Information Age Education
   Issue Number 17
May, 2009   

This free Information Age Education Newsletter is written by David Moursund and produced by Ken Loge. For more information, see the end of this newsletter.

A Kindle is an e-book sold by Amazon.com. My wife purchased a Kindle 1 when they first became available. More recently, she bought a Kindle 2 and gave it to me. My Kindle 2 arrived with some books already on it, since my wife purchased it in her name and the books she had purchased for her Kindle 1 were available free on her new Kindle 2. Thus, I received a free copy of the 15 Wizard of Oz books that she had purchased for 95 cents.

That’s right—95 cents for the complete collection. These books are out of copyright. Volunteers working for Amazon and entrepreneurs working for themselves scan such books and put them into Kindle format. There are many books and other materials available at quite low prices (including free) available for the Kindle.

Looking Back

HistoryI tend to read almost anything that comes my way. Thus, I started reading the Oz books. The last book in the series, Glinda of Oz, was published in 1920, the year after L. Frank Baum died. The following paragraph caught my eye:

[Glinda's Great Book of Records] is one of the greatest treasures in Oz, and the Sorceress prizes it more highly than any of her magical possessions. This is the reason it is firmly attached to the big marble table by means of golden chains, and whenever Glinda leavers home she locks the Great Book together with five jeweled padlocks, and carries the keys safely hidden in her bosom. I do not suppose that there is any magical thing in any fairyland to compare with the Record Book, on the pages of which are constantly being printed a record of every event that happens in any part of the world, at exactly the moment it happens.

Notice that Glinda kept this book chained to a desk. That reminds me of the chained libraries of the Middle Ages up through the 1700s. (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chained_library.) Books were so valuable and expensive that in many libraries each book was attached to the shelf by a chain.

Chained Library

Looking at More Current Times

CurrentDuring World War II, Vannevar Bush served as Director of the United States Office of Scientific Research and Development. In 1945 he wrote an article titled As We May Think that was published in the Atlantic Monthly. (See http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/194507/bush.) Quoting from that article:

Consider a future device for individual use, which is a sort of mechanized private file and library. It needs a name, and, to coin one at random, "memex" will do. A memex is a device in which an individual stores all his books, records, and communications, and which is mechanized so that it may be consulted with exceeding speed and flexibility. It is an enlarged intimate supplement to his memory.

It consists of a desk, and while it can presumably be operated from a distance, it is primarily the piece of furniture at which he works. On the top are slanting translucent screens, on which material can be projected for convenient reading. There is a keyboard, and sets of buttons and levers. Otherwise it looks like an ordinary desk.

When I was reading about Glinda's Great Book of Records, I was struck by the similarities between it, Vannevar Bush’s Memex, and our current World Wide Web. A full-feature modern cell phone has many of the features of Glinda's Great Book of Records and essentially all of the features of Vannevar Bush’s Memex. Moreover, the chains and the desk have been removed, so that now many millions of people walk around with such facilities in hand.

 Looking into the Future

The FutureYou realize, of course, that free public libraries, the US Library of Congress, and the virtual library we call the Web are not really free. The library at my university (the University of Oregon) has a budget of nearly $20 million a year, and the US Library of Congress has an annual budget of well over $600 million a year. Moreover, someone has to pay for the connectivity devices, storage facilities, and networks.

My Kindle 2, my laptop, and my desktop computer provide me with relatively inexpensive access to a huge and rapidly growing collection of data, information, and knowledge.

It is not all available free. However, our K-20 educational systems are making a large amount of the traditional hard copy library materials and the virtual library materials available to students at no direct cost to the students.

Just think about the progress that has occurred since L. Frank Baum’s innovative idea published in 1920. Then think about the continuing rapid pace of growth in the Web, improvements in access to the Web, and improvements in aids to making use of humankind’s collected data, information, and knowledge.

We have come a long way in short period of time. A good modern education prepares students to make effective use of current resources and prepares them to learn to make use of the resources that we expect will be available in their futures. Every parent, teacher, and child caregiver can contribute to this educational endeavor.


About Information Age Education, Inc.

Information Age Education is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving education for learners of all ages throughout the world. IAE is a project of the Science Factory, a 501(c)(3) science and technology museum located in Eugene, Oregon. Current IAE activities include a Wiki with address http://IAE-pedia.org, a Website containing free books and articles at http://I-A-E.org, and the free newsletter you are now reading.

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