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The Internet Archive

While at a meeting in the Golden Gate Club building in the Presidio in San Francisco, I was gazing directly at the headquarters of the Internet Archive, housed in Building 4. My mind kept wandering to the incredible resource that was created and delivered within that structure and knew I had to go there right after my session was over.

So you have an appreciation of why I was so compelled to go there and the resource the internet archive represents, a little background is in order and they describe their mission on their ’about’ page:

Libraries exist to preserve society’s cultural artifacts and to provide access to them. If libraries are to continue to foster education and scholarship in this era of digital technology, it’s essential for them to extend those functions into the digital world. Many early movies were recycled to recover the silver in the film.

The Library of Alexandria - an ancient center of learning containing a copy of every book in the world - was eventually burned to the ground. Even now, at the turn of the 21st century, no comprehensive archives of television or radio programs exist. But without cultural artifacts, civilization has no memory and no mechanism to learn from its successes and failures. And paradoxically, with the explosion of the Internet, we live in what Danny Hillis has referred to as our “digital dark age”.

“The Internet Archive is working to prevent the Internet - a new medium with major historical significance - and other “born-digital” materials from disappearing into the past. Collaborating with institutions including the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian, we are working to preserve a record for generations to come.

This 501(c)(3) non-profit was founded in 1996 and the volume of digitized content is quietly being amassed by the volunteers and staff dedicated to what many of us believe is one of the most worthwhile endeavors for future generations. 

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How Much Data Do We Consume?

How much data and information do we in the U.S. consume? What kind of data is it? University of California, San Diego (UCSD) researchers asked these, and many other questions, in a just released research report (PDF) which contains stunning results.

My emphasis from their executive summary: "In 2008, Americans consumed information for about 1.3 trillion hours, an average of almost 12 hours per day. Consumption totaled 3.6 zettabytes and 10,845 trillion words, corresponding to 100,500 words and 34 gigabytes for an average person on an average day. A zettabyte is 10 to the 21st power bytes, a million million gigabytes. These estimates are from an analysis of more than 20 different sources of information, from very old (newspapers and books) to very new (portable computer games, satellite radio, and Internet video). Information at work is not included."

That's a lot of data! What impressed me about their findings was that they took in to account multiple source inputs since, as I've found, many of these research studies focus on the new, internet-centric data consumption as though traditional forms of data delivery (the "old" above) are suddenly irrelevant.

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One More Example of Knowledge in the 'Cloud'


Yet another major launch has occurred in the area of educational video and this time it's intended for free educative content in the form of online lectures to citizens of local communities and beyond. 

PBSNPR and WGBH have announced the launch of the redesigned Forum Network (forum-network.org), a national digital media lecture service and website. As they state in their press release about it, "Public stations across the country are working in collaboration with local mission-driven community organizations, and cultural and educational institutions to produce free online lectures that educate, inform and engage people in ideas, cultural diversity, and compelling issues of our time."

Describing the content they state, "The updated Forum Network site features thousands of high quality lecture videos and audio downloads by some of the world’s leading thinkers, scientists, policymakers, artists, authors, and community leaders. It incorporates social networking elements that enable audiences to exchange ideas and content through time-coded commenting, discussion threads, media rating, and sharing tools. Closed Captioning, transcripts, and slides are also available for select videos on the Forum Network."

Laudable effort and I'm a sucker for this stuff. In fact, there is so much free, substantive and amazing educational content available on the 'net right now that I could easily spend eight hours a day doing nothing but watching internet video and listening to great podcasts.

Here's a prime example of content I'm interested in (as you should be as an educator) and has several key thought leaders in one venue, hosted by New York Times personal technology columnist David Pogue, who takes a look at how reading and books will be experienced in the future. Steve Haber of Sony, Neil Jones of Interead, and Mary Lou Jepsen, founder of Pixel Qi, showcase new technology. Digital librarian Brewster Kahle and Jon Orwant of Google add a big picture perspective on how digitization may change everything. This session also features a musical interlude by Pogue.

Internet TV Accelerating

I can see the future of TV and it's internet delivered. The promise of global, on-demand access to video content means that every one of us, and specifically every classroom teacher, will be able to call up and show virtually any video desired and instantly augment whatever is being taught. 

Case in point: as a lay student of physics, I've always been fascinated by physicists focused on the quantum realm and often find myself laboring over passages in their books trying to fully understand concepts being laid out. Finally feeling confident in my understanding of the potential implications of the double slit experiment, I was explaining it to my sophomore son who said, "Dad, I know that since we watched a Dr. Quantum video that explains it."

He then explained the concept and subsequently showed me the animated video on YouTube and I was stunned how, in five minutes, the concept was explained so well that even I, someone who'd thought he fully understood it for many years, reset my own understanding of this concept and subsequent explanations!

It's hard not to take for granted the rapidly increasing innovations in internet TV coming to market, but even I am surprised by how quickly the internet TV space is changing. I'm closely watching internet TV technologies and business models since video delivered on-demand in this way holds major promise for education and the future of learning.

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The Future of TV is Here Now


Imagine you could deliver district-wide access to videos, audio or photos on your own servers or, more importantly, pull them in from virtually any website that offers them across the internet, and your teacher, student or staff access to them was as easy as changing the channel on a TV? 

What if, for example, you could have a history teacher be connected to other history teachers around the country or world and each could see the videos, audio or photos that the other teachers had selected as favorites, were actually viewing at the moment or had flagged as "recommended?"

The future of TV on the internet isn't hundreds of websites for videosharing that you, your teachers or staffers have too bookmark or try to remember, or video content spoon-fed to you by some TV network, an educational cable channel or organization aggregating video for classroom use, but instead the future is comprised of a big internet pipe into the school, fast network in the building, coupled with media center offerings that will place you directly in control of the video content delivered to the classroom (or for yourself at home over your broadband internet connection).

This future is here today, albeit it's a bit rough around the edges (software wise) and because there are forces at work who see it in their best interest to derail this utopian future. Still, if more of us wake up and take advantage of the wealth of free content and great open source software, our collective demand will shape the future of internet TV. 

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Crossroads for Public Education


This weekend I carved out some time to watch one of my favorite internet TV sites, FORA, and came across this video of a presentation given at the Momentum Conference by John Stocks, described in his bio as "a national leader in the fight to transform America's public schools. Since 2003, he has served as a top-ranking official of the 3.2 million-member National Education Association, the nation's largest union, with a $330 million budget and 555 staff. As NEA's Deputy Executive Director, Stocks spearheaded NEA's top policy, political, and membership priorities."

A few things struck me and these are why I'm embedding the video for your viewing:

  • Mr. Stocks describes two approaches: one upholding the status quo and the other creating a new "transformative architecture for public education"
  • Up until two years or so ago, there would've been NO way that I'd have been able to see this content since video sites didn't exist and I certainly would've been unable to share it with you so easily
  • I watched this on my HDTV since I have a Mac mini hooked to it, a bluetooth keyboard, and used the open source Boxee to watch the videos contained within the Fora.tv video feed which again, would not have been easy even two years ago 
  • In the video I've embedded below (at the 7:52 mark), Mr. Stocks covers the attributes of the "new architects" and his points are central to his argument on transforming education and what the teacher's union members must do to "change who we are."
The lens through which I view this tranformation and rearchitecting is admittedly a technology one, but systemic technology is out there just waiting for you to decide to move forward and take advantage of it, much of it already covered here in Accelerating Change.

'TeacherTV' Makes a Huge Impact on Your Network


No question that video has become one of the most important communication mediums on the internet over the last couple of years, especially when you see statistics like these which show YouTube surpassing 100 million viewers as of March of this year. Unfortunately, most of us only focus on the positive aspects of internet video without a strategic perspective on all of its impacts, both positive and negative, especially where video's impact on your network is concerned.

So often I've observed incredibly positive classroom impact through the use of video (which I call "TeacherTV") that runs the gamut from accessing historical pieces, topical videos that augment curriculum, Skype use in the classroom, and live events with streaming video delivery such as President Obama's recent speech to our nation's school children.

The other positive aspect is you, your teachers or staff self-publishing videos (for either internal or external use) through any of the dozens of video hosting sites, many of which offer free accounts. While this certainly makes a positive impact on communicating both externally and internally -- and is a use I've been promoting here on Accelerating Change for some months -- there is one aspect many leaders aren't considering strategically and that's the use of video and its huge impact on your network resources. 

Are you considering the growth in video use and its impact on your network capacity and performance? If not, you need to undertake a network capacity analysis immediately and create a plan to address the accelerating growth of downloading and uploading video before your network grinds to a halt and mission-critical use stalls. 

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Your Student's Huge Cognitive Surplus


As I grew up, my sisters and I would spend a week or more every summer at my grandparent's house in Moorhead, MN, a small town adjacent to Fargo on the border of Minnesota and North Dakota. Though we enjoyed exploring a few block radius around their house and hanging out with the handful of kids in the neighborhood, boredom was our constant companion and our default activity was watching TV. 

My grandmother constantly tried to engage us in activities, give us work to do or by simply giving us the boot to go outside and play. Her favorite phrase was always, "an idle mind is the devil's workshop" and she used it as an admonishment when we were unwilling to play cards, games, read, or otherwise do anything she saw as "productive" as we preferred to sit in front of the TV when bored.

As a "TV kid" growing up in the 1960's, I've been fascinated by how my own behavior has shifted over the last 25 years to an ever-decreasing amount of TV watching (as my book reading, and now internet use, has skyrocketed). The most stunning thing, however, has been my children's near complete disinterest in TV as they instead are entertained online through streaming or downloadable media, or by connecting with their friends in social networks or via social media tools or yes, reading.

They're also participating online with blogging, finding fun stuff to post on Facebook, joining groups, and on Twitter. It's this participation that is also causing them to drive more toward self-publishing and media creation activities which, in turn, is the catalyst behind them learning about new media creation tools.

This was why I was paying very close attention to one of the most intriguing concepts that came out of last year's Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco: Clay Shirky's description of television as a "cognitive heat sink" dissipating thinking that had to go somewhere:

Starting with the Second World War a whole series of things happened--rising GDP per capita, rising educational attainment, rising life expectancy and, critically, a rising number of people who were working five-day work weeks. For the first time, society forced onto an enormous number of its citizens the requirement to manage something they had never had to manage before--free time. 

And what did we do with that free time? Well, mostly we spent it watching TV.

We did that for decades. We watched I Love Lucy. We watched Gilligan's Island. We watch Malcolm in the Middle. We watch Desperate Housewives. Desperate Housewives essentially functioned as a kind of cognitive heat sink, dissipating thinking that might otherwise have built up and caused society to overheat.  

Where is that cognitive surplus going and why should you care?  

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WordpressTV: An On-Demand Learning Resource

Open source software has continued to grow dramatically over the past several years and the social publishing platforms like Wordpress have been embraced by millions due to an increase in features, functions, themes and capabilities. Add to that the free, hosted platforms like Wordpress.com, along with one driven by Wordpress called Edublogs, and you can see why the growth continues unabated.

What’s stunned me about the Wordpress community, however, has little to do with the raw platform or the number of people using it, but instead on the groundswell of “how-to” videos that have sprung up at a new Wordpress offering called WordpressTV. Everything from creating a post to developing a theme is covered, and all of these videos are predominantly built by the community, rather than anyone directly affiliated or employed by Wordpress.

Much of the spark for the creation of these how-to's come from passionate and gifted users, but also when needs are identified as like-minded users congregate WordCamps.

WordCamp’s are unconferences, set up and delivered for free by anyone (or group) interested in hosting one in their city or state. Larger ones, like the recent WordCamp San Francisco, was attended by the young founder and “rock star” of Wordpress, Matt Mullenweg, and since many of us cannot attend these events, users shot videos, uploaded them, and added them to a new WordpressTV area called ”WordCampTV”, enabling anyone to see them immediately upon posting like this highly sought after one by Mullenweg called State of the Word:

The lessons? That it is easier than ever to provide high value information to a narrow or a mass audience. Not only with videos taken with inexpensive cameras, but screencasts or podcasts too. The other one is the rapid growth of a critical mass of on-demand learning products, even if they're free, community generated or paid.

Wordpress' video capability also got a boost recently when they delivered an all-you-can-use, $59 per year, HD video offering that delivers video like the one you see Matt Mullenweg in above. This sort of seamless and easy creation, uploading and delivery--for a laughingly low cost--is the catalyst enabling a passionate community to deliver learning to others.

Is Teaching the Use of Mass Media Now History?

Historybooks Anyone paying attention to the death rattles of traditional media industries like newspapers, television, radio, magazines and others, can easily see that all the excitement and activity is online and we should be teach our students to turn their eyes toward the glowing screen and away from ink on dead trees or static programming.

Or should we?

People in these traditional media industries decry the "real time web" and what some term the mass hysteria caused by services like Twitter. Others perform analysis and come out with research reports like this one from Nielsen, the traditional media (and increasingly new media) measurement firm.

At the annual What Teens Want conference in New York, The Nielsen Company presented How Teens Use Media (PDF) which argues once you look past the hype - American teens are not as alien in their media usage as you might expect.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in Accelerating Change are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.