crowdsourcing, smart mobs, ideagoras: more collaboration or something else?

First a few terms.

crowdsourcing: from Wikipedia, “a neologism for the act of taking a task traditionally performed by an employee or contractor, and outsourcing it to an undefined, generally large group of people or community in the form of an open call.” Other terms for this act: “community-based design” and “distributed participatory design.” Some also call it spec work because members of the community can bid on doing the job or hope to be chosen for the job, instead of going through normal hiring methods. crowdSPRING is an online company that facilitates crowdsourcing for its members.

smart mobs: From Wikipedia, “A smart mob is a form of self-structuring social organization through technology-mediated, intelligent emergent behavior. The concept was introduced by Howard Rheingold in his book Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution.” Such mobs can physically gather just to create a scene, or they might have some social/political motivation, as in Meetups (remember how popular those were a few elections ago?). Are these virtual entities examples of the smart mob/crowdsourcing phenomenon: eBay (business built and powered by users), Second Life (a virtual world built by users), and Wikipedia, itself (an encyclopedia built and maintained by users)?

ideagoras: Depending on the context, a place/space/network/marketplace for ideas. Drawing on the popular concept of crowdsourcing, the focus is on innovation. Take the Innovate-Ideagora, related to the journal Innovate, it describes itself as “an open agora, where problems seek solutions, new visions are explored, and the status quo is challenged.” Or there’s this take on ideagoras in business that sounds a lot like any crowdsourcing article, but the concept in business often leans toward consulting services. I suppose the old think-tank is an instance of an ideagora.

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What’s in it for education?

Here’s an interesting section of the blog Education Innovation on Crowdsourcing. It’s more than one post, so scroll down through all. The first post looks forward to a crowdsourced type of wikipedia of video content that is that is educational and research driven. More likely to happen in the near future are the crowdsourced textbooks envisioned in the second post, and I expect that they would also take advantage of the participatory wiki format. Can you imagine a wikipedia-like site with tones of content on one subject? Let’s say you need course material (no longer called a textbook) for a course in Nursing and there’s a comprehensive and searchable wiki on the topic that allows you to pick and choose where to send students for readings and resources, like videos and images with Creative Commons licenses, links to professional organizations and journal articles. And you might even ask your students to work on editing a page or topic in the wiki as a way to both contribute to the profession and learn more through research.

You could have students experiment with crowdsourcing an idea on Twitter or some other microblogging service and reporting the results. Or introduce a group project using the concept of crowdsourcing to give students a fresh approach to the old group project that so many students dread. Have them create a wiki for the project or use Twitter to discuss it or let them decide what tool to use.

Lastly, as a professional concept, how do you feel about crowdsourcing a solution to a problem in teaching? Have you built a professional learning network (PLN) on Twitter that could respond to your questions? Does your institution or department have a wiki or blog that can serve as an ideagora? Maybe if college committees were called Smart Mobs and allowed to behave like them, they would be more productive and would be more interested in meeting.

I knew there was one good example of using Twitter as a crowdsourcing tool for a library project: http://b2e.nitle.org/index.php/2008/12/05/crowdsourcing_ideas_about_libraries_in_2

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Categories: collaboration

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