We hear a lot about the importance of “social learning” -- the recognition that students’ collaboration on projects is something to praise, not a form of cheating to punish. But we tend to hear little about “social teaching,” and the idea that that collaborative process of knowledge sharing and building involves both learning and teaching.
Social teaching is part of the idea behind Sophia, a new online platform that offers free academic content to everyone. It's described as “a mashup of Facebook, Wikipedia, and YouTube,” and lets users create and share short lessons on specific academic topics.
These “learning packets” can be created and uploaded to the site by anyone, using text, images, video, audio, and/or slides. The packets can be made public or can be shared privately with select users or groups. Once uploaded, the quality of the learning packet’s content is evaluated and rated by users within the Sophia community as well as by academic experts. Before being marked as "academically sound," the packets are reviewed by subject matter experts and must receive at least 3 positive reviews.
It works very much like Youtube's user-generated and user-ranked content. Just as YouTube has challenged our notions of who is a filmmaker, Sophia uses Web 2.0 tools to let “everyone step into the role of teacher,” Don Smithmier, Sophia’s founder and CEO.