Networks are the new classrooms, and our ability as adults to learn in these networks has huge implications for our ability to fully prepare our students for the learning environments they will inhabit moving forward. This book spells out what PLNs are and how they can reframe culture and practice in your school.
So, let me say at the outset that I love books. All my life, I’ve been a reader of books. I have at least 1,000 of them in my home (on shelves, in stacks on the floor, in boxes in the basement.) I have books of every type; novels, non-fiction, story books, picture books and more. Life feels better when I’m surrounded by books.
And I love the fact that my kids love books, that Tucker spent an hour at the public library yesterday, gliding through the stacks, pulling books down, sitting cross legged on the floor, testing them out, that the first thing Tess wanted to do when we moved last fall was organize her books. I totally understand why living in a house full of books is worth upwards of like three grades of literacy in school schooling.
So, with that bit of context, let me try to explain how my book loving brain got really, seriously rocked the other day, rocked to the point where I’m wondering how many more paper books I might accumulate in my life.
Last year, I put the Kindle app on my iPhone and downloaded a couple of books to read. I was surprised in that the experience actually wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. The first book, a great novel by Anita Shreve, was not much different from reading on paper. The story flew by, and other than being surprised when I got to the end (because I didn’t know how many pages I had left to go) it was a great reading experience. But non-fiction wasn’t so great. If you look at most of the non-fiction books in my library, you’ll see they’re totally marked up, underlined, annotated and messy. It’s the way I attempt to cement in those most important points, and it helps me recall the good stuff in a book more easily. On the Kindle, I could highlight, and take a note, but it just wasn’t as useful. The notes were hard to find, and the highlights just weren’t feeling as sticky. I wasn’t impressed; in fact, it was frustrating.
Last week, when I downloaded my first book to my shiny new iPad, things improved. The larger screen made a big difference, creating highlights and typing in reflective notes was a breeze, but I was still feeling the same frustration with the limitations; just because the pages were bigger didn’t mean the notes left behind were any easier to find, and stuff just felt too disjointed. I kept searching for a way to copy and paste sections of the book out into Evernote, albeit a clunky process on the iPad, but still worth it if I could make my notes digital (i.e. searchable, remixable, etc.) My searches didn’t come up with anything, and I finally turned to Twitter and asked the question there. Ted Bongiovanni (@teddyb109) came to the rescue:
@willrich45 – re: iPad Kindle cut and paste, sort of. You can highlight, and then grab them from kindle.amazon.com #iPad #kindle
Turns out my iPad Kindle app syncs up all of my highlights and notes to my Amazon account. Who knew? When I finally got to the page Ted pointed me to in my own account, the page that listed every highlight and every note that I had taken on my Kindle version of John Seely Brown’s new book Pull, I could only think two words:
All of a sudden, by reading the book electronically as opposed to in print, I now have:
- all of the most relevant, thought-provoking passages from the book listed on one web page, as in my own condensed version of just the best pieces
- all of my notes and reflections attached to those individual notes
- the ability to copy and paste all of those notes and highlights into Evernote which makes them searchable, editable, organizable, connectable and remixable
- the ability to access my book notes and highlights from anywhere I have an Internet connection.
I keep thinking, what if I had every note and highlight that I had ever taken in a paper book available to search through, to connect with other similar ideas from other books, to synthesize electronically? It reminds me of the Kevin Kelly quote that I share from time to time in my presentations, the one from the New York Times magazine in 2006 titled “Scan This Book“:
Turning inked letters into electronic dots that can be read on a screen is simply the first essential step in creating this new library. The real magic will come in the second act, as each word in each book is cross-linked, clustered, cited, extracted, indexed, analyzed, annotated, remixed, reassembled and woven deeper into the culture than ever before. In the new world of books, every bit informs another; every page reads all the other pages.
And I also keep thinking about what changes now? How does my note taking in books change? (Do I start using tags and keywords along with adding my reflections?) Now that I can post my notes and highlights publicly, what copyright ramifications are there? How might others find that useful? And the biggest question, do I buy any more paper books?
I know others might not find this earth shattering, but this is a pretty heady shift for me right now, one that is definitely disrupting my worldview. And it’s, as always, making think of the implications for my kids. What if they could export out the notes from their own texts, store them, search them, share them? Yikes.
I’m sure I’ll be reflecting on it more as it all plays out.
That is all…
Just in case anyone is interested, and because I haven’t posted three times to my blog in one day in a while and I’m feeling a little wacky, here is a short list of what’s on my summer reading list (as if I have any more time in summer than any other part of the year these days.) For some strange reason, I’m on a real book reading jones right now.
- Little Brother by Cory Doctorow (Thanks to Carolyn Foote (I think) for the Twitter rec.
- The Big Switch: Rewiring the World, from Edison to Google by Nick Carr
- The Future of the Internet–And How to Stop It by Jonathan Zittrain (25% through it)
- Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff
- Network Power: The Social Dynamics of Globalization by David Singh Grewal
- Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School by John Medina
- Collective Intelligence: Creating a Prosperous World at Peace by Tom Atlee
- Wikipedia: The Missing Manual by John Broughton (Thanks to Tom Hoffman)
- Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain by Maryann Wolf (Thanks to Sara Kajder)
Suffice to say, there are other books in my pile that I’m hoping to get to (including a few given to me by network associates) and with the election coming up, there are all sorts of other political titles I’d love to get to. Odds are I won’t make it through most of these, but best intentions…
Btw, I’ll just say it again, if you don’t have Clay Shirky’s Here Comes Everybody on your list, I humbly think you should.
Suggestions for additions?
I had the great pleasure of listening to Jonathan Zittrain the two years that I attended I-Law at Harvard (an event that unfortunately is no longer being held.) Going back and reading this post from four years ago just now reminds me just how far all of this has come and, more dishearteningly, how little has really changed. (i.e. “And right now, while kids by and large have the technology skills to create, they have very few models for appropriate uses for that creation.” Oy.) I will always remember those two sessions as among the most amazing and interesting learning days of my life, hugely validating and compelling on all sorts of levels.
No doubt, it’s one of the reasons I still perk up when Lawrence Lessig or Yochai Benkler or the rest publish books or articles or interviews. And so when I saw that Zittrain was publishing a book, I pre-ordered from Amazon and got it this week. While I’m only a few pages in to it, the point is clear: we are at a critical point in the evolution of the net, one where we are faced with some not so great scenarios of abuse and control that are going to require some level headed thinking and action to navigate. Here is the thesis:
In the arc from the Apple II to the iPhone, we learn something important about where the Internet has been, and something more important about where it is going. The PC revolution was launched with PCs that invited innovation by others. So too with the Internet. Both wer generative: they were designed to accept any contribution that followed a basic set of rules (either coded for a particular operating system, or respecting the protocols of the Internet.) Both overwhelmed their respective proprietary, non-generative competitors, such as the makers of stand-alone word processors and proprietary online services like CompuServe and AOL. But the future unfolding right now is very different from this past. The future is not one of generative PCs attached to a generative network. It is instead one of the sterile appliances tethered to a network of control (3).
I’m not sure yet how much this parallels the lock down vs. open up choice that schools are facing right now, but I have a feeling the conversations will parallel in many ways. (There is only one page referenced in the index to schools.) More as I dig through. And, just a off the top thought, but if anyone wants to do a book club, let me know.