A “Clean Slate” Internet???


Just as I was beginning to think that I’m getting used to the Internet and the various ways that I’ve found to integrate it into the things I do in my life I read that researchers at several universities are working to design a new internet to replace the current global network.

The argument goes that the originally designed internet is well past it’s used-by date, with all sorts of “tack-ons’ having been added over the past couple of decades to address things such as security, performance, mobility etc., and that these things are now making the current internet cumbersome and in danger of falling over, particularly as we move towards much faster internet speeds and a more mobile internet.

In the article on eSchoolNews, Larry Peterson, chairman of computer science at Princeton and head of the planning group for the NSF’s GENI is quoted as saying, “Rather than create workarounds each time, clean-slate researchers want to redesign the system to easily accommodate any future technologies.”

Wow – I guess we’ll have to wait and see where this one goes, although indications are that it won’t be something that happens in a hurry – with those involved recognising that the internet has now become mission critical to so many in business, government, education etc – it would create mahem to do anything too suddenly.

The article did start me thinking however. What do you do when a system, designed and built to meet the requirements of a previous era, becomes so burdened through the repeated addition of “tack-ons” designed to make it cope with the emerging demands of the changing environment it operates in? Is a clean slate indeed the best solution?

The whole scenario sounds familiar – take for instance our education system. Trouble is, we’re up against the same things this group of internet researchers will find – entrenched sets of beliefs and behaviours, all sorts of established use and dependencies, and a general relectance to change from something that is familiar.

Seems we inevitably get back to the “evolution” vs “revolution” arguments. Meantime, another generation of young people get poorly served by what we offer…..

3 thoughts on “A “Clean Slate” Internet???

  1. Seems we inevitably get back to the “evolution” vs “revolution” arguments. Meantime, another generation of young people get poorly served by what we offer…..

    This comment caught my eye. I don’t see that we are ever going to get revolution in our education system. There may be pockets of revolutionary ideas but so often these are dependent on revolutionary leaders. Remove the leaders and often the changes do not last. I do wonder though whether technology provides an opportunity for revolutionary change that we haven’t really seen yet. It will be fascinating to watch the One Laptop Per Child project and see if this will allow revolutionary change. It could do. We might be very surprised the changes we could initiate if we did something revolutionary like give every child in New Zealand a laptop (or a cellphone).

    Evolutionary change is more likely to be the way system wide change occurs. I’ve been pondering the concept of ‘mashup thinking’ and “mashup school”. I think this is where we need to be heading. Pulling in to our education systems the best we can find to inspire our children to become learners. I think we need to start explaining some of this to the children so that they can start to understand the whole idea of knowledge as a verb and the responsibility they have to begin developing their own learning muscles.

    We live in exciting times.

  2. Paul

    Fascinating, but I fear difficult, as long as we have senior schooling driven by an examination system. I’m not suggesting that we eliminate examinations, but I do see them as a serious obstacle to the changes you suggest.


  3. For me, the difficulties are founded in the curriculum silos where learning is packaged in subject areas and it is difficult to get any transference of skills and knowledge. However, rather than get focussed on the difficulties I would like see concerted cross sector brainstorming (blue skies days) where we identify what we have learned in the 20th Century and use this to really design learning and teaching for the future.
    I believe this model would also fit when looking at what to do with the internet as well.

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