In How Children Fail, John Holt describes how very young children approach the world as scientists with enthusiasm for learning. He observes how school teaches children to find the right answer. By fifth grade, school kids can get very good at the “right answer” game and appear successful without real learning.

What is real learning?

The better we understand something, the more places we can use it. He observes that when we teach arithmetic, we teach algebra.
2 somethings plus 3 somethings equals five of those things: 2x + 3x = 5x. When we learn about fractions, we learn that we cannot add unless there is a common denominator. This is true of whole numbers as well.

Without giving the children any preparation, Holt wrote this problem on the blackboard for a first grade class:

2 horses + 3 cows = ?

A number of children gave the answer “five animals,” intuitively discovering a common denominator. Curious about this observation, I gave the problem to my 5 year old son. He also came up with the answer “five animals.”

Spending a few months as a blogger has fundamentally altered my initial opinion of the nature of the web log. Blogging is social. Bloggers read and reflect and write. Bloggers establish an identity.

Blogging is a conversation. An individual weblog typically has a single author; however, a typical blog entry will contain one or more links. It is through these links and their associated commentary that the conversation takes place. A few standard elements of a blog contribute to this social nature:
– Comments: The comment form enables direct feedback. Any reader can comment on a blog entry, participating in the conversation without necessarily being a fellow blogger.
– Trackback: This allows readers to follow links to other blogs that mention a particular entry on this one. Not all blogs have this. It may even be specific to Moveable Type blogs (which is the software behind this particular blog).
– Links: Most web logs have a list of links on the right or left margin. These links often point to other web logs.
– Web Stats: more a standard part of a site, than a standard part of a blog. Some hosted blog sites don

A new paper by Tom Erickson, et. al, introduces several examples of a “social proxy,” a user interface element that helps people to visualize collective interactions.

“…many of the things our users report “seeing” are inferences. For example, the social proxy does not show that people are “paying attention,” only that someone has clicked or typed. Someone might be paying attention, or they might be pretending to pay attention; we believe that it is crucial to maintain such socially useful ambiguities, and it is one of the reasons we emphasize social translucence.”

Social Translucence: Designing Social Infrastructures that Make Collective Activity Visible