Here is a quick addendum to my post last week on peer-to-peer education. While I went up to 4,000 words, I think I missed some meat. This blog is basically a brain drain. While it is certainly meant to be read, it is also an exercise for me to get my thoughts down, hear feedback from people, and realize what I talk about and what I miss. For example, it is very useful that I’ve noticed a trend in my posts on the peer-to-peer revolution. Every article has emphasized defining the phenomenon, seeing how wins and who loses, seeing what the legal implications are, and forecasting the long term future resulting from these new trends.
So let me do a better job here with education and try and be to the point.
Firstly – a fun article I found on unschooling, which compares its peer-to-peer nature to that of the digital currency, Bitcoin. I find it interesting because I left Bitcoin out of my discussion a few weeks ago on peer-to-peer finance.
So, as many are still asking, even after 4,000 words last week. What is my vision for the peer-to-peer education future? It is a few things, and let me emphasize, while this revolution is being facilitated by the internet, it is not an internet-only system of learning. The internet is merely the glue connecting everything.
There are a few features of this platform which will rule, and ultimately it looks like a homeschooling and unschooling hybrid. Homeschooling because, legally, students will need to be signed up as home schoolers. And unschooling because it is student-driven and not curriculum based. Parents may or may not be involved, but it is student-based. And the biggest distinction is that the goal is to connect these students so that they can go through the process together. In the very long run, traditional schooling will adapt to this model and we’ll see more publicly-funded facilities and resources being utilized, but the student-driven methodology will remain.
Here are the features I currently envision.
Students need to be able to find one another, based on interests as usual. But they also need a way to find each other locally. Connecting students who are isolated is one of the main purposes of this site. Even if students are an hour or two away, knowing someone is close by who is in the peer-to-peer education revolution with you will improve interactions drastically.
This seems to be a big fear amongst adults of what students will do with video communication online. The website YouNow has attracted a lot of negative attention because it makes it very easy to broadcast oneself publicly on the web. Well – this is where we are today. This is the technology students are using and it is powerful. Let’s not let our fears get in the way of empowering students. If you prefer, they can use text-based chat. Which has value, still, and should be included, but is far less personal. If we’re going to be networking students together, let’s make it as personal and real as possible. Video chat tools are already easily accessible through platforms like Skype and Google Hangouts among others.
Peer-made video lessons
I’ve already started building this database at Open Source High. Student-made video lessons are a must. Khan Academy has done a great job of leading the way with their database of video lessons made by teachers. They are amazing, but they’re long an boring. Wikipedia is amazing, and open source, but resembles a college textbook. Students are using video – let’s give them what they want. A lot of concern has come up about curating the content – how will we know what is good? Let’s rely on the critical mass system (scary, no?) and let the students decide what is good and what is not.
Social link sharing
I’m not sure I’m using the right title here. Basically, a site similar to Reddit. A way for students to share all the exciting things they find on the internet. It may be a journal article or a funny video – let them share. And a simple voting system, again, allows the students to decide what is relevant to them. And of course we can filter by topic and subtopic to get to things we want. This is simple to implement.
Project collaboration tools
I have encountered a lot of home schooling and unschooling students wanting to collaborate on projects, especially music. Some unschoolers are great with making beats but need someone to help with writing rap lyrics. And another student to do the vocals. Having tools to allow students to collaborate on creative projects is a must. And also things beyond music. What about doing web and app development together? How about building businesses? I need to do some research on the best tools for this still. It will probably be multiple tools.
In-person event meetups
This is another must. This cannot be an online-online platform. There must be in-person meetups. It doesn’t mean students need to see each other every day or even every week. Distance is a big issue. But they need to meet up at least once a month. Carpooling can help as many older students can collaborate with younger ones. And this, of course, leads to more concerns about privacy on the internet. If people are meeting up and getting rides from “strangers on the internet” – what will happen next?? Oh… please…. Just get on with it. We’re getting rides from strangers on Uber. Living in strangers homes on Airbnb. Powering our homes with strangers solar panels. Getting our information about world-events via people’s twitter feeds. And investing in strangers’ businesses. Let’s move on from this fear of strangers. The website meetup.com and/or Eventbrite.com can probably be used for this.
Lastly – instructions on how to opt-out of school.
Yep – I said it. How to opt-out of school. I don’t like the term dropping out. Make it sound like a failure. But there needs to be information, state-by-state, district-by-district on how students can unplug from the system and join in the peer-to-peer revolution. They’ll generally have to call it “home schooling” to be legal. While the reality is that it is mostly unschooling. I have seen directories for this on this site and there are others. One big problem we currently face is that students often need parents signatures to follow through. This needs to be changed, somehow.
Alright – now a brief breakdown of some of the “winners” in this game. I don’t think I mentioned this last week, aside form saying the students are winners. Home schooler and unschoolers are definitely winning, but also some organizations are. I already mentioned Khan Academy, they are kicking butt. A website called OpenStudy is promoting peer-to-peer tutoring for free (and paid) on their site. This is a great service which I’ve used myself. Another great free site for peer-to-peer support is PeerAnswer.com. They are up and coming but look very promising. Another peer-to-peer powerhouse is Luvo Learning, formerly FlashNotes. They are creating a marketplace for higher-ed students to sell their notes. The Peer Unschooling Network seems to be on to something as well, though all they have is a landing page at the moment.
And of course, I must mention that Open Source High is kicking butt.