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".