Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Will U.S. Continue Broadband Slide Under Obama?

Since 2001, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the United States has moved from fourth in the world to fifteenth in broadband penetration. Not exactly bragging rights. Lot's of us have been out advocating for broadband reform and a new definition of broadband. Congress is working to determine what speed broadband should be defined as, whether taxpayer money should be invested in areas that do not have broadband access and whether existing slower networks should be subsidized for upgrades.Here's a summary from an article in today's Wall Street Journal:

Large cable operators are seeking to increase the FCC's definition of broadband download speed to about five megabits per second, about 6½ times as fast as the current definition, according to people familiar with the situation. Internet-service providers building out "unserved" regions, where service of that speed isn't available, would be given the full benefit of tax incentives or grants.

The big cable providers also want to target "underserved" areas, where there is only one broadband provider or the service isn't widely available. In those markets, companies would get incentives to build out next-generation services. The download speed that would qualify as next-generation would likely be in the range of 40 to 50 megabits per second, people involved in the discussions say.

I'm loving this right now but.... the smaller telcos don't like it - how come? Here's more from the Journal:

The cable plan would disadvantage phone companies, especially smaller ones whose digital-subscriber-line services are slower than cable modems. The Independent Telephone and Telecommunications Alliance, which represents midsize phone companies, is pushing for a slower broadband standard, in the range of 1.5 to three megabits per second. Curt Stamp, the group's president, says the federal largesse should be used to subsidize carrier investments in rural areas rather than to finance upgrades to their existing networks.

I've written in the past here frequently about our lack of a competitive broadband policy in this country. So..... cable companies pushing for higher speed broadband definitions and wanting to target "underserved" areas at speeds up to 50 megabits per second. Smaller telecos pushing for a new broadband definition that is about half of what the cable companies want. Here's a little more from the Wall Street Journal:

The Telecommunications Industry Association, which represents equipment makers, is pushing for a $25 billion grant program for Internet service providers. Under another proposal that is being discussed, grants could go to state and municipal authorities, which would build high-speed networks and then open them up to competing service providers. That would likely meet with considerable resistance from large carriers like Verizon Communications Inc., which have challenged attempts by local governments to build and operate their own wireless or high-speed fiber networks.

Cable companies, smaller telcos, big telcos and equipment manufacturers all lobbying and every day we continue to fall further behind the rest of the world. Obama will have his hands full trying to turn this one around - his transition team declined comment to the Journal.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

10 Random Thoughts On 12-24-08

Here's my thoughts for this week:

  1. Will 2009 be the last year of the mechanical hard drive ?
  2. Every year is some sort of a milestone but 2009 will be special - my 30 year college (UMass Amherst ) graduation anniversary and my oldest graduating from high school - time flies doesn't it?
  3. How long will it be before we are calling ADSL legacy technology?
  4. Still no word from Obama on who his FCC chairman will be.
  5. Let's see - a Patriots win combined with either a Miami or Baltimore loss means playoffs for New England.
  6. Will 2009 be the year of Android?
  7. Have you tried Chrome yet? You should.
  8. Can we crawl out of this economic meltdown? We always have and I believe we always will.
  9. My heart and prayers go out to a colleague and family who lost their 12 year old this past fall.
  10. Happy Holidays - wishing lots of enjoyment with family and friends.
  11. Number 11 because it is Christmas Eve - if you do nothing else today.... read Tom Friedman's December 23 NYT Column Time to Reboot America
Have fun. Take time. Be safe.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Digital TV: Goodbye Analog Snow, Hello Digital Losses

We don't have long to go until over-the-air analog television bites the dust, replaced with digital signaling on February 18. Watching televison the "old-fashioned" way (without cable) brings back fond memories of the aerial antenna on top of my parents house. I remember my Dad climbing up on the roof to move the antenna so we could watch Boston Bruins hockey games more clearly. It only took a few trips to the roof before we had one of those fancy motorized antennas with a controller on top of the set - no more roof climbing to redirect an antenna with one of those - just a twist of a dial......

Most of us have come a long way since those antenna days but there are still many in this country who watch television over-the-air. Realizing this, Congress did get out in front of the digital conversion a year and a half or so ago and starting offering $40 coupons (see www.dtv2009.gov ) consumers can use towards the purchase of a digital set top conversion box. Basically these boxes take the digital signal from the air and convert it to an analog signal that an analog TV can use.

Moving to digital has a lot of advantages including a 3:1 channel ratio - you'll have three digital channels for the equivalent of one single analog channel. It also frees up spectrum for new wireless communications services.

There are also some disadvantages though - most analog sets have 4:3 ratio screens while most digital programming is broadcast in wide screen format. This means analog set owners are going to see letterboxing - black bands at the top and bottom of screens. I think the biggest complaint though will be from those who live in areas where broadcast signals are weak.

Let's take a close look. Back when we were watching those Bruins hockey games we expected a snowy picture - if you're not sure what a snowy picture is - here's an 18 second analog transmission video I just shot:

A fuzzy/snowy picture with good audio - it's watchable and it is also listenable. Analog signals fade gracefully (as someone much smarter that me once said whose name I cannot remember). As signals get weaker the picture snows up but is still watchable. The audio is commonly good with weak audio signals - in fact you typically lose the picture before you lose the audio.

Digital transmissions are another story. Weaker signals will cause the picture to randomly lose pixels along with random pieces of audio. Here's a 20 second digital transmission video I just shot showing pixel and audio loss.

Pixel lose is scattered and occurs throughout the video and, if you missed it, audio is momentarily lost at around 5 seconds. Annoying and just about impossible for me to watch for more than a few minutes..... I'm changing the channel!

Over the air digital television is being pitched by many as a go-no-go service, with people saying you will either get the channel or you won't. From what I've seen this is not the case - there is an in between that is not very pleasant - those digital signals do not fade gracefully!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Getting Ready For The Snow

We're expecting a big snow storm today in Massachusetts. The college is closed so I'm home doing some work. I'm always amazed at how quiet the woods are right before a big storm - no birds chirping or flying around. Squirrels, rabbits, chipmunks - not sure where they are but probably just about where I am right now..... Stocked up at the grocery store this morning and looking forward to a nice meal this evening. Stove is full and kicking out some nice heat..... everything has slowed down..... it feels good.

Think I'd miss this if I moved someplace where it did not snow.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Some Interesting Facebook Statistics

Facebook keeps track of some interesting information on their statistics page:

  • More than 140 million active users
  • More than half of Facebook users are outside of college
  • The fastest growing demographic is those 25 years old and older
  • Average user has 100 friends on the site
  • 2.6 billion minutes are spent on Facebook each day (worldwide)
  • More than 13 million users update their statuses at least once each day
  • More than 2.5 million users become fans of Pages each day
  • More than 700 million photos uploaded to the site each month
  • More than 4 million videos uploaded each month
  • More than 15 million pieces of content (web links, news stories, blog posts, notes, photos, etc.) shared each month
  • More than 2 million events created each month
  • More than 19 million active user groups exist on the site
  • More than 35 translations available on the site, with more than 60 in development
  • More than 70% of Facebook users are outside the United States
  • More than 660,000 developers and entrepreneurs from more than 180 countries
  • More than 52,000 applications currently available on Facebook Platform
  • 140 new applications added per day
  • More than 95% of Facebook members have used at least one application built on Facebook Platform
(Note: data from 12-18-08)

At current pace, Facebook is growing at around 600,000 users per day.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

10 Random Thoughts On 12-17-08

There's a Springfield, MA newspaper sports reporter by the name of Gary Brown who writes a weekly column titled "Hitting To All Fields". In the column he lists his random thoughts for the past week. I've always enjoyed Gary's writing and they say imitation is the best form of flattery..... If this format works - it may become a regular Wednesday thing for me:

Wondering who Obama will select as Kevin Martin's FCC chair replacement.

WHAT.... no Steve Jobs at MacWorld 2009 ?

And double WHAT.... no more Apple at MacWorld after 2009 ?

Wondering how those Walmart iPhones will sell.

Some are saying (myself included) broadband access is a human right. Others disagree.

Been hearing the term "social shopping" used this holiday season as if it is something new. Isn't it what we've always referred to as "word of mouth"?

Can the Patriots pull the playoffs off in the next couple of weeks?

It's been a disgusting political and financial week in our country - the rest of the world must be laughing pretty hard at us.

The Feb 18 Analog to Digital Mandated TV Conversion is looking like it might get messy for people who are still watching over-the-air. I'll be writing more on this soon.

Early this morning my blog passed the 100,000 visitor mark for 2008!!!

Happy Holidays and thanks for reading!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Your Web Privacy At Risk? Will You Be Phormed?

British Telecom has been testing an interesting product from a company called Phorm . Phorm is not a household name yet but it could rapidly become one. Here's a piece from Phorm's Wikipedia entry:

Phorm, formerly known as 121Media, is a digital technology company based in London, New York, and Moscow. The company drew attention when it announced it was in talks with several United KingdomISPs to deliver targeted advertising based on user browsing habits by using deep packet inspection. It is one of several companies developing behavioral targeting advertising systems, seeking deals with ISPs to enable them to analyse customers' websurfing habits in order to deliver targeted advertising
to them.

Phorm claims the product in trial, called Webwise, is designed to make the internet safer and more relevant to internet users. Webwise is offered free of charge to participating ISP partner customers and includes relevant advertising features and enhanced protection against online fraud. Webwise works by giving users a unique identification. User browser habits are observed and then ads are targeted based on user browsing habits. The company says that all collected information is completely anonymous and Phorm (along with anyone else) will never be aware of any users identity or what that individual users has browsed.

Will British Telecom move forward now that the trial is complete? Here's a quote from a ZDNet piece:

"The trial has now concluded and achieved its primary objective of testing all the elements necessary for a larger deployment, including the serving of small volumes of targeting advertising," said the company in a statement on Monday. "There will now be a period of joint analysis of the results. Following successful completion of analysis of both the trial results and of any changes required for expansion, BT's expectation is to move towards deployment."

Some in Europe are fighting - anti-Phorm campaigner Alexander Hanff is quoted in theZDNet piece:

"There's still pressure from the [European Commission] and the public that may mean BT doesn't deploy the system," said Hanff, who added that the Crown Prosecution Service is still considering whether to launch a prosecution against BT over two previous trials.

I pay for Internet access in my home and do not believe anyone should have access to my surfing habits except those I give it to. This stuff scares me.

For updates watch Hanff's blog linked here.

Friday, December 12, 2008

2009 - Lots of Bandwidth?

Yesterday, Comcast announced 50Mbps service in Baltimore, Chicago, Atlanta, and Fort Wayne, Indiana. The service is being offerred over upgraded DOCSIS 3.0 tiers and will initially cover only parts of the listed cities.

The company is offering two new residential tiers:

  • Extreme 50, offering up to 50 Mbps of downstream speed and up to 10 Mbps of upstream speed at $139.95/month.
  • Ultra, offering up to 22 Mbps of downstream speed and up to 5 Mbps of upstream speed at $62.95/month.
And two new business class tiers:
  • Deluxe, offering 50 Mbps / 10 Mbps tier for $189.95/month, which includes a full suite of features and support.
  • Premium, offering speeds up to 22 Mbps / 5 Mbps for only $99.95/month.
The company says they will complete upgrading these cities early next year and will continue to roll out high bandwidth (what Comcast is calling wideband ) services at a rapid pace.

With the cable companies rolling out these tier levels we should see the telcos (Verizon and AT&T especially) respond pretty quickly. If you are fortunate enough to live or work in an area where there is this kind of broadband competition 2009 should be a nice year - you'll be seeing some very nice service offerings as the cable companies and telcos go after your business.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Will Verizon Offer A Fiber To The Node Product In 2009?

Yesterday, AT&T president and chief executive of telecom operations John Stankey announced the company was on track to add its one millionth U-Verse TV subscriber sometime next week. Stankey also announced plans to make the service available to 17 million homes by the end of 2009. AT&T's U-verse Fiber To The Node (FTTN) implementation involves running fiber out to a neighborhood node and then completing the connection over a copper connection to provide voice, video and data services.

AT&T has spent considerably to develop FTTN technology and along the way has had a few false starts. Launched in 2006, Project Lightspeed (as U-verse was first called) was a $4.6 billion investment aimed to reach 19 million homes in 13 US states by 2008 using a combination of fiber optic and copper network technologies.

FTTN relies heavily on set-top box techology - you can't get the same amount of bandwidth out of a piece of copper that you can out of a piece of fiber. Bandwidth limitations are made up for using caching. Early boxes had low end 386-based processors and limited memory and storage capacity. Trials in Europe were not favorable and the company had to go back to the drawing board a few times. Costs rose - in May 2007 AT&T announced the capital expenditure of Project Lightspeed would increase from $4.6B to $6.5B and the number of homes passed would decrease to 18 million; down a million homes.

Fast forward to today - the company hung in there with the technology it looks like the bugs have been worked and they've got it scaling!

Around the same time in 2006 and in technical competition (not market since the telcom footprints do not overlap) Verizon decided to go with a Fiber To The Home (FTTH) implementation - what we know as FiOS. FiOS runs an optical fiber directly to a subscribers home to deliver voice, video and data services and I've seen total Verizon investment estimates for the product anywhere between $18 and $23 billion. Initial Verizon plans were to pass 3 million homes per year starting in 2006 until they reached approximately 60 percent of their 2006 customer footprint. Estimates have changed slightly with the Verizon sell-off of Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont to Fairpoint Communications but you get the idea.

Why only 60% of the Verizon customer footprint? It's too expensive to run fiber to every home. I'm a perfect example - I live in a rural small town in Western Massachusetts. My house is on a private 1.5 mile road with copper from Verizon buried down the road along with another 300 plus feet buried under my driveway. There are only 7 homes on my road, all with at least 150 feet of buried copper between the road and the house. I'm guessing but I would say my neighborhood is pretty low on the FiOS list. As an alternative, Verizon is offering me ADSL but..... I'd like a little more data bandwidth and what about video services - you can't do that over ADSL.

My only real option - cable service from Comcast (which I love and probably not give up even if I had a choice). Verizon does not have a voice/video/data product they can even try to sell me unless I go with a Verizon/DirecTV option and put a satellite dish on my house. I don't really want to do that.

Back in June of this year I wrote an entry titled Will Verizon Put More Gas In The Fiber Engine? In that piece I questioned whether Verizon was considering FTTN technology to reach out into the more difficult areas and better compete with the cable companies and their aggressive DOCSIS 3.0 rollout plans. With this recent announcement by AT&T showing FTTN technology works and scales I don't see how Verizon can ignore an FTTN option in neighborhoods like mine.

I'm gonna stick my neck out on this one with my first prediction for 2009 - Verizon will announce an FTTN product sometime next year.

Don't Limit Access to Higher Education

My college president has written an excellent op-ed piece in BusinessWest, a Western Massachusetts news magazine. The piece discusses the critical importance of funding for public higher education and particularly for community colleges, in light of our current Massachusetts state budget crisis. Here the piece:

President of Springfield Technical Community College (STCC) in Springfield, MA

By most accounts, we are now entering the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Nationally, the signs abound: the loss of home value, the meltdown in the stock market, the rise in unemployment, collapse of the credit markets, and a record $1 trillion federal deficit.

As these dramatic changes reverberate through the economy, a college education becomes ever-more important to secure a decent paying job and enter a stable career; studies show the link between higher levels of educational attainment and higher average salaries. Furthermore, certain associate degrees such as those in nursing, allied health, computer science, and manufacturing, pay much greater dividends because jobs in these fields are in high demand.

In this environment, individuals are facing hard choices about where to commit to spend their money. Where to go to college and how to pay for higher education ranks among a family’s most important decisions.

One may choose between public and private colleges, with elite private colleges now costing — without room and board — upwards of $40,000 per year. Within the public sector, there are three options: university campuses, state colleges, and community colleges. In Massachusetts, average student charges per year without room and board for these three segments are:

  • $9,585 for the four UMass campuses;
  • $6,400 for the nine state colleges; and
  • $3,862 for the state’s 15 community colleges.
Since community colleges are the least expensive, they are becoming more and more popular as a way to stretch a family’s and student’s limited resources. And people are flocking to these local colleges. Fall 2008 figures show community colleges now dominate enrollment in the state with 89,000 students, compared with 46,928 at the four university campuses, and a total of 37,509 at the nine state college campuses.

This fall, community colleges statewide had an enrollment increase that averaged 5.3%, the largest jump of any segment. Although the Commonwealth’s community colleges offer only the first two years of a baccalaureate degree and a number of two-year career programs, the quality of instruction is superb. Consider that community colleges are teaching institutions with a focus on undergraduate students. Faculty are hired because of their knowledge and their ability to teach, not for research skills.

Springfield Technical Community College, for example, offers 60-plus career programs in business, health professions, computer science, and engineering technology. In addition, the college has a robust liberal arts curriculum leading to transfer to baccalaureate colleges throughout New England. Local private colleges — AIC, Elms, Bay Path, Western New England, and Springfield College — court STCC graduates through agreements that provide guaranteed scholarships for students with good grades.

Many STCC students also transfer to the public institutions, most notably UMass Amherst and Westfield State College.

So, for those worried about the economy and the future, community colleges continue to be the best deal in the state.

However, the current state budget deficit now threatens the accessibility and affordability of public higher education just when Massachusetts residents most need it.

Community colleges are the most lean and efficient segment of higher education, educating more students with less funding. They enroll more than half of public higher-education students, yet receive approximately one-quarter of state funding. Consequently, it will be more difficult for these institutions to absorb major funding cuts without affecting the quality of the education and resources so important to students and to our economic future.

Education is the economic driver for our state, producing the skilled and knowledgeable employees needed by business, schools, and industry — particularly the health care industry.

While cutting funding for education will save money in the very short term, it will represent a far greater loss for our citizens and our state.

Ira Rubenzahl is president of Springfield Technical Community College.

This article first appeared in BusinessWest Magazine, Springfield, Massachusetts and is directly linked here.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Some Interesting Wireless Device Development Platforms

Last month the Rutberg & Co. Wireless Industry Newsletter asked the question Will 2009 be the year of the mobile app? I've been watching the different mobile development platforms fairly closely because these applications offer some great teaching and learning potential in our classrooms and some excellent business opportunities for our entrepreneurial students. The Rutberg newsletter lists four different device platforms:

Most developers consider the iPhone SDK king right now - Apple currently provides the richest development environment along with marketing and the App store where developers can sell their applications.

Googles entry involves the Open Handset Alliance, a group of more than 30 technology and mobile companies that developed Android.

Ovi was launched in late summer 2007 by Nokia as a "personal dashboard" for Nokia smartphones.
The company has launched the BlackBerry Developer Zone with resources and information for developers.

Each site offers the equivalent of an SDK along with other developer tools, white papers, forums, videos, etc. The Rutberg newsletter says it well - Apple pioneered the offerings of a compelling data experience to customers, a useful development environment for developers, and a meaningful business model for constituents throughout the ecosystem. Android is furthering the industry shifts through greater levels of openness and broader levels of industry involvement. Ovi and Blackberry are right there in the mix too.

If you currently teach computer programming you should take a close look at each of these development platforms.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Ethernet To The Home Over Fiber - A PON Alternative?

Passive Optical Networks (PONs) have been getting a lot of attention here in the United States as companies like Verizon move to deliver voice, video and data services over optical fiber to homes. Mike Q and I even did a podcast detailing Verizon's Fiber to the Home (FTTH) PON configuration last May. In the United States we seem to believe PON technology is the best way to deliver signals over fiber to residences. This is not the case in Europe though. Lightwave.com has just posted a very interesting piece titled Active Ethernet FTTH offers PON alternative.

According to Lightwave.com,
hundreds of networks around the world—and particularly in Europe—use Ethernet switches to deliver high-speed voice, data, and video services to single-family homes and apartment complexes. One of the reasons, according to Lightwave, it has not caught on is because proponents of the technology have not come up with a universal name for the technology. One name that has taken limited hold is Active Ethernet, which clearly differentiates itself from passive PON technology. This term works for some but not others - according to Lightwave.com, not all implementations place the switches in the field; the Ethernet equipment can reside in the central office (CO), with a fiber running directly from the CO to each subscriber.

As a result, some companies, like Alcatel-Lucent use the term Active Ethernet to describe implementations where there are Ethernet switches in the field and Point-to-Point to describe an implementation that is directly connected over fiber without switches in the field. Other companies are using other terms - Cisco just uses Ethernet FTTH for all Ethernet over fiber configurations.

I've always been a fan of Ethernet and have believed most connections would eventually become Ethernet. It scales well and is easy to implement, configure and maintain.What's likely hurt it most in this country as a long distance option are switch power needs in the field for active implementations and the cost of direct connecting a piece of fiber from a home directly to a switch in the CO. For these reasons I suspect companies like Verizon have gone with a PON delivery configuration. But, is this only temporary? Cost differences between Ethernet and PON actually shrink as bandwidth per subscriber increases - here's more from the Lightwave.com piece:

Bandwidth levels of 20 Mbits/sec and greater generally require that the number of splits per PON shrink. This translates into more fibers in the field and more ports in the CO to service the same number of subscribers, making PON infrastructures look more like point-to-point when it comes to fibers deployed and CO ports.

Here's an interesting quote from Ian Hood, senior marketing manager at Cisco:

"What I see in the marketplace is that providers are putting in PON for I'll call it the low end of the market—best effort, small customers, small businesses, the less than 15 Mbits per customer kind of speeds. For their high-value customers and some of their businesses, they're going with an Ethernet solution, be it building-oriented or dedicated from the CO to get beyond the 25-Mbit realm. So you're seeing a hybrid approach basically in a lot of the new large city deployments."

Will PONs go the route of DSL in the United States and be looked back on some day as a temporary technology? Perhaps - the one big advantage Ethernet currently has over PON is it has the potential to deliver the highest potential bandwidth per subscriber. Here's another quote from Hood:

"If we can get the optics costs down and embed them along with the multiplexer into our Ethernet switches, then you can go beyond 100 megabits to gigabits to whatever you can run on a lambda at that kind of cost for the next evolution of speed."

Which technology will eventually dominate? Will another alternative to PON and Ethernet come along that is superior to both? Time will tell. Be sure to read the entire Lightwave.com piece linked here.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Digital Youth Research: Living and Learning with New Media

A couple weeks ago the latest study from Digital Youth Research titled Living and Learning with New Media: Summary of Findings from the Digital Youth Project was released. The study is the result of a three-year year collaborative project funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. As part of the study, research on how kids use digital media in their everyday lives was done at the University of Southern California and University of California, Berkeley. Over a three-year period, researchers interviewed more than 800 youth and young adults and conducted over 5000 hours of online observation.

If you’ve been around young people recently the results should be no big surprise to you - here’s a quote from the study:

They found that social network and video-sharing sites, online games, and gadgets such as iPods and mobile phones are now fixtures of youth culture. The research shows that today’s youth may be coming of age and struggling for autonomy and identity amid new worlds for communication, friendship, play, and self-expression.

There are a couple of major study findings:

Youth use online media to extend friendships and interests.

Kids are using online networks to extend the friendships that they navigate in the familiar contexts of school, religious organizations, sports, and other local activities. They can be “always on,” in constant contact with their friends through private communications like instant messaging or mobile phones, as well as in public ways through social network sites such as MySpace and Facebook.

Youth engage in peer-based, self-directed learning online.

In both friendship-driven and interest-driven online activity, youth create and navigate new forms of expression and rules for social behavior. By exploring new interests, tinkering, and “messing around” with new forms of media, they acquire various forms of technical and media literacy.

The report implications, along with how we can take advantage of them in our classrooms, are very interesting. They include:

Adults should facilitate young people’s engagement with digital media.

Contrary to adult perceptions, while hanging out online, youth are picking up basic social and technical skills they need to fully participate in contemporary society. Erecting barriers to participation deprives teens of access to these forms of learning.

Given the diversity of digital media, it is problematic to develop a standardized set of benchmarks against which to measure young people’s technical and new media literacy.

Friendship-driven and interest-driven online participation have very different kinds of social connotations. For example, whereas friendship-driven activities center upon peer culture, adult participation is more welcomed in the latter more “geeky” forms of learning. In addition, the content, behavior, and skills that youth value are highly variable depending on with which social groups they associate.

In interest-driven participation, adults have an important role to play.

Youth using new media often learn from their peers, not teachers or adults. Yet adults can still have tremendous influence in setting learning goals, particularly on the interest-driven side where adult hobbyists function as role models and more experienced peers.

To stay relevant in the 21st century, education institutions need to keep pace with the rapid changes introduced by digital media.

Youths’ participation in this networked world suggests new ways of thinking about the role of education.

The authors ask the following questions:

What would it mean to really exploit the potential of the learning opportunities available through online resources and networks?

What would it mean to reach beyond traditional education and civic institutions and enlist the help of others in young people’s learning?

And finally:

Rather than assuming that education is primarily about preparing for jobs and careers, they question what it would mean to think of it as a process guiding youths’ participation in public life more generally.

Let’s say you are a novice and want to give this stuff a try. People often ask me where to start. Here’s my short answer:
  1. Sign up for Facebook at www.facebook.com - it’s free.
  2. Once you sign up search for people you know – it’s easy and you will find some. Old college roommates, professors, childhood friends, etc. You will likely also find most of your students.
  3. Select some of the people you find and request their friendship in Facebook. Be sure to selec some experience users. Request my friendship if you want - just search my email address: gordonfsnyder@gmail.com
  4. Watch what your Facebook friends do. Facebook is a great content aggregator . You’ll see things like embedded YouTube videos, Twitter posts, blog entries, pictures, etc. Be sure to check your page at least once a day to start with.
  5. Build your Facebook page and start aggregating your own content – watch and learn from your Facebook friends.
If you are an educator, the study results are a must read. Powerful stuff that we can all take advantage of – inside and outside the classroom. Here’s how you can access the study results:

Two page summary linked

Study white paper linked

In addition a book based on the study is forthcoming from MIT Press titled Hanging Out, Messing Around, Geeking Out: Living and Learning with New Media. You can get more information on the book