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Infoxication 2.0

On her blog, Elena Benito-Ruiz shares a draft chapter on “‘Infoxication 2.0’ as one of the main downsides to Web 2.0 and its educational application.”  Infoxication is a state of intoxication of the mind, caused by an overload of information. Although centered around technology, this is thought to contribute to a decline in intellectual performance. The problem is increased in Web 2.0 environments as such environments require both a push and pull of ideas.

Currently, she suggests, RSS readers (when used properly) provide a remedy for teachers and students. That’s a good way of compiling and simplifying information, but what can be done about new knowledge generation in the Web 2.0 world? Perhaps something beyond RSS tools are needed?

Read her text here…

Study: Calculators okay in math class

…but, only if students know the math first.

Media guru Griffin Gardner forwarded this article from ScienceDaily, which suggests that calculators are useful tools in elementary-level mathematics classes.  Citing research by Bethany Rittle-Johnson and Alexander Oleksij Kmicikewycz at Vanderbilt, and recently published in the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, ScienceDaily writes:

“So much of how you teach depends on how you market the material – presentation is very important to kids,” Kmicikewycz added. “Many of these students had never used a calculator before, so it added a fun aspect to math class for them.”

“It’s a good tool that some teachers shy away from, because they are worried it’s going to have negative consequences,” Rittle-Johnson said. “I think that the evidence suggests there are good uses of calculators, even in elementary school.”

From the JECP article:

The impact of prior knowledge on the benefits of generating information highlights an important constraint that teachers should consider. Initial practice in generating answers seems important to support procedure acquisition; once procedures are learned, the benefits of generating answers may be reduced or eliminated. This converges with teachers’ beliefs that ‘‘calculators should be used only after students had learned how to do the relevant mathematics without them” (Ballheim, 1999, p. 6). Reading answers from calculators does offer some potential benefits for higher knowledge students; it increases opportunities for practice of individual items and removes exposure to incorrect answers. Associative memory models predict that greater exposure to problems and their answers improves recall of the answers and that exposure to incorrect answers decreases recall of correct answers (e.g., Shrager & Siegler, 1998; Siegler, 1988). In the current study, using calculators increased the number of times the problems were practiced and decreased the number of errors during the study session. This may explain why higher knowledge students did not seem to benefit from generating answers. Over additional study sessions, benefits of calculator use for learning arithmetic facts may accrue. More generally, teachers should consider the potential trade-off in practice using procedures and frequency of exposure to correct information and should consider that this trade-off may vary for students with different knowledge levels. (p. 80)

The Chinese are using hand-held learning devices to help them pass English exams, and the U.S. is starting to see the benefits of the use of calculators in the classroom.  Is “ethical cheating” becoming mainstream?

Futures Research Quarterly publishes special Leapfrog issue

The World Futures Society has published a special issue of Futures Research Quarterly, focused on the Leapfrog Principle.  These papers will serve as the knowledge base for the upcoming Leapfrog conference in Anqing, China this October.  Online copies should be available through EBSCOhost in the near future (check with your library for access).  Contents for the Spring 2008 (vol. 24, nr. 1) issue:

  • The role of Leapfrogging in the future of youth work and workforce preparation by George Kubik
  • Leapfrog principles and practices: Core components of Education 3.0 and 4.0 by Arthur M. Harkins
  • The Leapfrog Principle and paradigm shifts in education by Xian-rong Wang
  • The significance of Leapfrog education development in China by Changde Cao
  • Four scenarios of Leapfrog for teacher training curriculum in China by Hongzhuan Song
  • Utilizing digital technology to achieve leapfrog learning by Jun ma
  • Technological applications of Leapfrog by John Moravec
  • Leapfrog Education: An alternative present and future for Chinese tertiary education by Yi Cao

Brooks on the "Cognitive Age"

David Brooks wrote an excellent op-ed piece in today’s New York Times. He states that individuals cannot be successful in a globalized world without building advanced capabilities to transform information into meaningful knowledge:

The globalization paradigm leads people to see economic development as a form of foreign policy, as a grand competition between nations and civilizations. These abstractions, called “the Chinese” or “the Indians,” are doing this or that. But the cognitive age paradigm emphasizes psychology, culture and pedagogy — the specific processes that foster learning. It emphasizes that different societies are being stressed in similar ways by increased demands on human capital. If you understand that you are living at the beginning of a cognitive age, you’re focusing on the real source of prosperity and understand that your anxiety is not being caused by a foreigner.

This is one of the few articles in popular media that effectively ties globalization with the need for revolutionizing human capital development. And, it is one of the very few articles that contain the words “globalization” and “pedagogy” together in the same paragraph.

Read the entire article…

Bill Gates on keeping America competitive

An editorial by Bill Gates appears in today’s Washington Post. He argues that if the U.S. continues to fail to produce the skilled talent it needs to succeed in an innovation economy, the country should import knowledge and innovation workers:

To remain competitive in the global economy, we must build on the success of such schools [as High Tech High] and commit to an ambitious national agenda for education. Government and businesses can both play a role. Companies must advocate for strong education policies and work with schools to foster interest in science and mathematics and to provide an education that is relevant to the needs of business. Government must work with educators to reform schools and improve educational excellence.

American competitiveness also requires immigration reforms that reflect the importance of highly skilled foreign-born employees. Demand for specialized technical skills has long exceeded the supply of native-born workers with advanced degrees, and scientists and engineers from other countries fill this gap.

Read the full editorial…

Is it time to boycott non-open journals?

Danah Boyd joined the call for reforming how academics publish their work by calling for a boycott of non-open-access journals …and, provided a list of suggestions on what needs to be done now:

  • Tenured Faculty and Industry Scholars: Publish only in open-access journals.
  • Disciplinary associations: Help open-access journals gain traction.
  • Tenure committees: Recognize alternate venues and help the universities follow.
  • Young punk scholars: Publish only in open-access journals in protest, especially if you’re in a new field.
  • More conservative young scholars: publish what you need to get tenure and then stop publishing in closed venues immediately upon acquiring tenure.
  • All scholars: Go out of your way to cite articles from open-access journals.
  • All scholars: Start reviewing for open-access journals.
  • Libraries: Begin subscribing to open-access journals and adding them to your catalogue.
  • Universities: Support your faculty in creating open-access journals on your domains.
  • Academic publishers: Wake up or get out.

(The above list is abstracted from her original post.)

I probably fall under the “young punk” category in her list, and publish in both traditional and new media as an attempt to compromise and appeal to both conservative and cutting-edge scholars. How can we move away from a culture of appeasement of 20th century academic culture and refocus our knowledge diffusion toward media formats that are more appealing to younger and more tech-savvy academics –such as blogs, and the spaces where open access journals and other, new, open media interface? How long until the academy will finally accept highly commented and linked blog posts as legitimate, peer-reviewed articles in a tenure review?

Getting smart about books

As a follow-up to last week’s posts by Ai Takeuchi with Japanese perspectives on global education, I wanted to comment on Steve Jobs’ claim that nobody reads books anymore –and counter his claim by pointing out that books are alive and well in Japan because the Japanese are embracing the distribution possibilities provided by new media and new technologies.

Mike Elgan beat me to the punch, though, and posted this article at Computer World. An excerpt:

Half of Japan’s top 10 best-selling books last year — half! — started out as cell phone-based books, according to the New York Times.

The books-on-phones genre started when a home-page-making Web site company realized that people in Japan were writing serialized novels on their blogs, and figured out how to autocreate cell phone-based novels from the blog entries.

The popularity of these blog novels on cell phones sparked huge interest among readers in writing such novels. Last month, the site passed the 1 million novel mark.

Some of these amateur writers become so famous on the cell phone medium that the big publishing houses seek them out and offer lucrative deals for print versions. The No. 5 best-selling print book in Japan last year, according to the Times, was written first on a cell phone by a girl during her senior year in high school.

In this brave new world of literature where anybody can become a best-selling author using mobile technologies, we need to rethink what a “book” really is. Instead of blocking mobile technologies in schools, what if schools allowed them so that kids could produce their own books?

China: The phantom menace?

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports on a discussion paper, “British Universities in China: The Reality Beyond the Rhetoric,” published this month by Agora, a British organization focused on higher education. Paul Mooney writes in the Chronicle:

Ian Gow, an expert on Asia and former provost of the University of Nottingham at Ningbo, China, expresses similar skepticism toward dealing with that nation. British universities “must stop pussyfooting around this aggressively ambitious country,” he writes.

“Make no mistake: China wants to be the leading power in higher education, and it will extract what it can from the U.K.,” writes Mr. Gow, who now heads the business school at the University of the West of England.

Mr. Gow also describes the challenges of working in China, including finding high-quality staff members, the lack of “enabling regulatory frameworks” for joint ventures with foreign institutions, and partners that are constantly changing their terms.

I have no doubt that China wants to become the preeminent global power in education in 2050. They have the will and the investment capital to build fine institutions. I have doubts that they will achieve it, however. Their strategy to import technologies and ideas from abroad is somewhat flawed. Rather than piggybacking on ideas generated elsewhere, should they not instead leapfrog the competition to create knowledge spaces that are both indigenous and world-class in quality?

Perhaps non-Chinese universities need to assert themselves better and renegotiate their terms of cooperation with Chinese institutions. But, does this need to be a priority? If China is in a state of continuous catch-up with their foreign competition, what harm is there in collaboration?

Is higher education globalizing? You betcha!

USC’s Lloyd Armstrong posted a link to a draft article for New Directions in Higher Education (2007, Wiley Periodicals) where he argues that globalization has had a small effect on higher education. In his blog, he writes:

But why has higher education responded so slowly to the opportunities and challenges of globalization? I argue that the major reason has been the place-based nature of our history, and consequently, of our missions. There are also constraints in the way of change, which include the reality that at present, US higher education has been dominant in the competition for international students and faculty; that the constituencies that support higher education are not open to a greatly changed role; and that government in the US has not addressed the question of what it expects of higher education in a rapidly globalizing world.

Sure. If you’re thinking of globalization as internationalization, there hasn’t been much change. If you’re thinking of internationalization as study abroad or as attracting more foreign students, creating branch campuses, etc., you’re not going to see much change, either.

There are far more dimensions to globalization than just “internationalization,” and far more dimensions to internationalization than study abroad. A globalized institution attends toward developing a chaordic balance between dichotomies of the local and the global, the real and the virtual, the periphery and core, and its interdependence among and with various actors.

This also means that a globalized university, inherently, is more creative –and its levels of creativity need not operate at administrative levels. Globalizing activities may occur at institutional, departmental, and individual levels within universities. If Armstrong is looking for macro-level signs of globalization, he will ultimately fail.

Breaking away from 20th century paradigms, Armstrong needs to explore how globalization also extends beyond the development of institutional “brands.” Global universities harness the opportunities provided by the interdependencies and dichotomies of globalization. An example of a globalizing activity is the upcoming (“version 2.0”) knowledge co-seminar/open seminar organized between the University of Minnesota and FLACSO-Mexico with linked classes at FLACSO-Ecuador, FLACSO-Chile, and the Technical University of Loja –and with additional participants from the Open University of Catalunya and SRI International. Such projects typically fall under the radar if you’re looking for macro-level signs of globalization or internationalization.

Perhaps the question Armstrong ought to ask is, how do we identify creative, global activities among our institutions?

Viva Leapfrog!

I’m still in Ecuador, using a public terminal with a slow connection. So, quickly…

Today’s Minnesota Daily posted a commentary by Thomas Sullivan, Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost at the University of Minnesota, on universities as places and spaces for imagination. He writes:

I believe we must invite more of our students to directly participate in the imaginative process of problem-solving, including testing and evaluating potential solutions, as our University’s new student learning outcomes require. Such efforts take experience, passion, dedication, resources and uninterrupted periods of time and reflection. But this is the important imaginative space that only great universities can offer and sustain – spaces to optimize diverse, persistent, critical thought.

Although his message was focused on protecting tenure, it looks like he’s been reading about leapfrogging…!