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USA Today Leads to Tomorrow: Teachers as online concierges and can Facebook pioneer save face?
Friday, October 05, 2007
The USA Today has had some interesting articles this week that forced me to pause and reflect for a bit. One article on how the Internet changes the lifes of hotel concierges (or power concierges I guess) and the other on all the corporate giants looks to purchase Facebook for its community for some big dollars it seems.

The USA Today article #1
The USA Today had an article earlier this week on how hotel concierges go the extra mile for customers now in the age of the Internet. And it is true! If you have gone to a good hotel lately, you would see them working hard to find people restaurants, entertainment, places to visit, directions, etc. I know at AERA in Chicago I had them working hard and then again in San Francisco in August with my son. They have resources at their fingertips to help you out. They have contacts to get you in quicker or faster. They have maps to get you there. They know the best times to go, best places to stop on the way or when done, and things to see along the way, etc. See article from I think Tuesday on this:

Now if one of the roles of an online teacher is to be a concierge for students (and any teacher for that matter), might we begin to see teachers looking more like the concierges at hotels? Should we? Do instructors, teachers, trainers, etc., find us a variety of resources to explore online to quelch our thirst for knowledge? Do they give us choices of maps on how to get there? Do they highlight different routes for our destinations and tell us things we might visit along the way? Do they call ahead and let their online friends know we are coming? Do they reflect for a moment on what you might do when done? Are they there 24 hours a day for still other learning pursuits?

Yes, hotels have got it right--they have someone helping their guest find what they need online when the person needs it. But do schools, universities, and organizations have it right? Do they have someone there for you to stop in and see and make a request for information? And do they even allow it? Many university master's and doctoral programs (including my own) are so prescriptive (you take these classes this semester and these the next one and you fill out these checkboxes and forms and so on), that I wonder when our students have time to be like a guest in a hotel and explore the things that they really want to see during their journey here. And this is for graduate students!!! What happens earlier in life with all the prescriptive worksheets, standardized tests, and other assorted requirements?

Of course, I work at a super fantastic, wonderful program which is rated #1 in all the polls that I ever read I have read 1 or 2 polls). Great people, excellent facilities, and loads of wireless Internet access. I love this place--both university and surrounding community! Still, all programs like the one I am in, from my point of view, need no requirements (or as few as necessary)--just let the students choose their courses and learning pursuits. They can now watch lectures from Berkeley in iTunes or YouTube. See transformative teacher change with technology in TeacherTube. Watch the best of Alan Kaye and many others in educational technology in Google Video. They can converse in discussion threads such as QuickTopic and write collaborative documents in Google Spreadsheets and Documents or Collanos. They can explore keynotes from prior conferences. I stop here (I could write for pages); but the point is that we as instructors need to be concierges more often (perhaps not all the time), and let students browse the learning possibilities in front of them.

Sure, the common lecture is important and I certainly model that type of behavior, but so is exploration, sharing, collaboration, discussion, and engagement in real-life learning. More is more (see one of my earlier posts). We need to push students into the many learning possibilities that are ripe for them now. Concierges sometimes show you things you did not know were available or possible. Teachers as concierges can do the same things. We need to have quick access to such resources, of course, but as this occurs increasingly around the planet, so too will we sense a shift from prescribed learning checkboxes toward more learner designed programs of study. Now the Web of Learning offers this chance to explore and allow teachers to be their tour guides. Don't get me wrong--BOTH lectures and exploration are part of learning. We are shifting to more exploratory opportunities and some simply do not see it or want to admit to it or allow it.

Life, and hence, learning, is a journey; it is not a set of checkboxes, prescriptions, and requirements. The Web opens up so much more possibilities for learning and yet people want to constrain it or require it to be in a certain format for a certain audience.

What about K-12 schools and undergraduate college training? Are K-12 schools and universities set up for instructors to be concierges? As we move to problem-based learning, learning by design, product-based learning, inquiry learning, and so on, the instructor does, in fact, become a tour guide, expedition leader, or concierge. I have told my students that for decades--I am your tour guide, so we will go on a magical journey (while playing the Who's song "Magic Bus"). Well, now we got that Magic Bus. Now we got that Magic Bus!!! "I want it! I want it! I want it!" Won’t that be wild (and a wild bus ride at that) when it gets into the job descriptions and interviews become more performance-based—where the instructor, teacher, or trainer must quickly understand the learner needs and then access them!!!

USA Today article #2.
The USA Today also has a great article on Wednesday on the 23 year old who owns Facebook. Here is a quote from that article: "Facebook could be worth as much as $6 billion today, Bear Stearns (BSC) analyst Robert Peck says. He expects privately held Facebook to post a profit of about $30 million on revenue of $140 million this year, and register a $70 million profit on revenue of $358 million in 2008. He predicts $6 billion in revenue by 2016."

Wouldn’t it be nice to own a company worth perhaps $6 billion at age 23? And to be able to say, no not today Google or Microsoft; come back in a few years when my company is worth 3-4-5 times as much. Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder, is holding off. But when he does cave in, there are many things he can do to save face (pun intended) and contribute to global education, knowledge, open educational resources, and sharing. Let's see if he does like Bill Gates and makes solid attempts to improve the life and educational opportunities of the citizens of this planet. Let's see if he does like John Wood and creates a program like Room to Read. Let's see if he truly has college students (or any students) in his heart when he does sell off. We need the Marks of the world (and all of us) to keep pushing and making our dents in educational reform and opening educational possibilities for the citizens of this planet.

The article also talks about a chief competitor to Facebook called LinkedIn. As someone who has been in LinkedIn for a couple of years and Facebook for quite a long time as well, I can say that Facebook is my preference and it is not even close in terms of a comparison of my preferences. The only time I use LinkedIn is when I agree to be a friend with someone who has requested it. There are many reasons for my preference for Facebook. LinkedIn is a corporate tool (I used to be a corporate controller and CPA in a previous life some 20+ years ago--so I understand these suit types).

The other day, I got a phone call as well as an email from someone who was recently umemployed after working at a financial services firm in Phoenix for a couple of years (he had just been promoted by the way--he and nearly 20,000 others were let go it seems). He was applying for a job with a new firm and saw that I was linked to someone who was linked to someone who worked at the firm so he was looking for information to help him with the job. Unfortunately, I never heard of the person. But would I have gotten an email from this person if I was not a potential source of information about a potential job? LinkedIn is part of the corporate culture of jobs, money, consulting gigs, etc. And the resources at LinkedIn are more stale and boring compared to Facebook.

In contrast to LinkedIn, Facebook is about life and sharing. Plain and simple. I never get that sort of request with Facebook. Sure I have friends writing in Facebook asking me for help on jobs and information. But they never say, I see you have a friend in Facebook who has a friend in Facebook who works at XYZ. You see, people use LinkedIn to supposedly "get ahead" in life when life is really what is happening in Facebook. It is unfortunate that they do not realize that. For them, life is about money. For Facebook people, life is about sharing, collaborating, and socializing.

Perhaps Mark Zuckerberg can join LinkedIn to help all the unemployed corporate types get back on their feet with a job at Facebook or at any other company he decides to develop with all of his money. It might be his way to save face.
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  posted by Curt Bonk @ 9:20 AM  
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About Me

Name: Curt Bonk
Home: Bloomington, Indiana, United States
About Me: I am a former accountant and CPA and a former educational psychologist. I am now Professor of IST at Indiana University and also adjunct in the School of Informatics. I founded and later sold SurveyShare. As president of CourseShare, LLC, I run around the world training instructors to teach online and give motivational talks about emerging learning technologies. I also write and edit books related to e-learning and blended learning. See bio and vita.

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