Will The Internet Start Looking More Like the World, or the World Like the Internet?

I was pondering future trends last week while watching the evening weather forecast.  Forecasting while watching a forecast?  Anyways… We were in for a possible round of severe weather that week. The news anchor put up a map of “storm spotters” – a network of people that would call in from their homes and tell what is happening in their area.

In other words, forecasting the weather is starting to incorporate crowd sourcing.

We have seen a giant push to get websites to work intuitively… and to even start thinking for us.  So on one hand – the Internet is starting to look more like the real world.  But I think even more often we are starting to see the world around us looking more and more like the Internet.  The powers that be are starting to see that there is power in crowd sourcing and social networking.  I wonder what real-life social networks we will see spring up next?

The real question for us is – can we use these ideas in education?  What if we took this weather stations ideas and applied them to a class? What if, instead of one large class, we broke that class down into smaller units based on geographic location.  Each smaller group forms a study group of sorts that watches issues related to the class subject in their area.  The small groups are loosely tied to one another in a way to share what they are learning about the subject.  The small groups would study local events or places. In this situation, the LMS would become more like the newscast – aggregating all of the input in one spot for everyone to benefit.

What if time and location became irrelevant for synchronous classes? What if you were grouped with a small group of people that lived near you when you sign up for a class, and then that group decided what day and time to meet for class?  The instructor would then send out assignments each week or maybe record a video for the group to work through. Maybe the instructor even met with each group.  then the groups send in their work to the class and the instructor aggregates all of the information coming in from each group and summarizes them for the entire class (which would essentially include all small groups no matter where they meet in the world).

Potentially, you could ave hundreds of students all meeting in a synchronous fashion, but all still in a way that fits their schedule.  This is, of course, another area where there is technology to do this… but we need one that is more specifically geared for educators.

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