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:

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.

Australian libraries in action – digitisation of content

Australian libraries are embracing the opportunities that 21st century innovations have made possible. Technology has become the means for libraries in all sectors – public, academic, corporate, specialist, schools – to reach out to their community in ways that are innovative, unexpected, and information rich.

These libraries realise that they have a vital role to play in today’s interactive knowledge environment, where asking a question is synonymous with ‘googling’, and where ‘catching up with the news’ can happen in many formats via small and big devices. Print is no longer king, and content is everywhere on screens of many different sizes. By re-imagining and re-branding their spaces, functions and services, Australian libraries are meeting the new challenges.

Libraries in the community

Libraries throughout Australia have been offering access to books, magazines, tapes, DVDs, newspapers, audio books, and more for information and leisure for a long time. But with the increasing flexibility for information sharing that the internet provides, digital media has become a cornerstone of connected 21st century libraries, changing the way they interact with the community, and providing new ways to record history, society and culture.

Our libraries are ‘shape-shifting’ before our very eyes, bringing with them exciting spaces to visit (outfitted with anything from coffee-shops to e-book readers) and providing virtual opening hours around the clock.

Content for all

Colourbox / Used by Permission So what is this all about? The global popularity of the Internet and the ready access to information via web searches has led people to expect access to almost any kind of cultural material via a web browser. This is where digital content from libraries begins to really count. Starting from the top, the National Library of Australia is leading the way, ensuring that Australians have access to their documentary heritage now and in the future. A virtual visit to discover Australia’s Digital Collections is very worthwhile providing a surprising range of variety with Trove, Picture Australia, Music Australia, Australia Dancing and Australian Newspapers.

Of course we also have Australia’s web archive, PANDORA , which is a growing collection of Australian online publications, established initially by the National Library of Australia in 1996, and now built in collaboration with nine other Australian libraries and cultural collecting organisations. The name, PANDORA, is an acronym for Preserving and Accessing Networked Documentary Resources of Australia – showing perfectly how important digitisation of content has become for modern Australian libraries. Another great example is the National film and sound archive, which is also a recognised leader in digitising and preserving our history and culture.

Furthermore, Australian libraries are active in international digital projects such as The Commons on Flickr. Whether it is here, or in various places like Trove’s Australian Newspapers, the magic happens when the community becomes involved. People can not only find, share, research or enjoy resources, but can also contribute to the growing digitised collection of cultural heritage. Do you recognise a person or location in an image? Can you interpret the text? Then go ahead, and participate!

Sharing for all

It is easy to see that the modern library continues to be at the heart of a community because of digitisation.

In addition to providing e-books, digital collections and online resources, libraries are helping keep memories alive. Personal collections and community history projects are all part of digitisation projects around the nation. Libraries are also helping make available images and resources held in government departments, historical societies, museums, galleries, and by individuals. By digitizing them and expanding the collections with resources that have been born digital (originating in digital form) libraries are at the centre of the action.

Colourbox / Used by Permission Our digital memories make our heritage, and our libraries are also helping us care for our personal memories and materials – some of which will eventually be shared as part of our cultural heritage. The services of libraries span from scientific data and born-digital ephemera to video games and web archiving. Whether it’s with help of a Starter Kit for Community Groups or with the help of large organisations like the ABC (which also encompasses archives, libraries and rights managements) digital and digitised content is here to stay.

Making it mobile

Library services are also getting mobile in many unexpected ways. Don’t just think of Twitter, Facebook or Google+ as spaces for teens! Libraries want to capture digital ideas and communicate them quickly.
Colourbox / Used by Permission Libraries are using social media to pass the message around, and make access to resources relevant and up-to-date. After all, access to the photos from events (via Facebook) or receiving a message about what’s on (via Twitter) are all part of the new social media scene. And of course, many libraries make it possible to get great digital e-audio and e-book content for our mobile devices using services like Overdrive and Wheeler’s books.

QR codes are also proving to be a quick digital access point (in libraries and exhibitions) to media of all kinds, and Apps are providing immediate access to digital content anytime, anywhere without needing a computer.

Australian libraries have a bright future in the digital world. Libraries have always been here to help us understand our world and build our communities. Now, they are just doing it better than ever.

This article was commissioned by the Goethe-Institute and first appeared on www.goethe.de  as part of Germany-Australia focus on libraries. This article appeared at the following link http://www.goethe.de/ins/au/lp/kulto/mag/lib/ele/en8855739.htm.

Top image: cc licensed ( BY NC ) flickr photo shared by DRs Kulturarvsprojekt

Introducing TED-Ed: Lessons worth sharing

This IS exciting! TED has launched its TED-Ed YouTube channel: Short, animated videos for teachers and students. TED-Ed’s mission is to capture and amplify the voices of great educators around the world. We do this by pairing extraordinary educators with talented animators to produce a new library of curiosity-igniting videos. You can nominate a teacher, nominate an animator or suggest a lesson here:
http://education.ted.com

The time for libraries is now!


Each new academic year brings me challenges, changes and excitement in ways that I often cannot anticipate. Once again our library shelves have been dusted, collections prepared, digital tools sharpened, and our motivation is running high. Yet the one point of predictability is that the learning landscape refuses to ‘be still’!  When it comes to literacy, information and life-long learning, the pulsing energy of change powers the curriculum of learning  throughout the year at breakneck speed.

Before the year had hardly got underway there were already several indicators that confirmed that education should  never be what it was when you were at school. For example YouTube told us:

Since the dawn of YouTube, we’ve been sharing the hours of video you upload every minute. In 2007 we started at six hours, then in 2010 we were at 24 hours, then 35, then 48, and now…60 hours of video every minute, an increase of more than 30 percent in the last eight months.

Never mind that the ‘dawn of YouTube’ was February 2005, which was just 10 short years after Larry Page and Sergey Brin first met at Stanford University, and before Google was a twinkle in their eye.

We saw the launch of iBooks for education, and iBooksAuthor which promised to challenge the textbook environment in schools by allowing teachers and students to create interactive content for iPads.  Following the unveiling of iBooks 2 Apple saw an incredible 350,000 textbook downloads in in the first three days after launch.

We also saw the new twist on Google+  which finally allowed both nicknames and full-fledged pseudonyms to be used. We got confirmation once again that game-based learning had more to offer than novelty interest. When online gamers topped scientists’ efforts to improve a model enzyme using the online game Foldit (University of Washington in Seattle) a milestone in crowd-sourced research was achieved.

While all schools are now involved in technology integration, laptop programs of some kind, and even iPads for 1:1 programs, it is astounding to think about the myriad ways the core tools and learning opportunities of the 21st century have indeed become extraordinary.

This is the socially connected era of mobile devices where interaction is key, and where mobile phone cameras are replacing point-and-shoot cameras to provide visual connection to the conversations. Audio and video media are more and more available online and always accessible in contrast to a disk or separate device designed for single purpose use. While some schools (or systems) lag in adopting the tools of today, students generally do not, making this is part of the overall challenge for information professionals.

Both librarians in your public or corporate library,  and your teacher librarians in your school library can have a vital role to play in today’s interactive knowledge environments as knowledge building, literacy and communication in action  takes many forms, shape-shifting before our eyes. This digital information ecology demands a new knowledge flow between content and digital connection in which expert professionals understand reading and information seeking in a connected world. In other words, the time for libraries is now!

For schools, all this sounds very much like an environment that is best understood and interpreted by teacher librarians who are passionate about their library’s role in the learning culture of their school. It sounds like the perfect space for teacher librarians who are up-to-date with social media, and who already understand the portable, personal web, focused on the individual, on life-stream, on consolidating content, that is powered by widgets, apps, drag-and-drop, and ‘mash-ups’ of user engagement.

Print materials are no longer at the core of the school library reference collection, the non-fiction collection, or the information search process. Students use technology to research online, anytime, anywhere. School libraries that adapt to the digital needs of their students not only continue to build a reading culture in the school, but provide the divergence and convergence in media needed to provide the materials for motivation, differentiation, collaboration and connections necessary for 21st century learning in the multiple and diverse ways of a true expert.

Put bluntly, the era of the  iPad and other mobile/hand-held devices have changed school libraries forever, but have made the role of the teacher-librarian within the whole school community the most important leadership role there is!

Lisa Oldham, Development specialist for school library futures at the National Library of New Zealand, discusses the future of school libraries in the knowledge economy.

Let’s make 2012 the best ever for our libraries!

Image: cc licensed ( BY SD ) flickr photo shared by heyjudegallery

Information abyss – in the era of global education

The more I look the more certain I am that I stand at the edge of an information abyss, rather than at the dawn of a  golden age of information and life-long learning powered by the digital environments.

Perhaps there are two sides to this:

The good side encompasses savoring the growth of creative knowledge and nurturing the  understanding for students engaged in the topic of discussion. In this way students can sometimes surprise and delight us with insights and even lead us in new directions taking the teacher mentor along with them.

The bad side encompasses that information abyss that exists, but which is misunderstood,  largely unmentioned, and yet which is creating a new form of the digital divide – content and conversation ignorance in an era of mass information.

Knowledge and creative/scientific  understanding is always at the heart of the educational endeavour. Teachers gnawing at the syllabus bones of their subject may find juicy marrow, but it’s still the same pile of bones.    The officially mandated parameters of accreditation organizations (think departments of school education or higher education) means that content and process may run parrallel to the natural learning needs of students.

Designing any long-term educational action these days (especially in the face of 1:1 computing and mobile devices) involves creating scenarios for acquiring and developing competencies and knowledge in subject domains that are enabled by personalization. Competences are the main element of the learning process and personalization in virtual learning scenarios involve designing and executing learning paths, learning activities within a subject and some kind of analysis that ‘tags’ the success of the particular lifelong learning elements involved.  That’s education, but is that learning?

Ah – here it is again, that information abyss.

Educators were never information experts, but in the era of ‘industrial schooling’ this did not matter.   Information was organized and made available in structured ways, quietly providing access to tacit and explicit knowledge at point of need.

Then technology transformed the information landscape, pushing changes into education. Unfortunately education experts forgot that they were not information experts, and in the age of web-enabled information some educators and educational   leaders, in their enthusiasm and  ‘debunking’ of industrial schooling,  have also advertised their ignorance in how to work with the most precious of all commodities – information!   Did they toss the baby out with the bathwater!  Nope, they actually never did know what information organization was all about, what metadata means, when digital preservation is important, how information access can be facilitated, how information is organized, and what strategies are needed to find, analyze and synthesize information.  Pre the web era , this didn’t matter. There were librarians around to fill the breach and provide the knowledge gap.  Now things are different.

Information (and the knowledge it contains) is the underpinning of society, learning, and future developments. Information is what lead to the creation of the web, and which leads to developments in all forms of our web engagement.  Social networks are enabling information sharing. We need to be able to read, and read well, to access information. We need to know how to find and make available to others the information that matters.

But while educators “toot” the use of web tools, and play with virtual environments, they seem to remain more ignorant than ever about the impacts of web organization on information access and information retrieval.   Only a fool closes a school library down because information is on the web, and fiction books are sitting in a box in the classroom.

How should we ensure we refresh the mental browser of pre-digital thinking to suit the evolution of the web?

What school leaders need to do is to go out and find the best information and library experts they can find to re-vitalize their school library.  What school leaders need to do is to go and empower an information expert within their school to lead in curriculum design, and ensure that it incorporates the required fluency with information access, use, manipulation, remix, and dissemination.  What school leaders need to recognize is that all the reshaping of classroom spaces, and use of tech tools and mobile devices for   curriculum innovation is nothing more than a hollow shiny bauble  (which may well be crushed in the next iteration of the web)  and really useless .

Kids aren’t learning how to be adaptive in complex information environments.



Someone HAS to help the teachers of our 21st century kids understand reading, literacy and information seeking in a connected world.  The information abyss is right there at their fingertips, and each day teachers are doing a great job of throwing kids down into that abyss!  (Test your knowledge of the abyss by perusing Knowledge 2)

Our students now need help in navigating diverse information pathways within their personal and creative learning environments. They need a range of literature and information options, delivered to them via a variety of physical and virtual means, from books to all manner of media and digital objects, via a plethora of digital devices. They need to know how to juxtapose text, sound, media and social connections in real time, and how to filter, then mix and match what they see, hear and experience in order to build personal knowledge and understandings of the curriculum.

Where once the bibliographic paradigm created text-book learning and school libraries, learning today requires that teachers and school librarians understand reading and information-seeking in a connected world.

Deal with the information abyss.  In the name of education, get a new school library!  This is what I’ve already debated in the post  Why Teacher Librarians are Important. 

Essentially though, in this new library we find that the literature, magazines, information, technology, learning and teaching activities are designed to support the needs of the networked learning community, creating a partnership between teachers, students, school, home and the global community.  Moving to a Networked School Community is essential, and is the only way to ensure that a school is dealing with the information abyss.

Images:
1. cc licensed ( BY NC ) flickr photo shared by Ka Rasmuson
2. cc licensed ( BY SD ) flickr photo shared by heyjudegallery