Category Archives: Education

Developing an Open Educational Resource on Encryption

Encryption works. Properly implemented strong crypto systems are one of the few things that you can rely on. Unfortunately, endpoint security is so terrifically weak that NSA can frequently find ways around it.

— Edward Snowden, answering questions live on the Guardian’s website

Society needs an educational resource, covering the complex topics involved with information encryption, that is modular, openly accessible, and freely remixable. This is my proposal to create such a resource.

Open Educational Resources (OER) are freely accessible, openly licensed documents and media that are useful for teaching, learning, educational, assessment and research purposes. The development and promotion of open educational resources is often motivated by a desire to curb the commodification of knowledge[1] and provide an alternate or enhanced educational paradigm.

Utilizing Creative Commons licensing, an OER can be created on oercommons.org, where it will be maintained by a single authority, yet anyone in the world will be able to adapt and create their own work from ours. Oercommons.org provides a long-term support platform for maintaining these resources.

I started publicly asking for help in June of 2013–and I received a very warm welcome. You don’t have to look far to see why.

2013-06-24

August 2013:

2013-08-23 2013-08-23-2

October 2013: KEYNOTE: Journalism in the Age of Surveillance, Threat Modeling: Determining Digital Security for You, [For Journalism] Keeping Under the Security Radar, Improving Your Digital Hygiene

December 2013: United We Stand — and Encrypt by Josh Sterns2013-12-21

December 2013: Arab journalists need training for civil unrest and wars — referencing the CPJ’s Journalist Security Guide

January 2014: A Modest Proposal for Encrypting the Work of Activists by Kate Krauss

2014-01-20

It is clear that a diversity of educational resources are needed. While my original proposal was going to be supported by the United States Open Knowledge Foundation, OKFNUS has since back peddled due to lack of support from central-OKF. I am hoping that the many people behind Crypto.is are interested in spearheading the development of this OER. If they are not, and no other organization is, I will shortly be registering my own domain name to create a project launch page.

The initial launch of the OER can be created using Micah Lee‘s work, of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, Encryption Works: How to Protect Your Privacy (And Your Sources) in the Age of NSA Surveillance. Micah and the Freedom of the Press Foundation graciously licensed this work as CC-BY, allowing us, and even Wikipedia to reuse the work with attribution. I am hoping that Micah, himself, will want to be included in this project.

The target audience, initially, will be journalists, whistle blowers, activists, and dissidents. While these groups are the extreme, their example proves useful for the rest of society.

Please comment on this post, or tweet me, or email me your feedback.

Encryption for journalists #TA3M

Techno activism

Techno-Activism Third Mondays (TA3M) is an informal meetup designed to connect software creators and software users who are interested in learning or teaching about censorship, surveillance, and various open source technologies for personal computing devices of all kinds. The New York based OpenITP nonprofit is the organization behind starting TA3M in December 2012, with New York, San Francisco and Berlin hosting their first TA3M events in January of 2013. Currently, TA3M events are held in at least 20 cities throughout the world, with many more launching every month.

Seattle hosted its first TA3M event in August 2013. In our November event, 35 people were in attendance to partake in presentations about Geeks Without Bounds involvement, Tor software development, and Tor use on personal computing devices.

Seattle journalists

For December’s TA3M in Seattle, I’ll be presenting on the use of specific open source encrypted communications applications for mobile and personal computing devices. The target audience for my presentation will be for people brand new to using these encryption-optional chat tools, but for people generally familiar with instant messaging platforms.

  • ChatSecure for Android and iOS, by The Guardian Project
  • Orbot for Android, by The Guardian Project
  • Pidgin for Windows, OSX, and Linux

The rough draft of my presentation can be found here.

Tentative event schedule here.

If you are planning to attend this free and open-to-the-public event, and have any questions that technical people such as me can help answer for you, please post questions in the comment section of this post.

 

State institutions should not restrict learning disabled students from education

Washington State Governor, Chris Gregoire, on March 30, 2012, passed House Bill 2483 aimed at expanding the Student Achievement Council. [1]

“The legislature finds that increasing educational attainment is essential for maintaining the health of a democratic society and the competitiveness of the state in the global economy. It is necessary to have educational opportunities that meet both the educational and economic requirements of the state. Increasing educational attainment means Washington needs more students with high school diplomas, postsecondary certificates, [associate] degrees, bachelor’s degrees, and graduate degrees. According to a fall 2010 study by the Georgetown University center on education and the workforce, Washington will rank sixth in the nation in jobs that will require postsecondary education or special training.”

While in primary school and at university, I was tested and diagnosed as being gifted and learning disabled. I have two specific learning-disabilities that are documented in my medical records and are supported by the Americans with Disabilities Act. There has been a considerable amount of research that has concluded that students with my “twice-exceptional” condition are continually misunderstood by schools and even personal mentors.

“Intellectually gifted individuals with specific learning disabilities are the most misjudged, misunderstood and neglected segment of the student population and the community. Teachers, counselors, and other are inclined to overlook signs of intellectual giftedness and to focus attention on such deficits as poor spelling, reading, and writing. Expectations for academic achievement generally are inaccurate—either too high and unrealistically positive or too low and discouraging of high aspirations. It is not uncommon for gifted students with learning disabilities to be told that college study is inappropriate for them, that professional careers will be unattainable, and that jobs requiring only mechanical or physical abilities are more fitting to their abilities. Without equal opportunity to try, these individuals may be denied access to appropriate educational and professional career opportunities.” [2]

With much support and thanks to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, I was accepted as an Achievers Scholar and successfully graduated, this year, with an undergraduate degree in Information Technology and Administrative Management from Central Washington University. An undergraduate degree is not a stopping point. I have applied to the University of Washington’s Master of Infrastructure Planning and Management (MIPM) online degree program with an explicit interest in communications and cyber infrastructure systems. Upon applying to the University of Washington degree program, I requested a Graduate Record Examinations exam waiver. My request to submit a waiver was denied. Retrospectively, I have been denied the opportunity for graduate-level education from a state-sponsored institution. The Graduate Record Examinations exam has no bearing on critical thought or creativity. Generalized examinations are dramatically more stressful for learning-disabled students, especially when accommodations are not provided.

“Many educators and psychometricians agree that using a single test score to make a high stakes determination represents an ethical abuse.” [3] writes Dr. Peter McLaren, professor, UCLA Graduate School of Education, in his book Life in schools: an introduction to critical pedagogy in the foundations of education.

Disability Rights Advocates, a non-profit public interest law center, has written an applicable paper titled, “Do No Harm–High Stakes Testing and Students with Learning Disabilities”. Highlights include:

“Learning disabilities stem from neurological and sometimes heritable differences in brain structure, and can dramatically impact the manner and duration in which persons with learning disabilities read, write, learn and take tests. They cannot be cured.” [4]

This is a direct contradiction to the expectations of Educational Testing Services:

“For LD, testing must generally have been completed within the past five years.” [5]

My “LD” medical records were created in 2003 and thus not valid for accommodation. I have not grown out of my disability and do not have the funds or the time to retake a stressful psychological examination. The University of Washington, who has chosen to support this discrimination by requiring my participation of the Graduate Record Examinations exam, an intellectual monopoly, should be liable for discrimination because they offer no alternative.

“Federal civil rights statutes protect students with learning disabilities in the educational context. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 20 U.S.C. § 1400 et seq. (“IDEA”), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (“Section 504”), and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (“ADA”) all prohibit schools from discriminating against students on the basis of their disabilities. These laws, and the regulations under them contain specific prohibitions relevant to the high-stakes standardized testing and its impact on students with learning disabilities. …. There is no educational or legal basis for limiting the availability of alternate assessments.” [4]

“As noted in a recent report by The National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences, “[t]ests that are valid for influencing classroom practice, “leading” the curriculum, or holding schools accountable are not appropriate for making high-stakes decisions about individual student mastery unless the curriculum, the teaching, and the tests are aligned.”” [4]

It was clearly stated on May 15, 2012, in the online information meeting about the MIPM degree program, that prospective students should take the Graduate Record Examinations exam as a matter of procedure, and that the score itself does not matter.

Dr. Sir Ken Robinson, in his TED talk in 2006 states:

“We have a huge vested interest in [education], partly because it’s education that’s meant to take us into this future that we can’t grasp. …. My contention is that creativity now is as important in education as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status. …. [A]cademic ability, which has really come to dominate our view of intelligence because the universities designed the system in their image. If you think of it, the whole system of public education around the world is a protracted process of university entrance. And the consequence is that many highly talented, brilliant, creative people think they’re not, because the thing they were good at at school wasn’t valued, or was actually stigmatized. And I think we can’t afford to go on that way.” [6]

Dr. Barbara Endicott-Popovsky, Director for the Center for Information Assurance and Cybersecurity at the University of Washington included this information in her recommendation for me to the MIPM program:

I have known Christopher since AY2009 when he became a student in my Information Security and Risk Management certificate. During this time he worked on a variety of projects in class that demonstrated to me that he had exceptional abilities for research and graduate studies. He distinguished himself with his questions and the kinds of connections he discovered in the materials he read. He developed several models for describing organizational approaches to information assurance that reflected a sophistication of thinking unusual for someone working on their bachelor’s degree. He was well received by students and other faculty alike.

The critical infrastructure of Washington State requires a diversity of intellectual strengths to support its function and longevity. Leaders in the White House, Congress, and Senate have repeatedly stated that there is a shortage of cyber-security talent in this nation [7]. I deserve the right to participate in education, including the responsibility to take on the tremendous financial dept to better our state.

Thank you for your time.

[1] HB 2483 – 2011-12: Creating the office of the student achievement council. Revised for 2nd Substitute: Regarding higher education coordination. http://apps.leg.wa.gov/billinfo/summary.aspx?bill=2483

[2] Whitmore, J. & Maker, J. Intellectual giftedness among disabled persons. Rockville, MD: Aspen Press., 1985.

[3] McLaren, Peter. Life in schools : an introduction to critical pedagogy in the foundations of education. New York: Longman, 1989.

[4] Disability Rights Advocates. Do No Harm–High Stakes Testing and Students with Learning Disabilities. 2011. http://www.dralegal.org/downloads/pubs/do_no_harm.pdf

[5] Educational Testing Services. Policy Statement for Documentation of a Learning Disability In Adolescents and Adults, Second Edition. 2007. https://www.ets.org/disabilities/documentation/documenting_learning_disabilities

[6] Ken Robinson says schools kill creativity. 2006. https://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity.html

[7] Homeland Security Secretary Discusses Cybersecurity in Oversight Hearing. http://www.c-span.org/Events/Homeland-Security-Secretary-Discusses-Cybersecurity-in-Oversight-Hearing/10737430136/

Statement of Purpose

Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to share my ambitions and goals regarding the University of Washington (UW) master’s degree program in Infrastructure Planning and Management (MIPM).

Earlier this year, I passed the interview portion for a network administration position within the Seattle Police Department (SPD). Following the extensive background-check process, I was denied the position due to a lack of work-related experience compared to another candidate. I consider the SPD application experience a success for three reasons. First, it was an honor to simply spend time with SPD information technology managers and being challenged with technical and non-technical questions. Working for the City of Seattle has been a long-time desire, especially concerning the security of critical infrastructure. Second, at the end of my interview, I was praised for my ability to be articulate when providing answers. For nearly two years, I have been employed by Big Fish Games in their network operations center (NOC). Having made it a specific point of mine to further develop appropriately-verbose communication skills, it was wonderful feedback to hear. Finally, during the SPD’s interview process, I was asked if there was anything I would like to add to bolster my prospect of being hired. I specifically mentioned the MIPM program with the intention of working directly with the SPD for any and all related projects. Two of my three interviewers were clearly interested in the UW’s MIPM program. One responded by explaining the SPD’s desire to work closer with the University of Washington. I hope that I will be presented with a future opportunity to work for the SPD on some form of city-level information assurance development.

For over two years, I have been maintaining high standards for information technology (IT) infrastructure incident response and problem management in two separate NOCs. My first NOC position was with Microsoft supporting online business communications technologies across 19 internationally-spread datacenter co-locations. The majority of my professional NOC experience has been with Big Fish Games where I help support their entire IT infrastructure, encompassing 4 internationally-spread datacenter co-locations.

IT professionals, who are fortunate enough to be able to rely on a NOC for all initial triage and communications support, differ in terms of knowledge specialization and development. Unlike network or database administrators, NOC personnel must holistically understand all operational aspects of their entire business infrastructure. Contrast to Microsoft, an extremely large company, Big Fish Games is a medium-sized company with 99% revenue dependency on IT infrastructure and uptime. I feel very fortunate to be valued as a peer in a company like Big Fish Games where one is able to clearly understand where professional specializations and business drivers merge.

Prior to my NOC experiences, I had a successful internship at Microsoft as a Support Analyst on a datacenter deployment operations team. Although I feel that this internship was too short (three months), I helped perform a diverse set of large-scale hardware and software deployments, including some in Microsoft’s famous 470,000 square foot facility in Quincy, WA. I believe that these experiences with large-scale IT systems are setting the stage for even greater work in support of critical infrastructure.

Working as an information systems problem manager has allowed me to gain a unique understanding and appreciation for the IT field. I am looking forward to shifting gears from a response-oriented (reactive) career to a forward-thinking (pro-active) career in IT.

My future plans involve working in a security-focused role in Seattle while maintaining high academic performance in the MIPM program. Professional IT security experience is a requirement for Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) certification. Additionally, in 2013, I would like to attend the Oxford Scenarios Programme, hosted by the Saïd Business School, University of Oxford. This futures-development coursework would dramatically increase my contributions to the MIPM program. The Oxford Scenarios Programme would also fit in with my long-term objectives of executive-level information assurance development.

The MIPM program is a clear next-step. Being a critical and strategic thinker, I have outlined two primary objective-oriented paths with many levels of goals—one path academic, one career-oriented. I have taught myself the concept of how to pursue what I can when I can, and to merge these two paths whenever possible. The MIPM program would undoubtedly be one of those rare events where I can merge both paths. My long-term career objectives include the executive management of information assurance processes. Furthermore, I hope to advance my company, Sagawa LLC., which will build a network security appliance that utilizes Suricata, an intrusion detection and prevention system (IDPS) developed by the Open Information Security Foundation (OISF). OISF is funded by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Navy’s Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR). I originally became interested in developing my skills in security information and event management (SIEM) using Suricata because of the DHS and Navy’s direct support for its development—supporting federal information assurance initiatives greatly appeals to me.

I have many hobbies. For entertainment (please keep in mind that I am an introvert), I study information philosophy and information systems theory, and have a general interest in complex systems theory and intelligence analysis. Also, I read a great deal of information-security related media. I contribute to the Crypto.is project (https://crypto.is/) by developing public-domain licensed standard operating procedures for installing and using open-source cryptographic communication tools. Additionally, I maintain two Tor (https://torproject.org/) exit routers. I have a keen interest in supporting international freedom of expression and the right to read (anti-censorship).

Every single year of my formal education has been an outstanding challenge. The one exception was a single quarter spent with Dr. Barbara Endicott-Popovsky in the UW’s IMT 551. I was undoubtedly on the edge of my seat during every class because of my excitement concerning the course material. As a young child, I was diagnosed as both gifted and learning-disabled. Like many students with this “twice-exceptional” condition, I have dealt with an unnecessary amount of frustration coming from teachers and mentors. Elementary and middle school teachers repeatedly called me lazy. High school administrators told me not to pursue higher education. Toward the end of my undergraduate degree, my disabilities-support adviser declared me a failure and that I would only succeed in life as an entrepreneur. These once-frustrating set-backs have not overcome my tenacity.

Due to my academic history, you may not view me as an ideal candidate for a respected tier-one research institution. My twice-exceptional condition is rooted to a physical re-conditioning of my brain, and it forces me to assimilate and process information differently. For example, my team-lead at Big Fish Games told me that he values my feedback when problem-solving because I present unique, useful information. There is no doubt that I have academic weaknesses; however, my cognitive differences also give me uncharacteristic academic strengths. I passionately believe that my differences will aid the MIPM program for which I clearly see myself graduating successfully.

An “Edupunk” System

This is another work in progress. I have a lot to add to this, so I will do so when I find the time.

The focal point is to provide choice in education as a stem from my previously stated notion, “what obligation do I have to information?” I presume that it’s feasible to design an edupunk system; a system that is open source, Internet-community designed and Internet-community maintained. This system could be used in addition to higher education institutions, and all other preceding education systems. This system would not be limited by how or from where information is obtained, as long as it satisfies the community-derived requirements. An edupunk system should also be completely anti-discriminatory. This includes placement based on age, experience, intelligence, and all of the other common attributes of a society—gender, sex, race, whatever. Information does not discriminate until we use information to discriminate.

What are the ways that people learn?

Direction

  • Completely directed
  • Partially directed
  • Self directed

Orientation

  • Completely base oriented
  • Partially base oriented
  • Not base oriented
  • Completely objective oriented
  • Partially objective oriented
  • Not objective oriented

Immersion

  • Completely integrated
  • Partially integrated
  • Not integrated

Information sharing

  • By a master all of the time
  • By a master some of the time
  • By a master none of the time
  • By a specific group of masters all of the time
  • By a specific group of masters some of the time
  • By a specific group of masters none of the time
  • By a master collective all of the time
  • By a master collective some of the time
  • By a master collective none of the time
  • By a student all of the time
  • By a student some of the time
  • By a student none of the time
  • By a specific group of students all of the time
  • By a specific group of students some of the time
  • By a specific group of students none of the time
  • By a student collective all of the time
  • By a student collective some of the time
  • By a student collective none of the time

(The text in red identifies how current mainstream education institutions predominantly operate. They can be, however rarely, “partially integrated” (into a specific community or environment). Internships and the like are “completely integrated.” Research degree programs would be “partially base oriented” and “partially objective oriented.”)

“Direction” entails a linear process of constructive knowledge gain. Completely linear systems with predefined objectives limit creativity, even when compounding such linearity with complexity.

A base-orientation entails a body of knowledge or an idea that can be explored with no limiting objective. This form of orientation entails the generation of a scope as you add more knowledge to that base, and that you will eventually conclude on a desired objective.

An objective-orientation entails using a predefined scope with a predefined objective that is based on expectations.

Do you have an objective? Are you objective-less? We cannot use one system that has to work for everyone without losing the minority and steering the majority. Everybody has different goals, and that diversity requires diverse education systems.

Curriculum requirements can either be static (predetermined) or dynamic (real-time). Both base-oriented curriculum and objective-oriented curriculum can be static or dynamic in their design.

Why should people use my edupunk system?

The dynamism of the evolution of information and behavior is increasing, and uncertainty of futures is indeterminately complex. Knowledge oriented education systems no longer support the needs of our present day problem solving systems with the advent of this information-integrated stage in our evolution. The Internet—the distributed, instant-information systems that span and connect the entire world—can help alleviate our education woes. Irrespective of laws on intellectual property, restriction of information slows the progress of the human race. And while modern day, mainstream education institutions take money in exchange for un-integrated, structured knowledge, the values that drive this inertia (linear, non-changing) need to be updated and expanded to become adaptive to real-world, current and future knowledge gaps.

Progress of the human race—using what objectives?

Why do we even have education systems? No educator has ever asked me. How can we continue to use a system that has no predefined goal? Do we simply expect that growth equates to happiness and happiness to satisfaction? Is this some perverted, collective super-position that is simply expected of every living human being?

I stand by the notion that things don’t happen for a reason until we give it reason. Sharing information appears to be an innate feature of a naturally-social group of organisms. From an evolutionary standpoint, sharing information allows you to gain information that you once did not have, possibly and probably increasing your chances for survival in the environment in which you live. This problem of needing information to thrive has not gone away. In fact, it would appear that education systems have been developed in order to both solve complex problems and to anticipate future problems. This is why we need progress—for the survival, and often times the vanity of the human race.

But why do we have to constantly be “updating” our knowledge if our goal were simply to survive? Is there a point where we can just stop learning about our shared world? In short, no. The human race still has problems that have evidently existed since the beginning of Earth’s history. And as our species evolves while in parallel we develop better and more complicated technologies, there will never be a time, as long as life exists, where problems will not exist as well.

There are some problems that are undeniable. Sustainability of resources is critical, in addition to maintaining the resources we have. Maintaining resources includes the avoidance, minimization or mitigation of disasters, both human caused and of natural consequences. Every bit of human knowledge can be given “reason” to amount to some portion of any notion that precludes to the avoidance, minimization or mitigation of disaster in some form or another.

How should my edupunk system work?

By capitalizing on the various ways that people learn. While all people have dominant learning styles, people must find balance with their non-dominant learning styles in order to maximize the reception of information in diverse ways. As I mentioned above, people learn by established direction, orientation, immersion, and with whom information is being shared.

[To be continued…]

On the Inertia of Institutional Education and the Evolution of Technology and Integration

As a society, we choose to apply metrics to individuals. This seems to be a natural choice—as if innate, we presume to be individuals. However, we are innately social.

After basic study of inertia in application to developing extrapolation scenarios, and to juxtapose the institution of academia, I feel as though all levels of formal education have undervalued the capabilities of technology to better integrate people and information.

I must point out that I will primarily be attacking higher education and their faults. After seven years of struggle as a gifted yet learning disabled student in higher education, toned down, I’m disappointed.

To preface, I claim to be an intellectual minority. I believe it gives me a unique perspective; and in retrospect, allows my objectivity to be useful. With what little research that is available concerning individuals that are gifted and learning disabled, there are many attributes of said students that offer insight into the faults, or perhaps areas where education systems should grow, of educational institutions.

“[Gifted and learning disabled students have] special talents or interests that were usually manifested in out-of-school or within-school extracurricular activities and that enabled them to ameliorate their negative school experiences. These talents and interests were recognized and often nurtured by parents and seemed to contribute to the positive sense of self eventually developed by some of the participants in this study despite their negative experiences in school.”

[Case Studies of High-Ability Students with Learning Disabilities Who Have Achieved, Journal article by Sally M. Reis, Terry W. Neu, Joan M. Mcguire; Exceptional Children, Vol. 63, 1997]

This notion signifies where education systems continue to not change, and in areas that would benefit all students, not just intellectual minorities. Without holistic support, these students might be forced to practice their identified strengths in non-constructive manners (hint: illegal manners).  They are certainly not being used in the classroom. Where is the system to identify the unique strengths and weaknesses of each student? Do teachers or mentors know about these strengths? Why do student’s weaknesses get punished instead?

What is a weakness? Well my severe weakness is my learning disability. And this notion is complicated by the fact that disability support services in all grade levels only support the disability—that is, the attempted normalization of the weakness. This system is completely backwards for students who are gifted and learning disabled. But I digress. Thomas Jefferson once wrote, “There is nothing more unequal than the equal treatment of unequal people.” When it comes to personal learning styles, I do not believe in equality. Weakness is punished by awarding grades as metrics to academic failure, and I believe this act plays into the demolishment of natural creativity that students have.

Evidence: video

As Sir Ken Robinson states, “…if you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original. If you’re not prepared to be wrong. And by the time they get to be adults, most kids have lost that capacity. They have become frightened of being wrong. And we run our companies like this, by the way, we stigmatize mistakes. And we’re now running national education systems where mistakes are the worst thing you can make. And the result is, we are educating people out of their creative capacities.”

Sir Ken Robinson continues, “…academic ability, which has really come to dominate our view of intelligence because the universities designed the system in their image. If you think of it, the whole system of public education around the world is a protracted process of university entrance. And the consequence is that many highly talented, brilliant, creative people think they’re not, because the thing they were good at at school wasn’t valued, or was actually stigmatized. And I think we can’t afford to go on that way.”

More on Sir Ken Robinson: http://www.ted.com/speakers/sir_ken_robinson.html

My argument here is this: the foundational metrics system which we use to measure the performance of individual students is antiquated. Mainstream education, and in retrospect, society, is suffering from academic inertia—a complete lack of change for the betterment of students. So—how should it change?

Fundamentally, the education system, worldwide, is flawed. It remains insensitive to individualistic needs and continues to degrade as short term funding cuts continue to inhibit its growth. Even while society at large is learning the value of sustainability, it’s education, in the public’s eye, that is open to budget cuts and therefore is less important to society than the roads that we drive on.

Even while society is learning how to embrace technological advancement at exponential levels, academic institutions do not. Yes, schools are taking advantage of online learning tools. But if it didn’t increase the amount of money they took in, they wouldn’t use it. Academic institutions are embracing technology, but for largely the wrong reasons.

Take, for example, the private sector. While interning at Microsoft, my deployment services team was successful for many reasons. However, two of those reasons had to do with information and technology. As a team, we were encouraged to remain from becoming information hogs—that is, individuals who kept crucial information to themselves. We prided ourselves on our unique attributes, such as being a subject matter expert (SME), but when specific information was needed to complete complicated tasks, it was our duty to share and help educate everyone involved. While this process was primarily performed face-to-face, we used Microsoft’s intranet to create an encyclopedia of relevant information that each of us was encouraged to contribute to. As SME’s we had a responsibility to educate everyone else, empowered by integrative technology.

This is not how academic institutions, in a classroom setting, are managed. The teacher is the SME, and if you don’t meet standardized requirements, you fail. Nowhere in the system of curriculum is there a means for students to become the teachers. Nowhere is there a means for students to be assessed based on their strengths, or develop according to their strengths.

What is a personal strength? Well my strengths are my gifts, including my tenacity and creativity. IQ testing identified areas of high intelligence, in contrast to my average IQ scores and my low (learning disability) scores. Stereotypically, people that are not learning disabled or not gifted fall into the “average” IQ range. Again, stereotypically, people tend to believe that they only have one IQ. That’s completely false. IQs are determined by a wide range of specific areas of intelligence. It’s perfectly feasible that everyone on Earth has varying (high and low) IQs—and it’s the higher ones that we should be capitalizing on.

But people are not simply their IQs. There’s also emotional intelligence (EQ) and there’s creative intelligence (CQ). People also tend to use either their right side of their brain or the left side of their brain. And there’s personality. Understanding one’s personality is invaluable when learning about one’s self, and thus, their world. Personality is directly tied to our capacities as learning individuals.

But none of this is measured when we instruct students in mainstream education. Unless, of course, you are identified as a gifted or learning disabled student. Why don’t we perform these tests at all levels of school on all students? Starting in primary school, kids should be tested. They should be tested so that, individually, they can come to terms with their strengths and weaknesses. This is critical for understanding one’s ability to perform in society. Kids should also be tested so that educators and mentors can track individual progress—not standardized progress. Allowing educators to engage with their students at these intimate levels will set the foundations of educational sustainment.

What I propose is this: The healthcare system is receiving a lot of funding to deploy a nationwide infrastructure of personal health information that is supposed to assist with improved health care. Why can’t we do that same for students? And we need to abolish the grading system. It’s arguable that the grade point system measures a student’s strengths and weaknesses. But GPA wraps that information into one clump of poop. And nowhere on a report card is there an educator’s note on why such a grade was received. Similarly, nowhere is there a response from the actual student receiving the grade. If we can implement feedback systems on e-commerce Web sites, we can do it for our students.

Another problem, which with identification could assist with turning education systems around for the better, includes sociability. At Microsoft, we worked in teams. Being an SME was one of my strengths. But as a collaborative team of SMEs, we were something much greater. Students are graded purely on individual “success” which reinforces their “success” on a completely individualized level. While students should understand their ability to contribute to a society in ways that are unique to their psyche, in order to be a part of a society, they need reinforcement that is determined by teamwork for which they are a crucial part.

Similarly, in this era of exponentially evolving information integration, why are we basing our tests on questions that can be Googled in 2 seconds? Why aren’t we asking questions that require problem solving and critical thinking? Why are we asking questions that only have one right answer? Through collaborative teamwork, people learn to think creatively. Through collaborative teamwork, people learn the value of diversity and opinion. In developed nations, having access to the Internet is commonplace. If we don’t teach students at a young age to embrace technology in ways that are meaningful to the society for which they are a part, we are denying OURSELFS the luxury of a self-empowered, socially-educated and technologically-empowered society.

Why is the sharing of information important? Here’s why:

Evidence: video

Matt Ridley states, “…what we’ve done in human society, through exchange in specialization, we’ve created the ability to do things that we don’t even understand.” He continues, “With technology we can actually do things that are beyond our capabilities. We’ve gone beyond the capacity of the human mind to an extraordinary degree. And by the way, that’s one of the reasons that I’m not interested in the debate about IQ–about whether some groups have IQs higher than other groups–It’s completely irrelevant. What’s relevant to a society is how well people are communicating their ideas, and how well their cooperating, not how clever the individuals are.”

More on Matt Ridley: http://www.ted.com/speakers/matt_ridley.html

What I propose is this: By engaging with others, sharing problems and sharing ideas, we learn about ourselves while simultaneously learning how to be a more intricate part of a community. Through foundational understanding of how we work individually, we can offer those strengths to our groups through interaction. Engagement is the pinnacle of education. Without engagement and without respectful, compassionate sharing, we reinforce our egos. Reinforcing our egos with what not to do—or with what to do but basing it on invisible expectations—is undermining our abilities as a global community. Our goal here should be to revolutionize our education system to encourage civic engagement at any level. Assignments should be replaced with engaging projects. Students should do these projects together. They should be tested on their abilities to understand themselves and how to best engage with their teams and their communities.

How can we develop student’s strengths, to bring success to their community, and in creative and non-threatening ways? Why would the latter be important?

Evidence: video

David Logan states, “So when individuals come together and find something that unites them that’s greater than their individual competence, then something very important happens. The group gels. And it changes from a group of highly motivated but fairly individually centric people, into something larger, into a tribe that becomes aware of its own existence.”

David continues, “Two percent are at Stage One. About 25 percent are at Stage Two, saying, in effect, “My life sucks.” 48 percent of working tribes say, these are employed tribes, say, “I’m great and you’re not.” And we have to duke it out every day. So we resort to politics. Only about 22 percent of tribes are at Stage Four, oriented by our values, saying “We’re great. And our values are beginning to unite us.” Only two percent, only two percent of tribes get to Stage Five. And those are the ones that change the world.”

“See, people who build world-changing tribes do that. They extend the reach of their tribes by connecting them, not just to myself, so that my following is greater. But I connect people who don’t know each other to something greater than themselves. And ultimately that adds to their values.”

More on David Logan: http://www.ted.com/speakers/david_logan.html

The question begging to be asked: Why can’t we design education systems that empower students to value stage four and stage five tribes? If they could even acknowledge what tribe they were in, I presume that it would allow them to strive to a higher level of tribal leadership. Just think of the impacts that would have on our society even if it was a small increase. When we design education systems that teach students what is valued in society, and for all of their developmental years in life (K-12), what should we be striving for?

The goals of our education systems no longer serve us as a society. We are now connected in vastly superior ways from when our core education system values were established. We are no longer individual information carriers and processors. As our society becomes more and more complicated, we have to be raising children with an aptitude for individualized empowerment and value systems based on civic engagement, unafraid to take risks. “American creativity scores are falling.” I have yet to read a political argument battling for a nationwide increase in creativity.

“The potential consequences are sweeping. The necessity of human ingenuity is undisputed. A recent IBM poll of 1,500 CEOs identified creativity as the No. 1 “leadership competency” of the future. Yet it’s not just about sustaining our nation’s economic growth. All around us are matters of national and international importance that are crying out for creative solutions, from saving the Gulf of Mexico to bringing peace to Afghanistan to delivering health care. Such solutions emerge from a healthy marketplace of ideas, sustained by a populace constantly contributing original ideas and receptive to the ideas of others.”

Reference article: http://www.newsweek.com/2010/07/10/the-creativity-crisis.html

The need for creativity is staggering in comparison to knowledge. With the Internet, fact-based information cramming is futile. Education strategy should demand systems that teach students how to solve problems, not simply the solutions to problems. With the Internet, individualistic problem solving is ludicrous. Education strategy should demand systems that reward constructive social behavior. And finally, designing education systems that provide structure for engaging with one’s community should be a requirement—how else are we going to teach the value of a connected society?

 

As a society, we choose to apply metrics to individuals. This seems to be a natural choice—as if innate, we presume to be individuals. However, we are innately social.

After basic study of inertia in application to developing extrapolation scenarios, and to juxtapose the institution of academia, I feel as though all levels of formal education have undervalued the capabilities of technology to better integrate people and information.

I must point out that I will primarily be attacking higher education and their faults. After seven years of struggle as a gifted yet learning disabled student in higher education, toned down, I’m disappointed.

To preface, I claim to be an intellectual minority. I believe it gives me a unique perspective; and in retrospect, allows my objectivity to be useful. With what little research that is available concerning individuals that are gifted and learning disabled, there are many attributes of said students that offer insight into the faults, or perhaps areas where education systems should grow, of educational institutions.

“[Gifted and learning disabled students have] special talents or interests that were usually manifested in out-of-school or within-school extracurricular activities and that enabled them to ameliorate their negative school experiences. These talents and interests were recognized and often nurtured by parents and seemed to contribute to the positive sense of self eventually developed by some of the participants in this study despite their negative experiences in school.”

[Case Studies of High-Ability Students with Learning Disabilities Who Have Achieved, Journal article by Sally M. Reis, Terry W. Neu, Joan M. Mcguire; Exceptional Children, Vol. 63, 1997]

This notion signifies where education systems continue to not change, and in areas that would benefit all students, not just intellectual minorities. Without holistic support, these students might be forced to practice their identified strengths in non-constructive manners (hint: illegal manners).They are certainly not being used in the classroom. Where is the system to identify the unique strengths and weaknesses of each student? Do teachers or mentors know about these strengths? Why do student’s weaknesses get punished instead?

What is a weakness? Well my severe weakness is my learning disability. And this notion is complicated by the fact that disability support services in all grade levels only support the disability—that is, the attempted normalization of the weakness. This system is completely backwards for students who are gifted and learning disabled. But I digress. Thomas Jefferson once wrote, “There is nothing more unequal than the equal treatment of unequal people.” When it comes to personal learning styles, I do not believe in equality. Weakness is punished by awarding grades as metrics to academic failure, and I believe this act plays into the demolishment of natural creativity that students have.

Evidence: video

As Sir Ken Robinson states, “…if you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original. If you’re not prepared to be wrong. And by the time they get to be adults, most kids have lost that capacity. They have become frightened of being wrong. And we run our companies like this, by the way, we stigmatize mistakes. And we’re now running national education systems where mistakes are the worst thing you can make. And the result is, we are educating people out of their creative capacities.”

Sir Ken Robinson continues, “…academic ability, which has really come to dominate our view of intelligence because the universities designed the system in their image. If you think of it, the whole system of public education around the world is a protracted process of university entrance. And the consequence is that many highly talented, brilliant, creative people think they’re not, because the thing they were good at at school wasn’t valued, or was actually stigmatized. And I think we can’t afford to go on that way.”

More on Sir Ken Robinson: http://www.ted.com/speakers/sir_ken_robinson.html

My argument here is this: the foundational metrics system which we use to measure the performance of individual students is antiquated. Mainstream education, and in retrospect, society, is suffering from academic inertia—a complete lack of change for the betterment of students. So—how should it change?

Fundamentally, the education system, worldwide, is flawed. It remains insensitive to individualistic needs and continues to degrade as short term funding cuts continue to inhibit its growth. Even while society at large is learning the value of sustainability, it’s education, in the public’s eye, that is open to budget cuts and therefore is less important to society than the roads that we drive on.

Even while society is learning how to embrace technological advancement at exponential levels, academic institutions do not. Yes, schools are taking advantage of online learning tools. But if it didn’t increase the amount of money they took in, they wouldn’t use it. Academic institutions are embracing technology, but for largely the wrong reasons.

Take, for example, the private sector. While interning at Microsoft, my deployment services team was successful for many reasons. However, two of those reasons had to do with information and technology. As a team, we were encouraged to remain from becoming information hogs—that is, individuals who kept crucial information to themselves. We prided ourselves on our unique attributes, such as being a subject matter expert (SME), but when specific information was needed to complete complicated tasks, it was our duty to share and help educate everyone involved. While this process was primarily performed face-to-face, we used Microsoft’s intranet to create an encyclopedia of relevant information that each of us was encouraged to contribute to. As SME’s we had a responsibility to educate everyone else, empowered by integrative technology.

This is not how academic institutions, in a classroom setting, are managed. The teacher is the SME, and if you don’t meet standardized requirements, you fail. Nowhere in the system of curriculum is there a means for students to become the teachers. Nowhere is there a means for students to be assessed based on their strengths, and developed according to their strengths.

What is a personal strength? Well my strengths are my gifts, including my tenacity and creativity. IQ testing identified areas of high intelligence, in contrast to my average IQ scores and my low (learning disability) scores. Stereotypically, people that are not learning disabled or not gifted fall into the “average” IQ range. Again, stereotypically, people tend to believe that they only have one IQ. That’s completely false. IQs are determined by a wide range of specific areas of intelligence. It’s perfectly feasible that everyone on Earth has varying (high and low) IQs—and it’s the higher ones that we should be capitalizing on.

But people are not simply their IQs. There’s also emotional intelligence (EQ) and there’s creative intelligence (CQ). People also tend to use either their right side of their brain or the left side of their brain. And there’s personality. Understanding one’s personality is invaluable when learning about one’s self, and thus, their world. Personality is directly tied to our capacities as learning individuals.

But none of this is measured when we instruct students in mainstream education. Unless, of course, you are identified as a gifted or learning disabled student. Why don’t we perform these tests at all levels of school on all students? Starting in primary school, kids should be tested. They should be tested so that, individually, they can come to terms with their strengths and weaknesses. This is critical for understanding one’s ability to perform in society. Kids should also be tested so that educators and mentors can track individual progress—not standardized progress. Allowing educators to engage with their students at these intimate levels will set the foundations of educational sustainment.

What I propose is this: The healthcare system is receiving a lot of funding to deploy a nationwide infrastructure of personal health information that is supposed to assist with improved health care. Why can’t we do that same for students? And we need to abolish the grading system. It’s arguable that the grade point system measures a student’s strengths and weaknesses. But GPA wraps that information into one clump of poop. And nowhere on a report card is there an educator’s note on why such a grade was received. Similarly, nowhere is there a response from the actual student receiving the grade. If we can implement feedback systems on e-commerce Web sites, we can do it for our students.

Another problem, which with identification could assist with turning education systems around for the better, includes sociability. At Microsoft, we worked in teams. Being an SME was one of my strengths. But as a collaborative team of SMEs, we were something much greater. Students are graded purely on individual “success” which reinforces their “success” on a completely individualized level. While students should understand their ability to contribute to a society in ways that are unique to their psyche, in order to be a part of a society, they need reinforcement that is determined by teamwork for which they are a crucial part.

Similarly, in this era of exponentially evolving information integration, why are we basing our tests on questions that can be Googled in 2 seconds? Why aren’t we asking questions that require problem solving and critical thinking? Why are we asking questions that only have one right answer? Through collaborative teamwork, people learn to think creatively. Through collaborative teamwork, people learn the value of diversity and opinion. In developed nations, having access to the Internet is commonplace. If we don’t teach students at a young age to embrace technology in ways that are meaningful to the society for which they are a part, we are denying OURSELFS the luxury of a self-empowered, socially-educated and technologically-empowered society.

Why is the sharing of information important? Here’s why:

Evidence: video

Matt Ridley states, “…what we’ve done in human society, through exchange in specialization, we’ve created the ability to do things that we don’t even understand.” He continues, “With technology we can actually do things that are beyond our capabilities. We’ve gone beyond the capacity of the human mind to an extraordinary degree. And by the way, that’s one of the reasons that I’m not interested in the debate about IQ–about whether some groups have IQs higher than other groups–It’s completely irrelevant. What’s relevant to a society is how well people are communicating their ideas, and how well their cooperating, not how clever the individuals are.”

More on Matt Ridley: http://www.ted.com/speakers/matt_ridley.html

What I propose is this: By engaging with others, sharing problems and sharing ideas, we learn about ourselves while simultaneously learning how to be a more intricate part of a community. Through foundational understanding of how we work individually, we can offer those strengths to our groups through interaction. Engagement is the pinnacle of education. Without engagement and without respectful, compassionate sharing, we reinforce our egos. Reinforcing our egos with what not to do—or with what to do but basing it on invisible expectations—is undermining our abilities as a global community. Our goal here should be to revolutionize our education system to encourage civic engagement at any level. Assignments should be replaced with engaging projects. Students should do these projects together. They should be tested on their abilities to understand themselves and how to best engage with their teams and their communities.

How can we develop student’s strengths, to bring success to their community, and in creative and non-threatening ways? Why would the latter be important?

Evidence: video

David Logan states, “So when individuals come together and find something that unites them that’s greater than their individual competence, then something very important happens. The group gels. And it changes from a group of highly motivated but fairly individually centric people, into something larger, into a tribe that becomes aware of its own existence.”

David continues, “Two percent are at Stage One. About 25 percent are at Stage Two, saying, in effect, “My life sucks.” 48 percent of working tribes say, these are employed tribes, say, “I’m great and you’re not.” And we have to duke it out every day. So we resort to politics. Only about 22 percent of tribes are at Stage Four, oriented by our values, saying “We’re great. And our values are beginning to unite us.” Only two percent, only two percent of tribes get to Stage Five. And those are the ones that change the world.”

“See, people who build world-changing tribes do that. They extend the reach of their tribes by connecting them, not just to myself, so that my following is greater. But I connect people who don’t know each other to something greater than themselves. And ultimately that adds to their values.”

More on David Logan: http://www.ted.com/speakers/david_logan.html

The question begging to be asked: Why can’t we design education systems that empower students to value stage four and stage five tribes? If they could even acknowledge what tribe they were in, I presume that it would allow them to strive to a higher level of tribal leadership. Just think of the impacts that would have on our society even if it was a small increase. When we design education systems that teach students what is valued in society, and for all of their developmental years in life (K-12), what should we be striving for?

The goals of our education systems no longer serve us as a society. We are now connected in vastly superior ways from when our core education system values were established. We are no longer individual information carriers and processors. As our society becomes more and more complicated, we have to be raising children with an aptitude for individualized empowerment and value systems based on civic engagement, unafraid to take risks. “American creativity scores are falling.” I have yet to read a political argument battling for a nationwide increase in creativity.

“The potential consequences are sweeping. The necessity of human ingenuity is undisputed. A recent IBM poll of 1,500 CEOs identified creativity as the No. 1 “leadership competency” of the future. Yet it’s not just about sustaining our nation’s economic growth. All around us are matters of national and international importance that are crying out for creative solutions, from saving the Gulf of Mexico to bringing peace to Afghanistan to delivering health care. Such solutions emerge from a healthy marketplace of ideas, sustained by a populace constantly contributing original ideas and receptive to the ideas of others.”

Reference article: http://www.newsweek.com/2010/07/10/the-creativity-crisis.html

The need for creativity is staggering in comparison to knowledge. With the Internet, fact-based information cramming is futile. Education strategy demands systems that teach students how to solve problems, not simply the solutions to problems. With the Internet, individualistic problem solving is ludicrous. Education systems demand systems that reward constructive social behavior. And finally, designing education systems that provide structure for engaging with one’s community should be a requirement—how else are we going to teach the value of a connected society?