Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Crowdsourcing Education Reform

"You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one"
-John Lennon

Getting together to discuss educational issues with other like-minded educators from all over the world gives me a rush and causes lazy neurons to fire in my brain. That's what I get from our weekly #edchat discussions through Twitter. I feel so fortunate to have stumbled into this amazing network of educators.

One thing that always happens to me when interesting topics are laid in front of me and discussed by smart people is that I start to try to find uses to push the scope of the conversation towards what can actually be done. Now that I sit and reflect about this, I think I know why this is- it stems directly from being a poor 1st year kindergarten teacher. When I walked into my first classroom I had a grand total of 22 unifix cubes and the rest was left up to my imagination (I wish this was an exaggeration, by the way!). I had to approach every conversation or object I came into contact with as "OK, I need some stuff to do with these 5-yr-olds- what can I DO with this?". I got a library card and checked out 20 books at a time so we had something to read- when I looked at a book, I wasn't looking at the story....I was forced to look at what could be done through the book- i.e., what can my kids get out of this? How can it help them?

So watching these great comments flow by in my #edchat stream, this same thought keeps seeping into my brain- "How can we USE this???". Last night I came to realize that this amazing network of people could be an amazing impetus to real change through collaboration. "Crowdsourcing" is defined by wikipedia as "the act of taking tasks traditionally performed by an employee or contractor, and outsourcing it to a group (crowd) of people or community in the form of an open call."

Take the chat a couple weeks ago about how poorly teachers are being prepared in college to integrate technology- what if we were to start a wiki and each of us took the time to research 1 or 2 college prep programs a week and post what is being done to help teachers with tech prep. Suppose this were to build and build until we had a comprehensive list and rankings as to which schools addressed this issue the best? What if the media got ahold of this and started calling schools out, thus affecting change?

Or what about last night's chat about engagement- the federal government just announced that through it's Invest in Innovation grant program they'll be awarding $650 million for innovative educational programs or ideas- what if this network of people were to work together to write a grant for this project? Could we collaborate and create our definition of the "ideal" 21st century school? What would it look like? What would students be doing? What connections to the local and global community would it create? How would we handle assessment in a more practical, useful manner? Could we work together and actually build a model school? What if that model were to spread to other areas? What kind of impact could this have?

I may be dreaming here, but that's just how my mind goes off sometimes. In the future, I'd really like to dive more into this idea of crowdsourcing education reform because, as my eyes see it, there are no better experts in the field of education right now that have the capacity to create and refine knowledge as these fine educators I've met through Twitter. Who else would know better about the realities of "21st Century Teaching/Learning" than this collection of folks working in the real world, with real tools, and real ideas to help make things better?

Anyway, to paraphrase Lennon- I may be a dreamer, but I hope I'm not the only one.... We'll see how this goes and grows.


Marisa said...

Interesting post, Steve! I also learn a lot by interacting with educators in #edchat. It's always insightful to exchange views with colleagues. It's a good way of growing professionally.

Shelly Terrell said...

Great post & great ideas! The wiki is also coming together nicely! If we get more involved in that I think well will see some definite impacts of change! I'd join your school!