The Once and Future Quest for Learning

The model for knowledge in the past was acquisition, mastery, and then mentoring or teaching others.  Today, I admit I am acquiring and sharing faster than I can master or even contemplate the material I encounter on Twitter, Scoop-it, and other online curation spaces. As I find resources on topics of personal interest (and I am focusing on educational content mostly in relation to information literacy), I gather and share but never have enough time to fully reflect on my learning.

In other words, I am teaching faster than I am learning.

I am turning into Merlin. (He lived his life backwards.)

Merlin_(illustration_from_middle_ages)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My concept of linear time has changed in relation to my learning.  Was it an allusion that once upon a time I could fully grasp a concept?

I hope we can all catch up to what we once knew someday.

 

 

Photo from wikimedia

Not a Gadget- Nor a Crystal Ball of Data

People are more important than data.

I just finished Who Owns the Future by Jaron Lanier and although economics is in no way my area of expertise- he makes interesting points about the future of economics and society in the Information Age. His previous book You Are Not a Gadget provided insight into digital culture and this new book is a warning about the increasing risk of losing the backbone of modern civilization- the middle class. The following notes come from Lanier’s perspective and are worth contemplating.

who_owns_the_future

We have this crazy illusion that data is sort of magic – that “data came from the heavens instead of from people.” Inanimate data holds no promises for the future — only people hold promise. Our fascination with technological gadgetry (also a theme in his prior writing) puts emphasis on the data instead of the people who create it.

A highlight of Who Owns the Future was an excellent analogy about current TOS (terms of service) contracts and how we completely ignore them in the numerous apps and sites we download and take part in daily. Most are written in complex jargon that would take hours to analyze. Lanier presents the terms of service of a lemonade stand (page 80) in a child’s front yard! In the lengthy legalese statements to the parents of the lemonade stand entrepreneurs, he include such items as:

“A percentage of up to 30% of revenues will be kept by StreetBook.

Limited free access to StreetBook’s curb in front of your house is available in exchange for advertising on your body and property. The signage of your lemonade stand, the paper cups, and the clothing worn by your children must include advertising chosen soley by StreetBook.

If you choose to seek limited free access to use of the curb in front of your house, you must make available to StreetBook a current inventory of items in your house, and allow StreetBook to monitor movement and communications of individuals within your house.”

That is a small fraction of the contents of the terms of service for the lemonade stand. His point is that we simply cannot keep up with the fine print on these TOS agreements, so must of us simply click “agree” and get on with it.

Lanier calls Google, Facebook, and other online giant information providers “siren servers”. Lanier believes the biggest threat to our economic future is big data networks (siren servers) getting all online profits rather than individuals who create or program digital content. “One giant siren server (Facebook) should not own an individual’s online identity (p. 250).” He proposes a revolutionary payment system on the Internet, which includes possibly linking monetary payment for creative skills and service into the data transfer.

His digital “golden rule” could be stated– Pay others the way you would like to be paid.

Today, it is easy to access and copy information for use in multiple formats. Why not copy when it is convenient? “If you copy a file, you don’t know where it came from, if it’s been altered, or what other information might be needed for it to make sense (p.221).” Meaning depends on context and the copy/paste/share mentally of digital participatory culture erodes context.

With the vast information landscape we navigate daily, Lanier proposes another idea called “decision reduction services” (p. 270). That reminds me of librarianship! The acquisition of high quality resources that have been evaluated for specific criteria sounds rather familiar. I suppose I am a “decision reduction service provider” for my patron community. (Lanier highly values libraries and librarians. I heard him praise them at the American Library Association convention last summer in Chicago).

For the past decade, I have been hearing the notion that information should be free. Lanier says that the “lure of free” beckons (e.g. MOOCs- massive open online courses) and the future of education could be grim if seduced by siren servers. As I currently research information literacy needs in MOOCs, his perspective illustrates some of the problems higher education is facing. He answered a question at the ALA convention with a humorous exclamation that “MOOCs are moronic!”

Online “creepiness” due to being spied on or having personal data collected is nothing new but Lanier illustrates the idea that we may not share the same “augmented reality” in the near future. Each of us will live in a personalized world and that loss of shared experience might be “creepy” and isolating (p. 315).

His prediction of The Future of the Book. (p. 356) was certainly full of insightful points. I can agree with Lanier’s hypothesis that books will merge with apps, video games, virtual worlds. He says, “Many readers will read what is put in front of their eyes by crowdsourcing algorithms, and often will not be aware of the identity of the author or the boundary between one book and another. This is similar to Barlow and Leston’s warning about the Internet becoming a book of sand.

Lanier points out that “There will be much more information available in some semblance of book form than ever before, but overall a lower quality of standard”. I heard Roy Tennant make that same prediction back in 2008 at the Texas Library Association Conference when he said that today “convenience trumps quality”.

My personal take away from Who Owns the Future is that embedding intellectual property identification and a small monetary token of appreciation into data could solve both information literacy issues and help strengthen a shaky economic future for civilization. Information is actually never free (even though many want it to be)- just as life is never free. Open access to information and projects that promote free information and books benefit society but certainly have costs involved somewhere. Acquisition and organization of high quality resources takes time and effort, which are as valuable as dollars and cents. Respect for people in both the physical and digital world is the bottom line. You really are not a gadget and you are not made of code.

Lanier, J. (2013). Who Owns the Future?. New York: Simon and Schuster.

The Future was Almost Twenty Years Ago

Written back in 1995, I am finally getting around to reading Neal Stephenson’s The Diamond Age. Or, perhaps I should say I am finally ready for it. Twenty years ago, the idea of a technology entering our minds through virtual reality worlds and nanotechnology entering our bloodstreams to alter our bodies was over my head. Today, it is no longer far-fetched science fiction. Of course, like most people who have explored virtual worlds, I read Stephenson’s novel Snowcrash and credit him for coining the term “the metaverse”. Both novels share concepts that seemed almost outrageous when released but now fade into the tech scene without raised eyebrows.

While some of the concepts in The Diamond Age are similar to innovations which have come to fruition in 2013, some evolved into different versions of his visualized world. His “MC” (Matter Compiler) can be compared to a 3D printer and his concept of “ractive”s are similar to online interactive videogames.

The “young lady’s illustrated primer” is an interactive book which drives the plot and the concept of a real human behind the facade of the avatar or the book character is critical as we now move toward a blur between our physical and digital selves.

While I am no avid science fiction aficionado, I find Stephenson’s novels compelling and prophetic. Surprisingly, The Diamond Age contains countless images of actual physical books, yet today the book is moving from print into ereaders and rapidly taking a backseat to apps. Stephenson, obviously, has an appreciation for the Gutenberg era format, stating, “But a book is different–it is not just a material possession but the pathway to an enlightened mind, and thence to a well-ordered society as the Master has stated many times. (p.163)”

Long live the book and the reader who understands and appreciates high quality literature.

diamondage
Stephenson, Neal. 1995. The Diamond Age or A Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer. Bantam Nooks: New York.

A MOOC Credo

As I juggle teaching a summer college course, presenting at the American Library Association Convention, and continued learning at the speed of “MOOC-light”, I have been challenged to write a personal belief statement or CREDO.  Here goes:

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This I Believe

Both life and learning have changed dramatically in the past decade and will never be the same due to the information revolution.  My learning journey has focused on information literacy (as a career librarian) and the journey has been turned completely upside down.  I believe the human spirit can excel and will not succumb to the threats of “the machine” or the “cyberworld”.  Technology is but a tool and I have faith that love and compassionate wisdom will triumph.  I believe that people are more important than code or profit.

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One of my ALA presentations was on the topic of MOOCs and education, so my participation in the #clmooc was timely.  This is my 4th MOOC, so I feel I am beginning to understand how to fully participate as well as how to learn simply by lurking.

This exploration of the MOOC, alongside my exploration of virtual worlds and emerging technology trends, contributed to my CREDO about new modes of learning and living.  All of us must now balance our virtual (digital) lives with our physical lives.  I found it ironic (since I was in the middle of taking a MOOC and speaking on the topic) to hear the last question asked of Jaron Lanier during his ALA speech.  When asked what he thought of MOOCs, Lanier said, “MOOCs are moronic!”  I understand and agree with Lanier’s sentiments about the future.  However, I know he realizes there is no going back to the old information hierarchy which has toppled.  Most likely, many of the innovative technology tools, trends, and websites we are currently using will come and go.   Alvin Toffler was absolutely right when he said, “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”

Jaron-Lanier-007

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next on my list to read is  Jaron Lanier’s new book, Who Owns the Future?  Maybe we need to unlearn and relearn our concept of the Internet.  One thing is for certain— no single person can do that.  It is up to all of us and I am counting on my fellow man to uphold my CREDO and revise it into something better one day.

 

Powerful PROs of Connected Learning

#Clmooc reflection

I write my reflection between conference sessions at the American Library Association Convention 2013 in Chicago. Traveling yesterday was grueling due to traffic jams, flight delays, crowded elevators, and confusing bus shuttles. I finally made it to my hotel, extremely hungry and exhausted. As I turned on my digital device to check the #clmooc, I realized how easy it is to learn through online virtual connectivity. Although I enjoy attending and presenting at conferences where I can network with colleagues face-to-face, the rising costs of travel make it difficult and I spend hours and hours to get to a session where I listen to a colleague thinking I should get the name so we can connect online.

I started thinking of the inevitability of virtual connected learning due to the

Powerful Pros

1. Cost effectiveness

2. Time saving

3. Personal intense learning

4. Global connections

5. Efficient (No sore feet from walking miles and miles through a convention center. I say that as someone who loves hiking.)

So now, in a beautiful ballroom at the convention, I sit anxiously awaiting a speaker who is “the father of virtual reality”- Jaron Lanier. I will revisit this post after his speech. Lanier wrote “You are Not a Gadget” which is on my list of cyborgs-beware reading (along with Nicholas Carr, Sherry Turkle and others). While I embrace a positive attitude toward the future, I have uneasy feelings about our rush to plunge into digital culture without the skills needed to survive.

Perhaps a metaphor I could use as an information literacy librarian would be my role as “deep sea diving trainer”. Surviving the sea of chaos requires some life-saving skills.

3D Sci-Fi Library Exhibit in Inworldz

Virtual worlds may not have taken off at the rapid pace predicted in the Gartner Report 2007, but they continue to provide creative spaces for educators and librarians to create and share content.

For example, a professor of library and information science at San Jose State University led a project in the virtual world of Inworldz to share sci-fi resources. The exhibit includes interactive sci-fi objects and experiences, such as a worm hole and spaceships.  Science fiction movies, television shows and over 50 sci-fi books inspired the content which can be explored on several levels.  Details are included on the Community Library blog.

Photos from the grand opening on May 4, 2013 can be viewed in my Animoto slideshow.

 

 

This is “Our Gutenberg Moment”

As libraries change from primarily circulating print-based materials to providing information in a variety of formats in both physical and virtual spaces, my quest has been to follow colleagues who strive to balance the rich heritage of the past with the rapidly evolving changes of digital culture.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have used T. Scott Plutchak’s quote (click on the picture to enlarge) to end many presentations and slideshows on the topic of libraries and the information revolution. T. Scott continues to inspire me with a positive outlook on the future of civilization as we continue to value knowledge and literacy. Be sure to listen to the closing remarks in this video about librarians and publishers sharing common values. T. Scott says’ “This really is our Gutenberg moment.”

 

 

Plutchak, T. Scott. 2007. The Librarian: Fantastic Adventures in the Digital World. Serials, 20(2), 87-91.
www.bigfoto.com

Revisiting Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants: a Tribute to Marc Prensky

Many of my colleagues and I have cited Marc Prensky and his “digital natives and digital immigrants” for over a decade. After spending years striving diligently to keep up with innovative technology trends, I have never felt like younger people knew more or were more adept at technology than myself. I admit, of course, I am a “digital immigrant” when one defines the term to mean someone born before the Internet and digital life became commonplace.

Today, I saw something that re-opened my eyes to the difference between the two– the natives and the immigrants. I had been struggling (between classes , paperwork, and other tasks) to conquer the server issues to start a MinecraftEDU club in my school library. After several attempts and a few emails to the company, I still was unable to get into the MinecraftEDU world. Lacking time, I delegated a 5th grade boy as sidekick to start the club. He eagerly entered the library after school, where we sat down and were able to get it up and running in less than 5 minutes.

Of course, I have experienced the “two heads are better than one” method of troubleshooting technology countless times before. Often two of us can solve an issue simply by tackling it from two different perspectives. So, I am not saying that I am not smarter than a 5th grader! However, I underestimated a 5th grader’s ability to navigate server issues and ip addresses. I stood there in awe as I watched him effortlessly click numerous settings at the speed of light.

I write this post as a tribute to Marc Prensky because it was only today that I fully understood my personal immigration status and that simple moment reminded me that we have only begun to understand the toppled hierarchy of information (and learning) due to digital culture.

This global information community in which we live, continues to inspire, alarm, challenge, and intrigue me each day. Last week, I got a message that Marc Prensky was following me on twitter and I felt honored! It is a small (yet huge) world we live in….a world full of opposites: oxymorons and formulas, scientific facts and wild imagination. Today, I am honored to be followed by the guy who introduced us all to digital natives and digital immigrants and also honored to be leading a digital native who is helping me realize that I am but an immigrant to a new land. I am both teacher and learner. Sometimes we can know something for a long time before we actually comprehend it.

Beyond the Digital Line- February 13, 2054

Little One, your hands are beautiful
and they hold all knowledge

Move your finger and surroundings change
to your favorite color—
swirls of blue with silver sparkles

Touch your ear and musical harmonies slowly swell
Wave your hand to augment history

Look into my eyes and they will tell you of another time

For these eyes saw a different world
where colors could not change
Only nature held the power
That world was unprogrammed and unsafe

My body was separate from the digital realm
And each person was required
to learn how to think

But you, Little One, are
safely digitized
You have never seen broken things
Books with worn, tattered pages
Cars with flat tires
Bruises or skinned knees
You live in the simulated shell of digital protection

Gingerbread and hot cider appear when you blink
and friends await you at all points of Earth

But now, I want to tell you what I miss
from the world before
the Singularity
I miss…

having to wait.

Disposable Media and Intellectual Junk Food

Smart phones and mobile devices, equipped with high quality cameras and global networking, have made unlimited transfer of the documentation of our daily lives quotidian (a new word I picked up from Hello Avatar: the Rise of the Networked Generation by Beth Coleman). I wonder, dear reader, if you are beginning to feel (as I am) that you have seen enough photos of day-to-day life to last a lifetime. Various entrees, potty training, new shoes, and cute animals may be interesting to those involved, but become meaningless with exponential increase.

I see a trend toward disposable media, such as the Snapchat app.  The raw, unrevised information uploaded every second could be described as “intellectual junk food” which does little to nourish our minds.

 

Bruce Sterling, media futurist and design geek, predicts that augmented reality may soon congest the world with 3D spam (geolocative information trash) (Coleman, p.153). AR may have purpose for historical documentation, both personal and global; however, some people view the mixed reality heading our way as a kind of “reality hack” that blurs boundaries.  An example, is a ghostly overlay of the twin towers created by Wikitude.  The towers, through augmented reality, may be interpreted as an historical and symbolic icon.  Yet, advertisements and a barrage of 3D images may soon compete with historical data, current events, and personal user-generated content.

 

How are we preparing ourselves for the “X-reality” evolution described by Coleman(p.65)?  Currently, educators and librarians are gathering strategies to prepare 21st century learners for information literacy in unforeseen territory.  The young adult fascination for the “zombie apocalypse” may have some interesting symbolic interpretation!  Get ready…who knows what lies in our future. As we navigate the information sea of chaos, each individual becomes responsible for information intake.

Beware!

Choose wisely-  both your sources of information and your personal network.