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Book on Educational Technology Galvanizes Interest in the Field

When Curtis Bonk’s new book, The World Is Open: How Web Technology Is Revolutionizing Education, came out last year, it created a sensation among those interested in the field of educational technology.  Many of us had been clamoring for just such a work to be undertaken by someone, anyone, and finally after years of yearning we were given that rare gift – a book that covers a topic even better most experts could do themselves, and has a compelling point of view that everyone in the field must grapple with.

There’s no question that web-enabled education is a revolutionary force, perhaps the greatest development in the education field since blackboards were invented. So-called “distance education” – wherein telecommuting hits the student set  – has creates incredible opportunities for learning, which Bonk describes in great detail. In fact, Bonk offers chapters in his hefty tome on ten emerging trends in technology-enhanced education, whereby anyone anywhere can teach anyone else anything under the sun. Open education is a truly global development, and Bonk provides stories from all over the world to illustrate his depictions, all under the rubric of his we-all-learn philosophy of education.

He starts off with a presentation about how hopelessly broken our mainstream educational system really is, and proceeds from those assumptions. Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) can be a force for liberation among the world’s 5 billion poor in particular, and this is a theme that clearly means a lot to the author.  Mobile learning can indeed create a worldwide learning frenzy that will potentially capsize the existing order of competencies and even perhaps of wealth distribution everywhere.

Here’s a list of the ten emergent trends that Bonk covers in detail in this breathtakingly logical book:

  1. Web-Searching
  2. Blended Learning
  3. Free/Open Source Software (F/OSS)
  4. OpenCourseWare
  5. Learning Portals
  6. Learners as Teachers
  7. Electronic Collaboration
  8. Alternative Reality including Serious Games
  9. Mobile Real-Time Learning
  10. Networks of Personalized Learning

He does an especially strong job at showing how these trends have started to interconnect in ways that make the future of teaching and learning so intensely exciting. There’s simply too much to say about each of these rich topics, so I’ll just urge every reader of this blog to procure a copy of this seminal work for themselves.

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Schools, Libraries and CIPA – Why Compliance Is Important

The Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) was passed by Congress because many issues caused by the internet with regards to things like protecting underage kids from harmful material available online. School and library computers are often used by children in unsupervised settings, so protective measures were called for in order to prevent them from accessing pornography and other inappropriate content.

Schools and libraries now have financial incentives to certify that they are compliant with this law. They need to have an internet safety policy that uses technical protective measures to block obscene web sites. This is a requirement for any library or school that gets money for internet access or internal connectivity via the E-rate program. This program makes communications technology available at a greatly reduced cost, so there is a significant financial incentive to be compliant.

If a school is subject to the CIPA law, they must adopt and enforce a policy that monitors their student’s activities on the internet.

In addition, to quote the federal government’s web site on the subject:

Schools and libraries subject to CIPA are required to adopt and implement an Internet safety policy addressing: (a) access by minors to inappropriate matter on the Internet; (b) the safety and security of minors when using electronic mail, chat rooms, and other forms of direct electronic communications; (c) unauthorized access, including so-called “hacking,” and other unlawful activities by minors online; (d) unauthorized disclosure, use, and dissemination of personal information regarding minors; and (e) measures restricting minors’ access to materials harmful to them.

Before getting any E-rate funding, schools and libraries have to certify that their safety policies and implementing technologies are fully implemented and operational.

If your school or library does not get E-rate funding for anything except telecommunications, then it is not subject to the CIPA law. Also, any authorized person may disable any filtering or site-blocking software if adults need this to enable legitimate research or some other lawful purpose.