Khan Academy meets Phillips Academy

Sal KhanSal Khan and his traveling team of six teachers and developers from Khan Academy are on campus at Phillips Academy this morning.  We are delighted to welcome them to a special faculty meeting.  We are pleased to welcome friends from the Andover public schools ( Superintendent Marinel McGrath and AHS Principal Christopher Lord), the Lawrence public schools, and the Pike School as well.

Sal tells the story of being a hedge fund analyst who began by making short videos to help teach a young family member, a cousin in Louisiana who was having a hard time with unit conversions (gallons to ounces).  They worked together on mathematics tutoring by speakerphone and Yahoo! Instant Messenger.  That grew into videos and exercises.  Today, there have been 85 million users to date.  Each month, there are 6 million unique users on the Khan Academy site.  In total, there have been 260 million lessons delivered and over 1 billion problems answered on the related exercises.

This year, we have been exploring the professional development theme of Connected Learning at Phillips Academy.  We’ve heard from Mimi Ito, Katie Salen, a group working on the Amplify tablet, and others.  Sal Khan has already been most generous with us, joining a class I taught in winter (on hacking) by Skype and also Skyping with a group of faculty and administrators in preparation for this visit.  Sal and his team are here at a special faculty meeting, the last in this series for the year, and then will be with a class of students in chemistry and a class of students in math.  The day will end with what I expect may be a mob of students in the Mural Room of our dining hall, Paresky Commons.

At a minimum, it is fascinating to hear his story first hand.  The narrative of Ann Doerr sending first a $10,000 check, then meeting him at an Indian buffet, then sending a $100,000 wire is a great Silicon Valley tale of entrepreneurship and the importance of foresight and angel capital.  There’s then the chapter of Bill Gates and Walter Isaacson on stage at the Aspen Ideas Festival talking about “this new site” Khan Academy.  I am a fan of Sal’s new book, The One World School House, and have used his videos and exercises in classes that I’ve taught and with my own kids to help explain topics that I don’t know much about.

We are exploring more than the minimum.  Could we imagine what would happen if Phillips Academy teachers and students were working in real partnership with Khan Academy?  As they develop the interactive side of Khan Academy, and especially assessments in fields like math and science (and many more), we might be able to help.  As Sal tells us, the videos are helpful, but they are not the focal point — that should be the problem-solving, the exercises, the interaction.  At Phillips Academy, our faculty has been at this teaching-and-learning thing for 235 years; the faculty members are not that old, but as a group, are deeply experienced and at the top of their game.  They teach in a range of fields that is much broader than what is currently offered, well anyway, through the web — mostly, in the arts and humanities, which have not been the focus in the digitally-mediated education world (yet). The faculty at Phillips Academy (and, I suspect, our peer schools here in the Merrimack Valley of Massachusetts) also know that we don’t know everything.  And there’s a very positive sense that we need to keep learning and exploring new modes of teaching.  Sal Khan and his team certainly know some things we don’t about reaching lots of people through their digital teaching methods.

Questions from the faculty and students ranged from math and science teachers asking hard questions about what the implications of these forms of teaching might be to humanities and arts teachers asking if there is any implication of this type of learning for their fields.  It’s plain that a great, rich education — at any level — is about many different forms of learning in many different fields, including language, culture, music, visual arts, athletics, and so forth.  A great education has a lot to do with the face-to-face experience of students and adults in the same physical spaces.

We are talking today about what truly blended and connected learning might look like — taking advantage of the best of residential education and the best of digitally-mediated experiences, and mitigating the problems/limitations associated with both.  Even those of us who are the most enthusiastic about the reach and implications of the digital revolution for education — and I count myself in that number — should recognize the value of the residential, the social-emotional, the expressive, the experiential, and many other aspects of learning that are (today, anyway) experienced in the analog world.

Sal also offers advice for students in what he calls “big brother” mode.  We are discussing what impresses Sal and his colleagues when they are hiring new staff: they are impressed by what students have *made*.  “The more artifacts that you can create over the course of your life,” Sal said, “the better off you’ll be when it comes to getting hired.”  The idea of building a digital portfolio, badging, and other artifact-creation (how about a painting?) is one way to respond to this challenge.  Another bit of advice from Sal: don’t think of “test prep” as a dirty word.  Consider it a chance to master the skills and information that matter in the course of your education.

It’s an exciting moment in education.  At Phillips Academy, we are devoted to seizing it.  This session in our auditorium and classrooms this morning is a great starting point.  It’s an electric morning here in Andover.

Claude Steele’s Whistling Vivaldi: And Other Clues to How Stereoptypes Affect Us

Tonight in the faculty meeting at Phillips Academy, we will discuss Claude Steele’s Whistling Vivaldi.  (Steele is a distinguished social psychologist; former provost of Columbia; now dean of education at Stanford.)  It’s an exceptionally good book on many levels, assigned to the full faculty by the Access to Success working group at Andover.  The social science he presents about stereotype threat is deep and revealing; the personal narratives are compelling; and the ideas for concrete action at schools are constructive.

Steele’s book should be required reading for anyone who works in a school.  More broadly, anyone who cares about the present and future of American democracy should read it.  The topics that he takes up — the risks associated with stereotype threat and implications for education, politics, and identity — belong at the top of the list of important issues that we face as a country.

It seems fitting to be having this conversation tonight, on the 50th anniversary of James Meredith’s registration at Ole Miss.  Yesterday’s lead story in the New York Times (by Adam Liptak) also highlighted the important new challenge to affirmative action that the United States Supreme Court will hear this term.  (From the story: “On Oct. 10, the court will hear Fisher v. University of Texas, No. 11-345, a major challenge to affirmative action in higher education.”) It’s unfortunate that we are still struggling at the level of admissions of diverse communities; the discussion should be much further along than it is today.

Instead of arguing about the rules for admissions and whether our campuses should be truly diverse in the first place, the conversation should be about what schools should do once we have highly diverse communities. This issue is crucial to the future of Andover and our educational program.  It’s not enough to admit students from a broad range of backgrounds; it’s essential that we are intentional and effective about how we enable all students to succeed and enjoy their time at schools, including but certainly not limited to Andover.

(Book page for Claude Steele, Whistling Vivaldi)

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.

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!

Susan Rabiner, Thinking Like Your Editor

As I’ve been gearing up to write a new book, I’ve been thinking about how to do it better this time — continuous improvement and all that.  Some fairly obvious observations are on my mind: stronger argument, a more compelling narrative, less repetitive, probably shorter, and one big-picture idea,* below the rest of the post.

With these thoughts of self-improvement in mind, I’ve turned to the pros to see what they have to say, and found a wonder of a book.  It’s by former Basic Books editorial director-turned-agent, Susan Rabiner (you can follow her on Twitter, as I do; perhaps that will encourage her to Tweet more if we do!).  I heard Ms. Rabiner speak to a group of faculty on my campus; her talk was excellent, as is her book: Thinking Like Your Editor: How to Write Great Serious Non-Fiction — and Get it Published.  Rabiner’s book even got the two thumbs up from Lara Heimert, the editor of Urs’ and my book, Born Digital, and our next project.  (We know from first-hand experience just how demanding, and amazing, Lara is!  Lara does not recommend books lightly; she said that she routinely gives it to her authors.  Hmm…  I wonder why we had to come across it on our own?  Maybe…)

There are lots of reasons why I hugely liked this book, most of which come down to modeling.  Rabiner has written a book that must itself accomplish all the things she’s telling the writer to do, which is no mean feat.  She tells us, for instance, to make argument and narrative work together — and, lo and behold, she does just that in her own text.  It’s a few hundred pages, yet it reads (almost) like a novel; I read it in one sitting.  The text is clean and flows from idea to idea in a way that pulled me along.  All the while, the topic is about thinking up a book project, writing a proposal, what to expect from an agent/editor/marketing department of your publisher, the distinction between a trade book and a university press project, and so forth.  I can see why it is recommended reading for anyone writing serious non-fiction.

Rabiner notes that, when someone is standing in a bookstore with your book in her hands, you have to convince her to devote 5 to 10 hours with you.  This great framing helped me think about my next project.  But it also became clear to me: Rabiner succeeded at her own assignment: 5 hours with her book was well-spent.

(*And at the same time, I have in mind a big-picture thought, encapsulated well by Cody Brown in TechCrunch, about thinking in terms of “apps” as well as “books”, in the traditional sense.  I think this next one will look more like “book” than “app,” but the form factor and interactivity components to any sustained argument strike me as important.  With Born Digital, Urs Gasser and I created four “books”: 1) the traditional bound one/Kindle version, which I count together as one, since I see little difference between the two from a user experience, much as Cody Brown notes in her TechCrunch post; 2) a blog; 3) a wiki; and 4) one comprised of student-generated videos, still a work in progress.  This is a topic for another day, but much on my mind.)

State of Affairs, Public Radio in Louisville

This morning, a few of us are talking about Born Digital and related issues on WFPL, public radio in Louisville, KY. It’s a great show, called State of Affairs. They’ve even made a video, hosted on Blip.TV, about how young people use the technologies.

For a glimpse into the technology world in Louisville, check out Michelle JonesConsuming Louisville. It’s a fun and interesting site, and Michelle’s one of the guests on State of Affairs.

Update: the archived show is here.

The Future of the Legal Course Book

Seattle University School of Law is hosting a workshop on the “Future of the Legal Course Book.”  It’s a very nicely organized, timely session, brought together by Prof. David Skover, Ron Collins, and deans Ed Rubin of Vanderbilt and Kellye Testy of Seattle University.  On the table: how should we rethink the legal case book in the name of improving pedagogy in law schools?

It occurs to me is that the key conceptual shift is that virtually all information – whether or not related to the law – is now created, stored, and shared in digital format for starters.  Our students, too, are “born digital.”  Our students have a very different relationship to information today than they did a generation ago.  They were small children when the DVD replaced the VCR. Research, for our students, is more likely to mean a Google or Lexis search from a web browser than a trip to the library.  They rarely, if ever, buy the newspaper in hard copy, but they graze through copious amounts of news and other information online.  (Even some law professors are now more comfortable in the use of online tools for legal research and analysis than in the system of Reporters and Pocket Parts.) Law school community members are learning, accessing information, and expressing themselves in new, digitally-inspired ways – sometimes good, sometimes not so good.  Others outside our community are increasingly learning about us and what we do from our web presence.

Five to ten years from now, I think it’s likely that legal case books, too, will be born digital — and then rendered in a variety of formats, whether a good old-fashioned book or a Kindle/eReader file or a series of web pages and interactive exercises.  Updates could happen online, wiki-style (or not, if authors want to lock things down into a single format or series of files).  Faculty and teachers could click and unclick cases and lessons and questions that they’d like to use in class.  One could imagine that some students would click “buy in paper” and would get a print-on-demand version of the book sent overnight to them in the mail (say, for $49.95).  Others would click “buy it for my Tablet/Reader/Kindle/Whatever” (for $49.95 minus some discount).  Still others, perhaps hearing-impaired students, would click on “read it to me,” and so forth. 

There are surely reasons why such a future may not come to pass.  Some have raised concerns about legacy IP rights, strong interests by publishers in the current regime, and so forth, as barriers to such a future.  I think that the primary question to ask is about new investments: the bulk of our new investment in teaching materials and platforms be placed in materials that are cleared in a way that facilitates this future.  The barriers we should focus on are those that stand in the way of our shifting (at least some of) of new investments (of time, money, etc.) from one primarily oriented toward the analog to one that has a substantial digital emphasis in the first instance.

To be clear: Books remain important.  Books are not going away anytime soon; nor should they.  Hard-copies of books are important on many levels.  Many people prefer to read hard-copies of books to digital forms of books, despite massive ongoing investments in technologies like the Sony Reader, the Amazon Kindle, and new technologies at the MIT Media Lab; we like to curl up with them in bed, collect them on bookshelves as signals of our knowledge (or for easy access), take them to the beach, and so forth.  Books represent a stable format, unlikely the constantly-changing digital formats that imperil digital record-keeping processes over the long-term.  Books are the cornerstone, for now at least, of the large and important publishing industry, whose leaders play an important role in democracies and cultures around the world.  Books have the advantage, under United States law at least, of being covered by the first sale doctrine (you can give them away, or lend them, or sell them in a secondary market).  But books have downsides, too – the “slow fire” phenomenon, the high cost of production (compared to their digital counterparts), and the high cost of storage and distribution.  And, as many have pointed out here in Seattle, the presumption of *only* the traditional form of the book for case-based law teaching is inhibiting experimentation with new pedagogies.

As law schools, I think our work in the area of academic computing should be to facilitate this bright future of course materials born digital and rendered in various formats.  We need to make it easy for faculty to experiment with new technologies in support of their teaching, research, and scholarship – especially in an era of large-scale curricular reform at places like Vanderbilt, Harvard, and others. 

And there’s a need for leadership across schools, too, to develop the platform that makes this future possible.  There are building blocks coming together: CALI’s eLangdell, Rice’s Connexions, and so forth.  Publishers have a role to play here, too, both through their own experimentation and participation with broader, open efforts.  It will be fun to be part of such an effort.

A Review-in-the-Making of Born Digital

Andy Oram, editor at O’Reilly, has posted something quite extraordinary on the wiki for our book and associated research project.  It appears that he has read Born Digital and then posted his review on the wiki for comment before he posts it to the O’Reilly Media web site.  I hope others will take up his challenge to comment on it; just the sort of conversation we’re delighted to have, in small measure, provoked.  (For the record, this review-in-the-making is an effective critique of the book, which points at several of the inevitable soft-spots in our arguments.)  Thanks much, Andy, both for doing the honor of reading and reacting in depth to the book, but also for doing it in this fashion.

Digital Media, Youth, and Credibility

The final book in the MIT Press/MacArthur series on Digital Media and Learning (well, final only in terms of my getting around to writing up a review of it on this blog!) is “Digital Media, Youth, and Credibility,” edited by Miriam J. Metzger and Andrew J. Flanagin. It’s not last because it is the least important or least good, but rather it’s the taken the longest time to think about it and its message.

The topic of credibility (and the related themes of information quality and access) is incredibly important — and also very, very hard to get a grip on. It turns out that my co-author on Born Digital, Urs Gasser, is among the world’s experts on this topic in law, so I was in luck. He did most of the research and drafting on our chapters on Quality and Overload. This work also bumps up against what we at the Berkman Center have been struggling with for some time in the context of old and new media and credibility, with our conference on Blogging, Journalism and Credibility and, more recently, the Media Re:Public project.

In their introduction, the editors start out with a summary of each chapter — abstracts, almost — which together serve as a helpful device for those readers who don’t hav the time or inclination to make it through the entire volume. Not suprisingly, the summaries are worthy and faithful to the articles themselves.

Together, the editors have also written a first chapter on opportunities and challenges in the context of online credibility. Their section on “Defining Credibility” and related context (pp. 7 – 9) is useful and could serve as a reference point for other articles on the topic. Their grounding, more generally, of credibility in the youth digital learning environment got me thinking hard about the power of the search algorithms (Google’s PageRank, of course, chief among them) and the impact that these engineering decisions have on what young people are learning and will be learning. A few people in the private sector may never have had such power over a key aspect of learning in history.

The second essay by Metzger and Flanagin also includes “a call to arms to researchers, educators, policy makers, and others concerned with these issues to understand how youth think about credibility in the digital media environment and to devise a plan to assist youth in finding and evaluating the information they need.” (p. 17) Sounds right, but also sounds like a huge challenge.

The summary finding from the editors that grabbed me the most: “Perhaps the most consistent theme across all these stakeholders is that digital technologies complicate traditional notions of hierarchies and authority structures.” (p. 18) Quite right: hierarchies and authority structures don’t go away, they are just shifted around, with new players in the mix. Hierarchy and authority aren’t gone, and won’t go, they’re just different, in ways we are only beginning to understand. (Hence, in my view, the growing importance of librarians and many forms of teachers.)

The book also includes a second “call to arms,” this time in favor of “teaching credibility assessment.” (p. 155) Frances Jacobson Harris notes, quite rightly, that “meaningful access to digital information resources and systems in schools is about much more than a physical connection to the Internet. Digital natives are not necessarily skilled or critical consumers of digital information. Many are still novices when it comes to searching, selecting, and assessing the meaning and value of the information they find.” (p. 155) This is one of the key themes that we explore in Born Digital, and which has previously been built out effectively by Henry Jenkins, Eszter Hargittai, and others. Overall, this essay is totally wonderful: clear, compelling, and with a great conclusion. (pp. 172-3)

David Lankes, in “Trusting the Internet,” offers a nice piece on what he calls “information self-sufficiency” and its implications. It’s well-grounded in the technology and the tools under development on the net. (See especially pp. 115 – 7) I liked this line: “Just like libraries used to produce pathfinders and annotated bibliographies, users will soon be able to find a piece of information, such as a Web site, and follow that information to all of the other public information used in a given conversation.” (p. 114)

One of the sub-themes in the DML series has been the overlay of health and information in the lives of young people. That theme is picked up here in Gunther Eysenbach’s piece on credibility and information related to health online. He introduces and evaluates an interesting model, called DIDA, on the flow of information online. (pp. 132 – 3) The punchline, as one might imagine, is that many people go first to the Internet and second to their doctor for health information today; and there’s still a rich mix of people who consider online information credible and those who are more likely to be skeptical of it (certainly squaring with our own research on young people and digital media, to be sure). (pp. 125 – 6)

Fred Weingarten of the ALA’s Office for Information Technology Policy concludes the volume with a constructive essay on the (limited) role of government in respect to the credibility of information online, which he summarizes into three easy-to-understand categories. (pp. 181 – 2)

So, we are left with two clear calls to arms, some helpful frameworks, and a huge challenge ahead of us. The answer, as unfulfilling as it sounds, has to be to work on critical thinking skills through the schools, libraries, and traditional modes of parenting and peer-learning. Though technology can help, it won’t solve the problems and it may bring about some new problems of its own; I don’t think there will be any short-cuts. But the pay-off of serious engagement on this topic could be enormous in terms of acess to information and new ways of teaching, learning, and engaging in civic life.

Thanks, so much, to the team that Connie Yowell and the MacArthur Foundation and MIT Press put together to develop this series of six books. What a rich resource the collection is, as bound volumes; free downloads; and directions for future research and leadership.