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EdTech Update





Two sets of predictions

The future is here. It's just not widely distributed yet. -William Gibson

Two sets of predictions about the trends that will impact schools and libraries in the immediate future came to my attention this week.

The first is one my favorite publications, The Horizon Report, published annually by EDUCAUSE. The second is a Tame the Web blog post by respected librarian Michael Stephens, "Ten Trends and Technologies for 2009." I read through both this weekend and was struck by how the reports echo each other. (Great minds think alike.) And to a large degree, the impact some of these technologies are having on many of us already. That "wackiness" factor of some prognosticators is simply missing from both these publications.

I've listed the "big ideas" along with a teaser quote for both reports. But you'll really want to read them both in their entireties. And while the Stephens is writing for public/academic libraries. most of what he says is also relevant to schools and school libraries.

Horizon Report, 2009:

  1. Mobiles "The idea of a single portable device that can make phone calls, take pictures, record audio and video, store data, music, and movies, and interact with the Internet — all of it — has become so interwoven into our lifestyles that it is now surprising to learn that someone does not carry one."
  2. Cloud Computing "cloud computing transforms once-expensive resources like disk storage and processing cycles into a readily available, cheap commodity."
  3. Geo-Everything "Geolocation technology is not new, but it is now commonly available in a growing range of devices like mobile phones, cameras, and other handhelds; at the same time, the software tools we use every day are beginning to include features that make use of geolocative data. ... tweets, indicate nearby friends ... a photo application for the iPhone, lets the viewer upload geotagged photos..."
  4. The Personal Web "...people of all ages are creating customized, personal web-based environments to support their social, professional, and learning activities using whatever tools they prefer."
  5. Semantic Aware Applications "Semantic-aware applications are tools designed to use the meaning, or semantics, of information on the Internet to make connections and provide answers that would otherwise entail a great deal of time and effort."
  6. Smart Objects "Smart objects are the link between the virtual world and the real. A smart object “knows” about itself — where and how it was made, what it is for, who owns it and how they use it, what other objects in the world are like it — and about its environment."


  1. Ubiquity of the Cloud "...could all of my data someday be stored in the cloud, be it at Apple’s, Amazon’s or some new service? Could I easily access my data from any PC, Mac, phone, tablet, etc at my disposal?"
  2. The Changing Role of IT "People skills, negotiation skills and enabling effective communication across all levels of an institution will be very important for these new IT/Librarian professionals. The days of hunching over code in a basement office may be fading."
  3. The Value of the Commons "Collaborative spaces offering access to technology - such as circulating hard drives, digital video cameras, and laptops - may soon be the norm on many college campuses, especially those with forward-thinking librarians. ... The Commons to me is much more than a physical space. It’s a community - a gathering place - a place to share."
  4. The Promises of Micro-Interaction "Library staff could use micro-interaction tools to get things done as well. Easy communication, projects updates and, of course, the excellent examples of libraries using Twitter in time and money saving ways."
  5. The Care and Nurturing of the Tribe "We have come a million miles from the 'using shiny technology of the day' type posts of a while ago to thinking about what it actually means to interact with another human being. These interactions just happen to be electronic."
  6. Triumph of the Portable Device "Banning cell phones (and the converged devices they’ve become) is no longer an option for libraries. That sign on your door with a cell phone and a red circle/line through it simply has got to go. Go take it down. I’ll wait. ... We should be guiding user behavior in our spaces with simply stated codes of conduct instead of focusing on banning technology to control behavior.
  7. The Importance of Personalization "People are personalizing their information experiences and spaces. How many years has Amazon welcomed me back with open arms, and a few suggestions for purchase? ... Affording personalized connections into the cloud might make the library a gateway to user’s data and put library resources in their view. Blocking access — Facebook? MySpace? — negates this benefit and dampens this possibility."
  8. The Impact of Localization (device geo-awareness) "It’s messy, weird, kind of silly, but speaks to the promise of what could come. I might easily find three vegetarian restaurants within a mile of a conference hotel via localized search on my device. I might tap into the wisdom of three other hikers while exploring a national park via services like “Find Twitter users near me.” This is where the privacy discussion becomes so important. We need to understand how much is too much and how much is too little (”No photos in the library! It’s a privacy thing!”).
  9. Evolution of the Digital Lifestyle "Music, movies, books, articles, podcasts, TV shows, etc are all available via various mechanisms online. Have you watched a dhow on Hulu? Have you streamed a Netflix movie to your laptop while waiting for the mail to bring a Netflix DVD? Have you purchased a digital download of a hot new album or song? Have you shared a video with your friends and family? Have you recorded your own song or story and shared it with the world? Maybe you have. I know for sure your library users (or non-users) have certainly done these things.
  10. A Shift Toward Open Thinking "The idea of open thinking is looking past the ways we’ve always done things - the ways we’ve always spent our money - for emerging, lower-cost, sometimes free and very sustainable mechanisms. Open Source Software is a huge part of this but so is the simple idea of open governance and participation.

None of these "predictions" is particularly startling. In fact, I find myself - both personally and professionally - already being impacted by many of the technologies and social trends listed.

In the next Blue Skunk post, I'll list a few of those ways, despite being a reactionary geezer. (No comment, Miguel.)

Are you being impacted by the future, now?


When more is less: culturally constructed ignorance

A Range of Sources.
Your students have been researching current diseases and they come into the classroom with information from these sources. Can you help them determine which could be considered the most reliable? Might you as a teacher have a different opinion than some parents about the validity of information from some sources?

  • Center for Disease Control
  • Newsweek
  • The bestseller The Hot Zone
  • Flyers from an insurance company or HMO
  • Personal webpage
  • Chat room conversation
  • Rush Limbaugh’s radio talk show
  • National Public Radio’s “Science Friday”
    (from Survival Skills for the Information Jungle, Creative Classroom, August 2001.)

The quote above comprises the core of one of my favorite activities I do in workshops. I ask educators how they would rate the credibility of information about a dread disease if gleaned from each of the sites above.

Most rank CDC and NPR high and Rush Limbaugh, chat rooms and personal web pages low. It's then that I ask - "Do you have parents who would believe just the opposite?" And many teachers admit they do. (And I am guessing I have quite a few teachers who may themselves trust Rush over NPR.)

One of the things of which I am most hopeful is that the new Obama administration will turn away from agnotology: culturally constructed ignorance. Especially in the sciences. While we ought to debate what scientific facts may mean, that we will stop debating whether scientific facts are actually facts.

I learned this new word, agnotology, in Clive Thompson's Wired short article, "How More Info Leads to Less Knowledge." (Thanks to Colet Bartow in Montana for the recommendation.) It's worth a read.

I am not so naive to think that just because we have a new president, the dialog about evolution, abortion, global warming, conservation, or education will become more respectful and less politicized.

But one may hope it becomes less emotional and more rational.


Little bunny books - reading despite school

As I remember the story, grandson Paul came home one day from first grade and declared that he didn't like to read anymore. Coming from a "reading" family, this wasn't received particularly well. A little investigation by his parents discovered what Paul really didn't like was reading the required materials in the reading series. He called them "little bunny stories." The happy ending is that Paul's parents visited the library and bookstore and found books more suited to his reading interests. Mostly Dave Pilkey Captain Underpants books (that his grandfather enjoys as well).

I'm thinking of this bit of family lore as I read Kelly Gallagher's e-book, Readicide: How Schools Are Killing Reading and What You Can Do About It. [Thanks so much for the head's up about this book from Dr. Joyce at the NeverEnding Search where she includes a lot of other really good information about the book as well.]

Gallagher defines:

Read-i-cide:noun, the systematic killing of the love ofreading, often
exacerbated by the inane, mind-numbing practices found in schools

and suggests that

...rather than helping students, many of the reading practices found in today’s classrooms are actually contributing to the death of reading. In an earnest attempt to instill reading, teachers and administrators push practices that kill many students’ last chance to develop into lifelong readers.

Gallagher offers solutions to schools creating alliterate graduates - one of which is reading for fun. I wish the author had a more positive view of libraries - he insists that classroom libraries best serve kids. This is something the profession needs to work on - emphasizing the school library's role in creating classroom-housed collections.

I often wonder just how much I would read if I was permitted to read only a certain number of pages per day (NO READING AHEAD), only could read things that were interesting to female elementary teachers female elementary teachers - who haven't read any new children's literature possibly since they finished their college children's lit class but even more likely, since they were in elementary or middle school themselves -  assigned, and on which I had to complete worksheets. Is it any wonder why video games look good to kids?

Paul's story had a happy ending despite his school, not because of his school. Paul didn't like reading at the time because he was a good reader, not because he was a poor reader. How sad is it that for all those children who don't come from such superior genetic stock that schools are not helping struggling readers and destroying successful ones?

Share this book, along with Krashen's Power of Reading, 2nd edition, with reading specialists, teachers and parents. But only if you care if the next generation reads more than chat boxes.