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:

Social, digital and mobile worldwide in 2014

The astonishing growth of all things digital continues to gather pace around the world, as We Are Social’s new Social, Digital & Mobile Worldwide report on the key social, digital and mobile stats from around the world demonstrates.

It should come as little surprise that much of this growth is being fueled by connected mobile devices, but this year’s data do reveal some interesting trends and anomalies, especially in relation to Japan and Korea.

You’ll find the complete story in the SlideShare deck above, here are some highlights.

Internet
Adding up all the users in individual countries around the world, there appear to be around 2.5 billion global internet users today – roughly 35% of the world’s population – which represents around 150 million more users than this time last year

Users are still not distributed evenly either, with some parts of the world still struggling to reach double-digit internet penetration. In particular, Africa, Central and Southern Asia all report relatively low numbers, although it’s worth highlighting that mobile internet users may contribute a significant – yet uncounted – increase in these areas.


For more information visit Social, digital and mobile worldwide 2014 via We Are Social.

Google image search

Soon our Australian school students will be back in school, and being asked by teachers to ‘research’, write projects, make presentations. So they’ll be jumping onto Google images, a favorite haunt, unless you have taken the time to integrate quality search techniques into the learning approaches.

So here is a handy improvement to Google image search, that makes it easier to encourage appropriate use . In amongst the image search tools, Google has just added a search by ‘usage rights’ field.

So the next time your students are looking for the ‘right’ picture, or merely in need a bit of generic clip-art to illustrate a point, make sure that when they search  Google images that they  then click on ‘Search tools’.

This will bring down another sub-menu students you can filter their search for Usage Rights.

The default is ‘not filtered by licence’ as per usual, but this handy feature allows for ‘labelled for reuse’ filtering as well as various ‘commercial reuse’ options.

This filtering has actually been available for a few years, but it was buried deep within the advanced settings. Now that it’s so easy to find, make sure students know where to find it.

I should also point out that there are plenty of other useful resources out there for copyright free images.

You’ll find more about this at Find Free Images Online http://judyoconnell.com/find-free-images-online/.

Enjoy!

Via: Images make life easy for publishers

Global connectedness


Information technology has traditionally been associated with computers and networks, as a result of the original emergence of the power of computing.  But in a wider sense technologies are about information and information networks, as technologies of information have always included all the tools and machines which have been used to create, store and disseminate information throughout the ages.

Paul Gilster (1997) , in his book Digital Literacy, which was a terrifically exciting publication at the time of release,  identified how all information is digital, and that digital environments bring with them interactivity and connectedness.  Now we know that the capacity of digital technologies to influence and facilitate global connectedness is growing exponentially, and is summed up well by Moore’s Law, which states that the number of components which can be placed inexpensively into the integrated circuits which are the basis of all modern digital devices roughly doubles every two years.  This means that processing speed, storage capacity, and other metrics of computer power also increase at the same rate.

Ideas are central to our need to connect and communicate – and technology has become a pivotal process or tool in that social and intellectual process of connectedness. What is so astonishing is the ready acceptance of technologies which, in the overall  history of human communication is a very short period of time.  One of my favourite books, Turing’s Cathedral: the Origins of the Digital Universe by George Dyson (2012) provides the history and the story around Alan Turing’s Universal Machine, a theoretical construct invented in 1936 that was to become among the first computers to make full sense of a high-speed random-access storage matrix, that would break the distinction between numbers that mean things and numbers that do things. Our global connected world would never be the same again.

Many of us hardly go a single day without googling an idea, thought, interest, or question. We may use another search engine, but the fact that the word googling has entered the vernacular, and that we do all google is a dead give-away that something big has happened in our global connections.

The potential of our information and knowledge web is built on an intricate history of science, mathematics and the genius of a handful of men and women, and a bigger  pool of  quite brilliant people. What is staggering is the way data  and data connection has now become a major focus for global knowledge and scholarly, personal or cultural connections. It is impossible to have one without the other, and it is becoming less and less obvious which side of the data/knowledge equation is driving the other!

Remember Tim Berners-Lee vision for the Internet?

If you’ve ever listened to him speak  you will have heard him mention Linked Data, and may well be wondering what Linked Data has to do with it all.  Data, information, information technology  and knowledge are intertwined in our digital world of global connectedness underpinning the shifts that are taking place in learning and education.

But we can celebrate the open communication that the web has come to make possible, and the capacity to share and build knowledge.  A recent report published by Incapsula, a company that helps websites manage their traffic and security, examined the activity across several thousand of its sites and found that humans make up less than 40 percent of all activity in 2013. But even though the bots are more active than ever before, that might not necessarily be a bad thing. Machines are doing the building  of what we think of as the  internet for us almost more rapidly than humans so the next step will be to understand what this ‘building’ means, and how networked communication, information and access is not only about people and information, but also about things. We use the internet to seek, organise, share, and communicate.

So for now, we need to build our understanding of global connectedness and leverage opportunities for learning in our  interactive, digital, search-enabled world.

Dyson, G. (2012). Turing’s Cathedral: The Origins of the Digital Universe. Random House Digital, Inc.Gilster, P., & Glister, P. (1997). Digital literacy. Wiley Computer Pub.

Image:cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by LEOL30

Knowledge in the digital age


The future of learning is such a BIG topic that’s central to our work in higher education and K-12 education. The type of future thinking we need to engage in is NOT the hyperbole around  the demise  of the industrial age (it never was the right way to frame future planning!) but rather a deep analysis of who we are, what we want, and how we can best achieve knowledge developments as a result of engagement with ideas, actions and content.

Now I know that statement sounds prosaic in itself – but stay  with me a moment longer.  January 3 sees me well and truly launched into work preparing for a 2014 year of deep diving into ideas with students, colleagues and friends alike.Yes, back at work!

In a sense the deep dive began with a hilarious afternoon/evening watching University Challenge on the big screen internet enabled TV with my family. We got quite attached to some of the competition teams, and completely fell head-over-heals for the Corpus Christi Colleage Oxford team.

What struck us was the range of knowledge that these young competitors exhibited (we scored very poorly as we kept our own record).  As author Anthony Beevor, presenting the trophy to the winners of the 2011 challenge,  stated that if we believe that there has been a dumbing down of education in the last number of decades, listening to these students deal  promptly with the diverse quiz questions certainly proves the opposite.

The fact that knowledge is relevant and central to the ongoing advancement of the human endeavour is not in question in the digital age – but rather how information is utilised to grow knowledge is. What is happening in social media, popular culture, online, in your connected spaces?  As my colleague Tara Brabazon outlines in Time for Timbits: Fast Food, Slow Food, Class and Culinary Communication:

The internet … entered popular culture and became a powerful channel of ideas – rather than the hobby of a few – as the bandwidth increased, enabling a much more rapid movement of increasingly larger files. Therefore, the speed between diverse sites increased the range and the adaptability of media. Speed transforms minor media into popular culture. Speed is therefore a characteristic of modernity.

Knowing how to ‘think’ and ‘work’ in a digital age is more than just dealing with the information flow and ‘drinking from the firehose’ of global information. Speed is central to a new method of productivity, only when it is utilised in a manner to continue deep thinking and knowledge creation. I’m not a digital immigrant any more than my 16-year-old-niece is a digital native.  I’m a product of the education and professional opportunities that the social and cultural environments of my life allowed.

Knowing about technology does not make you knowledgeable – but knowing how to maximize working with information in and for knowledge development may help to make you more knowledgeable.

According to the recent MacArthur Foundation Report “The Future of the Curriculum: School Knowledge in the Digital Age” new learning in a digital age encompasses a move away from seeing curriculum as a core canon or central body of content to seeing curriculum as hyperlinked with networked digital media, popular cultures, and everyday interactions. The questions, then, are what knowledge is to be included in the curriculum of the future, what are its origins in the past and the cultural legacies it represents, what future does it envision, and what authorizes its inclusion?

The report clearly explains how the knowledge economy has become the dominant political style of thought in education reform worldwide. For my money, the extent we subscribe to the newest wave of reform (forget the hackneyed references to factory schooling) is not so much the issue. Rather it’s about recognising the influences and potential at play in changing the ways we can engage in the knowledge construction processes with our students.  Mind you, the MacArthur Report is a bit prone to hyperbole too:

we are witnessing the rise of a flat learning system as the science of learning and building brain-power is applied right across the full range of formal and informal situated contexts, both in the real and virtual worlds.

Having said that, 2014 and change are synonymous – but probably no less than they were in a 100 years ago in 1914 – it’s just that we are living an exciting transition and perhaps overly excited by it.

Like everyone I very much enjoyed reading my favourite SciFi Isaac Asimov’s predictions of what the world will look like in 2014 from way back in 1964. Try this for an example:

Communications will become sight-sound and you will see as well as hear the person you telephone. The screen can be used not only to see the people you call but also for studying documents and photographs and reading passages from books. Synchronous satellites, hovering in space will make it possible for you to direct-dial any spot on earth, including the weather stations in Antarctica.

I was pleased to catch up with the The Downes Prize for 2013. Of course, Stephen Downes choice is insightful, as is his ongoing scanning of the horizon for the shifts and sometimes seismic changes in how we manage education and knowledge outputs. Check out his OLDaily E-Learning News, Opinion, Technology commentary.

I’m excited by the many challenges (and a few too many hurdles) that 2014 will offer me.  I hope for a good year, a productive year, and an opportunity to learn more interesting things with you.

Welcome to 2014 my friend.

Image: cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by Trey Ratcliff

J3T – Judy and Tara talk tech

What happens when two friends get together, and pretty much impromptu, create 10 videos  in a few hours on 10 tech topics?

Tara Brabazon, Professor of Education and Head of the School of Teacher Education at Charles Sturt University,  Bathurst invited me (Courses Director, School of Information Studies in the Faculty of Education, Charles Sturt University , Wagga Wagga) to test this question.

The result was the J3T Judy and Tara Talk Tech series of 10.  Here we now have ten pebbles in a big digital pond – let the ripples begin…..  We introduce the J3T series here for you.

You will find the full series under the following topics:

J3T1 Email and the digital glut
Judy and Tara reveal strategies to manage the information glut. How do we control email? How do we stop email controlling us?

J3T2 Information Organization
Judy and Tara talk about how to manage information. How do students avoid plagiarism? How can software help to organize our ideas and sources?

J3T3 Managing Digital Lives
Judy and Tara explore how to differentiate our digital lives. How do we separate private and professional roles, on and offline? How is our understanding of privacy transforming?

J3T4 Creating rich learning management systems
Judy and Tara probe the problems and strengths of learning management systems. They explore how to create rich, imaginative and powerful environments to enable student learning.

J3T5 Open Access Resources
Judy and Tara explore the changing nature of publishing, research and the resources available for teaching and learning. They probe open access journals and the open access ‘movement.’

J3T6 Fast Media
Judy and Tara explore the challenges of fast media, like Twitter and other microblogging services. While valuable, how do we control the speed of such applications to enable interpretation, analysis and reflection?

J3T7 Sound and Vision
Judy and Tara explore the nature of sonic and visual media. When are sound-only resources best deployed? How do we create reflection and interpretation on visual sources?

J3T8 The Google Effect
Judy and Tara probe the impact of the read-write web and the ‘flattening’ of expertise and the discrediting of experts such as teachers and librarians. Judy also demonstrates the great value of meta-tagging.

J3T9 Are books dead
Judy and Tara asks the provocative question: Are books dead? They explore the role of platforms – analogue and digital – in carrying information to specific audiences.

J3T10 The future? Mobility
Judy and Tara discuss the future of educational technology. Particularly, they focus on mobility, through mobile phones and m-learning.

PS  I did not get my mowing man to text me at the right moment in ‘Managing Digital Lives’ – what a hoot!

Image: Blue Water cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by Louise Docker

Have you got a pirate in your school?

Something that rather belatedly crossed my professional radar has been the ‘antics’ of the Dread Pirate Roberts. I first caught up with this topic sitting in a hotel lounge in Singapore, reading the Forbes Asia September issue. Here was a fantastic challenge to the ongoing discussions of what happens online, including challenges to ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ and the whole matter of appropriate global citizenship. The truth is, we must be aware that online environments can be manipulated as well as manipulative – and in that sector, drug trafficking,  porn and the sex trade exemplifies everything that is destructive to society despite the so-called ‘democratic’ right of people to engage in their own peculiar passions and vices.

So it was increasingly sophisticated anonymity tools in online environments that created a bustling online narcotics market – and in this realm Dread Pirate Roberts was king of the waters, running the booming anonymous narcotics bazaar known as the Silk Road . What’s interesting to me is not only the ethical issues of drug use and marketing etc, but ALSO the communication mechanisms that are deployed online.

The Forbes reporting on the Dread Prirate said:

An entrepreneur as professionally careful as the Dread Pirate Roberts doesn’t trust instant messaging services. Forget phones or Skype. At one point during our eight-month preinterview courtship, I offer to meet him at an undisclosed location outside the United States. “Meeting in person is out of the question,” he says. “I don’t meet in person even with my closest advisors.” When I ask for his name and nationality, he’s so spooked that he refuses to answer any other questions and we lose contact for a month.

All my communications with Roberts are routed exclusively through the messaging system and forums of the website he owns and manages, the Silk Road. Accessing the site requires running the anonymity software Tor, which encrypts Web traffic and triple-bounces it among thousands of computers around the world. Like a long, blindfolded ride in the back of some guerrilla leader’s van, Tor is designed to prevent me–and anyone else–from tracking the location of Silk Road’s servers or the Dread Pirate Roberts himself. “The highest levels of government are hunting me,” says Roberts. “I can’t take any chances.”

How many of your students are aware of these unofficial and anonymous back-channels?  I know I am not. Seems that neither were any of the Dread Pirate’s family.

A media report today tells us that it’s the End of the Silk Road. On Wednesday, the FBI announced that they arrested 29-year-old Ross William Ulbricht, the Silk Road’s accused administrator, in the Glen Park branch of the San Francisco Public Library.The FBI hasn’t yet revealed how it managed to track down Ulbricht in spite of his seemingly careful use of encryption and anonymity tools to protect his identity and those of his customers and vendors who visited Silk Road as often as 60,000 times per day.

My question is – which kid is going to be the next dirty ‘entrepreneur’?  Which library or cafe  is going to be that kid’s base for disruptive activities deployed via online environments?

Digital citizenship programs in schools?  What a challenge!