Education Collaboration II – Connecting Ideas

I was really happy to see the response to the Education Collaboration post from yesterday. The goal is to continue these posts and solicit suggestions for bringing educators and their ideas together to foster student success.

Before we discuss tech platforms for collaboration, the genesis of ideas should be examined. One of the foremost experts in this field is Steven Johnson, who funnily enough penned the book, “Where good ideas come from”. An RSA summary narrated by Johnson himself can be found in the header of this post. Johnson points out that many great ideas develop slowly and manifest themselves more as a hunch in one’s mind. Often these hunches are pieces of a bigger puzzle that only really take off once they are combined with the hunches of another. A good example would be Jobs and Wozniak – each held a piece of the Apple puzzle.

Johnson points out that the coffee houses of the enlightenment were so important because they brought great thinkers together under the same roof, helping to connect hunches to form great ideas. What platforms will serve to connect people for an educational enlightenment? Statistics show that face to face collaboration is the most effective, but how often do we have face time at school?

The ideas that will move education in the desired direction will come from the connected hunches and intuitions of teachers dispersed around the world. How do we connect them? There are so many social media platforms that will facilitate the connections but how do we stoke the flames to get people interested in mass collaboration?

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I found an interesting article on Edutopia about a group of teachers leading such a collaboration movement under the name “The Educator’s Village”. It is a very good read and it provides you an opportunity to collaborate immediately via a Google Form. Click on the picture to read the article.


Successful Crowdsourcing

The end result of any educational initiative must be increased levels of student success. Crowdsourcing has largely been a private sector tool to build support for a brand and source out innovative ideas. So the question must be asked, how can we use this private sector tool to increase student success?

Some ideas include:
1) Engaging and involving students and parents in school activities in a less taxing and more participatory model.

2) Mobilizing the expertise of a board full of caring educators.

3) Creating networks of ideas. Creating more frequent interactions amoungst colleagues on a more regular and specific basis.

What ways do you see crowdsourcing as a game-changer for education?

The following presentations provide some practical ideas for successful crowdsourcing. How can we adapt this to an education model? Share on this page or Twitter via #educationcrowdsource.

What is crowdsourcing?

Crowdsourcing is nothing new in the private sector but its applications are still mostly unrealized in education. What are its applications in education? What are its limitations? How can it be used to better serve the student community?

Share your thoughts and experiences about the potential of crowdsourcing for disruptive educational change.

This post is the first part of a look at the potential for mass collaboration to change education. I look forward to everyone’s participation.

Crowdsourcing a Solution

UNESCO (United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization) has established 6 goals to ensure access to education for all citizens of the world. Click on the banner to see the goals:


The mission is to achieve these goals by 2015. This deadline will be impossible to meet without a new and more radical course of action. Rather than relying on big money consulting groups and think-tanks, UNESCO has partnered with NOKIA and several other groups to crowdsource the cure. Individuals from around the world are invited to share their ideas for using mobile technology to provide educational opportunities for those in the most remote areas of developing countries.  You can share an idea at:

This idea can be easily applied to a North American context as well.  There is tremendous insight and collective knowledge in the ranks of each and every school board.  This knowledge just needs to be connected and networked. The power of crowdsourcing lies in the fact that no one individual needs to have the whole answer, each member of the community adds a piece to the puzzle. We have the technology to easily operationalize the age old proverb, “Many hands make light work.” We have to shift away from viewing schools and the individuals within them as isolated entities. Networking with colleagues should not occur at some workshop once or twice a year in a situation that has no context.

Imagine relying on fellow educators to help solve problems rather than have an outside “solution” applied to particular problem.  We can put an end to  “square peg and round hole” answers to localized problems. Tapping into resources like NING, Google+, Google Groups, Facebook, Edmodo, Salesforce Chatter, etc. could easily network schools.

The greatest resource that we have in education is each other.

Disruptive Thinking

I picked up Luke William’s book “Disrupt: Think the Unthinkable to Spark Transformation in Your Business” this weekend with the generous gift card that I received from Area 1. Williams preaches the need for and the power of disruptive thinking. Rather than approaching change at an incremental pace, organizational leaders should approach change from a more radical perspective. Leaders are asked to identify cliches from their organizational field and attack them from a “no limits” perspective. He introduces the powerful thought generating stem, “I wonder what would happen if….”. Teams can then generate a disruptive hypothesis based on these wide open ideas.

When it comes to education, I am sure that each and every one us can come up with a dozen or two cliches that plague our profession. Some of these cliches are placed upon us from the outside but I would wager that a good bit more come from within the system. We create cliches or stereotype neighbourhoods, age groups, board leadership, teaching style, parenting style, etc. and use them as a crutch to justify the lack of progress. We must be disruptive agents of change if we want the best for our students. Talking about 21st century fluencies is not enough, we must be more action oriented.

Social Media: Strengthening Home-School Communication

I devour any communication that comes from my son’s school. He is in Senior Kindergarten, so school is still new and exciting for us all. Admittedly, I also read the communications to fulfill the voyeuristic urge to see what goes on in other schools. My son’s principal follows the school-home communications playbook to the letter. The newsletter has clipart, important dates,thank-you’s and permission forms. He tries to use Twitter  and the school website is updated regularly. The only problem with this script, that he and MANY other principals follow, is that all of the communication is one way. Parents are informed but rarely consulted.

Traditionalists would argue that parent councils provide a forum for such consultation. I argue that this model is broken and highly undemocratic.How many parents actually attend these meetings?What percentage of the parent population is actually responsible for policy? 5 %? less maybe? Large segments of the school community become marginalized and the disconnect between home and school grows wider. If we want parental engagement then we have to engage the parents. Social media provides the perfect platform to involve a larger percentage of the parent community in school events.

Rather than present events to parents as a done deal, principals can use social media to consult with parents during the development phase. Crowdsource ideas with your community. Float ideas out on Twitter and solicit feedback. Create networked brain-storming sessions. This concept is nothing new in the private sector and it has helped energize many brands as well as broadening their base of support. I really believe that this approach can have an even more powerful impact on schools.

This video from Digital U shows some of the ways the private sector uses crowdsourcing. The translation to the education system would not be a difficult one.