Crowdsourcing Towards a Better World

One of my fondest memories from my teenage years was my involvement in the Soviet Jewry Movement. I was no organizer mind you. I came to age towards the end of fall of the Soviet Union. But the schools and youth movements that I attended in high school felt it important to keep us involved and engaged. I attended a number of rallies including the March on Washington in 1987 in which my entire school and every other Jewish high school I knew marched together with some 250,000 others to impress upon Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev the importance of freeing Soviet Jews when he was attending his first summit meeting in Washington D.C. These events, the togetherness we felt working with thousands of others for a greater cause have profoundly affected my world view.

This was before the internet and social media so rallies like this were organized using traditional means, major Jewish organizations, print media, and word of mouth. Crowdsourcing has given the capacity, or Cognitive Surplus as Clay Shirky calls it, for anyone to not only attend such events but to organize on a wide-scale as illustrated in a recent article on Crowdsourcing Human Rights describing the website

Movements is a site connecting individuals around the globe living in oppressive regimes with those who seek to help them. All users are verified by the site but can anonymously a request to translate their message into other languages, write articles about their predicament, design a website or mobile app just to name a few recent examples.

But one does not even need a site like Movements to engage in meaningful crowdsourcing for a social cause. Rabbi Moshe Rosenberg, a good friend of mine and creative educational technologist recently enlisted his friends on Facebook to crowdsource the translation in English of the scholarly works of Eitam Henkin who together with his wife Na'ama was brutally murdered by Palestinian terrorists a few weeks back. You can view the discussion about this below and contact Rabbi Rosenberg if you wish to participate.

I had an idea that others might want to partner on: Many of us would like learn the Torah of R. Eitam Henkin, הי"ד. Some...
Posted by Moshe Rosenberg on Friday, October 2, 2015

This has got me thinking about the potential of our students to crowdsource not only to share and collaboratively create projects with their peers and teachers but to better the world. Crowdsourcing in the classroom has been a passion of mine with my work with many teachers at my school and my collaboration with Sue Waters at the ISTE conferences. If we could enlist our students to combine crowdsourcing with a world-wide audience for a cause they are passionate about, we could not only encourage them to produce their best possible work but excite them to develop their own potential to better the world.

For more on this, watch below my presentation a few days back for TurnItIn's Student Success Week. You can also add your ideas for using crowdsourcing with your students to this Google Slides presentation. I welcome your feedback as we crowdsource ways together to help ourselves and our students work towards a better world.