The Network Effect of a Search Engine for Educators

As Harold Jarche discusses his thoughts around network learning, as opposed to “personal knowledge management,” he lists the following attributes of a network:

— In a network, connections matter as much, if not more than content.

— Sharing knowledge produces network effects.

— In a network, nodes gain respect and trust from their activities, not their hierarchical position.

— In a network, cooperation is more important than collaboration or teamwork.

— As we get interconnected, networking is learning.

When thinking about the individual’s role in a network, at first it may not seem that significant, since the network seems so big and an individual’s contribution seems so tiny. But let’s look at one example here at 19pencils.com: when a teacher adds a single website URL we not only tag it with: grade, school, district & State, we also make it available to everyone who searches for the content related to that URL. So one teacher might impact a hundred or a thousand other teachers who, in the future, might search for that particular piece of content (in general or in relation to a particular grade, etc).

Now imagine what might happen with an assignment: a teacher puts together, for example, three or five different websites for student review, as well as a quiz, in the form of a new assignment. Now the assignment itself, as well as the content from each of the URLs are available for any teacher.

Unlike Google and other search engines, 19pencils.com is an educator’s search engine. We believe in the network effect of teachers sharing content with other teachers. How will it ultimately affect how teachers come into contact with information and even one another? One of the most powerful methods is the “follow” concept: with Twitter one can obtain ambient intimacy by following another person. Soon we’ll be implementing the ability for a teacher to follow another teacher, grade, school or district, thereby creating a community of educators who are powered by network effects.

Looking forward, let’s imagine what happens when we go from the ambient intimacy of those we follow to the ambient intelligence of networked systems. Now we enter a world where the amplified intelligence of the network is:

  • embedded: many networked devices are integrated into the environment
  • context aware: these devices can recognize you and your situational context
  • personalized: they can be tailored to your needs
  • adaptive: they can change in response to you
  • anticipatory: they can anticipate your desires without conscious mediation

Whew! As the great comedian George Burns used to say, “I look to the future because that’s where I’m going to spend the rest of my life.”

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