Bootstrap Institute logo Doug Engelbart's
   Colloquium at Stanford
An In-Depth Look at "The Unfinished Revolution"
Session 2
Education, training, and life-long learning
Jim Spohrer1.*

I am at IBM Almaden Research Center where I'm a researcher and scientist there. But I'm also the co-founder of the EOE, which stands for Educational Object Economy. And, Doug has asked me to say a few words about education. 2

Table 1
Urgent issue: Lifelong learning
  • Rapid changes require lifelong learning
  • Department of Commerce

  • - Seven career changes in worker's life
  • National Association of Businesses

  • - #1 Problem: Qualified workers
  • Department of Labor Statistics

  • - #1 & #2 Job growth: Technology & medicine
  • National competitiveness. 3

During times of rapid change, the requirements of lifelong learning are self-evident. The Department of Education tells us in reports that the average American entering the workforce today can expect seven careers in their lifetime. That's not just same job, minor changes. These are radically different careers that people can expect to be involved in. Also, there are probably a lot of technologists and maybe even some folks from the medical profession, which are two of the high-growth rate areas of jobs. We know that, weekly, there's updates to the technology, updates to the methods and procedures that we have to use. So, we really do see that lifelong learning is an urgent problem that we're facing. The National Association of Businesses has said that the number-one problem facing businesses today is getting qualified workers. Education and learning are critically important for national competitiveness in the global economy, as Doug has already said. So, among us here, we probably hold it as pretty self-evident that lifelong learning is a critical need of the world today. 4

Now, in trying to explore what can we do to improve the state of education, what can we do to improve learning, the National Science Foundation funded me to do a project a few years ago that was called the EOE, or Educational Object Economy. And, what we did is we created a large directory of educational software, online. That's not all we did. We made sure that the educational software was largely open-source applications. And we also freely distributed the tools and techniques that we had created to create our online community. We shared them with anyone that wanted them. And the purpose of the exploration was really to promote sharing and adding value. And let's look at that for a minute: promote sharing and adding value. 5

Table 2
EOE: Online learning improvement community
  • Large directory of educational objects
  • Open-source Java applets encouraged
  • Freely distributed starter kit (bootstrap others)
  • Emphasis: Promoting, sharing & adding value

  • - Improve quality and quantity of goods
    - Stimulate an educational object economy
  • Requirement: Attribution = give others credit.6

If you think about it, one of the great things about open-source is that it allows other people to add value to the work that you've done. So we really sought out educational software that was open-source. And partly that's because a lot of the educational software that's out there may not be quite right for some educator or teacher's needs. If it's open source, it can be modified more easily; it can be changed; it can be upgraded. And, this experiment has led to several interesting things that I'll tell you about in a minute, but the point was really: how do we work together collectively? 7

And, this is a common theme in Doug's work. How do we work together collectively to make a difference? How can we make the individual actions that we do collectively add up to something bigger? And a little bit of motivation is that the work that I'd been doing prior to creating the EOE was creating authoring tools. We created some wonderful authoring tools that would help teachers create educational software. And, what we discovered when we gave those authoring tools to the world is: the physics department over here at this university used the tools to create a pendulum simulation; the physics department over here at this other university used the tools to create a pendulum simulation; and we had fifteen or sixteen pendulum simulations. We had lots and lots of redundancy in the educational objects that were being created. 8

So, there was a real inefficiency. And the EOE tries to address this inefficiency by creating an online website that people can post their objects to. So, what's the first thing you should do when you're going to create an educational object? Go to the EOE or some other dynamic knowledge repository for educational objects -- it doesn't have to be just the EOE -- and see if it already exists because if it's already there, taking it out of the EOE is going to be much, much faster than using even the best authoring tools in the world to create this. 9

Now, the EOE when we created it -- we wanted it to be free. So all of the educational objects that are there are totally free for anybody in the world to go to and use. We also wanted to motivate people, though, to put their material into the EOE. And, what we discovered was that a very powerful motivator was attribution. So, anytime anyone uses anything from the EOE, we have a requirement: we have to give attribution. And that goes for the EOE itself. So, we have an original, and you can go to the website there at to see the original, EOE. But a wonderful thing happened. We created the EOE and gave it away for free. And, other people started taking it and improving it, making it better, and carrying it light-years beyond what we, at EOE headquarters, had even envisioned. 10

Table 3
EOE: Spreading and being improved

One of the first organizations to pick it up was the California State University system. And they created a statewide education object economy that has lots and lots of educational resources. In fact, they have over ten times the number of educational resources in their dynamic knowledge repository than we have in the EOE. That just goes to show the multiplying effect that when you give something away that other people can use, that's valuable and harnesses the collective potential of lots of people, they were able to harness the collective potential of the California State University system to build up a much, much larger knowledge repository. 12

We also have another organization called J Campus, which used the tool that we gave away for free and they set up a worldwide organization for computer science departments to promote Java education in the computer science department. They have hundreds and hundreds of members from all around the world. I really encourage you to go to these websites, if you get a chance, and look at the power of creating a tool that you can give away that other people can add value to, in their own unique way. And, we've even had people use the tool for other things, different from education. So, it was an interesting experiment. It was even used for commercial learning sites, as well. 13

So, I just wanted to briefly give you a sense of: here's an improvement community that's out there for education. And, there's lots of them; this is just one. So, there's a larger issue, of course. The larger issue is boosting collective IQ. And, Doug, in his talk, has said here we are in this room, or around the world, listening. Is there some way that we can start working together on some of these problems that Doug has outlined? So, what I'd like to do in the remainder of the talk, that will be pretty brief, is just to tell you a little bit about some of the thinking that I've been doing in light of some of the input that Doug has given me about boosting collective IQ. 14

Table 4
Larger issue: Boosting collective IQ
  • Boost individual/collective IQ
  • Six R's of learning

  • - Remind: Performance support
    - Remediate: Practice skills and habits
    - Receive Training (fast)
    - Reconstruct: Education (fllexible)
    - Research: Find new answers
    - Reflection: Find new questions
  • 3 Types: Known to you, someone, or no one.15

Now, there's two parts to boosting collective IQ, as I see it. One is boosting the individual IQ, which is the work that the EOE is focusing on.And, the other is really thinking about collective IQ, making organizations that think better. And, in terms of boosting individual IQ, I have these six R's of learning that I'd like to refer to. And, the six R's are: reminding, remediation, receiving, reconstruction, research, and reflection. And, these six R's group into three types of learning. 16

The first two, reminding and remediation, deal with the situation where you, the individual, you knew the knowledge at one point and you can't remember it - the problem that I share with Doug, remembering things at times, like to turn off my cell phone when I come into a meeting. Remediation, which is practicing skills and habits; you know, I know how to do something, but I haven't done it in awhile. I'd better rehearse it and practice it. But the knowledge did exist; the skill did exist in me at one point. It's just ... it's not fresh. 17

Then, the next two is when the knowledge has never been in my head before but it's been in someone else's head. This is where you start getting into the notion of collective IQ. I haven't known this information, but you have. And, I am in a situation where I need it right away because this is a training situation. I want to receive the knowledge from you as quickly and efficiently as I can. Then there's reconstruction, which is more like education. This is a situation where: you've got some knowledge in your head; I'd like to have it in my head but I'm not under a time pressure to use the knowledge. What's more important to me is that I learn something deep about the knowledge, something that's to allow me to apply it in the future in some flexible way that we can't determine right now. So, training and education. 18

And then, the last two, research and reflection-this is when the knowledge has never existed in anybody's head on the planet. Okay, and research is: we've got a question and nobody knows the answer to this question. The knowledge has never existed in anybody's head on the planet. So, we've got to find that new answer. Now, reflection is interesting. And, this is sometimes the highest form -- and, this is what Doug does very, very well - is it's asking the new questions. What are the new paradigms? What are the new problems we should be working on? 19

So, the six R's. I like to think of them in terms of: what can we do for collective IQ? The ultimate solution - and, Doug, correct me if this seems wrong - is that, ideally, and we're nowhere near this, but ideally, anything that any one of us learns, the rest of us should have. That would be the ideal, total efficiency. So, if Dave Singer, who's also at IBM, learns something about a standard he's watching, if I knew that immediately, instantly and effortlessly, that would be the ideal of some sort of collective learning. Now there are people who actually envision techniques for that, but we won't get into those today. 20

This is the kind of thing that, I believe, Doug, when he's asking for help ... he's looking for people who are willing to work together to take some of these ideas and flush them out, take them in new directions and iterate. So, that's what I'm giving some examples of. 21

Now, the even larger issues. We started with lifelong learning which, in some sense ... most of the work that's going on right now is not about collective IQ building, it's about how to make you learn something faster; individual learning. So then, the larger issue, beyond just individual learning, is collective IQ. And then, even beyond that, is improving the capability infrastructure. And, this is really about the co-evolution of the human system and the tool system you can think about. When individuals or groups of people learn something, that's evolving the human system. But when we get the tool system involved, then there's an interesting dynamic. 22

Table 5
Larger issue: Improving capability infrastructure
  • Co-evolution

  • - Human system
    - Tool system
  • Drivers

  • - Needs/wants
    - Individual/collective
  • Individuals

  • - Learn, work, play, shop, heal, etc.
  • Basics

  • - Defense & legal
    - Medicine & education
    - Financial & retail
    - Energy, water, sewage
    - Transportation & enter
    - Media/communication
    - Agriculture/nat. resource
    - Manuf. & construction. 23

And I like to tell one story that, for me at least, makes this human system/tool system co-evolution salient, which is ... how many of you know about the Apple  Newton and handwriting recognition? Okay. That's right; somebody in here has one. And, I'm sure you all know about the Palm Pilot. Well, there's an interesting thing. Apple created the Newton, and they made a gamble that handwriting recognition technology was good enough. And, if it is good enough, what does it mean? It means it's easier for people to learn how to use this device. Palm made a bet, and said, "Handwriting recognition isn't ready. We need to invent something, let's call it Graffiti, that will allow people who are smart to learn something in maybe half and hour or an hour, that will allow them to take notes on this device." Two approaches. One said, "The tool system is ready; let's bring it to market." The other said, "The tool system isn't ready, but the human system is ready; let's bring it to market." Now, neither one is an ideal solution. I mean, handwriting recognition that doesn't work but so-so is a tool that some people use today. It's got to have some value. And, Graffiti, while it's wonderfully easy to learn for some people, still is a barrier that prevents its adoption more widely. So, I think that's a nice example of this human system/tool system co-evolution. And, if we look at the ... one of the things that I've been thinking about quite a bit, and once again this is in the mode of Doug has posed some problems. And I want to think about them. So, I'm sharing with you some of the thoughts that I've had on them. 24

The improving the capability infrastructure is a big, big problem. Doug said we need some people who've studied the evolution of the technological and social developments through the years to even begin to get a picture of this enormous evolution that's occurred. But the thing that I've been focusing on recently is: what are the drivers for that capability infrastructure improvement? And some of the drivers are the basic needs and wants, both individual and collective, that people have. So, my analysis is I'm starting to look at these various needs and wants and see how they map onto different infrastructures that have been developed. And, some of the basic infrastructures, I've just listed some here: the defense, legal, government infrastructures. These are amazing; the evolution of laws. I think the first written laws were -- somebody will correct me -- some of the early Persian laws that said if you are caught stealing, we cut off your hand. And, that had an effect on society, the codification of those laws. Medicine and education: I told you a little bit about why I perceive education as one of the most urgent and complex problems. It's this rate of change that's increasing. And, how do we get enough people to maintain our aircraft? How do we get enough people to teach the material in schools? This is a really critical problem. Financial and retail: this deals with value exchange. Energy, water, sewage infrastructure, you know, energy and the transportation of matter; transportation and entertainment; media and communication and the transport of information; agriculture and natural resources; and, manufacturing and construction. 25

Just like the EOE is for education, Doug envisions a world where we've got collective efforts working in all of these areas. We've got improvement communities that are thinking about the science of shopping. How do we make shopping better? Actually, I just read a great book by that title, "The Science of Shopping," recently that is fascinating and some of the work that we're doing in my group at IBM, which has some interesting complexities, is the technology for tracking what people are looking at. So, we've got companies that are interested in ... you know,  they put up an advertisement and they wonder, "Well, how many people looked at it? How long did they look at it? Can you tell us something about the demographics of the people that were looking at it? Was it kids? Was it adults?" And, we've got technology that does this. Now, there are hosts of issues around this, right? Privacy concerns are probably the highest on the list. 26

But we're creating technologies, at Almaden, for example, that within a decade, within this form factor [speaker holds up a cellular phone] , we'll have enough storage to record all the audio in your life. So, my nine-year-old, when he goes to college, is going to be able to record all of the audio lectures and probably take some pictures and capture things, in life. That's an amazing thing that's going to be here in ten years. What are the consequences of that? Privacy is a main one. I mean, someone whose gotten devices like this can be recording everything that happens in their life. Well, what if something about your life intersects their life and you don't want it shared? These are some of the things that we're going to have to deal with. Now, how do we deal with those? 27

Well, it's over here in the legal area, in the government area. There's going to have to be new laws, laws that protect privacy and information. Those laws have to co-evolve. And organizations that enforce those laws, organizations that monitor, they all have to co-evolve. One other nice example while I'm holding this, of the co-evolution of technology and law, is, by 2001, all phones have to become location aware -- all mobile phones. Right now, if I make a 9-1-1 call on this phone, they don't know where I am. It goes off to some state - it doesn't even go to the local 9-1-1, it goes to some state 9-1-1 number --- I have to tell them. Well, with a lot of 9-1-1 calls, people aren't clear about where they are, and in emergency things get sent out wrong. So, there's a new law. Because we now have this mobile communication technology, we need a law that tells the manufacturers who are building this technology, "You have to build location sense, location awareness, into these technologies." 28

So, I'm going to end here. But what I hope I've done is, in a very short amount of time - and I'd be happy to talk to you more, or in greater depth on any of these things - give you a sense of some of the issues that I'm personally working on, and trying to get some of my colleagues at IBM interested in working with Doug on, and, of course the EOE organization, or education research non-profit; the urgent issue of lifelong learning; how do we boost collective IQ? And, how do we think about this larger issue of the improving capabilities infrastructure and this co-evolution of the human and tool system that has to occur? So, I'm going to end here. And, I'd like to introduce Hugh Crane to tell us a little bit about energy. 29

Table 6
In sum
  • Urgent issue: Lifelong learning
  • Larger issue: Boosting collective IQ
  • Larger issue: Improving capability infrastructure

  • - Co-evolve human/tool system
  • EOE: online community for sharing & improving educational objects (open-source, Java applets, bootstrap communities).30

[<] principal lecture]




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