ask students to sit and learn, to be containers for information instead of creators.

It is not just that we are asking them to be passive, but we are also cramping a process that could be broad and more enriching than a lecture. Tapscott gave an example:

I was talking to a youngster at Harvard, and he said: Why would I sit there and listen to a TA talking to 300 of us, a teaching assistant. I can’t even ask a question – the topic is Peter Drucker- when I can go online and interact with a real-time Peter Drucker.

Social media allows us not only to study a topic but to interact with it. The student from Harvard correctly points out one of the major flaws in our education system. We often ignore a resource rich world and force students to learn in a resource desert: the traditional classroom. Tapscott goes on to talk about how the way we do everything has changed and evolved as our understanding of the world has changed and evolved, except the classroom. This is something I also discuss in the second half of Mob Rule Learning. We have a teaching pedagogy that has not changed in hundreds of years.

One of the callers, Mandolin, talked about her experience in college with professors that did or did not understand their students learning styles, but she goes on to talk about her subsequent experience in the work force. The problems with higher education do not stop when our students graduate. Unfortunately, one of the things that students are learning in our colleges and universities is that multitasking is not an acceptable form of hard work, even though the newest generation in our organizations works better as multitaskers.

Multitasking has had some negative connotations lately and arguments abound regarding if increased multitasking is causing the ruination of society or making us better, stronger human beings. For the sake of this argument, I want to define multitasking as a form of multi-learning. What I mean is a learner that pulls in information from many different sources and media at once, reflects on the information, and then creates new content based on that information that is then shared with other learners in an interactive way that often allows those learners to also learn and create. This is the way that true multitasking in learning works. It means using everything at your disposal to create something new in the discipline. This is what students do now and this is what our traditional classrooms are hampering. As Tapscott points out, a student can listen to a lecture on something or they can go interact with that something. They will choose the latter almost every time and so would I.

What kind of student would you rather have in your classroom? A student who comes and listens quietly to your lecture as a passive learner or a student who comes, uses their laptop to look up additional information on the subject, later corrects an error on that subject page in wikipedia, and develops understanding for the topic on their own?

Another caller talked about an interactive textbook that he helped create and Tapscott’s response was this:

…what we just heard was a teacher acting as a curator rather than a content creator. And imagine if we had this global network for higher learning, there was a platform where all university faculty and educators could cooperate together where we could reach out into the public Internet to curate a lot of this content, like some of it obviously won’t be good, but some of it is spectacular, as the caller just alluded to And you know, we can do this. It just requires some leadership.

As teachers, we should be guides and curators. This is also where librarians are essential to the process. Librarians are curators of information already. We pride ourselves on curating information so that is accessible to as many people as possible. In the learning process, librarians should be making themselves indispensable in the curation process. We can help both with the discovery of information and with the curation of the new content being created by students.

Librarians, who have experience in curating (like cataloging), can help colleges, universities, and educators to move into these new roles, roles librarians have been filling in other capacities for some time. If we are going to change the way higher education works, we will all, teachers, librarians, and students, have to work together, in true mob fashion, to make the changes needed to make the education system reflect our new understanding of the world around us.

–Jane, wrote this with a lap full of 5 month old

Balance in Writing

Last week, I read a blog post about the clinic that John Mayer did in the Berklee series. During the clinic he talked about about how social media changed his song writing and why he eventually stopped writing on social media sites.

And possibly more alarming, Mayer realized that pouring creativity into smaller, less important, promotional outlets like twitter not only distracted him from focusing on more critical endeavors like his career, it also narrowed his mental capacity for music and writing intelligent songs…

“You got the distraction of being able to publish yourself immediately, and it is a distraction if you’re not done producing what the product is going to be that you’re going to someday use the promotion to sell…I had to go through the same thing I’m talking to you about – what you have to go through – which is to completely manage all the distraction. Manage the temptation of publishing yourself.”

So, to avoid the temptation of publishing himself and to increase his mental capacity for creativity, Mayer deleted his twitter, stopped blogging, and created a strict regime for recording his next album.

Mayer’s advice to new artists as he told his own story paralleled something I have been thinking about for awhile. For a long time, I have been feeling like Twitter steals my time and thoughts from longer writing. Things I used to write in this space, I put up on Twitter.

This happens for a few reasons, the largest being that I have very little, very precious time to actually be on the computer these days. With two adorable and young sons, my alone time on the computer is almost nonexistent. Writing this post has been days in the making and suffered uncountable interruptions. I use my phone to respond to email, send Twitter updates, and look at Google+. I do not like composing longer pieces on my phone and so blogging takes a backseat, well more like the trunk, complete with duck taped mouth and hands tied.

When I do save something for a longer piece, like the Mayer quote above, it often languishes for days or weeks before I can look at it and then it is too late. I have often wondered if I should just ignore Twitter completely in the same way I ignore Facebook.

Then, last night I was reading my Twitter stream from Friday and saw this post by Jason Griffey echoing, for different reasons, a possible movement to disengage. Jason says this about the change in his writing:

What I don’t like is that my writing, thoughts, interests… the comprehensive set of my online self, really… are distributed and scattered. I was ok with it for a long time, and I’m becoming very much not ok with it anymore. In the past, I’ve dabbled with pulling things from those other networks back here, but that doesn’t actually bring any of the reasons I use them here….it just brings the content. Which isn’t always what it’s about.

Jason says that he thinks the possible solution, for him, may be a disengagement from some things, including the demise of Pattern Recognition. I understand his problem, that his identity and content has become disparate. I am interested to see how he solves this problem, as the issue still baffles me.

I think the ability to post things quickly sometimes steals my time to write longer things later. For me, this is the last outlet I would get rid of because it suits my writing needs better than anything else. I need this longer writing space, even if I do not get to utilize it as much as I would like.

Other social media sites, Twitter, Facebook, and Google+, have duplicate content between the three for me, mostly. I would love to see facebook go by the wayside. I disagree with the practices at facebook, which I have written about at ALA TechSource. I stay on facebook so I can have access to other people and events there, but I rarely check my account. I know it will not go away until people stop using it but I can not stop using it until people go away from it. It is a cycle that is hard to break. For now, I will keep my access to facebook, but I have a feeling that may change soon.

I do not know what the solution is for me or how I will find more time to write here. I think of things to write all day long, but by the time I am able to sit down, the thoughts are gone or I am simply to tired to make sense of them. As always, life is a delicate balance, and the scales are not always even. What the balance is for this space is always evolving. I know I both need and want this space, whether anyone reads it or not. I also need and want Twitter because when I do get a chance to read it, I always learn something new. Every day should contain a new thing learned.

An Almost Streamed Meeting Causes a Ruckus

Something happened yesterday that I am still trying to understand. I am not talking about the shooting in AZ. This was much less tragic in the worldly sense, but more tragic to me personally.

An open meeting was closed to me because I could not physically sit in the room, though the means necessary for me to be “present” at the meeting were available and running; it was shut down for what I think are some shoddy reasons.

A disclaimer: I was not at the physical meeting, so my knowledge of what happened after the stream was cut off is limited to the Twitter hashtag #litabd11 and other backchannel discussions.

A word to the PTB, if you do not control the conversation and allow transparency, someone else will do it for you and the results will not be in your favor. I think the backchannels bore out the truth of that reality yesterday.

Briefly: Jason Griffey set up a Ustream if the LITA Board meeting so that members not physically present in San Diego could watch the meeting. This would also have ensured that members who were currently serving elsewhere at Midwinter could have watched the discussion later. The main speaker for the section of the meeting in question was a consultant who did an analysis of how the LITA leadership works and how we can make our organization better, at least that was what I gleaned from the tweets I saw from members in the room (which sounds a topic all the membership should have access to seeing). The board voted to suspend the live stream “during this portion of the meeting” (though for the record, the stream was never set back up). Jason has the recorded section of the meting up on his Ustream channel which shows the discussion of why the stream should be turned off. The sound is a bit wonky, but gets a little better. The discussion happens about 7 minutes into the recording.

For those not familiar with ALA or the processes of its meetings: The LITA Board meeting is an open meeting at ALA which means that any member of LITA is welcome to attend and participate. LITA stands for the Library and Information Technology Association.

There were three main reasons the board and other members present gave (in the video and on Twitter) for turning off the stream:

  • The board was not aware the streaming was going to happen and wanted a chance to discuss it first,
  • Streaming is a form of communication and should be discussed because a stream of the board would be seen as an “official” communication mechanism of the board, and
  • The information being presented by the paid consultant to LITA was copyrighted and he was paid to present to the board and not a large group (aka the entire membership).

The first reason given is valid, though knee jerk. I think (and this is speculation on my part) that Jason may have tried streaming this without warning the board to demonstrate the issue at hand, which it clearly did. The issue is that we should be streaming meetings and there is some disconnect about the why and how. People do not like to be surprised by things and will frequently reject the thing, good or bad, because the surprise factor is hard to get over. Jason got the knee jerk reaction he was looking for but unfortunately it was not in favor of streaming. The surprise could have given way to a, “What a great idea” discussion, but instead it was more like a “we want the opportunity to apply some red tape to this procedure so we’ll put it off reason” which brings us to the second reason given.

The second reason was that streaming constituted an “official” communication from the board and therefore should be vetted in some way. This argument reminds me of the discussions surrounding the LITA Blog when we first began that successful experiment. The same argument was made for not having a blog. We must get over this idea that everything that is produced should be polished to a high shine before being sent out to members. The internet is a beta platform. If you blog or tweet a meeting, people expect to see a meeting, not an “official” communication platform. If you wait around for “official” there will never be streaming of anything, including open meetings. Official communication methods from meetings, by the way, includes types notes that are out up somewhere, sometimes months after the meetings itself. This is not useful, though I think in the LITA Board’s defense their meetings minutes take less time to get the membership that want to read them. I think it is about time we got over this argument and accept the way technology works. I would expect that an association whose main purview is supposed to be about technology would inherently understand the meaning of change and flexibility in technology. Let us not forget this is an open meeting, but I will talk about that later.

The last reason given, while also valid, has some major issues as well. I do not know the exact rules about who owns copyright on material created by a consultant for ALA, whether the ALA body or the consultant is the holder of copyright for that material. For the sake of the argument, I will assume that the consultant retains copyright. If this is true, than the meeting, open or not, should not have been recorded in any fashion, including blogging and tweeting. However, there was more than one person in the room tweeting what the consultant was telling the board. Those tweets, while valuable, lacked context to some degree, as Twitter often does, so instead of a valid, whole picture of what the consultant was telling the board, we got choppy bits and pieces. In the world of the internet, streaming and Twitter are not that far apart except that one is better quality. Streaming would have given the consultant a better platform. If copyright was really an issue, a creative commons license could have protected the content of the message. After all the money we paid the consultant (I assume he did not do the work for free), should the members not be able to hear what our money paid him to do? Cindi Trainor did let us know that we could receive print copies of the consultant’s presentation if requested. I half wanted to request a copy just to put it up on the internet. I think that getting a print copy of the report is a waste of paper and postage.

My main issue with all this boils down to the fact that the LITA Board meeting is an open meeting. Open. Any member is allowed to attend and I think that should include me even though I can not physically be there. If the technology exists, and it does, for me to participate with the workings of my association, though other obligations and finances prevent me from attending, why are we not utilizing them? If the board is concerned that non-LITA folks might see the goings on of our association, then put the stream somewhere only members can access it. I would not advocate that route, however, since we all know nothing that secretive happens at board meetings. For actual secret stuff, we would have to record the conversations that go on in the halls after the meeting. Streaming meetings would open up opportunity for participation, which is what LITA is always saying it wants.

My secondary reaction is one of supreme disappointment. I love LITA, but I do not always feel that reciprocated now that I am not able to physically attend all the meetings. We are the technology group for the love of all that is holy, but we rarely act like it. Some of the tweets yesterday were arguing that the governing body should not be simply reactive to what members want and my response is “Why not?” Why can’t we experiment? Why can’t we try new things? Why does everything have to be official even when published on a platform, like streaming, Twitter, or blogs, that people know are not polished modes of communication? Why not test the newest technology (though streaming is hardly new) and show the other divisions how to do it? Isn’t that one of the things LITA is supposed to do with technology?

Lastly, and anyone with a shred on internet saavy knows this: If you do not control the message, someone else will. Yesterday, the LITA Board declined to try something new for reasons they felt were valid. As a result, other people, mainly members disenfranchised by the decision controlled the conversation via Twitter, and LITA did not come out the winner. They came out looking ignorant about the thing they are supposed to know about, technology.

I come away from this sad but unsurprised. LITA continues to be the thing I give my time and energy to in ALA because I want to make it better. I want to keep advocating for a technology association that actually is a leader in technology from inside the organization, even if I have to do so from miles away, on my blog, instead of on the live stream of the open meeting of the my board.

–Jane, this post is open for discussion

Lust and the New Droid X

After being around everyone at ALA who had shiny phones with internet access and iPads, I have had some serious tecnohlust going on. I would absolutely adore a Droid X, but we can not afford two and Mr. Rochester already assured me we would have to fight for it. He was not joking, but I think he underestimates how dirty I would fight for a Droid.

The Smart Bitches, while usually purveyors of all that is romantic and full of man titty, are some very smart ladies who love their technology. They tend to choose technology for similar reasons that I would and use their tech tools for similar purposes. Sarah reviews her new Driod X phone in a recent post and loves it, because it has some great features and works as a cell phone (unlike the iPhone). This is the review I would have written if I could afford the data plan.

Thanks Sarah, for keeping the tech reviews real and the man titty fresh.

–Jane, wishes she could meet the SBs in person one day

You’re Welcome

I married a man who can be as full of the snark as I am and Lord does that ever make me happy. Today he sent me a link to a CNN article about Apple admitting their iPhones have reception issues. Really? I never knew.

The best thing about the email was that he said not even to read the article. He had wrote a summary for me which I would like to share with you.

Let me translate what Apple says here.

We have been trying to deceive you for years. We tried to make it seem like you had good phone reception by purposely miscalculating the number of bars to display higher than the actual signal strength. We have been doing this since the first iPhone but now that enough people are buying the iPhone 4 the low din of complaints has turned into a loud roar as more and more of you are not the brainwashed fanboys that market our products as genius. So, now that you have discovered our deception, we will no longer ignore our deficient hardware, which can be seen in other smartphones too, by the way. Instead we will spin this as great customer service by releasing a software update that will remove the deceptive calculation of signal strength and now you will be able to tell better how poor your reception is before attempting to make a phone call that you clearly can’t. You’re welcome.

–Jane, no Apple fanboys here

Writing in a Canyon

It seems like often when I am talking to my friend, Jason Griffey, we end up talking about the print format and how it is going to die. Notice I did not say if. I think we always circle back to this because usually one or both of us are in the middle of some kind of writing project or other and we are frustrated with the process or the medium. Both, usually.

I am in the middle, the literal middle, of writing a book and the process has been interesting. Most days I hate it, though I do love to write in general, but writing a book has been not exactly what I thought it would be. It took a conversation with Jason for me to put my frustrations into words. I should clarify that by book, I mean a print book, made of paper and sitting on your shelf. I do think print books will be with us for a long time to come but I believe their purpose will be collection and vanity printing, not for reading and certainly not for most research. Here are some reasons from a writer’s perspective that cropped up in our chat:

Writing a print book is like writing in a vacuum. I am used to immediate feedback. I have mostly written for online venues where people are not shy about telling you to your virtual (or real) face that what you are writing is amazing or absolute trash. Sometimes they tell you both in the same sentence. This helps ideas become refined and evolve in amazing ways. I am used to the wisdom of the crowd being a sounding board. Writing a print non-fiction book means you write to yourself. Your sounding board is you. It is boring! I do not like it. I do not like it with green eggs and ham!

Some days I feel like I am typing into a canyon and the only thing coming back to me is the clicking of my keyboard after it has distorted itself by time and distance. It sounds different but it is the same stuff I just sent forth. It is not a satisfying process nor do I think it is a conducive one to brilliant new ideas. As my conversation with Jason proves, I have the best ideas when spurned on by my peers.

You might argue that I am just accustomed to social media, I have ADD instead of writer’s block, or that I need instant gratification. Perhaps you are right, but I am not the only crazy person who feels this way and it is one of the reasons why print books are going to go away. And it will happen sooner than we think.

The other main reason that this process has grated on my mind is a very practical one. Most books it is out of date as soon as the first sentence is typed, let alone edited, typeset, printed, delivered, and actually read by a consumer. Add to that equation a book that involves a discussion of technology and you are in serious trouble. I am writing a book that discusses technology and I find myself being a bit more general than I would like. I am saving individual tool highlights for the appendix and in the chapters I try to be general, wikis instead of MediaWiki for example, because I do not want the reader to be distracted from the concept by the outdated tool mentioned. In an extreme case, the use of an outdated tool in a discussion could actually damage the argument if I then loose credibility for its use. For some books, this may not be an issue if the tools are the discussion (or maybe even more so?), but I am talking about the ideas and beliefs behind the tools or the uses applied to the technology, not the technology itself.

As a consumer, I believe the print industry is just not a sustainable model in its current iteration. The problems with the industry and the format for consumers are many, but this post is not about those reasons. As a writer, I just hate that I feel like I am yelling to myself about something that will be outdated by the time it is in print. On the upside, that is why the book will have an accompanying web site with new links and information. Technology to the rescue of print media!

I feel, I should, after all this blathering, disclose what I am writing because I know you all want to know so you can buy it when it is out. Vanity printing, I said, remember? *smirk* It is a book for Information Today, Inc. on how the wisdom of crowds and technology has changed conferences, continuing education, and training. It is, I believe, very exciting because the very nature of the way we learn and share is evolving. The wisdom of crowds is changing the individual.

I am shocked most days that I am writing a book at all. In my mind I think, “Holy crap! I am writing an actual book! And people might actually read the thing!” My manuscript is due in May.

–Jane, is living with her laptop until May

Flexible ePaper from LG

According to Tom’s Hardware, LG has announced a 19 inch epaper display that, unlike its predecessors, is flexible. LG uses a foil substrate instead of glass so that the entire display can be bent.

I am not sure about other people, but I immediately thought of the paper sheet that Badger shows to Mal, Zoe, and Jayne with an alert for a “rogue vessel, classification ‘Firefly’… spotted pulling illegal salvage on a derelict transport.”

–Jane, wheel never stops turnin’

Visiting With the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come

I am trying to get back into the swing of reading some of my feeds every some most days. It is a lurch and go process, but we shall see. I have trouble getting in the mood to write when I feel so disconnected from everything and I need to get motivated about writing, like yesterday.

I think I may have failed at my job of influencing Mr. Rochester for the good when this morning he informed me that he did not know who Cory Doctorow or Lawrence Lessig were, though he admitted that Lessig sounded familiar. *sigh* I read part of Doctorow’s speech given recently, “How to Destroy the Book.” His description of Book People made my insides melt in that way they do when you realize that these words are about you in the most visceral way possible.

We are the people of the book. We love our books. We fill our houses with books. We treasure books we inherit from our parents, and we cherish the idea of passing those books on to our children. Indeed, how many of us started reading with a beloved book that belonged to one of our parents? We force worthy books on our friends, and we insist that they read them. We even feel a weird kinship for the people we see on buses or airplanes reading our books, the books that we claim. If anyone tries to take away our books—some oppressive government, some censor gone off the rails—we would defend them with everything that we have. We know our tribespeople when we visit their homes because every wall is lined with books. There are teetering piles of books beside the bed and on the floor; there are masses of swollen paperbacks in the bathroom. Our books are us. They are our outboard memory banks and they contain the moral, intellectual, and imaginative influences that make us the people we are today.

The whole speech is amazing and should be a rallying cry, especially given all the news lately surrounding monoliths and their inability to see the writing on their tombstones, in the way that Scrooge saw his tombstone and then had the opportunity to change.

The truth is the music industry, the publishing houses, companies who make proprietary software (or anything), and traditional phone companies are now looking at their graves and they face the same choice that Ebenezer faced: to continue to be miserly, unloved, and bitter or they can choose to open up, be generous, and realize that they have to give and let go to grow, live, and thrive.

–Jane, God bless us, every one!

Your Current Plan is Not a Good One

I am poking my head up because I came across some posts discussing the news that Harper Collins, Simon & Schuster, and the Hachette Book Group (of Meyer and Patterson fame) will be delaying the release of ebook formats of new releases because the hardbacks are not selling as well.

Right.

This is a great plan guys. Really. I assure you that the people that switched over to ebooks are not going to plunk down $30 for a huge book when a couple months (or some Internet searching) will get them the same book as an ebook for $10 (or free). I also assure you that a large number of the people who used to buy hardbacks now have ereaders.

I am sorry that your publishing structure is threatened by technology. Please learn to move on and adjust your company strategy or you will go drown in your own bad decisions. Pulled under by that 10 pound tome no one really wants to buy anymore.

The Smart Bitches, as always, have the best response.

For the record, I still buy some hardbacks, but not to read and only for authors I really love. I collect them for my shelf and there are very few I am willing to do that for anymore.

–Jane, no longer shackled to paper

Net Neutrality Needs a Cooler Name

I have been listening to TWiT, The Week in Tech podcast, for a little while now and I really like the banter on the show. I am a couple weeks behind, but show 219 had a great discussion of net neutrality. The transcript is available, but here are my two favorite quotes:

Jason Calacanis: But for the leadership [of Comcast and AT&T], gosh how do you sleep at night knowing that you want to take something that’s been so valuable to so many. You don’t need to corrupt this, I mean you are making a lot of money already, last time I saw Comcast, Verizon and AT&T are crushing it, I mean how much more money do you DBs need to make? F you guys, greedy bastards. Really, I mean what..[ph] No, seriously these greedy mother effers (1:34:02) are going to, now they will start like oh, by the way, yeah, which level of internet service did you want, or do you, oh you haven’t subscribed to the voice over IP channel, we will get you HBO and VOIP and oh, there’s an extra fee for gaming packets and oh, you are a level 57…

Patrick Norton: It’s so scumbaggy. That’s the problem. It’s Internet – it’s the ‘Internet large ISPs Right to Take You Anyway They Can’ Act. That’s what this is all about. This is about AT&T wanting to be able to restrict VOIP access. It’s about Comcast wanting to rake it in on crushing P2P and other traffic they find annoying like video traffic. And what it comes down to is that in many cases they don’t deliver the level of service they want or they feel they are incapable of delivering a level of service the customers think they have paid for. You’ve got 16 megabits except we only want to give it to you when you are downloading one webpage at a time. Not for video, not for software downloads, certainly not for peer-to-peer. And you look at what’s going on and it’s really depressing. I mean how much money is AT&T spending on technical economists – I love that name. Well, if people actually really want to have this level of service 24×7 for downloads they would need to be equivalent of corporate account and that’s a $400 a month fee. We can’t afford to do this.

I liked that Patrick Norton pointed out that many people turn to the Internet to fill gaps in the services provided by Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T. The Rochester house used to have Comcast everything and we got tired of being fleeced by them while being provided a sub-par service. We now have TiVo and no cable. Sadly,we still have Comcast Internet because there is not other alternative in our area that doe not require a phone line.

If you would like more information on Net Neutrality and the oxymoronic named Internet Freedom Act, please do some research. Here are some places to start.


Save the Internet
: you can send a letter to your rep

What is Net Neutrality?

Daily Show on Net Neutrality (from 2006! This issue is not new!)

Internet Freedom Act (official govt. page where you can indicate your support or not)

Also, the above act should not be confused with a similar bill, the Internet Freedom Preservation Act, which does support net neutrality. Net neutrality needs a better name so that ordinary people know what it means.

–Jane, the Internet should be an equal playing field