The Future of Libraries.

John Connell has written an excellent post about Cloud computing and the future of education and the web. He muses;

Since 2002, I have been boring anyone willing to listen to me that this would be the case one day – and the core idea behind Glow in Scotland is based on this fundamental premise – that the world of knowledge is shifting inexorably onto the Web.

John has written a very interesting and thought provoking post. I urge you to visit his blog and read it.

I posted a comment because the post spoke to thoughts I have been mulling over regarding the future of libraries. Here’s what I said;

I have been grappling with this idea for some time now and you have articulated what I have been trying to put together in my mind. I’ve been trying to picture the future of libraries. If knowledge is everywhere and accessible to everyone then what is the point of some central location. There isn’t one. What the point of libraries will be, I think, is as a meeting place for humanity to share ideas. A bit like Ancient Greece where the Sophists would meet up together to share ideas. What keeps coming to me with all of this change is that we still need human interaction and the formation of meaningful relationships to sustain us. I feel that I have found a friend in you John through this PLN, but meeting you probably cemented the friendship. I look at the school library I run and what is happening with the students at my school. Their reliance on print material has lessened greatly with their shift to the web. We may as well ditch non-fiction altogether. And yet our Library is thriving. Why? A welcoming environment. We have couches, cushions, kids can eat in there and use their phones and listen to ipods. We listen to them and we like them. We don’t force feed them books but they like the connectedness they feel there. The knowledge will be everywhere and easily accessible, but the need for human connection will be constant.

John’s post was speaking to eduation as a whole rather than the specific nature of Libraries, but I think we can draw parallels. There will still be a need for schools and teachers. I don’t think we will become obsolete. I do think the nature of learning will change; we will need to encourage and foster self directed learners and this is what I see the function of teachers will be in the future. We will need to guide and mentor our students; explicit teaching of some skills will still be necessary, but empowering our students with the ability to discover and learn off their own steam will be the essential life skills. What will be a vital role of schools and teachers will be what has been vital all along. The space where students can form relationships, the space where they can articulate ideas and glean advice and encouragement, the space where the human network forms and where they can find ways to make it grow.  

I’d love to know what others think. Is this the future, has it always been this way, or is the future something else altogether?   

   

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Mahalo delivers – would you get this kind of service from Google?

WOW.

Woke up this morning, looked at the blog, saw lots of traffic overnight and an amazing comment from Mike at Mahalo;

Hello Jenny

Michael from the Mahalo news team here.

Thanks for your encouraging words about Mahalo’s reference pages. I’m thrilled you find them useful. We think they’re a great resource for students too.

We’ve expanded the pages you mention:

http://www.mahalo.com/Rwandan_Genocide
http://www.mahalo.com/Aung_San_Suu_Kyi

We also have a page on the Hutu and Tutsi:

http://www.mahalo.com/Hutu_and_Tutsi

Also, we’ll make Romeo Dallaire, Juvenal Habyarimana and Paul Kagame tomorrow.

I’d love to correspond in more detail about Mahalo’s catalog of search terms and how they can help teachers.

In fact, if you want Mahalo to start building resources on famous Australians, (or groups etc) just contact me with a list.

Mahalo!

Michael Lodge
Mahalo.com

PS. We’re building ANZAC Day…right now

How impressive is that!

Never one to shy away from an invitation, I got to work and talked with my staff about Australian topics that would be likely search terms for Mahalo to create pages for. Sent a thank you email off with the extensive list of topics and received a reply not long after. Mahalo are onto it and will be putting pages together soon. I’ll be checking to see the progress. Just looked up Anzac Day and a page exists – it’s called a stub as it needs further fleshing out, but I’m suitably impressed. Keep this up and I’ll be forming my own Mahalo cult!

Never knew service like this could be available in today’s world. Brilliant effort.

Mahalo -now here’s a search engine worth talkin’ about!

Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about! (Those of you who live in Australia will remember this catchcry from Marcia Hines on replay constantly from Hey, Hey it’s Saturday – really showing my age now – it’s 42 for those of you interested!)

Mahalo is a search engine worth looking at. I mentioned it recently when I wrote a post entitled ‘Big Think – Web 3.0 in action’. That post talked about the notion of Web 3.0, the semantic web, characterised by human intervention and thought processes. Part of that post read;

 a new phase of the internet – internet 3.0, where the wisdom of crowds (web 2.0) is being supplemented by another layer “of truly talented, compensated people to make the product more trusted and refined.” (Mahalo founder Jason Calacanis)  

The quote derived from Newsweek writer Tony Dokoupil and his article, ‘Revenge of the experts’.  This was where I first discovered Mahalo and was impressed with what I saw. I was even more impressed today when I was working with a group of students completing research for their International Studies project. The task was to find information on a major political figure. I remembered Mahalo and directed them to this new search engine. We now have an interactive whiteboard in our library which is just fantastic and so incredibly helpful to demonstrate new apps. They were impressed with the results we were getting and so was I. You know someting is hitting the mark when students are asking ‘what’s that’ and tuning in when you are showing it to someone else.

I really like the way results are arranged but you have to make sure your students scroll through all of the results to see the vast array of differing media returned in a search. We did a search for Aung San Suu Kyi – the Burmese political activist. It began with the Mahalo top 7, and then we had to put up with some ads by Google – I suppose this is a small price to pay for search results that have been cast over by human eyes and are appropriate.  What followed was news, background and profiles, blogs and support sites, photos, videos, a timeline, related searches and user recommended links (there were none of these yet, but as it gains popularity no doubt this will grow). It was an excellent array of results – far more useful than a page of links from Google. Another teacher joined us and wanted to do a search for the Rwandan genocide. When we got the results she was amazed to see links to many sites she had found after trawling the web for hours – quite the revelation was Mahalo for her.    

The sidebar offers many more delights. A guide note providing you with fast facts, the ability to email the page and provide a personalised message with your email, you can share the page with your social networking sites and an explanation of icons they use. Some interesting information is shared in their ‘about this page’ text box;

  • Mahalo’s goal is to hand-write and maintain the top 50,000 search terms
  • Each Mahalo page is quality controlled through a strict editorial process
  • You can contribute and earn money by writing great search result pages in the Mahalo Greenhouse

You can also subscribe to the rss feed from the page so any updates will be delivered to your reader. 

I think it looks like a fantastic resource for students in secondary schools and I’m going to start plugging it with my colleagues. If they don’t have a search results page for a topic you are searching for you can enter a request to have them get one made – they’ll email you when the page has been completed. Alternatively, you could make the page yourself and submit it to their Mahalo Greenhouse and earn yourself some cash! Today we requested a page for Anzac Day. A couple of weeks ago I requested a page for the Bayeux Tapestry but haven’t yet received an email.  

Founder Jason Calacanis is onto a good thing here -you’ve got my vote! Keep on creating those pages! 

Big Think – Web 3.0 in action?

Newsweek writer Tony Dokoupil wrote an article this week called ‘Revenge of the experts’.  In it, he asks the question ‘Is user generated content out?’ The byline of the article is;

“The individual user has been king on the Internet, but the pendulum seems to be swinging back toward edited information vetted by professionals.”

 The article champions the idea that we are moving into a new phase of the internet – internet 3.0, where the wisdom of crowds (web 2.0) is being supplemented by another layer “of truly talented, compensated people to make the product more trusted and refined.” (Mahalo founder Jason Calacanis) The article uses Google’s Knol (still in development), About.com, who employ guides to find relevant results for search terms, and Mahalo, a people powered search engine, as examples of the new direction the web may be heading in.

Another featured new entry into the market is BigThink.com,  “a self-styled “YouTube for ideas” backed by former Harvard president Larry Summers and others (It) debuted its cache of polished video interviews with public intellectuals.” I took a look and I liked what I saw. The videos are arranged into topics including History, Business and Economics, Science and Technology, Media and the Press, Truth and Justice as well as many others. Our Year 10 students have, ‘What makes us human’, as an overarching question for their study of English for a semester. Low and behold, there’s a video on this site dealing with exactly that question. I could see that this site would be an easy sell to the sceptics out there who doubt YouTube. (Personally, I love it!) Most of the videos on BigThink.com are less than seven minutes and offer the hook for stimulating class discussion. You can register into the site and contribute to the discussion surrounding ideas they are talking about. A great classroom activity and one I’d like to try with my students. Definitely worth a look.  

I really like the final quote from the article from Glenn Reynolds, author of ‘An Army of Davids’.

“There’s always a Big New Thing, but the old Big New Thing doesn’t really go away,” says Reynolds. “It becomes just another layer—like we’re building an onion from the inside out.”  

I certainly hope we don’t see the demise of user-generated content. It’s one of the things I love about the web  – its democratic nature allowing all to have input. Appeals to my upbringing.