Digital Directions - Summer 2013 - (Page 32)

Powering THE Crowd By_Michelle R. Davis C alifornia’s Poway Unified School District tried an experiment this year: district officials used crowdsourcing to find the best and most innovative ways to improve safety and security in the district. Using a sophisticated online platform, open to all of Poway’s 4,000 employees and accessible via cellphones, tablets, PCs, and other digital devices, the district challenged staff members to contribute, discuss, and evaluate new ideas for keeping staff members and students safe and secure. The site generated more than 10,000 page views, about 500 comments, and nearly 1,000 votes on 97 new ideas proposed. At the end of the project, the district had a top-10 list of winning ideas to pursue, that came from employees as varied as a school counselor, an afterschool program supervisor, and a bus driver. The power of the site, and of the technique of crowdsourcing via digital devices, is that it provides more and better avenues for pitching ideas to improve the district or build on the suggestions of others, says Richard Newman, the director II of learning-support services for the 33,000-student district in San Diego. “In school districts, innovation is generally driven by the few and not the many. We really needed to expand that,” Newman says. “We wanted to equal the playing field and let the best ideas win—not the loudest voices.” The ability to access the crowdsourcing site at any time of the day from a home computer, smartphone, tablet computer, or other digital 32 >> K-12 districts, education groups, and companies deploy ‘crowdsourcing’ to identify better approaches device boosted participation, he says. Crowdsourcing in its contemporary form is the use of technology to gather input from large numbers of people. School districts, education groups, and companies are starting to use this approach in sophisticated ways with a variety of technologies to do everything from raising money for classroom equipment to figuring out which social studies lessons work best for students. It harnesses the power of large groups of people with vast and varied knowledge who may be spread across the globe with no other method of collaboration, says Daniel S. Weld, a professor of computer science and engineering at the University of Washington who has studied the use of crowdsourcing in education. “The advantage is one of scale and the ability to get a large number of people anywhere on the planet with precisely the same expertise and interests to contribute together to something,” he says. “You can also use it to gather large amounts of data that can be analyzed.” ‘Perspective of the People’ Throughout the 2011-12 school year the Mill Valley, Calif.-based Pearson Foundation, a nonprofit education organization that receives funding from the educational publishing giant Pearson, used mobile phones as a tool to collect crowdsourcing information for a series of international challenges. The challenges revolved around ways to achieve the Education For All goals, a UNESCO project aimed at improving education in developing countries, says Jenny Raymond, the director of international programs for the foundation. The challenges were hosted by the mobile-phone company Nokia on its crowdsourcing platform and covered such issues as how to improve formal schooling, or strategies for educating students with disabilities, she says. Because mobile phones are the most ubiquitous form of technology in many of the areas that participated heavily—including China, India, and some countries in Africa— the project aimed to use them as the conduit for collecting suggestions and information. “We were reaching people who would be affected by these solutions or who would be implementing them on the ground,” Raymond says. “It’s much better to get the perspective of the people facing and solving the challenges day to day, rather than us in a conference room in California making these decisions.” In the Poway school district, officials worked with the Pleasanton, Calif.-based crowdsourcing company Spigit to design an interactive website that could collect ideas contributed by employees, create a socialnetworking aspect that allowed others to expand and refine those contributions, and let the ideas with the most support bubble up to the surface. Dubbed InnovationU, the site created four tiers for ideas: freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior. Concepts that got the most likes and the most discussion progressed through the levels. Contributors could add to existing ideas, submit new ones, or create teams to work on ideas. The overall winning idea—to build a K-12 PAGE 34 >

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Digital Directions - Summer 2013

Digital Directions - Summer 2013
Editor’s Note
DD Site Visit
Bits & Bytes
Test-Driving the Common Core
Flipped PD: Building Blocks to Success
Virtual Learning in the Early Years
Kindergarten the Virtual Way
7 Steps to Picking Your LMS
Cracking the Code
Powering the Crowd

Digital Directions - Summer 2013