Thursday, March 7, 2013

Crowdsourcing Your 1:1 Professional Development

In an earlier post, I talked about a professional development model that I created for my district based on gamification. We call it Mission Possible, a game-like system where teachers work through "missions" in order to gain achievements to reach higher levels of tech greatness. Read more here! I kind of left you hanging with the second part of the PD that I feel makes it successful.

Crowdsourcing is a big part of the model that individualizes the PD to departments and even specific teachers. I am not sure how Webster defines crowdsourcing, but I can give some pretty good examples.

Astronomers, in an effort to map the sky have taken pictures of millions of galaxies with telescopes like Hubble, or the Keck Telescope in Hawaii. The next step in their experiment was to categorize these galaxies as spiral, elliptical, irregular or peculiar using Hubble's Galaxy Classification system. Basically you would need to look at these pictures, determine if there were spiral arms, or other things happening that would put the galaxy into a certain category. As it turns out humans are much better, even after simple instruction, than computers at doing this. Astronomers had a problem. With the six grad students working on the experiment, they could not look at the MILLIONS of galaxies. They created Galaxy Zoo. This website gives anyone a brief intro to how to classify galaxies, then shows them pics and has them practice. Using some simple questions, they use people around the world to classify actual scientific data. Within 24 hours they were getting 70,000 classifications per hour, using over 150,000 people in the first year.

With Mission Possible, I wanted to have missions that were specific to disciplines around the school. I am not an expert in Foreign Language, so I go to the experts. They can progress in the game by earning points creating missions for others. As part of the game, a teacher creates their own tutorial, shares it with others, and contributes to the actual making of the game.

I believe that this ownership of the game itself is a big part of the buy-in we get from our teachers. It is not a game where I or some Tech God who know everything is telling them what is important to learn in tech. No one knows every application of tech in our school. There are pockets of experts that I am tapping into with the crowdsourcing missions. Teachers realize that the game is theirs to play, and create as they go. The tutorials are there for other's use, which gives the teachers recognition and a part of the satisfaction that I feel in the success of the game.

I know there are a lot of you looking to adapt this model in your own systems. Do not forget the crowdsourcing piece as it will help you with manpower as well as buy-in. Good luck and let me know how it goes.