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Thursday, March 21, 2013

US Internet-attached devices exceeds one-half billion

by Mark Ollig

The “network of networks” keeps growing every day.

More than 500 million devices are now connected to the Internet here in the U.S., according to The Connected Home Report.

The Connected Home Report was compiled by Connected Intelligence, which is a part of the marketing research department of the NPD Group.

The NPD Group provides global tracking information and advisory services. You can follow them on Twitter at @npdgrp.

Surveys were made during the first quarter of 2013, of US consumers age 18 and over.

The report revealed how our use of computing tablets and smartphones has dramatically increased by 18 and 9 million devices, respectively – in just the last three months.

Of the smartphones being used, Apple and Samsung models are leading the way.

Apple devices also make up the majority of computing tablets being used when accessing the Internet.

Surprisingly, tablet computing devices used for accessing the Internet within households jumped from 35 percent just three months ago, to 53 percent today.

The number one household computing device connected to the Internet is a personal computer.

“Even with this extraordinary growth in the smartphone and tablet market, PCs are still the most prevalent connected device in US Internet households, and this is a fact that won’t be changing any time soon,” John Buffone, of NPD Connected Intelligence is quoted as saying.

It was reported, 93 percent of US Internet connected homes are using a personal computer.

However, for the first time, the total number of tablet and smartphone devices connected to the Internet is greater than personal computers.

Other devices connected to the Internet mentioned in the report were high-definition televisions, video gaming consoles; media set-top box’s streaming video, and Blu-ray disc players.

I would also add networked security cameras, electronic monitoring sensors, home appliances, heating, ventilating, air condition systems, embedded vehicle devices, and home and business commercial power monitoring.

Of course, more could be added to the list.

The report found US households now average 5.7 smart devices which are capable of connecting to the Internet.

Yours truly has four personal smart devices I use to connect to the Internet: my smartphone, iPodtouch, Kindle tablet, and my MacBook computer.

I found numerous social media statistical tracking sites showing the current number of Facebook users worldwide between 963 and 984 million.

Here, in the US, there are an estimated 245 million people using the Internet.

February statistics revealed there were 165 million Facebook social media users in this country, according to Socialbakers Facebook statistical tracking website,

China’s version of Facebook is called, the Renren Network, meaning “Everyone’s Website.” It is reported to have an active user base of approximately 172 million. It is located at

When we look at China’s Internet statistics for December 2012, we find the world’s largest Internet population averages 564 million Internet users, according to the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC).
China has a total population of about 1.3 billion.

In China, it was stated 398 million people use a personal computer for accessing the Internet, while 420 million are using a mobile device.

From what locations are users accessing the Internet from inside China?

The information survey states 92 percent of Internet users are accessing it from home, while 32 percent said during work, 22 percent are accessing the Internet from a cybercafé, and 16 percent responded it was in school.

The topmost reported Internet activity by China’s users is instant messaging, with 83 percent.

Making use of a search engine was a close second, at 80 percent, and listening to online music came in at 77 percent.

China’s use of social media, blogging, and watching online videos, was tied at 66 percent.

In the US, statistics show 67 percent of us visit Internet social media sites, while 91 percent of China’s Internet users visit them.

Here, in the US, 43 percent of us browse social media sites using our smartphones, compared to 58 percent in China.

Looking back to 1995, there were an estimated 16 million users of the Internet, worldwide.

This year, more than 2.7 billion people worldwide will be using the Internet.

This number represents almost 39 percent of the world’s population, according to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU).

These percentages and numbers will continue to increase, as more people use today’s and tomorrow’s yet-to-be-invented devices to connect with the Internet.

We will go on using the Internet for work, learning, entertainment, social and business communication; for interacting with the intelligent devices connected to it, and to explore and play in.

The Internet remains the network of networks.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The 'Granny Cloud' and SOLE encourage learning

by Mark Ollig

“There are places on Earth, in every country, where for various reasons, good schools cannot be built and good teachers cannot or do not want to go,” Dr. Sugata Mitra said in 1999.

As we learned last week, Dr. Mitra established a learning system for helping disadvantaged children understand computers enough to access the Internet, accomplish self-learning, and share knowledge via peer-teaching.

This learning system was Dr. Mitra’s “hole-in-the-wall” computer experiment.

However, in remote areas where teachers or mentors are not available, this type of learning becomes challenging.

Today, getting teachers and mentors into these areas is slowly becoming a reality, a “virtual reality,” by means of real-time video interaction, using computers connected to the Internet.

Children around the world no matter how rich or poor – should not only have access to the Internet for researching science and other educational subjects, but to teachers and mentors who can participate and assist them with their learning.

Using an online network of mentors, counselors, and retired teachers, Dr. Mitra is creating a virtual school, or as he calls it, “The School in the Cloud.”

Dr. Mitra, who holds a Ph.D., is now professor of educational technology at New Castle University in England.

Professor Mitra put out a call for British grandmothers to donate one hour of their time on the Internet, one day a week, to provide educational, two-way real-time video instruction (via Skype), with children using computers in remote locations.

Over 200 British citizens volunteered, with many being retired teachers.

The children refer to these British grandmothers, and other mentors providing them online educational guidance, as the “Granny Cloud.”

Professor Mitra said, “The Granny Cloud sits over there, and I can beam them [children] to whichever school they want to [go].”

Interviewed on a BBC program, Professor Mitra talked about the Granny Cloud, and his hole-in-the-wall computer experiment. You can watch it at

Professor Mitra has been encouraging the creation of children’s Self-Organized Learning Environments (SOLE) in local communities.

One SOLE contains a group of four or five children, overseen by an educator, parent, or guardian acting as a peer helper. The peer helper encourages the children into taking responsibility in finding their own answers to questions, using Internet resources.

Educational peer helpers will offer the children feedback, and will be in charge of their behavior management (keeping them focused on learning).

SOLE can be used as a stand-alone learning venue, part of a school curriculum, or as an after-school program.

One of the benefits Professor Mitra and others have seen from the SOLE program, are children being encouraged towards independent thinking, when taking ownership of their learning.

“The Internet is full of the answers, but the Internet is not full of the questions,” says Professor Mitra.

Here are examples of SOLE questions asked by a group of fifth graders:

• What was ancient Egypt really like?

• How do my eyes know to cry when I am sad?

• Why do people slip on wet surfaces?

• Did dinosaurs really exist?

• Can anything be less than zero?

• Will robots be conscious one day?

• Are there more stars in the universe or grains of sand on all the world’s beaches?

• Why do things fall down and not up or sideways?

St. Aidan’s C of E Primary School, located in England, currently operates a SOLE. This school has been working with the Newcastle University during SOLE’s development.

During one of the school’s SOLE “session for science” groups, one question asked, “Why are people so worried that the ice caps are melting?”

According to the school’s website, “Within an hour, the children were telling everybody about such things as global warming, pollution, the possible extinction of species such as penguins and polar bears, whole cities being flooded, as well as what an ice cap actually is and where they are. All in all, we proved once again that SOLE is a brilliant way of learning where so much can be packed into our minds in a short space of time.”

A video demonstrating a SOLE can be watched at

SOLE is powered by the self-discovery, sharing, and confidence children achieve from their own learning experiences.

“The children are capable of finding the big answers to believe in themselves, and to believe in the world around them,” said Professor Mitra.

Yours truly agrees with Professor Mitra when he said, “Who knows what we’ll need to learn 30 years from now? We do know that we will need to be able to read, we will need to be good at searching for information, collating it, and then deciding whether it is right or wrong.”

An information-packed, 25-page SOLE Toolkit is available online at

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Learning via the hole-in-the-wall

by Mark Ollig     

Build a school in the Internet cloud, where children can explore and learn from one another.

This is the aspiration of educational researcher, Dr. Sugata Mitra.

While working in New Deli, India, he taught people how to write computer programs.

Next to where he worked was the shantytown, where the poorer children lived.

“How on earth are those kids ever going to learn how to write computer programs?” Dr. Mitra wondered.

The answer began in 1999.

While working in in Kalkaji, New Delhi, Dr. Mitra decided on an experiment.

He cut out a hole in the wall which divided his office building from the next door urban slum.

The hole was about the size of a small window opening. A shelf was attached, and a personal computer connected to the Internet, along with a screen, keyboard, and mouse were placed on it.

The computer was easily visible, and freely accessible to anyone who walked up to the hole in the wall.

As part of this experiment, a hidden video camera was installed nearby to monitor how the children living next door would respond to the computer’s presence.

Dr. Mitra observed children from the slum walking up and curiously looking at the computer. It was probably the first time they had ever seen a working computer in person.

Over time, the children taught themselves the procedures needed to go online and access the Internet using a web browser.

Dr. Mitra noted how the kids, while learning to play online games and surf the Internet, were self-learning basic computer skill sets, and then teaching those skills to the other children.

The children, without any prior computer knowledge, were learning how to use the computer all on their own.

Supplemental computer skills, such as how to use the mouse, were also being taught among themselves.

Dr. Mitra became very encouraged by what he was seeing in Kalkaji, and he began further self-learning experiments through the introduction of freely accessible computers in other villages and towns.

It became known as the Hole-in-the-Wall experiments.

What Dr. Mitra learned from observing the children’s use of the computer, was in an environment which motivates interest, one can self-learn, and in learning, share the newly gained knowledge with others.

“Minimally Invasive Education” is how this peer-shared knowledge experience is being described by Dr. Mitra.

While in the southern India state Tamil Nadu, in a village called Kallikuppam, Dr. Mitra downloaded into the hole-in-the-wall computers, DNA replication educational information he obtained from the Internet.

By themselves, the Tamil-speaking children living there succeeded in learning, within a short time, that improper replication of a DNA molecule causes disease.

During a recent presentation, Dr. Mitra injected some humor when he shared a short anecdote with the audience .

He said after a couple months of using the computer, the kids told him, “We want a faster processor and a better mouse.” Astonished, Dr. Mitra asked the kids, “How on earth do you know all this?” One child irritatingly responded, “You’ve given us a machine that works only in English, so we had to teach ourselves English in order to use it.”

Dr. Mitra said his many observations and studies showed, with minimum intervention, children were able to pick up the skills and carry out the tasks needed to operate a computer by developing their own learning environment.

Because of the success of this and other learning experiments, the government of Delhi, in 2000, established 30 learning stations in a relocation settlement.

In 2001, Hole-in-the-Wall Education Limited (HiWEL) launched 23 new learning stations throughout rural India.

These hole-in-the-wall computer stations became very popular.

In a recent New York Times interview, Dr. Mitra said, “I found that if you left them alone, working in groups, they [children] could learn almost anything once they’ve gotten used to the fact that you can research on the Internet.”

Dr. Mitra is not suggesting we no longer need teachers.

“We need teachers to do different things. The teacher has to ask the question, and tell the children what they have learned,” he said.

Speaking this year at a Technology, Entertainment, Design (TED) conference, Dr. Mitra expressed his desire of creating an environment where children can explore and learn on their own and teach one another using resources and mentors, from “the worldwide cloud.”

He envisions a “school of clouds” where children from all five continents can partake in a future of learning, using the Internet and mentors with interactive webcams.

“My wish is that we design the future of learning,” said Dr. Mitra.

Dr. Mitra’s wish was well received by those in the audience.

During this year’s TED Prize awards ceremony in Long Beach, CA, Dr. Mitra was awarded $1 million to create an online, interactive learning test center.

This center will further develop his idea of a learning environment where teachers would supervise children teaching themselves, as they work and learn independently at their own computer station, connected to the “learning cloud.”

Dr. Mitra’s presentation, “Build a School in the Cloud” given during last months TED conference, can be watched at

The HiWEL website is