High Tech Learning: Issues
As you explore technologies for high tech learning, you'll find many issues arise. Who controls access to information on the Web? How is information organized? What's acceptable for young people? Who regulates access? What does the future hold?
Skim The Future of the Internet III by Lee Rainie and Janna Anderson (Dec 14, 2008) to find out what Internet leaders envision for 2020.
You can probably think of many more issues, but we'll start with the ideas below. Use the following links to quickly access resources on this page:
- American Education Issues: Eager Thinkers or Empty Children?
- Information Organization Issues: Taxonomies vs Folksonomies
- Legislative Issues: Filtering and Responsible Use
- Legal Issues: Law and Copyright
- Data Storage Issues: Intellectual Property
- Cloud Computing
- Information Overload
As we explore ways to use new technologies, it's important that we reflect on the purpose of formal education. From mandates like No Child Left Behind to the constant barrage of new educational theories and methods, learners and their teachers are bombarded with conflicting messages about the role of formal education. The skyrocketing technology resources and tools for teaching and learning add to this information overload. With all these opportunities, does the American system of education promote eager thinkers or empty children? How? Why? Do books like The Underground History of American Education by John Taylor Gatto promote misinformation or advocate real alternatives?
What's the role of school and public libraries and librarians in promoting formal and informal opportunities for learning? How can technology play a role?
In the past, professional information architects and other scholars created formal taxonomies for organizing information. From Library of Congress Subject Headings to AACR2, library processionals made decisions about how information would be presented to the public. Since the advent of the Web, patrons have become creators as well as consumers of information. Web 2.0 provides increasingly sophisticated ways for people to describe web resources. Both creators and consumers can add tags to individual web pages or groups of pages to personalize the description.
A folksonomy is a collection of data informally generated by a social group through the use of tags and other descriptors. Using criteria specific to the online community, data is sorted and ranked then shared with groups members. For example, the LibraryThing social network provides an area called Zeitgeist that shares the "big picture" of this information such as the largest libraries, most reviewed books, top books, authors, and tags. Tag clouds can be used to visualize this information. In addition, individual members can compare their resources with others and make contact with others with similar interests.
How does this differ from traditional taxonomies such as subject headings? Let's use a wonderful book called Big Cats: Hunters of the Night by Elaine Landau as an example. The Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication data lists the subject as Felidae-Juvenile Literature. If young people were searching for books about "tigers" they would miss this great book. It's unlikely that kids would search for the word "felidae." However people adding this book to LibraryThing have used tags such as animals, big cats, cats, leopards, lions, tigers, panthers, and nonfiction to describe the book, making it easier for people to locate it.
Can you imagine the hassle of physically relocating a book every time someone invents a different Dewey or LC number? Or, physically adding new subject headings to card catalog cards. No way. However in a virtual world, it's easy to rearrange information, collapse information, and expand descriptions. It's also great to have both formal and informal approaches to describing the content of books.
For more information on this topic, explore:
- Godwin-Jones, Robert (May 2006). Tag Clouds in the Blogosphere: Electronic Literacy and Social Networking. Language Learning & Technology. Volume 10, Number 2, pp. 8-15.
- Sturtz, David N. (December 16, 2004). Communal Categorization: The Folksonomy (PDF)
- Terdiman, Daniel (November 16, 2005). Tagging gives Web a human meaning from News.com
- Quintarelli, Emanuele (June 24, 2005). Folksonomies: Power to the People.
Like those who want to filter web resources, many U.S. legislators have also backed bills that block social networking tools. For example the (H.R. 5319) Deleting Online Predators Act expands the Communications Act of 1934 "to require recipients of universal service support for schools and libraries to protect minors from commercial social networking websites and chat rooms." The Act is aimed at many high tech learning spaces, not just social networks using the following criteria; "offered by a commercial entity; permits registered users to create an on-line profile that includes detailed personal information, permits registered users to create an on-line journal and share such a journal with other users; elicits highly-personalized information from users; and enables communication among users."
The ALA Legislative Action Center tracks key legislation that impacts freedom of access to information and legislative issues of this type.
Read Library Filtering Remains Controversial by David F. Carr to explore the issue of filtering in public libraries.
Skim the article House Misfires On Internet Safety by Larry Magid for an overview of the issues associated with the bill. He states that the bill is "well-meaning" but "ill-conceived" because rather than punishing child predators, it removes a useful learning tool for children and young adults.
Beyond this legislation, there are many other issues related to access to technology.
Explore Electronic Frontier Foundation. Be sure to check Electronic Frontier Foundation: Fighting for Blogger's Rights.
An issue related to filtering is responsible use of technology. Explore some of the following resources that help teach digital citizenship and responsible use of technology.
When working with digital media, be sure you know your rights and responsibilities. For example, as you consider subjects for digital photography, keep in mind your legal rights.
Skim The Digital Learning Challenge: Obstacles to Educational Uses of Copyrighted Material in the Digital Age by William McGeveran and William W. Fisher at Social Science Research Network (August 2006).
Read What are my rights as a photographer in public places? (PDF) Although the article notes that you have legal permission to photograph young people, consider restrictions when photographing in your library or on school property. Also keep in mind that you should get the permission of parents when using the names of young people.
Explore Is It Protected by Copyright?
When you store your files on someone else's server, who's responsible? Who owns the content? Who has access to those files? Internet users are increasingly using remote storage to share and back up files. However before you upload documents, read the fine print. Are you turning over rights regarding the use of these files? Be sure to examine the places where you store web pages, photographs, and other documents. What's your school or library's policy regarding data storage?
Cloud computing involves accessing online software, tools, and data storage. What you need is provided just when you need it. You access the application from the "cloud" of options available on the Internet. Software becomes a service rather than a physical product that you buy. Rather than purchasing an expensive software package that you house on your own web server, you purchase a subscription that's available online, use an application that contains advertising, or share resources and space with others. Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Flickr are popular examples.
Cloud computing is important because it's a change in how people think about applications and data storage. Emphasis shifts from using computer that emphasize data and application storage to devices that help users access remote data and applications.
Watch Cloud Computing in Plain English from Common Craft.
The big advantage of cloud computing is that someone else handles software development and updates. This is also the downside. When the Internet is down or your provider goes under, you're stuck without your application and sometimes without your data. It's essential to plan ahead. Be sure that you've backed up data and can transfer files between formats.
Read Use of Cloud Computing Applications and Services by John Horrigan (Sep 12, 2008), The Future of Cloud Computing (2010), and Podcasting into the Cloud by Mary Madden (Sep 12, 2008) from Pew Internet.
Skim Go Higher with Cloud Computing from School Library Journal.
Skim How Can Libraries Use the Cloud? from Tame the Web.
If you're concerned about your rights and the safe of your data, read about the activities of the Council of Cloud Services.
Read Lost in the Cloud by Jonathan Zittrain from the New York Times for an op/ed associated with cloud computing. What are your thoughts about the pros and cons of cloud computing?
To learn more, explore the following resources:
With so many tools and spaces available, information overload is becoming an increasing problem. Some people are concerned about the ability of people to multi-task. Others are concerned about the lack of physical interaction.
Read Mining Your Inner Moron: Why Multitasking Is Such as Waste from Psychology Today.
Links to the materials in this section can be found in the navigation bar on the left side of this page. Continue to the High Tech Learning: Open Source page.