The essential questions for this week are excellent. They go right to the heart of what we want our students to be able to do in a world that is globally connected via the Web. It is easy to ask these essential questions but quite another thing to in fact prepare our students for a world of mass collaboration.
So let's begin our search for an answer to the essential questions with a look at just what is meant by “mass collaboration.” Most of us would answer that the premier means of mass collaboration today is via the Internet and the WWW. We only have to do a quick read of Kevin Kelly’s blog The Technium to understand how powerful the Web has become.
In his post, Evidence of an Emerging Superorganism, Kelly describes already achieved advances in global connectivity and networked computing: “In recent years, we've created supercomputers composed of loosely integrated individual computers not centralized in one building, but geographically distributed over continents and designed to be versatile and general purpose. This later supercomputer….is also called cloud computing because the tally of the exact component machines is dynamic and amorphous - like a cloud.”
Kelly notes that Google (surprise) is “hoping to scale up their cloud computer to encompass 10 million processors in 1,000 locations.” Kelly calls the sum of all cloud computers the “One Machine”. Okay, now we’re achieving economies of scale - not to mention a staggering amount of connectivity and computing power. So what else is currently on the horizon? Well, Kelly describes the One Machine as a “megasupercomputer composed of billions of sub computers.” Google’s piece of the One Machine is just that - merely a piece.
In existence today, Kelly’s One Machine is, “a vast machine of extraordinary dimensions. It is comprised of a quadrillion chips, and consumes 5 percent of the planet's electricity.” “Its size is growing close to 66% per year.” Yeow!!! Now we’re getting some significant economies of scale! So, what’s in store for this “One machine”?
What does the future hold for our One Machine friend? Let’s let Kelly have the last word here. “Cloud computers such as Google and Amazon form the learning center for the smart superorganism. Let's call this organ el Googazon, or el Goog for short. El Goog encompasses more than the functions of the company Google and includes all the functions provided by Yahoo, Amazon, Microsoft online and other cloud-based services.
El Goog is sucking in the smartest humans on earth to work for it, to help make it smarter. The smarter it gets, the more smart people, and smarter people, want to work for it. El Goog ropes in money. Money is its higher metabolism. It takes the money of investors to create technology that attracts human attention (ads), which in turns creates more money (profits), which attracts more investments. The smarter it makes itself, the more attention and money will flow to it.”
As we can see from the above description of El Goog, the most powerful mass collaboration network is now in existence. What our students need is to get connected to other people in this network and get involved in projects that are real and meaningful to them and that also have an impact on the lives of our global neighbors.
The recent Global Issues Network (GIN) conference at ISB was an excellent example of young people who are collaborating in meaningful projects with other young people around the world - via the Internet. All students can be involved in a project that inspires them. Ryan Hreljac founded the well building project, Ryan’s Wells, when he was six years old. As he said to our ISB students, “Even a six-year old boy can become involved and make an important difference in the lives of other people around the world.” Frankly, it is just this kind of involvement that our students must undertake.
Another example of students collaborating globally is the project-based learning of the Horizon Project, and the World is Flat. Our students already have the technology. We teachers need to connect them to meaningful projects and let them go to work.