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March 30, 2008

Experiential Learning 2.0 ... A series of short entries about the nexus of collaboration technology and education

Case Western Reserve University's TiME program offers students a masters in management and engineering. Integrating project-based learning for engineering graduates from around the world with broad exposure to topics like product design, marketing, intellectual property, and information systems, the program is an outstanding example of innovative curriculum for the 21st century.

This year, a group of students from the TiME program teamed with Mobile Discovery to pilot the launch of 2D bar code technology into the college and U.S. market. For those who have visited Japan, more than 95% of people in Japan know what QR (Quick Response) 2D bar codes are and 93% of those have used them. Those heading out this week to the annual CTIA conference, can catch keynotes and panels featuring the collaboration between Case Western Reserve University, Mobile Discovery and other partners like USA Today, QVC, Sprint (and other mobile carriers). Here is a short video on the launch and the collaboration.

Lev Gonick
Case Western Reserve University
Cleveland, Ohio
March 30, 2008

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March 22, 2008

Renewed Hope for Wireless Cities

The New York Times is the latest to declare the demise of muni-wireless: 2005-2007 RIP. It's time to stop flogging a dead horse.

Enter the phoenix. Like the mythical bird that never dies, the pursuit of universal broadband access is the spirit that continues to inspire.

This week, a nearly unprecedented* coalition of community leaders in Broward County, Florida issued a bold and exciting RFI for a private-public partnership to build out more than 1,000 sq miles of ultra broadband connectivity including fixed and wireless to interconnect the entire region. Members of the OneBroward initiative include the County, most of the major higher education institutions, the Broward County Schools, two major Health Care systems, and the County Sheriff's office. Together, OneBroward's partners bring impressive technological and human resource assets to the table touching significant portions of the geography of the County and most of the education, civic, safety, and health care players who have been working together for nearly four years. In her covering letter to some 50 prospective private sector partners, Dr. Phyllis Schiffer-Simon noted the goal of the newly formed OneBroward non-profit was to leverage a commonly built and managed advanced broadband services platform to attend to community priorities. "Through our innovative joint solution process, we intend to identify potential long-term partners to work with the OneBroward organization to jointly develop, design, monitor, support, maintain and enhance OneBroward’s initiative, to provide value-add applications and tiered wire and wireless services to the public institutions and citizens of Broward County, while reducing overall costs to the Consortium."

The RFI, as a product of the work of the community thought leaders, reflects a level of technical sophistication combined with a breadth and depth of community engagement rarely seen since the hype of 'free muni-wireless' movement emanating from City Halls smothered the hard work needed to build coalitions of community interests to architect layered network services strategies to enable a broadband future.

My colleague, Sascha Meinrath is quoted in today's NYTimes article suggesting that “The entire for-profit model is the reason for the collapse in all these projects.” Sascha Meinrath is now an important technology analyst and contributor at the New America Foundation, a nonprofit research organization in Washington. Sascha's world view is more complex than the reductionist and headline-grabbing sound bite. Whether he would agree entirely, or not, the reality is that equally problematic has been the nearly myopic and out-moded 20th century view that City Hall could or should own, operate, or maintain a monopoly 21st century internet utility like its hold on 20th century infrastructure such as water, power, and electrical services. As quick as we are to cast choices as being binary between private OR public-led initiatives, the OneBroward initiative suggests a very different sensibility. The "third-way", as outlined in the RFI calls for a joint solution partnership between this coalition reflecting the bedrock of South Florida's public and non-profit community and what one can only anticipate will be an equally diverse and forward-thinking coalition of private sector partners committed to helping re-imagine and then re-invent the meaning of connected urban development in America focusing on citizenship services, learning, health, skills development, and economic development.

OneBroward is among the first of a new generation of cross-boundary, portfolio-managed approaches to connected community building efforts. Important consensus building and visioning is well underway in multiple communities through out South Florida. In the near future, I think there is a strong possibility that other communities will embrace this "third way" as a way to help imagine a future in their own image in which community priorities are addressed leveraging advanced technology in a bold project owned by the community itself.
Universal broadband access is an important part, no, an imperative for 21st century democratic societies. It just turns out that it's a bit more complicated to achieve than signing a contract.

Lev Gonick
Case Western Reserve University
Cleveland, Ohio
March 22, 2008

* Disclosure: Lev Gonick is the founder and now President Emeritus of OneCleveland now known as OneCommunity. Along with my friend Cathy Horton from Beta Strategies we have been working with a growing number of communities around the country (and now in South Africa and the UK), including OneBroward. As I have noted in writing and speeches around the world for more than 5 years, great Universities have an important contribution to make to the long term health and viability of the cities within which our institutions are founded. The contribution of Florida Atlantic University, Nova Southwestern, and Broward County Community Colleges along with the inspired leadership of Phyllis Shiffer-Simon continue to underscore the important contribution of education institutions to the future of cities in America.

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March 20, 2008

The Future of Virtual Worlds for Education Goes to Washington

NMC CEO Larry Johnson (Larry Pixel in Second Life) is on his way to Congress to provide testimony to the House Sub-Committee on Internet and Telecommunications. The topic of the hearing is on the potential of virtual worlds. Larry asked some of his colleagues to outline some thoughts and suggestions that he might consider in putting together his written testimony. Below is my note to Larry and below that Larry's initial communication.

Larry: I'd second Richard's call out! Congratulations.

From my own experience, I think it is important to preempt the twin derision which usually starts with a dismissal of 'serious gaming' as simply fanciful/delusional. As Richard suggests this is an exercise in re-imagining the possible. The second element to preempt is the notion of binary choices between the 'real' and the 'virtual'. If you can change the formulation to insert the boolean logic of an "And" statement then I think not only have you helped to educate those who might be interested in listening to your written and/or oral testimony about the 'reality' of the current (and future) generations' orientation to social and gaming networks... more important... is the opportunity for you to speak on behalf of all of us in higher education to ask policy makers to engage personally and directly in these environments.

When will we have 'constituent hours' in SL equivalent to the now hundreds of faculty who are keeping office hours in SL as a preferred modality. When will we have routine town hall meetings to encourage civic engagement and education among the population equivalent to our peer to peer student study halls that are held daily for freshmen chemistry and physics recitations. When will we have a SL CSPAN commitment (with federal funding) to public dissemination and education equivalent to the open electronic poster sessions that are hosted in SL on research topics. When will we see federal support for building 'live' historical sites of the American civil war of Virginia or the American civil rights movement in Alabama as part of the mission of the Federal Parks or the Capitol equivalent to the work of urban historians in the academy and local historical societies who are helping to re-invent the past in the construction in SL life of historical moments in the life and times of their local cities. When will we see support for major investment to bring the Smithsonian and other federally supported museums into an authentic and active learning (and building) experience based on a virtual worlds platform but also extending to an infinite set of opportunities around social networking so as to expose generation of the future and audiences around the world to experience (in some form) the treasures of the museum world.

Larry, take the opportunity to place on the record the need to do more than simply chronicle where we've come from. Paint them (and the record) a picture of where we're going and how impactful and transformational the journey could and should be.


Dear NMC Emeritus Board members,

I have been asked to present testimony on the current state and future potential of virtual worlds to the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet on April 1st, just a couple of weeks from now.

The subcommittee is interested in understanding what is happening across the virtual landscape, including spaces like Second Life, Wonderland, and others that the NMC and its members have been investigating, especially as it impacts the sectors of education, not-for-profits, healthcare, and business and commerce.

It is a bit humbling to consider just what to say when asked to speak a topic as broad as this, more so when asked to present the perspective of education. What encourages me is all the work NMC members have been doing in this area for the past couple of years -- I feel all that work gives us a tremendous foundation upon which to convey a clear vision for virtual worlds to this very important and influential group -- and a great opportunity to articulate that vision. In many ways, given the mix of institutions in the NMC, our collective voice is the voice of higher education, and I hope to present a rational and well-balanced perspective, one that represents all of the institutions that make up the NMC well.

To that end, I ask your help. Where do you see this emerging landscape heading? What do you see as the most important thing for legislators to understand as they consider where it may be going and how it might impact society? What is the essential "big idea" we should try to convey in this forum?

In short, would you say if you were in my shoes?

I hope you help me think this through, and if you are willing, please take a few moments and send your thoughts to me directly at johnson@nmc.org.

I will be writing a short paper that will be submitted as part of the Congressional Record, and plan to weave the examples and comments you send throughout that piece as I try to present a tapestry of ideas that reflect some sense of the reality and potential of virtual worlds absent the hype and hyperbole that the popular press has fostered. We plan to share that paper with all of you when it is complete. We will also put it up on the website in a CommentPress format so that the issues and ideas embedded in it can fuel continued discussion.

Lev Gonick
Case Western Reserve Univ.
Cleveland, OH
March 20, 2008

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