In 2006, a survey conducted by Roper Public Affairs for the National Geographic Society found that 63% of Americans ages 18 to 24 could not find Iraq on a map of the Middle East. Robert Pastor, a professor of International Relations at American University, described the problem as “geographic illiteracy.”
Two years later, one of us replicated the survey with a smaller sample and a slight variation.
Doug recruited 18 undergraduate students, also between 18 and 24. But instead of providing a map, he sat them in front of a computer and said, “Find Iraq.” One hundred percent of the students were able to do so — and more. They asked, “Street View or aerial?” “Do you want to focus on any particular region or the whole country?” “Should I turn the satellite imaging on or do you want it in map form?”
It was not the students who were illiterate in the original survey, but those who set a problem based on a complete lack of understanding of the nature of learning, or indeed the nature of knowledge, in the digital age.
No Quarter Cutthewar
Comrade George Orwell
Anti-Cuts Across Wigan
First of Mayband
Don’t Break Britain United
Westiminster Trades Council
Central London SWP
North London Solidarity
Rochdale Law Centre
Goldsmiths Fights Back
Cockneyreject SWP Cork
Any notion what connects all of the above Facebook pages and sites?
Simple: none of them exists any longer, since Facebook has arbitrarily and without warning deleted all of them. The Arabs may be having their Spring, but it seems that political protest and alternative views on how our society ought to be run have no place on Facebook in the UK.
.…maybe Twitter and Facebook forever will be model corporate citizens, always putting the freedom of their users ahead of their own bottom lines.
And if you believe that, keep on tweeting. Don’t worry, be happy.
But if it should happen that your freedom is abridged by these corporations, and they aren’t the government so they don’t have to respect your rights (you are free to speak elsewhere), you will be very glad I and the people I am working with are doing what we’re doing.
Here’s the deal. I think the Internet itself is a social network.
That’s the guiding principle. Using standards we already have, like HTTP, HTML, RSS, DNS, OPML, JSON — you can make a news net that is as open and distributed as the Internet itself.
Winer here is talking about writing and news-gathering, but political activists on the Web also need to get out from under the fickle, arbitrary and anti-democratic corporate blanket. I may not like the politics or the approach of all of the groups listed above, but I abhor the idea that the likes of Facebook can decide whether or not they have the right to a virtual public platform. They are not to be trusted.
Design both as a profession and as a creative activity is not well understood. This has a great deal to do with the narrow base of knowledge of most commentators, but also reflects a general lack of comprehension about the role of the creative economy in the 21st century.
For me, Design is about knowledge, knowledge production and the integration of knowledge into every aspect of how a company, community and learning institution works. Design is very much about putting intelligence into objects (see the work of James Dyson) as well as brokering relationships among creative people, entrepreneurs, outputs and audiences.
Mortenson’s feet of clay expose far more than one fantasist: they also reveal a lot about the naivety of Americans concerning the world and their role in it. No one questioned him too closely, and, more importantly, no one listened closely enough to what the Pakistanis themselves had to say: the unravelling of the Mortenson fable has come as no surprise there. Even in such a highly connected world, some forms of information still don’t travel and certainly make no headway against the word of an American hero. Americans swallowed his tale because they wanted to. What empires – particularly those involved in violent conflict – need, above all, is heroes.
Madeleine Bunting, in today’s Guardian, on the sorry tale of an American hero found wanting (following a 60 Minutes report on CBS that uncovered the tale). She makes a valid point, but I do think she needs to add a qualifier: many, possibly even most, Americans. I know and work with many Americans who are true citizens of the world and who do not fall under such a broad generalization in any way.
Anyway, like so many, I was taken in by Mortenson’s tale of naive bravery and his American ‘can do’ attitude. Three issues in particular are at the forefront of my mind as I consider this tale unravelling so sadly, and rightly, about the man.
First, how on earth did he think he would get away with it? I cannot help but conclude that he really did not think anyone in the part of the world he visited woud have the nous or the wherewithall to challenge his version of events or, indeed, to have a sufficiently loud voice to make themselves heard in the USA and elsewhere. Perhaps he even thought they were all too remote to ever hear about his book and about his misrepresentation of events? It’s hard to say. I can only think that there is an underlying racism, or at the very least ethnocentrism, in Mortenson’s attitude to this — a mindset that simply dismissed the possibility that these rural people stuck in the back of beyond, as he must have seen it, could possibly be heard or listened to in the West.
Secondly, what was the role of his co-author, David Oliver Relin, in all of this? There have been some questions anyway about how much of the book Mortenson actually wrote.
And thirdly, as the cover displayed here shows, his publishers produced a children’s version of the book, adapted in good faith by Sarah L Thomson, with a foreward by Jane Goodall. I wonder how those kids who have read the book will react to finding out it’s largely a work of fiction?
It will be interesting to see how it all plays out, and especially how the publishers will react to a situation in which a publishing success has now been, it seems, hugely tarnished.
What we’re seeing with quantitative testing in school reform is very similar. Governments and voters are confronted with a phenomenon they are desperate to improve, but can’t measure. What goes on in a classroom is a social phenomenon that can’t be effectively captured through standardised measurements. But they need a number. So they’re creating standardised measurements to get one. But immediately, the application of the measurement and its incentives changes the way the phenomenon is organised. A complex, creative process is stripped down to a mechanical one designed to produce high test scores. The old-growth forest is replaced with rows of Norway spruce. Ms Goldstein writes:
In the social sciences, there is an oft-repeated aphorism called Campbell’s Law, named after Donald Campbell, the psychologist who pioneered the study of human creativity: “The more any quantitative social indicator is used for social decision-making, the more subject it will be to corruption pressures and the more apt it will be to distort and corrupt the social processes it is intended to monitor.” In short, incentives corrupt. Daniel Koretz, the Harvard education professor recognized as the country’s leading expert on academic testing, writes in his book Measuring Up that Campbell’s Law is especially applicable to education; there is a preponderance of evidence showing that high-stakes tests lead to a narrowed curriculum, score inflation, and even outright cheating among those tasked with scoring exams.
Following on from my recent post that picked up on a point made by Euan Semple about those who ‘espouse the primacy of face to face communications’, I came across an interesting and relevant post by Cisco’s ebullient ‘futurist’, Carlos Dominguez. In the post, he sets out seven pointers intended to help those who want to try to build better collaboration within a corporate environment. I know I am biased, but I would argue that Cisco is a company that has made very effective use of social technologies both internally and in its dealings with customers and partners worldwide — and Carlos Dominguez has been a major influence in making that happen.
His seven pointers are:
Experiment — Many large enterprises have very strict processes and guidelines on the adoption of new company-wide technology deployments. I suggest adopting an approach of experimentation. Without experimentation you may miss a game changing technology.
Start Small — Engage in three to four small technology deployments and see what works.
Measure / Learn — At the onset of these experiments make sure you figure out a way to capture and measure the impact of these technologies. The data/results are key in gaining support from the executive team.
Executive Sponsor — Find an executive sponsor who is interested in technology or can gain the most from it. Keep them informed on a regular basis.
Expect Failure — Not everything will work. Keep documentation on what failed and why.
Trust — This is one of the key things to understand. Nothing replaces fae-to-face meetings. The key human characteristic that enables or hinders collaboration is trust. Technologies like high definition video will have a significant impact on trust since facial expressions and body language are recognized. That makes HD video a valuable tool if the teams have never met or if their personal relationships are limited. Inversely, audio conferencing has very little impact on building trust. Use the right tool for the job!
Inside/Outside Company — To maximize the potential of any collaboration effort, consider how to get people outside your company to participate. Consider suppliers, partners and customers as potential participants and contributors. Some great things may happen!
Stephen Downes points us at a nice timeline of educational technology, on the Edudemic site — everything from the Horn Book to the iPad, and with the likes of the stereoscope, the scantron, the CD-Rom drive and the iClicker in between!
The text relating to the ‘school slate’ reads:
Used throughout the 19th century in nearly all classrooms.…
19th century? I learned to form my letters on a slate when I was in Primary 1 in central Scotland in 1962.……
Euan Semple has a knack for short posts that force me to confront some assumptions. A recent one is a case in point, entitled Mass Illiteracy:
Are those who espouse the primacy of face to face communication really just hiding the fact that they are illiterate? I mean this in the sense that they are not very comfortable expressing themselves in writing. Most people don’t really have much experience of putting thoughts down “on paper”. Not many people keep journals, letter writing isn’t what it once was, and business documents are really a very small and undistinguished subset of what is possible with the written word!
Just wondering …
It’s not quite the same issue, but Euan reminded me of something that used to bug me throughout my teaching career: the idea of young people being taught how to write (beyond the mechanics of basic literacy, I mean) by teachers who rarely if ever did any writing themselves. How many teachers teaching writing have ever actually tried their hand, successfully, at sustained writing of any sort: journalism, report-writing, essay-writing, short story writing, writing a novel.…whatever?
There is a wide gulf between the ability to craft a well-honed sentence and the capacity to plan and write a sustained piece for a particular purpose.
I would be interested to hear if others think it matters.