An exciting new project has just been announced–the Encyclopedia of Life, which will be a worldwide clearinghouse encyclopedia for information about all life forms.
Edmund Wilson conceived of it as a way to collect information about every organism on earth, and presented the idea, which was in the works, recently at an innovation conference called TED Talks.
Within weeks, members of TED had jumped on board, collaborating to create a website for the project, donate photographs for the site, and even donating the url for the site.
Today a major announcement heralded the start of the Encyclopedia.
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By the way if you aren’t familiar with TED Talks, it is an annual gathering of the world’s most innovative thinkers, who are invited to give the “best speech of their lives” in 18 minutes. Videos of the speakers are archived on their website, and the goal is to spur innovative thinking and collaboration.
The power of the web to spur this innovation is thrilling. Wilson predicts that with the combined power of scientists and contributers worldwide, that all 1.8 million species can be documented in the next ten years. I actually wouldn’t be surprised if with a global effort, it happens far faster than that.
There will be a teacher and student section, and the encyclopedia will be available in many languages, and also in novice and expert variations, so it can be a tool for scientists and our students, alike.
When I think of the potential for our students using sites like this where they may be working with or reading the work of the greatest scientists around the world, I think students are going to have unbounded opportunities for real collaborative experiences that we haven’t even begun to think of yet.
Our campus has talked a little bit about creating an “innovation” group or club. Perhaps sharing TED Talks videos with our students is a place to begin.