Sunday, June 25, 2017

Book Review: 'The World Is Open: How Web Technology Is Revolutionizing Education' by Curtis J. Bonk

Review: The World Is Open–How Web Technology Is Revolutionizing Education

6 Star SpecialBest Practices in ManagementChange & InnovationCivil SocietyComplexity & ResilienceCulture, ResearchDemocracyEconomicsEducation (General)Education (Universities)Environment (Solutions)FutureGames, Models, & SimulationsInformation OperationsInformation SocietyInformation TechnologyIntelligence (Collective & Quantum)Intelligence (Commercial)Intelligence (Public)Intelligence (Wealth of Networks)Nature, Diet, Memetics, DesignPeace, Poverty, & Middle ClassPublic AdministrationScience & Politics of ScienceSecrecy & Politics of SecrecyValues, Ethics, Sustainable EvolutionVoices Lost (Indigenous, Gender, Poor, Marginalized)
Amazon Page
5.0 out of 5 stars 6 STAR Wake Up Call for All Educators
August 19, 2010
Curtis J. Bonk
UPDATE 21 Aug 2010 to add two graphics.
I’ve seen educators struggle to herd their faculty cats, hire staff under industrial-era rules, and strive to accommodate students that know more than their professors about anything outside the “teach to test” topic. This is one of three books that I have digested these past ten days, along with Making Learning Whole: How Seven Principles of Teaching Can Transform Education and (in galley form) Reflexive Practice: Professional Thinking for a Turbulent World. All three are 6 STAR books, and since I have only given this grade to 99 books out of the 1636, so at 6% of the total, this is saying a lot IMHO. These three books together, along with Don’t Bother Me Mom–I’m Learning!The Emerging Worldwide Electronic University: Information Age Global Higher Education (Praeger Studi) and my favorite deep books, Philosophy and the Social Problem: The Annotated Edition and Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge, comprise a basic library for anyone wishing to develop global strategies for taking any university into the future. Of course there are other great books, but in my limited experience, these are a foundation.
DO NOT READ THIS BOOK without first looking at the web site, and more specifically, the only part of the website that I found to be essential, the sixteen pages of links to every online resource mentioned in the book. Had I done this first, I could have cut my note-taking time in half. As it is, I have created a sixteen page alphabetized list of all the references, and include that in my more robust review of this book at Phi Beta Iota, the Public Intelligence Blog, where I can do things (such as link to my other 80+ education book reviews and include non-Amazon links) that Amazon simply will not allow.
BUY THIS BOOK. It is in my view an essential foundation for any university as well as any lower school or continuing education and training program that desires to increase its effectiveness by a thousand fold while also increasing its global reach by a million fold.
The basic premise up front: anyone can learn anything from anyone at anytime. The author charms me early on with his recognition of how broken our existing educational delivery system is, and his passion for how information and communication technologies (ICT) can empower all (at the end of the book he specifically focuses on the five billion poor and how they can learn via mobile learning) and create an “egalitarian learning frenzy.” He considers education to be a human right–I agree and would add that it is also the only way we will achieve Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny by harnessing Collective Intelligence: Creating a Prosperous World at Peace.
In his critique of existing education the author excels at pointing out all that is not included in the narrow educational curriculums constrained by cultural bias and the physics of a 24-hour day, budgets, and so on. In his view textbooks and classrooms are on the way down, and oral and visual digital and especially mobile learning is on the way up.
I am immediately–and then continuously–impressed by the very deep and broad homework the author has done, integrating into every chapter so many actual resources (all with links at the book’s website, soon books like this will come with embedded QR Code to make the analog to digital connection simple). The book is a tour of the horizon and a triumph of logic and presentation.
The ten key trends for those who read this review at Phi Beta Iota are:
01 Web-Searching
02 Blended Learning
03 Free/Open Source Software (F/OSS)
04 OpenCourseWare
05 Learning Portals
06 Learners as Teachers
07 Electronic Collaboration
08 Alternative Reality including Serious Games
09 Mobile Real-Time Learning
10 Networks of Personalized Learning
As my oldest son prepares to attend the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), the only school he was willing to apply to because of its new media program, I am totally pumped by the author’s emphasis on education rather than any of the more obvious global threats (see A More Secure World: Our Shared Responsibility–Report of the Secretary-General’s High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change, and on his emphasis on how visualization and new media will be the lever that will move education. Poverty is the number one high-level threat to humanity, and later on in the book my esteem for Nicholas Negroponte goes up as I digest a quote that connects low-cost laptops to education to the eradication to poverty to creating a prosperous world at peace. These guys get it, and virtually all our legislative and executive “leaders,” at both the state and national levels, do not get it because they are not being “incentivized” to get it.
The author has a gift for summative categorization and draws ably and with full attribution on many other minds throughout this book. I like:
Globalization 1.0: Nations
Globalization 2.0: Multinational Corporations (MNC)
Globalization 3.0: Singular Individuals
Globalization 4.0: “We”
He points out that online learning favors collaborative work and team learning; problem-based learning (rather than applying canned “solutions”); generative (incremental modification); exploratory; and interactive learning. In short, rote learning in the classroom is constraining while online learning is liberating and empowering.
Most of my notes are obviated by the author’s superb resource section ( Here are the highlights outside of my listing all of the leads I want to follow up, related to the section of the book.
01 Web-Searching. Faster is not better, still missing a great deal of structure and substance on the Internet. Open everything is here to stay–open content, open office, open library, open document. See my briefing on “Open Everything” at
02 Blended Learning. We must stop holding students back! Online pushes reading and writing skills as well as presentation skills and technology skills. We must rapidly accelerate means of recognizing learning accomplished online (e.g. challenge tests). Learning must be offered “on demand” and across every device imaginable (the MP3 player shines in this book). However, blended means just that–online is not a substitute for face to face and team interaction.
03 Free/Open Source Software (F/OSS). I am the primary proponent for Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) and now public intelligence, and as an honorary hacker have long understood and admired the F/OSS movement started by Richard Stallman. Along with OSINT and F/OSS, Open Spectrum completes the Tri-Fecta. It is essential, if we are to rapidly achieve all we are capable of, that we leverage F/OSS across all university functionalities. This is also how we enable the eight tribes of intelligence (academia, civil society, commercial, government, law enforcement, media, military, and non-governmental) to do multinational, multiagency, multidisciplinary, multidomain information-sharing and sense-making (M4IS2, a Swedish military concept I have adopted).
04 OpenCourseWare. MIT, which is also the birthplace of modern hacking as recounted in The Second Self: Computers and the Human Spirit, Twentieth Anniversary Edition, gets full credit all it has done in this area, and the author provides a very rich discussion of many other similar initiatives including the Peer to Peer University (P2PU).
05 Learning Portals. These are in their infancy. The author cites a number of important ones, and the availability of platforms to create more learning portals, but he does not address the abject fragmentation of knowledge and the urgency of creating an overall architecture so that we can restore the links between disciplines and domains and do “Whole Learning.”
06 Learners as Teachers. Here again the author is phenomenal at reviewing some of the most important initiatives in this area, and my notes are irrelevant in the face of his superb listing of electronic links, chapter by chapter, at his He does observe that quality control and sufficiency of funding are issues, and I certainly agree, with the observation that there is plenty of money for education, we just have to eliminate corruption in government….
07 Electronic Collaboration. This is a section I want to come back to, after I have checked out 1kg, TwinBooks, ePals, iLearn, and others. We still do not have the basics that Alta Vista offered before Hewlett Packard lost its mind and let them all go–the eight functions of shared access and competency directories, budgets, calendars, distance learning, forums, library, maps and weekly review are still scattered with no back office that cuts across disciplines.
08 Alternative Reality including Serious Games. Quote on page 277: “We have entered an age of alternative reality learning.” I am a huge fan of the original World Game created by Buckminster Fuller and his #2, Medard Gabel, who is today the leader of BigPictureSmallWorld and also the architect of the digital EarthGame(TM). He is also a co-founder of Earth Intelligence Network (EIN) and one of the few who understands how to teach Whole Systems learning.
09 Mobile Real-Time Learning. EIN is the originator of the idea of regional and national multi-lingual call centers, as well as global networks of volunteer and subsidized tutors in all languages on all topics, with free cell phones to the five billion poor as the “kick-off” event, but I confess that the author makes me feel old and behind the times. The review he provides of all of the spontaneous initiatives just blows my mind. I am behind the power curve on this aspect of digital learning, and have much to study.
QUOTE (298): Now that roughly half of the world has mobile phones and over 80%b live in areas accessible by mobile devices, educators need to think of effective and innovative ways to design and deliver education with mobile devices.
QUOTE (300): In learning, the potential multipliers [of mobile technology proliferation] are much higher because the base figures are so low. And as voice recognition is integrated, storage capacity is expanded, and screen displays become crisper, bendable, expandable, and foldable, there will be few learning limits.
QUOTE (307): [iPhone is a monumental convergence of technologies and cannot be addressed by simple teams. Abilene Christian University has set the gold standard.] There is a social interaction team, a digital media interaction team, a pedagogy team, a student research team, a living and learning team, a study coordination and invention team, an administrative and infrastructure team, and of course, an application and programming team.
I learn here that the XO (one laptop per child) actually costs $170; that it uses 2 watts of power and has a hand crank for power, and that both India and MIT are now focusing on a $12 laptop.
10 Networks of Personalized Learning. Networked equals open. Facebook saw 7,000 applications developed for it in just one year. Static works “explode” when they are connected to the digital work (QR links merit a great deal more attention by publishers).
Some core points:
01 Internet infrastructure is both an economic necessity, and an educational necessity.
02 Industries are changing 100% within a decade–the educational system is not keeping up.
03 The integration of Web 2.0 learning tools results in students paying more attention and learning more.
04 QUOTE (346): Web 2.0 is a transformative pedagogical device. … Citing Jenny Zhu, “Liberates learners from physical, time, and teaching constraints.
QUOTE (356): This framework represents the convergence of three factors: (1) an enhanced Web-based learning infrastructure; (2) billions of pages of free and open content placed within that infrastructure; and (3) a culture of participation and knowledge-sharing that personalizes learning within it.
QUOTE (357): Twenty-first century learning pivots around choices and opportunities [for all to learn] rather than sorting individuals according to previous test scores and personal background.
The author ends with 15 predictions and 12 downers, and much as I would like to list them, I close with that as an incentive to buy the book. A review cannot do it justice, but my 6 STAR AND BEYOND rating is a very pointed recognition of this work as fundamental to our shared future. My own book, INTELLIGENCE for EARTH: Clarity, Diversity, Integrity, & Sustainability (EIN, 2010) complements this work, but for most policy, budget, and educational planners, this book and those I mention above are the ones to study.
Summarized more crudely, the good news is that this book illuminates the path to creating infinite wealth by educating the five billion poor; the bad news is that any university leadership team that does not pay attention RIGHT NOW is headed for the tar pit.

Editor's note: This review was written by Robert David Steele and has been reposted with permission. The original page can be found here. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right. 

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