Learning and Working in the Collaborative Age

Very interesting video (well worth 10 minutes) from Randy Nelson of Pixar University. In it he describes how to determine if graduates have the skills for 21st century employment:

Pixar harnesses the principles of improv:
1) accept every offer (because every offer can go one of two ways: somewhere, or nowhere – which is better?)
2) make your partner look good (true collaboration)

raises the question of depth based hiring …
-how to hire? most interesting jobs involve doing something that’s never been done before
-need something to determine future success … need a parallel/predictor of success of failure recovery, resilience, adaptability:
What are those predictors?
-mastery in previous activity is a good predictor of mastery in a new activity (proof in the portfolio vs promise in the resume)
-someone who is more interested than interesting
-involves translation; it’s a destination, not a source
-requires outside affirmation from someone saying “I understand”
4) (most important of all) COLLABORATION:
-NOT simple cooperation – that matters, but a cooperative enterprise (á la assembly line) is not optimized by people working together
-must in result amplification – people interested and listening to each other to create something new and better

I find this fourth the most interesting: how many activities do we assign students with the label “collaborative” when in fact, we are just asking them to cooperate?

Folder sharing in google docs

Google Docs has always been a decent solution for collaborating on individual documents, but users have been frustrated for some time by the lack of support for sharing multiple files at once. Google recently heard their demands – delivered via the Google Docs product ideas page – and added folder sharing. Now you can not only set the same sharing permissions for a whole folder full of docs at once, but also upload multiple files simulataneously.

I started using the new features today – huge improvement!

Mixed Ink

Really interesting idea – takes collaborative writing a bit further than the tools we’ve become familiar with (like google docs or wikispaces).

With Mixed Ink, writers can participate in a group with the goal of producing a single, final document. Writers can draft their ideas individually or on smaller teams. Individuals and teams write and read each others’ work, borrowing when they find strong ideas (always giving the originator credit) and re-drafting at will. Group members continuously rate the submissions until one final document emerges.

According to the folks at Mixed Ink, the tool has been used by the White HouseCongressional offices, and news publishers. It looks to have great potential for classroom use, giving a whole new meaning to peer review and the concept of editing and revision. Mixed Ink suggests applications such as:

  • persuasive writing
  • vision statements
  • word problems
  • letters to editor / public officials
  • how-to writing
  • film/literature analysis

I’m sure teachers could think of many more uses. Here’s a descriptive video:

MixedInk Demo from MixedInk on Vimeo.

Education worth sitting still for …

I participated in a discussion about high school teachers efforts to include some “elementary” type activities in their classes. All agreed that the kids were more engaged, participated more, and subsequently learned more when they had an opportunity to pursue these “elementary” style activities as opposed to more traditional high school instruction. The whole notion of elementary vs. secondary wasn’t quite sitting well with me.

Then I watched Clay Shirky‘s video clip from the web 2.0 expo in San Francisco back in April.

For me, the salient point is “Media that’s targeted at you but doesn’t include you may not be worth sitting still for.” This has been rolling around in my head – surely there are applications to education. This becomes even more apparent while reading Shirky’s book, “Here Comes Everybody” where Shirky writes (wonderfully and engagingly) about the basic desire for people to share and work collaboratively.

Then I read David Warlick’s post where he suggests substituting EDUCATION for MEDIA in Shirky’s statement … and I was brought right back to the conversation about “elementary” activities at the secondary level. It’s not that they are elementary – it’s that they’re participatory. The kids are engaged when they share, collaborate, and produce. By the way, that notion has nothing to do with technology.