Lesson from Mark Zuckerberg: Improve Learning by Involving the Learners

I’ve been reading the excellent “What would Google do” by Jeff Jarvis. Among many great ideas on how to be more responsive is the story of how Mark Zuckerberg passed his art exam at Harvard. Being a little distracted by setting up Facebook, Mark had not attended any classes or done any study.

“Zuckerberg did what comes naturally to a native of the web. He went to the internet and downloaded images of all the pieces of art he knew would be covered in the exam. He put them on a web page and added blank boxes under each. Then he emailed the address to his classmates, telling them he’d just put up a study guide. Think Tom Sawyer’s fence. The class dutifully came along and filled in the blanks with the essential knowledge about each piece of art, editing each other as they went, collaborating to get it just right.”

You won’t be surprised to know that Zuckerberg aced the exam. But even more interesting is that “the professor said the class as a whole got better grades than usual”. (The story was told by Zuckerberg himself at the Davos World Economic Forum.)

I find this example inspirational. Too much learning, whether at school, university or the workplace is one way – based on the expert telling or informing the students. Learning from Zuckerberg can we set up forums where learners debate and collaborate on what they are learning.

Here’s an example I’ve already suggested in the school where I’m a governor: For A level History, let’s set up a Wiki. The class teacher can enter the titles of all the subjects covered in the syllabus. Then get the students to go online and – adding to and editing each other’s work – complete the information on each subject. That is just one example, there are a whole range of subjects where it could be used.

Where can you combine online tools and learner collaboration to improve the learning experience?

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