Crowdsourcing Education Reform via #edchat

Note: This post was originally posted on Edutopia-Igniting Innovation in Education through Collaboration


#edchat's "small sparks"

Keith Sawyer, author of the book Group Genius wrote, "All inventions emerge from a long sequence of small sparks...Collaboration brings small sparks together to generate breakthrough innovation."


Educators need no longer be content to passively wait for others to discover the "small sparks" that are needed to solve classroom or school issues. The technology now exists for educators to share their own
"small sparks" at the grassroots level together through networks such as
Twitter, and on Twitter that means #edchat.


During the 7/6/10 weekly #edchat my final tweet of the discussion was a fictitious news headline: "Twitter group known at #edchat becomes a powerful source of new directions and innovation in education."


What preceded it was a discussion with others about how #edchat could become a recognized source of educational problem solving, ideas, experimentation, and innovation. For those educators who are on Twitter,
#edchat has quickly become the go-to place for discussing educational
issues, sharing ideas, links to articles, and posting questions. It is
not limited to the Tuesday topic-driven chats, but is happening 24/7.
#edchat is producing a lot of "small sparks."


Is it possible that the #edchat conversation on Twitter could evolve into a recognized leader in open source educational ideas, innovations, and solutions? I believe it is.


First, educators need to recognize that #edchat is more than just a Personal Learning Network (PLN) or an on-line Professional Learning Community. It is actually a pNLC- professional Networked Learning
Collaborative.


Second, the #edchat pNLC needs to put the ideas, innovation, and solutions into action to produce real tangible classroom or school based results and then give #edchat the credit.


Professional Networked Learning
Collaborative- pNLC


The #edchat professional Networked Learning Collaborative (pNLC) will allow teachers access to a greater flow of knowledge and information than ever before. Using a network such as Twitter, teachers will be able
to form collaboratives that actually implement the ideas shared via the
network. It moves ideas from the digital to the physical.


The essence of the pNLC is that the "who" of potential members and collaborators is increased exponentially because of individual members networking through collaborative technology platforms such as Twitter.
Thus, more "small sparks." The pNLC allows educators to "crowdsource."


Crowdsourcing


Jeff Howe, author of Crowdsourcing: Why The Power Of The Crowd Is Driving The Future of ..., points out that there are two shared characteristics of a crowdsourced project. First, the participants are
not motivated by money, and second, they are donating their free time.
"That is, they're contributing their excess capacity, or 'spare cycles,'
to indulge in something they love to do." Clay Shirky would say they
are using their "Cognitive Surplus."


The #edchat pNLC is able to crowdsource learning solutions, solve problems, generate ideas, and create innovations for the classroom or school.


#edchat works because virtual teams can form up around educational problems or issues easily. #edchatters are free to pursue their own interests and passions, and thus, are highly motivated. #edchatters can
contribute regardless of their professional experience or expertise.
That means anyone could provide insight or valuable ideas on a topic or
issue they are passionate about. This is why the "p" in pNLC is lower
case.


If it is true, as Peter Steiner said, "On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog," then in the crowd, nobody cares if you are a credentialed expert. It assumes that everyone participating in the #edchat has
something of value to offer. All that matters is that one is motivated
and knowledgeable.


#edchat Evolution


Wikis or Google docs could be used to post specific issues teachers are seeking help with. Designated hashtags could be generated for each issue creating a sort of #edchat task force. For example, technology
topics could use the hashtag #edchat-tech. California teachers could use
#edchat-CA. These collaboartive teams could then divide the labor, focus
the ideas, and channel the energy.


Evolving the #edchat hashtag into more focused or specialized topics would not only help to focus energy and ideas, but also attract other people who have an interest in those topics. Results and evidence of the
work can be posted as YouTube videos, magazine articles, blog posts,
and the main #edchat Twitter conversation.


Serendipity

The simple definition of serendipity is finding what we didn't know what we were looking for. It is unexpected encounters with people and the knowledge they possess. But what if, instead of accidentally
stumbling into a serendipitous encounter, you could attract or draw
these people to you--a form of purposeful serendipity?


The #edchat pNLC does just that. Participating in #edchat will allow an individual teacher to form a learning collaborative--to reach beyond the walls of their classroom or school and into the "crowd" and gather
up all those "small sparks." All it takes is some imagination to see the
possibilities.

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