As the Carnegie Foundation continues to serve as an innovator in education by sharing our thinking about improvement science, we are also exploring new ways to seamlessly integrate technology into that work to better leverage the power of networks to accelerate improvement. A question central to this pursuit is: How might we design an online workspace that would accelerate improvement?
The Foundation’s strategy for tackling this question begins with Doug Engelbart’s theory of the Collective Intelligence. Engelbart described Collective Intelligence as how people work together in response to a shared challenge and how they can leverage their collective memory, perception, planning, reasoning, foresight, and experience into applicable knowledge—with the joint capabilities being more than the sum of the individual elements. Engelbart had a vision of people using technology to improve the Collective IQ of organizations and to “build a collaborative community of knowledge workers.” The real power of computers, he believed, lies not simply in automating work processes, but in “augmenting human intellect” to address social problems.
While we are able to leverage the Foundation’s ability to convene experts and host large events to launch collective work on a shared problem (we call these groups networked improvement communities or NICs), we lack the crucial mechanisms and tools necessary to support rapid data sharing and learning across the networks.
In response, CarnegieHub is our online workspace and serves as the primary access point for all network members to Carnegie resources and provides multiple opportunities and avenues for engaging in work and collaboration.
Four Reasons Why CarnegieHub Is So Powerful in Strengthening Networks
A main component of ensuring deeper and richer learning in our NICs is the Foundation’s capability to provide a technology infrastructure and support for strengthening and sustaining the collaboration and participation across the network. With the implementation of CarnegieHub, our process in building a robust network workspace is focused on design features that afford the particular opportunities and benefits for maximizing the potential of rich collaboration in our NICs.
Here are the four design principles of CarnegieHub that have improved traditional ways of collaborating and sharing learning across the network.
1. Shared Creation of Content for Collaborative Learning
Imagine a group of faculty tasked with coming up with the best ways to increase students’ classroom attendance. Rather than waiting for one faculty member to create a document locally on their own computer, then email it to everyone to edit and make changes—which often results in multiple versions of the same document—what if all the faculty members shared one document in the cloud and each had the ability to edit simultaneously in real time with everyone else? With the Google Drive (Google docs, spreadsheets, slides, forms, etc.) members can participate in the concurrent development of an artifact, give feedback through comments, and engage in chat while working visibly across distances and time zones. This type of running activity tracks revisions, authors, viewers, and editors. This translates to a sense of collaborative learning because contributions to the work are distributed across multiple network members.
2. Centralized File Storage with Search Capability for Improving Knowledge Management and Discovery
What if that same group of faculty members all wanted to reference an old file, but no one could find it because no one could remember whose computer contained the file. With Google Drive, all files and folders are located in one single, web-based location. Having a centralized location to store all files not only allows people to work off one version of each document, it also minimizes the amount of effort and time it takes to find a desired file through a robust search engine. As files become better managed, more discoverable and accessible, partners in the NIC can focus on the content of their work together.
3. Asynchronous Curated Conversations to Bolster Work Across Distance and Time
On CarnegieHub, a faculty member can easily use the discussion board feature to see what others in various classroom contexts have already discussed. The benefit of having asynchronous discussions is the flexibility of activity. Members can respond whenever they feel appropriate and their posts are publicly displayed. Conversations then become a catalyst for innovation. In addition, these discussion threads are documented, providing new members of the community with a running history of the conversation.
4. The Combination of These Features Supports the Creation and Maintenance of Social Ties
A defining aspect of NICs is a commitment to a shared problem as a community of practice. Rather than working in isolation and feeling alone in making progress, CarnegieHub provides a space for peer support and social interaction. Participants now have the ability to search for resources, find the contact information of the author or forum poster, use the directory to locate that research or practice expert, and initiate a dialogue. Participants can also reflect on their experiences by contributing blog posts to further enhance their social ties with one another. As they interact with peers and engage in networking, members keep each other accountable and engage in collective sense making.
Conclusion and Future Implications
When we ask for a commitment from our network members to accept a new pedagogy, new tools, a new work process, and a new knowledge collection sharing mechanism, we are cultivating a living system of improvers, innovators, and collaborators. Ultimately, CarnegieHub is digitally altering the online space to one that coordinates and supports network-wide learning. It is our hope that the democratizing impact of these new technologies will indeed deliver the augmentation of network learning that Doug Engelbert describes. We also look to the faculty leaders across the NIC to leverage these tools in ways we have not yet imagined to build and share knowledge across institutions. Together, we are exploring new collaborative technology horizons of accelerating improvement in our networks.