Openness, peering, sharing and acting globally are the four principles of wikinomics. So what is wikinomics and how will it impact education? In our free market economy where the ability to change and grow is imperative to longevity, corporations find themselves reinventing the rules of business to survive the flat world created by a global Internet. Don Tapscott’s book Wikinomics, provides an comprehensive view of the changing nature of business. The sub title reads, “How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything”. It got me thinking about the implications wikinomics has for education. How will education cope with new demands business will surely have for our students when they enter the work force and what can we do to prepare students for success?
For starters let’s put the principle- openness to the litmus test. We can agree that education has made great strides within the educational community, nationally as well as globally on this point. The impetus to create public reservoirs of knowledge is growing. But what is peering and is it a principle we can apply to education? In peering, the individual is valued based on their ability to contribute to the greater good. Detractors often equate this principle to socialism but in reality it is something much different. It has more to do with removing barriers and letting ideas form in a more natural way through collaboration. What might this look like inside the classroom? At the elementary levels how willing are teachers to relinquish the reins and allow students to drive their own education? Can this be meshed with standards? This idea has taken root and is evolving in the field of education. Teachers are being taught to guide, facilitate and support learning. Collaborative teams replace individual projects and students are encouraged to discover, share and present understanding in many different ways. Will this be enough to prepare our students for the work force? What more can we do? Next let us examine the third principle, sharing. Traditional wisdom holds that you protect your own, hold your cards close to the vest, and maintain company secrets. In sharing, all that goes out the window.
A company, school or individual will have to learn how to be vulnerable in order to reap the benefits of the new mass collaborative environment. Who will take the lead to create this willingness to allow change to happen with very little control over the outcome? It sounds like a free fall without a guaranteed parachute unless you have faith in the power of mass collaboration. How will schools, hemmed in by the governmental autocracy manage to cross historic state and national barriers to get consensus about how best to develop education that will serve the needs of our ‘modern’ students? Overcoming fear of change and the desire to cling to the past may be the greatest challenge educators face in this century. Gradually, it will become an imperative to change. It may not even be that gradual. As an educator, do you really relish the idea of being dragged kicking and screaming into the future? Be forewarned, the future is already here. Why fight it? A paradigm shift in thinking and responding to change as a positive is absolutely essential.
Finally,students already know this deep down. Each year they become more social, more worldly, more interconnected to one another. They have a global nature. It’s a phenomenon that shoudn’t escape our notice. They are not just unruly and uncontrollable, they are collaborating. Collaboration is a very relevant activity. It’s what they do best. Parachute or no, students are prepared to jump. On the way down, they will collaborate to find a solution to their problems. Are you prepared to jump?