What is Crowd Sourcing?

Crowd sourcing refers to a set of methods of marshalling a community to contribute ideas, information, or content that would otherwise remain undiscovered. Its rapidly growing appeal stems from its effectiveness in filling gaps that cannot be bridged by other means. (An example might be asking a community to name the people in a period photograph. Family members are often the most authoritative source of this kind of information, but there is no easy way to know who to ask — so the call is issued community wide.) In the museum and academic sectors, crowd sourcing refers to an institution drawing from public knowledge to provide missing links on specific subject matter, complete large-scale tasks, or solve inherently complex issues. For many tasks, institutions are finding that amateur scholars or even people whose lives simply were contemporary to the event, object, images, or other focus being documented are remarkably effective in providing deep level detail around a topic or in documenting a large body of materials. With tools like Kickstarter, crowd sourcing has even been applied to fundraising. Because crowd-sourcing processes typically work best at scale, most such projects typically access a large number of participants. While it does not directly overlap, crowd sourcing is related to “user-generated content” and “collective intelligence,” both of which have appeared in past NMC Horizon Reports.

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(1) How might this technology be relevant to the educational sector you know best?

  • What excites me about this topic is the opportunity for students to make a real contribution to a field of knowledge, feel a sense of ownership, and know what it is like to be a scholar. For example, in the case of Crowdsourcing the Civil War, the library staff at the University of Iowa have scanned in 3011 pages of hand-written documents (letters and diaries) from the American Civil War. This handwriting cannot be analyzed through OCR and the staff time involved in transcription would be extensive. So the organizers have asked the public to read through the pages and type out their content. This is largely appealing to current scholars and hobbyists, but may also awaken interest in students who would otherwise feel disconnected by textbook descriptions of wars in days gone by. The time involved is still enormous, but it is spread out over thousands of interested participants who only need to commit to a page at a time. - allan.gyorke allan.gyorke Nov 14, 2011 adding to this, I think the encouragement to contribute per se is facilitated through this technology - helga helga Nov 18, 2011
  • - tom.haymes tom.haymes Nov 18, 2011~I agree with Allan that this could be merged into a larger Collaborative Learning/Collective Intelligence topic. This is just a subset of possible outgrowths of those technologies. That is not to understate its importance.
  • I have used this in a small scale with a class I teach. I give them the world of options for what we could cover in the course on the first day, then as a group we create a syllabus: content we'll cover, assignments we'll do, etc. I do guide them a bit, but find they buy into the course more when they've created it themselves.- lauren.pressley lauren.pressley Nov 19, 2011
  • I am working on a project where we are creating a content repository of curriculum development around digital storytelling. Crowd sourcing is an effective way to locate new content easily and from very talented individuals who would like to share knowledge. I believe crowd sourcing is important because there is simply too much information for any one person to gather. It literally 'takes a village' to stay informed or inform an important project. - deborah.heal deborah.heal Nov 19, 2011
  • Excellent examples citied above - we are redesigning our library and we're crowdsourcing suggestions for its facilities, we've had a great response, far more powerful than focus groups or questionnaires- DaveP DaveP Nov 20, 2011
  • Great points on collaboration and contribution! The ability for students to not only make a definitive contribution, but have the opportunity to collaborate with others within their discipline, ranging from fellow students to thought leaders and recognized authorities, instills a since of empowerment, and encourages critical thinking. Additionally, crowd sourcing can often bring together diverse perspectives from non-associated fields of studies to address a specific problem. Providing alternative views and approaches to understanding and problem solving can generate enriching interactions and discussions that develop unexpected outcomes, and at times expedite solutions. For example, researchers at the University of Washington crowd-sourced a gaming community associated with a game called Foldit to see if they could provide insight into thestructure of retroviral proteases in an effort to better understand the development and spread of the AIDS virus. The gamers were able to solve in 3 weeks what the researchers had been unable to figure out for decades (http://www.gizmag.com/foldit-players-advance-aids-research/19892/). Tapping into non-associated crowd sourcing provided a completely unique take on examining and resolving the problem by leveraging the spacial puzzle solving experience and strength of the gamers. - Dougdar Dougdar Nov 20, 2011

(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

  • This also overlaps some with the collaborative environments topic - which doesn't have much input at the moment and could be collapsed into this topic. - allan.gyorke allan.gyorke Nov 14, 2011
  • I see this as a distinct topic - it can use technology but doesnt rely on it- DaveP DaveP Nov 20, 2011
  • I agree that crowd sourcing is a collaborative endeavor. The MOOC environment that George Siemens and others are experimenting with is an excellent example of both. - deborah.heal deborah.heal Nov 19, 2011

(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on teaching, learning, or creative expression?

  • This technology allows for an enriched learning resource that is relevant, timely and of a certain depth that can allow an independent learner to locate important information quickly and perhaps be intrigued to learn about something new that she/he had not considered. The WWW is such a vast sea of information, it is always interesting to see what others locate and can generate in terms of content. It always affords new learning. - deborah.heal deborah.heal Nov 19, 2011
  • Self or student directed learning see Kropotkin, situationist flaneurs, information ecologies, leaning grids, social sculpture- DaveP DaveP Nov 20, 2011

(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?

  • Crowdsourcing the Civil War
  • We (UO and CCSSO) have worked on a crowd sourced content repository in conjunction with NASA to provide learning resources for HS students in the area of physics and science. The project has great potential to become a valuable resource. - deborah.heal deborah.heal Nov 19, 2011

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