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Teachers and Standards- Before the Internet

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In order to cover what is undoubtedly a tremendous amount of information to sift through, our team had decided to break K-12 education down into the following 5 pillars:

1. Tools of the Trade/Hardware

2. Teachers and Standards

3. European Influence

4. Race Issues

5. Public vs. Private Economies

Regarding the above pillars, we also concluded that our research would focus on the area of public education beginning from the early 1800s… in other words, the pre-internet days of education. The particular section I was assigned to research was the one titled “Teachers and Standards.” The main question that needed to be asked was, “how have teachers changed, both in their qualifications and teaching methods since the days of the one-room school house?”

As I delved through academic journals and websites I seemed to only be finding bits and pieces of what I was looking for and it was only filling a minuet portion of my education timeline. It was only when I broadened my search to the “history of education in America” that I found what I was looking for. Among one of the most helpful websites I discovered was that of PBS.org. It seems that one must look at the changing characteristics of the K-12 classroom in order to discover what the requirements were to be a teacher during the earliest days of schooling. In other words, as the environment of the classroom changed, so did the qualifications of the teacher.

The earliest indications of schooling began in the 1600s when the sole subject taught was on Protestantism. This is relevant to mention because teachers during this time were primarily men, which later would change. In the 1800s, schoolteachers had very little educational backgrounds. In fact, according to James Carter, an education reformer in the 1820s, teachers had rarely any education beyond what they had learned in the very schools they had to teach in. Interestingly, in the rural schoolrooms of America, it wasn’t unusual to find a local farmer teaching the class. During the nineteenth century, the American schoolhouse often consisted of one-room where students of various ages would come together to be taught by one teacher. Interestingly, the singular teacher responsible for the education of these students was often an unmarried woman who could very well be younger than some of the students she taught (PBS.org). The early school curriculum consisted of few subject. They primarily consisted of math, writing and reading. Teachers also made it a point to teach young students good manners. Misbehaving in the classroom was obviously unacceptable. As the American education system progressed, teachers were forced to adapt to the societal changes as well. In the 1950s, segregation and social inequality plagued schools and created a rift in the educational system. Teachers became more than educators, they became political activists as well. At the conclusion of our timeline we find educators adapting to the cutting edge tools that are defining our classrooms and helping to pave the way for education in the 21st century.

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.

Bullying Mob

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As indicated by their name, smart mobs are not always beneficial. Lynch mobs and mobocracies continue to engender atrocities. The same convergence of technologies that opens new vistas of cooperation also makes possible universal surveillance economy and empowers bloodthirsty as well as the altruistic. Like every previous leap in technological power, the new convergence of wireless computation and social communication will enable people to improve life and liberty in some ways and to degrade it in others. The same technology has the potential to be used as both a weapon of social control and a means of resistance. Even the beneficial effects will have side effects (xviii.)

This author was ahead of his time. Inventors and creators are quick to point out a positive outlook and how beneficial the features will be for the growing society of technology users.  But the harmful and negative features are too quickly dismissed until something horrible happens and they are forced in to the light. The Internet and text messaging has enhanced the bully mob. This mob is very evident throughout K-12 grades. Bullying, never being a positive thing, was able to be controlled and handled pre-technology and Internet days, but when they discovered that their bullying could have a large online audience, it became a monster overnight.

I have learned that Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr are not bad platforms, but it is the people using these social networks that are causing these networks to become a negative playground. There was a story in the newspaper a year or so ago, and it detailed how a young man in college was filmed having sexual relations with another person. The young mans roommate had positioned the web cam on his computer to face his roommates bed, and all of this activity was streamed to the school and whoever else wanted to take a look. The young man killed himself once he found out that he had been filmed. Everyday middle and high school children are taking to blogs and social networks to post embarrassing pictures of their classmates, harassing them online and making up false tales. It is hard for these actions to be ignored when young children begin to take their own lives. As these smart mobs and bully mobs grow bigger and as technology creation moves at accelerated speeds, let us all take a moment to pause. In this moment consider the negative effects that texting a picture, degrading somebody on their Facebook page and filming them with an iPad will have on our youth. As the creator and user, ask yourself is this product really worth somebody taking their life.

An abundance of products and technologies being created will say that it will better the world and your life, but in reality is it?

Living In A Technology World

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Several years ago, 2005 I believe, I took a trip to India to visit my dad who was there on business. With the world’s second largest population coming in well over a million people, it put the chaos of NYC streets to shame. During my visit, my father and I went to see the Taj Mahal up in Agra, which was a quick commuter flight away. The plane was filled with suits and other business types traveling for work- much like what fills a Southwest Airlines flight during the weekday. In American aviation we know there are strict rules regarding the use of electronic devices before take-off and around landing time. The case was no different on Jet Airways. However, what happened as soon as the wheels hit the runway at our destination was something that I had not ever seen before. I began hearing the sounds of phones, palm pilots, and who knows what else turning on. I heard “Hello Motto” and those weird spacey chimes Sprint uses. As I looked around, the plane was full of nearly everyone turning his or her devices on, essentially at the exact same time. I found the situation to be rather humorous because I felt a sense of urgency in everyone needing to be connected to his or her devices, asap. That kind of urgency on an airplane is only witnessed when oxygen masks fall from the ceiling!

Fast forward a bunch of years to present day where this scene has become routine and common in the lives of most around the world, especially with Americans. Communication scholar Marshall McLuhan referred to this kind of media as an, “extension of man.” Just like an arm or a leg, our usage of media devices have become a part of our lives, and they are necessary to create virtual communities and the like.

In our school systems, middle and high school teachers are becoming increasingly more aware of the growing trend in technology and its presence in every child’s backpack. With rules restricting their usage during school hours, is it just a matter of time before they become integrated into coursework? When Howard Rheingold was in Tokyo, he spoke with Kenny Hirschhorn a chief strategist for a telecomm company called Orange. He told Rheingold to think of the mobile telephone as, “evolving into a ‘remote control for your life’,” (pg. 11).  He, Hirschhorn, then retrieved a soda from a company machine using his phone.

The question I’m asking here is could this kind of technology be integrated into schools, and if so would it fly with teachers? At present, most in school see a phone or iPad as a distraction during school hours. Some schools with an Internet connection block access to social media sites to prevent students from getting “distracted.” But what if select classes encouraged their usage? A class that teaches young scholars how to work with blogs and stay connected with worldly happenings on Twitter. Ask a young student who the Vice President currently is and I bet you get some puzzled looks. If technological devices are becoming increasingly more common, then we might as well teach Millennial’s how to appropriately use it and toward a good purpose.

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.


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The Problem with Ownership

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The core trouble with intellectual property discussed in both the documentary Rip: A Remix Manifesto and the book Information Feudalism is assumption that ideas can be owned. Intellectual property ideas must have a sole proprietor, otherwise, the profit could not be funneled so directly. As Drahos and Braithwaite suggest, “knowledge is not only power. It is also the source of profits in modern global markets.” (39) Large corporations rely on intellectual property revenue so they have lobbied aggressively for laws that respect and enforce their intellectual property. They have also launched campaigns to “reeducate” the public on the seriousness of intellectual property in the digital age. These campaigns attempt to persuade through “romantic notions of individual authorship and inventorship,” (16) but ultimately fall flat when carried to their absurd, but ultimate conclusions. For example, searching out and prosecuting a few downloaders of copyrighted material out of the millions that download things everyday.

In order for ideas to be profitable for corporations or individuals, ideas must be owned. This ownership truncates the history of inspiration that came before it. The fervor to patent ideas, lest they prove to be profitable in the future stifles innovations that could be taking place now. In his book Where Good Ideas Come From, Steven Johnson outlines the environmental conditions most suited for innovation. Not surprisingly, the easy exchange of ideas is a key factor.
By asserted that ideas, hunches, and inklings can be owned, we are creating an anemic environment for innovation. Education is (or at least should be) designed to breed innovation because new ideas are the driving force of our economy. However, intellectual property walls erect barriers rather than build bridges to new ideas. If we continue to patent hunches, we may find, as Brett Gaylor suggests in his film, the cure for cancer is hidden behind patents.

Eating the Bishop

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In the film “RIP: A Remix Manifesto”, filmmaker Brett Gaylor relayed a story of the first Catholic bishops’ arrival to Brazil, and their subsequent death at the hands of cannibalistic devotees. The natives were so in awe of the human representation of their new faith that they literally ate him in order to be closer to that which he represented. An allegory of something being taken apart in order to make something new.

And with that, Gaylor begins to wrap up his “manifesto” in defense of the modern remix culture, a culture that takes bits and pieces of what came before to develop something new and fresh. Throughout the film, different angles of the debate over theft, intellectual property, morality, and music are examined in a somewhat entertaining but always relevant way.

RIP begins with a profile on Girl Talk, a “mashup artist” who employs a laptop as an instrument, taking snippets of songs written and recorded by other artists and mashing them together to create new songs, or at least vastly rearranged old songs. The very appearance of Girl Talk raises numerous questions of copyright legality and theft vs. creativity. Is Girl Talk an artist or is he guilty of capitalizing on other people’s work without paying what’s due to others?

Of course, Gaylor is favor of the remix culture and against any legal means by which freedom of expression and creativity are limited. He begins his defense by tracing “borrowed” music back to the blues and follows the line through the british invasion, all the while artists were taking elements of songs and reusing them in their own songs. Blues artists like Son House and Muddy Waters took from each other to make their own blues as ideas flowed through their circles. At no time did one bluesman threaten to sue another. The music example turned more interesting when The Rolling Stones, no strangers to “borrowing” from their blues-singing forefathers, decided to sue The Verve for sampling an adaptation of one of their songs in their massive hit “Bittersweet Symphony”. They took 100% of the profits, showing their dedication to copyright laws and intellectual property were stronger than their dedication to their craft.

Throughout, Gaylor laid out his manifesto which follows:

1) Culture always builds on the past

2) The powers of the past will always try to control the future

3) The future becomes less free

4) To build free societies, you must limit the control of the past

That last point is the most important, and Gaylor spends the last portion of the film urging caution in lawmaking.

Ultimately, laws are not only meant to reflect some shared, agreed-upon morality, but they can also be used to create or adjust boundaries to reflect the wishes of the majority. Like a dictionary, which isn’t so much an authority of language and usage as a reflection and record of it, laws can and should be adjusted to reflect the wishes of and changes in a culture. Copyright laws should be written in a way that not only protects proper intellectual property owners, but also fosters creativity and freedom.

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