Only the curious will learn and only the resolute will overcome the obstacles to learning. The quest quotient has always excited me more than the intelligence quotient.

Edmund S. Wilson (1895-1972) U.S. author, literary and social critic.


A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.”
Henry Brooks Adams


Back in 2010 when I developed an online children’s education platform, I spent a lot of time defending online education for young people on a variety of levels. One level was passive learning or what I called “learning by lurking.” I argued then, as I still argue, that any web-based platform has the ability to create learning through a unique aspect of web based collaboration which is that given the ease of access there will be active participants as well as passive participants, but all participants are learning. At the time I also suggested that this belief assists in reducing the children out of school numbers, increase literacy and most likely reduce future conflict all through the collaborative aspects of a web-based platform. I still believe all of that.

Which leads me to talk about learning by lurking again because of this article in Neuroscience News, latent learning, where they say “it has been very difficult to diagnose when latent learning is occurring, but this research was able to differentiate between latent learning and what people learn during explicit teaching.”

Let me get a thought out of the way.

I have written a variety of articles on how collaboration is misused in the business world. Misused in that I believe ideas are driven by individuals and collaboration often dulls the edges of individual ideas (under the guise of improvement). On the other hand, the traditional education system is ignoring the benefits of collaboration for learning or maybe better said “the gathering & sharing of knowledge” particularly with regard to the global youth. What I mean is that there is an opportunity within this context where children, utilizing a web platform, could be driving the ideation (versus the current system where teachers facilitate learning and ideation). Yeah. I am suggesting a version of self-directed learning.

Anyway. A web based children’s education, where physical is wrapped around online rather than vice versa, collaboration represents an opportunity because:

  1. The existing way we view the education system, based on brick & mortar, is archaic. For a variety of reasons, collaboration included.
  2. The existing education system is archaic from a sociological perspective (creating a healthier collaborative mind).

“We are now at a point where we must educate our children in what no one knew yesterday, and prepare our schools for what no one knows yet.”

unknown author from an education article

It is possible archaic is a strong word, but maybe we should be using stronger words as we discuss education children (and improvements). What I know for sure is the current global education structure misses the opportunity to globalize socialization of knowledge/education. What I mean by that is the existing brick & mortar inherently diminishes some education opportunities because of the face-to-face “clique” challenges. I will come back to that last thought because it is a humdinger of a thought.

  • Collaboration and education

Collaboration when discussing the internet is obvious. I am going to avoid the obvious and utilize a twist on the idea by taking advantage of global consumer trends.  Two trends called Casual Collapse and Mass Mingling.

  1. Casual Collapse and Education

Casual Collapse is the current seeming ongoing blurring of many beliefs, rituals, formal requirements and laws that have defined specific societies.   And it continues to collapse because of the internet (to be specific – the cross-cultural sharing of information and knowledge empowered by the internet) and all this is happening without causing any apocalyptic aftermath. This is important because people grow up immersed in consumer culture, but as everyone becomes savvier about ‘what is happening and what people are thinking’ half way around the world they begin questioning the status quo conventional thinking through a more global perspective. Casual Collapse is not a negative trend (although some people may feel it is), but rather it is indicative of a variety of things. Let’s just say the web is a layer on a natural progression happening – the urbanization of emerging countries.

There’s an obvious link between the broad spread of more liberal attitudes and increasing urbanization globally (in Africa alone in 1980 28% lived in cities while today its 40% – 40 million people). As new arrivals find themselves distanced from traditional social and familial structures, and are exposed to a wider range of alternative goods, services, lifestyles, opinions and experiences, their tolerance to these alternatives grows, as does their interest. The web simply accelerates what would have been happening naturally. I am certainly not suggesting that everyone becomes overwhelmingly liberal as soon as they move to the city, but there is a clear trend for urban populations to have more socially liberal and tolerant views on a wide variety of issues.

  1. Mass Mingling and Education

I am certainly not suggesting a Global mind nor is the intent to create a “global mind” or even a “Global society.” I am discussing the benefit of a global collaborative education, therefore, I am discussing collaboration as an extension of having a global perspective in solution-seeking.

This is a big difference then creating a global mind. This is about fostering innate curiosity and sharing knowledge where children are then empowered to create their own ‘mind’ within a broad perspective.

So how the heck does that lead, or encourage, collaboration?

Nothing is more powerful within the individual child’s mind than curiosity.

A web based education initiative should encourage/enhance Collaboration that cultivates curiosity.

Most dictionaries define curiosity as something like “a state in which you want to learn more about something”, but it is also about being comfortable with uncertainty and not knowing, whilst at the same time being motivated to explore and discover more. It is a human characteristic that as soon as you think you know something with certainty you no longer want to learn more about it, i.e., you are no longer curious. But children are endless vectors of curiosity and it feels like tapping into the infinite online information world permits us to tap into an unfillable well at this age (as long as we nurture it) and expand the finite mind.

“The important thing is not to stop questioning… Never lose a holy curiosity.


Mass Mingling thrives on curiosity:

Most of the time, when we make a mistake, or see someone else making a mistake, our automatic reaction is to start making judgment and blame – we tell ourselves off, beat ourselves up about it, and we might even give someone else a hard time if we see them make a mistake. This only has the effect of triggering our stress response, which causes our thinking to become more rigid in our thinking.

Mass Mingling permits millions of young children to browse socially through information, existing knowledge and mingle with other’s thoughts – making mistakes along the way as they mingle.

This curiosity needs to be nurtured by teaching children that mistakes are just information and feedback from the real world, letting us know how things are in the real world, and telling us what’s working and what’s not working, what the blocks and obstacles to progress are, and offering cues to opportunities to solve problems and meet needs that other people might have. In this global world children will be exposed to the idea that their mistakes can be the very things that lead you in the new direction that turns out to be way better than you’d previously conceived. To be clear, reprising the theme of this piece, this can be done passively or actively. A child can learn these lessons by lurking or they can learn the lessons by active participation. I would argue permitting children to choose their learning path enhances intrinsic curiosity without dampening it with external forces. But ideas & innovative enlightened thinking does not arise out of a vacuum. It must be supported by a culture that encourages people to experiment with ideas and products. Original thinking and novel ideas should be affirmed and honored and cultivated. Even if it is simply original/novel in the eyes of the young. Learning shouldn’t be viewed as “difficult and frustrating” and we should have less focus on tests because it equates learning with results.


  • The value of Casual Collapse & Mass Mingling

A collaborative group of kids who have learned together, made mistakes together, learned FROM each other and maybe even laughed at, if not with, each other creates stronger respectful individuals within an interacting global community AND local community. It is a fact that education at an early age is indispensable in equipping citizens with the abilities and skills to engage critically, and act responsibly.

Education everywhere is a social construct. It is not an industry or a vocation. People come together to provide skills competencies and abilities for their children to succeed.”


“If we can find that right way to keep that disparate group of people working together; if we can find that right ecosystem at a national level to actually implement, we’re going to make a tremendous difference. And that’s a difference that’s not there to drive revenue. It’s not there to create new product streams. It’s there simply to create a better world.”

(note: this can actually be found in my Global Generation how to make it happen & fund write up).

  • Socialization and a web based Education

Beyond collaboration ‘missed opportunities’ let me go back to how brick & mortar is archaic from a socialization perspective. Existing education systems are a breeding ground for a caste system. Kids are brutal in a face-to-face system and, yes, online can be just as brutal in a different way. That said.

Who you are and how you dress and what you say (even the language you speak) becomes secondary to “what you say and what you think” in an online learning community. Sociologically this means that ideas and thinking create the caste system; not physical presence.

  • The natural anonymity of online tools frees us from tacit biases or self-doubt and encourages individual leadership.
  • Asynchronous tools allow global work teams release from the bonds of time zones to tackle projects with increasing effectiveness and productivity.
  • Social networks now become visible through community tools allowing financial, time, human and other organizational assets to be redeployed toward developing innovative approaches to unique problems, rather than reinventing solutions to problems that have been previously solved.

And before someone begins slamming on “decreasing social skills because of the internet” take this factoid:

PewInternetResearch: “Our research shows face-to-face time between teenagers hasn’t changed over the past five years. Technology has simply added another layer on top. Yes, you can find studies that suggest online networking can be bad for you. But there are just as many that show the opposite.”

In my eyes the value of an educational web world is that it permits a child to regularly place themself in unfamiliar situations, or with unfamiliar people, and provides the opportunity to be exposed to ideas and views that they’ve not been exposed to before.  And all of this provides an opportunity for real-life evidence/knowledge to challenge existing certainties – and open the way for curiosity.

We have the opportunity to integrate the newest forms of interactive technology with children’s natural curiosity (and a generation that has web abilities almost beyond our understanding) to create natural conditions in which collaboration can occur.

Which leads me to Learning by Lurking.

Twitter has certainly taught us you don’t have to be an active participant, you can be a ‘lurker’ and participate (or build a viable network system and have people be involved). And in education’s case it isn’t creepy, it can actually benefit a dormant mind or a personality that doesn’t feel comfortable stepping forward. In other words, all have the opportunity to benefit from the few great minds.  And providing an opportunity for the few who don’t have a voice (but have the mind) to be able to finally step forward at some point. Online permits some of the best minds, but possibly not the most socially acclimated, to rise and maximize their talent.

Such places could even be more than just schools, but genuine hubs for related activities for the entire community. With a global connection to the net – maybe not the net but another layer (along the lines of facebook which is also another layer of net) an education/informational platform awaits to be activated by a mind. Another ‘lurker’ (or maybe better says ‘anonymity’) aspect of the web enabled platform  is that it permits mistakes, maybe some spectacular mistakes, with little or no social repercussions.

Now. Am I suggesting face-to-face social skills aren’t important? Nope. They are. But I would still argue a collaborative learning environment teaches additional social skills. In addition, at its most basic level we are teaching our children the way they need to act within a learning construct at such an early age that when they grow up they will not depart from such behavior because it is ingrained (positively).

Behaviorally the child’s mind experiences the right way of dealing with issues & thinking & ideation so that it becomes a natural instinctual act. It becomes habits that produce profitable outcomes in their adult years (hopefully in the form of ideas & accomplishments).

This idea is truly about teaching kids, beginning at the preschool age, relationship-building collaborative skills that creates a mental foundation on how to deal with others AND educate.

Even prior to a child entering a traditional classroom (should that opportunity exist) there are opportunities to teach them how to interact and ideate with other people in a positive way – actively or passively.

I also believe, in my heart of hearts, that this is the best way for humankind as a great way to preserve and instill languages and cultures to counter the homogenization of urbanism combined with globalism.

When collaboration takes place between people who realize the benefit of smooth working relationships then higher creative achievement and productivity is accomplished. Healthy cross-functional teams working in concert for the greater good eventually translates into efficient operations, regardless of whether in an academic, work, social or home environment. In the end, society benefits from groups performing productively with another. Of course, teaching the basics of all of this at the preschool age means a greater likelihood of kids continuing positive collaboration abilities as they progress in life. And I do believe that the structure of web based schools/schooling with children as young as five or six in which they can express their opinions, share thinking & ideas and ultimately propose their own solutions creates a solid foundation for a ‘community individualism drive/intent’ generation of citizens. It is this kind of attitudinal construct which offers unlimited opportunities for leadership and engagement.  And it is this type of education structure which, by the time those five- and six-year-olds reach an appropriate graduation age, they will have a profound and enduring understanding of what it means to be in a collaborative society and have the ability to contribute within their own community as well as a global level if given the opportunity.

This is an idea of molding a people from diverse origins, cultural practices, languages, into one collaborative group of thinkers, within a framework which has to be democratic in nature (because it crosses any and all geographic boundaries, yet it can be absorbed within any cultural construct.

And by doing so it mitigates conflicts and adversarial interests without oppression and injustice but rather through expanding brain power. I imagine I am suggesting that even if young only ‘lurk’, and learn passively, the world will benefit. Ponder.

Written by Bruce