Live-Blogged Notes from New York Times Schools for Tomorrow Conference 2013

Panelists speaking at "Schools for Tomorrow" conference.

Panelists speaking at “Schools for Tomorrow” conference.

These are my live-blogging notes from morning sessions — especially Sal Khan’s keynote — at the New York Times Schools Conference on September 17, 2013 at the Times Center.  Here are some high-points from Sal Khan’s keynote, which expand on the basics about reach that you may already know (reaches 200 countries, 8 million registered users, 1.2 billion problems completed):

  • Khan Academy (KA) is implementing game mechanics, badges, leveling-up, lots of experimentation, assessment of big data, testing education theory – including growth mindset theory of Carol Dweck at Stanford, e.g. (early returns suggest that she is right).
  • What KA is super-focused on is common core alignment, deep mathematics, and real mastery.
  • If you or child go to KA today, you will get asked to take an 8-question pretest for math, starting personalization & pathways.
  • “We are a tool, but it’s really about the teacher.”
  • Blended learning: promising results by teacher Peter McIntosh at Oakland Unity in implementing the KA model in a classroom.
  • KA is not about putting kids in front of a computer, but rather to free up time for teachers and learners to do better things with time off the computer.
  • There is a great deal of work underway around the world to take KA into communities, via non-profits and schools.
  • The #1 creator of content in Mongolian is a 17-year-old girl in an orphanage who just started with KA content at 15 when Cisco engineers spent their vacation setting up tech in Mongolian orphanages.
  • Last week: launch of the full Spanish language KA.  Brazilian Portugese is next, and on from there.
  • “We are at a special moment in history” for education, Khan claims.  It’s not a cheap approximation of a good education that we want to provide for kids who are not otherwise able to afford it; we ought to provide a world-class education for anyone.  Education is not scarce and only for the few.
  • The advanced placement tests will be going up on the site, with Phillips Academy faculty (yay!) working with Khan Academy team members on advanced mathematics, e.g.

Good questions for Sal Khan from the audience:

  • Tension between two statements: 1) teachers matter and 2) any child can get a world-class education for free.  How can those both be true?
  • Worries about data privacy (as a non-profit, we are careful about that, says Khan).
  • Is it ever going to be possible to get a high-school degree just on KA, without ever going to a school?  Maybe, says Khan.  We should have a mastery-based model rather than a time-based model.  Perhaps community colleges will be involved; maybe employers; but in any event, it will be a competency-based model.
  • Two questions address the role of community college.  Sal likes the combination of a competency-based online assessment with an in-person component, perhaps at community colleges.

From the “debate” on “whether the university has had its day” (which no one on the panel seems to think has had its day):

  • Residential education can be improved.  Online education is causing hard questions to be asked about both online and in-person teaching, which are only to the good.
  • There’s no “one” single higher-ed experience, as teachers or learners.
  • President Martin of Amherst stresses things that can only happen in person, on college campuses: certain important intergenerational relationships, life in the most socio-economically diverse communities that exist anywhere, and the value of the company of attentive others, which should not be foregone, for instance.
  • There’s already a disruptive set of innovations underway at the hands of institutions on their own.
  • There’s a changing high school demographic that will cause enrollment to flatten in higher ed, says Chancellor Zimpher of the State University of New York.
  • We’re not good enough at measuring success in higher ed (possibilities thrown out by panelists and Tweeters: completion; mastery; education-for-education’s sake; learning things like ethics and morality?).

New Heads of School Institute (Part II)

We are half-way through the Institute for New Heads of Schools.  (This is the second of two posts on this topic; the earlier post is here.)  I’ve been looking forward to the first session this morning, led by James P. Honan, senior lecturer on education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.  I’ve been an admirer of Jim’s for a long time; he is a great teacher and leader, including a lot of service on school boards and trusted advisor to heads of school (including BB&N and Dana Hall).

* Stewardship and Sustainability.  Jim’s session is on “Strategic Financial Management: Stewardship and Sustainability.”  Unlike the other sessions at the institute, Jim teaches his using the case method, and he’s a fine case teacher.  Every one of us as new heads has been asked by our boards, I suspect, to focus on “sustainability” and to take a hard look at the financial model of our respective schools.  Jim frames the session with a good, hard question: “what do you want your financial legacy to be once you leave as the CEO of the school?”  You want to have managed with strong controls and with sound compliance; to have aligned the resources well with the strategic priorities; and to be able to show that your management of financial resources led to the school being better by the end of your time there.  Most schools have their money in roughly four buckets: 1) general, 2) plant, 3) endowment, and 4) grants.  Most for-profits, Jim notes, have just one such bucket; the nature of the accounting in schools is different in this important way.  There are three types of money: 3) permanently restricted (e.g., many endowed funds); 2) temporarily restricted (e.g., grants and other “use-it-or-lose-it money”); and 3) unrestricted (within reason; the board can still constrain its usage somewhat, if needed).  Jim emphasized the importance for heads of institutions to be the “translator” of the financial issues related to the school for the community at large.  He cites to Herzlinger’s four questions that we (as leaders and trustees) should ask about the financials regularly: 1) are the organization’s goals consistent with its resources?; 2) are the sources and uses of resources matched?; 3) is there intergenerational equity?; and, 4) are present resources sustainable?  “High performing organizations aren’t just lucky,” Jim tells us.  Another good line: in education, “you can’t cut your way to prosperity.”

* Creating a Culture of Philanthropy.  The job of a head of any academic institution is, in part, about development, institutional advancement, fundraising — whatever we call it.  Our sessions on philanthropy, (led by Denise Martin of the Center for Early Education with Reveta Bowers), are focused on the people involved: staff in the development office, the alumni and other potential/actual donors, the faculty (who often ought to be more involved; I always liked talking with donors as a faculty member; I’m told it is rare that faculty are really involved in development in schools), the students (around whom everything needs to revolve).  The role of the head of school seems to vary a lot in terms of what role we play in fundraising.  I’ve always enjoyed this part of my job, especially as executive director of the Berkman Center, since I just thought about it as talking with smart people about work that I’m excited about.  I realize it can be hard work, but it’s rewarding and think it will be a great way to channel passion about the mission of the school.

* Trusting Relationship with the School’s Staff.  The executive director, Dallas Joseph, and board chair, Jeff Shields, of the National Business Officers Association (NBOA) came to talk about the importance of the business officer’s role in the success of a school.  I spoke at NBOA’s annual symposium a few years ago (about Born Digital), and I was highly impressed by the organization and its members.  So I’ve been looking forward to this session.  The speakers emphasized the importance of a trusting relationship between the head of school and the CFO/business officer.  That seems, of course, quite right.  It occurs to me that much of the messaging from this camp is about building trusting relationships with staff (and faculty and other constituencies) across the school, starting from the very beginning.  Simple and obvious, but worth focusing on.

* A First Year as Head of School.  Vince Watchorn, who just recently completed his first year as head of Providence Country Day, took us through his own experiences and teed up what one can expect in the first year.  The most important thing (and I agree with this, ex ante), he says, is to spend the first year devoted to observing, to listening, and to learning from what one takes in.  He talked also about helping to lead a conversation, to inspire other people to talk in public about big, important topics that may not have been discussed recently at the school.   He also talked very helpfully about the balance between the internal and external demands of the job.  It is crucial to balance the two, but achieving that balance is always a challenge — in the first year and throughout one’s time as head of school.  In Vince’s case, he toggled between an internal focus and an external focus during different periods during the year as a way to manage both demands.  Everything is connected, as in a complex system, Vince argues (which I also agree with; see Interop, which Urs Gasser and I just published.)  One nice nugget: in response to a question from my friend Zachary Lehman, new head at the Hill School (who is going to be completely amazing), Vince said that “the best new traditions are old traditions that have been forgotten.”

New Heads of School Institute (Part I)

Last week was my first as head of school at Phillips Academy, Andover.  This week, I’m off campus with about 70 (yes, to my surprise: seven-zero) newly minted heads of independent schools for an institute (I am thinking about it as “camp” for new heads) hosted by the NAIS.  It’s very well-organized and well-staffed — and is a useful time to reflect on this new role we’re all taking on.

Over the course of the week, I’ll update this blog entry with the high-level points that seem to gain the traction among members of the group and which seem highly relevant to me.  The things I’ll pull out from the conversations and post here may not be the most important to everyone at the institute, but rather the topics that are most useful (selfishly) to me as I think about leading Andover.  I will try to limit myself to no more than one topic per session, lest the blog post get too long; they’re not in order of importance, necessarily, but in order of the sessions at the institute.  And I’m live-blogging as sessions go, so please excuse typos and shorthand.  Other participants would no doubt come up with quite a different list.

*  Assessment.  No small question: How do we define, measure, and achieve success as a school?  In the opening session, led by NAIS president Pat Bassett (blog, @Pat Bassett on Twitter), part of the discussion centered around ways of assessing the success of a school.  There seems to be little disagreement with the core premise: it should be child-centered.  The primary definition of success for a school should be how well the kids are prepared to succeed, in a broad range of ways (academically but also ethically, socially/emotionally, artistically, athletically, and so forth), after they graduate.  Also, it seems straightforward that assessment should be “formative” rather than “normative.”  How do we assess these varying kinds of “success” of, and for, our kids?  (I am a believer in Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences theory and framework, FWIW.)  For instance, some people think we should go beyond grades and test scores and college admissions (as important as those things are, in their way), and instead should look to alternate modes of assessment.  One suggestion we discussed: should we be creating a digital portfolio for our kids from pre-school through the end of their time in school?  A related topic: a good portfolio would be far from standardized, but rather student-driven — which would cut against ease of analysis across large numbers of applications.  This general topic of assessment is one of enormous interest to me; there’s an important national (and, in fact, global) conversation on this topic that we should all be a part of.  I’ll be staying in touch, for instance, with the work of my former colleagues at HILT, who are doing great things in this area in higher ed.  I’m also puzzling about how success can relate also to kids enjoying and benefitting from their time at Andover while they are there — not just in the sense of “preparing” for what comes afterwards.

*  Data can be our friend.  There’s a growing movement in the education field, including in secondary education, toward using data more effectively than we’ve done in the past.  (This second point, on data, is related to the first, with respect to assessment, but it is also more capacious.)  Some schools report that there’s a basic commitment to using data to drive a certain level of accountability.  That’s crucial, as a matter of basic management and governance.  More broadly we ought to strive for greater sophistication with respect to how we analyze data (it’s not just about the collection and collation of data, but about what we do with it, what kinds of decisions we make); how we think about both qualitative and quantitative sources of data; and how we incorporate and understand data from other fields (say, the increasingly important and revealing science of learning).

*  Diversity and Inclusiveness.  Every school has its own story, and (one hopes) its own pathway, toward becoming genuinely diverse and inclusive.  These issues are essential for every school to acknowledge, understand, and ultimately get right.  Diversity and inclusiveness relate directly to access — access to success at the school, in education more extensively, and in professional and personal life.  The NAIS board has put in place a set of new “principles of good practice for equity and justice.”  The presenter, Gene Batiste, VP at NAIS (see a brief speech of his here), notes that these new principles serve to support the diversity practitioners in schools by putting the responsibility of diversity and inclusiveness work in the ambit of heads of school and trustees.  As a side note, related to this and other points: each of the institute’s teachers is emphasizing the importance of modeling on the part of the head of school, which is true in the context of inclusiveness as well.  For Andover, as a need-blind school, this work is especially crucial.  In my mind, the work around access, equity, and justice are directly about making good on the promise of the school’s commitment to need-blind admissions.  I am extremely eager to work on these issues with the very strong team at Andover.

* Governance.  I’m especially interested in issues of governance and how decisions are made at schools.  That might have something to do with being a lawyer by training.  The faculty member leading this session, Reveta Bowers, the head of school at the Center for Early Education at West Hollywood, CA, is completely amazing and inspiring.  She’s been a head of school for 42 years, and that’s the least amazing thing about her.  Reveta led a captivating discussion about the governance of schools, focused initially on the relationship between the head of school and the Board of Trustees.  There’s a wide range of board sizes, cultures, and issues in the room of 70 of us, but many commonalities, too, across these differences. The key shared topic is the distinction between governance (the role of the Board) and management (the role of the head of school and her/his team) — and what that means.  Newly minted heads of school spent the session at the front of our seats throughout her presentation.

* Messaging and Social Media.  If you ever have the chance to take a workshop by Andy Watson, (very experienced) head of school at Albuquerque Academy, do it!  (Find him @atwatson2 on Twitter.)  He’s a great teacher — of writing and otherwise.  We also got a bit into social media strategy by the end of the session.  Most schools seem to agree: no friending of current students on Facebook, but Twitter following back and forth is fine.  Seems about right to me, and is consistent with my past practice at HLS.

Book Experiment #2: Interop

Urs Gasser and I began a research project in 2005 to study Interoperability (Interop, for short). Our gameplan was to answer a straightforward question: do higher levels of interoperability lead to increased innovation? A few years and many case studies later, we had found a general correlation between more interop and more innovation in the context of information technologies.

But we also had discovered a few order things that we had not expected. We found that we were seeing interop stories everywhere we looked. Interop seemed to matter outside of the IT context, too. We also found that people in a wide range of fields had also been thinking about interop: those who care about economics, computer science, systems theory, complexity theory, and so forth. We decided that there might be a book project that could build from the base of our research into those original case studies.

As we began to write up the longer-form argument, we agreed also to experiment with the format of the book, as we had done in the context of Born Digital, Intellectual Property Strategy, and other book projects. The premise here, with Interop, (now, in fact, published as a book, by Basic Books) is to present the book along with a rich set of case studies, available freely online, that have served as the raw data for the analysis and theory we present in the book version. Our early case studies on digital music, digital identity, and mash ups in the social web were the first three. Over the next few years, we worked with a strong team of interns, as always spread across two research centers (the Berkman Center at Harvard in the US and the FIR ate the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland), to produce several more. These new case studies, also published freely online, range more broadly.

Over the next few weeks, we will roll out pointers, from our blogs, to these online case studies about interop. They can be read as standalone pieces or, better yet, as a companion to the Interop book itself. We look forward to your feedback.

Harvard Initiative on Learning and Teaching: Kick-Off

Today is the kick-off for the brand-new Harvard Initiative on Learning and Teaching (HILT).  This is an extraordinary day at Harvard, part symposium and part working session to get HILT underway in earnest.  The background: President Drew Faust and two of the university’s most loyal friends, Rita and Gustave Hauser, dreamed up a major new university-wide initiative to focus on the science and practice of learning and teaching.  The Hausers gave $40 million to make the initiative’s launch possible.

The symposium opens with a welcome from President Faust and Erin Driver-Linn, the director of HILT, who describe the ideas behind HILT and its early activities, including a new grant program for novel learning and teaching projects.  The first keynote session is on the science of learning.  The speakers are extraordinary: the moderator is Mahzarin Banaji (Harvard professor of psychology with a deep interest in learning), and the presenters are Carl Wieman (a prof in the past, and now in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and a Nobel Prize winner), Roddy Roediger (one of the giants of understanding learning and measuring learning), and Steve Pinker (Harvard College Professor in psychology and best-selling author, of The Language Instinct and many other wonderful books).  The presenters have been saying much too much to blog here effectively, so I’ll just go with one insight I took away from each speaker’s remarks:

- Banaji: many of our broadly-held myths about learning and teaching are wrong.  Before we lurch ahead with innovative teaching activities, we need to “unlearn” our mistaken assumptions and ground new efforts in the increasingly helpful science of learning.

- Wieman: experimental modes of teaching in science, even by less experienced teachers, are demonstrably more effective at teaching material to undergraduates than the classic lecture format, even when taught by a more senior professor with positive student evaluations;

- Roediger: testing helps with learning.  It’s much better to have students write, present, and take tests than to have them read and re-read material.  Performance (measured, say, as recall a few days later) is greatly improved based on the amount of testing (practicing retrieval of material) done previously.  This dynamic is known as the retrieval practice effect.  (Also: news alert for students: cramming works!  It is possible to improve recall over short periods by intense studying right before an exam.  But that won’t mean you can retrieve the information later; you won’t, unless you’ve been repeatedly tested.)

- Pinker: we know that students may not remember the particular substance that we teach them in universities, but we do expect that they will learn certain analytical skills.  We also hope they might have learned to write.  As wonderful as The Elements of Style is, it should not be the basis for teaching writing today, Pinker argues.  It is a charming book, but it is hard to come away with much useful advice (other than “omit needless words,” which Pinker agrees is highly worthy).  Grammar is in fact cool, Pinker says, involving brain-work.  We should teach writing as “convert[…] a network of ideas into a linear string of words,” which can mean sometimes selecting the passive voice instead of the active, for instance.  “It’s hard to know what it is like for someone else not to know something that you know.”  This is the primary contributor both to bad writing and bad teaching.

(I am moderating the second session, soon to begin.)

Book Experiment #1: Intellectual Property Strategy as an iPad App (or, reply to Cody Brown)

With big thanks to MIT Press and a terrific group of colleagues, I’m delighted to report that the iPad app version of my new book, Intellectual Property Strategy, is now approved and available in the App Store.  (To find it, click here or search on “Intellectual Property Strategy” within the App Store on your iPad.)

The book is now available in multiple formats, several of which are conventional and one of which is experimental.  First, Intellectual Property Strategy is available as an ordinary, printed text which can be read without a computing device or electricity.  I would guess that this traditional form of the book may well be the primary way that most readers will interact with it.  The printed book is a wonderful technology, which still works extremely well for most people in most instances.  Second, the book can be read in its Kindle edition, which is little more — at this stage — than a digital form of the printed book.  (As an aside: I’ve been having a great time reading on the Kindle app on my iPad and then sharing little phrases on Twitter, Facebook, and Amazon.com.  These social features are a lot of fun — and represent the best Kindle development to date, in my view.)  Third, on the MIT Press web page for the book, a reader can find a few chapters freely available plus additional resources, which can be accessed for free.  These additional resources take the form of a series of in-depth case studies and videos of Intellectual Property experts, who comment on issues that I address in the book.  There is nothing all that experimental about these first three versions of the book.

The iPad app is the experimental form.   When I was about half-way through the book-writing process (with help from my great editor Marguerite Avery and library colleague June Casey), 21-year-old Cody Brown published a post in TechCrunch.  “Dear Authors,” Cody began, by way of the title, “your next book should be an app, not an iBook.”  I’d had a similar thought: what if we thought about this book as an application, rather than a traditional book.  What could be different?  Around this same time, I also bought NONOBJECT, another iPad app published by MIT Press, and it got me thinking about the possibilities.

Well, a fair amount is different.  In the iPad app version, a reader can use a series of cool navigation features that Aaron Zinman, the creative app developer who built it, dreamed up and coded into the app.  The book has many more links than a first-generation iBook/eBook.  The links take you to three types of places: 1) within the book itself, to the glossary and back, for instance; 2) with the extended-play version of the book, such as the case studies, which don’t appear in the printed book; and 3) out to the open web, where I link out to web sites and other resources.  If a reader follows a link out to the open web, then they are free to keep going, much as a web surfer would.  I hope they’d return to my primary text, but even if they don’t, this is a risk worth running, in my view.

What’s most “different” about the iPad app version of the book is that it has embedded in it a series of videos.  I interviewed a group of scholars who know a great deal about IP — much more than me, in the aggregate, and individually, too — and recorded the interviews on video.  With the help of colleagues, I’ve included snippets of these videos into the text of the book.  That way, a reader can hear from scholars other than me about the issues I’m taking up in the text as they are reading through it.  These video snippets can also lead the reader to the longer forms of the interviews, as long as 30 minutes, if they’d like.

Back to Cody Brown’s TechCrunch piece.  This iPad app takes the book form from A -> C, not A -> M, much less A -> Z.  There’s much more that one could do, with non-linear pathways through the text, the gamelike qualities that Cody suggests, the ability to edit the primary text.  These are still possible, left on the table for another experiment.  I look forward to working on some of these next-stage experiments in future projects.

A special note to libraries, and especially those interested in digital preservation: this iPad app version of the book leads to a curious question about preservation.  Libraries are great at preserving the physical forms of books.  Libraries are beginning to get smart about preserving simple digital formats — flat html files, for instance, and audio and video files.  But an iPad app?  In its integrated form, the iPad app is a tricky thing to preserve, I’d guess.  If Cody Brown’s challenge (and other similar thinking) leads to more experimentation, our preservation activities will have to get creative very quickly or we will lose the record of these early efforts.  Puts me in mind of the challenge to librarians posed by Nicholson Baker in his controversial book, Doublefold, along similar lines — only more than a decade ago.  How might we, as libraries, partner with Apple, for instance, to ensure that there’s a preservation process for these books?  Or with Internet Archive, which has done such an amazing job with the open web itself?

Also: I call this post “Book Experiment #1,” not because others haven’t experimented already in much more profound ways, but only because I’ve planned out two more posts to come — Book Experiments #2 and #3, to come shortly on this blog.

SOPA and our 2010 Circumvention Study

Daniel Castro of The Information Technology  & Innovation Fund recently published a paper supporting the Stop Online Privacy Act (SOPA) currently being debated in congress.  In that report, he claims that research performed by us supports the domain name system (DNS) filtering mechanisms mandated by SOPA.  This claim is a distortion of our work.  We disagree with the use of our study to make the point that DNS-based Internet filtering works and that we should therefore use it as a means of stopping websites from distributing copyrighted content.  The data we collected answer a completely different set of questions in a completely different context.

Among other provisions that seek to control the sharing of copyrighted material on the Internet, SOPA, if enacted, would call upon the U.S. government to require that Internet service providers remove from their DNS servers the names of any sites that either infringe copyright directly or merely “facilitate” copyright infringement.  So, for example, the government could require that ISPs remove the name “twitter.com” from their DNS servers if twitter.com was not being sufficiently aggressive in preventing its users from tweeting information about places to download copyrighted materials.  This practice is known as DNS filtering.  DNS filtering is one of the most common modes of Internet-based censorship.  As we and our collaborators in the OpenNet Initiative have shown over the past decade, practices of this sort are used extensively in autocratic countries, including China and Iran, to prevent access to a range of sites offensive to the governments of those countries.

Opponents of SOPA have argued that the DNS filtering, even though it will have a number of harmful effects on the technical and political structure of the Internet, will not be effective in preventing users from accessing the blocked sites.  Mr. Castro cites our research as evidence that SOPA’s mandate to filter DNS will be effective.  He quotes our finding that at most 3% of users in certain countries that substantially filter the Internet use circumvention tools and asserts that “presumably the desire for access to essential political, historical, and cultural information is at least equal to, if not significantly stronger than, the desire to watch a movie without paying for it. Yet only a small fraction of Internet users employ circumvention tools to access blocked information, in part because many users simply lack the skills or desire to find, learn and use these tools.”

In our report, we looked at three sets of censorship circumvention tools: complex, client-based tools like Tor; paid VPNs; and web proxies.  We estimated usage of those three classes of tools. We used reports from the client tool developers, a survey to gather usage data from VPN operators and used data from Google Analytics to estimate usage of web proxy tools. Counting all three classes of tools, we estimated as many as 19 million users a month of circumvention tools. Given the large number of users in China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and other states where filtering is endemic, this represents a fairly small percentage of internet users in those countries; 19 million people represents about 3% of the users in countries where internet filtering is pervasive.  We actually believe that 3% figure is high, as some of the tools we study are used by users in open societies to evade corporate or university firewalls, not just to evade government censorship.

We stand behind the findings in our study (with reservations that we detail in the paper), but we disagree with the way that Mr. Castro applies our findings to the SOPA debate.  His presumption that people will work as hard or harder to access political content than they do to access entertainment content deeply misunderstands how and why most people use the internet.  Far more users in open societies use the Internet for entertainment than for political purposes; it is unreasonable to assume different behaviors in closed societies. Our research offers the depressing conclusion that comparatively few users are seeking blocked political information and suggests that the governments most successful in blocking political content ensure that entertainment and social media content is widely available online precisely because users get much more upset about blocking the ability watch movies than they do about blocking specific pieces of political content.

Rather than comparing usage of circumvention tools in closed societies to predict the activities of a given userbase, Mr. Castro would do better to consider the massive userbase of tools like bit torrent clients, which would make for a far cleaner analogy to the problem at hand.  Likewise, the long line of very popular peer-to-peer sharing tools that have been incrementally designed to circumvent the technical and political measures used to prevent sharing copyrighted materials are a stronger analogy than our study of users in authoritarian regimes seeking to access political content.

Second, our research has consistently shown that those who really wish to evade Internet filters can do so with relatively little effort.  The problem is that these activities can be very dangerous in certain regimes.  Even though our research shows that relatively few people in autocratic countries use circumvention tools, this does not mean that circumvention tools are not crucial to the dissident communities in those countries.  19 million people is not large in relation to the population of the Internet, but it is still a lot of people absolutely who have freer access to the Internet through the tools.  We personally know many people in autocratic countries for whom these tools provide a crucial (though not perfect) layer of security for their activist work.  Those people would be at much greater risk than they already are without access to the tools, but in addition to mandating DNS filtering, SOPA would make many circumvention tools illegal.  The single biggest funder of circumvention tools has been and remains the U.S. government, precisely because of the role the tools play in online activism.  It would be highly counter-productive for the U.S. government to both fund and outlaw the same set of tools.

Finally, our decade-long study of Internet filtering and circumvention has documented the many problems associated with Internet filtering, not its overall effectiveness.  DNS filtering is by necessity either overbroad or underbroad; it either blocks too much or too little.  Content on the Internet changes its place and nature rapidly, and DNS filtering is ineffective when it comes to keeping up with it.  Worse, especially from a First Amendment perspective, DNS filtering ends up blocking access to enormous amounts of perfectly lawful information.  We strongly resist the claim that our research, and that of our collaborators, makes the case in favor of DNS-based Internet filtering.

Links:

Mr. Castro’s report may be found here:

http://www.itif.org/publications/pipasopa-responding-critics-and-finding-path-forward

with the reference to our work on p. 8.

The study that is being misused by Mr. Castro is here:

http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/publications/2010/Circumvention_Tool_Usage.

The  findings of our decade-long studies are documented in three books, published MIT Press and available freely online in their entirety at:

http://access.opennet.net/

- Rob Faris, John Palfrey, Hal Roberts, Jill York, and Ethan Zuckerman

Bibliotheca Class Final Projects Presentations

We had a final session of our Bibliotheca class today at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, which I am co-teaching with Jeffrey Schnapp. We used the time to explore the final projects of each of the students, some alone and some in groups.  As a group, they are terrific, ranging from proposals to redesign and reuse particular library spaces (the Ashland (MA) Public Library, to expose more knowledge about the Nyanza Superfund site in the town, as well as familiar Harvard spaces, including the Loeb Library and the Lamont Library) to proposals for how RFIDs and wayfinding on mobile devices can improve the learning experience in and around libraries.

Two take-aways from today:

1) Process/Pedagogy: I’ve loved the porousness of this class.  One of the expert reviewers today of the student projects was Kelly Miller, director of teaching and learning services for the 26,000-student-serving libraries at UCLA and recent CLIR fellow.  Kelly read an earlier blog post I wrote about the class, said she’s be willing to visit, and flew across the country to participate in class.  Others came from various corners of the Harvard Library staff, including my own home (the Harvard Law School Library — especially Jeff Goldenson, who jumped into the class with both feet, including co-producing a final presentation with a student in the class).  The conversation has been richer for the diverse participation and willingness of the students to engage with an expansive group of experts who have come in and out of the classroom space and time.  Ann Whiteside and her team at the Loeb Library have been very generous with their space and their insights, as well; it’s been fun to be teaching in an embedded way in the physical space of a forward-looking library.

2) Substance: The projects have mostly touched on the connection between the physical and virtual, one way or another.  (To be clear: some wonderful and promising projects, including proposals for new types of carrels and text-based explication of the meaning of libraries from hundreds of years ago in Europe, didn’t take up the virtual much at all.)  One of the things the students helped me to see, in new and dynamic ways, is the connectivity, not the separateness, of the two.  It’s crucial, I believe, to see the virtual and the physical as deeply and meaningfully connected.  Several projects considered how the physical might be integrated into the virtual; others went the other way around, and looked at how the virtual experience might connect into the physical in libraries.  We’ve come a long way, I think, in libraries in a short time in this way.  There’s no good case being made for seeing digital libraries as separate from the physical.  Our users do not distinguish much between these environments, and we as those who work in, and design, libraries, shouldn’t either.  Strength and insight comes from deep integration between the two.

I was equally struck by what a nice job the students did in doing homework about the background of the communities involved.  One project considers the public library concept in particular developing countries contexts in Africa; others considered towns and cities in the United States and elsewhere around the world.  The ideas by these design and architecture (and other graduate) students were well-grounded in not just the philosophy and history behind libraries, but also the important community contexts for which they’ve been designing.  It’s very heartening, and speaks well of the GSD’s training program.

William Rawn Associates, Architects come to Bibliotheca Class (as do David Lamberth, Matthew Sheehy, and Michael Barker)

We are just thrilled to have William Rawn and his colleague Cliff Gayley of William Rawn Associates in our Bibliotheca class (which I’m co-teaching with Jeffrey Schnapp) at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design this morning.  They’ve designed the Cambridge Public Library’s main building, as well as the Rochester Public Library.  They are also discussing two branch library designs: Mattapan Branch and the East Boston Branch of the Boston Public Library.  (These live-blog notes of class are bound to be rough.  The conversation brings together practitioners from design, architecture, and library sciences with faculty and students.)

Cliff starts with the premise that physical space in libraries remains important, even in a digital era.  The theme of democracy is important to them.  They cite the grandeur of the Boston and New York Publics; the loveliness, but aloofness and apartness, of the H. H. Richardson libraries; and the classic American image of the Carnegie libraries as antecedents.

In working on the Cambridge Public Library project, they give great credit to Susan Flannery, the Cambridge city librarian, for teaching them and providing inspiration for the design. The space, Susan told the architects, is that the library must be clearly a “library” as soon as you walk in, with books as an organizing force in what you see as soon as you walk in.  She wanted to make the library a “town common.”  They have circulated 1,000,000 books in two years.  In a city of 100,000 people, that means 5 books a year.  The insights from visionary librarians are crucial to successful design, they argued.  They also described the helpfulness of the 50 meetings that they conducted in Cambridge, which was especially extensive as such processes go.  An open structure, with reading spaces along the first floor, were important aspects of the design.

In describing the Mattapan branch library of Boston, Bill Rawn echoed the democratic themes they hit earlier in the conversation.  He called the building “an outpost of learning and opportunity in Mattapan.”  The size is about 20,000 square feet.  The kids and young adults in the building are behind glass that allows for visibility and openness, but also allows them to make some noise.  The young adult section was designed to be the biggest of the 26 branch libraries in Boston.  “Robust technology and fun furniture” with “very flexible” spaces including “lots of seating” in the young adult areas were important.  With leaner staffing in public libraries, the circulation desk needed to allow for good sight lines throughout the building.  They’ve also designed a teleconferencing room into the Mattapan branch.

They also described the Rochester Public Library, embedded in the heart of the city as a “civic space,” and the East Boston branch library (smaller than Mattapan: 14,000 – 15,000 square feet), near Logan Airport.  In both of these instances, they talked about the importance of the discussion as to where the site would be.  Boston Public Librarian Amy Ryan’s vision for the public library spaces were very open and transparent, with noisier areas behind glass for kids and others who wish to be less contemplative while there.

Gayley and Rawn described a series of principles that they brought to each of these designs.  Democratic access to information; openness and transparency; the story of immigrants and libraries as places of opportunity (now, expressed in part through access to technology); and the importance of local politics all popped up as key themes throughout the session.  I wish I had caught them all verbatim as they went by; I’ll try to get the slides and post them somewhere, if we can.

Rawn: “we think architecture students are not taught to listen as well as they might be.”  The projects tend to come out of the student’s head — which is great for training in design.  Listening is about hearing from the users (library patrons) as well as the representatives of the clients (the librarians and politicians, in public library projects).

Schnapp: the iterative, consultative process is new to our era.  The big New York and Boston Public Libraries, for instance, were about patrician donors and design processes that were closed.  The Cambridge Public Library process couldn’t be more different than the patrician approach.  (Bill Rawn mentioned how much he loves the interior of the NYPL main building, even though it is antithetical to his approach and ideals in many respects.)

Schnapp also asks about the natural light that appears to be an emphasis across all the examples they showed.  We had a good back-and-forth about the value of natural light today to patrons in these spaces, but also the challenges associated with using natural light while reading materials through technological devices.

I happen to love the new Cambridge Public Library’s main branch.  It’s one of my favorite public spaces in the world.  We’re lucky to have it in our backyard.

* * *

The second half of class, we have three Harvard insiders with us: Prof. David Lamberth (former chair of the Library Implementation Work Group, charged with redesigning the library system at Harvard); Mike Barker (my completely amazing former colleague at HLS Library, now in the central Harvard Library office); and Matthew Sheehy (head of access services and our off-site depository).  They are teeing up the hard problems of space in the Harvard Library transition.

They put on the table a big idea.  Think about the collection as one collection at Harvard and the physical spaces as one physical space, in principle contiguous.  When you bring back a book, for instance, it just goes where it goes, with barcode and associated RFID and stays where it is returned.  Instead, focus our efforts on building perfect shelves for those things that need to be curated in that fashion.  Focus our organizational conceptual efforts on building perfect Shakespeare shelves, and move other materials around, and quit investing in getting everything to its current shelves.  There would have to be lots of digital investment: scanning of tables of contents, development of online finding systems (like StackView/ShelfLife); and other innovations that would make everything findable.  How much of this material do we really need to have, on campus, in a local library, for our current constituencies?  One effect would be to free up a lot of space into the libraries, which might attract faculty into the renovated, freed-up spaces.

A clarification from Lamberth: the “perfect shelves” should not be fixed.  They should be ad hoc and recreated quickly on the fly.  Various things will be more popular at certain moments, causing some issues of priority; but these are practical issues, not that difficult to solve (other than the politics).  He’s not against classification.  It’s just that bar codes would, in his design, replace the old “shelf lists.”  Mike Barker clarifies that students make “perfect shelves” all the time: it’s what they do in carrels, he says.

A great question from the audience: if that idea is right, then you are rejecting the idea of buying to collect and moving to just-in-time, not just-in-case, right?  Lamberth: it depends.  Collection development used to be done by faculty members in consultation with bibliographers, Lamberth said, in a way that is no longer true.  The buying decisions today are made by librarians on their own.  The obscure materials we need to invest in and collect for the long term; the things sold in Amazon we should not.  (One bibliographer: much of what Lamberth says is true, but we need to avoid having every academic library buying the same materials.  There are still may materials that are not as available as we’d like, or kept in as good conditions that we could here, even imperfectly.)

David W.: wouldn’t we want to make digital versions of those privileged perfect shelves?  The problem is mostly one of expense.  We can’t spend so much on the present at the expense of one century or two centuries from now, says Lamberth.

Intellectual Property Strategy: Book Launch

I’m excited to be launching a new book, Intellectual Property Strategy, tonight at Harvard Law School.  (If you’re in Cambridge, MA, USA, please feel free to come by Austin Hall East at HLS at 6:00 pm this evening for the event and a reception thereafter or tune into the webcast.)

The discussion tonight will cover two bases: first, the substance of the book and second, the format of this book, and possibly others, into the future.

On the substance of this book, I will make a few claims.  The basic claim is extremely simple: organizations should see intellectual property as a core asset class rather than as a sword and a shield, as the traditional mantra would have it.  I argue also that IP strategies should be flexible; geared toward creating freedom of action; and inclined toward openness where possible, at least in the information technology field.  These basic claims are geared both toward for-profit and non-profit firms.  There’s a chapter in the book devoted to the special case of the non-profit, which often needs an IP strategy just as much as for-profit firms do.  The flexible use of IP can support the missions of non-profits in important, distinct ways.

- The smartphone OS wars are the most obvious example of how IP matters.  It’s big business for huge firms.  The acquisition by Google of Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion (thanks, SJ, for the typo-catching) in cash in August, 2012.  The hundreds of millions of dollars paid to Intellectual Ventures as licenses stand for another example of the growing importance in commerce of this field of law.  The multi-billion-dollar markets for the licensing of trademarks and patents in a broad range of fields is yet another.  These examples make the case for treating IP as an asset class.  And the work on IP strategy should be seen as core to the work of the organization, not something to be left only to lawyers outside the firm.

- There is a strong connection between our work in youth and media and the matter of intellectual property strategy.  We know that youth attitudes toward intellectual property are shifting rapidly over time.  The recent passage of the America Invents Act of 2011 points to the dynamism of the space.  These changes demonstrate the need for flexibility in IP strategy over time.

- The use of IP in libraries and museums is a third important case.  I’ve been working actively in the field of libraries, including service as director of the HLS Library and chairing the work to develop a Digital Public Library of America, over the past several years.  In the case of libraries, the question of how much to digitize of our collections is an important problem.  My view is that the digitization, contextualization, and free distribution of our library holdings is a way to use IP as a way to fulfill the specific mission of a non-profit that is devoted to access to knowledge.

I especially am grateful to colleagues Terry Fisher, Eric von Hippel, Lawrence Lessig, Phil Malone, Jonathan Zittrain, who will respond to the book and presentation.  Also, the book project would be nowhere near as much fun, or as good, without the partnership of June Casey, my colleague in the Harvard Law School Library, who has been nothing short of extraordinary.  And Michelle Pearse, Amar Ashar, and their teams have been wonderful in setting up this event.  It’s an amazing group of colleagues!

On the topic of the format, I am excited to talk about multiple versions of the book.  1) There is, of course, the traditional form of the book that someone can touch, pick up, and read in the ordinary way.  There’s also the digital form of that same book, which can be rendered on a Kindle or an iPad, which gives more or less the same experience.  2) There’s a form of the book that is like an Extended Play album, or a DVD that has “extras” at the end.  On the MIT Press web site, one can access video interviews and a series of case studies, for instance, which expand on the argument of the book.  See, for instance, the videos here on the MIT Press web site.

And 3), most experimentally, I have been working with a great team on a distinct version of the book that functions as an iPad application.  The idea is to embed these case studies and videos directly into the text of the main form of the book.  The iPad app version allows for many different ways through the text; connections to the open web; and loads of fun and interesting embedded links.  The idea is to rethink the format of the eBook from the ground up, to add in born-digital elements by design rather than the equivalent of putting up a PDF into an e-reader format.  It’s still in beta mode, but we will demo it tonight.

This short book is part of the MIT Press Essential Knowledge series.  It’s been fun to work with Margy Avery and her team at MIT Press on this experimental project.

Please join us if you are free!