Skip to content

Duolingo: Using Online Collaboration to Build and Create

January 17, 2012

I watched this very interesting TED talk this afternoon, Massive-scale online collaborationLuis von Ahn, computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University,  “builds systems that combine humans and computers to solve large-scale problems that neither can solve alone.”  He calls this work, Human Computation.  In this talk he describes his team’s research that resulted in the internet security tool we are all familiar with, CAPTCHA.  “A CAPTCHA is a type of challenge-response test used in computing as an attempt to ensure that the response is generated by a person. (Wikipedia.com)”  If you register for a subscription to a website or buy tickets to an event you have used a CAPTCHA.

In this talk he explores his research into using the CAPTCHA process to build large-scale collaborations to digitize books for the Web.  He estimates that he has assembled a collaborative team of 750,000,000 people who are “unknowingly” collaborating to digitize books using this fascinating process.  “10% of the human population has helped his team digitize books for the Web.”

Finally, he discusses his newest research using a large online collaborative team.  The research began with a question he posed to one of his graduate students:

How can we get 100 million people translating the web into every major language for free?

Fabulous question that requires a great deal of ingenuity, patience and intelligence.  But then every innovative idea has these ingredients and more.  See my recent post on Innovators’ DNA entitled, Innovation in Schools: How Rare Is It?  In the book and my post, I outlined the four discovery skills that Jeff Dyer and Hal Gregersen discuss in their book.

Innovators frequently ask questions.

Innovators keenly observe the world around them looking for connections.

Innovators network with others because they realize the power in collaboration.

Innovators experiment with ideas, try them on for size and see where it takes them.

Seems to me that von Ahn models these four discovery skills for us, demonstrating how his associational thinking leads him and his team on a journey to innovate in amazing ways.

One more example of a person modeling the 21st Century skills that students will need if they intend to innovate and change the world in a positive way.  This example also illustrates the challenges we face in schools to transform the teaching and learning so that our students are prepared with the 21st Century skills they will need to be von Ahn’s future graduate students.

This talk illustrates the power of asking a great question, keenly observing the world around us, collaborating or networking with others, and taking the risk to experiment.

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: