Have you had a day lately when you did not hear about a new technology tool or resource? One day you might learn about a new online mentoring service from India for high school students in New Jersey. The next day you read a report from the Pew Internet and American Life Project on the impact on mobile technology and social networking on human interaction. Such a report might be titled, “Social Isolation and New Technology: How the Internet and Mobile Phones Impact Americans’ Social Networks.” As you explore the Web, you soon find that many news agencies are listing some of the findings in this highly syndicated report.
That is not all. In the fall of 2009 you notice the sudden emergence of dozens of services for video delivered content or unit lessons that can help teachers and schools deal with students at home with the swine flu. When opening the November 5th article in the USA Today, you see that there are even special mobile reader devices for Wikipedia and Twitter. What you soon conclude is that technology changes and enhancements are found so often in our everyday lives that we cannot pay attention to all of them. As technology overwhelms us, we need advice, caveats, and memorable summaries of what is possible. Without that, there would be delays or inaction related to technology integration in education.
In my new book, “The World Is Open: How Web Technology Is Revolutionizing Education,” I created a mnemonic to help people better understand the opportunities for learning possible today. When I designed it, I thought that the first opener, which dealt with digital books, was among the least important of the ten. My negative or tempered perceptions of this topic were due to the fact that hype regarding e-books had been an annual event for more than a decade. And it was always followed by a series of announcements of serious e-book problems or even the potential death of e-books.
E-Books: A New Transformative Force
In fact, e-books are currently the most talked about opener of the ten I detail. I tell my friends and colleagues that what we have all just lived through is the summer of the e-book. Every newspaper, magazine, or newsletter I open seems to be talking about e-books. University presses are banding together to offer e-books after years of resistance. Publishers like Jossey-Bass, which published my last two books, are offering e-books on the Kindle, the iPhone, and other types of mobile devices that I have never even heard of. There are websites filled with millions of e-books including ManyBooks.net, LibriVox, the Internet Archive, and the World Public Library. Not satisfied with what you find at these sites? How about going to Wikibooks and contributing some original writing of your own.
The options for digitalizing content are mounting. I write this guest blog post while prepping for a short Midday news interview on this book at WGN-TV headquarters on the near north side of Chicago. While waiting my turn in the WGN cafeteria, I get a call from Robert Johnson, Executive Director of Louisiana Community and Technical College System Online (LCTCSOnline) program, which is part of the Louisiana Mobile Learning Network. He told me that he just read my book. No, not a physical version with paper-clipped or tattered pages, but using a new iPhone application called Shortcovers. With Shortcovers, he could download and read myWorld Is Open book on his iPhone. He is the first to tell me that. Sure enough, I find it online for 40 percent off list at $17.99. So many different formats for e-book learning today.
I could write endlessly about the e-book scene today from the initiatives in Korea and California to make all books freely available for K-12 students to writers who innovatively offer their books online for free as an e-book in addition to physical books you must still pay for. But that is just the first opener that makes up the WE-ALL-LEARN framework. As detailed below, there are nine others.
Ten Openers: (WE-ALL-LEARN)
1. Web Searching in the World of e-Books
2. E-Learning and Blended Learning
3. Availability of Open Source and Free Software
4. Leveraged Resources and OpenCourseWare
5. Learning Object Repositories and Portals
6. Learner Participation in Open Information Communities
7. Electronic Collaboration
8. Alternate Reality Learning
9. Real-Time Mobility and Portability
10. Networks of Personalized Learning
E-Learning, OpenCourseWare, and Open Content
In addition to e-books are other huge trends such as e-learning and blended learning (Opener #2). Each of us today is impacted by the availability of online learning content. It might be in formal or informal learning settings. Other openers relate to free and open source software (Opener #3), the OpenCourseWare movement from MIT and many other universities around the world (Opener #4), and open educational resources and portals of free learning content (Opener #5). Like e-books, Openers 4 and 5 get us free content to use in the teaching and learning process. The third opener provides the software to place it on.
User-Generated Learning, Online Collaboration, and Virtual Worlds
That is only the start. Of course, much of it is a replication of educational systems of the past, only digitized. When we get to the next opener (#6), the learning process switches from one of knowledge consumption to knowledge generation. Students might contribute to a wiki or develop and post a YouTube video (Opener #6). They might engage in collaborative team activities using Google Docs or Ning (Opener #7).
Next there are various forms of learning authenticity from cases to scenarios to simulations and games to virtual worlds like Second Life (Opener #8). These three openers are exciting and push learning to new vistas. Now we can collaborate with others around the world. We use our creative talents. We exchange ideas and viewpoints and see diverse views. And we try out our newly learned skills with others in alternative worlds.
Mobile and Personalized Learning
If these eight openers are not enough to open your eyes to new learning possibilities, the next two should. Mobile learning (Opener #9) is exploding today. Around the planet, there are some 60,000 people per hour or more than 1 million new mobile subscribers per day. In India alone, there are 15 million new subscribers per month. Mobile devices can connect us to the Internet for searching documents or obtaining information updates. They also connect us to people—oftentimes this means hundreds of human contacts and their knowledge resources and insights.
The final opener (Opener #10) personalizes the entire learning process. We can now subscribe to the learning outlets or resources we want or need. Technology can filter out the information that we do not seek and customize the learning process for our unique needs and preferences.
So that is the 10 openers of the WE-ALL-LEARN framework. I hope that it can help you make sense of new technology trends or announcements. Of course, something new will be invented which is not in the framework. There will be untold new openers to learning during the coming decades. But this is where we are today. It is a highly exciting time. Enjoy it! And test out some of those e-books formats…the world is open now for you to do just that.