night shot of Rome and Forum area
Click the image above for archived video of WCU students showing heavy digital integration in regional school districts. [Users with faster broadband connections can use the larger image version using the on-campus fast network version ; also available is the script text.] Click - above image for a live webcam from a camera in Rome, Italy, but others are available if it is offline. These millions of Webcams on the Net, many of which are by, remind us of the now global nature of builders and thinkers that use computers to learn and to grow knowledge and products 24x7. (See also World Sunlight View and  World Time View). [ Q0, Q1 , Q2 , Q3 ]

Operating Systems and Education

Chapter One: Digital Literacy

From the dawn of human culture humans have been inventing and using tools to extend human capacity. Our species has been incredibly capable at it, through the lengthy stone age to the invention of language, to the creation of writing. In the last 60+ year eye blink of human history, our species invented and pushed through a staggering and still accelerating evolution of what has become the most universally capable tool for thought and action ever invented, the networked digital computing device. People in turn have created such a rich collection of device software and peripheral devices that it has come to serve as a personal digital palette. This palette has become a personal operating system with a rich set of options from which to mix and compose a personal learning network as well create new transformational works of art, architecture, business, education and government and science. Public education is now the last professional division in our culture to work through its challenging changes. Those transformations are well underway, extending across the many different organizational systems within which everyone lives, works and learns. This impacts everything: our cultural setting; the strategy for thriving in this setting; and the techniques or literacy needed for being successful in this environment. How do we make the most of such developments? How does this apply to the teaching of our children?

In the reality of the working world that interconnects digital devices from smart phones to supercomputers to sensors and robots to personal desktop 3D printing factories, the totality of what even a personal computer (PC) is now capable of has no precedent. There is no past vocabulary to work from that represents the nature of this new whole and the whole is so much greater than the sum of its parts. Instead we have been inventing product and cultural household names that barely hint at its multimedia ability: Thinkpad, iPad, Playbook, MacBook, World Wide Web, 3D printer, digital fabrication and more. The PC is not just a textbook-like collection of powerful independent pieces, but rather a central member of a collection of interlocking elements which includes other human beings and machines using other computers that can be combined in infinite patterns of thinking, expanding knowledge and problem processing not yet seen in the history of the world. digiacademy model, all elementsWe live in a global digital academy. We will now always be in school.

To help visualize this evolution (or revolution), this chapter briefly introduces a three part visual model (on the left) that will be used to provide Web based chapter links and a way to talk about the setting, strategy and literacy that make up our post-industrial culture. It will be addressed in greater detail in many other places. Each element links to more in-depth considerations and options. The outer ring addresses key background elements of this climate. The three legged problem processing model represents a strategic approach, representing and linking to what stability there is in such a rapidly changing setting. The digital palette and its colorful paints represent the tools, the literacy for fluent digital expression of ideas, plans and objects that are created by our digital devices.

outer-ring climate of digital academyOur digital devices have changed and are changing the outer ring in this model, that is (see graphic on right) the setting, that is the background, the context, the climate in which we exist. Theater goers expect to see a series of scene changes on a theater stage, which change the skyline, the background, furniture and clothing of the actors, which in turn impacts how and why they act the way they do. 21st century citizens are awakening to recognize that they are encircled by factors that have changed and are changing the scenes, the climate of our lives, and that these occuring faster and in more impactful ways. The factors linked here are by no means comprehensive. Many of the numerous thinkers and composers addressing our new cultural setting are referenced in these outer climate implication chapters and many more that should be have yet to be included. Read widely.


strategy modelThe strategy for a rapidly changing world is simple to state, question. modelVisually, it would be expressed in different ways, two of which are the images to the left and right. Its logic is basic. First, sharing a question requires the fundamental step of creating or visualizing one. It means that someone can sufficiently understand a situation that one can compose a question about it. Second, questions are not always easy to answer but shaping a question by modifying it is essential in getting it into a usable form; this requires more understanding and more question composing using the full range of higher order questioning skills (e.g., Bloom's Taxonomy and more). Third, numerous problem solving approaches can be chosen and followed which leads to further understanding and composing. The yin yang symbol, the spinning disc with the question mark throbbing away like a heart beat, is at the center of each of these phases of problem processing. 21st century culture needs large crops of questions and solutions. It is our electronic community that is capable reaching across any distance to resolve many of our problems; hence an acronym for this model is eCROP (electronic community resolving our problems).

digital palette with areas masked to highlight the digital literaciesThe digital tools (graphic on the right) that support our response to the problems of our world require a degree of fluency with them for effective work and communication.. Such literacy has been true for reading and writing for thousands of years, though for most of that time only 10% achieved real fluency with text. Over the last century numerous other forms of design and communication have emerged and in the last few decades have been rapidly converted to digital format. They are not difficult to identify. They are now ubiquitous across the Internet in the pages of the World Wide Web and in the applications, servers and other machines of our digital devices. These tools of composition are highlighted in the visual image on the right by masking the other key areas of a digital culture. Numerous applications exist that serve each category. The chapters ahead explore each area in increasing levels of detail and point to other resources for going far beyond these chapters. One can explore this "cover page" to digital literacy in its complete form of many links or continue this chapter's reading below.

In preparation for this world, “(w)hat (students) need is the ability to communicate effectively with people in all kinds of contexts for all kinds of purposes. This requires flexible writing skills and years of experience writing about real things for real people” (Dunn & Lindblom, 2003, p. 45^). Within the context of the Internet, never has it been so easy to connect students with real things, problems and people and to extend that communication from just writing text to composing within a wide range of media. Each element of the palette has its own grammar, syntax and need for fluency. The chapters of this interconnected set of online books teach the power to use these pieces and to combine them in powerful ways to solve problems, both classroom practice and real, that stretch from the personal to the global. This process of acquiring and using the power of the personal computer to compose and understand will be referred to as digital literacy. As all teachers and all citizens have a special relationship to the subject of literacy, understanding the computer's information processing power is central to becoming a better teacher, to teaching students to become better learners, to teaching that all of us at every age are now all students, and to meeting the need for helping a culture become more effective in solving the problems it creates and finds.

interior, NC state legislature, the House chamberThis need is increasingly recognized by governments and legislators. As an example occuring within just one state of the United States, on March 15, 2013 the Governor of North Carolina signed into law the "Digital Learning Competencies and Employees Bill". A key provision of this legislation states in Section II: " The State Board of Education shall require that all students in school administrator preparation programs demonstrate competencies in (i) using digital and other instructional technologies and (ii) supporting teachers and other school personnel to use digital and other instructional technologies to ensure provision of high-quality, integrated digital teaching and learning to all students. The State Board of Education shall include continuing education in high-quality, integrated digital teaching and learning as a requirement of licensure renewal."

Section III states that: " The State Board of Education shall develop digital teaching and learning competencies to provide a framework for schools of education, school administrators, and classroom teachers on the needed skills to provide high-quality, integrated digital teaching and learning". When those competencies are formally announced, they will be linked here. Further, the Transition to Digital Learning Bill passed in February of 2013 requires a transition "from funding for textbooks, both traditional and digital, to funding for digital materials, including textbooks and instructional resources, to provide educational resources that remain current, aligned with curriculum, and effective for all learners by 2017". That is, physical paper textbooks are to be gone, no longer paid for by state tax dollars by the year 2017. That in turns means that every student must have their own digital device (e.g., one computer to one student or 1:1). This is both challenging and puzzling as such devices are mandated yet state budgeting has not been expanded to cover this new and additional expense. To address this goal means cutting or abandoning other worthy agendas and goals.

The map of North Carolina shown in this image is rather spotty towards reaching this 1:1 digital goal.

map of progress of NC school districts towards 1 to 1 computing availability

In summary, "36% of the 115 public school districts in NC have major 1:1 programs extending across all students at some range of grade levels" (Houghton, 2013). But even among the 1/3 of state schools that have made this progress, the school districts have a distance yet to go to cover all their students in their districts for all of their textbook and instructional resource needs.

It is difficult to compare North Carolina with other states and governments. Other governments are working on digital literacy legislation guidelines for their education systems, but so far there is no comprehensive listing or analysis of state digital literacy laws across the 50 states of the United States let alone other countries of the world. Most states in the United States though do offer an online Bill Tracking and Subscription services which sets up the potential for an interesting research project (Honors Contract, thesis, etc.) to begin and expand this research for those interested.

The Computer

Just what is a computer and what is its potential? Expressed at its simplest, a computer is a machine that combines the software of computer programming logic and directions with the three elements of information processing hardware: the CPU (central processing unit); memory (RAM/ROM); and information storage (e.g., hard drive, USB drive, cloud storage). A more useful definition though comes from its actual and potential application as smart phone, touch tablet, robot, supercomputer, digital fabricator and more. To understand the depth of a computer's capacity, one struggles for metaphors and comparisons; we are still re-inventing it. chess game in play

Before we turn to the nature of a personal computer's features, it may be helpful to consider the complexity and richness of what has emerged by considering a simpler ancient device, a game of chess. The clickable digital chessboard on the right has 64 squares, 16 pieces for each chess player to direct on its surface with 6 different kinds of pieces, each with their own unique way to move and capture other pieces. The goal is to capture the opponent's king. Claude Shannon, "the father of information theory" (Avery, 2003, p. 78^) calculated the number of possible chess moves in a game with those 6 types of pieces at 10 to the power of 123. By comparison the number of atoms in the known universe is estimated to be 10 to the 79th power. That is, there are many more possible moves between two people solving the goal of a chess game than there are atoms in the known universe.

The contrast with the playing field of computers is striking. The combination of types of compositional pieces for solving problems on the "playing boards" of the personal computers and the Internet provides an infinitely greater number of moves than a chessboard. While chess players plan and move objects, the digitally literate plan and move different kinds of information. As these chapters will show, the digitally literate person has at least 10 types of pieces, that is the 10 basic categories of composition moves on the digital palette instead of the 6 of chess. These ten categories will be introduced below and in greater detail throughout the book. To this point in the text, the alert and Web savvy reader has already encountered five of these digital literacy elements: frames, audio and video, still images and interactivity. If these were not recognized, start back at the beginning and study the content and clickability of the different embedded and surrounding media and links; click at everything possible until all five can be identified. What are examples of these five?

While hands move chess pieces, on the computer hands move information and send commands. That is, hands (and sometimes voice and computer code) direct applications. These applications in turn move information that can be stored and transmitted as commands that initiate actions in the real world. But whereas the six types of chess moves are tightly described and limited, the moves of even a single type of application such as drawing an image have much greater variety than the number of types of chess moves. (Speaking of games, search your own computer for chess or other games; some are provided free from different computer companies; look at the level of challenge and complexity they provide and then compare them with the complexity of other software applications with which you are familiar.)

A chess board, some 14 inches on a side, has one basic game goal, to capture the opponent's king. Earth-Chess-blue marble viewIn contrast, the Net has made the computer's playing field the arena of human problem solving that plays out across a surface the size of planet Earth, our delicate blue marble on the left that with a click reveals so many more wonderful views of the home for all 7 billion of us. Using the range of possibilities made available by digital literacy is more equivalent to a range of moves equal to all the atoms in an infinite number of universes. In short, a textbook on digital literacy can introduce the basic moves available to a 21st century composer, communicator and problem solver, and teach some basic strategy and its use in elements of "game play". It is the goal of this online textbook to do just that. However, there is so much more to be said and to be invented than can be discussed and developed here and in the chapters ahead. This textbook and this course is just the first step towards a lifetime of digital literacy learning and action. The digital age brings enormous need and opportunity for innovation (invention and creativity) in solving the numerous critical problems of our global age (Houghton, 2013^; Naam, 2013^).

In the 21st century, the exponential pace of change and the nature of the problems are such that everyone needs to become continuous learners, innovative life long learners and teachers. Classroom educators and learners need a more advanced strategy to effectively use constantly advancing computer technology. They need to refine and redefine the educational experience and to continually advance their digital skills in order to better solve the problems of the new century. This online book is designed to assist educators and learners in meeting such needs for 21st century literacy.

Operating Systems (OS)

There are some archived and live video and images at the top of this page. 4 jigsaw pieces titled DOS, MOS, COS, TOSThey are evidence of the fact that the operating systems of local and global computers are now a standard part of the educational experience in many educational settings and communities throughout the world. However, the operating system for computers, originally called DOS (Disk Operating System) and generally shortened to just OS is just a foundational layer among many higher level operating systems that pervade teaching and learning and that evolve and further change the perception and function of education and culture. However, the most immediately important layer to consider is the one that directs DOS use. Our computer skill with DOS and the software that runs through it can act as both gateway and wall between our interests and our ability to act meaningfully in the increasingly digital world. This chapter introduces additional ideas that extend the idea of DOS. There is an intellectual or mental operating system (MOS) which provides strategy that enables computer operating systems to better engage curriculum and community, the additional puzzle pieces of a team operating system (TOS) and larger cultural operating systems (COS). Educating ourselves and the next generation to solve the world's problems requires mixing and integrating these systems with strategies, a nested set of strategies that will be labeled CROP or eCROP, which stands for electronic Communities Resolving Our Problems. In order for life to more effectively function in the 21st century, there needs to be a strong interlocking nature between the major jigsaw pieces of the problem solving process.

Digital Operating Systems (DOS)

What systems are used to store, manage and prioritize information for doing things? This first chapter begins with the first application that is activated when a computer starts up, an operating system (OS) that historically was called DOS, a disk operating system managing information use and storage. Today it might be better thought of as meaning Digital Operating System. More current OS (e.g., DOS) names are Windows (Microsoft), OS-X (Apple), Linux (open source). Mobile devices generally run iOS (Apple) and Android (Google). All other applications use this foundational application to carry out their basic chores. An OS or digital operating system is a uniform set of rules and guidelines that manages, coordinates, allocates and protects. This relieves more specialized software programs from having to re-address such concerns with every new software application, project or problem. As the process of change is still accelerating, new and modified operating systems will continually emerge. [ Q4 ]

Where the operating system is stored and runs from defines two basic types of computer designs. When the operating system and its associated applications are on a machine that the user buys, what we call a personal computer comes in different forms such as a laptop, desktop or touch-tablet computer or smartphone. This might be called an "personally owned workbench". When the operating system and its software applications are stored on a remote computer (in the cloud) and accessed via some device, perhaps with minimal or zero storage, the device used to be called a dumb terminal. More recently a computer with an operating system in the cloud has been termed a network computer (e.g., Chromebook) which in many ways is similar to the operation of a traditional cell phone. This might be called a "rented workbench". The user pays a monthly fee for access or allows or provides data for advertising purposes that then pays for the "free" access (e.g., Google Docs, Facebook).

The term "cloud" is just a metaphor for saying that the data, file or operating system is stored on a network drive somewhere, and just exactly where is not really relevant. If the cloud can contain the operating system, then it can also contain the files of our work managed by the operating system. There are many competitors seeking to store files including DropBox, Google Drive, iCloud (Apple), and SkyDrive (now OneDrive). That is, the location of the files that contain our work is also in transition, with users experimenting with their comfort level of storing files on their personal device or in the cloud. The practicality of the digital cloud depends completely on the reliability and the speed of the network connection. Wired connections are the most reliable; mobile users find that their ability to connect can range from great in less crowded areas to dismal to unusuable in crowded city centers. In both the present and the future, all computing devices are involved in some balance between these two major types of DOS, internal storage of data and cloud storage.

Almost from the beginning of the computer era in the 1950’s it was recognized that computer systems would develop that would be so expensive no single person could afford one, so their use would have to be distributed over some kind of network to allow a large number of people to use the same computer. The original network connecting users to the computer was some public or private version of the emerging national telephone system. This original concept believed that the users of a central computer would send in their mathematical problems for the computer to calculate. Later it emerged that communication between the scientists using the computer would be equally valuable and email was invented. The user would sit at a “dumb terminal” which was a glorified typewriter which showed both input from the user and output coming back from the central computer. This communication was done by typing and the messages sent and received displayed on a long continuous roll of paper, which could be torn off and stored. These network terminals were called teletype machines. Over time, computer screens replaced paper rolls. This shared central computer concept is still the cheapest form of network computing, of which Google's search engine system is just one of numerous excellent examples on the Web.

In 2010, Google decided to lower the cost of access to the Net by creating something very inexpensive and very similar to the dumb terminal idea. In December of 2010, Google distributed a few thousands laptop looking prototypes called Cr48 to users for some feedback (Mossberg, 2010^). This device became known as the Chromebook. The hard drive is gone. The function of the drive is replaced by storage of applications and files on the Net. This way, viruses can never infect your computer, as there is no place to infect on the device. Further, your files are always backed up. The weight of the device is decreased significantly. Your operating system is the Net, working as long as you have Network access. There is one application on the device, a Web browser, which in turn calls up different Web-based applications. This is not too different than the traditional mobile phone. Messages were not stored in the phone, but on the network's voice mailbox and called up as needed. Of course, if the network breaks down, such a networked computer is useless.

For the foreseeable future, the "rented" workbench (e.g., dumb terminal) concept will compete with the "owned" workbench (e.g., personal computing device) concept for the most effective and least expensive way to provide access to the tools of the digital age. What appears to be succeeding the most rapidly though is the combination of both, a mobile phone of more limited capacity than a desktop computer, but with multiple technologies for reaching central computers and cloud storage using cell phone towers and WiFi.

Were there operating systems for information before the digital age? Of course, and they are numerous.

Mental Operating Systems (MOS)

2d animation of the yingyang symbol, used here to represent the continuous cycle between understanding and composingMental operating systems are the ways that people have organized the tools of any age to understand and compose in order to solve its questions or problems. Though the tools for hands, speech, writing and digital literacy vary considerably, the one constant across all the ages of human evolution was the need to question which led to understanding and composing in many different media across time (question, understand, compose). The waltz like nature of this process has continued through all time, which can be put in somewhat shorter prose (question, grasp (understand), make (compose); question, grasp, make; question, grasp, make; etc.).

There are many examples of the intelligence and the variation in tools that emerged across our systems for problem solving. Stone age culture developed elaborate stone shapes using a portable kit of tools for compositions of rock along with many other materials. Later, numerous systems of memorization were invented to help people remember things during the growth of oral culture before writing was invented, techniques and systems still of great value today (Lorayne, 2012, 1974^). When people used paper technology, our tools (pencils, typewriters, erases, etc.), our media (paper products), rolodex and file cabinets and systems that supported getting work done were separate physical things. Our mental operating system was the plan we used to integrate all of these elements. In schools, the basic summary of core school curriculum tools for thinking were the three Rs of reading, writing and arithmetic.

In the 1980's the personal computer (microcomputers as they were called at the time) began to transform these practices, merging the roles of different paper technologies into one device, which enabled a new perspective to emerge, a time in which educators began to speak of the shift from the three R's to the idea of computer technology generating the three C's of communication, composition and calculation.

Since the addition of the 1990's explosion of Internet development, a new level that focused on why we work, not how we work, can be seen. digital palette and problem processingThrough our work, play and activities we solve problems, a mix that might be expressed in different ways. If the triple P's, this might be: problem finding, problem framing and problem solving. If the triple S's this might be: Sharing problems; Shaping problems and Solving problems. This online book teaches the application of these three ideas as the core of an intellectual operating system (IOS or MOS) that provides a core process for all of the content or subject areas that we study and teach in school, an operating system for problem processing. The graphic in this paragraph provides a summary of this process. Click the graphic image on the right to see a series of clickable slides, each leading to another, that zoom in on the details of other lower level strategies that support the higher problem solving process of the CROP model. These details show the relationship between the basic elements of problem processing for all subjects and actual computer applications. The problem process is made up three major elements: finding (sharing), framing (shaping) and solving problems.

testThe palette in the center of this graphic, magnified on the left, defines the current elements of literacy, the tools for composing and understanding in the 21st century: frames, text, images, video, sounds, 2D/3D composition, sensors/robotics, reader input (interaction) and the one elment that created and integrated them all, coding or computer programming (the paintbrush). All ten elements make up the common literacy resources of what some two to three billion people encounter and create in the trillions of pages of the global workshop and library, the World Wide Web. Can you find an example of each that is used in this chapter?

In spite of its central role in 21st century life, coding or computer programming is the one element of the digital palette that most schools and state curriculums do not teach to everyone at some level, though several other elements of the digital palette are nearly as marginalized. The brief video below highlights the puzzling phenomena of this absence in school curriculum and juxtaposed with those who have enabled significant personal and culture value through learning such knowledge.

Computer code remains too mysterious for too many yet it can be shown in simple expressive ways. In the table below, the thoughts paraphrased on the far left, were expressed in Logo programming code in the middle, which drew the image Creation 1. With the slightest of modifications the program can build the more interesting Creation 2. Not so hard, right? Visit Bill Kendrick's WebTurtle site for an interactive Web page in which you can try you own hand at this art.

The Coding Process for playing with Triangles


Web Turtle Code Creation 1 Creation 2
Draw with a Black pen
Do this Three Times:
Move Forward 50 Paces, Drawing
Turn Right 120 Degrees
triangle drawn by Web turtle rotated overlapping triangles

The MOS Tool Set

The ten core Web literacy composition and communication skills of the digital palette enable and facilitate each of the three problem processing stages. The phrase 'problem processing' instead of problem solving is used as the major heading because the term 'solving' is really about the last step of the process. The discovery and sharing of the problem, the first major step, enables all the other steps of the problem process; it is the least taught step in educational practice. In the interest of both speeding up and simplifying education, too much curriculum has skipped problem finding and problem framing activities and applications, which make up two-thirds of what is needed in the rapidly changing and complex world of the 21st century. The greater the rate of change and the greater the complexity in the world, the greater the need for the creative work of problem finders and the critical thinking work of problem framers that can compose solutions and share ideas using the full range of the digital palette. This absence of attention to these needs in the curriculum requires greater study. Some solutions to filling this curriculum hole will be examined in the chapters ahead.

The MOS Playground

map of the dense interconnection of the Web's networksThe digital canvas on which the digitally literate now paint (e.g., compose) is the Internet. The central application of the 'Net is the World Wide Web. Many geographers have invented maps of virtual space, maps of the global canvas on which so many new forms of compositions are appearing.

Clicking the picture of the cloud of interconnecting lines on the left enlarges this particular view of the Internet. At the end of the thread for each dot and at end of each line are the tiny local networks that link more than 2.3 billion people. There is an even larger number of computers talking to computers and making decisions without humans beings involved directly in the interaction. gapminder graph of internet use per country vs incomeThrough our networked digital compositions everyone learns from the sharing of their works. Together humans and the machines they manage make up the world's neurons and dendrites. Each person is the equivalent of a single neuron in this cloud of connections that make up this way of thinking about the global brain.

It is also important to recognize the centrality of the Internet and the globally explosive nature of its growth in this transition from the three R's, to the three C's, to the growing accent on the three elements of the problem-process.The image on the right from the Web site shows that the graph can be set to show the number of Internet users per 100 people in 2007. To see the current level of data about Internet access, click the graph itself which opens a new browser window; click the Play button; play with the interactive version of this graph animation by clicking elements all around the map to see how things work. (Note that with this exploration at GapMinder, this introduces an additional elements of the digital palette, animation, and extends the idea of interaction within a digital page.)

The size of the bubble on the Gapminder page is the relative population size of a particular country in the world. Putting the cursor on a bubble shows the country's name. The bubble's location on the graph shows the number of Internet users per 100 people in that country. If the vertical edge of the graph does not show Internet Users per 100, click that edge and use your logic to find Infrastructure, then Communication, then Internet Users (Per 100 people). Tap the play button to watch the graph change for the years of data is available. What are some other ways that you might use the gapminder site instructionally?

The recent years of the Internet's use among the countries that have been using the Net the longest shows a rapid increase along the horizontal axis in income per person. This is one indication that once a country's Web literacy reaches a critical stage, the Net has an accelerating impact on its economy. By the end of 2012, nearly 2.3 billion people, nearly 1/3 of the world's 7 billion citizens, have become Internet users, and half of those Net users carry their Net connecting device with them, mobile devices such as smart phones and touch tablets (Meeker, 2012^).

Internet growth chart showing rapid growth from 1995-2010A series of events has transformed the nature of literacy and the options for innovation and problem solving. The Internet began as a government and university sponsored project in communication and computer resource sharing, a history beginning in the 1950's and 60's. Personal computers began their explosive growth in use in the 1980's. The pace of change took another leap with Tim Berners-Lee's reconceptualization of the Net as the World Wide Web. Berners-Lee invented the computer software for the first Web server and software for text only Web page editing and display which was freely released in 1989 for anyone that had a computer linked to the Internet. Berners-Lee is not the inventor of the Internet; he is the inventor of the design for the World Wide Web or Web for short. A few years later, in 1993, a group of university graduate students led by Marc Andersson invented the first Web browser (called Mosaic) which integrated text and images. The graph on the left shows the meteoric rise of Web use from 1995 to 2010, which led to over 2.3 billion users in 2012. The last restraints on the commercial use of the Net by government regulators ended in May, 1995, when the National Science Foundation ended its sponsorship of the Internet backbone putting all traffic on commercial networks (Howe, 2009^).

The chart reflects the global recognition by citizens around the world in the power and efficiency of the Internet through their rapid and global expansion of its use. Web software led to an easy to use model for the sharing of all forms of media information using Web servers which in turn used the technology of the Internet. This digital canvas for which billions compose expands its size every second, every day, 24x7.

Berners-Lee's great achievement was the equivalent of simultaneously inventing both a form for a digital book (e.g., Web browser), the elements of the book (Web pages), a printing press (a Web server) and a kind of automatic citation system (Web links). This "press" would work on a potentially global data transportation system (the communication system of Internet that was already in place) which could deliver books and articles and many kinds of media to any connected device on the Net. A vast and still rapidly growing digital toolbox for thought and problem solving has emerged.

Administrative Operating Systems

The growing importance of the Net and digital technology can be also seen by the appointments and administrative positions created by the business and political systems of the world to manage the infrastructure of our growing digital library. These positions began in every organization of sufficent size, whether school district or corporation. Todd Park, Chief Technology Officer, USAIn January, 2009, the President of the United States created the first ever position as Chief Technology Officer (CTO).The position is responsible for how technology will create a more transparent operating system for the Federal government and promote innovation in business and schools. Note the sidebar link to and watch the nation's first CTO's video overview of the job description and the references to topics important to educators, including innovation and science, engineering, technology and math (STEM). The first CTO was Aneesh Chopra. He was succeeded in March, 2012 by Todd Park, pictured on the left. Play 2 minutes of an audio file of Mr. Park speaking about his background and role (Lean Startup Conference, December, 2012). Karen Cator, Director, Office of Ed Tech

In September, 2009, the country also acquired a Director of the Office of Educational Technology (OET) who was a former executive in a personal computer company. Karen Cator, photo on the right, was appointed by the President and the U.S Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Some idea of her interests and directions can be gleaned from a 2008 conference presentation when she was the executive serving as Apple's Director of Education. Through her leadership the Federal Department of Public Instruction developed and released the National Education Technology Plan in January of 2010; in April of 2013 she moved on to take the job of chief executive at Digital Promise, a nonprofit organization authorized by Congress in September 2011. Their combined responsibilities differ in scale but are similar in mission to the Director of Technology positions in most school districts. The current director of OET is Acting Director Richard Culatta.

This growing digital infrastructure of innovative technology and policy is in turn enabling changes that are reaching further into the operation of classrooms in many nations. One key example of this is the ongoing digital book and textbook evolution whose highlights deserve brief mention here. The growing global digital library that is the Internet created a need for more mobile and cost efficient ways to take our access to the library with us. Digital books are also referred to as ebooks. In 1971, Michael Hart began Project Gutenberg, inviting individuals and teams of typists from across the Net to type up out-of-copyright books (those older than 75 years) and make them available online for free download and reading on computer screens. As of May, 2013, over 42,000 books could be downloaded from this site and read from cell phones, smart phones, e-readers & touch tablets such as Amazon's Kindle and Sony's Nook, and Apple's iPad and Samsung's Galaxy Tab. For a period of time beginning in 1993 when Internet access was not common, a company called Digital Book Inc even sold CDs with 50 public domain books per CD but the company did not survive the competition of online availability. In 1995 the web site Amazon created an online bookstore, which grew to dominate the market. In 2007 it unveiled and sold millions of ereaders, a whole new type of digital device for reading called the Kindle through which readers could download the free online books or buy current commercial titles. In 2009, the most populous state of the union, California, announced a state initiative to save money and make educational resources easier to access and update by reviewing and rating 16 digital math and science textbooks which teachers and students can now download and use (California Learning Resource Network, 2009^). Others are bundling such online textbooks with wide ranging course materials, such as A new trend had begun.

movie in iPadIn 2010 another new generation of digital reading and composing devices appeared in a category called touch tablets, a perfect size for school desktops and a price that increasingly drops towards school budget capacity. The hope remains that improving technology and price and feature wars between competitors will eventually drive down the price of such units. As these prices drop more classroom sets can affordably be bought in not just large numbers for schools, but one for every student. Apple announced the iPad in January, 2010, which quickly outsold the Kindle and could also download a Kindle software application for purchase of the same books from Amazon that are available on its Kindle hardware, and allowed users to read the same free online books and buy the same commercial titles. By the end of November 2010, Samsung made available the first real competitor to the iPad called Galaxy Tab. Both the smaller Galaxy and the larger iPad are shown in the photo on the right. Click the photo for its highly informative and entertaining video from CNET that analyzes and evaluates the two initial products. By January of 2014, the Indian computer company called DataWind began providing the UbiSlate for $35 American dollars. There is a vast difference in capacity and features between the multi-hundred dollar touch tablets of Apple and Samsung and the UbiSlate but educators need to cheer on the competitors; the outcome is moving in right direction.

Magazine and newspapers also experimented with moves to digital format to take advantage of more profit, additional media integration and ease of access for a mobile digital population (Innskeep, 2010, November 30^). Further, the online book seller announced in July of 2010 that the sales of books to be read on digital devices had begun to outsell the sale of the paper versions and that 630,000 ebooks and 1.8 million out-of-copyright books were available for download to a variety of devices (Barnett, 2010^). Google also announced an expansion of their online book preview system, Google Books, to include Google Editions for 2011. With Google Editions, consumers will be able to preview publisher selected excerpts of commercial books, " they do today in Google Books, and will also have the option to purchase its Google Edition. After purchase, the book will live in the consumer's online bookshelf, available to be accessed and read on most devices with internet access and a web browser; as well as on supported partner devices (to be announced during our public launch)" (Google, 2010^). The trend towards digital textbooks is in its infancy. What is happening in California with digital textbook adoption options is beginning to spread to other states and grade levels and content areas (Platoni, 2010^). Such adoption is heavily dependent on access to personal computers by students and teachers.

Some states and school districts have charged ahead of others in providing personal digital access to school students. For example, the state of Maine provides a personal computer to every student from middle grades upward. Green County and Mooresville School Districts in North Carolina are already providing digital devices to every student. Cherokee County's alternative high school and early college program are already 1 to 1 and the district is preparing to roll out devices for everyone from 6th grade through high school. This is a trend likely to accelerate as more affordable digital devices arrive on the market. This dropping price is a hugely important development that can end the digital divide for the impoverished, where some 20 plus percent of the United States lives below the poverty line. This number also matches "...the roughly 20 percent of American adults who do not use the Internet at home, work and school, or by mobile device" (Wyatt, 2013^) even though recent initiatives of the Obama administration have pushed high-speed broadband access within the reach of 98% of American homes. One-to-one computing in schools and homes may be the single most powerful ramp providing the potential to rise above the poverty line. Touch tablets and Netbooks are playing a major role in bringing quality digital devices at affordable prices to those in need.

It is through a wide array of evolving digital tools and their operating systems that our systems for problem solving in our culture and in our classrooms will advance. Through the conceptal framework of problem-processing, these chapters provide broad application to learning and teaching at different grade levels and within different areas of content. These chapters teach what is in your digital toolbox, and provide mental models for organizing and using those tools to both support and transform the educational experience. Taking the link to the reading about the CROP site is a first step in furthering this understanding. These concepts and skills in turn mesh with the national educational computing standards first established by the International Society for Technology in Education, known in short as ISTE. The importance of this knowledge continues to grow in the national agenda of countries around the world, including the United States of America. In March of 2013, North Carolina made establishing educational competencies for digital literacy a state law, which will become key elements of our MOS (mental operating system).

Team Operating Systems (TOS)

team of girls and team of boysTeacher power and learner power are not just what you know, but who you know and how you work with them. At the root of the Internet's meaning is the idea of a network, a collection of things or people that can become greater and better than the sum of their parts through the effective sharing of resources and communication. There is another more common word that means something very similar, a team.

The meaning of team has a very useful six-part definition that is well worth memorizing. "A team is a small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, performance goals, and approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable" (Katzenbach & Smith, 1993^).

Teachers have always teamed in grade level or cross-grade level groups. What's new is that the Web can now enable teachers to team teach live with other teachers while standing in their own classrooms. For the first time in human history, largely since 2009, the personal computer (supported by microphones and speakers) can affordably be placed in classrooms of many countries of the world. This enables live online team teaching between two or more classrooms. Such a 21st century classroom requires at least a computer with Net connection and sufficient audio speakers and microphone which are in turn linked to a projection system that enables an entire class to view of the instructional display. What should such a 21st century teaching space that connects multiple classroom spaces be called? Many school districts have converted 100% of their classrooms to this definition of Netroom status. Eventually such classrooms will include a digital reader or touch tablet in each student's hands as well.

This chapter also introduces the concept of live online team teaching and other forms of learning interaction, using Web conferencing software. team teaching logoAs in the graphic on the left, the procedures, software and hardware can be used by both teams and individuals. The operating system and standards for a Netspace system that teams might develop will also have a major impact on teaching methods.

For starters, Web conferencing software can be used in each class session to simultaneously teach to a live classroom of course participants and to those off-campus at a computer anywhere in the world. All sessions can be recorded for later playback, which is as useful to those who missed class as to those needing an infinitely patient, slow-motion replay of a challenging topic. Each class session then is modeling how to teach to and with those in other locations beyond your classroom. Feel free to ask at any point as the course proceeds about how something was done using the Web conferencing software. Such software also creates the possibility of a truly innovative opportunity created by the Net, team teaching with teams of almost any size from a pair to dozens and more. This is truly unexplored educational territory.

As the course proceeds, participants will also practice team teaching to each other, and then eventually the time will come to team teach between school classrooms where possible and practical. Course participants may have teammates in their section of the course and as well as in other sections meeting at different class times. This adds more elements and questions to a 21st century teacher's operating system. In the graphic on the left, P3 skills and knowledge are core content, but new options emerge in teaching them. How will a teacher communicate and lead instruction about curriculum content and the core P3 digital literacy activities? What will be the future balance of instructional time between teaching solo or as part of a team? [ Q5 ]


Cultural Operating Systems (COS)

200x117 sketch of classroom250x189 shot of children outside of prairie school, clothing from 1800'sA culture is not just a pattern of behavior that persists across generations. It is many interlocking patterns that change over time. The conceptual focus of the chapter creates a wider view of educational meanings for operating systems. This concept of a master set of rules or guidelines has interesting parallels in education. Our educational perspective can be used to broaden the computer based definition operating systems to also include other operating systems that are important to learners and teachers. These include and expand on all the previously discussed operating systems to achieve ever higher levels of cultural and intellectual activity. What are the similarities and differences between the school of 1990 on the left and 1890 on the right? How might patterns be changed in 2020? What are the broadest most widely distributed patterns of culture around the world? How does DOS change MOS which changes TOS and COS and back around again?

(Image Credits:Click the images above and below for their reference/credit sites.)

Is there a single iconic image or collage of images that best stands for culture or COS in the scrollable melange of images below? My favorite is Colours in Culture.

Educators in effective schools need to know and integrate many different scales of OSs:

These are all operating systems, or systems of operation.

graph comparing countries of the world based using stats on infant mortality and personal incomeThe choice of cultural and other supporting operating systems is not just important, it is critical to human progress. In different historical periods, different sets of systems have been used to address different problems. Some were effective and some were failures and all are works in progress. Some systems have a huge impact on schools before children even reach the door of a school. The chart on the left shows a bubble related to the size of every country's population. The dark blue bubbles represents all the countries of the world. The other 4 colors stands for the 50 different states of the United States. Note that each system of government is yielding very different results in terms of infant mortality death per 1000 births. Note that several countries of the world do better with citizen health and delivering healthy children ready to learn to the school door than any of the states of the United States. Infant death statistics are also an indicator of overall infant health, so that those who live are still impacted by the same system's good or poor access to doctors and parental child rearing advice. In short, the team and cultural operating systems that manage each country's government are significant too. (Click the Gapminder graph on the left to open a new window where you can play with an interactive version of this graph animation and click on the bubbles to identify governments.)

In each cultural period, effective school leaders must find and study the best systems of that age to help re-invent a more effective culture through the best use of the tools of the time. 281x245 shot of school closed by civil rights issuesIn addition to exploring the basics of computer operating systems, this chapter's study and future chapters touch on many of these other "operating systems". As the image to the right rom Little Rock, Arkansas reminds us, governments sometimes struggle and fail in getting the best education to all of their citizens.

It should also be noted that there are several comprehensive learning and teaching systems that have been designed.These include designs such as CROP (Houghton); note the relationship between the organization of this chapter and some of the CROP ideas. Other older but full school systems of operation that are being implemented include: Accelerated Schools (Levin); Coalition of Essential Schools (Sizer); Core Knowledge (Hirsch); School Development Program; Success for All (Slavin); and others.  Can we say with confidence which system is the most effective?

Can you think of other "educational operating systems" with which you are already familiar? How would you define the levels of operating systems active in your school? Do some work better for beginning teachers or experienced teachers?

The Chapters

With each chapter there is a multi-focus framework for understanding that includes the conceptual, methodological and technical. This course of study will provide you with in-depth knowledge of these concepts and skills that continue to transform our culture and consequently our curriculum, educational systems, economics, culture and politics. That is, this book also explores the relationship between different educationally relevant features of computer systems and their conceptual relationship to significant educational thought and activities. Many existing educational activities have patterns that are built around the prior intellectual technologies of simple tools and gesture, then speech and then writing. These prior technologies brought new ways to communicate and compose.  Each of those technologies in their time became the themed Lego bricks of their millennia for the construction of new culture and renewed educational systems. In the same way, computer technologies are contributing to the formation of new culture and new ways to teach and learn in the 21st century.

The very design of this online book is a continuing exploration of how the digital age enables the transformation of prior concepts. Each chapter is a study in ways that one can transform the concept of information sharing from paper and other media forms such as books, essays, TVs and phones to cyberspace designs. The concepts about books, which are central aspects of everyday teaching, contain their own streak of forthcoming innovations, will increasingly be a part of every educator's digital future (Lewin, 2009^).

For our first chapter of study, the technical focus is on Hardware and Operating Systems. In computer-speak the phrase "operating system (OS)"  refers to the first software application that is automatically loaded after the computer's on-button is pressed. This software OS establishes a master set of rules by which all other functions and applications are activated and guided and through which they share and store information. For example, the computer OS establishes a uniform procedure by which different applications such as a spreadsheet, word processor or video editor provide commands and save or print files. This is the common meaning in current use.  There are also cultural and technical forces at work that both simplify and complicate our use of digital technology. [ Q6 ]

Copying the design lead of Xerox and Apple Computer, later creators of operating systems such as Microsoft and Linux developers have made the differences between operating systems relatively small. With some basic introduction, it is relatively easy to move between different desktop and laptop operating systems. This does not take long, but it is important to review. What has emerged is a generally standard set of symbols and functions across different kinds of computer systems. For example, the symbols for the hard drive, the trash can, and the main Documents folder (and other icons) can be found on all operating systems in slightly different ways.

There is another force at work, reducing the differences between different types of computers and that is the World Wide Web and the browser applications that are used to reach this information. Cross-platform Web browers such as Firefox, Safari, SeaMonkey and Chrome operate the same way on all computers. Increasingly, the applications in use are not on our personal computers at all, but on publicly and privately shared computers called servers. The operation of Web sites such as Google's search page are the same irrespective of type of computer. Specialized applications such as email, Facebook, as well as hundreds of other Web based applications seldom require any interaction with the personal computer's operating system. The Web has become its own operating system for a globally scaled networked computer made of millions central processing units (CPUs).

In contrast to those forces that promote common features, many of the features that work well and make sense with laptop and desktop computers must be modified, sometimes radically, as computing devices shrink. No one wants to lug along a full-size keyboard and mouse in order to use a cell phone or smartphone on the Web. The interface must then move to touch screen systems, buttons and sometimes voice commands. Different vendors are taking very different approaches, though market leaders are emerging. A later reading on handheld computers addressed this significant and increasingly available development.

animation-NASA images-blue marbleThere is growing public support for educational change and schools have been stretching budgets to support that digital transformation on our spinning planet. The Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21) reported in its 2007 poll that 88 percent of voters believe schools need to incorporate 21st-century skills into their curricula. These "latest findings mirror a similar study in 2006 of employers by The Conference Board, the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, Corporate Voices for Working Families and the Society for Human Resource Management. In that study, “Are They Really Ready to Work?” employers said that the future U.S. workforce is “woefully ill-prepared for the demands of today’s (and tomorrow’s) workforce” and they cited 21st century skills as “very important” to success at work." Partnership President Ken Kay said: “Skills such as problem solving, innovation and creativity have become critical in today’s global economy. Integrating 21st century skills into the teaching of core academic subjects is a win-win proposition for everyone involved. It’s now clear that U.S. voters understand this. And it’s up to every one of us to ensure our children receive them” (Michelman, 2008^).

Like the explorers in the picture to the left, things always seem a little dark at first when passing through the doorway to a new area of study. They are carrying physical flashlights. What kind of intellectual flashlights do you use? One helpful strategy is to focus your study light on the vocabulary that is new to you. Keep a list.

Participants in cyberspace are exploring a virtual space that might be defined by the clickable digital palette, below right. They will become increasingly aware of speaking what might humorously be called "cyberian", a system of vocabulary, grammar and syntax that is emerging to help communicate the unique nature of "cyberia" or what is often referred to as cyberspace. By cyberia, I refer to the emerging operating system of cyberspace, the mental and physical space in which we seamlessly integrate activity, organize and communicate ideas, and calculate measurement while incorporating the full range of electronic or computer based resources. digital palette icon, smallThe verb for this act of immersion in high levels of cyber technologies might become "cybercate" (e.g., like the grammar of educate or medicate).  That is, instead of asking, "Did your lesson plans ask your students to practice reading and writing?" The question might be, "Did your lesson plans ask your students to practice cybercating?" Just as the best response to the first question is to explain the kind of writing that is required, the best response to the second question is to explain the kind of cybercating or computer use that will be included.

A significant degree of change in language and thinking capacity occurred with each new level of explosion in composition and communication abilities. After human hands spent millions of years in development leading to stone age culture, vocabulary and speech emerged to create oral culture and the culture of our earliest towns and cities, which led to written culture and our earliest civilizations, whose needs eventually combined to invent the global digital age culture (Houghton, 2003-2013b^). Some five thousand years after the invention of writing, cyber-culture is now emerging from written culture.  We are inventing cyber-culture and its language as we go. The rapid emergence of the features of the digital palette has required an ongoing invention and transformation of vocabulary in an attempt to have a single term that represents what the palette had become at different points of time. There are several such terms, which are listed here in historical order of the widespread adoption of terms over the last 25 years: multimedia, hypermedia, new literacies, post modern-literacy, digital literacy and more recently transliteracy. Transliteracy (Thomas et al, 2007^) was defined to include not only the digital palette but prior literacies that include hand signing and orality, what Houghton (2013b) has referred to more broadly and deeply as evolutionary layered literacy (see also sidebar). All of these terms appear in the chapters ahead. Only time will tell which term persists. This chapter is the doorway to understanding and furthering cyberspace ways of thinking. This introductory Web page is finished. It is time for further exploring.


Next: In the left column of this chapter overview, find the link titled Course OS, which is the first link underneath the heading titled Course Overview. Click the link and read. After completing the reading or activity at one link, keep clicking the links down this left column like rungs on a ladder until you have reached the bottom. It is a requirement that you "do" every link in this scrollable left column unless the word "optional" appears next to it. Later chapters will sometimes include the heading of differentiated curriculum in various places. Also note what the Q1, Q2, etc. links do in the far right edge of this reading; this question system is just one more example of the power of Web books. The terms "do, read, click" or other such imperative statements sometimes mean to read and take notes and in other cases will lead to hands on activities and the creation of data files that must be saved to disk. This pattern will generally continue in later chapters.

What's New

For any given chapter about the digital age, concepts and details constantly advance. This what's new section contains important ideas and information that belong in this chapter but for which there has not been time to weave them into the narrative above.

February 19, 2014. The availability and ease of use of the digital cloud continue to rapidly expand: OneDrive launches with auto camera backup and Dropbox-style rewards (Microsoft is dropping the term SkyDrive and replacing it with OneDrive). The number of cloud services has created a competition for features

February 19, 2014. OneDrive, Dropbox, Google Drive, and Box: Which cloud storage service is right for you? Knowing the nature of the features being offered is important in selecting the best service for an individual's needs. This article provides useful comparisons for some of the competitors.

February 19, 2014. Artemis’s pCell Promises a Revolutionary Cure for Slow Wireless Data. One of the problems discussed in this chapter with the practicality of the cloud is having access to it when you need it. This has become a problem in crowded areas, whether a major event brings a crowd of people together or the crowd is simply a busy city center. Artemis hopes to implement a cure for this problem and enable phone companies to end their restrictions of the amount of data that can be used with paying extra fees.



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Original 2001. Version 10.19 - Updated February 19, 2014      |     Parent Frame of Chapter       |     Page author: Houghton