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How The Web Can Change Education July 18, 2011

Posted by Joanne KY Teoh in Essays, News, Reviews, Trends.
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by Joanne KY Teoh
The Web has freed people from the “tyranny of time and distance” and is now poised to create a culture for learning innovation, expanding classroom walls to bring the best learning resources for kids of the world.

No surprise Rupert Murdoch of News Corp has been enthusing about the commercial potential of eLearning, using the e-G8 Forum “The Internet: Accelerating Growth” in Paris to talk up the Web’s power to transform education in his presentation.

Of course, Murdoch lauds commercial educational initiatives and products while ignoring Open Access resources like MIT OpenCourseWare, and many others. While one should beware ruthless tycoons peddling their wares, the point is that even Murdoch sees the future of education, and his words are accurate in many respects.

If schools today have not changed much, and the classroom is still defined by a teacher with a book and a blackboard, what should change? Computers aren’t enough. Software that engage students are also critical. If possible, equip students with tablets to let them become more interactive in their learning.

Digital technology allows for personalized or individualized learning. Students can work at their own pace with online tutors and videos featuring, for example, master teachers from anywhere in the world to monitor each student’s performance.

What does it look like when the Web positively impacts the daily practice of a learning community through communication and collaboration? Some schools have shifted their thinking to transform best practices, utilize project-based learning activities, and implement school communication initiatives that involve blogging, wikis, and social networking tools.

Education and creativity expert, Sir Ken Robinson also criticized outdated schools in his classical 2008 A Change of Paradigms lecture at the Royal Society of Art. But he addressed technology from the viewpoint of its effect on cognition and culture, and how educational politics should take this into account. Certainly a more fruitful and far-sighted approach than Murdoch’s promotion of exclusively commercial tech solutions.

Animation: Changing Education Paradigms by Sir Ken Robinson

While Murdoch advocates for less government in education as a software seller, Lawrence Lessig advocates socially ethical “less government.” Below is a video of his e-G8 keynote which focuses on his slides.

We should say to modern democratic government, you need to beware of incumbents bearing policy fixes. Because their job, the job of the incumbents, is not the same as your job, the job of the public policy maker.

Their job is profit for them. Your job is the public good. And it is completely fair, for us to say, that until this addiction is solved, we should insist on minimalism in what government does.

The kind of minimalism Jeff Jarvis spoke off when he spoke of “do no harm”. An Internet that embraces principles of open and free access, a neutral network to guarantee this open access, to protect the outsider.

But here is the one thing we know about this meeting, and its relationship to the future of the internet. The future of the internet is not Twitter, it is not Facebook, it is not Google, it is not even Rupert Murdoch.

The future of the internet is not here. It wasn’t invited, it does not even know how to be invited, because it doesn’t yet focus on policies and fora like this. The least we can do is to preserve the architecture of this network that protects this future that is not here.

Lawrence Lessig, Professor, Harvard Law School

Keynote – e-G8 from lessig on Vimeo.

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e-G8 – Rupert Murdoch: Education Is the Last Digital Holdout

New York Times Free At Last September 18, 2007

Posted by Joanne KY Teoh in Advertising, Essays, Journalism, News, Trends.
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So it’s no sale with paid content. The New York Times is joining the crescendo of falling walls at news sites including The Economist and CNN by ending its experiment with charging for select online content. The Times today restored free access to most of its columnists along with many articles, blogs, video, podcasts and archives.

It sure is good Maureen Dowd and the cast of Times columnists are firmly back into the public conversation. Columnists like her must be clicking their champagne glasses now their verbiage is accessible to a larger audience. But I’m raising my glass to a move that opens access to journalism’s most definitive moments on the Web.

The more important meaning for journalism here I say, is opening up the Times archives. With a perma-link on each article, Times’ stories will become the de facto primary sources for people around the Web, and around the world. So on topic after topic, the Times stories will move near or to the top of the search engine rankings. They will become more valuable for keyword and advertising once people click through to the actual stories.

Readers increasingly find news through search, as well as through social networks, blogs and other online sources. In light of this shift, we believe offering unfettered access to New York Times reporting and analysis best serves the interest of our readers, our brand and the long-term vitality of our journalism. We encourage everyone to read our news and opinion – as well as share it, link to it and comment on it.

New YorK Times

This was a money decision to be sure, and it could well be the start of the end for paid news on the Web. It is not so much that ads on the columnist pages will bring in that much new revenue but rather people looking at those pages will then go elsewhere on the site and the more eyeballs looking at more advertising, the better.

By lifting the gates on Times Select and returning its website to a completely ad-supported model, the larger significance is a resounding victory for the idea that information wants to be free. The Times site, nytimes.com, is the most popular newspaper site on the Web, with 13.1 million unique visitors. But its middling results with paid content, neither validation nor failure, strongly suggest that very few content publishers should even consider playing in the pay arena.

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Lifting the ramparts on paid content shows the Times is taking seriously the prospect that Rupert Murdoch will drop access charges for most or all of The Wall Street Journal Online. The Journal is now the only major newspaper charging subscriptions for most of its online content.

Incidentally, Murdoch gave his strongest statements to date the WSJ.com will go free. He says the company doesn’t feel it would hurt subscriptions and any lost revenue would be more than made up from increased readership and search engine traffic.

There’s talk the UK’s Financial Times web site with around 100,000 subscribers will also open up. Which begs that question – if we can read newspapers for free on the Web, why should we pay to read it in print? How come one model works for the Web and another model is used for print. The print model needs revisiting.

The once hot online-newspaper ad revenue is slowing as a result of competition from Web portals and TV networks. Nielsen/NetRatings show Yahoo News and Time Warner CNN Web sites posting strong growth over newspaper sites. Although online ads still make up a small portion of total newspaper revenues, the downward spiral of print revenues, has pushed print media to grab as big a slice of the online-ad pie as they can.

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The Times introduced Times Select in September 2005 to wring subscription revenue from its website and shore up sales in print, where ad rates remain much higher than they are online. It admitted that the power of search engines, which often drive traffic to the Times Online even when people looking for information don’t necessarily set out to find it, meant there was too much potential to pass up in free access underwritten by marketers.

2007 is emerging as a watershed for advertising, once seen as only part of a broader revenue play. Media owners are recognizing there is more money to be made reducing barriers to usage and selling advertising against that increased usage. So far in 2007, publishers have abandoned the paid ramparts at outlets including CNN, The Economist and The Financial Times.

Sure it’s nice for advertisers to know that a consumer loves a publisher’s site enough to pay for it. Opening the gates do let in riffraff who may not be so desirable. But from a marketer perspective, the more, the better. You potentially create greater scale for advertisers, and they want as much scale as possible.

Essentially, the Times is betting it can generate enough advertising revenue and/or goodwill to more than make up the loss of $10 million in subscription revenue. That’s a lot of ads, but the popular columns and archives that were behind the pay wall are popular material and should generate a lot of page views.

Of course, niche sites with unduplicated or especially compelling content will always be able to charge something for content. In addition to the free photos and articles Playboy posts online, it sells three tiers of paid access.

The Times is ending its premium service with 227,000 paying subscribers, 471,200 people who got access as part of their print subscriptions and 89,200 college students and employees who signed up for free access. It has sold sponsorship ads to American Express across The Content Formerly Known as Times Select.

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