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Olena {The Wizard} Shmahalo (29)
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Immortal since Aug 5, 2009
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    This is the Internet, you type in what you want and hit enter.
    There's a general widespread anger about education lately, and not only that but the anti-intellectualism, the "blissful ignorance". Public education isn't accomplishing what we need it to; curiosity and experimentation are being killed off in favor of standardization, which doesn't even necessarily lead to real learning.

    "Democratic nations ... will cultivate the arts which serve to render life easy ... they will habitually prefer the useful to the beautiful, and they will require that the beautiful should be useful."

    — Alexis de Toqueville, in "Democracy in America"

    Utility is good, but when it gets in the way of creativity (which can lead to revolutions naturally) it can be a problem.

    ((Image related; crap (well-intentioned as it may be) like this fills classroom walls.
    I think I would have been a lot more interested in math during school if it somehow pertained to my curiosity, rather than required because "EVERY JOB NEEDS IT" ... I knew that, as an artist, I would hardly need higher maths. I was sort of right, but now that I'm out of school I regret my former disinterest, not because of my JOB, but for my life... for my mind, for what I could do with it, intellectually & creatively.))

    I feel it's the same (as Alexis described) with education; that is, because public school teachers are to cater to many students at once, the curriculum is instilled and this is not to make geniuses of any of us, but to create a well-behaved populace who knows just enough to "succeed", work a job, and know just enough to get by. I've heard a lot of complaints from smart kids who feel they're being ignored (especially lately, with cut backs in higher placement programs and honors classes — there is even one case currently in Philadelphia where the school board is attempting to cut Chemistry and Physics; the regular sort, not even honors or AP.) because the institution "panders" to the "average" student who just wants to pass the test and GTFO.

    There is nothing wrong with having non-educational interests or pursuing a "regular" life; it isn't that everyone should be under the pressure of trying to become a genius, but I think it's a sad state when higher ambitions are almost discouraged — that we are pressured, instead, into shooting for average because the ones who don't are singled out as "nerds" or "think they are better than everyone else" or what have you.

    Anyway, this clip from "Isaac Asimov on Bill Moyers World of Ideas" is absolutely beautiful, & addresses many of these issues. Isaac talks about how the internet will (& has; he was speaking in '88) revolutionize personal learning.

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         Tue, Feb 9, 2010  Permanent link

    I've been recently entertaining the idea of working on a completely online, open source/democratic, free, and non-school guided education infrastructure which keeps the goal of teaching focus on certain subjects, but adds things which school misses entirely (And seemingly on purpose) like actually teaching, say, how to focus in the first place. You seem like someone who'd be able to help me out with something like that, you down? It'd take a hell of a lot of commitment but that's what building a team is for, yknow?

    There is nothing wrong with having non-educational interests or pursuing a "regular" life; it isn't that everyone should be under the pressure of trying to become a genius, but I think it's a sad state when higher ambitions are almost discouraged — that we are pressured, instead, into shooting for average because the ones who don't are singled out as "nerds" or "think they are better than everyone else" or what have you.

    I'm under a strong impression that this works the other way around, too, though. That is, the stupidest thing that nerds do is condescending the stupid, since that's how they got stupid in the first place - Nobody ever gave them a chance so now their whole life is them versus what they don't got (all sorts of "jonesing" is also a problem which society has that needs to go). They feel threatened by the hierarchical culture of intelligence and then the nerds get it fed back to them by schoolyard bully types. Both parties are about equally guilty with this bullshit, and there needs to be a balance put in place. Best thing you can really do is make yourself an example of that balance, though, and there is an emerging culture around that which I'm noticing!
    weather     Thu, Feb 11, 2010  Permanent link
    I also found this interesting, though sometimes off topic:

    Thank you for the post, I also feel frustrated by this, being a creative person having grown up in a purely academic public school system.

    Our social system seems to value certain paths of knowledge than others. This hierarchy will never serve our evolution. It seems to be a kind of looped feedback cycle where we educate only to perpetuate our current model of society with the illusion that this is somehow ideal.

    Olena     Thu, Feb 11, 2010  Permanent link
    Dmitri —
    this sounds like a fantastic idea!
    You know what, actually I am graduating next year and I need to have some kind of senior project idea, which I would work on with a professor. I have NO idea what to do, but now that this thing is at my nerves so much (education, also women's place in it: I am not a "feminist" really, but I always hear that women are hardly in "higher" education as opposed to just going to school for the hell of it, or for something supposedly "easier" like Humanities.) I think it would be a really worthwhile thing to start working on.

    I made this blog post about the same topic, about that stupid Math poster. I wish we could do something about this, and I'm not sure of what YOUR idea is entirely, but yes! I'd be willing to work with you.

    Also totally agree with you on the last part; we need to be open-minded. It's absolutely the worst thing when intelligent people are condescending.

    Weather —
    Yeah! I watched that guy a while ago, that was a really good speech.

    This all reminds me of the Charles Dickens (I believe) novel set during the Industrial Revolution in England; there was a part where a teacher is scolding the little children for thinking it's ok to have things like horses or flowers in the wallpaper.
    Such a good metaphor for what this revolution has done.

    Your last paragraph hits the spot, hope you don't mind if I quote you.
    meganmay     Thu, Feb 11, 2010  Permanent link
    I support the Dmitri Olena School for the Curious. Down with off the shelf education. Education in itself is also a horribly condescending word.
    weather     Fri, Feb 12, 2010  Permanent link
    Your last paragraph hits the spot, hope you don't mind if I quote you.

    please, by all means...I even corrected the spelling!
         Fri, Feb 12, 2010  Permanent link
    Weather - It seems that schooling's relationship with money is a broken one. The corporate presence in schools and that interference is something that's well-noted. Schools are in place to model people into a certain type of person, and this interference seems like it's pretty well-suited to suit the ones funding the whole thing. To me, the paths of knowledge you're talking about all seem to be pointing towards ones that are advantageous to those who make more money (The hierarchy).

    Olena - I'm not sure what my idea is entirely, either. I guess the first thing to do is to set a more exact scope for this - Widely, the idea I've got is something that covers everything school is supposed to, as a workable alternative that surpasses the teaching potential of the current public education system on many levels. This means something that people will want to go to instead. It's one which avoids certain aspects of school that are demonstrably faulty and non-conducive to learning potential, while adding aspects which current schools do not take advantage of. A project like this would also have to include a target audience, and that's something which would have to also be discussed as part of the scope. Multiple volunteers with a wide range of creative skills would have to drop a lot of time into this, and a focus on creativity would also have to be present for way to many reason to list without digressing heavily.

    The school systems in place already have options to migrate whole courses into the online realm. This raises another question, is the concept of a linear "course" a good thing or can we break it down and think of something that works better? I'm thinking that a lot of experimentation would have to be done with this, but where's some experimentation which has already shown a lot of potential? I'm sure a lot of already existing alternative schools have a lot to offer in terms of inspiration - The open source/democratic aspect, non-linearity, and creativity aspects of this growing idea certainly have their antecedents in currently implemented alternatives which have decades of history behind them.

    Really, though, I think that just 2 properties that would make such a project a success would have to be that it holds attention better than school, and yet teaches better than school.
    nagash     Sat, Feb 13, 2010  Permanent link
    damn, I'm late in the party 0_o

    I read this post on RSS days ago and I thought to reply with the same TED video Weather linked - yes, everybody here saw it anyway, but it's still one of my favorites talks...

    I'm flying to Madrid tomorrow – gonna escape Brazilian carnival – and I'll probably be away from the intertubes for a week. but let me just say that you can count me in on this revolution army. I have been working with education for 5 years now and I really have A LOT to say on this subject.
    please wait for me, k? ^_~
    TheUndying     Tue, Feb 16, 2010  Permanent link
    I'd love to somehow track this conceptual project Dmitri and Olena have in mind.

    Experiments like the Meyer-Briggs personality test are direct evidence to the notion that each individual human has their own process of learning, as well as the material that they want to learn; and we all agree that current curriculum is horribly flawed in the sense that it isn't accessible to each of our personal learning styles. Linear courses just might be necessary in order to resolve the issue of our diverse information gathering methods. Mr. Asimov here even considers Computer to Human linear information transfer to be an ideal medium, and as we now know in hindsight, he was actually referring to the internet (He pretty much summarized Wikipedia in a nutshell).

    I guess things to focus on for such a project would be source and implementation (how will society adapt to the change? How will this effect professions?), among many other general issues.

    Also take into account the advancements in internet infrastructure, and we're seeing a massive growth in internet portability too. Obtaining access to the internet seems to be just as easy as finding a public restroom. A project of this scope will need to be adaptable to the rapidly evolving internet infrastructure. It's becoming an extremely personalized commodity, will we even need academic facilities in the future?
    Olena     Thu, Feb 18, 2010  Permanent link

    I'm really happy that this is getting a positive response, and that you guys want to join in the effort!

    Plenty of time so far, of course we'll wait to hear your insights.

    Yeah, he totally did summarize it! But it's also true that it has big problems right now, as most online sources do: they need to be followed up with references, and can be really weak in that area. Wiki is doing its part to eradicate the BS, but it's gotten a bad reputation for the ease with which anyone can edit info.

    Also I love how you compare the internet to a public restroom :D true in more than one way.
    We have to try to keep this place "clean", but part of it's charm is the anarchic chaos that results (usually) from anonymity.
    As a friend once said, "The internet is so punk rock."
    Will we need institutions... good question. I think there is still a lot of value in meeting with instructors and peers face to face and discussing & collaborating on work.
    I'm all for "googling it", but conversation with a teacher can give insights that you wouldn't even know you needed, before.

    I like your ideas, and it's for sure going to be an experiment.
    The only thing is (and please don't be offended) I cringed at was the words "target audience". They use that so much in advertising... there is a whole crew of people against that sort of thing and I think that's the direction we want to avoid. Part of what makes institutions so horrible is exactly that they create "targets" and stereotypes.

    WE are the audience, we who have been through school and have these complaints.
    They say that the best work is that which is created personally, "by the artist for himself" basically.

    Open-source is a great idea; I love that premier colleges like MIT make their material available. Also,

    “People respond to the economics of food choices. Lab scientists aren’t able to handle this concept—for them, talking about the price of food is taboo—but it’s extremely important. Americans spend about three dollars and seventy-five cents a day on food that they eat at home. They can eat pizza at about a thousand calories a dollar, or Oreo cookies at about twelve hundred calories a dollar. M&M’s, at about three thousand calories per dollar, are a huge bargain. Spinach is about thirty calories a dollar, not a bargain. And don’t even think about lettuce or cucumbers or tomatoes or, heaven forbid, strawberries—by comparison, those foods are a rip-off! Nutrition educators tell us how to eat, but they don’t give us the money to change our behavior. Given that people don’t really want to spend more on food, I don’t see that they have any choice here … the choice is really made for them. Rats in a lab have a choice. But humans are constrained by costs.”
    — Adam Drewnowski, Director of the Nutritional Sciences Program and Professor of Epidemiology and Medicine at the University of Washington in Seattle. Drewnowski was quoted in The Hungry Gene by Ellen Ruppel Shell.

    That was on Wildcat's blog recently.
    I think it totally relates to education: people know they need it, but they are sucked dry just trying to attain it. It's just not worth it, we all have so many loans to pay it's ridiculous, and to think someone can learn for free online...

    The last thing,
    I wonder what the form of this "new school" will be.
    That's something exciting to think about.
    First Dark     Fri, Feb 19, 2010  Permanent link

         Fri, Feb 19, 2010  Permanent link
    You're right about the 'target audience' thing having limitations. I've heard of babies who can learn the names of all the presidents, I know that I sure can't. I think that a big part of my healthy development had to do with circumventing all that 'target audience' sheltering from school and TV, getting out there and learning things they'd never teach me in school. The nature of how great the web is really has so much to do with that - Freedom of choice. Okay, scrap that targeting ideal entirely, thanks for letting me realize I was probably taking what I just mentioned all for granted up until now. Humans don't need to be aimed at; they need to be the ones aiming, because choice is beautiful.

    With the mention of MIT's opencourseware, I should bring up the fact that this idea I've got is already in motion in a lot of ways - I just discovered the wiki page for Open Educational Resources. That's a really good thing, I think, because from these we can perhaps take the best of what already has been implemented and add in whatever is missing in whatever vision we come up with. There's a list on that page which I think is important, and covers a nice deal of something near to what I had in mind from the start:

    FLOSS [Free/libre open source software] communities possess many characteristics that educational communities could benefit by adopting:

    1. Open and inclusive ethos: everyone can participate, no charges, no deadlines, life long participation
    2. Up to date content; everyone can add, edit and update the content
    3. Materials are usually the product of many authors with many contributions from people other than authors
    4. Frequent releases and updates where product features and community structures are the result of a continuous re-negotiation / reflection process within a continuous development cycle
    5. Prior learning outcomes and processes are systematically available through mailing lists, forums, commented code and further instructional materials (re-use)
    6. A large support network; provided voluntarily by the community member in a collaborative manner nearly 24/7
    7. Free Riders (lurker) welcome paradox – the more the better
    8. New ICT [information and communication technology] solutions are adapted early by the community

    Education professionals may be aware that FLOSS-like principles can benefit education, but there has been no systematic and comprehensive approach to map and transfer those principles, or to develop new educational models and scenarios around them.

    It goes on to list a few things which are already in place. The following's going to just be as much as I can find which can offer inspiration, resources, and such...

    FLOSSCom seems to be a project which has the goal of applying open source software ideals to currently existing educational infrastructures.

    Ck-12 looks really awesome. I'll let them describe themselves: "CK-12 has developed an online system for collaborative, custom-collated, self publishable educational content that can be adapted for individualized needs in a digital-age textbook known as a FlexBook."

    Resources like the Public Library of Science are something I love. I don't go to post-secondary school at all but I still love reading research papers and that sort of stuff, and it always pisses me off when I don't have access to anything past an abstract. It's nice when it's out there in the open like it should be! (Although it's pretty fun and easy to find many full papers by giving google the ol [ filetype:pdf titleofwhitepaper ] query to get what's behind a lot of money)  is really great for searching all the opencourseware resources (MIT isn't the only one!)

    Wikieducator looks like it could prove really useful and important.

    The WikiEducator is an evolving community intended for the collaborative:

    * planning of education projects linked with the development of free content;
    * development of free content on Wikieducator for e-learning;
    * work on building open education resources (OERs) on how to create OERs.
    * networking on funding proposals developed as free content.

    What I find especially interesting via wikieducator is this. The OER handbook "is designed to help educators find, use, develop and share OER to enhance their effectiveness online and in the classroom." Definitely worth a look.

    I gotta get back to studying what I was before I got distracted by spacecollective, so here's a dump of the rest of the relevant tabs I have crowding my browser right now:

    First Dark, the link that the image (source?) you posted towards looks pretty interesting. Have you listened to what they're selling entirely?

    When I see this image, I picture myself flying through it like in those vivid dreams I remember clearly forever. Then I realize I already am.

    nagash     Sat, Feb 20, 2010  Permanent link
    mission control,
    how about creating a project out of this discussion? :)
    First Dark     Sat, Feb 20, 2010  Permanent link
    Unfortunately, the project seems to have died out after they finished the documentary... But I thought the site might still serve as a good resource for what's being discussed here. Luckily, the CD they made is available for free listening/downloading at the Internet Archive.

    It's well worth a listen. (Just a heads up so that anyone who listens doesn't get confused, there are snippets of music used throughout.)

    Oh, and here's the source for the image. But I first saw it on the cover of An Underground Education by Richard Zacks.

    (I'll be back to really jump in on this discussion later... currently need some serious mental recuperation.)
    meganmay     Mon, Feb 22, 2010  Permanent link
    This may be a tangent, but in response to Dmitri's comment:

    I've heard of babies who can learn the names of all the presidents, I know that I sure can't.

    I've been hearing about a lot of really intelligent 2 year olds lately, and I thought: wouldn't it be awesome if you could preserve some of the two year old brain cells for your entire life, just cordon off a little bit of neural matter that would always capable of learning so rapidly. Neural stem-cell implants or something.

    BUT actually, on a more related note, I was having a conversation last night in which it occurred to me that lawlessness can be extremely beneficial to intelligence and the rapid growth of culture. I'm sure there are demonstrations of this throughout history and I'd love to find some, but I was referring specifically to file sharing and the vast databases of music we've stolen for our edification and enjoyment. It also struck me that those who've directly benefited from this lawlessness are simultaneously the most marketed to generation in history and a generation that's probably stolen more merchandise on a whole than any other group of people living in a semi-functional society. I suspect this idea deserves further analysis...
    Olena     Mon, Feb 22, 2010  Permanent link
    Nagash — yeah, creating a project sounds like a good idea

    Dmitri —
    Thanks for posting all those resources! You're right, it is something that is already in swing, and I was thinking about this some as I wrote... it's a good thing that something is already being done, and it also gives us a more defined place to start: the problem is not so much that resources are unavailable but perhaps it's the form in which they're available, or the way they are viewed, or maybe that people don't know, or maybe (like in my case) that because our society is so work-driven, it's hard to have time for "play" education — something that deserves a LOT of attention, but maybe not something you'll get paid for. Again, in personal experience it's really hard to do more "work" after a long day of it, even if that work is exciting.
    Lots to be said about this, but like First Dark said — I'll have to come back later, need mental recuperation.

    Megan —
    I don't think that's too tangental,
    in accordance with what you said about brain cells: we already know that learning has to do with neural connections, and that the formation of new cells contributes to growth, whereas when we get old all of these things begin to drop off... there's lots of research I don't recall right now. But what I do remember is recently reading that neurogenesis has to do with behavior and may be what helps with depression (not serotonin as previously thought)

    Here's the article

    I don't remember what my point was. But it's interesting. :D

    Also, your comment about our Pirate generation reminds me of this book. I haven't finished it yet but found it to be pretty insightful (even if at times exaggerated, or just very illustrative) & he offers it for free on the site/blog.
    First Dark     Tue, Feb 23, 2010  Permanent link
    (Recuperation complete)

    Hmm.. okay, I've got issues with the special emphasis being placed on online learning as the *basis* for a project like this. I mean, I'm a child of the Internet and definitely appreciate the way it's revolutionized communication and access to information, but I think online learning should be viewed as an extension of physical, communal education, not the other way around. I'm of the general opinion that technology is best used to enhance, not replace. I think perhaps I'm more in line with Olena's thinking here than of TheUndying and dmitri's. The Internet may be vital to the ultimate success of alternative education, but it's the wrong place to begin as a foundation. Anyway, let me try to unravel my tangled mess of thoughts on this project..

    We all begin developing and losing our interests before we become citizens of the online world (to whatever extent, if at all). And before we become citizens of the online world, we have to *learn* the ins and outs before we can use it effectively (or safely). Unfortunately, although most people have adapted quite well to general computer usage, a staggering portion of "seasoned" Internet users still know very little about how to really use it. Those of us who have managed to learn the ropes shouldn't forget about those who are limited or intimidated by this 'second life'. Furthermore, as has been mentioned here, people have different ways of learning, and that includes people who need/want to be physically engaged with others when learning. I'm really glad the "target audience" idea has been tossed out, because flexibility is crucial.

    Ultimately, I think a project like this should be divided into four basic aspects which are prioritized as follows:

    0) Learning how to learn

    I'm not sure if there's a better term or phrase for this. I'm tempted to say "life skills" but I'm not sure that's the right term (which reminds me of The School of Life) but it gets back to dmitri's point about learning "how to focus in the first place".

    Before information comes in, we use various mental techniques to decide which content to store or use and which to throw away. Being that this is SpaceCollective, I feel like this is a rather sticky topic.. but I would say critical thinking skills / skepticism, rationality, recognizing cognitive biases, and the like are crucial for deciding how to react to information. As Olena mentioned, the problem with Wiki is that much of the information lacks reliable sources. Learning to not only look for sources, but reliable sources is an essential skill, especially when it comes to the Internet. But I would certainly also say that anything taught in an alternative school should be presented rather than dictated. Ultimately, it should be stressed that it is up to everyone to decide their perspectives.

    I put this aspect as #0 because I feel like it's essential, but it should start as more of a backdrop to what's happening in the initial learning process (#1). Ideally, I think discussion of these techniques should permeate the basic structure, while also having full separate courses about them.

    1) Learning options in the offline world

    Basically, this means we should start by finding the most flexible, appealing, and effective ways to stimulate interests and active engagement in the offline world. On this level we can examine where the various alt ed movements have had success and where they've struggled. Breaking the intimidating hierarchical structure which turns so many people off while marginalizing others ultimately comes down to accessibility and appeal. And not only does the system have to be widely accessible and appealing, but the information as well.

    A crucial point to make is that accessibility isn't just about raw access to information, it's also about making the initial level of that information comprehensible to casual audiences. This means finding and developing good communicators. I'm sure that most here share my experience in having far less good school teachers (if any) than just teachers. And by good I mean not only did they teach, they also entertained and engaged. But outside of the education system, we gravitate towards people who are often not certified teachers, but rather artists, scientists, and philosophers who are truly passionate about inspiring others and keeping curiosity alive. That's the appeal aspect.

    Okay, so let's say we've put together a really good foundation: Cheap or free classes at a core meeting space and a handful of other reliable spots, a flexible, appealing structure, a pool of knowledge, and some great communicators. I'd say that's all you need for a great community learning project. But unless the current structure of society and the standard education system have radically changed, the project will have a really hard time expanding very much. Plus, some people are too busy to get as involved as they want to. Here's where the Internet really starts to become essential, and where I think most alt ed movements have generally failed.

    2) The Internet as a means of communication between people

    There are two basic levels of communication to be considered here: within the local alt ed community and between alt ed communities, no matter how far. On a local scale, you've already got a good project put together, and the Internet can be used for 'extracurricular' discussion, coordination, and the exchange of media. But the correlation between offline and online activities is often so strong that it alienates other communities. It is much more appealing for each alt ed community to set up their own local online network (if any), and that's generally what I've seen happen. Unless a model is developed which unites alt ed communities alongside encouraging the cumulative growth and refinement of the various projects, widespread alternative education will fail.

    This is the hard part which has not yet been accomplished: a successful global network. Actually, it's easy to understand at this point because it involves the same process as the first step, just on a much broader, virtual scale. It's still about accessibility and appeal.

    Raw accessibility is the inherent advantage of the Internet. Just about anyone who is online automatically has access to a vast amount of information whenever they're available. But like I said above, if the content available online is too strongly correlated with the local community, it won't work. The local activities should be kept and allowed to thrive, but on a level above that, a more globally appealing pool of content should be developed. There are many ways this could be done I'm sure, such as a set of good local communicators working together and with communicators from other communities to develop a web of broadly relevant information.

    But getting back to my earlier point, the Internet will still be a major problem for people who don't really know how to to use it. On top of the normal mental techniques people use before engaging with information, there is a special set which need to be learned when using the Internet. And given the volume of online content, these techniques are even more important to keep from being limited or completely overwhelmed. I'd say the best way for most people to learn how to use the Internet is partially offline, and partially online.

    As for appeal, now there is a whole other realm beyond good communicators: good design. Nowadays, without good design, there is no hope for any website or network to function very well on a global scale. The more visually pleasant and user-friendly, the more successful an alt ed project is going to be online. At this point in the process, you still don't even need purely online resources. If after building a good offline-online fusion alt ed foundation and you've also succeeded in creating a really effective gateway into the online aspect, there will be an ocean of information and discussions between participants. But this structure is still somewhat unsteady given the imbalance between casual participants to more specialized participants with access to original content, and plus it's always better to have the option of verifying or examining things personally.

    3) The Internet as an expanded resource

    [Here's where I think dmitri's main proposal fits in best.]
    Aditya     Thu, Feb 25, 2010  Permanent link
    For years intellectual copy protection has created a network centric warzone with clashing interests that require teaching to the test as a form of filtration to seek efficiency but seemingly has created more cracks that the patches created.

    Capitalism at it's best or worst? Possibly depends on which of the 3 sides of a coin your persona lives on.
         Fri, Feb 26, 2010  Permanent link
    Okay, I'm just going to put out an idea that came back from the revision department:

    Open system for creating highly functional autodidacts out of the masses, providing highly engaging tools and material sources via the internet in a beautifully presented manner in order to provide a better world for us than what the current ineffective education system provides, and to cultivate widespread genius across the world.

    I got more to say on everything stated later when I'm not busy :)
    Olena     Mon, Mar 1, 2010  Permanent link
    Ahh! Lots to read, lots to say, but no time for now.
    However, while doing some other research I found a couple of relevant sites —

    The first you may already know about (but I didn't):
    Diigo, a research tool. (Used to be Furl I think?)


    Project Renaissance
    Their core & mission statements are interesting...
    although I've never heard of Win Wegner, so not sure how legit.
    Olena     Tue, Mar 2, 2010  Permanent link
    *Update: added a synapse to Re:No Secret, because I've just realized it relates to what we're trying to figure out in here — what to do about learning.

    Today, anything that looks like ADD, etc., is medicated out. Sometimes rightfully so, I don't know enough about it to say. But as evidenced by Leonardo da Vinci, there's definitely something fruitful about a style of learning that allows for fluidity, experimentation, freedom.
    A student should be allowed to be assertive, to make while learning.

    One of the saddest things I see in art school is that students are encouraged to get their humanities "out of the way" as if they were a disease.
    This is awful because it leads to a whole lot of tired people who have nothing left to work with except the work itself. The ideas begin to all relate to each other, and then we get things like design that looks like design, art that looks like art, and it's all dull and dying because they have nothing else to reference, no outside to look in from.
    MonseigneurBienvenu     Wed, Mar 3, 2010  Permanent link
    I've done a bit of teaching at a primary school and creative learning, as you mention, Leonardo, can be very effective. I think that kids in school are not taught how to think enough and taught too many disconnected facts that they just have to 'know'. Just one example: how much do they teach you about the difference between mass and weight? In my school this is pretty much all they said, and stopped: they are different, one to do with pushing. They just chuck a concept at you and nothing to relate to, nothing real there, or interesting. I wish they went a little further to explain the gravitational pull, the magic number 9.8 and how, say, scales work. They could tell each child that their 'weight' is in fact 9.8 times what they think, and wouldn't that be fun? Or something like that, anyway. I think they stop too early in the cognitive process (be it as it may - nearly infinite, especially to a child).

    The thing is that teachers usually don't know, or remember, or know how to explain (a pre-requisite to being a teacher missing?), or even understand concepts.

    We end up with a population that have the facts, if they can remember them from school (probably not), and very little thinking processes to get to the concepts. Thinking processes are he only really important thing, as it is all we really have. Memory should not just be stuffed with disparate facts, but with fluid understandings - you can always get the facts in a book, online, etc. - so that you can get to those facts through something,
    First Dark     Mon, Mar 8, 2010  Permanent link
    As an extension of one of the points I made earlier:

    Digital media and networks can only empower the people who learn how to use them — and pose dangers to those who don't know what they are doing. Yes, it's easy to drift into distraction, fall for misinformation, allow attention to fragment rather than focus, but those mental temptations pose dangers only for the untrained mind..

    Those people who do not gain fundamental literacies of attention, crap detection, participation, collaboration, and network awareness are in danger of all the pitfalls critics point out — shallowness, credulity, distraction, alienation, addiction. I worry about the billions of people who are gaining access to the Net without the slightest clue about how to find knowledge and verify it for accuracy, how to advocate and participate rather than passively consume, how to discipline and deploy attention in an always-on milieu, how and why to use those privacy protections that remain available in an increasingly intrusive environment..

    Online attention-taming begins with what meditators call "mindfulness" — the simple, self-influencing awareness of how attention wanders..

    Crap detection — Hemingway's name for what digital librarians call credibility assessment — is another essential literacy. If all schoolchildren could learn one skill before they go online for the first time, I think it should be the ability to find the answer to any question and the skills necessary to determine whether the answer is accurate or not.

    Network awareness, from the strength of weak ties and the nature of small-world networks to the power of publics and the how and why of changing Facebook privacy settings, would be the next literacy I would teach, after crap detection. Networks aren't magic, and knowing the principles by which they operate confers power on the knowledgeable..

    The health of the online commons will depend on whether more than a tiny minority of Net users become literate Netizens.

    - Howard Rheingold

         Tue, Mar 9, 2010  Permanent link
    First dark, that link is platinum!


    I've always been bugged by the fact that people tend to just throw ritalin or speed at kids to solve this. That's something that I've always found pretty messed up - It's a matter of personal freedom for children, and getting them using substances with strong physically addictive potential early on in life seems wrong to me on many levels. I'm hoping people are going to look back on today's generally accepted psychopharmacology like how we look at lobotomies and shock therapy in the next 50 years. I've seen it go sour more often than not. Have adults been doing this because of the general state of "Attention Literacy" they never cultivated in themselves?

    Media literacy is also a big one mentioned there as "crap detection"... It ties in a lot with critical thinking, which never was included in the curriculum back when I went to school. It blows me away that advertisements STILL get away with the same old formulaic bad-acting spokesperson stuff. Why do people bother with even paying attention to that stuff still? Is it just a comfort thing? These days I feel like an alien in a room with a bunch of people blanking out on the TV...

    Many people in our society generally don't enjoy actively learning things on their own. They look at it as some kind of torture device. This is something that needs to change.
    First Dark     Wed, Mar 10, 2010  Permanent link
    I absolutely agree. It's really frustrating and depressing to see how many people are content with essentially being mental sheep... even worse that such people end up imposing this mentality on children before they even know what hit them. But of course, this is the 'norm'. And who doesn't want to be 'normal' and keep their children from becoming freaks? It's so easy for people to float in a bubble of contented ignorance, never questioning. Subsequently, curiosity becomes increasingly uncomfortable, frightening even. Answers threaten to pop the bubble.

    + Coca-Cola
         Wed, Mar 10, 2010  Permanent link

    Advertising and such has become such a formulaic mess. Everything isn't as dire as it seems, the internet is making everything that all this crap is built on top of into a giant and very funny joke! It's such a ripe time in our culture for this all to come heavily crashing down and be replaced by something much better which goes way beyond what most people are expecting!

    New forms of media which surpass the attention-grabbing ability of tools the greedy use to massively heist the people's attention for their own personal gain are emerging via the platform this discussion is going over right now. The difference? Democratic delivery. The best thing anyone can do to make this the best case scenario is to get involved themselves. There's less room for manipulative bullshit in peer-reviewed circumstances like these ones.

    So, who here is willing to dedicate time and energy to seriously pursue one (probably more) of the ideas put forward in this discussion? What's the best way to merge them?
    MonseigneurBienvenu     Wed, Mar 10, 2010  Permanent link
    That trailer is brilliant. I feel so closeted having never seen it before. On that note: many people love old-fashioned cartoons because they are expressively and visually formulaic.
    sjef     Sat, Mar 13, 2010  Permanent link
    So I've followed this thread with interest, having quit out of both high school and university in no small part due to boredom I've pretty much gone the autodidact route for most of my adult life. Learning = fun, Education = boring etc.

    Over time I've had a look at several online education resources but generally found them to be lacking one way or another. Anyway, my next personal experiment in this arena is having enrolled in the course 'Introduction to Cyberpunk Literature' over at P2PU.

    "Learning for everyone, by everyone, about almost anything" - The motto of P2PU seems to reflect the ideals of what this discussion has been trying to get at. I can see potential for a nice resource there so if it works out well I'll certainly be looking into how I can contribute to helping it grow. I'll report back here to let you know how the course goes at some point as well.

    Olena     Thu, Mar 25, 2010  Permanent link
    Wow this post really took off... good to see so much involvement!
    Alas, I can't even keep up at this time, but have to add something I feel is important:

    DeBono's Thinking Course

    One of my design teachers recommended this book last Spring, and I'm just now getting around to it. I think some of the tools DeBono mentions would be good not only for educational reform, but for how we here approach this dilemma: I sort of hate using acronyms, but this discussion could use a "PMI".

    Otherwise, I'll bbl. ^.~
         Fri, Apr 9, 2010  Permanent link
    Sjef, that p2pu thing looks a bit like what I had in mind. It's been a busy bit of time between my last comment and now, so I've become a little distracted from this awesome stuff, but I'm wondering how that can maybe be used as a sort of framework or starting point to improve upon now!

    What does DeBono have to say in that? Oh wait here's a copypasta'd review from google books:

    Editorial Review - Kirkus Reviews Copyright (c) VNU Business Media, Inc.
    A common-sense, practical (and at times simplistic) thinking guide that is probably most effective in de Bono's seminars, or with the BBC-TV series this book is meant to accompany. (See also following review.) Thinking is a concept that, de Bono says, has little to do with innate intelligence. In fact, he asserts, ""highly intelligent people may my out to be rather poor thinkers."" Among the elements of his way of ""better thinking"": thorough exploration of alternatives; suppression of emotion until a problem or question has been addressed; lack of contentment with merely adequate solutions; rejection of familiar patterns of thinking; use of ""bad"" ideas as stepping stones to other ideas. In the most interesting parts of this book, de Bono tells of students of his whose thinking changed. A telling—if minor—example is the computer executive who for 25 years had been putting two packets of sugar in his coffee, always opening the two separately, and who while taking a de Bono thinking course began spontaneously to place one packet atop the other and open them together. But for every concrete example de Bono offers, there is an annoying acronym that refers to concepts he discusses. Typical ones include FI-FO, standing for inFormation-In and inFormation-Out; FQ, fishing question; SQ, shooting question. As scores of these acronyms are introduced, one begins encountering sentences that read: ""Explore first with such tools as PMI, CAF, APC, EBS, ADI, OPV."" Eventually, the prose starts to have the grace of an electronics manual. More crucially, like many teachers of cure-all systems, de Bono glibly dismisses actual or perceived competition. Thus he makes such blanket statements as ""Western civilization in its philosophy and in its practice has been obsessed with the 'clash' system in which two opposing views fight it out."" In his brief discussion of the matter, he distorts the process of dialectics, apparently understanding only thesis and antithesis but not the key concept of synthesis. He also defines critical and constructive thinking as antagonistic, leading to the unfortunate remark that ""many of the more brilliant minds in Western civilization are trapped into this unconstructive mode [of negative criticism]."" The intelligent and valuable points—and they are several—could be covered in a book a quarter of the length and with less jargon. . .especially those bubbling acronyms.

    "highly intelligent people may turn out to be rather poor thinkers." - Bingo. I think I'm gonna have to hunt down this book too, looks like it's something to help light the way, as does is this one: 
    Olena     Fri, Apr 9, 2010  Permanent link
    That review is pretty good actually, except that quote. I'm sure it was supposed to be "may turn out".
    It's true that he isn't a great writer and the acronyms are annoying, but he does discuss his reasons for them, which seem to work in a classroom setting.

    I finished the book last week and have been implementing the thinking in small ways... it's very easy and actually pretty helpful so far.