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Crowdsourcing: The Teacher-Voice Solution?

Ed Week's Michele Davis recently wrote about the ways school districts and education organizations are using crowdsourcing—gathering input from large groups of people who contribute with their digital devices—to solve hefty problems.

For instance, California's Poway Unified School District appealed to its 4,000 employees to pitch ideas for improving safety and security in its schools. Davis writes:

The overall winning idea—to build a K-12 comprehensive school-counseling and student-services support system in the district—was submitted by Sheila Hatfield, a student-services specialist who counsels high school and middle school students. Through the idea-generating process, she was able to pitch her suggestions directly to the district superintendent. Without InnovationU, she's doubtful her idea would have made it further than a lunch discussion with a colleague.
"To get the attention of the upper echelon in the district, I wouldn't even know how to do that," she says. "I don't think the everyday discussions make their way through."

All of this called to mind a central problem teachers are grappling with: having their voices heard—and in more than just an effort of tokenism—in the policy realm, specifically around teacher evaluations. An event I recently attended with highlighted the need for change in this sphere, albeit with cursory teacher input.

Davis mentions that teachers as a group are already using crowdsourcing to rate and review online lesson plans and to fundraise for classroom supplies. So why not use it to contribute to larger systemic solutions as well?

Many teachers, in fact, are already weighing in online by writing blogs and articles and comments and contributing to social media. And some districts, including Memphis, are using teacher surveys to gather feedback on policies. But the hard part is ensuring these suggestions "make their way through" (i.e., are taken into account), as was the case in Poway Unified.

What do you think: Do the higher ups in districts and states and Washington need to initiate the crowdsourcing for it to have an effect? Or can it happen more organically and still be effective?

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