How social media has transformed the world in 2011

There is a series running on Channel 4 News at the moment where people get the chance to say who or what they think transformed the world in 2011.

Below are two linked videos that were shown as part of the main programme last night. The first is Matt Frei, their U.S. Correspondent, who gives his nominations as “The Occupy Movement” and the late Steve Jobs.

Frei talks about the broken social contract between the people and the Government and Business sectors in capitalist countries. He sees the Occupy Movement as a popular uprising by the 99% who feel more and more disenchanted by the disconnection and frankly selfish and self-seeking  actions of the 1%.

But it is the way that the Occupy Movement used social media that he highlights as the key to their importance in changing the world in 2011. That is the reason that his second nomination is a dead man, Steve Jobs. Frei talks about the way that the Occupy protesters used their iPhones and iPads to communicate with each other and use Facebook and Twitter so powerfully to organise and combat the forces that wanted to disperse them. Jobs is seen as the man whose vision in getting technology owned and used so widely gave the people a means to express themselves and most importantly organise.

The second video followed the first in the programme. It was Benjamin Cohen, their Technology Correspondent, talking about the power of social media in 2011 as seen in the role that it played in “The Arab Spring” uprisings, The London Riots and of course The Occupy Movement.

He goes on to discuss the way that Facebook will mature and possibly have its role curtailed by corporate ownership when it goes “public” in 2012 ans also the need for Twitter to become a money making enterprise which may also have spin-off effects.

Whichever way you look at it social media is now a major force in our world and has played a significant part in the events worldwide in 2011 and would be my nomination as the thing that has most changed all our lives this year.

Link to Matt Frei’s video:   cGRTB7qWR24

Why ICT must be a key part of the school curriculum

I have just read a really interesting post by Dan Barker in the Huffington Post United Kingdom edition. The post is titled “Decline and Fall: The UK’s Shocking IT Education Record”. It follows the recent Ofsted report on ICT education in schools.

In the post, Barker, a professional software developer, bemoans the fact that U.K. schools have a terrible record when it comes to teaching ICT skills. In a telling phrase he states: “I left school in 2007. In my entire time at secondary school, I had around 30 hours of computer education, concentrated between the ages of 11 and 12. I was not offered computing as an option at either GCSE or A-Level. Looking back now, it’s only because of my learning outside of school that I can do my job today. In that regard, none of my formal education prepared me in any way for the bulk of what I do from day to day”.

This is a young I.T. professional who is only too aware of the place that ICT skills have in the current world economy. He bemoans the fact that he deals with school leavers who do not have basic skills in this key area of the curriculum. He is wiling to attack politicians for their lack of awareness of the importance of these skills in fitting a young person for the digital world that we all now live in.

His final paragraph is perhaps the most concerning for us:

“The good news is that the problem is apparently now moving up the political agenda, with Michael Gove, the education secretary, admitting recently that he thought that computer science needed to be taught more in schools. But with the great credit-funded consumer boom only just spluttering on as we stare into the precipice of what is widely predicted to be another recession, and with a record 1 million 16 to 24 year-olds unemployed, the uncomfortable question is: Is this too little, too late?”

I can only add to this that it is about time that those people who are discussing the curriculum in schools appreciated the need to get to grips with the use of technology in education and the need to allow children to train in the proficient use of this technology so that they have the key skills that are required in order to compete on a global scale in the 21st century.

The significant but ungradeable

I was looking in Facebook today and my cousin Jared had posted a link to a wonderful blog post about combatting gender bullying.

The post can be seen here.

As I read through this post which was based on the experiences of a 1st grade teacher who had a child, Allie, in her class who is a girl but preferred to dress as a boy, I got to thinking about how important the lessons that took place were on a key area of significance in the lives of those 1st grade children.

The teacher took the time to address the subject of gender but widened this to look at “differences”. Now the children may have learnt some key skill in mathematics or in spelling or writing that day that may have skilled them up for their tests in the future and maybe given them a lifeskill that would prove important for their future welfare. Whatever they learnt in these subjects would be tested at some point and their success or failure would probably come right back at the teacher.

But what about those lessons on “accepting difference”? There would not be a test at the end of the school year and no administrators would be surveying the results and then nervously passing them on to some official so that they could be compared to other school’s results.

Those lessons though may well affect the lives of those children in a huge way. They may be the most important lessons that they will learn in that class that week. As they grow older and have to work out their own personalities and attitudes it may well affect how they relate to other adults, how they bring up their own children and what kind of a world we all get to live in.

In classrooms throughout the world there are lessons such as these happening each school day. They do not appear in grade listings or in sets of data that can be used by politicians and media personalities, they are at the heart of good teaching and effective learning and they change lives.

The power of video: Johnny Cash…. Hurt

I found out the other day whilst e-reading “Five Minds For the Future” by Howard Gardner, about two types of learners, spotlight learners who roam around the place and seek information from a multitude of sources and laser learners who concentrate on one particular thing and dig deeper and deeper into it.

This morning I was spotlighting around as I like to do, looking at Facebook, Google Plus and Twitter for something interesting to research, to watch, to read, to look at. I found nothing that really grabbed me so I decided to do a search on Google about most beautiful songs of all time.

I watched a couple of videos and didn’t find them all that moving. I was just about to leave my quest when I discovered a link to a song called “Hurt” by the late, great Johnny Cash.

I looked at this video and the power of it amazed me. Here was a song that had been written by Trent Reznor in a dark moment in his bedroom that was to become the last great song of an iconic performer. The words talked of regret, of ending and of ultimate hurt to the ones that you love. It is a dark song.

Cash though and the filmmakers who shot the video turned the song into a testament of his life and a visual farewell to his followers. It was intensely moving.

I turned from a spotlight learner into a laser learner because I felt that I wanted to know more about the song, its creation and effect. I did a YouTube search and found two more videos about how the video fitted into Cash’s last few months. It made me think of how much material there is on YouTube that can be accessed so easily and provide visual evidence for research.

It proved to me yet again how important visual education is in our digital world and how it must become a key part in the study of the future.

Below are the original “Hurt” video and one of the two videos I found  about the song…. watch, feel, think, interpret and understand the real power of video as an educational resource.

YouTube For Schools

At long last YouTube have taken note of the concerns about unlimited access to their total content in schools. They have now come out with “YouTube For Schools”which will have vetted videos which can be accessed safely in schools without any comments or advertisements.

Surely this will answer those who have used the “safety” argument for banning YouTube videos in schools. There is, as the well-made video above shows, so  many things that students can get from having the ability to access the wealth of material that is available on YouTube.

This has got to be a step in the right direction of getting wider use of technology into schools. Maybe it might convert some die-hard technology doubting teachers out there that there is something in all this new technology stuff!

Eric Schmidt: How education needs to handle a world of information

I did a YouTube search on “Children talk about using digital technology in school” and found a really interesting link that was not about children as such, or having them talk about their use of different forms of technology (which was the intention of my search) but which was valuable nonetheless.

This was the link:

Eric Schmidt at the Celebration of Teaching and Learning

in education and learning, is technology doing all it can to help us? Is technology on the cutting edge? Is technology delivering its promise? 

Start playing at search term (40:44)

What I found really interesting about this link was that it actually led me to a specific part of a long video (over an hour) that contained a section where Eric Schmidt (now Executive chairman of Google) talked about the importance of technology.

This idea of starting in a long video at a specific part which relates to a search term was really powerful to me. It made me think about the wider idea of how technology can be used to further learning. It related very much to Schmidt’s point in the video that schools haven’t come to terms with a world of information that is instantly accessible and which can be accessed by technology that is becoming cheaper and more powerful by the year (in an exponential growth).

I would recommend that you access the video at the point of the search term and watch Schmidt as he explains how technology has made the old forms of teaching and learning redundant and how we all need to adapt to a changed world of information that grows by huge amounts on a daily basis (even this blog is adding one tiny segment to today’s input to our well of knowledge!).

 

Being optimistic about the future

I retired from full-time work yesterday. I have left at a time of economic uncertainty and indeed I have been able to take early retirement due to being made redundant because of the Government’s public spending cutbacks.

I should feel somewhat concerned about the future, both my own personal one and the future for the rest of us in an age of economic downturn and the threat of yet another recession.

But I do not feel depressed at all. I have plans to extend my learning using the wonderful online opportunities to learn that are available these days with courses on all subjects from the great centres of education from across the world.

In the wider world picture I have found three young people this week who have given me hope for the future.  Here are the links I saved in my Diigo account:

10 Dec 11

09 Dec 11

These stories show me that we have some really outstanding talent in our younger generation. Not only are they outstanding in terms of their personal qualities but they have an outlook that wants to help their fellow human beings.
Kyle Thiermann is a 21 year old surfer who has used his surfing connections to help people to understand about the investments that large banks have made that have led to economic exploitation in countries such as Chile. He has been able to get people to change their investment to local,environmentally friendly banks.
Travis Allen made a YouTube video whilst in high school about the need to promote mobile (specifically iPad) learning. The article that I have linked to above shows just how far he has come in promoting his environmentally friendly ideas. He has become a keynote speaker in many conferences and recently attended the Google Zeitgeist Conference where he met other leading “movers and shakers” from all over the world. He has started his own company that promotes  paper-free ideas and the advantages of using new technology to promote effective learning in schools and colleges.
Angela Zhang is 17 years old and she’s just been awarded the $100,000 Grand Prize in the Individual category of the Siemens Competition in Math, Science & Technology. Her project was entitled “Design of Image-guided, Photo-thermal Controlled Drug Releasing Multifunctional Nanosystem for the Treatment of Cancer Stem Cells.”
Here is a High School student who has developed a means for trying to locate and destroy cancer stem cells which could have far-reaching impact on the  ability of the medical profession to combat this horrible disease in the future.
These are just three of many many thousands of amazing young people who give me hope for the future. So, as I go out into the unknown that is my retirement I feel that I have a lot to look forward to and, with amazing young people such as Kyle, Travis and Angela , so do the rest of us.
Here’s to a bright future!

Two great movers: Sir Ken Robinson and John Seely Brown

I have watched two excellent videos today by two of the great movers in our world of education, namely, Sir Ken Robinson and John Seely Brown. I say “movers” following the section towards the end of Sir Ken’s talk where he quotes Benjamin Franklin in saying that “there are three types of people in the world, the immovable, the ones who will move and those that actually move!”

These two people are preaching important messages about the need to have a creative and innovative education system. It is very much against the message of “No Child Left Behind” and other so-called educational reform.

If you have the time, watch the videos. I appreciate that Sir Ken’s is over 40 minutes long but it repays your attention. John Seely Brown is a seminal thinker who has a clear vision of how education must adapt to the challenges of the 21st century.

These men are movers who we would do well to listen, watch and follow.

 

Why Siri has convinced me

I have never owned any Apple product! Now there’s a statement that should draw gasps of disbelief from you. This was not because I had any particular dislike of  the Mac, the iPod, the iPhone or the iPad but because I found that they always seemed to hit the market at a price that made them to expensive for me to try them.

I have of course come across all of these objects as they are to be found almost anywhere these days at any time. I have seen their functionality and admired their design. I was impressed by the range of Apps that the iPhone had and the ease of use of these Apps. But something told me not to buy or contract any of them and I therefore remained outside the worldwide loop of Apple aficionados.

Last night though I was at a meal with several of my colleagues to celebrate two of us retiring (me being one!) and one leaving for pastures new. I was sitting next to a colleague who showed me her new iPhone 4. She switched on Siri, the voice activated assistant and told me to ask for the latest weather details.

Siri thought for a short while and then came back to me with the details of the weather for our area for the next few hours. I watched (and listened) transfixed. I had seen a video of Siri at work on YouTube but had not been this close to seeing the real thing. This to me was a great moment.

In Siri I see the real potential of the mobile phone as a fast track information system. It does not need text to act and can work efficiently to provide a range of information. It can be used by young and old. Incredibly it is just the start of voice activated technology on phones. It is also yet another example of how Apple has been so powerfully influenced by Star Trek.

I wonder if the young Steve Jobs (who is almost contemporary with me ) sat at home and marvelled at the  ability for a human to talk to a computer that could talk back at him and provide information. Like so much of the design of the Apple products it seems to me that we are living in the early part of the 21st century besotted by objects that have their origins (in terms of idea) in the mass media of the 1960’s U.S.A.

Siri has certainly convinced me that this technology is a powerful step forward. I may even become the owner (or user) of an iPhone at long last!

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Learning to be visually literate

As it says in the video: A Picture is worth a thousand words

I have grown up and have been educated to express myself in text. I have worked at this for many years and have developed a certain facility for expressing myself in this media.

More and more though I have come to realise that we are moving inexorably towards a society that expresses itself visually. I realise that I have to learn how to do this. I shall be retiring soon and have decided that I want to spend much of my learning time in trying to become more able to express myself visually. I want to become a more effective photographer and I want to explore video.

Here is a photograph that I downloaded today:

This photograph is by Skinnylawyer and was downloaded from Flickr. It is in a series of photographs taken at the 9/11 Memorial. The single rose says it all in a way that my prose cannot.

Surely it is time that we realised the way that the digital revolution has effected the way that our children learn about their world and the way that they would choose to express themselves. A powerful argument is given for the importance of a visual curriculum in the following TedXDartmouth Talk by Brian Kennedy

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