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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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Reading Instruction Rewires Student Brains

One of the most exciting aspects of our internet age is the almost instant dissemination of key research, findings and breakthroughs. Though scientists always caution the public to be careful about leaping to conclusions when some intriguing analysis or research study is published, but it's tough to hold back when it comes to the field of neuroscience, a field with accelerating breakthroughs due, in part, to magnetic imaging machines now allowing researchers to see what's occurring in the brain as it functions.

Ever wonder whether hard evidence would ever appear (beyond testing, of course) that your intense instruction could physically change the brains of your students and increase performance?

Scientists at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) Center for Cognitive Brain Imaging have discovered the first evidence that a focused teaching on reading skills in young children causes the brain to physically rewire itself by creating completely new white matter that accelerates cognitive function and protects that communication within the brain.

Timothy Keller and Marcel Just, scientists at CMU, scanned children's brains with magnetic resonance imagers (MRI) machines so as to understand whether 100 hours of intensive remedial reading instruction affected the white matter of 8 to 10 year old poor readers...

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Children Who Use Technology Are Better Writers

Those of us who are highly active users of blogging, social media, and other forms of technology requiring ability to properly communicate regardless of the medium agree: fully participating with technology and communicating with others makes us better communicators.

Coming across this article, "Children who use technology are 'better writers'" seemed too broad and blanket of a statement for my taste, but it brought forth my knowing that there was an intrinsic truth to it and I was intrigued enough to poke around and discover the UK-based National Literary Trust and the report itself.

The report validated my personal belief, and reinforced observations that I and many of my colleagues have made, about what happens to someone when they're motivated to communicate with the written word, receive nearly immediate feedback on the efficacy of their writing, and strive to communicate well.

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Acrobat in Education

As I pay attention to the strategic and tactical moves of the major players in computing -- Microsoft, Apple, Google, Adobe, to name a few -- there is no question that the struggles to be the dominant provider in a cloud computing world is far from settled.

With their proprietary approach to the runtime outputs from their various tools (e.g., Flash) coupled with what they're delivering to mainstream computing with PDF, for example, it's been interesting to watch the continued evolution in tools and capabilities surrounding all of these companies, but Adobe stands out in education, especially in the area of PDF and how they've extended it to the cloud.

When I first saw a technology called "Carousel" at the Federal Office Systems Expo in Washington, D.C. in the 1990's -- which later shipped as something called the Portable Document Format or "PDF" -- I was thrilled to see a cross-platform, runtime file format that would make it extremely easy to deliver a digital document to others that would retain the formatting and fidelity intended by the creator of that document.

We know the positive results of the PDF format, right? But did you know that there have been major strides in the free Adobe Reader software that is perfect for education? 

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Open Culture: Tools for Lifelong Learners

In my post, "Are You a Teacher or a Curator?" I explored the current meme that bloggers and thought leaders aren't "experts" or "editors", but rather those of us who collect, aggregate and deliver content surrounding our passions are more like museum "curators."

Open Culture is doing a marvelous job of curating "...cultural and educational media (podcasts, videos, online courses, etc.) that’s freely available on the web, and that makes learning dynamic, productive, and fun."

Like great museum curators, they "...sift through all the media, highlight the good and jettison the bad, and centralize it in one place. Trust us, you’ll find engaging content here that will keep you learning and sharp. And you will find it much more efficiently than if you spend your time searching with Google, Yahoo or iTunes."

Open Culture is lead by Dan Colman, whose day job is as the Director & Associate Dean of Stanford’s Continuing Studies Program. Before that, he served as the Managing Director of AllLearn, an e-learning consortium owned by Stanford, Oxford and Yale, and as the Director of Business Development and Editorial Manager at About.com. He received his PhD and MA from Stanford, and his BA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

His colleague curators are Eric Oberle, a guy that provides very generous technical support for the site and Fred Hsu, the developer behind the Open Culture iPhone app, who works as a Technical Marketing Engineer at Cisco Systems to put food on the table.

What caught my eye today was a post they wrote on December 2nd entitled, "10 Power Tools for Lifelong Learners" and covers free content like audio books; courses from major universities; foreign language lessons; ideas and culture programming; "intelligent" video sites and "smart YouTube collections" and classic movies and music.

I'll wager that you'll go here and discover so much free content that you'll forever curse my name for pointing you to it! Of course, it's yet another validation point to the acceleration of knowledge, information and participative content creation that is the hallmark of our connected age and one your students will be immersed in very soon.

Kids + Broadband = Greater Opportunity

In an effort to help close America’s digital divide in broadband service, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) is proposing an innovative nationwide public-private partnership that combines digital media literacy training with discounted broadband service and computers.

The Adoption Plus (A+) pilot program (PDF) is a proposed two-year public-private partnership to promote broadband adoption for up to 3.5 million middle school-aged children eligible for the National School Lunch Program in approximately 1.8 million low-income households that do not currently receive broadband services.

While I applaud the effort, I must admit having a strong sense that this is an olive branch to the net neutrality proponent, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, than it is a pure initiative to help out low-income children.

The reason for this is the cable industry's internet "footprint" means that, in many markets, the cable internet provider is a monopoly and regulation is clearly coming. We'll see how this plays out but in the meantime acting fast to take advantage of the program is advised.

If you'd like to know more without downloading the entire (PDF), a good press release is here.

Virtual Magazines, Newspapers, Books...

When I wrote this post about the changing nature of ebooks, most of it was startling obvious to most technology players, and yet I find that most strategists are intrigued but in the dark about what's really going on with tablet devices.

Publisher Condé Nast has been very public about their preparations for the rumored upcoming Apple Tablet with Wired magazine, but there is no question in my mind that publishers are going to be hedging their bets with Amazon's Kindle and even possible reference designs (which PC manufacturer's could deliver) like the one Microsoft showed in this concept video called "Courier".

This week has seen a flurry of activity and discussion surrounding major publishers and their magazine prototypes like the one in the video below.

Will these tablets and devices ship, enabling all of these exciting and rich publications to be created and delivered on a reader/tablet type device? I have no doubt the answer is, "yes." Will there be a model for publishers to charge for their content? Absolutely, and many of us believe it will be an online store, similar to buying applications for the iPhone or iPod Touch, both of which can now take advantage of Apple's rollout of "micropayments" for, as an example, games that are enabled for the game publisher to charge for incremental play (i.e., additional levels of the game or in-game purchases that enhance game play).

Take a peek at Time's Sports Illustrated prototype that will help you see the possibilities that 2010 will bring with an entirely new class of devices, content delivered to and through them, and what this means for everything I've been discussing on this blog as it pertains to the world our students will inherit.

Regator: Aggregating the Web's Best Blog Posts

With tens of millions of blogs written by people more highly educated and affluent than the general population, is it any wonder that so many of us have identified, and read frequently, the musings and articles by this group?

Authors, academics, scientists, doctors, teachers, and those in school administrations write and publish blogs. Some of my favorites are by librarians and museum curators who have a gift at uncovering and presenting the core or essence of a topic or theme.

Is it any wonder why I have 181 blogs subscribed to in my Google Reader? While I don’t read them all, my skimming ability allows me to quickly scroll through posts and discover top ones.

That said, with the maturation of a very interesting service, Regator, I might end up migrating away from my hand-picked blogs and instead use their curated and categorized posts from top blogs…it’s that good. 

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MVU Online Learning Symposium


Pew Internet is one of my favorite resources for understanding the accelerating change we're living in the midst of right now. It is one of seven projects that make up the Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan, nonprofit "fact tank" that provides information on the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world. They produce a bunch of excellent (and free, I might add) reports exploring the impact of the internet on families, communities, work and home, daily life, education, health care, and civic and political life.

While there just now, I came across this Networked Learners page and saw that Lee Raine, Pew Internet director, is one of two keynote speakers at an upcoming symposium I've never attended. It looks very interesting and, for the first time this year, is being offered with an online attendance option.

In his opening keynote, “Networked Learners,” Lee Rainie will discuss the latest findings of the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project about how teenagers and young adults have embraced technology of all kinds — including broadband, cell phones, gaming devices and MP3 players. He will describe how technology has affected the way “digital natives” search for, gather and act on information. 

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Are You Good at Parental Communication?

Fascinating conversation over this holiday weekend with an individual who is an executive in a sizable company. It surrounded communications and collaboration in his organization during a time of accelerating change – and technologies such as wiki’s, VoIP, Twitter, social networks and more – and then it came around to this blog on Scholastic Administrator and how I’ve been driving hard the notion of the importance of enhanced collaboration in K-12 with a focus on better parental communication.

He blurted out, "What parental communication? Do you mean once a term conferences and an occasional email? What a joke. If I ran my business by letting my managers do whatever they wanted for months and then let me know if the employees under their management are succeeding or failing once per quarter, we’d be out of business! We must be able to make frequent and constant course corrections in order to stay headed down the path of success."

Not prepared for his passionate outburst, I made certain I understood what he wanted and expected. "We have in place all sorts of means to ensure that I, and my other leaders, are fully informed and constantly on top of changes and progress. From GANTT charts in project plans to Powerpoint updates to notifications by email/text message or phone calls, it's a constant stream of communication that ensures I'm able to measure and manage that progress. All I ask is that my son's school help me measure and manage my son's progress and not simply give me a login to a "portal" with grades posted that, in many cases, are too late to affect.

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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.