Sunday, November 16, 2008

Crowdsourcing And Schools

Reading Jeff Howe's book Crowdsourcing recently prompted me to find out how this could be used in the field of education. My friend P, is a stay at home PTA mom and often talks about the long hours the more serious and committed PTA parents have to spend at school and how the public school system is able to do what it can for the children in the community only because of the huge volunteer involvement. In other words, it always takes a village to raise a child. As a full time at work mom, I deeply appreciate what folks like P do for J and me.

Clearly, using the web as a medium for communicating and conferencing has not become popular with the school system in my town. Coincidentally, I also happen to know the woman (K) who's company is one of the contractors the the school system has appointed to fix their technology infrastructure. I met K while looking for work a couple of years ago and we have become friends since. The book, a recent meeting with P and a voice mail message from K coalesced into the idea of this post.

Last year, I had chatted with a couple of teachers in J's school to explore the possibility of using fifth graders to redo the school's website so it can become a way for parents, teachers and students to interact with each other online. I was reacting primarily out of my need to stop receieving the endless stream of paper from the school. I frequently threw stuff in trash because I did not have the patience to read through every last thing that came home with J. Every once in a while that would turn out to be something important.

I was being crushed under paper and innudated with more information than I had capacity to consume. They liked the idea but I found out quite quickly that it took a whole lot more time than I have to spare to translate idea to reality. It does not help that I am not a PTA mom and have no clout with the school's management. There is potential for crowdsourcing the idea though - there are many parents who can just as easily provide direction and assistance in making an interactive web site for the school. What I will never be able to pull off alone, we could easily do as a collective.

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