Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Crowdsourcing Parent Education

Most professionals who are engaged in teaching parent education and other family-related issues are generally reluctant to embrace the crowdsourcing idea of working with parents and family members.

First, although few people would claim to be experts on physics, chemistry, engineering, software development, etc., almost everyone thinks they are are an expert on raising children and managing families. Second, although many people would agree that there physics, chemistry, etc. are based on science, fewer would agree that behavioral or social science information is much better than commonsense.

So within this context, should behavioral and social scientists engage in developing crowdsourced educational activities in which ordinary people have a chance to create and exchange knowledge and insight about parenting and family matters? This leads to a whole series of questions and puzzles about how do you manage the potential of inaccurate information. What does this do to the credibility of our scientific knowledge about parenting and human development when "untrained" people are allowed to provide insights and advice about parenting, etc?

What risks do you run of being the source of damaging or very inappropriate ideas?

Despite the risks, I am on the side that professionals should invite the "crowd" into the creation of education for parents and families. Although there is potential for misinformation, I think there is much more promise of wise, thoughtful information. With the use of "moderators" and other techniques, misinformation can be a way of correcting parents ideas about various issues rather than treat this information as a problem.

At present we generally don't know the extent to which misinformation is common in forums, chatrooms and social network sites for parents. I know of no efforts to examine these sites to see the degree to which accurate or inaccurate information is being exchanged.

Before we abandon the idea of crowdsourcing parent education, let's see what is really happening.

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