Digi-learning: maximizing the benefits of social economies

The value of collaborative development is widely acknowledged (see proprietary software development release dates versus those of open source programs – guess which advances more rapidly). How can these proven techniques be leveraged to advance education?  Recent studies by IBM (reign in your scepticism, please) show : “hours spent playing online can hone skills related to collaboration, self-organisation, risk-taking, openness, influence and communication”.  In the article Gaming the System… Herz opines “the networked eco-system of online gaming is vastly more multidimensional than the 19th-Century paradigm of classroom instruction” due to its provision of a greater array of challenges to its users. A single player can be faced with learning the game, coaching newbies on its use, and working collaboratively to solve or further develop the game. Not only do students engage in the content, then, but are deep into “conventions of interpersonal interaction that define status, identity, and affiliation”, or “social ecology”. Doshi notes the need stated by students and staff alike to make sessions in Libraries more interactive; lectures should be molded into “knowledge quests” (Walter Scaachi, quoted by Doshi). Herz presses further: “to become meaningful, online content needs to leverage the social ecology that drives networked interaction.” Yet this does not support the incursion of adults into teen-defined social networking sites, which only reduces the amount of space left to teenagers in which to participate in their own social ecology. Students may benefit more from operating in online environments unmediated by educators’ imposed rules; like Danah Boyd riffing about MySpace, Herz recognizes the importance of defining and enculturating their own norms. (See my earlier notes on this topic.)

Instead, educational models need to develop means in which information learned should be reinvested in projects of benefit to the group. Benefits include not only the gathering of new information, higher rate of encoding in long-term memory, and advanced social interaction development, but recognition from peers (see my earlier posts citing egoboo as it relates to the collaborative activity of social bookmarking). Given the collaborative nature of the gaming world, social recognition of one’s efforts is very high; Herz contends the classic model of education lacks such effective models of team-building. [Herz sends us to Slashdot for a great performance model.]

Herz grabs my attention with the suggestion of a more nuanced model of grading: “instead of a binary framework where… requirements are either met or not met, they might be considered attributes that are continuously strengthened.” In the North American model of public education, students are graded on scales and continually throughout the academic year; the framework isn’t binary. But I appreciate his suggestion for the way in which it could serve to increase the current systems pedagogic influence. Tying grades into group performance, ongoing collaboration, as well as observed effort and demonstrated performance may not be that far from being actualized in the mainstream; after all, instructors of well-designed distributed education courses are already making great inroads into collaborative learning. Web 2.0 tools such as social bookmarking, RSS feeds, and online social networking arenas can equip learners with opportunities for sharing and reinvesting their new knowledge and derive greater results with a wider variety of learners than before.


Meet Internet Billionaire Kevin Ham

What could be more lucrative and rewarding for an individual than a career in medicine? Kevin Ham found the answer. He switched from being a general practitioner to purchasing old domain names on auction and is now “the man who owns the internet“, according to Paul Sloan, Business Magazine editor-at-large. Some of the URLs that comprise his electronic empire are those ending “.cm”, a common mis-entry for “.com” that is also Cameroon’s top level domain.

This brings to mind the cases of logo copyright infringement multi-national corporations faced decades ago when expanding into new territories. A single investor had beat them into certain geographic markets, registering their own established logos before they had thought to invest there. Dastardly! – but insightful, I thought at the time. And immediately afterwards: I wish I’d thought of that. Yet when the World Wide Web came along and investors started exhibiting these same behaviours, domain squatting or cybersquatting was condemned by the World Intellectual Property Organization and shot down in the courts. One could no longer benefit from purchasing that which someone else already had legal claim to.

Like Access Copyright, which protects the rights of the producer or owner of a work, the “intellectual property (IP) system” is claimed to “reward creativity, stimulate innovation and contribute to economic development while safeguarding the public interest” (see WIPO). I can appreciate that economic gain from one’s work is a motivation for many of us. Yet creative commons can increase productivity and innovation – and what is it they mean by “safeguarding the public interest”, anyway?

I’m torn. I want to say something witty and decisive that will strike a move forward for the open source movement; collaborative visionaries are creating amazing programs that proprietary organizations can’t keep up with. Yet I remember Jerome K. Jerome‘s claims about “Three Men in a Boat: To say Nothing of the Dog“. He gained financial security from its early sales, yet did not have the means prior to copyright legislation to keep its republication solely his own. But that same fact must have helped to drive its success. As I say, I’m torn on this issue.

No time exists like the present for doing some reading. Here’s Jerome’s opus, 1909 illustrated edition online.