Thursday, September 16, 2010

TED - on Crowd Accelerated Inspiration

Chris Anderson curates the TED conference, which highlights important ideas.

Chris himself speaks on Crowd Accelerated Inspiration. Chris considers the three contributing factors - content, light or exposure (visibility or transparency, in today's PC dialect), and desire. He highlights the 6 year old dance whiz and other examples.

His point is that video has the potential to accelerate changes for the better. Better exposure means crowds can define what is "better". Desire to improve means that the crowd's measures of "better" can be used to target new efforts, and light on what is considered the best sets an ever-higher goal.

The USDA organized a series of county fairs some century ago or so, so that at harvest time farmers and ranchers could gather and compare produce and crops, and see what yields the best crop, costs the least, what controls erosion, what equipment works and what doesn't. Most of these state and county fairs still continue, though at most of them, the money from attendees has become the point, and little enough focus remains on what chicken breeds grow faster or lay eggs longer.

I think this is a excellent example of what Chris forsees for online video.

But I think Chris makes one glaring, overweening and unfair assumption. Chris sees the development of the best teachers and the best ideas, and disseminating them to everyone, is the same thing as immensely improving learning.

It isn't so.

Learning is about what information we master. What Chris' video-polishing will accomplish is to burnish and correct data. That is not the same thing as selecting, organizing, presenting those best ideas and videos in such a manner that any particular individual actually learns the material.

The successes in Chris' spotlight varied from the six year old dancer, to the urban gardening revolution in an slum. Let me suggest that the six year old dancer won't be impressed - or pay attention to - the burlap bag gardening or the slum conditions. And the videographer from the slum won't be studying dance moves from anyone.

No, merely improving the facts we wish to teach or to learn, won't necessarily make a big improvement in learning.

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