Crowdsourcing #ISTE15: With Some Help From the Crowd

Crowdsourcing by adesigna via CC license on Flickr
The ISTE Conference is less than three weeks away and I need your help. Together with Sue Waters from Edublogs, I will be leading a BYOD sessions on Crowdsourcing ISTE: A Dynamic Model for Collaboration Inside and Outside the Classroom. This session will discuss ways to use crowdsourcing to foster collaboration and deep thinking in the classroom. As the saying goes, the smartest person in the room is the room.

From my vantage point as a rabbi and Torah teacher, I find crowdsourcing to be particularly fascinating. 


In many ways, I believe this method has been utilized in Judaism for thousands of years. For example, the Talmud itself is a "crowdsourced" document starting with the text of the Mishna which was a transcript of rabbinic conversations spanning houses of learning in multiple countries from before the Common Era until around 200, the Talmud which continued these conversations by hundreds of Sages across dozens of locations through the year 600 or so, and then continuing with medieval commentaries like Rashi, Tosafot and others. The page of Talmud is so densely packed with information due to its crowdsourced contributions by so many across millennia. The commentary of Tosafot itself is crowdsourced as it is not one individual but the work of a rabbinic school in France and Germany in the 11th and 12th centuries.

There are many examples where the wisdom of the crowd in Judaism trumps all. Notably Tosafot often uses the principle, "the minhag of our fathers is [equivalent to] Torah", in justifying the practices of the crowd even when these practices appear to contradict the law as stated by other rabbinic authorities.

Maimonides uses crowdsourcing to determine the very fabric of Judaism, its calendar and holidays. He writes in his Mishne Torah (Kiddush HaChodesh 5:13) that "It is the establishment of the calendar by the inhabitants of Eretz Yisrael that establishes a day as Rosh Chodesh (the first of the month) or a festival, not our calculations of the calendar." Maimonides is saying that when it comes to determining the Jewish calendar and holidays, it is not astronomical calculations which ultimately determine this, it is the behavior of the "crowd", namely the crowd of Jews living in the Land of Israel. We look to this crowd and when they celebrate Jewish holidays is when the Jewish world celebrates them as well.

My inspiration for presenting the topic of crowdsourcing at ISTE was my experience last year crowdsourcing notes for ISTE 2014. 


I started crowdsourcing notes last year almost as an afterthought when a friend of mine who was not at ISTE asked me if I could share with her my notes. Why not post all of my notes on a Google spreadsheet and allow others to post their notes as well, I thought. I did not realize that I was joining an entire community of people #notatiste coordinated by Sue Waters and others who were virtually following the conference, participating, and sharing. You can read my reflections on this exhilarating experience here and here.

Considering my session topic, I really feel inadequate as a "guru" of crowdsourcing. Yes, I use crowdsourcing in my classroom to help students share what they know and collaboratively design genuine assessments as do others in my school as well. But I am certain that there are many amazing ways to use crowdsourcing in the classroom that I have never even considered.

This is where I need YOUR help. 


I am crowdsourcing a presentation on crowdsourcing. Here is a link to a Google Slides presentation that I created. Anyone in the world with this link can not only view but also edit this presentation. Please use it as a platform to share your ideas for crowdsourcing in the classroom. All you need to do is add a slide, put up some text, perhaps add a picture, and include your name and/or Twitter handle. If you are familiar with this crowdsourcing slides model, I crowdsourced this idea from @tombarrett who pioneered the Interesting Ways series. I have embedded the Google Slides presentation below so we can all watch how it develops.