I’ve been thinking alot about empowering students with tools that enhance their problem solving, creativity and critical thinking beyond the classroom peer to peer learning. I believe that school aged children benefit from peers who are not in their age group. Akin to the trust networks that are emergent at this time, where collaborators self assemble around a project or idea to solve a problem. According to Jane McGonigal MMO games are one such example of trust networks that can ultimately solve real world problems. What I’m thinking of is extending the classroom into established social networks gathered around topics of interest to student projects.
According to the Economist Report on Social Networks their most important contribution is Sir Tim Berners-Lee’s original intent, a set of “free and very powerful communication and collaboration tools” for anyone with broadband connectivity. By incorporating open social platforms both teachers and students can interact with potential mentors and collaborators.
The future role of teachers may well include a more legal function, overseeing the safety of student online social networks, both vetting and fostering peer alliances. The peer to peer learning model that social networks foster serve to prepare students for the real world, giving them significant social and leisure skills, work ready skills and a potent lifelong learning network.
I identify with the DIY communities online who upload their design projects and critique and share design files/problems. The cost of 3-d printers and rapid prototyping allows entry level manufacturing access to (almost) anyone. For example Thingaverse, where you can upload a digital design and have it printed in 3-d. Or buy your own MakerBot a robot that will design and make anything. I love the Ponoko design community, which is a laser cutting service with a beautiful range of materials, an e-commerce storefront option and a flatpack direct to your customer delivery service. Think jewellery, furniture, shop display, puzzles, stationary, anything.
I believe education institutions are in a hot seat of opportunity to take social networking models up. But only if they ‘open up‘ so that the institution becomes a hot bed for interdisciplinary international collaboration especially and including collaborators beyond the education field.