Monday, 16 July 2007

The Laptop Institute

I arrived in Phoenix a couple of days ago, and had a great time there with Lisa. We drove to the Grand Canyon on saturday, which was amazing (I will post some photos soon) and met up with Sondra. It is so great to finally meet these wonderful people and fellow beadmakers that I have been chatting to online for so long. Yesterday I arrived in Memphis for the Laptop Institute conference. The opening keynote address was last night, and I typed up some notes which I thought I would post here. I'm not guaranteeing things will come across properly when out of context, but it might raise some issues to think about.
Ian Jukes ‘Living on the future edge’ “It’s easier to change the course of history than change the history course” Change – we can’t just change once, and then go back to ‘normal’ tomorrow. We are in a time of ongoing, exponential, dizzying change. Ian identifies 4 exponential trends that effect how we use technology and what we must expect for the future. Moore’s Law (founder of Intel) Technology will double every 2 years at half the cost. This has been very accurate since the late 60’s, but has been modified several times – first to 18 mths, now at 12 mths, soon to be 6 mths. Interesting reading – ‘The Singularity is near’ by Ray Kurzweil. We grew up in a time of stability and predictability – our students live in a time of “fundamental uncertainty”. Photonics Bandwidth speed tripling every 6 months per dollar spent. Currently we can transfer information at 10 trillion bits per sec (1900 CD ROMs) Interesting reading – ‘Telecosm’ by George Gilder In the future, the internet will be everywhere, everywhen. How are we preparing our students for a fundamentally different future? The Internet. 1.4 Billion users now, 100 Billion webpages. 13 new users per minute. Bandwidth required to accommodate this is tripling every year. Itunes University – free university course content minutes after the classes are complete, available through itunes. What is the impact to education? Web 2.0 ‘Weapons of mass collaboration’. The ‘intersection’ between the first 3 exponential trends Ian identifies leads to trend 4 – Infowhelm Information has value but is perishable. Information frenzy, we are accessing more information than we ever needed. ‘Google Book Search’ 50 million books scanned and available online. How does this effect libraries and education? The sum of human knowledge has increased exponentially in recent years. Unique new knowledge creation is doubling every 2 weeks. The ‘half life’ (50 % becoming obsolete or being proved incorrect) of engineering knowledge is 5 years. For biochemistry it is 1 year and for Doctors, it is 10 months. It is important to teach students to find content, place it in context and use it effectively, rather than just accumulating knowledge. We are in danger of having a ‘Ready, Fire, Aim’ approach. The learning must drive the technology, not vice versa. We must teach students to be information and media fluent (rather than information literate). They need to learn to ask good questions and assess the process. We must prepare the students for their future, not our past, or our comfort zone. Ian used a rubber band analogy to describe what he was trying to do to our minds. He stretched a giant rubber band above his head…..but as his arms get tired trying to hold it open…when he lets go, it returns to its original form. We must try and not be like that rubber band, but allow the changes that are made and new ideas we absorb at conferences like this to make fundamental changes to our teaching….not to return to our old comfortable ways. In tough times, people tend to revert to tradition. Ian’s material can be accessed on his webpage under ‘handouts’ and you can subscribe to his blog (the ‘Committed Sardine’) and receive information he sifts from current news articles, education and computing articles etc, by writing to him with the email content “I need to be committed” and he will reply in 48 hours.

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