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Using the crowd to improve education

08.17.2013
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Education has undergone some big changes in the past few years, with the likes of Khan Academy and the MOOCs imparting their own vision of how learning should be conducted onto the industry.

Innovation within the school system however remains mired in the bureaucratic systems and structures within which most schools around the world operate.

A school district in San Diego offers a ray of hope however.  The Poway Unified School District has teamed up with crowdsourcing site Spigit to idea storm suggestions on how to improve their schools.  The new site, called InnovationU, calls for employees from across the district to input ideas on how the safety of students and staff can be improved.

The pilot project received a good number of suggestions from across the department, with teachers, bus drivers and after school staff all contributing.  An algorithm then sorted the ideas, awarded contributors reputation points based on their suggestions.

The school board has agreed to launch its next idea storm in September.

“The most important thing that’s changed is the intangible — the culture change that’s occurred. … Everyone now feels the sense of being invested in the system and having the opportunity of an idea changing the entire district.” the board said.

Such facilities are well known in the corporate world, with pioneers such as Dell and Starbucks making good use of them.  They have also emerged in unusual quarters, such as the Russian website soliciting ideas from citizens on changes they would like to see in Moscow.

Hopefully projects such as InnovationU will be amongst a shift in how schools are governed in future, although it would be beneficial I feel if the challenges were extended to all stakeholders, including parents and other interested parties.  After all, Karim Lakhani famously discovered the importance of intellectual diversity when she analysed the successful solutions provided via the InnoCentive platform.

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