FLO Tech Tool Tip: Crowdsourcing in the e-Classroom

This is the first blog post in a new monthly series we’re calling FLO Tech Tool Tips. This month’s tip is brought to you by Annie Prud’homme-Généreux, who shows us how she uses DotStorming to give everyone a voice in online teaching and learning. 

Post by Annie Prud’homme-Généreux PhD, director of Continuing Studies at Capilano University

“If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.”

— Anonymous

What if you didn’t have to choose? What if you could go fast and far at the same time?

Join me as I take you on a brief three-minute video tour of the Dot voting platform and highlight the most helpful features. Soon you’ll be implementing it in your democratic classroom to generate solution fasts and go far in exploring the best ones.

Dot voting (sometimes called dotmocracy) is a crowdsourcing activity that taps into the wisdom and resources of your group. It starts with a divergent-thinking activity that gives everyone a voice and generates many ideas. After that, a fun exercise narrows down the choices. The group can cover a lot of ground rapidly. The group can go fast … and far.

The first time I experienced it was at an instructional workshop. The facilitator asked us to consider our best technique for teaching in small groups. Each participant captured their ideas on a sheet of paper and displayed them around the room. Then the facilitator gave each of us three sticky dots to vote on the techniques that intrigued us most. We went around the room, read each idea, and placed our sticky dots next to the ones that captivated our attention. Once we sat down and looked around the room, our eyes were drawn to those ideas adorned with lots of colourful dots. The group had spoken. The facilitator asked the authors of these popular ideas to tell us more. (Note: If you are a Liberating Structures practitioner, you may recognize the similarities of dot voting to the 25/10 Crowd Sourcing structure.)

It can be challenging to replicate the features of this activity online. It’s possible to collect ideas on digital boards such as Padlet or Jamboard, but these boards do not lend themselves to easy voting and ranking. As a facilitator, I want to hide votes while people are considering ideas to prevent groupthink. I want to control the number of votes each person can award. And I want to quickly rank the ideas based on the number of votes they received.

Enter Dotstorming, a cloud-based application designed to replicate the experience of a dotmocracy activity online. It’s similar to Padlet but has added voting features. Learners can easily add multimedia or text-based posts to a board, which is viewable by all in real-time, and each learner can vote for their classmates’ posts. The instructor can control the anonymity of the posts, visibility of the votes, and number of votes that each learner can award. It’s intuitive to set up, free to try, and fun to use. 

Some ideas of how you might use it:

  • Tap into the experience and wisdom of your learners. Solicit solutions for a commonly encountered problem, direct learners to vote on the ones they are most curious about, and ask the authors who proposed them to speak about them.
  • Crowdsource ideas for classroom activities. Ask learners to propose guest speakers, field-trip destinations, books or articles to read, or prompts they would like to discuss in a forum. Collect the proposals, and let class democracy decide on the one you pursue.
  • Get some feedback on which concepts learners find most challenging. Ask learners to add to the board a concept they are unclear about (i.e., their muddiest point), and peers can vote on the ones they would like the instructor to respond to with follow-up explanations.
  • Use the board as a multimedia discussion forum. Ask learners to find real-world examples of a theoretical concept studied in class and post it as a photograph with some comments. Learners can vote for the ones that represent the most creative or demonstrative application of the theory. The learner whose example gathers the most votes earns bonus points.
  • Use the board as an asynchronous clicker activity where you ask a challenging question with multiple-choice options. In this case, you (rather than learners) post several possible answers. Learners vote on the responses they think are accurate. Once you make the votes visible, you can address common misconceptions that are thus revealed.

Note: Any tools recommended in this series should first be reviewed by your institution to ensure student privacy and protection.

© 2021 Annie Prud’homme-Généreux released under a CC BY license

The featured image for this post (viewable in the BCcampus News section at the bottom of our homepage) is by Julia M Cameron from Pexels