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This article first appeared in our Consumer Revolution issue of My Green Pod Magazine, released on 19 Dec 2019. Click here to subscribe to our digital edition and get each issue delivered straight to your inbox
Search engines and social media are now common props when we identify gaps in our knowledge, but the digital information provided online is in many cases insufficient to answer our questions in any substantial way.
Money and motivation are issues; the paid adverts are the ones that appear first on most search engines and the most visible information is often there because a team of digital media experts is pushing it out.
Add in the distracting pop-ups and fierce competition for your online attention and it’s easy to see why finding accurate and balanced information is far from straightforward.
Potential for online learning
The internet isn’t all bad; it has the capacity to democratise learning and provide open access to education. It can also disseminate news and information far faster than books or newspapers; thanks to online media we can get real-time updates on events as they unfold in the world around us.
There are many good reasons for accessing and consuming information online – the challenge is around knowing where to find what we’re really looking for and meeting the people who can help us access this knowledge in the most efficient way.
A new online community has been launched in a bid to resolve some of these issues. By connecting groups through aligned interests, aspirations and ambitions, a platform called WONDR creates an online environment where individuals can collaborate, crowdsource knowledge and learn alongside like-minded people.
Its co-founders, lifelong friends Sam Reader (left, main image) and Simon Jones (centre, pictured with chief tech officer David Maidment), share a passion for continuous learning; they feel today’s fragmented and often divisive social media networks have missed a huge opportunity for empowering positive change.
‘We want to create a space where people work together’, Simon tells us, ‘so we can help people to progress, learn and share valuable insights. We want it to be a truly positive online community, where people can network consciously and interact meaningfully on a platform that has principles.’
We’re moving at such a pace, and the issues we face are so huge, that Sam and Simon feel we’ll only solve today’s problems as a unit, working together to share information and expertise. Simon puts it very simply: ‘collaborative learning is the future.’
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WONDR is currently in beta mode, yet it already has a network of over 3,500 members who have registered over 200 interests. The goal is to give 10,000 people early access to the community by the end of 2019; with direct access to the team, these members will get a say on how they’d like to see WONDR develop.
80% of WONDR’s current users are choosing to explore environmental topics; they use the platform to share knowledge around the subjects they are passionate about and take actions that will have a positive impact on a local and global scale.
‘The environmental focus wasn’t part of our initial intention’, Sam tells us. ‘Our aim was to cover purposeful topics and help people to take a conscious approach to problem solving. We’re not surprised the environment has been so popular – there’s currently no bigger problem – and we’re proud to be able to help to find solutions.’
Members of WONDR’s environmental community include forest engineers, marine biologists and conservationists, as well as concerned citizens who simply want to live a more sustainable lifestyle. They are starting discussions and forming projects around subjects including climate change, sustainability and conservation.
UK book sales fell for the first time in five years in 2018, and our time spent online – currently up to 34 hours a week – continues to rise. If current trends continue, could online learning support mainstream education and lifelong learning?
‘We would love to see more teachers and lecturers on the platform’, Sam tells us. ‘It’s a profession full of people who want to create an impact and support young people – the challenge is the system in which they have to operate. The biggest cost for young people can be their self-efficacy and confidence to make positive change.’
An education culture that grades and rewards linear learning isn’t the best way to inspire creativity, curiosity or self-belief. Instead, the team at WONDR sees huge value in a more informal approach that connects users with like-minded people who fall outside their immediate and usual networks, to foster an exchange of support, direction, information and advice.
WONDR offers a culture of empowerment – it encourages and supports its members to take steps they couldn’t – or wouldn’t – otherwise have taken. It’s designed to generate a sense of self-efficacy, and a belief that there’s no end to what an individual can achieve.
Sam sums it up perfectly: ‘When we collaborate with each other to drive those opportunities, imagine what we could achieve.’