Thursday, May 31, 2007

Preparing the natives for The Age of Innovation. (The exaflood cometh)

Perhaps its just the way with innovators. What they seem to harp on about (try to communicate) doesn't make much sense to a critical mass until a few years down the track. By then, a few leaders have adopted the ideas, and begin to market the benefits to the broader community.

This speech by Bruce Mehlman (an innovator) from 2003, is 4 years old now.

Mehlman makes three points that resonate with my current situation.

First, we must recognize that technologies only benefit society when we use them wisely. Technology can enable us to improve our lives and make the world a safer, more abundant, and more equitable place. Or it can exacerbate problems. For example, encryption technologies that protect our privacy also conceal terrorist communications. The Internet lets children in Alaska visit the Smithsonian or take virtual courses at MIT, but it also gives them access to pornography, hate speech and instructions on building a pipe bomb. Digital literacy will never substitute for good parenting and effective teaching, and any effort to define and promote digital literacy must reinforce their unique and vital roles.

Second, we must remember that digital literacy is more than having Internet access and broader than technical proficiency. It's also about learning digital rights and wrongs. Respecting intellectual property rights, practicing security as second nature, and valuing others' privacy are all going to be critical to a functionally literate information society.

Last, we need to all remember the power of Metcalf's law. This principle states that the value of a network increases exponentially as more people connect. While there is zero value having the only telephone on Earth - after all there's no one to call - going from 100 to 1000 users increases the value of the network by more than a factor of 10. As we look to apply digital technologies to the challenges of the 21st century, we must join together with leaders around the world, so the rising tide of innovation can lift all boats. We will all be better off - as businesses, as nations and as citizens of the world - when 6 billion people are online, instead of the 655 million who have logged on so far.

So from my perspective, (as a classroom teacher in a part of the world that has only recently connected to affordable IT infrastructure), the speech (though four years old) is not only relevant but actually very applicable. The people I live with and work with are only now beginning to discover the power of the read/write web, and the network itself (connectivism).

With this in mind, take a look at what Mehlman is speaking about today. The exaflood!

Is your community ready?