Wikipedia is a great example of how a different approach helped a fledgling software application become one of the most used sites on the Web.  Created by volunteer, Wikipedia went from nothing to become an encyclopedia with over 3 million entries in the English language version alone.   This growth has occurred in less than a decade.

No matter what you think about Wikipedia, compare its model to an Industrial Age approach. The table below highlights some striking differences.

Mass Production Open Source
Hierarchical Collaborative, limited hierarchy
Suspicious of workers Built on foundation of trust
Worker’s tasks are tightly defined Collaborators contribute as they wish
Limited chance for advancement Merit recognized
Bound by set rules and surveillance Guided by general principles – no firm rules
Learning as training or instruction Learning as needed, often “just-in-time”
Workers motivated by pay Individuals self-motivated

Although schools are not really like Wikipedia, I suggest they are even less like Factories. At least they shouldn’t be in that factories are places where employees make products. Schools, conversely are places where people are meant to produce learning. In this regard, perhaps schools could learn something about “communities” and motivating people to contribute and learn.

First, here is an audio clip from Jimmy Wales on Building a community (from the ABC’s Big Ideas)


Second, here is a section explaining Wikipedia’s Editorial Oversight and Control:

The Wikipedia community is largely self-organising, so that anyone may build a reputation as a competent editor and become involved in any role he/she may choose, subject to peer approval. Individuals often will choose to become involved in specialised tasks, such as reviewing articles at others’ request, watching current edits for vandalism, watching newly created articles for quality control purposes, or similar roles. Editors who believe they can serve the community better by taking on additional administrative responsibility may ask their peers for agreement to undertake such responsibilities. This structure enforces meritocracy and communal standards of editorship and conduct. At present a 75–80% approval rating from the community is required to take on these additional tools and responsibilities. This standard tends to ensure a high level of experience, trust, and familiarity across a broad front of aspects within Wikipedia.

Our Challenge

Take the model of Wikipedia and apply it to learning in schools.

What systems, technologies, culture, etc. would need to be in place so that schools
might experience a Wikipedia-style intrinsically motivated blossoming of knowledge?

In what ways is this superior to the current Industrial Age model?  In what ways might it be less effective?

Here are some links to provide background information

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