One way to consider issues of scale for education and connections for youth is to think about ways in which the Internet can be used to its fullest potential. Though there aren’t many educational organizations that do this, Internet based programs thrive in other industries and they are important to consider when we think about education.
Kickstarter.com is a funding platform for creative projects. In order to raise funds, artists post a description of their project, as well as a fundraising goal. Let’s say Sarah is a musician who needs $9,000 to record an album. Sarah has no money, but she has a network of people who like her music, and who want to see her succeed. They are motivated both by their relationship to Sarah, and also by the promise of some good music in their future. However, they cannot fund a large portion of the project. Instead, they can give $20, or $100 or even $1000. The Kickstarter project stays live for 90 days, allowing different waves of supporters to contribute. Through social media and crowd sourcing, projects are funded, often well exceeding their initial goals. In the world of fundraising, especially for creative endeavors, this is unprecedented. It is because of the particular make up of the Internet – access to a lot of people quickly, ability to share talent and information quickly and across a wide spread platform – that this works. What if we could distribute learning and support that quickly?
Etsy.com is a marketplace for artisan goods. Its goal is to have “very-very small businesses have much-much more sway in shaping the economy, local living economies are thriving everywhere, and people value authorship and provenance as much as price and convenience” (www,etsy.com). Like never before, consumers can buy goods direct from their creators. If Steve wants to buy a handmade clock, he can search the thousands of items on Etsy and connect with the artist who made just the clock he wants, and buy it directly from him. Etsy has changed the tenor of the marketplace, and could not do so with out the Internet and its power of connection, social marketing, and easy wide spread payment options. Again, this can only be done because of the power of the Internet. What if we could differentiate instruction based on young person’s specific needs?
So why aren’t we doing this for education? Why aren’t we using the digital age to it’s potential, linking youth people together, to opportunities and to learning.The amazing thing is that it is the antiquated systems and thinking that stands in the way of this. It seems to me that if young people are the stewards of their own potential, we should let them lead the way.