Crowdsourcing yields custom classroom content

Crowdsourcing practices are transforming the way teachers gain technology skills and prepare digital content for their classrooms.  By leveraging individual contribution and tools to organize digital content, districts can reduce the cost of training and continually build digital libraries for grade level content.

Several districts we’re working with are using aggregators like Symbaloo to curate resources for use in labs and 1:1 environments.  Symbaloo is a social bookmarking tool.  Using Symbaloo teachers bookmark interactive websites, online news articles, videos, and assignments and share these resources in a single grid of tiles called a webmix.

In a lab environment, this means that each teacher can customize the student desktop with dozens of shortcuts to specific online resources.  This increases time on task (avoiding the arduous task of directing youngsters to type in lengthy website addresses) and reduces the overhead for an I.T. department to update shortcuts.

Aggregators like Symbaloo help differentiate learning opportunities by giving teachers the ability to customize the student experience on an internet connected device.  Symbaloo also greatly enhanced the professional development experience in these districts.  Teachers explored public webmixes assembled by other teachers and quickly made sense of online content.

Self-paced and self-driven learning, active learning experiences, and differentiated instruction are concepts that educators strive to include in daily practice.  Crowd- sourcing honors these ideals and faculty reap significant benefits as they build personal libraries of online content for their students.

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Crowdsource your professional development

I’m excited to announce the launch of our new program, CrowdSourced Professional Development.  Crowdsourcing is a way to solve problems and tackle large scale innovation.  It continues to provide organizations with unique and effective strategies to combine talent in our connected economy.

As a means of identifying, mobilizing, and implementing crowd-owned resources,  crowdsourcing has profound implications for training in our schools.  Crowd resources in this context are immense.  What are these resources?

1.  We have an abundance of dedicated and talented teachers who juggle an incredible array of responsibilities and ongoing training.
2.  We have more content (e.g. OERs – Open Educational Resources), and more technology than ever before.
3.  We have an incredible amount of freedom to combine talent and open resources to innovate in the classroom.  Just look around…no two districts are doing exactly the same thing.

Here are just a few of the outcomes to Crowdsourced Professional Development, in our case, training that focuses on integrating technology in the classroom:

1.  Everybody gets trained and benefits from the tacit knowledge of colleagues working together in the same industry (as opposed to trying to “absorb” information in a one-to-many training where application may be an afterthought).  Teachers learn to combine their collective expertise to apply the new technology skill.
2.  There is a deep connection to the learning goals.  It becomes obvious when to use a particular technology strategy and when to choose the pencil instead.
3.  There is an ongoing mechanism i.e. Professional Learning Communities to perpetuate the training and new skills.  In contrast, it is not uncommon to see an 80% attrition rate in the active application of new skills after traditional professional development efforts.

What does Crowdsourced professional development look like?

First, it means that training for a specific device or integration strategy includes a heavy dose of application.  Teachers produce new resources for their classroom, implement the strategy, and then return to the group to share the experience, resulting student work, and reflection on what worked and what didn’t.  It also means there is a commitment to keep doing this over time.  Crowdsourcing norms involve all of the crowd, all of the time…at least in our arena where every teacher needs to become a digital citizen in order to teach the next generation of digital citizens.

Second, there is fidelity, not only to the technology training, but other district initiatives that involve professional development i.e. English Learner Strategies.  Our customized scope and sequence for technology integration  identifies common themes which make it obvious that other instructional strategies and technology are not mutually exclusive.

By utilizing Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) to perpetuate adult learning, new skill development continues long after the consultant/trainer leaves the scene.  Given the ease of connecting to educators virtually anywhere on the planet, it is within this context that crowdsourcing PD can involve teachers from numerous districts.

Crowd sourcing professional development is one of the most cost effective strategies for realizing long term gains in technology skill acquisition.  In a time when students need to develop digital and global literacy, crowdsourcing is a phenomenal opportunity for teachers to practice the same values.

Stay tuned as we discuss program outcomes and successes in future posts.

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