Digital Marginalia 2 – Electric Boogaloo

Digital Marginalia is an infrequent blog post series that captures some links I’ve retweeted or looked at, grouped into a theme, and commented on.

Disrupting Education/Learning – Whatever that Means

There’s two related bunch of links that are tied here; the first being the onslaught of Richard Branson, Disrupting Education:

And the response:

What disruptors really want

It’s strange because I understand what Branson’s saying, and yes, education needs more flexible education. But to criticize something he doesn’t really know, because he didn’t go into it forty years ago, and isn’t part of it now, and clearly doesn’t get that in fact, higher education does do a lot of the things he says it doesn’t. Business schools basically train their graduates to be startups. Many, many MBA programs have that as their overarching theme. Our Master’s level Engineering program is based on a business project model with real clients. We aren’t unique in this. Our Geography department have several trips to real world places to do the work that they will do post-graduation. When I went to community college a decade ago, we took several entrepreneurship classes, because they knew that software designers would likely be their own bosses. Should things be more flexible? Yes. Often the reason things aren’t flexible is because someone, somewhere along the line bought a student information system that can’t schedule things in less than three hour blocks, or doesn’t understand that a course isn’t 14 weeks. That’s the sort of flexibility that the private sector brings you. Get real, Branson. Martin Weller said it better (first link under responses) so go read his post and give it some love because it’s so terribly spot on.

“LRNG redesigns learning for the 21st century so that all youth have an opportunity to succeed.”

Really, I don’t have any non-vulgar words… OK here’s a fact you may want to consider, YOU CANNOT REDESIGN HOW I LEARN. I control how I learn. YOU control how you communicate information to me; I control how I receive that information. If you do not agree, then you are working on a paradigm that reinforces that students are empty vessels that need to be filled with knowledge. Again, I agree with connecting someone’s passion with learning, doing it through an online medium, sure that’s awesome. I love the Cities of Learning program, I really do. Just “redesigning learning” is like saying you’re “redesigning eating”.

Closing of the Open Web–with-no-comments-allowed

Commenting, whether you think it valuable or not, is one of the best features of the world wide web. The amount of time I’ve found something in the comments of an article that links to another great thing is staggering to think about. The Vice thing is kind of delicious, in that after years of cultivating this vacuous audience (looks directly at Dos & Don’ts) they now want a civilized discussion. I guess people can grow up, but instead of turning off comments, why don’t you do like many other places and cultivate the commentary by moderating it. That way, you approve the good stuff and your audience doesn’t have to change the way they interact with the site.


Google and privacy? Uhhh, the jokes write themselves.

Undoubtedly, not all of what Facebook tells itself about you.

Manditory watching. Glenn Greenwald is one of the most important journalists of our time. Seriously undervalued/rated.






Information Verification

Apparently there’s a bit of a kerfuffle over an Egyptian newspaper emphasizing their president over the US president by photoshopping him at the head of the line. That’s not particularly interesting to me, but what is interesting is that a blogger discovered this. This year, I’ve a couple other incidents of mainstream media being caught with their hands in the cookie jar – either not attributing work of a crowdsourced translator or this latest political gaffe. It seems that the public is alive and well, at least when they are pointing out other’s errors.

Where Journalism Can Go From Here

Happy new year!

There’s been a lot of talk about the death of the newspaper over the last year. In fact, the postings and articles range from the dire to the hopeful almost dismissive (midway down the page). The main culprit is, of course, “the Internet”. Really, this economic downturn has been a chance for further consolidation of corporate assets. It’s not the Internet that has killed these small papers, it’s the (profit) margins. Here’s an idea where journalism (and newspapers) can go from here.

First thing, for full disclaimer, I’m not educated in journalism, although I use a lot of it’s tenets in my Searching The Internet Effectively course when speaking about verifying information and trust. Trust is a very fickle friend that only comes after time, and those who trust implicitly are likely to be burned somewhere along the course of time. Hopefully, these experiences come early enough and without any major damage and the person will gain experience with those situations. As an educator, and a human being, truth is very important to me. Journalism should be the attempt to discover truth, although I suspect that journalism (…not truth) currently resides in the realm of entertainment or at a minimum, distraction.

So with Google working on better search results for you, personally, and a world of apps for the iPhone that focus on geo-location, you’d think local news would be important. Local news is important. So much so, it saved the Birmingham Eccentric from the axe. Yes, the paper was transferred to being a weekly, but newspapers bringing recent news died in the 80’s with a refocusing on TV news. Certainly the rise of cable news and CNN Headline News being a 24 hour news channel for the headlines, helped nail the coffin for breaking news in newspapers. News from your newspaper should contain stories tailored to the location. Yes, I know that this is taught to journalism students everywhere, but it seems like it is ignored. I know that corporate media recycle their wire stories for several different communities, and I’m sure it’s a fairly commonplace activity. Why?

Newspapers aren’t breaking immediate news anymore, so why focus on what isn’t their strength?

Newspapers should be bringing more in depth news, the “why” in the stories. Part of the “why” should be the reason an article is appearing in the local paper. In “Made to Stick“, the book by Chip and Dan Heath, they talk about relevance and how it is important to transmit the relevance of information to an audience. One of the examples of relevance to an audience was about how a local paper focused almost exclusively on local news. If this simple idea of making things relevant to people works, why aren’t people using it? The term for the “why” in a story has become a part of slow news. Much like the local food and slow food movements, slow news can bring a better and deeper understanding of ideas, relevant to people in a community (you can get your Jane Jacobs texts out now to define community). Pausing to reflect on an incident, newspapers can provide this in depth clarification and corrections to the initial news “outbreak” via cable news and online sources that are, ahem, questionable.

You can even have spicy tag-lines, “News you can really trust” and prove it. From a business sense, people are looking for trust, honesty and things we are sorely lacking from our public institutions. Perhaps, a refocused and brave cadre of journalists can bring that to society.  Plus it’ll save paper where they used to be printing corrections (that no one read anyways).