Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Models of Crowdsourcing Applied to Family Life Education

In his book, Crowdsourcing, Jeff Howe, identifies four general models of crowdsourcing-- crowd wisdom, crowd creation, crowd voting and crowd funding. Each of these models can be applied to the creation of family life education websites.

Crowding sourcing wisdom about family life.

Although we have significant information about human development and families, there are still many applications to particular challenges or particular children that reside in the daily experience of individual parents and family members that could be helpful to others. Most family life educators who work with groups (F2F or online) know the value of inviting the participants to share their strategies and ideas about questions and issues facing one another. In open social networking sites for parents you see a lot of this type of discussion. One parent poses a challenge and others suggest ways to deal with the situation. Sometimes bad advice is offered, but often times there are helpful suggestions. There are many ways to extend and encourage this crowd sourced wisdom from family members.

Crowd creation of family life educational experiences.

Family life education sites can move beyond simply capturing the wisdom of family members and involve families in designing and developing the educational experiences. Family members could be included in serving as a moderator of open forums of parent discussions. Participants might monitor topics of interest to particular families (for example, parents of children with autism) to identify hot, relevant, or new issues. Participants could be invited to write, record or video content that to illustrate a particular point. (Note: There are many developmental issues in the lives of children that can most easily be illustrated by video better than words. Family life education would be powerfully advanced by having easy access to short video clips of these developmental milestones. Asking parents to provide video examples of developmental milestones would dramatically increase the our ability to help parents understand human development and enrich the text descriptions of these topics.)

Crowd voting in family life education.

The simple version of "crowd voting" is to ask readers of family life education websites to rate articles, videos, etc. on usefulness or other qualities. Participants can also be asked to write reviews or reactions to topics. (this may be more crowd creation than voting.) Clearly, if a family life educational website were successful in gathering crowd created material, there would be many opportunities to include the participants in rating and commenting on the various creations.

Crowd funding of family life education.

At present the most common model of funding on the Internet has been an advertiser model. There are still relatively few examples in which people contribute to the funding of content delivery. One model that might work for family life education is the model used by ESPN and tried by several newspapers in which much of the content is available for free, but their is some "in-depth content" created by the most popular commentators that is only available by subscription. This might work in family life education settings. Another version of this would be to offer more individualized experiences for participants that would provide more in-depth support or help through a paid subscription process.


There are numerous opportunities to engage parents and other family members in "crowd-based" strategies for interacting, developing and advancing family life education. This is an important area of further exploration.


Susan said...

Bob, Some excellent forward thinking ideas about the role of social media and family education. As we encourage family members to form and be part of crowds in sharing and shaping information, what is the role of the family education professional? It seems that there is interest/concern about losing control over information.

Robert Hughes Jr, PhD said...

Susan, one of the fundamental decisions that we will need to make in regards to "opening" educational activities and experiences to the web is in regards to how do we deal with the "loss of control" over the discussion/material, etc.

In some ways I think we have already lost that control. Parents are already engaged in discussions at various websites. Many other less qualified professionals have created spaces for families.

I think the question we should ask is "are we willing to engage the public with these new open tools and strategies or remain on the sidelines while others do this?"