Last week, Beth Kanter and NTEN started up the WeAreMedia project where we're experimenting with developing a curriculum the networked way. Beth has posted an awesome reflection on the process that I wanted to add to.
The essential strategy for designing the curriculum has been to set up "swarms," where calls are put out each day for people to respond with resources, tips, links, etc. that relate to a particular topic or question in the curriculum. People have the option of either adding their content directly to the wiki or using tags (of their own blog posts, of resources they find and tag in del.icio.us, etc.).
Beth does a nice job in her post of breaking down the different types of participation that have taken place in the swarms, ranging from "bystanders" (people who are simply reading content) to people actively adding content. There have also been different levels of collaboration, some of it self-directed with people taking individual responsibility for a component, while some of it has been "facilitated" by Beth through the ways that she's asked questions and set up the wiki.
From an instructional design standpoint, it's my observation that the swarms have been a sort of combined subject matter expert analysis and brainstorming session--a form of crowd-sourcing, really. This has been a great way to get a lot of content quickly and Beth's individual wiki pages set up for each module have helped us organize that content.
In facilitating this brainstorming portion, Beth has been using a light touch. She puts out the questions and calls for resources and has provided an organizational framework for responding. She also summarizes what's being discussed. There have been few if any "directive" behaviors from Beth in keeping with Dave Cormier's "Community as Curriculum" idea of letting knowledge evolve through the interactions of a learning community. As a result, the community truly is creating the curriculum.
The downside of this light touch, though, is that we may not be getting the product we really need. In looking at Module 1, which we "swarmed" last week, I see a lot of great resources, ideas and questions, but I'm not sure that I see an actual learning module that a nonprofit could pick up and implement on their own. This is no criticism; it's more of an observation of the process, which obviously is still ongoing.
This is challenging me on a couple of levels. As an advocate for personal learning, etc. I'm naturally drawn to the idea that if we provide people with resources they will get more from creating their own meaning than from us providing them with some sort of canned "workshop." From that viewpoint, what we've been creating should be enough to get people on their way because it provides them with essential resource and questions from which they can construct new knowledge.
But the instructional designer in me, the one who's worked with dozens of organizations to develop learning programs and seen all the struggles people have with accessing learning content, is having a problem with this. I'm not sure that most people have the capability at this point to take a bunch of resources and figure out how to configure them in a way that will ensure they learn the content. Some will, no doubt, but most are accustomed to someone else giving them that structure. They seem to need an "authority" to organize and scaffold the content in a way I don't think we're doing right now.
It feels like maybe we're in the middle of something in a larger sense--the intersection of Learning 1.0 and 2.0 where we have a foot in both camps. It's not entirely clear to me how we should operate at this crossroad. In this case, should we go through another iteration of Module 1 where a smaller group of instructional designer types take the content and re-organize and re-configure so that it's a "stand-alone" kind of workshop in the format that people seem to want? Or do we create some kind of companion piece that explains to people how they can take the module content and reconfigure for their own use, teaching them a new skill in the process?
This gets at a fundamental issue in using social media for learning, as the very nature of this approach is antithetical to our old ways of doing business. It leaves me wondering what our role is in a project like this. Do we continue in the more traditional role of taking SME content and subjecting it to the instructional design process to come up with a more structured format or do we find a way to make individuals and organizations learn how to be their own instructional designers? This feels to me like a fundamental question to which we probably don't have complete answers. But its one of the challenges that will continue for us as we look at using social media for learning.
What do you think? Am I framing the dilemma properly? Is there a dilemma at all? How should we proceed in this project? How does this inform our thinking on how to create curriculum in a "wiki way"?