Sunday, June 9, 2013

The Evolution of a Meme: A Lesson In Online Collaboration

As I make the transition from Nepal to Prague, I realized that I forgot a yearly ritual I do with my group of international learners at the end of the year. After a brief discussion of summer plans and potential travels, I show the children a "Where the Hell is Matt?" dancing video. But I give them a task: I want them to yell each time Matt dances in a country that they've visited. I can do this because my kids have been to a lot of places in their short lives- either on holidays or just moving to a new country and new life every couple of years.

But the "Where the Hell is Matt?" videos have changed over time. There's a deliberate transition in his 2008 video where he goes from dancing alone to dancing with a cast of thousands. This is a great lesson in participation- how a cool idea is made even better when you open it up to anyone who wants to participate.

And then Matt released his 2012 version. It's not just about participation anymore. It's collaboration. People aren't just imitating Matt's dance or doing their own thing. Matt changed. He played to the strengths of the people he visited, and obviously spent some time working with them and learning from them.

So this isn't just a post about watching a video and yelling out when you recognize a place that you've been. The series of videos is a metaphor for how we try to teach online usage. First you experience  it by trying something new (Matt 2006), then you begin communicating with others (Matt 2008), and then when you're ready to do truly magical things you collaborate (Matt 2012).

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