You see there is something that has been growing through the internet for some time. Sharing of all sorts of information, cooperation on everything from flikr tags to digging news, and collaborating on open source software are all signs of what Wired calls New Socialism.
We’re not talking about your grandfather’s socialism. In fact, there is a long list of past movements this new socialism is not. It is not class warfare. It is not anti-American; indeed, digital socialism may be the newest American innovation. While old-school socialism was an arm of the state, digital socialism is socialism without the state. This new brand of socialism currently operates in the realm of culture and economics, rather than government—for now.
If, as Wired suggests, our economy is moving toward one of collaboration through technology what does that mean for education?
In a recent post, I touched upon how this effects college learning. It almost goes unsaid that k-12 is a different matter.
Classrooms could begin with sharing. Children could journal their experiences learning on the subjects, or share classwork with everyone. Children would have a chance to help fellow students with problem areas and see ways doing accomplishing the work they might not have thought of.
Cooperative work toward a larger goal is an important life lesson. Now this is not the same as working collaboratively. Cooperative work in this context means everyone working individually toward a common goal. Wired gives this example.
Not only have amateurs shared more than 3 billion photos on Flickr, but they have tagged them with categories, labels, and keywords. Others in the community cull the pictures into sets. The popularity of Creative Commons licensing means that communally, if not outright communistically, your picture is my picture. Anyone can use a photo, just as a communard might use the community wheelbarrow. I don’t have to shoot yet another photo of the Eiffel Tower, since the community can provide a better one than I can take myself.
Now picture a class doing a unit on the Civil War. Everyone is researching a topic on their own, but their goal is to grasp the larger picture of the whole conflict, being as in-depth or broad as the teacher wishes. Students with overlapping topics can share information, getting a different perspective on their individual topics. The students could then produce a wiki on the project, which could be used by each student to answer questions about the Civil War.
Working in groups is a useful task that New Socialism supports. Just look at how collaborative efforts have revolutionized software. Apache Web software is a prime example of collaborative open source success. When open source developers were asked what their prime motivation for coding open source most answered, to learn and develop new skills.”
Working toward a collective goal is the foundation of nearly all businesses. Whether your selling flowers, building houses, or managing payroll all employees are working to toward the same goal. Many times this work is done collectively. Working together in groups is essential for students. In life we must learn to work with others, even if we aren’t face to face with our collaborators. Everyone has different strengths and weaknesses they bring to a group. The key is how to properly highlight those strengths and minimize those weaknesses to arrive at the best end result. Children who learn these skills early will be far ahead of the game in school and in the global economy.