Global Generation 7: role of the web (versus existing education systems)

So. This Global Generation I keep talking about. These kids some of whom haven’t even been generation of thinkers

Let’s talk about how the web can fulfill its role in the education of this generation and assisting in creating the next generation of thinkers.

I set this up as a separate post because, frankly, I get a lot of pushback on how large a role I believe the web can, and should, be playing in global education in the future.

There is has already been a lot written on educating via “the net.” And there has also been a lot of concern with what role it can play. Let me begin with a couple of thoughts:

–          It is difficult to foresee what doesn’t exist. We keep trying to apply our rules & beliefs on something that doesn’t even exist yet (this generation). The best we can do is build a system and construct they can utilize (and then plan on revising it as they use it).

–          Is a ‘net education’ platform the best solution as a standalone? Nope (or I doubt it). The best scenario would include a web platform with access to a global library (teaching maybe not freedom of choice but understanding of choices). And supporting this internet platform/library with as much (and as often as possible) human interaction.

(Note: while I am a huge freedom of choice advocate I hesitate to impose my beliefs on other cultures and government platforms. To me it is more important to create an understanding of choices platform so regardless of individual culture/country choices derivatives/dictates at least there is some understanding of what other cultures have chosen/elected to do.)

Also. A note on “human interaction.” (and I stated this in a previous post on tactics)

My friends at Flying Rhinoceros, A small innovative children’s web based educational group, already has developed an incredible ‘live teaching event’ interactive function that would be perfect to support a global web initiative where on-the-ground teaching support is just not viable.

Anyway. It is interesting that I typically have the same initial pushback from traditional educators/education systems every time I discuss this idea.

The conversation so often begins with “so, how can a web based initiative support education systems? Teachers, with the human interaction, are the best way to learn. You need teachers.”

I shake my head a little. Maybe sigh.

And I say “it shouldn’t have to be that way. In fact a global education initiative shouldn’t even be developed that way with that type of thinking.”

Traditional educators typically stop and freak at this point.

It’s okay. But. Every time I talk to one of these people or groups I find myself in a time warp.

It seems I am going back to the same discussions I was having with the banking industry maybe 10 years ago.

They would say “so, what can we do to meet this new non in-bank banking population? This new web enabled population?” And all they really wanted were some annexes, literally or figuratively, built onto their highly capitalized brick & mortar system.

internet-saves-from-lame1I (we) kept saying “you cannot look at building for this new audience that way. No matter how much it pains you, start from scratch. And then see what you can use of what you have.”

A web based global education system for kids has to begin that way. These are kids. Today’s generation is different than we are and the generation after them will be different.

From bottom up planning using the internet as the basis for a kid’s gestalt.

Think cyber cafes with a monitor/teacher for kids.

Think of the retail trend happening now overseas where there are “pop-up” retail stores. They appear in a location for 48 hours and then get torn down and move to a new location (pop up schools).

Think live event chat room type classrooms for parents & kids (so parents can learn as well as interact with kids afterwards).

Think nontraditional brick & mortar ideas.

Think non-stationery idea.

I know I keep bring up cellular as a key aspect of global education for kids.

Look. Vodaphone in Africa is already building a financial banking system with NO brick & mortar. Purely through cellular technology with a web based platform. Learning from their case study is important. They suggest:

–          The best results are achieved when you move with the natural flow of grassroots creativity.  Often, this means abandoning or suppressing preconceived notions, and building on spontaneous and creative adaptations of the new technology by local people to meet their needs. What does that mean, exactly?

When Vodafone began a pilot cell phone project in Kenya, Nick Hughes, the company’s head of international payments, said, “The idea was to reduce the cost of loan disbursal and recovery, but what we found was that customers were using it for person-to-person transfers.”  As a result, the company introduced a commercial program in Kenya three months ago to make financial transactions possible by mobile phone. Customers have flocked to the service. “We’ve passed the 175,000 mark,” Mr. Hughes said, “and they’re signing up at about 2,500 a day.”

Vodafone quickly realized that the local people had a far better idea, and they grabbed the opportunity to create a matching program that is now maximizing benefits for company and customers.

It is not a huge stretch to think of a web enabled global education in the same way. A global education system should be seeking to build a plan of action along the same lines.

In my mind If you have global education plan in mind, mobile isn’t a choice it is going to be a must.

So. Mobile devices and the applications that provide content to users of smart phones are changing the way we do everything (or even how we should think about doing things).

And smartphones, or cell phones, will change the global education game. Yes. I said “will.”

Sure, in my idea I am speaking of a Global Generation yet to arrive, but the mobile technology is already impacting current generations way beyond “a young person’s phenomenon.”

GenXers were early adopters of technology and continue to ride along the forefront of Smartphone and technology aspects. Boomers are even tagging along for the ride and, of course, Millennials are driving user application innovations and will end up being the technology caretakers of the future (and the Global Generation).

However. I recognize Smartphones, and the explosion of applications is simply the distribution and dissemination tool for a global education net platform (but I am going to come back to cell phones because they are critical particular in developing countries).

Second. (I apologize; I lost my source on this aspect). How the information gets disseminated, or, maybe better said the quality of the information, is changing just as quickly as the distribution technology. And that is also important (although it is like trying to align squirrels when making this idea happen).

Here is what some expert suggests:

–          “Highly specialized information silos, moderated by individuals (and small groups of individuals … not necessarily in contiguous geography), validated by the community, and put into context with the inclusion of meta-data through widgets.” Ok. For me, the most convincing is what they have to say about search:

  • Search engines will be replaced by smaller, specialized searchlets
  • Search engines will be able to understand context through tagging and community interaction.
  • Search “profiles” will become portable, allowing us to have the digital equivalent of body language.
  • Natural language search will be improved once search engines have a stronger understanding of context.
  • People search will become more important.
  • Guided/Editorial search will be a stopgap where search engines still fail to provide relevance.

This is important stuff to a net based education initiative. Content on the platform needs to match dissemination trends and innovations.

The true beauty, and potential, of thinking of a global education program without brick & mortar/face-to-face teaching at its cornerstone is that the web will continue to enhance what has identified as a major trend: Mass Mingling.

(note: this next section is mostly a direct pull from trendwatching with their permission)

Long term, younger generations will be at ease with meeting likeminded souls they’ve met ‘virtually’ and this continuing change in attitude will fuel this idea of Mass Mingling even more.

On the tech side of things, expect the triumphant rise of all things mobile to continue: iPhones, Android, Apps, iPads, 3G, 3.5G, 4G, Wifi everywhere, clouds, GPS (and Galileo, Compass and Glonass)– the list goes on! Which is yet another push for MASS MINGLING on steroids.

MASS MINGLING is happening because people can. There’s now an all-encompassing information layer on top of real-world daily life, that (especially when mobile and location based), turns ‘connecting’ into 24/7 and ‘on the go’, further blurring the boundaries between online and offline.

This layer has created a space in which following, finding, tracking, connecting to, and ultimately (spontaneously) meeting up in the real world with interesting known and unknown people will be easy, automatic, instinctive, convenient, and even natural. And thus, for many, connecting to ‘strangers’ is rapidly becoming second nature.

For a glimpse of things to come, dive into location-based ‘meet-up’ services like Foursquare (now doing 700,000 check-ins per day), Gowalla, GooggleLatitude and Loopt.

By the way, the first official Foursquare Day took place this April. News of the event spread by word of mouth, leading many users to organize parties and gatherings celebrating the social network.

* Lets not forget that this emerging layer also taps into a vast reservoir of local knowledge and content that has been growing online for years. This incredible info-infrastructure further helps (if not encourages) MASS-MINGLING prone people to select venues and activities (based on profiles, preferences, reviews etc.) before venturing out.

MASS MINGLING follows the pattern of any trend, whereby an existing human need is unlocked in a new way. In this case, interacting with other people – a fundamental need (which goes beyond simply enjoying one another’s company, or being emotionally dependent on other people) – has become easier thanks to new technology.

–          note: there is no reason why this shouldn’t apply to education.

So, no surprise here that hundreds of millions of people are now adding and tending to personal profiles (listing likes and dislikes, interests, preferences, physical assets, and opinions), making it easier than ever before to ‘discover’, or stay in touch with, likeminded others.

This entire ‘befriending’ takes place in unprecedented quantities because never before were people able to build and maintain such extensive and relevant personal networks.

Some numbers:

  • Twitter: 100 million+ users, with 50 million tweets sent each day.
  • Facebook: nearing 500 million users. The average user has 130 friends, spends 55 minutes a day on the site and receives three “event invitations” to real-life gatherings every month (in December 2009, the company stated that 3.5 million events were created every month). Next? According to The New York Times, Facebook will soon incorporate ‘location’ in two ways: its own features for sharing location and APIs to let other sites and apps offer location services to Facebook users. This could well be a MASS MINGLING killer app.
  • LinkedIn: over 65 million members. A new member joins LinkedIn approximately every second.
  • A ‘veteran’ MASS MINGLING engine like Meetup has 6.1 million members, handling 2.2 million RSVPs and 180,000 meet-ups, in 45,000 cities a month.
  • Foursquare as one million users, while Gowalla 150,000 users.
  • Nearly three quarters (73%) of online teens and an equal number (72%) of young adults* use social network sites. 73% of adult profile owners use Facebook, 48% have a profile on MySpace and 14% use LinkedIn. (Source: Pew, Feb 2010.)

Hundreds of millions of personal pages, feeds, status updates, tweets, profiles, blogs—courtesy of the Facebooks, the Twitters, the LinkedIns—are building an eternally up-to-date encyclopedia of individuals.


mass minglingHere is the big thought. The thought that links this Global Generation children’s education program to the impact a Global Generation can have on the world – the massive impact of “enlightened conflict.”

Some thoughts on how this will lead to ‘forever connected’ amongst younger generations:

–          “Thanks to our connection machine, they [young people] will stay linked, likely for the rest of their lives. With their blogs, MySpace pages, Flickr photos, YouTube videos, Seesmic conversations, Twitter feeds, and all the means for sharing their lives yet to be invented, they will leave lifelong Google tracks that will make it easier to find them.” (media guru Jeff Jarvis)

Let me say it in my words.

The kids we impact in the global education program will not only have shared values but shared lives.

That is why this is an important idea and an important program.

Mass mingling and Global education for kids.

I would imagine, in the end, I am suggesting marrying consumer trends and innovation in education development. I believe too often specialty industries, like education, don’t look far enough outside themselves seeking solutions.

This idea’s time is now.

Most of all, in the end, we need to think about the power and brevity of youth.

Paying close attention to kid’s potential and the brevity of the potential aspects.

I focus on the youngest because that is the cornerstone to everything else. Cultures dictate the length of their particular child’s “childhood.” Americans are typically protected until 15. Some African countries are protected until 7 or 8. We cannot build an infrastructure guiding a child through a finite yearly system of education. We need to plan on an idea focused on brevity with the HOPE that there will be time for ongoing education.

To me a web based initiative has the greatest hope of making an impact educationally globally in even the most ‘brief’ of childhood situations.

Net based global education is the way for the future. Let’s not waste the opportunity.

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Written by Bruce