The Ripe Environment: Collaboration as Instinct

The Ripe Environment: Collaboration as Instinct

I sat at the over-long table, as I always do on Mondays and thought about the next time I would meet my students for Extended Learning Time (our version of a multi-discipline course without any set curriculum or standards to give guidance or restrict us).

“Well, it is earth day in a couple of days.”

Immediately, my colleague and I started a Google Document called Earth Day 2008. We started dropping in links to pages we found.

“Oh, I did hear something about an event on the National Geographic Channel. Did you hear about it. Something about the human footprint.”

We were pushing hard now, 25 minutes before kids arrive. Link after link being proposed as a starting point.

“What is the question we are really trying to get our kids to answer here.”
“Is Earth Day important and why?”

And we we started writing out a discussion, a plan of attach. We eventually came to the conclusion that there were others who were interested in asking this same question, experts even. And yet, within 30 minutes we created an authentic question and activity around it. Our instinct was to create and collaborate, rather than offer worksheets as an attempt at lesson planning. This is our Ripe Environment, and the class that the students came into that day was Ripe too.

They couldn’t wait to see who had the bigger footprint. They couldn’t wait to collaborate on their own weekly or monthly collection of soda cans or milk jugs. This process of not waiting to be told, of instinctively knowing that it is the right thing to do, that makes it truly authentic.

So, how do you foster this instinct for collaboration. Well, by saying yes to it as often as possible. It is my personal belief that there is never too little time to create, too little time to collaborate.

If you have only a minute:

  1. Put a request for a resource out on twitter.
  2. Do a delicious search instead of a google search (it is a community of people waiting to help).
  3. Link to someone who is talking about it.

If you have a half-hour:

  1. Start a google doc and invite a few others to join in.
  2. Search technorati for new blogs, videos, and people who are interested in the same thing.

If you have a longer:

  1. Start a wiki and get people to contribute.
  2. Start a blog and get people to contribute.
  3. Start a movement and get people to join.


  1. Thanks for this pace-layered perspective on collaboration. Collaboration, and the parallel development of ripe learning environments and experiences goes a long way toward responding to questions about what the larger role of software should be. Working at a small college based on principles of community and collaboration, I am sometimes challenged to find effective moments in which to complement experiential learning with online collaborative spaces; however, it seems like the strength of digitally-enabled collaborative moments like the ones you sketch here is in their ability to prompt, archive, and, most importantly, perhaps, push reflection on experience beyond the immediate and connect beyond the discrete learning event.

  2. Ben Wilkoff

    @pavel Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment. It took me a couple of time reading to know exactly what your dense prose revealed, but I really enjoy how much you talked about moments of collaboration, focusing on recognizing the experiences as something important. I think we need to do this much more often (I know I do). Thanks again for the blog love.

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