Tapping the collective intelligence

I think that those of us who spend a good deal of time thinking about and working with technology begin to form different visions for how technology might change things. By a vision, I mean a view of what might be possible, but has yet to be achieved. Some see technology as an inexpensive way to find and access useful information. Others as a way for everyone to offer opinions on the issues that interest them. Probably the vision that most excites me is that of collective intelligence.

By collective intelligence, I mean that each of us knows and can do different things and the combination of such knowledge and skills typically far exceeds what any individual possesses. Wouldn??t it be great, if each of us had some reasonable way to tap into this collective pool of resources.

A great example of a way in which technology allows us to take advantage of collective intelligence is the discussion list. The discussion list is a direct way to tap into the knowledge and skills of a group which shares some common interests. So why don??t more people use discussion lists to address more personal needs. My guess is that there are too many collective costs in the necessary commitments to generate the necessary collective benefits. Perhaps most folks have to sort through too many messages to find something that is useful. In a different situation, there are a few experts and many who feel in need of information. In this case, the experts receive little benefit because there are few opportunities to learn new things and yet there may calls on their time to meet the needs of others. The ??few experts, many in need?? model works in one situation I can think of — the experts benefit because they support novices who use a product. The novices benefit from what the experts have to say. The experts benefit from the sale of their product or at least a product they are associated with and because they learn what makes their product difficult to use and hence how it can be improved.

I have been trying to determine how I might help activate a collective intelligence of some type. I have always felt the faculty members who adopt our books for use in their classes and their students represent a potential collective intelligence. Hear me out — I am not selling anything here. The faculty members have a great deal of experience in teaching this subject matter and perhaps also in related research and practice. If only there were a way for them to share this expertise. It may be useful to the courses they teach. What readings have they found to best supplement the text? What are some great projects for students? At one time, I had hoped to interest such faculty members in allowing me to link to their course syllabus. The idea never really seemed to interest many instructors. I still think it is a good idea and relatively painless.

Here is a related idea. What about sharing a great web resource? We provide access to a database consisting of URLs and short site descriptions — what if people shared a link and a short description. Would this work only if those who contributed could have access?

Maybe I will be able to add more possibilities to my list of ways in which individuals can make a contribution to the collective intelligence with minimal effort. I will let you know. I think this is an idea worth puzzling over.

Digital Cameras

The November 2002 issue of Consumer Reports offers advice on digital cameras. The top rated 3 megapixel camera was the Fujifilm FinePix F601 Z and the top 2 megapixel cameras were the Kodak Easyshare DX 3600 Zoom and the Nikon Coolpix 2500. The article provides additional information about what to look for in digital cameras and important issues in digital photography.

If you connect immediately, the Consumer Reports web site provides excerpts from the magazine articles (not the rating information on individual cameras).

Happy New Year!!

Time for my annual get in shape and lose weight resolutions. Cindy claims this year we are going to take these resolutions seriously. I received an email advertisement today suggesting that I purchase software for my Palm that would keep track of what I eat and how much I work out. Probably a good idea. I do see that you can record data on your exercise activity using the American Heart Association Web site. Maybe I should use a blog to keep track of my progress. Cindy suggests a before and after picture. I think I will spare you and ignore this suggestion.

Year’s End

Last day of 2002 — time to look to the future. Speculating on the future on a moments notice is not easy. How about this — Will the Internet change the nature of scientific publications? A recent journal article in Brain and Cognition (2002, 50, 335-337) asks this question and comes to the conclusion that the transition to Internet-based scholarly resources is still problematic. The authors examined “top tier” journals in science and medicine (e.g., JAMA, Science, Nature) since 1993 and attempted to access any web resource used as a reference. They concluded that the half-life of online resources was 4.5 years (i.e., less that 50% of the references were still available 4.5 years later). The authors argue that this situation represents a significant barrier to the use of the net for serious scholarship and urges more serious consideration of an archive of some type.

So on that note – Happy New Year.

High Stakes Testing

Today’s New York Times contained an article summarizing a recent research study evaluating the consequences of high stakes testing. A summary of this summary might state that while connecting significant consequences to standards-related examinations may improve performance on the exams, other indicators of academic achievement (ACT or SAT tests, graduation rates) may be unaffected or worse may demonstrate significant declines. While this study will likely be closely scrutinized and the methodology criticized, the implication that high stages testing leads to a narrowing of the curriculum or the squeezing out of marginal students is disturbing.

The most recent volume of Review of Educational Research arrived today. Volume 72 (3) is a special issue devoted to “Standards-Based Reforms and Accountability.” In the editor’s introduction to the special issue, the editor states that it is time to examine “… the extant literature in a time of increasing polarization of views about the desirability and consequences of the accountability movement and of educational reform in general.

Education Blog Portal

Edublogs is a great starting place for anyone interested in the educational potential of blogs. This is a great site and also a way to locate other blogs with a similar focus.

Cross Platform/Application Chats

The most commonly used chat clients cannot communicate. When you make a commitment to a client, you pretty much select one group of “buddies” and ignore others. Newer, but less well known tools allow greater flexibility. If you are a Mac user, the new OS X operating system comes with iChat. Windows users might try Trillian. Jabber is an open source project offering software for Windows, Mac, and Linux users.

Geek in Paradise!

Cindy has purchased access to the AtomicLearning.Com site through her history grant. So I now have access to the xBox and AtomicLearning.Com for the break. The XBox is not mine, but a present for a daughter’s significant other. I am fascinated by the quality of interactive adventure games and I predict that this type of activity will eventually be adapted for educational purposes. I suppose the production costs are simply to high.

AtomicLearning.Com offers online video instruction for common computer tools. For $50 a year, this is a good resource for beginners. You can check out the site to see what titles are provided. I do feel the coverage is somewhat inconsistent from product to product. For example, DreamWeaver is covered in greater detail than GoLive.