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Internet TV Accelerating

Tv-wall
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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Crossroads for Public Education

Fora

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.

Your Student's Huge Cognitive Surplus

Tv_guy_snow 

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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Digital Nation: Life on the Virtual Frontier

If you can shut down your left brain for a bit and suspend any judgement, the anecdotal flow of a PBS Frontline program (online only) called ”digital_nation: life on the virtual frontier” is absolutely worth immersing yourself in for a few hours.

Working within, analyzing and quantifying the emerging always on, always connected and participative world we’re living in, it’s often a challenge to stand back and take a 40,000 foot view of what’s going on and this program does a beautiful job of getting to the essence of the shift we’re experiencing.

The primary categories covered are:

  • Living Faster: Daily life in the age of nonstop connection
  • Relationships: How technology is changing friendship, parenting and love
  • Waging War: The changing nature of warfare in the 21st century
  • Virtual Worlds: The remarkable power of alternate realities
  • Learning: How to educate children for the digital age.

Each of these main categories has several subcategories that drill-down on key aspects. One of my favorite segments within the Learning category is called, "How Google Saved A School" and covers a middle school in the Bronx, NY--with the expected issues of an inner city school in a tough part of the country--that made major measurable gains in student performance (I'd tell you but don't want to be a spoiler).

The Learning section contains so many great segments that I found myself late for an appointment as I became overly engrossed in watching them. "The New Digital Divide", "The Class of the Future", "The Tech Fix", and "How Video Games Can Help" contain many revelations, surprises and realizations so I hope you go there and partake of this wealth of thought leadership and ideas.

Though many of you reading this may have already viewed digital_nation and another program Frontline created called Growing Up Online, if you haven't there is no better time to do so than before this next academic year begins.

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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Are You Preparing Your Students for the Digital World?

Digecon Having information and facts at-your-fingertips about the internet and web is absolutely critical whether you're formulating new strategies or policies, engaged in debate, require a deeper understanding of the forces driving disruption and change in the public and private sectors, or you're just trying to grasp accelerating changes and get a 40,000 foot view of trends, the free Digital Economy Fact Book (PDF) will prove useful...

...and possibly just a tad bit disconcerting when you have some context about the internet's impact and see the scope of change which has already occurred, how quickly it's moving, and that you're probably not doing enough to prepare your students for what they'll face when they graduate.

The Internet has been a major economic and social force since the early 1990s, when Internet use began growing dramatically and email became a common substitute for more traditional forms of communication. Given the changes in the past ten years in how the Internet has evolved – blogging, social networks, online video, and tagging were all completely unheard of in 1998 – more changes are certainly coming.

Consider the world your students will enter when they complete their education. Though many thought leaders describe the current rate of internet-driven technological change as exponential -- and that most of us view trends and change as a linear progression and plan accordingly -- there's no question that the tools and perspectives our students will require must change as well or they will drown in the river of exponentially increasing data or be unable to contemplate, consider or make sense of the world around them as they try to manage it all.

What are you doing about it?

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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.