Wikipedia – the great book of knowledge

Detail from the puzzle globe Wikipedia logo.

We used to need libraries to make the sum of human knowledge available to all. Today we have Wikipedia, where the sum of human knowledge can be shaped by all of us. But can we trust it?

Wikipedia  features 30 million articles, in 287 languages. And it’s written and edited — for free — by 77,000 contributors around the world. What did we do before Wikipedia? How has wikipedia influenced knowledge flow and global connectedness?  How does technology change the nature of information, the truth, facts and the power of community?  Power of the collective  interactive space where everyone on the planet can collaborate. At this CBC radio podcast Philip Coulter  suggests that the collective mind is perhaps the best mind we have.

Coulter dubs the term ‘vector knowledge’ which summarizes perfectly how wikipedia knowledge networks connect directly and indirectly to create the mesh of human information and knowledge in this digital repository.

Download The Great Book of Knowledge, Part 1
[mp3 file: runs 00:53:58]

In the podcast The Great Book of Knowledge, Part 1 you will hear a fascinating discussion about Wikipedia from a number of operational, social, innovative, and connected society perspectives.The entire podcast is very worthwhile listening to in order to be able to really appreciate the [R]evolution in access to human knowledge, and the way we build and share information to further knowledge endeavours.

Tips for Using Wikipedia Effectively

Use Wikipedia to get a general overview, and follow the references it provides as far as they can take you.

Look at the Discussion tab to see if the article you’re reading is part of a WikiProject, meaning that a group of people who care about the subject area are working in concert on its content. They may not be experts on the subject, but signing onto a WikiProject implies a writer has more than a casual interest in it.

If it is part of a WikiProject, see if it has been rated. Articles in WikiProjects go through a type of peer review. This is not the same type of peer review your professor talks about regarding scholarly research, but even such a limited review does at least imply that someone from the WikiProject has looked at the article at some point and assigned a quality rating to it. In any case, to be fairly sure that a Wikipedia article expresses what laypeople might need to know to consider themselves reasonably informed, look for a rating of B/A or above.

You may find it helpful to consult any or all of the following for additional help in understanding Wikipedia, finding and evaluating sources:

What’s with all the conversations?

You know how it is these days – everyone seems to be looking at some kind of an iDevice or another, where-ever you turn. It’s easy to make trivial comments about the iSociety, but let’s face it – the future of technology and information is anything but trivial!

Last year I discovered that I could speak to my mobile phone – literally ask it a  question.  With the power of SIRI (Apple’s iOS information navigator) my mobile phone gave me some answers right there on my screen.  It would seem that soon there will be no need to read an answer to a question with voice responses being the norm, and in another few decades there may not even be a question!

While we grapple with devices, interfaces and screens in our daily lives, the futurists tell us that we will BE our technology and information will be who we are and what it made us.

As we watch the fast-paced changes taking place in technology, the web of data and the social connections between us, the value of information as knowledge remains the core business of librarians and info-nerds. The “Fourth Revolution,” proposed by Floridi (2012)  describes the current information age, an era in which our understanding of both self and world is significantly altered by sudden changes in the information climate and which are directly attributable to the advent of computing machinery from Alan Turing (1912-1954) onwards.  As curators of knowledge and cultural history the burning question in this fourth revolution undoubtedly lies in our ongoing ability to manipulate and manage information flow.

The digital revolution has given us instant communication and easy global connectedness, with mobile technology and its influences in particular growing at warp speed – in 2013, there are almost as many mobile-cellular subscriptions as people in the world. This digital transformation has produced some extraordinary tools for flexible learning, which are exciting for both students and teachers and promise new and innovative methods of teaching. However, these tools can also be incredibly daunting and challenging for educators.

Thomas and Seely Brown (2011), who explored this new culture of learning in our world of constant change, explained how much the Internet has changed the way we think about both technology and information. In this new culture of learning, information technology has become a participatory medium, giving rise to an environment that is constantly being changed and reshaped by the participation within information spaces. They argue that traditional approaches to learning are no longer capable of coping with this constantly changing world. Teachers no longer need to scramble to provide the latest up-to-date information to students because the students themselves are able to take an active role in helping to create and mould it, particularly in areas of social information.

To support and nurture learning in these evolving environments is a challenge, and why using digital mediums to communicate, collaborate, and curate in the management and dissemination of information is important. Library and information science academic and professional development programs should be designed to enhance personal professional networks and personal learning conversations.

I’m pleased to welcome a new group of students into our degree program for Teacher Librarianship. These ‘students’ already have a wealth of professional experience as teachers behind them, but our professional program for them is already challenging them with  new cultures of learning  – and it’s only Week 1!

It’s exciting to see the evolving information ecology that these students are moving into. What’s more exciting is that with such a great new bunch of students, I know that teacher librarianship will be in safe hands in the future.

Floridi, L. (2012). The fourth revolution. The Philosophers’ Magazine, (57), 96-101.
Thomas, D., & Brown, J. S. (2011). A new culture of learning: Cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change (Vol. 219). Lexington, KY: CreateSpace.

Image: The Family Pile cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by Blake Patterson

Creating change, creating the future


What a great week for change and development it has been!  In a significant point in history I saw today that one of the world’s innovators, Douglas Englbart died, and there was plenty of commentary reflecting his myriad contributions circulating in the globe’s media.

The Computer History Museum explained:

Engelbart’s most important work began with his 1959 founding of the Augmentation Research Center, where he developed some of the key technologies used in computing today. Engelbart brought the various strands of his research together for his “mother of all demos” in San Francisco on December 8, 1968, an event that presaged many of the technologies and computer-usage paradigms we would use decades later. His system, called NLS, showed actual instances of, or precursors to, hypertext, shared screen collaboration, multiple windows, on-screen video teleconferencing, and the mouse as an input device.

It was interesting to read that Engelbart conceived the computer mouse so early in the evolution of computers that he and his colleagues didn’t profit much from it. The mouse patent had a 17-year life span, allowing the technology to pass into the public domain in 1987. That prevented Engelbart from collecting royalties on the mouse when it was in its widest use. At least a billion have been sold since the mid-1980s.

Meanwhile, as the last century continues to fade, CSU staff are busy this week nurturing the potential future innovators in information studies –  through the Melbourne study visit of libraries and information agencies, and the mid-year residential school for latest new students in the Bachelor of Information Studies.

Melbourne Study Tour

These two activities combined have seen a host of excited students – but the newest recruits were easily the most amazing bunch I’ve seen so far.

If they keep up the level of enthusiasm they have shown this week – watch out world!

I’ll be chatting to them about the social networking subject of course, and they are the first lucky bunch to be introduced to our new Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/SISCSU and Twitter account https://twitter.com/SISCSU.

No fear –  the School of Information Studies staff are a talented bunch.  We even provide our own entertainment for students, lead by Damian Lodge – lecturer, ALIA Director, and classical guitar maker!

Image: 25 Years of Apple Mouse Evolution cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by osaMu

It’s Here! The NMC Horizon Report – K-12

HorizonOnce again I’m delighted to have had the opportunity to participate in the NMC Horizon Report K-12 as a member of the international Advisory Board. I was joined by fellow Australians Tony Brandenburg (Education Services Australia), Daniel Ingvarson (National Schools Interoperability Program), Julie Lindsay (Flat Classroom Project), and  Kathryn Moyle (Centre for School Leadership, Learning and Development).

The New Media Consortium, the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), and the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), with the support of HP, produced the NMC Horizon Report > 2013 K-12 Edition, which was released in a special session at the NMC Summer Conference. This fifth edition in the annual K-12 series of the NMC Horizon Project examines emerging technologies for their potential impact on and use in teaching, learning, and creative inquiry within the environment of pre-college education.

Six emerging technologies are identified across three adoption horizons over the next one to five years, as well as key trends and challenges expected to continue over the same period, giving educators, school administrators, and practitioners a valuable guide for strategic technology planning:

  • Cloud computing
  • Mobile Learning
  • Learning Analytics
  • Open Content
  • 3D Printing
  • Virtual and Remote Laboratories

The NMC Horizon Report > 2013 K-12 Edition is available online, free of charge, and published under a Creative Commons license to facilitate its widespread use, easy duplication, and broad distribution.  Do make sure that you grab a copy and share it with your staff!

> Download the NMC Horizon Report > 2013 K-12 Edition (PDF)

The video provides a quick view and discussion starter for your next PD session at school.

Meet the future!

HadfieldHaving followed the tweets of Commander Chris Hadfield, remaining all the while in awe at the connections  between social media and reality (including the intersections with learning and teaching experiences),  I could only gasp at the implications of the video below that has gone viral.  Amazing.

The future is more than a Space Oddity!

The future is amazing and we need to remember that – always – in whatever field of education that we work.

Wisdom in networks

Funny - A Hoot
Last year I spoke to my mobile phone. I wasn’t ringing anyone, but I asked my phone a question.  Guess what? No answer.  Last week I spoke to my phone, and it gave me some answers right there on my screen.  Better.

Soon there will be no need to read a answer, and in another few decades there may not even be a question.  Futurists tell us that we will be our technology, and information will be who we are or what it made us.   As we watch the fast-paced changes taking place in technology, the web of data and the social connections between us, the value of information as knowledge is what the game-change is all about, and as such remains the core business of info-nerds.

What is so frantically important is to unravel where we need to go in all this.  No amount of Advanced Searching with Google is going to resolve the major issues confronting us. Just watch people wherever you go – cafes, trains, sidewalks, bars – mobile in hand, people connect, people ask, people investigate, people forage for news and information.   So it’s  more than information discovery,  information filtering or information curation strategies that we need to be thinking/learning about. The “Fourth Revolution,” proposed by Floridi (2012)  describes the current information age, an era in which our understanding of both self and world is significantly altered by sudden changes in the information climate due to the advent of computing machinery from Alan Turing (1912-1954) onwards.

So you’re a teacher?  or an information professional of some kind? Either way, you have a significant role to play in how the future shapes up. As curators of knowledge and cultural history the burning question in the fourth revolution undoubtedly lies in our ongoing ability to manipulate and manage information flow.

In my April foolishness, my mind is totally absorbed by all this.  As I watch MOOCs emerge around the globe, as I note the various professional opportunities that associations and organizations provide, I’m delighted by the range of offerings, and the quality of some of them. But they are niche offerings.   A bit of this, a bit of that.  A full quality credentialed degree program still has HUGE relevance, because of the depth, breadth, width and brain-expanding opportunities that are possible.

But enough of that for now…more later.

What we need  is a MINDshifted degree! One that helps you learn how digital connections should change the way we think, the way we teach, the way we craft the future.  We need cross-disciplinary understanding of knowledge networking and digital innovation as a degree at the intersection of knowledge, information science and education.  This way we can ensure our graduates have the capacity to manage and manipulate information in a networked way for learning and teaching.

In the next couple of weeks our new initiative (been slogging on this) is being put forward as  formal application to the Faculty of Education. The aim is to have  an amazing new degree ready for you in 2014.

Watch these pages for more updates on the Master of Education (Knowledge Networks and Digital Innovation). Trust me – You’ll want to know more about it!

Floridi, L. (2012). The fourth revolution. The Philosophers’ Magazine, (57), 96-101.

Image: Funny – A Hoot

Is being out of office your job?

I experienced an ‘oh yeah’ moment while I was checking out apps to use to remain connected and manage my workflow better.  I mention this in the positive sense – it’s not that I am complaining about being connected or the range of things I need to do, but rather it’s because I want to  make my work more interesting AND engaging; I want to be connected;  I do NOT subscribe to the “I’m traveling and will have limited access to email” kind of message that I often come across.

Out of Office” – probably the most common auto reply in the world, so popular there are even tutorials on how to write one. But times are changing and the term is gradually losing its meaning. From telling people that you would not be working, Out of Office is becoming where more and more where work really happens. There are many professions where being out of the office is your job. And, although his quote was in response to some companies moving away from remote workforces we get the feeling that the world is moving towards more flexible work styles, not away from it.

Working as I do in online learning environments, I get very frustrated by examples of distance education that are locked into the “out of office” mentality. Consultation times for 1/2 an hour at designated times each week? Phone calls made and received only when you are at your office desk? Invitations to join social media groups left languishing for a week or two – oh because you didn’t log into the account?

As a member of the international Advisory Board, I’ve started my reading and research involvement with the next Horizon Report K-12 2013 edition. If anything, the regular releases of the Horizon Report have proven that the predictions are not fantasy – but a real litmus for where learning and teaching is going. If you haven’t already done so, read the NMC Horizon Report 2012 K-12 edition, and grab the app while you are at it.

Let’s face it – when students can talk with an astronaut currently circling the earth, or follow his twitter feed of photos and more,  the goal posts for connectedness can definitely be considered to have changed.Check out Okanagan students chat with Commander Hadfield. What a great series of questions. Jump to the video and experience history! What’s also cool is that this event was made possible by ham radio operators. Yep! Twelve minutes – an event of a lifetime.

HatfiledIf we are genuinely aiming to prepare teachers and information professionals to engage in the kind of environment that  represents the best practices of connected learning and communication, the old models of being ‘out of office’ just have no traction – except when you are on annual leave!

Then it’s fine to turn off your mobile device, and drop off the grid.

Image: Podio connections