The goal of the Linux-Society (LS, dating back to the mid-90s as a professional club and tech-mentoring group) has been a purely-democratic Information Society; many of the articles are sociological in nature. The LS was merged with Perl/Unix of NY to form multi-layered group that included advocacy, project-oriented learning by talented high school students: textbook constructivism. Linux has severe limitations such that it is useless for any computer that will, say, print or scan. It is primarily used for webservers and embedded devices such as the Android. (Google is high-invested in it).

Technology is problematic. During the heyday of technology (1990s), it seemed it had the democratic direction Lewis Mumford said it should have in his seminal
Technics and Civilization.

Today, we are effectively stuck with Windows as Linux is poor on the desktop and has cultured a maladaptive following. Apple is prohibitive, and all other operating systems lack drivers, including Google's Android, an offshoot of linux.

In the late 90s there was hope for new kernels such as LibOS and ExoOS that would bare their hardware to programs, some of which would be virtual machines such as Java uses. Another important player was the L4 system that is a minor relation to the code underlying the Apple's systems. It was highly scientific but fell into the wrong hangs, apparently, and has suffered from having no progress on the desktop. There is a version, "SE" that is apparently running in many cell phones as specialized telecom chips, but is proprietary. SE's closed nature was only recently revealed, which is important because it is apparently built from publicly-owned code as it is not a "clean room" design it may violate public domain protections, and most certainly violates the widely-accepted social contract.

Recent attempts to enjoin into L4 development as an advocate for "the people" have been as frustrating (and demeaning) as previous attempts with the usual attacks to self-esteem by maladaptive "hacks" being reinforced by "leadership" (now mostly university professors).

In short, this leaves us with Windows, which is quite a reversal if you have read earlier posts here. But, upon Windows, we have free and open software development systems in the forms of GTK+ (the windows usually used on Linux) and the Minimal GNU Windows (MinGW and MSYS) systems. It is very likely this direction that development should go (that is, on Windows) such that s/w can then be ported to a currently-valid microkernel system that includes a driver system that can be adapted by hardware developers to reuse of their windows and apple drivers.

From a brief survey of L4, it appears that the last clean copy was the DROPS system of the early 2010s, was a German effort that used the Unix-like "OS kit" from an American University.

If we are going to be stuck on Windows, then it seems that a high level approach to free and open systems integration, such as creating fully transparent mouse communication between apps so that they can seamlessly work together as a single desktop (rather than deliberately conflicting). This would be very helpful for GIMP and Inkscape, both leading graphics programs that are strong in the special ways, but suffer from an inability to easily interrelate.

Another important issue is the nature, if you can call it that, of the "geek" or "hack." Technology is formed democratically but "harvested" authoritarian-ly --if I can coin a term that Mumford might use. Authority is plutarchy: a combination of aristocracy and oligarchy that is kept alive after all these millennia by using, or maligning, the information society as a part of the civilizing (or law-giving) process that embraces the dialectic as its method. Democratic restoration, that is to put humanity back on an evolutionary (and not de-evolutionary) track, I think, will require the exclusion of the "geek" from decision-making. As is, the free/open s/w culture attempts to give leadership to those who write the most lines of code --irrespective of their comprehension of the real world or relationship with normal users. We need normal people to somehow organize around common sense (rather than oligarchic rationalism) to bring to life useful and cohesive software and communications systems.

Interestingly, the most popular page on this site is about Carl Rogers' humanistic psychology, and has nothing to do with technology.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Learning to Learn the "New Way"

From: Learning to Learn

Webbing and the Concept Map

Graphically, the most common image of constructivist pedagogy is the concept map. I think of the concept map to symbolically represent new ways of learning, because concept mapping embraces so many of the ideals of knowledge organization and constructivism. Concept maps, as they appear on the World Wide Web, are beautiful; they demonstrate the aesthetic link to science.

In younger classes, the activity of concept mapping is referred to as webbing. Concept maps, or webs, create holistic pictures of the knowledge that the children are building. They store and reveal facts in relation to the environment: they describe how systems work. Mapped facts, thus improved by showing their relation to other facts, are thought of as concepts.

The connections between the facts, or the connecting lines, have descriptive words in them to show the relationships between the facts. In a sense, concept mapping ideas, when fully utilized, can resemble language. Many well developed maps can actually be converted directly into sentences and paragraphs. For me, this is the most surprising aspect of concept mapping.

Thanks to Patrick, Defining Taxonomy, Green Chameleon

Building concept maps for earth science

They can be used to give a holistic view of any area of study, sometimes called a general systems theory. They can be used to show how areas of study interrelate into a view of all the Earth, everything on it, and possibly even space. A complete map is (at the moment) impossible to build; it would have to include the sum of all science. But, concept mapping technology can potentially demonstrate many aspects of our universe to children.

Thanks to Katy, Michelle, Howard, Martin, Sarah, Mark, Bob, and Suzanne

    Creating a concept Map

  • Create the concept map so that it embraces the whole area of study
  • Make it as generalized as possible so that the important, top-level components, as provided by the students or suggested by teacher, are likely to be correct
  • When attaching new ideas to the concept map, allow for alternative explanations, and even concepts, to be added in parallel as alternative learning to encourage generalization and extrapolation
  • As concepts are added, design experiments to test the component's validity within the map's structure as well as the validity of the newly modified map itself
  • Allow students, as a group, to move concepts around and modify them based on new perceptions
  • Allow students to modify and expand the concept map based on both knowledge gained from observation and experimentation as well as valid sources
  • Cyclic improvement: As students grow, their ability to model component concepts and critically examine them grows; the concept map becomes more valid both in accuracy and scope
  • If students are in agreement as a group about the concepts, hence the map, they can easily dispel scientific misconceptions

Use of concept maps to build correct knowledge

A major learning challenge facing middle school students is the modification of the often un-scientific views of natural phenomena they bring to school from their families and the community. Their misconceptions, however, are not a barrier to learning science; students may be wrong because some of the facts they believe may be wrong, but they are not so much wrong as intelligently wrong--assuming their efforts to understand are genuine (Ault from Shapiro, 21). The misconceptions can springboard inquiry into phenomena, and create enthusiasm for experimentation. Middle school students, especially the younger ones, will believe each other's views over the say-so of a teacher. (Stavy, Tirosh, 87) Therefore, if they can develop the correct conceptual understandings as a group, they will be far more likely to fully absorb accepted explanations of scientific phenomena.

The value of using inter-networked computers for concept mapping is in the sharing, and storing, the maps. Students in one location can work on a map; offer it through the web to another group, which in turn would improve it. Also, as students update their concept maps as they learn more, they can be assured of safe storage for their knowledge, they can return to it, improving it over the years.

A key characteristic of the concept map, then, is in fact cyclic. With each learning cycle, information is accessed and used. If flaws are found they are removed, cyclically improving knowledge by eliminating scientific misconceptions with granular effectiveness. As the improved information is returned, and new information is added, student groups will eventually get to the real science. Because they developed the knowledge themselves, with guidance from their teachers, they will believe it and transmit it to other students, their families, and local communities.

Technology to benefit Learning to Learn

Goals of project science include reflection, sharing, testing, searching, and cyclic improvement:

  • Reflecting on existing knowledge and observations
  • Developing concepts from new ideas
  • Discovering relationships between concepts
  • Creating experimentation to test concepts (and their interrelationships)
  • Locating and communicating with mentors for guidance
  • Sharing new information with learners working on similar projects

Existing technologies and sources are available for students who are building information:

  • Text editors for creating documents
  • Spread sheets for keeping test data and creating graphs
  • Servers to keep information safe and allow for easy access
  • WWW search engines to provide clues for inquiry topics, provide information to assist experimentation, and fortify knowledge with valid research material
  • Forums and mailing lists that can be used to initiate information finding, and also for locating like-minded investigators and possibly mentors
  • Scholarly on-line documents to be searched for potential mentors
  • Concept mapping and mind mapping software that may help in developing concept maps

Important considerations when using technology

Information technology is like a car in two respects. Both information technology and cars can take you places to enhance your awareness; hence the use of the analogy of the information super-highway to describe the Internet. Also in both, the underlying technologies are not obviously apparent as on, say, a bicycle.

To successfully use a car, you do not necessarily have to investigate the underlying technology that powers the car; you can easily drive a car without ever raising the hood (until the engine fails from lack of maintenance).

But, the sophisticated use of information technology is very different than the use of a car's technology. If you do not understand the underlying technology of the information systems that you use, their technology will tend to drive you.

Applications will lock you into their methodology of knowledge organization and, in so doing, limit your success in constructing knowledge with the inherit limitations of their underlying technology. Community knowledge construction, as with any physical community construction, can be limited by existing architectural limitations. The architecture of the technology, the underlying principles, hence the limits of the technology, can be purely arbitrary.

Fortunately, anyone using modern languages such as Java, Perl, PHP, or Ruby, can develop new knowledge construction paradigms limited only by their extent of his imagination.

The result of all this freedom is that the majority of information openly available on the web is on web sites built strictly using pubic-domain software. The most common paradigm for information sharing is a mixture of software called LAMP: Linux (operating system), Apache (web server), MySQL (database), and PHP (web site programming language). Endless tools, called frameworks, are available to assist in technology development; existing public domain software built with these frameworks can easily be customized.

Added to the list of available technology are the public domain software offerings:

  • Operating systems
  • Web servers
  • Data servers (also called databases)
  • Object oriented programming languages
  • Turn-key community software

Students are universally enthusiastic about the use of technology. Many are highly adept to learning programming and system control languages, just as they can easily learn new phonetic languages. As soon as students develop expertness with computer use, they should be given every opportunity to build their own community of knowledge construction systems.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Beyond the Discussion Thread

Text can be thought of as words created of letters, but they, by definition more than that, the word text derives from the concept of weaving. Text is push-thought. But, to become valid in society, ideas (push-thoughts) need to move into some kind of context.

"Textual knowledge is that relevant to understanding of grammatical aspects of the language"

"Contextual knowledge means the awareness of inter-sentential relationships and the cumulative impact of all preceding text"

Going beyond that, many define further steps ideas can take into their environments, usually referring to them as something like extra-contextual. Language moves from statement units into a context of surrounding statements, and finally into a social environment to gain real and relevant meaning.

"elements that exceed lexical definitions, sentential rules, and compositional principles" exist in "social structures, cultures, expectations, values, behaviors, and language use." Link

In constructively, the extra-contextual environment is thought of as situational. Situational learning goes a dimension beyond contextual learning. It describes the environment a student experiences as she heads out into the sea of discovery, having been released from the initial community of learning, which is usually made safe with scaffolding. She is truly at sea; her learnings lead to discoveries which in turn create many questions, confusion, frustration, and self-doubt. The process of mastery in new areas of learning is fraught with risk and difficulty.

Situational discovery provides ideas so new that no scaffolding can possibly support them. Situated learning is where significant contributions can evolve; where truly revolutionary ideas and solutions to perennial problems can be discovered and developed. Possibly, the ideal work group size for situated learning is two, to provide mutual support. More than two may result in a desire to turn back into safer areas of learning. And, a solo learner will have to weather the emotional stress of self-doubt unassisted. In project science, it is the responsibility of the teacher to help situated students create structures for inquiry, which may, or course, evolve into newly situated confusion. The teacher will have to develop a sense of humor about all this.

Teachers assist students in their project development by helping them analyze new questions, and mysteries, to help them better design inquiry paths as their situated learning reveals to them questions they never knew existed. In project science, the primary goal is building knowledge development skills first, then achieving significant understandings as contributions to community knowledge.

At a certain point, a discussion will ideally revert into individual efforts again because the supports provided by group discussion no longer help the creation of new ideas and significant change. Questions will arise as the result of attempting understanding; the process of inserting thoughts into the group context, hopefully, will raise questions which will lead to significant new discovery. As efforts become situated in the environment, where true impact can be experienced, relationships may develop with the information target audience, hopefully creating new potentials for generalized perception, action, and societal influence.

In the Information Society itself, as separate from human society, ideas spawn into the cytoplasm of contextual interaction. They become situated with each other: clustered into community by commonalities. So, where is the risk? I imagine it is in releasing into the Information Society cytoplasm thoughts whose ideas are so original that they can find no thoughts to link with. But, this seems highly unlikely; the power of the Internet is to link all of humanity. With six billion humans out there, there must be someone thinking the same things; the cytoplasm is safe.

When is a thought, or idea, best set free? Should it be released as an embryonic idea, or an idea that developed within the context of a discussion (the zone of personal development), or an idea that evolved as the result of risky situational discovery. Could it be that within the process of the empathic delivery of influential information, newly developed information becomes the basis of the initiation of a new comprehension, empathizing, and knowledge delivery. Knowledge building is the process of the creation of embryonic ideas.

The actual cumulative effect of the community may ultimately be to spawn embryonic ideas based on questions developed form successful previous knowledge building, an extension of the classical scientific corollary. Resolving political injustices, the activist task, is in effect the process of creating meaning that can be effectively used to construct society's knowledge tree.

The Information Society, now operating far beyond the fairness ideals of two-way communication envisioned by the Humanist engineers Lewis Mumford and Buckminster Fuller, can now allow activists using thought-linking to arrange their concerns into a matrix of ideas which are not criticisms but beneficial suggestions. This is an improvement of the traditional activist role of complainer. It is possible that a fully sophisticated knowledge structure can be analogized by anybody looking at a snowflake. This structure can be laid down on top of the topography of society, which happens to be the surface of the planet, to create a matrix of interactions that are wholly beneficial and based on trust: a resolution to the pain caused by the inequity of what is called free trade.

The features that make humans beneficial (very likely the ideas developed innocently as children become situated in society), can be accessed easily through linking. Contextual Ideas neighboring to originally and locally developed ideas are already familiar because linked ideas have commonalities. When ideas are linked, thoughts can evolve conceptually based on incremental differences. As people traverse through a (or the) matrix of linked ideas, no great leaps are necessary. People accessing information already have mastery of much of the neighboring information, neighboring ideas can be easily mastered allowing easy travel onto other sightly distant neighboring ideas.

Possibly a strong validating feature in contextual linking, is consensual linking. As in a web based friendship, possibly from a real-life friendship, is the idea of permission in friendship. On Care2 (http://www.care2.com), you ask permission from another member to be his friend. It is rare that friendships are rejected, but the process requires consent. In real life, people seeing things in each other that they like simultaneously mutually bond. Delays within Internet communication systems, as well as difficulty in perceiving emotions through the Internet, prevent instantaneous bonding. But, once online friends are introduced in real life, that bonding often occurs.

Linking takes contextual statements from paragraphs, and bigger documents; and creates from many linked statements, the thought basis of highly synthesized documents. Servers are used to link contextual text, consequentially; but, only the human can reflect on text within context, giving it meaningful linking attributes.

As part of the service process of idea linking (something has to do the linking, it might as well be a public domain free system) matched linking profiles would trigger messages seeing if mutual linking is possible. Mutually consensual linking will certainly reinforce the validity of ideas within common areas of comprehension. Opposing ideas, defined by mutually opposing linking profiles, will very likely never connect, though a daring linking server might try to interrelate opposing ideas in an attempt to seek a resolution between them. This may, instead, result in conflict. Still, within the area of idea comparison, and knowledge construction, idea differences never result in anything illegal. The worst type of Internet conflict is the flame-war, the online trading of insults: hardly something to worry about.

Societal knowledge thus built and tested in the activist context as well as the linking process, including consensual linking, would likely be unassailable by the lies of deliberate disruption and free of corruption--a significant improvement over the arbitrary law-making and enforcement process under which we now labor.

It is only in the journey into unexplored areas that comprehension and empathic understanding may be difficult. This may be because many problems have remained unresolved. The journey into discomfort, pain, and even death (the realm of the activist) is fractured and unsupported. The human mind becomes nearly unable to process successfully, yet activists go there anyway. The new model exists to assure the support of an expansive community in this emotionally dangerous area of situated societal discovery.