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.

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