Wednesday, June 02, 2010

#IeL2010 Tuesday Morning Keynote

Watching a guy in front of me during the keynote playing FarmTown. Gotta tend those crops!

Talked to Craig Wiggins and Aaron Silver this morning before the keynote. Aaron gave me the a-ha moment of the morning.

“Instead of thinking of requirements, think of constraints. What doesn’t change.”

Project food for thought…..

#IeL2010 Tuesday Morning Keynote

Alan Merten, President, George Mason University
Technology – forces you to re-look at what you are trying to accomplish in education.

Next year’s meeting – at Mason Inn (brand new facility – looks pretty from the outside as the Web Guy and I drove by last night).

Dr. Alan Kay – What Does It Mean to Learn Something NEW?
(link – Wikipedia)

George Mason – one of the 2 or 3 most important people in the design of our country and the American Revolution.

The collected letters of Madison and Jefferson – reads like email correspondence between folks doing important business. “You know…we should talk to George Mason about this” every 5th letter.

Mason was engaged in something difficult due to the newness of it.

1 series of letters – “Maybe we should have a constitutional convention every 40-50 years …because there will be progress.” Can they even draft a document that would last?

Progress not really built into our nervous system. For most of our history – we cope. We live and die in the same general environment.

Training – about coping. About becoming facile with things that exist.

Notable about the past 20 years – world different for each generation.

When newness and the tech that comes with it happens faster than education – pop culture. Technology is pop culture. Computer science reactive. Very different from built culture.

Wars – up to and including Civil War, folks standing in full view (swords, then rifles) shooting at each other.
- OK because foot soldiers not in same social class.
- More troops – just plan to use them up. Whoever had anyone left wins.
- Rifle made it a different proposition because of distance.
- Deal with rifle by digging trenches. Problem: tanks.(see World War 1 – Maginot Line)
+ an elaborate fence to stop people and heavy machinery
- Problem: airplanes (World War II – please see Germans)
- Planes and UBoats were in World War I – but became critical weapon in World War II.
+ Uboat potent because destroyed supply lines.
- Most decisive weapon: Radar.
+ British almost killed it. Brought over to US. Developed around MIT to help win war.

We are worried about nuclear war, but we wind up with terrorist war

If look at American Business and Universities – see interesting problem
- McLuhan – we are forced to experience the present in terms of the past
+ We’ve trained and learned and coped about the past. It is familiar.
+ We look at news in terms of the past. Almost no info in news that is really new.
- We prefer slight increments on what we know (what we like to learn)

Relevancy is a big problem in technical fields.
- From high school – kids don’t know enough, but they want “relevancy”

Most training, (most eLearning about training) – take something everything understands as a “problem” and “trains”
- Works great for classical music. Technique. Symphonies not being rewritten as you learn.
- Jazz – has stuff you can learn, but has demand of creation on the spot. Different dynamic.

Printing Press – 1450. Books printed to look as much like handwritten manuscript as possible. (Remember….increments)
- Had to make familiar. Guttenberg imitated scribes. Some hand-scribing. Imitation of what people already knew. Folks marveled at how alike things are.

150 years later – new! Nothing to do with Guttenberg bible. All about science and governance.
- Printing press – ideal form for expressing structured thoughts.
- Only a few people in 1400s suspected printing better for science etc.
- Science “for real”
- Democratic republics
- Change in way people looked at.

Same idea for computing. First came along – not so sure what it was.
- Can make it look like existing media.
- We use it as imitation of old stuff (printing, text, movies, typing (see MS Word), paint, etc)
- We can do something a little new – “write a script for it to make it do stuff”
- Something a little newer still – add logic (most adults don’t learn how to do this, most computer science students don’t get to do this as simply)
- Computer science process different now than in 60s.
- What is NEW about computing has been “lost” (or covered up – like the Guttenburg bible)

New means invisible

News = tiny increment on something you already know.

Computers are new.
- Can’t talk about it really because we have to go incrementally – create familiar foundation.

Most of the things we SHOULD be worrying about are completely invisible right now.
- no one teaching this.

Technology and Ideas
- What would a children’s computer be like in the future?
- Who was a kid? What do they need to learn? What’s a fun way to learn them (making things!)?
+ Let’s have them MAKE Space War!
- Probably ought to make one they can carry around. With other stuff. Less than 2 pounds, flat screen. (looks a lot like an iPad…..worked on this at Xerox park)

They thought they were creating wheels for the mind (bikes since don’t get flabby like auto. Bikes amplify your capacity full out).

Also knew Arthur C Clark – 3rd law, any sufficiently advanced technology indistinguishable from magic.
- Thought that if they made great examples – would “demagic-fy”
- When give new scientific tool to primate (like microscope) – don’t know what to do with it (the primate uses it as mirror).

Most successful ap – facebook. We just look at the computer like looking in the mirror.

What happens to NEW?
- New comes into sense organs. Reverberates around the brain. Turns into News. Interpret as dream.
- Most don’t realize we are dreaming in the day – we are seeing a composite thing with a .3 second delay. Correlate, turn into walking dream (most call it “reality”)
- McLuhan – Until I believe it, I can’t see it.

We love being fooled by vision – theatre…..

Human Nervous System “NEWS”
- coping
- social
- language
- culture
- fantasies
- stories
- goals and plans
- case-based learning
- tools, arts, technologies
- patterns
- about 300 identified universals

Find a human universal, make a technological amplifier, can sell.
- We HAVE TO communicate.
- Video games – nothing really in them that a cave-child wouldn’t understand. Hand-eye, conflict, etc

Size constancy – we are only seeing 50% rather than the true 80%.
- You are not perceiving reality
- There is also context / beliefs. Things we have accumulated over time.
- See same thing, same size, 2 distance. Only really seeing things as you interpret them based on experience through context / beliefs.

New gets turned into News

Mitocrondrial DNA. We inherit more from mothers than fathers.
- Traced back to find there is a single mom from 192,000 years ago.
- We didn’t start writing until 50,000 years ago
- No science until 400 years ago

All change that has occurred to us has occurred during a small percentage of our time.

Human Nervous System “New” (not universal across cultures)
- Progress
- Writing and reading
- Deductive abstract math
- model-based science
- democracy
- perspective drawing
- agriculture
- thought

No longer based on precedent. What happened in the past.
These things are fragile inventions.
- Highly correlated with the kind of world we want to live in

A lot of our culture centered around things that are new.
- Reading and writing about ideas
- last 10 years – percentage of American adults who can read and write about ideas = 20% population (lower)
- Sustained conversation with scientist about science – 5%
- Take highly educated – less than 1% of population. That 1% + the industrial revolution make us look modern.
- Intellectually – we look like India. India doesn’t have “the industrial revolution.”(?)

Know Thyself.
- If we take that on as strong part of our context – it goes into our dream.
- Differential equation – learning calculus, goes into our dream. You can now think thoughts that the greatest geniuses couldn’t
- Reading
- Equal rights
- What computers “really” are.

Not done in a day or by watching TV.

You are changing your basic thoughts patterns.

“I don’t know who discovered water, but it wasn’t a fish” – McLuhan

Our thoughts wander around our context like ant.
- We can have occasional rogue thoughts outside our orthodoxy. Not often.
- Outlaw ideas happen all the time.
- Problem – the idea is mediocre to bad
- Very difficult to have a good idea
- Let yourself have ideas, then prune them out.
- Like science – tries to admit every idea (not always successfully, then become extra-critical of the idea

If pink is normal, then what does blue mean?
- not normal = insane
- New is Invisible. New is Blue.

Science about lots of thinge being there that we had no idea is there.

It takes almost as much creativity to learn a NEW idea as it was required to invent it.
- We are making something, not adding to what is already there.
- The process of learning this is VASTLY different than our current processes of education and training

What is science?
- You are given a hairball
- You are trying to interpret and understand the hairball in a model in terms of things you can use.
- Find the correspondence.
- Still pretty murky

What computers are good for – un-murking
- Help us create better models
- Help us understand in more detail

Good model of climate- how clouds materialize and dematerialize.
- Really hard to model since ephemeral

Science is about phenomena

“We are not forced to live in the past. Science allows us to live in the present rather than dream the fantasy.” - Marvin Minsky
- Once we get into the present – can deal with things as they are.
- How do we do this?

We’ve relied on IQ. But imagine being Leonardo – but smarter. In 3000BC
- Vastly overrated. Has to be hooked to something

Knowledge – Henry Ford. HE made a revolution in transportation.
- Leonardo born in the wrong century
- Someone has changed the outlook in the interim

Human IQ – isn’t smart enough to deal with any of our problems. Why cultures build lore.
- “Just-in-time” – can’t do enough to deal with the real problems.

Schools set up to give you knowledge.
You really want to change outlook.
Changes of outlook = big changes

Problem with doing it in learning situation
- not known to help
- need lots of help
- needs some help
- very self-disposed
We can’t even do this pre-eval accurately.

For universals – we are wired
For non-universals – folks need help
Don’t throw away ones that need help. BUT they need something different.
- Throw away motivation
- Good teacher – not overwhelmed, will try to find fits
- Computer systems can’t even tell you Myers Briggs type by your interaction. Can’t tell you a thing about how you do stuff.

Gap has to be bridged.

Discovery learning – bug in it
- “Oh no! They are discovering the wrong things!”
- None of the worthwhile learning is obvious.

You need guidance. Like Richard Feynman or someone like that.
- Books can help bridge the gap
- Books can give not just content, but style.
- Teacher can add more style.

At the end – can you put Socrates in a box?
Or first – what books have meant to us in a box and make it stronger?

Books work because they embody some of the things humans have.
- media, computer, plato, cars, simulations, etc
- But we need to listen to the answers and judge – but NOT for right / wrong.
- What are the learners doing?
- You are looking for pieces of information.

Big problem right now – no national will.
- We are coping rather than making progress.

Grand challenge – learning software as effective personal tutor. (Pres. Obama)
- Next 5-10 years
- Goal to be as effective as personal tutor

The way curriculum is done will be different. More like desktop publishing – but create learning environment out of it.

What we are doing now – News
Real game ahead – the new.

Used Etoys to make the presentation.
- Built for kids.
- User interface that doesn’t require typing, hypercard and some other stuff.

Presentation software – glorified acetate slides.

Authoring done while things are operating. Watch them run and edit on the fly.

Xerox had unlimited desktops.Only a third got adopted by Apple and Microsoft. Less in marketplace.
- Because educators didn’t ask “what is this thing”
- People only using tricycles. They think they have a bike.


How do you put salt on the tail of new?
- Can’t do it with sheer IQ.
- Live in the past too much – too incremental
- You should know your field 100%, up 1 side and down the other. Then forget it and smell the perfume. Knowledge becomes implicit.
- You are assembling things. Why Dr. Kay is looking elsewhere.
- Sometimes need to use everything in the arsenal. And also decide what NOT to use.

Xerox – built everything themselves. Huge risk. BUT well-versed.
- Harder to undo practically and in heads to work around outsiders.
- Only bought gates.
- Turned out to be great boon – allow them to go right at the problem rather than deal with clutter of old problems.

Michaelangelo – had talent for thinking of monumental images.
- Spent more than 4 years on his back painting with a candle in turban painting the ceiling himself.
- A few weeks sketching. 4 years of implementation.

Why you don’t see a lot of real creativity – idea people have no discipline. Discipline have too much of it.
- 5% nutty. Tough as nails 95%.

If you don’t learn your field – get out of here.
- Need to be able to criticize what is wrong.

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