seth godin

University of Nothing – Part II

My previous post titled University of Nothing, generated a ton of meaningful, insightful, and thoughtful response.

J.T O’Donnell of adds some tremendous value and insight to this subject as she draws some parallels between my post and that of Sir Ken Robinson‘s new book, The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything. In her post:

However, I put my money on those who understand the simple truth to getting on track professionally: a discovery learning approach to finding a career that leverages a person’s own unique intelligence is the best way to find what they’re looking for. When put together, Reich’s and Robinson’s thoughts on learning and intelligence unlock the secret to finding professional success.

While I completely agree with this assessment, I would take this one step further:

When put together, Reich’s and Robinson’s thoughts on learning and intelligence unlock the secret to finding professional and PERSONAL success.

So what would the University of Nothing actually look like? I briefly outlined how the process might look if it were applied in an institutional setting:

Here are a few common themes I’ve noticed and how they could be applied to my University of Nothing (commented in Seth Godin’s Triiibes):

  1. Identify a general area of study (math, electronics, science, English, etc)
  2. Define a project, task, or end goal that is too hard for the students. (ie. prove a math theorem, build a robot, write a simple web application, write an essay using certain allegory or prose, etc)..just make it hard. And if they don’t like it, let them suggest a different end goal. One that intrigues them (within the same subject)
  3. Outline certain checkpoints for the students, and have them work towards each checkpoint (proof, concept, approach, methodology, etc). Build the approach so it forces analytical thinking and independence.
  4. Meet with the students at each checkpoint and discuss how they got there. Offer multiple suggestions for next steps without giving them a definitive answer.
  5. Review final product and discuss the various elements. Once the student has reached this point, you can take a more traditional approach to teaching (what I call cram-sorption), because by this point, the student will know the pain points, and will look to learn what they lacked in the process. They will most likely retain the information at the end of the process, than from the initial onset.

Teachers can help facilitate the learning process, and guide along the way, but at the end of the day, it’s all on that person to know how to get things done.

Bottom line: Education reform is needed and with question marks lingering over the economy, government, or society as a whole, 2009 may be the year that we see some of this reform. Whether or not it comes directly from government and the new Obama administration, private schools, or new and innovative startups, a change will occur because it has too and because people are fed up with this broken system.

Bailout in the financial sector, bailout in the auto sector, next…bailout in the education sector.

A complete revision of how we teach our children is long overdue. Whenever I go to school events I can’t help but notice what an unispiring environment these buildings are. – Bodo Albrecht

For those of you that haven’t seen Sir Ken Robinson speak, I highly recommend watching this:

My primary teaching goal is teaching folks how to think. I don’t care what they’re learning; the process is the real value. – Joel D Canfield

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Generativity of Social Networking Sites and Their Accountability

Jonathan Zittrain defines Generativity in the following manner:

“Generativity is a system’s capacity to produce unanticipated change through unfiltered contributions from broad and varied audiences”

Jonathan Zittrain, The Future of the Internet and How to Stop It

In reality, this description somewhat defines the nature of a social networking sites. If you look at social networking sites today, users are able to participate in 3 ways, all of which contribute to the generative nature of a social network: Users are able to:

  1. Generate self identifying content (their profile, blog, homepage)
  2. Generate and consume bi-directional content (messaging, statuses)
  3. Generate and consume multi-directional content (groups, discussion boards, forums)

These three methods of participation allow the internet and social networking sites to grow at the staggering rate they are today. However, as these sites grow, keeping the content organized so that it remains relevant and meaningful to the user, becomes increasingly difficult. This issue is more prominent in the third method, as users are able to impact the entire network in a single instance.

Take for example the Groups feature. A single user can create a group made available to the entire network. That’s fine. But what happens when multiple users create the same group? An overlap occurs, and what should have been a single meaningful group, now becomes one group of many just like it.

Today, I joined my University of Wisconsin – Madison group as I am a recent alumni. There were about 3-4 identical groups? Do I join them all? The same scenario applied to many of the groups I wanted to join.

The generative nature of social networks allow for more noise, and enables users to disrupt the very social graph they create, making the networks more complex and less meaningful. Other people recognize the growing occurrence of this noise, and ironically enough, have used the same generative nature of social networks to maintain strong connections, content, and a healthy social graph (see Triiibes).

About six weeks ago, I joined Seth Godin’s social network called Triiibes (which he created using a white-box social network: Ning). The network was only made available to those that made an early purchase for his new book. As a result, the content and communication in the network is much stronger and meaningful then I’ve seen on any other network.

As social networks grow, they must look to sites like Wikipedia for guidance. They must learn how to keep the network connected using only meaningful and unique data points.

(Jonathan Zittrain’s book is a good read for anyone interested in technology and communications, and their inevitable effects on society)

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