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Posts Tagged ‘crowdsourcing

Let us say that you had thousands of potential volunteers to contribute their time, effort, and collective intelligence. What would you do?

Four years ago, scientists created a game about shaping RNA. About 38,000 players contributed human intuition to what technology could not figure out by itself.

Here in Singapore, we had our annual ritual of find-out-the-highest-PSLE-T-score effort and hunt for the schools with the highest proportions of T-scores of 250+.

Not all of the 125,000 members of kiasuparent.com participated. But enough did so that it “caused the website to crash at times due to capacity problems”.

All this happened despite the rhetoric and early efforts of our Ministry of Education (MOE). According to this article:

The fascination with aggregate scores still continues although it has been five years since the Ministry of Education stopped announcing PSLE’s top scorers and their T-scores to remove the spotlight on academic grades.

Just what does this effort contribute to?

It perpetuates the focus on scores and grades. It does nothing to determine what else makes a school good. It prevents schools from reinventing themselves and escaping from this expectation.

There is a thin line between good and bad forms of crowdsourcing. One form distills the wisdom of the crowds; the other manifests the madness of the mob.

How do we stop this PSLE T-score madness? Is there a game that can help us synthesise artificial RNA that will code for protein that might change our neural structure? That sounds like science fiction.

The T-score system will go away in 2021 only to be replaced with another scoring system. Will that change mindsets, expectations, and behaviours? I do not think so.

So how about crowdsourcing alternatives for assessment and evaluation?

Last Saturday and on the spur of a moment, I asked #edsg and #celnie for ideas on technology use by teachers overseas who might not have reliable access to computers or the Internet.

I posed a question and a table for answers in this Google Doc. Within 30sec of tweeting on a Saturday afternoon, there were just over 20 views (see screencapture below). After about a minute, @hsiao_yun retweeted my link and that generated an additional 10 views.

crowdsourcing_ideas_-_google_docs

On one hand, I am disappointed that 30 plus immediate views did not result in any contributions. After all, if you had 30 people in a room and asked for an opinion, you would get more than you bargained for.

But I also know that these things take time. People do not have the same passion or urgency that I have for the mission. They have no idea how to respond or might need time to think.

That said, I also know how easy it is to consume something like a YouTube video and not bother to leave a thumbs-up or comment. There is a lack of immediacy or an “apathy” of sorts.

What is missing is one or more stories that move hearts so that brains get into gear.

I hope to fill in what blanks I can at the #edsg chat tonight. Here is the short version.

I have not met these teachers yet. I will only see several hundred of them at the end of May.

I want to show them how a little bit of technology used meaningfully can be powerful and possibly overcome the inertia that is the apathy to change.

Someone I know asked me to fly overseas to help and I said yes. The request was late and the event is just a few days before my family vacation. But I deemed it important enough make the effort.

So will you help me to help them?


Video source

I found this video by a group called Finite Films on Gizmodo. It is an example of crowdsourcing ideas for short movies.

Here is Gizmodo’s summary of what Finite Films does: “You go to their site, send them a constraint for their next short film, they pick their 21 favorites, you vote them. The top 7 define the next short.”

I can imagine this happening in education. Imagine getting learners of all ages more involved in selecting what and how they learn.

Some might argue that this might only work with older learners, typically those who are working and need training or professional development. But I think we should not underestimate kids.

Sugata Mitra did not when he experimented with “hole in the wall” computers in India. Blurb at TED: Sugata Mitra’s “Hole in the Wall” experiments have shown that, in the absence of supervision or formal teaching, children can teach themselves and each other, if they’re motivated by curiosity and peer interest. [Previous reflections on Mitra’s work]

For an extreme form of crowdsourcing, watch the Independent Project.


Video source

It is a small crowd in this case, but the principles of crowdsourcing apply: Shared interest, crowd input and selection, common platform, ownership of content and tasks, and some form of collaboration at all stages.

We already have something like this operating on a larger scale. It is called Wikipedia.

There are many things I like about this recent blog entry at Connectivism. I had tweeted it earlier because I wanted others in my Twitter-based PLN to read it too.

I like this quote at the end:

Crowd sourcing involves people creating things together. Networks involve connected specialization – namely we are intelligent on our own and we amplify that intelligence when we connect to others. Connectedness – in this light – consists of increasing, not diminishing, the value of the individual.

So individuals can still operate independently when they work towards a common goal in crowdsourcing.

But a learner embedded in a lifelong learning community needs to be meaningfully connected to be of value and to increase his/her value.

Last week I went on another round of classroom observations. One of my supervisees opted to incorporate a video-based “e-experiment” for his lesson on evaporation for his audience of average ability 11-year-olds.

The service was provided by a local LMS/CMS company (they claim to take the *cough* lead *cough*) and the content was provided by another company (initials *cough* MC *cough*).

The goal of the video was to illustrate two factors that influenced the rate of evaporation: moving air and a natural heat source. You would need to control for every experimental variable (controlled variables) to measure the rate of evaporation (dependent variable) under different conditions (independent variables).

The substrate of choice was equally wet handkerchiefs. The problem was they were of different colours (colour should be a controlled variable). You also can’t really tell if they were the same material (another controlled variable).

The student teacher was careful enough to mention how important it was to control the variables not under investigation. While the point was not really to teach students about variables, the investigative process (of the effect of wind and sunlight on the rate of evaporation) is fundamental to scientific discipline.

This was from a video prepared by content experts at some financial cost and locked within a CMS. It is probably safe to assume that this video is an exception to the rule, but the fact that such errors exist should worry the provider (we are providing quality stuff!) and the customer (you are paying for it!).

Consider what might happen if the video was put on a platform like YouTube or TeacherTube. The mistakes would be pointed out in no time. Alternative videos or video responses would probably show up almost as quickly as a Wikipedia edit.

If there is another thing “21st century” about this century, it is this sort of content creation and critical crowdsourcing that happens for free. Content providers, policy makers and educators need to leverage on it instead of fear it or control it.

That was my favourite quote from Polivka’s recent blog entry. Simple but true.

Call it what you will, crowdsourcing or the wisdom of crowds, it is here to stay and evolve. Information, knowledge and power lie not only in the Internet, but also in the people and the connections between people that network via the Internet.

As usual, the education world is among the last to acknowledge it. Never a day goes by when an RSS feed lets me know of some organisation or other using the 2.0 moniker. For example, the National Computing Centre in the UK has an article on how Web 2.0 has changed the face of education. It’s not a recent article, but it is practically a template for educational institutions who are trying to adapt to Web 2.0.

But I want to go beyond creating awareness. I am a matchmaker and I work towards educators embracing it!


Clive Thompson began his article on gaming by noting how one game designer pleaded with his audience not to rely on walkthroughs. Walkthroughs are detailed guides on how to overcome the problems that a game puts in the way of a player’s progress.

As I read that, I immediately thought about two things. The first was how I had relied on one such guide when I was playing a game several months ago. The second thing was what  Thompson wrote about next. The game designer bemoaned the fact that gamers might be missing out on the challenges of the game. However, he was missing the gamers’ perspective and the larger picture.

What is the gamers perspective? Most gamers want to play the game and will try but fail over and over again. Some call this productive failure because it eventually leads to solutions. But players often just get stuck and the failure is frustrating instead of productive. They then turn to help wherever they can find it. These days the help is in places like game forums and YouTube. My game guru was a boy whose voice had not even broken yet! But he created and shared a YouTube video that helped me solve my problem.

What is the bigger picture? Gamers are working together to solve problems. They often do so for free (a few charge for “cheat” books) and they do so to help others. In this gaming support world, reputation outweighs riches.

Like Thompson, I’d point out that some gaming problems are often too complex for just one person to solve. But put several players together and they will figure things out. It is collaborative learning at its best!

To teachers and parents who don’t see it that way, I’ll point out that the learners want to do the task, they will strategise and think of alternatives when they fail, and they won’t give up. They will seek out solutions by consulting others. They will openly and willingly share what they know. As a result, initial solutions are negotiated and fine-tuned and only the best ones float to the top. It’s an educational solution that is screaming at the top of its voice, but teachers cannot look past their curricula, their report cards or their PowerPoint slides.

Why aren’t teachers taking advantage of games or a game-based approach? Most are not gamers and they know no better. Many are told by self-serving media giants that games are addictive, violent or antisocial. I hope that my teacher trainees see otherwise as they experience serious gaming over the next few weeks.


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