Learning Today: No Backpack Required?

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By Amanda Montgomery || @acmontgomery

Iconic moments.  Every age we experience as individuals carries certain lingering memories that we eventually file away over time to our mind’s back burner; yet later on these reflections tend to surprise us when they surface unexpectedly. Certainly any number of things (seeing an old photograph, listening to a friend’s story, discovering a particular song, etc) might trigger this nostalgia sans rhyme or reason.  So when planning to write about this week’s blog post for EMAC6361, inspiration much to my surprise grew by looking at Exhibit A – an odd but charming screenshot from the revered 80s classic Ferris Bueller’s Day Off


During one’s elementary education stint – is there anything really more exciting than anticipating the annual school field trip?  Although hazy, surely we all recall preparing meticulously so that we’d savor every moment and opportunity to discover new things.  By parental instruction, we knew to pack one’s backpack carefully – not to forget pencil, paper, sack lunch, and extra juice box.  Your backpack also kept the day’s collection of bountiful treasures safe and intact to bring home for further inspection.

Today, when a student begins collecting research and other educational information, field trip fun no longer requires one to tote the cumbersome, overstuffed backpack.  Instead, technology advances make note taking, bookmarking, cataloging, etc easy to create, share, and even store online.  Does learning today mean a backpack becomes obsolete?

When considering the ways knowledge institutes (i.e. K12 education, museums, etc) continue to shift closer and closer toward digital resources that expand the learning process beyond its traditional confines, understandably the archaic tools like backpacks, pencils, and paper materials also change/appear obsolete.  The Museum group’s digital showcase did a fantastic job presenting poignant examples that truly explain how education models are crossing into a new era where kiddos experience then pack information not into a traditional backpack but rather into an storage site similar to Dropbox or Zotero.org.


The advantage to bringing more and more learning exploration, or preparation time for the actual site visit, online proactively helps increase the off site activity quality especially when the previously garnered research syncs to a mobile device (smart phone, tablet, laptop, etc) and a student can then accesses that information while studying live.  Trendwise, it appears that the new school year will no longer begin when one picks out a new designer backpack by Jansport or LL Bean.  Instead the 21st century youngster will now kick off August by registering their classroom profile and sending a hello email to their new homeroom teacher.

So now the task at hand: Our K12 education research group must define a solution that aspires to help resolve a certain challenge/problem/hindrance/issue prohibiting how the primary school model enjoys innovative growth, reconstruction and evolution.  It’s entirely possible that we’ll need to merge archaic traditions/concepts like using a backpack with certain technological functions that exists digitally (cloud computing) so that the new solutions we design help not just primary education classrooms and their participants – but hopefully we also contribute overall to progressive education ideas.


Read Rheingold. Save A School.

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Amanda Montgomery || @acmontgomery

When the Pupil is ready… the Master appears…” Buddhist Proverb
This semester’s endeavor succinctly boils down to a single all-encompassing goal: Save Education.  I like a challenge.  Not so many jokes aside, a significant portion of my graduate work to date has actually been largely student-centric, a sort of Texas-based quest aiming to understand how the emerging digital landscapes can be leveraged to better prepare the world’s future work force.  And although countless articles linger as quality resources both digitally and in hard copy (taking up a room without apology in my home office space) – Howard Rheingold’s works still remain supreme… for reasons totally unrelated to hat choice.

Let’s entertain for a moment that in the not so distant future – one morning all 7 billion global citizens awake and as if by magic – sitting in close proximity neatly next to them are the following three things: #1) some type of tasty breakfast beverage i.e. coffee #2) A copy of Rheingold’s Smart Mobs #3) and a essay entitled The Art of Hosting Good Conversation Online also by Rheingold.

The above scenario operates under the idea that universal literacy exists, so if necessary will pretend the magic hit all individuals aspiring to positively change education.  We’ll also play the curiosity card here.  Moving on…

I’m going to go Dr. Sesus for a moment and offer that I don’t necessarily care where these individuals who’ve just been magically gifted the two most important works by Rheingold to date read them.  They could read them in a chair, or they could read them without hair.  They could read them on a dock, or they could read them next to a clock.  The only thing that matters at all is that they read them cover to cover, or in the essay case, page to page.  The end result?  When they’re done with these readings we will now have a significant/arguably influential population savvy to Rheingold’s teaching philosophies, applicable to reinventing the classroom space.

These symbiotic texts discuss several perspectives which directly impact a myriad of educational components such as classroom participants, curriculum, research methodology, etc; but moreover they also take care to address educational settings that both include and exclude online connectivity.  Smart Mobs examines how certain types of super-efficient mobile communication devices spread instant, ubiquitous communication rampantly. This lends way t a fundamentally new form of connectivity (in the classroom, in the home, in the government, etc) and what consequences/cultural shifts will appear.

Comparatively, the Rheingold essay mentioned itemizes several governing categories that any proactive online discussion wanting to bring about change must include.  Rheingold systematically organizes his thoughts similarly to how Washington lists the 110 ‘Rules of Civility’, and any leadership entity that wishes to impact education proactively online will benefit reading the essay.  The commandant lists under ‘A Good Online Discussion is…’ even offers an incredibly helpful check list.

Although the road to reconfiguring educational environments so that they leverage the powerful digital tools avaiable to remains fraught with challenge; each time a colleague sends over an email of thanks for sharing Rheingold’s teachings, I chant the mantra ‘Read Rheingold, Save A School’ just a little louder and my optimism that things will slowly evolve increases.  Thanks for being Howard and showing us that our educational systems can still be influential, even when they avoid the Almanac teaching tool.

Courtroom Influence in the Classroom

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“The Knowledge Game was not created overnight.  Rather it evolved, its nature and complexity [have been] refined by many legal hands over the generations…”pg 51 Information Feudalism by Peter Drahos / John Braithwaite

When considering the above, its certainly easy to offer the obvious cheap joke — Are you wondering who wrote the Book on (not love) but Education?  And then a rousing choir of lawyers would emphatically shout back … We Did!  But I’m going to argue we’re better than that.  While international legal systems have ruled on everything from approved reading lists to mandatory professor credentials, at the same time such regulations and stipulations have also mainstreamed education standards into an applicable, organized structure.  Whether the structure is fair, fully optimized, or culturally flexible are just a few deeper issues lying beyond the idea that the legal system correlates both directly and indirectly to the education system.

Drahos and Braithwaite comments offer that the whole idea surrounding courtroom parlay between Defendant and Prosecutor over intellectual property ownership indicatively leads to creating the ever-evolving Knowledge Game.  We’ve referenced a War of Words, Reporting from the Trenches, but the strategic operation to outwit the court room and prove idea ownership stands to be another matter entirely.  There are many rules, players, argument facets, protocols, and tactics at one’s disposal but even when these measures are carried out to the letter of the law – one can still loose case that their original claim fails and award will be redistributed according to the jury’s conclusions.  So when education models begin to move toward an open content exchange – what must those familiar with the Knowledge Game practice of old now do?  Adapt?  Yes but with caution – because there are still some rules that will always apply.

Consider University Press Systems – an area immersed head deep in the morphing ‘print to digital’ transition and the oncoming consequences.  When professors develop manuscripts and opt to issue a digital-only version of their work – can the accredited educational publishing houses defend their role and revenue process and rights to work with certain esteemed professors even though the work doesn’t even belong to them in the first place?

Beyond this, law school systems are also transitioning and seeing precedent change faster than ever before, now that evidence records include digital transcripts such as text messaging, tweets, Facebook posts, blog comments, and YouTube reactions.  Any ownership clarity prior to the floodgates pouring information into the open public domain now stands dilute, stagnant and complex within the ever increasing social communities the mass populous defers to regarding conversation.  Device production cost that sustains this context will also further decrease, spreading the quandary further, vastly beyond the academic sphere.  Indeed, legal minds will declare rulings and their effects will spread beyond the parties standing before the Judge in session, teachers, students, educational administrators must make a habit to understand governing legal ramifications and how their profession stands to both suffer and benefit from the case of Digital Intellectual ownership vs. Analogue claims.



If you give TJ a Moose Skeleton & Library…

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Amanda Montgomery || @acmontgomery

“Like Aristotle, Jefferson had created a great personal library, cataloged it, and then donated it as the foundation for a budding national library.  And just as Aristotle’s own library catalog, coupled with his writings on natural classification, would reverberate long after his passing, Jefferson exerted a similar influence on the intellectual underpinings of the United States of America.  He rarely receives the credit he deserves as a forefather of information science.” pg 164 ; Glut by Alex Wright

Thomas Jefferson ranks high – at least in the Top 10 – when it comes to industry leaders who I dearly admire.  We share a certain intimate appreciation for pursuing knowledge, answering to a higher calling which stands to benefit the greater good, and more importantly why it’s imperative to leave one’s ‘learning’ camp site better than they found it.

Courtesy of Amazon.com

That said – Alex Wright’s essay entitled ‘The Moose That Roared’ appropriately fits into the larger themes carried through his collective work all published in a compiled manuscript called Glut:Mastering Information through the Ages.  Wright argues that when given rabid curiosity, a 6,500+ library, and decaying Moose Skeleton– Jefferson’s efforts to find order amongst endless data significantly transcended what’s dubbed as a standard ‘thirst for knowledge’.  On a larger context, it’s logical to concur that the insatiable need to both consume and organize  data/information which students, professionals, and general society now all appear to harbor intrinsically relates directly back to Jefferson’s taxidermy years.

Courtesy 4.bp.blogspot.com

It’s quite fortunate then that as Jefferson’s gluttonous hunger for expanding education and information systematically to the masses has now become our collective gluttonous nature — that technological advancements have and continue to surpass performance expectations.  Devices such as mobile phones, tablets/iPads, eReaders, etc all exist to quench a need that stems from the fact that endless amounts of information seep into our daily experiences and engage the human senses.

We’re overwhelmed by our inherited gluttony but instead of curbing our participation, it’s more natural to yield and face consequence.  By forgoing the option to limit how much data/information receives attention – the question then becomes a matter of how and with what tools/training does one manage to stay afloat amidst the boundless data sea we’ve deemed necessary?

Courtesy of Ancestorbridge.com

Exit the Doubting Thomas / Enter the Educational Institution; and it’s exemplary cast of characters which include but are not limited to the: SuperIntendent, the Principal, the Student, the Internet, the mobile phone, the computer, the tablet, software programs and so on.  Naturally, as pattern change occurs with regard to how individual  consumes data conversely means that knowledge institutions (i.e. school systems)  must also begin to administer new learning methods in order to stay course.

Moreover to achieve ongoing success with this endeavor, fans of Jefferson’s track record might insist that it’s paramount to place an intense emphasis on facets such as quality/credibility standards, dedication to research, and encouraging open perspective.  Pairing such focus alongside digital innovation stands to offer today’s student an omnipresent, culturally aware learning environment.