Saturday, February 18, 2006

14:2 Web 2.0 Thrives on Trust

This article explores the second of seven Web 2.0 characteristics of future education: building professional networks of trust.

The idea
The idea is to enable greater outreach and feedback on the use of student core competencies, with trust as the unique, hard-to-recreate asset, using Web 2.0 Educational Services to increase network value and social capital
as more people join in. (Image from Streetstar).

Building trust for Web 2.0 Educational Services
Trust can be said to grow from a sense of shared meaning, which in turn enables shared action. Naturally, this can be done in a variety of ways. One inspiring example comes from streetdancing, a no-rules form of dancing with a lot of attitude and positive energy. As with other sub-cultures, its provides a cristal ball look into the future on what attracts youth of today. What can we learn from streetdancing when trying to generate shared meaning and shared action? How to apply this insights when developing Web 2.0 Educational Services? Why is building trust important? Starting with a presentation of streetdancing, these questions will then be addressed in turn.

Come on, be a Streetstar!
is a Scandinavian streetdance competition in Stockholm, Sweden, populated by a multicultural crowd of young people competing for a place in the European final of Juste Debout in Paris. On a question on what builds trust among the participants, Streetstar´s creative director Joachim Hövel says:
- It´s dancing. That is what brings them all together.

The contestants “battle” 1 to 1, or 2 against 2, on the floor of an indoor sports arena by improvising to music played by a DJ. Their performance is judged by a professional jury and the winner gets to dance again. This is repeated all the way to the final. Rap artists lead the show, professional hiphop dancers perform and nothing but limonade and chocolate cookies are for sale in the improvised cafeteria. The Streetstar event involved competitions in the following categories:
- Newstyle/hiphop: fast pace with a lot of foot-work, goes with modern hip-hop music.
- House: rhythm and groove with step- and jazzdancing, goes with house-clubs music.
- Popping: formerly called electric boogie, goes with funk music from the 60s and 70s.
- Locking: attitude and energy, goes with funk music.

After about an hour of electrified competition there is a 30 minutes recess during which the crowd enters the floor. Improvising to the DJ´s music, spontaneous rings are formed around dancers wanting to show their moves. The intensity of the dance is such that each dancer perform his improvised moves for not more than a minute before next dancer takes over. It is like jazz musicians taking turn during a jam session. The good dancers attract attention, while the not so good attract less or none.

Lessons learned from Streetstar the competition
Trying to bring out the key components of building shared meaning, William Isaac´s “four-player model” comes in handy. Streetstar the competition creates a stage for interdependent roles, such as “movers, opposers, followers, and bystanders”.

The movers (“I advocate this”) are the first one to battle, followed by the opposer (“I do not agree, and let me explain why”) improvising moves in his/her way. The followers (“I support this idea”) are the members of the jury, as well as part of the crowd competing later on. The bystanders (“Here is how I am seeing what seems to be going on”) are the rest of the crowd enjoying the show.

As in a genuine dialogue, these are not static roles. More or less naturally, the crowd of streetdancers take on new roles when they feel the need for a shift of energy. This is key. Building shared meaning is about allowing for participants to take on all four interdependent roles and helping the person to learn from their own experience.
A problem with teaching is that it is almost always all about the teacher and the teaching, and not the student. This is not helped by most workplaces and educational settings being characterized by rigid roles.

Igniting the passion of young (and not so young) people
Identity, recognition and respect. If that is what modern youth is on the look out for, workplaces and educational settings not catering for these underlying desires are not likely to ignite their passion. One way to counteract this development is to intergrate streetdance qualities in student driven Web 2.0 Educational Services, such as a blog.

Students developing customer-oriented blogs would need to shift roles among themselves, as movers, opposers, followers and bystanders, to keep energy levels high. They would need to clarify the rules of the game, so everyone can join in on the same premises, just like the Streetstar competition. Moreover, they would need to build shared meaning on how customers may contribute to their Web 2.0 Educational Service, shifting from bystanders to, hopefully, followers, but also act as movers and opposers. In turn, this would require students to adapt a strategy that really understand their customers in terms of:
- What they need within the student´s area of competence
- How they interact with the blog content
- What interest they have to alter and improve the blog content
- What other services they want besides educational services

Building trust is cost-efficient
”It´s sexy to want to change the world”. That is what Bono, the U2 singer said at the Davos World Economic Forum 2006 when launching the Product Red series
, using commerce to beat poverty. The success of it all builds on trust, a trustworthy sender. Product Red consumers demonstrates who they trust to fix the world problems we are facing. It is not governments or promising new technology, nor corporate leaders or rock artists. It is us, you and me, integrating the role of a consumer with that of a responsible citizen.

“No one project or organisation is the solution”, the American writer and media producer Jim Wine wrote to me in a personal e-mail exchange. “There is too much to learn, too much to do. Collective learning is the fundamental. It is teams embedded within larger networks that drive learning and change.” Again, interpersonal trust is, most probably, what makes these teams function at all. In addition, it is a cost-efficient and necessary ingredient in any effort of creating positive change.

If not anything else, Web 2.0 Educational Services could help students, and their customers, (re)build social capital, "the very fabric of our connections with each other", "creating value for the people who are connected and – at least sometimes – for bystanders as well”. Read more about 150 ways of building social capital yourself.

Coming up
For more on the seven future forms of education outlined above, follow this blog. The next one coming up is: 3) Tailor-made learning units.

William Isaac (1999), Dialogue: The art of thinking together , foreword, XVIII
SvD (2006),
Streetdansfestivalen och alla stilarna man tävlar i

Monday, January 09, 2006

14:1 Web 2.0 Educational Services

As a follow up on Web 2.0 and future education, this article explores the first of seven characteristics of future education: student driven educational services.

The idea
The idea is to convert students/employees into customer driven content providers rather than teacher driven content receivers, using Web 2.0 technologies to offer educational services, financed through Google Adsense, to potential customers world-wide. (Image from Cluetrain)

Why Web 2.0 Educational Services is a good idea
The reason for converting students/employees into customer driven content providers is that other educational forms are needed to tackle what Nordström & Riddarstråle
describes as the “social society with a surplus of similar companies, employing similar people, with similar educational backgrounds, coming up with similar ideas, producing similar things, with similar prices and similar quality”. Where everybody thinks the same, no one thinks very much.

Instead of conformity, being different is the competitive advantage. More and more, this difference comes from “the way people think rather than what organizations make” (Nordström & Riddarstråle, Funky Business)
. If this is so, supporting students to not only develop their own talents and creative thinking, but also base it on real customer needs, increases in importance. Customer relations being the key differentatior in a social society with a surplus of similar products and services. Here, customers are defined as individuals with clearly defined needs, paying for educational services through money, personal networks or just paying attention.

Earning money from Web 2.0 Educational Services
With more supply than demand, customer attention has an economic value in itself. “Our attention is all we have. To give or receive. To not give or to not receive. All other value flows downhill” (Bokardo)
. Consequently, an educational service drawing attention is worth something for advertisers offering products and services related to the educational service in question. For example, offering practical guidance for immigrants in their own language.

The unit of attention is gestures, such as clicking on a computer screen. If visiting a web-based educational service results in customers clicking on ads embedded on the web-page, customer attention is converted into money for the educational service web-page owner. Money payed by the advertiser and automatically administered through, for example, Google Adsense

To improve earnings from Google Adsense
, the educational service provider need to work with four success factors (Adsensevideos):
1. Placement of ads on the web-page
2. Using key-words that generates high return
3. Provide a lot of content
4. Keep track of performance

The trick seem to be to regularly provide new content and links around key-words that draw high paying advertisers and result in high ranking on Google, ranking being important as information seekers only tend to read the first three/four search results. Not forgetting that monetizing on Google Adsense is not as easy as it seems.

Blogging Web 2.0 Educational Services
Weblogs constitute an attractive platform to offer educational services. It is free, easy to use and scalable. With Google´s Blogger
, for example, Google Adsense is integrated automatically.

Blogging is a phenomenon on the rise. With a new blog being created every second or over 80 000 blogs daily, the blogosphere continues to double every six months. As a comparison, the number of scientific journals doubles every 15 years (Bokardo
). About 55% of all blogs are active and about 13% of all blogs are updated at least weekly (Technocrati).

Blogging reflects the start of a powerful global conversation, as pointed out in the Cluetrain manifesto
, where the Internet has provided new ways to “share relevant knowledge with blinding speed. As a direct result, markets are getting smarter – and getting smarter faster than most companies”. These markets are conversations communicating “in language that is natural, open, honest, direct, funny and often shocking”. Corporations, on the other hand, “will only sound human when they empower real human beings to speak on their behalf.” This is where customer-driven student-offered educational services in the form weblogs has a real opportunity to engage business in a new kind of conversation with their customers. Web 2.0 Workgroup is one fine example of this, or this blog on building a community of practice of how to use blogs.

Learning methods for Web 2.0 Educational Services
A method that can be directed to identify customer needs is problem-based learning (PBL). It integrates theory with professional practice, where carefully selected and designed practice-related problems are used as the main basis of curriculum design. The nature of the problem serving as the selection criteria for course content.

With PBL, students/employees focus on solving unstructured real problems outside the university/company building, rather than delivering ready-made answers to predefined problems already addressed. The PBL-method consists of seven steps:

Define the problem
1. Clarify point of departure
2. Generate ideas
3. Structure ideas

Plan for action
4. Formulate learning objectives
5. Gather information and experiences

Evaluate the results
6. Present results and share experiences
7. Produce resources for others to build upon

It should be said that PBL is most successful with qualified tutors, who may not have all the answers but are skilled in structuring ideas and helping students/employees in formulating challenging and feasible learning objectives. Objectives that not only are directed towards collecting information, as is often the case, but focused on gathering experiences from trying out a solution, right from the beginning, targeted at the root causes of a problem. Thereby doing the right thing, rather than doing things right. An approach that will involve more mistakes, but that is the whole point. “The road to success is to double your mistakes”, as the founder of IBM once said. For an example of PBL in practice, click here

Coming up
For more on the seven future forms of education using Web 2.0 technologies, follow this blog. The next one coming up is: "2) Professional networks of trust".

Thursday, December 08, 2005

14. Web 2.0 and Future Education

In the dark, as it is not advertised, a new phenomenon is rising in cyber space: Web 2.0. Coined by Tim O´Reilly in 2004, the concept of Web 2.0 has clearly taken a foothold with 9,5 million citations in Google in September 2005 and 240 million citations only two months later. This article presents seven characteristics of future education based on Web 2.0 technologies to be further explored in seven articles to come.

What is Web 2.0?
Web 2.0 is a term describing an ongoing transition of the World Wide Web from a collection of websites to a full-fledged computing platform serving web applications to end users. What we are seeing is a new wave of Internet development offering a more dynamic online experience at low cost, using established software tools. By the way, thanks Keso, whoever you are, for offering your photo above for free at Flickr, one fine example of a Web 2.0 company.

Exploiting the value of sharing
Web 2.0 companies exploit the value of sharing and find alternative business models to earn their living. Flickr, for example, was sold to Yahoo with the business case of drawing more visitors to and their commercial advertisers. E-bay buying Skype was motivated by a similar logic. So instead of selling a product, Web 2.0 companies offers participation for free (at least for basic functions), building value by attracting a crowd for companies selling services and products or private donors wanting to see this happen, for example a Wikipedia. In my view, the need for personal recognition in a mass consumer society is what ultimately supports this change, at least from an end-user perspective.

Google, the next Microsoft?
Another example is, of course, Google, offering free services supported by advertising, a very different way of doing business than Microsoft. Google gives up on the big customers (initially) and go for the 80% whose needs are not met. In return of giving up something expensive and considered critical (Google´s search function), they got something valuable for free that was once expensive, as marketing on the web. Through customer-self service (Google Adsense), Google reach out to the entire web, to the edges and not just the centre, to the long tail and not just the head. The future norm is predicted to be just this: tapping into applications as services over the web, rather than using pieces of software loaded on computers.

Front figures on the web
Other successful companies in the Web 2.0 spirit are:, Skype, e-bay, Amazon, Apple, along with a number of start-ups offering various tools of participations, such as:
i) writely - using the web as a word processor
jotspot - co-creating web-pages, also known as wikis
blogger - enable private web logs, or blogs
flock - free, open source web-browser
fon - sharing wifi broadband access
vi) - social bookmark management, also known as tagging

Seven core competencies
Tim O´Reilly identifies
seven core competencies of Web 2.0 companies:

Services, not packaged software, with cost-effective scalability
2) Control over unique, hard-to-recreate data sources that get richer as more people use them
3) Trusting users as co-developers
4) Harnessing collective intelligence
5) Leveraging the long tail through customer self-service
6) Software above the level of a single device
7) Lightweight user interfaces, development models, AND business models

Seven characteristics of future education
How are schools and universities to adapt to the influence of Web 2.0 technologies, manifested through an increasing student usage of these technologies outside the classroom for social networking, information gathering and value creation? In light of the seven core competencies identified by O´Reilly, I believe more attention has to be placed on helping students co-create:

1) Student driven educational services converting
students/employees into customer driven content providers rather than teacher driven content receivers, using Web 2.0 technologies to offer educational services, financed through Google Adsense, to potential customers world-wide.
2) Professional networks of trust enabling greater outreach and feedback on the use of student core competencies, with trust as the unique, hard-to-recreate asset, and increasing network value as more people join in.
3) Tailor-made learning modules adapted to the needs of identified customers students are trying to help, thus having people outside the classroom as co-developers of course content when defining what students need to know.
4) Share points of knowledge exploring new topics through collaborative learning, using Web 2.0 technologies to build common understanding through developing the collective intelligence of a web community, for example tagging and wikis.
5) Niche products and services for specialised market needs and test them in practice, as part of their educational program, developing their own customer self-service applications for real problems, drawing upon existing Web 2.0 technologies to administer their services.

6) Integrated educational packages that brings on-campus education into the streets, like pervasive gaming where computer games are played in reality and not sitting in front of the computer, using mobile technology as well as positioning and sensors. For example making the City as Theatre or Nature as Laboratory.
7) International development clusters where core competences in one part of the world tackle mass markets needs for low cost products in another part of the world, like
Design that Matters with its worldwide system enabling the citizen sector, university students, and businesses to jointly innovate for social change.

Creating conditions for open innovation
The trick for organisations seems to be to have external persons complement internal efforts of applying core competencies in practice by establishing a web platform for
open innovation. If successful, a number of specialised services will arise that uses the organisation’s core data, thus creating a better position to fight off competition and attract new partners.

Coming up
For more on the seven future forms of education outlined above, follow this blog. The next one coming up is: "1) Scalable educational services".

- Nutall, C. “Way of the web: start-ups map the route as big rivals get Microsoft in their sights”. In Financial Times (2005-11-17), pg 11
- Torstensson, H. “Därför ska du göra din sajt till en plattform” [That´s why you should make your site into a platform]. In Internet World(December 2005), number 10, pg 63

Friday, November 25, 2005

13. Learners as entrepreneurs

One way to foster passionate learners is to think of them as entrepreneurs. As such, there are certain driving factors that need to be in play in order for them to operate properly.

Driving factors for entrepreneurs*
Motivation is one driving factor, propelled by the:
Need for achievement;
- Desire for independence;
- Wish of better working conditions;
- Longing to act like entrepreneurial their role-models;
- Thrill of risk-taking.

An enabling environment is another driving factor involving, for example:
- A vision or sense that motivates the initiator to act;
- Skills and expertise including present know-how plus confidence to be able to obtain know-how needed in the future;
- Expectation of personal economic and/or psychological benefits;
- Access to digital tools of participation;
- Conditions and policies providing comfort and support.

Naturally, the importance of these factors varies for each learner and learning situation. Nonetheless, raising awareness of the driving factors, in-group or on a one-to-one basis, helps boost motivation and identify deficiencies in the enabling online environment.

Need to involve risks
Entrepreneurs are risk-takers by default. Oddly enough, taking risks when converting passion into new possibilities seems to lower the risk as successful entrepreneurs generate more options for themselves than risk-avert people. Could it be that risk-averts are the real risk-takers, as the former are more vulnerable to change than the latter? Change being the only thing we know for sure will happen.

If we are to learn from entrepreneurs, a passionate learning environment needs to involve risk at some level, real or imagined. Not forgetting that passionate learning, just like entrepreneurship, can hardly be taught, as the founder of Body Shop Dame Anita Roddick in the picture above claims. What is possible, though, is to strengthen the enabling learning environment.

Learning about the rules of the game
Viewing online learning educators as first and foremost providing an arena for learners to expand their zone of influence, the challenge is to motivate the learners to not only invest their intellectual capabilities, but also their social being and economic resources, converted into time units, to create opportunities beyond the online classroom. In other words, enthuse them to take risks. In its most straightforward form, it is about inspiring learners to formulate, ask and reformulate, questions that help them learn the rules of the game you want them to play.

Learning as an entrepreneur is to take a personal responsibility in making your passion become your guiding star, drawing energy from your inner self and view slip-ups as an valuable learning opportunity. In fact, “the road to success is to double your mistakes”, if we are to take the advice from the founder of IBM.

* Shane S, Korvereid L, Westhead P. The Quest for Holy Grail: Looking for a Universal Theory of the Motivations and Environmental Influences that Promote Entrepreneurship. Working Paper No. 3024/1991. Bodö Graduate School of Business, Nordland University Centre. In Lordkipanidze M, Brezet H, Backman M. The Entrepreneurship Factor in Sustainable Tourism Development. Draft paper. International Institute for Industrial Environmental Economics, Lund University.

Friday, November 11, 2005

12. Tools of participation

”Tools of participation – that is the new economy. You cannot package an authentic experience. You set the stage and let people script their own dramas.”

Word of mouth only
Those are the words of David Batstone
, an american business entrepreneur, professor and journalist, I heard speak at the SIME ´05 conference. With the Internet we are moving away from information society, dominated by top-down mass-market approach, to an interaction society characterised by participation. Tools of participation are enabling this, expanding rapidly by word of mouth only. In fact, many of the highest valued brands today are not doing any marketing at all. They let the users do it for them.

Creating economic value
David Batstone writes: “The online world, in my humble view, has tapped out its usefulness as a static kiosk. Yes, it's a terrific reference librarian, retail outlet, and one-stop data shop. But the next quantum growth for the Internet will arrive with participation technologies that give us the tools to transform our lives. In truth, the Net as a communications platform has been my sense of its real potentiality all along. It is the first glimpse of an emerging economy. You give me the tools to make my own personal history, to change my life, to feel in a new way, to participate in something authentic, you will own a piece of economic value.”

Examples of enablers
The open source model used for Linux is well known. Over 20 million programmers are jointly developing code together. The free Internet telephone software Skype, with 200 million user (Nov, 2005) and the search engine Google
are other tools of participation. “Internet is reducing the transaction costs and entry barriers in all industries”, says Andrew McLauchglin, chief policy officer of Google Inc. This gives rise to hyper competition, but also enables smaller brands to sell their products. For example, over 700 000 people selling goods and services in the US have e-Bay as their main source of income. CDBaby has enabled some 400 000 independent bands to sell their music.

Online social networking
Other tools of participation are CIWI and Open BC
enabling social networking on line. OpenBC has some 650 000 members mainly in Europe and Asia, available in 16 languages, enabling the members to not only keep track of what their contacts, and their contacts contacts, are doing, but also where they are at a specific moment in time. Speaking about social networking, the online community Lunarstorm is in fact the largest city in Sweden with 1.2 million users, representing 75% of all young kids in Sweden. With 1.3 billion web pages linked to every month, it is as big as the largest online newspaper in India. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit has over 800 000 articles in the US only. Habbo Hotel, a virtual hang-out pixelized as a 5-star luxury hotel, engage 5 million users with an annual turnover of 40 million euros.

Click on the title of this blog (“12. Tools of participation”) to read the whole article by David Batstone

Sunday, October 30, 2005

11. Multiple use of live chat

Live support through online chat is a feature on the rise. According to an Andersen Consulting review, 62 % of Internet consumers said that if live online customer service were present, they would purchase more products online. What can we learn from this when it comes to higher education?

One advantage is related to student enrollment. When more and more educational institutions are competing for the best students, answering questions from potential students in real time instead of via e-mail could make a difference. Easy access to someone behind the scenes could also reassure those who have opted for a program that they made the right decision. But then, isn´t this creating more adminstration than reducing it? From an inside-out perspective it certainly is. Students are demanding and it is best to keep them at arms lenghts.

In an online environment, however, the on-campus benefits of socialising off-hours are not there. More effort has to be invested in attracting and keeping the students on track. Fast feed-back is one feature to ensure this. Setting up fixed office-hours, for example, for live chat support means no major changes to present working routines, as you are able work with your computer while waiting for an incoming chat. This highligts, however, the need to organise all relevant student information in an easy accessible way, so that any member of staff can be available for a chat at given time-slot. With all basic information present online, it is not a matter of repeating the same answer all the time, but actually building a relation with future students, who in turn may act as ambassadors to attract other students. Perhaps a role to be played by former students, the alumni?

This, is the outside-in perspective. Lund University is actually doing a similar thing by offering future students access to a web-ambassador. They are still at the e-mail stage though...

Ps. Try Live Chat for yourself by downloading a demo version of Bold Chat or Provide Support. Ds.

Friday, September 30, 2005

10. Trimming CIU program

On September 6th CIU arranged a breakfast seminar for its network members on the experiences of using distance education in their cultural youth exchange program with Costa Rica. t42 Distance Education was invited to address three questions, see below.

What were the added values?
The distance education course forced the organisers and participants to relate, and interact with, a shared framework or mind-set. The purpose being to help local entrepreneurs support a more sustainable tourism. Placing this framework on a web-based educational platform accessible at all times, at least in theory, made it a focal point regardless of geographical boundaries. Although Internet access was low, preparing, supporting and working with the booklet version of the course, raised a number of issues to be dealt with. A process that deepened the cooperation between the project managers in Costa Rica and Sweden, brought new dimensions to team couple relations, strengthened relations with the municipality hosting the program and built a bridge between University and society.

The main added value was the sense of reciprocity it developed as the parties involved had to learn from each other in order to move the course forward, covering aspects such as guiding ideas, methods, tools and organisation. Aspects that in turn form the foundation of a learning organisation.

What made it work?
Factors contributing to the success of the program include high quality tutors, interest for sustainability issues, the problem-based learning method and the communication aspect of the Internet.

The tutors were vital for the end-result, as they lead and coach the participants, as well as sell the idea to the municipality. The sustainability issue seemed to attract the participants, although it took some effort in converting the abstract words into something tangible in their immediate surroundings. The problem-based learning method challenged the students to formulate their own questions, rather than trying to remember the ideas of someone else. Using the Internet for chat conversations on the web-based educational platform, enabled participants and resource persons to meet up on either side of the Atlantic in real time.

In sum, the course tested and improved the participants´ leadership abilities, awareness of sustainable development challenges, ability to learn-how-to-learn as well as handle digital working tools.

What can be improved?
The CIU learning-by-doing approach strengthened by the problem-based learning method has great advantages of increasing self-awareness and providing tools for approaching real-life unstructured problems. Although it encourages the participant to dig where he/she is standing in terms of level of understanding, the more confident student will always have an advantage over the less confident one. This confidence, however, is not only a matter of obtaining good grades at school, but also being used to non-hierarchical teaching methods or not. To overcome communication barriers due to different levels of pre-knowledge, more training is needed in the beginning of the course, especially for the tutors. Not only understanding the method in theory, but having the opportunity to try it out in practice before meeting the participants.

There are a number of improvement possibilities related to the host community. A major challenge is to find ways of integrating the course more closely to the core of the cultural exchange program. Perhaps by focusing more on trying a project idea in practice provided by the host community, rather than identifying it in the first place. This could be one way for the participants to faster work their way into the community and add value for the local entrepreneurs.

It was noted that in Costa Rica the lack of information caused difficulties. Interesting enough in Sweden the situation was the opposite. Here, information surplus caused new problems. The lesson to be learnt is that access to information is not a solution in itself. Evaluating the information and turning it into something useful is what counts in the end. Still, given the limited time the participants have at their disposal, providing a reference case study could be one way of lowering the level of initial frustration and injecting a bit more confidence in the learning process.

Finally, technological barriers are still an issue. Internet access meant some six hours journey in Costa Rica. Still, the situation in Sweden was not considerable better, as access to public computers is limited and Internet cafés are not an option in small towns on the countryside. Preconceived assumptions need to be challenged, again and again.