Crowdsourcing #ISTE14 with help from @SueWaters and #NotAtISTE14

A few weeks ago, I was approached by Terry Kaye of Behrman House, a friend and valuable member of my PLN. She told me that she would not be able to attend ISTE this year and was wondering if I could share with her anything that I learned at this most important educational technology conference. Of course, I agreed. Then I started thinking... Why don't I add links to my notes to a spreadsheet so they could be easily organized, searched, and sorted? I started thinking some more. Maybe, I could invite others to post their notes as well on this sheet. My reason was primarily selfish. I knew that I could not possibly attend all of the sessions that I found interesting since many ran simultaneously. With the help of crowdsourcing, I could get notes to many of these sessions. So I created a Google spreadsheet, tweeted about it, and posted it on my blog.

For this project, I wanted the entry to be as simple as possible so I chose to use a publicly shared Google spreadsheet which anyone could edit with no log-in requirement. I liked the fact that anyone would be able to access and edit the notes. I hoped that this would allow more people to see the notes and encourage them to post their own. I preferred this over a Google form which might be a bit easier to use and safer since no one would actually edit the spreadsheet but would not allow everyone to easily see what was already posted when submitting the form. I also wanted the note-taking process to be as natural as possible so I wanted people to use any note-taking method they preferred as long as they created a link to share. With the Google spreadsheet, people could take their notes using Evernote, OneNote, Google Docs, Padlet etc. They could even post a YouTube video of their musings from ISTE. So I created the Google spreadsheet and waited to see what would happen.

What I did not realize was that I was tapping into an entire movement of people who were not at ISTE but were virtually attending the conference, sharing resources and notes using the hashtags #notatiste and #notatiste14. Soon Sue Waters of Edubloggers who was "attending" ISTE from her home in Australia and organizing the not at ISTE crowd picked up my notes. She tweeted it on her large network, posted it on her shared Google Doc, and in her ISTE Flipboard, and most importantly, began to add all of the links to notes that she was collecting to the shared notes spreadsheet.

Soon the shared Google spreadsheet was populated with notes from dozens of people, mostly people that I did not even know face to face but had heard about the project over Twitter or were added by others following ISTE both from the convention center and from afar. This continued throughout the conference and for the days that have followed. People seemed to genuinely appreciate this. Craig Yen who was not at ISTE but virtually attending the event from San Francisco blogged a thank you note about his virtual experience here. Jamie Fithian posted her list of #NotatISTE highlights as she virtually attended from Oklahoma. You can view one of the many thank you tweets I received below.

As I reflect on this project, there are many take-homes for me from this experience.

  • People on Twitter are very generous. The online social media world especially amongst educators has fostered a culture of sharing and helping others. My friend Rabbi Michoel Green noted that Twitter executives even say that educators are now dominating the Twitter sphere sending some 4.2 million tweets a day. I have benefited from and tried to contribute to this online culture of sharing. It is what establishing a PLN or Personal Learning Network is all about. I love this ethos and love to find ways to foster this in my students as well. This leads to my next point.
  • Our students are also very generous about sharing but too often we label this "cheating" instead of recognizing this generosity in our students and encouraging it. As I have blogged recently, many students have created Facebook groups for all of their classes to collect notes and utilize the collective wisdom of their peers to answer questions that they feel uncomfortable asking their teacher. I LOVE this and think we should actively encourage this while still allowing our students this private space and not trying to take it over as our own.
  • This leads to my final point which I hope does not contradict my previous one. How can we actively utilize this crowdsourced note-taking model with our students? One member of my PLN asked this very question in a blog post reflecting on this model. I have utilized this approach for crowdsourcing review sheets for major exams. These review sheets ultimately became questions on my test so the students were in reality creating their own summative assessment. I wonder if I should do this more consistently. Maybe, I should design a crowdsourced spreadsheet for my students to post all of their notes to every unit we are learning in class. The advantage is that every student is then required to take their own notes but also is given the opportunity to view others notes as well. Of course, some students still prefer taking notes with pen and paper which a recent study suggests might be a more effective approach for retaining information than typed notes- personally I much prefer to type notes but I want my students to use whatever approach they feel works best for them. I think a solution for this is to allow these students to take a picture of their notes and add a link to this picture to the shared spreadsheet. I plan on attempting to crowdsource our class notes this coming school year. I plan to post my reflections on this blog.
Thank you to all who made this crowdsourced notes project such a smashing success both for those of us physical attendees at ISTE and those who were #notastiste but following virtually through the wonderful world of social media. I plan to close my notes to public editing tomorrow, Monday July 7, so please add any notes you have to this document today. You can access it here. I am also embedding it once again below. Enjoy! Now I just have to find the time to read them all...