It happened one day when a friend sent a tweet that read, "I used crowdsourcing in my Calculus class and it's the best thing I've ever done." I had no idea what she was talking about, so I did a Google search.

Crowdsourcing is a business term similar to outsourcing, but not exactly. It's like letting the customers do the work rather than hiring someone. The customers help create new and interesting ideas. In particular, it seems to work these days in technology by posting a particular problem on the Web and the conversation begins with possible solutions. It's like having the world for collaborators.

Within my search about crowdsourcing, I discovered Cathy Davidson's article about how she is planning to use crowdsourcing in her English course: This is your Brain on the Internet. Her first sentence captured me (just like any good article should): "I loved returning to teaching...except for the grading." Like her, I hate grading. The feedback is the most useful part for students, but the dreaded grade is like a punch in the stomach to the students, and most only look at the grade and don't care about the comments. But the comments are what matter!! It's that part of grading I don't mind. I just wish I didn't have to judge their writing or make an evaluation.

In the past, I tried several ways to prevent this stomach punching: portfolios, allowing continuous revising, etc., but this created more of what I hated: too much paper grading! I ended up not giving the essays as much attention as they deserved. I went back to the old way, then, and just had to "suck it up."

Now I have some hope for the revision process that must be present in all writing, but that all students seem to want to ignore. Davidson's article inspired me. Now, I'm not saying I completely agree with her grading scale: "Do all the work (and there is a lot of work), and you get an A. Don't need an A? Don't have time to do all the work? No problem. You can aim for and earn a B. There will be a chart." This seems simple enough; however, I think that students should be awarded for quality and not just quantity. Besides, I'm not much for making charts.

Instead, I will use a process I already use: peer review. Peer review has its own controversy. I hear it from my students most: "If I don't know what I'm doing, how can I expect my classmates to know? How can they help me?" Of course, they don't really get the point of peer review: getting and receiving feedback while learning about critical reading and thinking, and it must be directed very clearly for it to truly work (That's another blog someday...), but nevertheless, I use it and will continue using it.

So, taking what I know (peer review) with Davidson's slant (crowdsourcing), I have decided on using peer review twice and the drafts will be worth more points than they used to be. For example, 50% of the grade comes from the peers (which they will conduct using a very detailed review process and a rating scale); the other 50% comes from me. The peer review will be conducted using Write Cycle from Turnitin and the essays will be dispersed across several sections and conducted anonymously so students won't be able to make any deals with their friends. Yes, I'm sure there will be ways to know whose paper they have, but the process is random as well, so the chances of friends reading friends' essays are slim (especially when this is dispersed across 2 sections of composition with at least 40 students in all). Will this work? Once again, I'll have to let you know--just like Davidson will--but I have hope.

A colleague commented that Davidson really isn't inventing anything new: it just has a new fancy name. Maybe he's right, but at least she helped point me in a more creative direction than where I was headed.

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