We’re getting ready to upgrade our desktop and server environments. Its about time, actually, since we’re still running on Windows XP with a backend that is really pretty antiquated. The upgrade will be to Windows 7, the latest versions of Office, and all the rest.
Self organising systems of adults
One of the key things we’re concerned about is training our users. The look and feel of everything will be quite different to that they’re used to. We have the usual concerns about productivity and so forth, and the issue is taking people out of their day to day jobs for long enough to give them what they need, whilst not shutting down the day to day business. A typical challenge for any business, whether it be public or private.
The other day, though, I came across this wonderful talk by Sugata Mitra at TED. As a teacher, he’d been experimenting with the idea of allowing children – supported by a computer – to learn things themselves. The key result here was groups of children can work as self organising systems – with the capability of learning things surprising in scope. His main experiment is one I’d already heard of: go to a developing nation, put an internet computer in a wall, turn it on, and see what happens. Children using the computer teach themselves to browse, without any intervention at all.
Later on in the talk, he explains how he had children learn molecular biology to exam pass level without any teachers.
Now, of course, there is a difference between adults and children because the older you are, apparently, the harder it is to break old habits and learn new things.
But all this got me to wondering whether we’re really barking up the wrong tree thinking we have to spoon feed everyone because we’re about to roll out a new desktop environment. What would happen, I wonder, if we put people in groups and told them to explore?
As you know, it is a big hobby horse of mine that self organising systems of people can do miraculous things if you allow them to do so. When those systems are comprised of children, it is apparently possible to learn science and biology. What might self organising systems of adults achieve?
I think I may try to get an experiment started to see.