Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The SENDS Academic and Educational Curricula Task

By Carl Hunt

We’ll return to Wicked Problems and Complexity Science in the next post, but I wanted to focus this entry on one of the four main tasks SENDS is undertaking in the first year Pilot: the Academic Curricula Task. Enough dust has settled on other SENDS tasks (including setting up the collaboration substrate, starting on SENDSim (the modeling and simulation task) and completing more mature drafts of important SENDS papers). We are now beginning to put more effort in the other individual SENDS Pilot tasks. None of these tasks has more immediate and longer-term impact than the Academic Curricula effort.

Yesterday, Craig Harm sent out an important email recruitment letter to several SENDS Consortium members who have expressed specific interest in this task and who want to help lay the foundation for long-term success of the project.

As Craig writes in his note, we are looking for those who are willing to and can “recommend educational curricula to help foster an understanding and a development of a Science of Cyberspace.” This is just a brief way of saying what we say in other parts of SENDS: we don’t understand cyberspace nearly as well as we need to given we have practically built the modern world’s future around it. Education for all ages and walks of life will be critical to helping us comprehend and grow into this marvelous massively interconnecting environment that has evolved around us. Education will be fundamental to the exploration and exploitation of cyberspace (see the blog entry for 8 September 2010: Addendum to Mission Statement for what I mean by exploitation).

Last week, SENDS Advisor Joe Cuenco from the Science Center of Pinellas County, FL, sent me a link to a space-related project the Center was doing with its students. The project involved some 300 or so young science scholars interacting with three US astronauts, while they were flying a mission. The students had the opportunity through a video downlink to the Center to ask questions of the astronauts and learn first-hand what goes on in the International Space Station and what our nation’s space team is doing to support the effort. As Joe points out in the interviews, these students were engaged and they were learning! I have to wonder how many of those students will grow up to be astronauts based on that 60-minute exposure.

This is only representative of the kind of thinking we are looking for in helping to assess and recommend the basis for an academic curricula that will support the “understanding and a development of a Science of Cyberspace.” In yesterday’s note, Craig is challenging our Consortium to think at least as big as our national space program to develop and refine the type of academic preparation our students (of all ages, by the way) need in order to help the nation thrive in cyberspace. As we learn what it takes to build the “secure social spaces” SENDS seeks to study, it will be our education system and our new generation of students who “fly the missions” related to cyberspace exploration.

This task offers us the opportunity to help articulate and refine what education for and in cyberspace should look like next year and next decade. Please help and get engaged on this task!

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