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Barack Obama Visits Bloomington--Links to Open Learning World
Saturday, April 21, 2012
Sorry...I was fixing my blog this afternoon and this post from late April 2008 got reissued by mistake. It said draft and so I said publish. You can ignore it. Sorry about that. I almost deleted it. But I think it is still relevant four years later. Some of this was written but never used) for my World is Open book a couple of years ago.

The World is Open to Politicians
It is the last day of April 2008. I have just returned home from attending a speech from Senator Barack Obama at Assembly Hall at IU. His speech ended a mere 20 short minutes ago but feels so long ago now. Seems every politician and their immediate family is showing up in cornfields of Indiana these days. I heard Bill Clinton give one of his patented stellar speeches in the same room a few weeks earlier on behalf of his wife and her election bid. Hillary Clinton spoke in there just five days before her opponent and daughter, Chelsea Clinton, was here exactly one month before her mother on March 25th. They have all paraded before us one-by-one. Why? Well, the democratic nomination remains up for grabs and Indiana is one of the key remaining states yet to vote. Our turn is May 6th. And the two democratic candidates each firmly believe that they will be the one who wins in November and brings us some positive change.

Obama gave a thoughtful, humorous, and highly engaging speech for more than an hour tonight in our basketball stadium, which, in effect, is hallowed ground. An exhilarating level of energy was felt for two full hours before he arrived. And the room was packed with what I guess was more than 10,000 people. Much more than Bill Clinton drew. As I alluded to, Obama is running on a platform of change and the continual chanting of “Yes, we can.” When addressing the issue of why he is running at what some consider a young age of 46, he referenced Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s 1964 book, “Why We Can’t Wait,” and said “we cannot wait and that is why I am running right now for president.” When it came to education, what he said was telling. Obama detailed many social, political, and economic problems facing us and a few gut wrenching stories of those he has visited in Indiana who lacked jobs or health insurance. He then argued that it is an excellent educational system on which our future depends. Education underlies any economic might.

I am a former accountant and corporate controller so I have had one foot firmly planted in the business world. However, what I have come to realize is that there is no chance for innovation and creativity, cooperative teamwork, insightful problem solving, and intense competition for the best products without high quality education. Obama had it right. He explicitly stated that the U.S. needed high standards to be able to compete with the kids growing up today in China, India, and other countries. When Thomas Friedman discusses the 10 flatteners of the world, these are mainly economic ones. We need to open the world of education before we can think about flattening the world economically including the normal corporate hierarchies.

Like Bill Clinton said 16 years before, Obama was fighting and struggling for a better life for young people. It gave him a purpose. But the learning avenues today are much different than they were in 1992 when Clinton first ran for the White House. While he did not mention the Web of Learning once during his talk, Obama did argue for the need for increased broadband access. With access kids today can quickly obtain information from online dictionaries, thesauruses, and encyclopedias. They can also find a wealth of resources in online portals with information wars, species of animals, chemistry experiments, diseases, and famous poets. You name it, there is likely free educational content on it. They might also listen to an expert discuss a topic of interest in a podcast or online audio file. Expert comments and ideas can also be found in a blog posting. At the same time, online video lectures or Webcasts might be available from other experts presenting additional information or different viewpoints. There might also be free online books or documents from these experts that were posted to the Web. And the accumulated knowledge from these learning quests might be posted to a class wiki project site.

Young children are not the only ones impacted by open educational resources and other online tools and resources. Take adults voting in this education. Their learning vehicles are much different from 1992 when we elected Bill Clinton to the White House for the first time. Back then people like me had to rely on newspaper and magazine articles as well as books to find out about the candidates. Powerful stuff indeed, but today there are so many more options. I can now write an email to someone from the Obama campaign with my questions or perhaps Obama himself and get a quick reply from his hotel room laptop or mobile device. I can watch online videos of Barack Obama giving similar speeches in other cities and perhaps see how his ideas shifted during the long months of this campaign. I might download articles he has authored or reviews of his two books. Or I might browse his early life and career, personal life, educational background, presidential campaign, and books in his Wikipedia page. When done, I can scan the Web for PDF documents of his work or podcasts that I might listen to from his supporters and detractors. I can even read blog posts related to his ideas. And if the Web is down that day, I can simply read his books.

I am just scratching the surface. My point is that the educational system of a decade or two ago was much different from what we have today. Today we can no longer look at school buildings or physical locations as places for improving learning. Today much of our learning is online and it is open and free. The world is much more open, not just a bit flatter. Will anyone recognize it? Will anyone do anything about it?
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  posted by Curt Bonk @ 2:41 PM  
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About Me

Name: Curt Bonk
Home: Bloomington, Indiana, United States
About Me: I am a former accountant and CPA and a former educational psychologist. I am now Professor of IST at Indiana University and also adjunct in the School of Informatics. I founded and later sold SurveyShare. As president of CourseShare, LLC, I run around the world training instructors to teach online and give motivational talks about emerging learning technologies. I also write and edit books related to e-learning and blended learning. See bio and vita.

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Click here for information about my recent book, The World is Open: How Web Technology Is Revolutionizing Education.

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