My friend Trish Neubrand, who teaches Art at ISB, introduced me to a cool video on Youtube. It is a fun collaborative piece between Madonna and Keith Harring. Trish uses the video as an energizer for her class and as an introduction to their work on Keith Harring. She even uses it with Kindergarten students who “can’t sit still and start twitching in their seats.” I know I would have loved to have an art teacher like Trish: smart, caring and exceptionally creative!
The video is an example of how different pieces can be mixed, remixed and mashed up to produce something completely new and different. But this example is only the tip of a very large iceberg.
When people come together to share thier their expertise, focus their work on a single project and use computer-supported collaboration tools, you have what has been termed mass collaboration. Wikipedia is a prominent example. Like Karen Armstrong’s TED wish: the Charter for Compassion, which I first wrote about in my earlier post, you have a network on individuals coming together to solve a problem or to create a new product. Essential to mass collaboration is the community of contributors to the project. You need people willing to share their ideas and to work with technologies that make the sharing possible.
Another example of great work that is being carried out through mass collaboration is the Grameen Foundation whose work is to “combine the power of microfianane, technology and innovative solutions to defeat global poverty”.
While some argue that mass collaborative projects are economically smart, (through outsourcing / croudsourcing) I would argue that they highlight an important aspect of the human experience and that is the shared collective whole. While boundaries are being blurred, we are also learning to realize that which we all share: that we are all the same and that we are better when we work together. The affect this is having on major corporations and how mass collaborative networks are paving a road for new demand, as well as new products, is the subject of an article that was published in Business Week entitled, The Power of Us.
In the end, I think more important than the new products that are created, is the innovation that collaborative networks help to create. Relationships are being formed and understanding and knowledge is being shared and created. It is this kind of collaboration that will hopefully empower us to address the serious challenges that our species faces now and in the future.
In order to “prepare” our students, present and future, we need to fully understand the tools that are out there and their potential to elevate learning outcomes through collaboration and creativity. We are not going to solve the world’s problems with ideas that already exist. I don’t know if teachers can in fact prepare students, but we can work together with them; learn, share, collaborate and take risks that will move us beyond curriculum and concept attainment. Preparing students for a future we do not yet know is like giving them a map to a place we have not yet been. Instead, we need to introduce, integrate and implement learning opportunities with the technology that we have today. It is constantly changing, albeit, but interestingly, it is all interconnected. Students who are aware of the tools, acquire the knowledge of how to use them; and are empowered to extend their learning to new horizons and applications, are the ones who will make new discoveries and contribute to the global “intellectual property”. This can’t happen in isolation, nor will it.
Personally, I would like to see a curriculum that reflects this change. The question of equal access and equity also play an important part of this paradigm shift that is beginning to unfold. One Laptop Per Child is an organization devoted to this end.
I think we are moving in the right direction, but are we all? How can we tap into resources (our collective minds) that were always there, but till recently, lay dormant, fragmented and isolated?