As an educator and instructional designer, the first time I saw MentorMob I thought it had the potential to be one of the best tools for teaching and learning that I had ever encountered. Since that day, only one year ago, the company has grown and expanded to encompass formal education in addition to informal learning. Their success and growth was recognized on Monday February 25, 2013 when the entire MM team flew to New York to ring the closing bell at the NASDAQ stock exchange.
I recently had the pleasure of "Hanging Out" with MentorMob’s co-founders Kris Chinosorn and Vince Leung for a conversation that covered topics ranging from the founding and evolution of the company, to the nature of knowledge, and the future of education. You can see the conversation in its entirety below:
One aspect of the interview that was of particular interest and deserves further exploration is Chinosorn and Leung’s aspiration for MentorMob to be the Wikipedia of "How To." What they mean by this is that they intend to develop a site that serves as a vast repository for knowledge that is used by millions of people every day. This is an ambitious goal, but one that I think is both reasonable and one whose time has come.
The Need for Curated Learning Playlists
Curation of resources and Web-based content is one of the things that has driven the success of Web 2.0 (social media) technologies, and it is the feature that makes MentorMob both innovative and effective as an informal learning platform. To summarize Chinosorn and Leung’s idea, they developed MentorMob because they saw a need to help people sift through the nearly endless mountains of bad information that even the best Web searches return. They wanted to provide a way in which people could sift through the inevitable online garbage and create collections of the best content in specific areas that could be shared with others.
MentorMob becomes truly innovative, and appealing to educators, in the fact that the curated collections take the form of "Learning Playlists." These playlists allow users to sequence the resources they are gathering so that, rather than a random assemblage of information, learners are presented with a logical progression of steps that helps them effectively learn the concept, skill, or process that they have come to MentorMob to find out about. Essentially, by relying on a community-based, crowdsourced approach to developing instruction, MentorMob facilitates an effective and efficient way for visitors to the site to learn just about anything. Here is a Playlist that illustrates the effectiveness of the sequencing of instruction:
Using MentorMob with Students
The flexibility of the concept, as well as the recent introduction of some excellent teacher tools, allows MentorMob to be used in two distinct ways in classrooms at any level. At one level, instructors can use the interface to create step-by-step learning resource collections for their students. These could be instructions and resources for understanding nearly any subject, allowing educators to remix their curriculums or flip the classroom placing some of the burden of learning on students, but also opening up the possibility of more individualized, self-paced instruction that can make it easier for all students to learn.
The second way in which MentorMob can be used by educators is as a medium for students to catalogue and demonstrate their own knowledge. The site allows users to work individually or collaboratively to create Playlists comprised not only of Web-based resources, but also of new media – documents, videos, etc. – to demonstrate their growing understanding of a topic. In my own teaching, I have teacher education students use MentorMob as a way of creating a portfolio of their educational technology work, including both instructions on using tech tools and examples of the media they have created. This portfolio can grow with the students and provides them with a "Digital Media Toolbox" that they can add to or share with their own students as a resource.
The Future Looks Bright for MentorMob
The innovators behind MentorMob are not resting on their laurels or tempering their ambition. Their recent recognition as an up-and-coming innovative product is pointing the way for them to continue working on their soon-to-be-released beta version of the site. The recent successful release of MentorMobU has positioned them to become significant contributors in the formal education sector in addition to their already strong presence in informal learning.
So where can MentorMob ultimately go? Self-directed, informal learning is an important, but under-utilized aspect of our educational system. As a society, we need to develop the same kind of love for and emphasis on lifelong learning that inspired Chinosorn and Leung to create MentorMob. If we can do that, then this innovative learning platform really does have a chance to become the "Wikipedia of How-to." The only question is whether or not enough people are interested in learning to carry MentorMob as high as it deserves to go?