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Are you smarter than a 10-year old?

I’m a big fan of the Sky quizshow “Are you smarter than a 10 year old“. I’m more than impressed with the confidence and knowledge on show from the 10-year olds in the class. But what I really am enthralled by is the variety and depth of subject domains that 10-year-olds in the UK study on their national curriculum.  I’ve seen numerous versions of the show, and I have to say “I am not smarter than a 10-year-old”.

But now, alas, alas, it’s all changing.

The latest suggest the primary school curriculum in the UK should do away with the emphasis on historical, geographical and ….. other factual type subjects and replace them with more practical and everyday skills like twitter and wikipedia, typing, blogging etc.

I’m a big fan of such web 2.0 tools and applaud attempts to incorporate them into the education curriculum. But such incorporation at the exclusion of important subject knowledge areas like the Victorian period or the Second World War is worrying.

However, as I have mentioned in here previously – at least the Uk are actively trying to get more IT skills and subject matter into their schools. When will Ireland learn the importance of this matter?


More on twits and tweets and their uses

I’m feeling a tad guilty for not being a more active twit. I’m not entirely sure why I’m feeling this way. I’m equally not sure who or what is making me feel this way. To figure out the answers to those questions I’ve been looking at some uses twitter is being put to, and what might be good / bad / indifferent about them.

Here’s one that caught my eye about live tweeting by doctors performing a live surgery.  How is this any different than the more common practice of videoing the procedure and then placing it somewhere (online?) accessible to the med students, potential med students, etc, etc, who might be interested?  Answer – the fact that it is live.  What does that add – a buzz factor, a sense of immediacy.  Are either of those needed?

In my humble opinion, medical procedures are too personal and too serious for something as casual and trivial as a buzz factor. Even the most common and apparently straight-forward of operations can go wrong.  This is a human being that is being operated on. Does the world need to know all the details that should be the preserve of that patient and their immediate nearest-and-dearest. The same thinking applies to the immediacy factor. A live commentary might cut down on the worry for the loved ones of the person being operated on, but why might anyone else be in a rush to know about the fate of the patient.

It seems to me that the twitterbug is the latest in an evolution of social networking tools. There are now a lot of these tools available and those that take off typicallyvhave something unique to offer.  For twitter it is the sense of short bursts of real-time here-and-now. It’s being used in a variety of scenarios. The hospital one quoted above I don’t agree with (but thats just me, perhaps otherw would disagree). Immediate on-the-ground reactions to a plane crash before the ‘official’ press can literally get to the scene is a much better use.

But who am I to say what should be used for what. For me, the most interesting thing about such web 2.0 tools is that many of them are out there in the public domain and so its up to the public what use they use them for. Sitting back and seeing what people make of them is a social experiment in its own right.

Popularity… or not!

Apparently, our Government here in Ireland are hugely unpopular. As of now, only 10% of Joe Public support them.

I’m not going to comment on this, apart from saying that any political party that wants to take on the current financial debacle has their work cut out for them.

Here’s something interesting –

Our Government has been watching the Obama presidential campaign, and have decided to employ the services of the organisation who run the Obama website. Yes, Blue State Digital have proved themselves with Obama (we won’t mention their work on Ken Livingstone’s failed mayoral bid in London) but how many Irish web orgs could prove themselves if given this opportunity.

Blue Digital are upfront about recognising the total necessity for citizen relationships and getting people involved. As in the business world, interaction with the people whose support you want is paramount. This is particularly important in the current scenario where our government haven’t been exactly transparent in communications with the public.

Go have a look at and see for yourself. The main element appears to be an online Q&A. You can submit your questions directly and Brian will answer them via video (how is going to have time is a whole other query). However, there are no discussion boards, no blogs, no “Brian mobile” texting, no link to other web 2.0 tools such as the FF you tube channel, Facebook Pages, etc.

Perhaps, I’m asking too much. These things cost money. Blue Digital don’t work for free. And there is this recession going on.

Update 1 Mar 2009Karin Lillington was at the launch of this website. She has a podcast where you can hear the presentation by the main man behind the site. Interesting to see that Karin doesn’t hold a huge amount of hope for the same success as Obama achieved.

We hear so much about students using social networking to enhance and expand their interactions with their friends, and why not. Bebo and Facebook and the plethora of them out there are achieving something valuable – if not, why would people spend so much of their spare time on them?

I’m particularly interested in how the tools can be used to support learning and education. Here’s an interesting example. The key is Connectivism – the idea that we learn by interacting with others to form our own knowledge.  The learning takes place in a socially networked environment – with emphasis is on the student being active in their own knowledge creation.

It’s a far cry from the transmission model of learning where the all-knowing teacher comes in and talks for an hour and then leaves again. First of all, there is no textbook. Instead web 2.0 tools are used to source and manage the incoming knowledge. A synopsis –

  • Google Scholar (and college online library) to find articles

  • Bookmarks them on Delicious

  • Find other people who have bookmarked the same articles, lots of mutual intra-sharing

  • Search for blogs on the topic – with an open mind reflecting that blogs aren’t always the hard cold facts, make some comments on them, manage the plethora of blogs with a reader

  • Write it up in own blog with space for others to comment

  • Other sources of interest –  Itunes U gives access to top professor’ ‘insights without having pay for them, email these top guys and a response is sometimes forthcoming – people love to share their expertise and it cant hurt to ask

  • Final product could be a video or an audio or text, on a wiki perhaps, so others can learn from it and enhance it

On a scale of 1 to 5 how far removed is this from your experience of school / college?  It’s light years away from my student learning. Welcome to the 21st century.

Time was when the knowledge was either embedded in books or in the heads of lecturers / teachers. But now, the internet has expanded the sources of knowledge significantly. Tracking down and managing those sources becomes a significant part of the learning.  The important thing is that the student is at the centre of this knowledge management process.

They have to actively search out and sift through sources of knowledge, actively processing it as they go. Result – there is a better chance of some of this content sticking, as opposed to the “in one ear and out the other” mode of sitting passively in class.

So, if this is all so wonderful why isn’t everyone doing it?  Why are classrooms with teacher at the top of the room still hugely dominant in our schools and colleges?  Ok, the shift is so dramatic, it’s too big a jump to make in a single leap. Old institutionalised ways of doing and thinking are hard to shake off. But it does make you think………!

Obama winning the net race

So it’s official Barrack Obama is the new US president elect. I’ve got mixed feelings about this one. On the one hand you can’t help thinking that he is exactly the type of person the US needs right now (am aware that I’m saying this as a non-US citizen who doesn’t even live there). On the other hand, Ireland is way down his list of priorities. He wish of US foreign multinationals coming back to the US to bump up the economy there is not good news for Ireland at all.

His usage of the internet in his campaign is something worth blogging about. Ok, he’s not Al Gore but still I’m more than impressed. He used it to make it easy for people to have access to him, his ideals and policies and above all, to contribute, in both words and money.  Obama “gets” the technology and knows how to exploit it, he recognised the ‘long tail’ – a huge amount of his donations were for tiny amounts that individually wouldn’t have come to much. Using the net made it easy for Joe Soap to contribute $60 meant that a lot of Joe Soaps were contributing small amount that collectively added up to a very heft treasure chest indeed.  

1,800 is the answer to what question?
Answer: the number of YouTube vids uploaded to Obama’s youtube channel. He even made tweeting look easy, and apparently there were ring tones, profiles on facebook, myspace, flickr, linkedin, and a whole host of less well known web 2.0 tools.  In essence, he actively involved the people in his campaign. He didn’t just constantly speech at them, but gave them an active role. Internet-driven crowd-sourcing a its finest.

An uh-oh is his VP – apparently old school, cracking down on P2P music sharing and has a strong anti-privacy ideal.  

Obama has expressed interest in creating a CTO (that’s Chief Technology Office to you and me) government office.  It will be interesting to see what this office gets up to. It will be interesting to see what Obama will be like as US president.