The school as the crowd: adventures in crowdsourcing with schools

Ally Davies, Museum of London, UK, Rhiannon Looseley, Museum of London, UK

Published paper: The school as the crowd: Adventures in crowdsourcing with schools

Heritage organisations have embraced the use of crowdsourcing in recent years, and the Museum of London has experimented with using this model specifically with a schools' audience. Two departments (Information Resources and Learning) piloted the "Tag London" project, each hoping to meet some discrete needs: to improve online collections data and engage a large number of schoolchildren. The museum was attracted to the idea of a project in which participants actively engaged with museum objects whilst also helping improve data.

The result was a website that invited eight- to fourteen-year-old children to categorise a selection of museum objects by object type and time period. The initial pilot with some three hundred students produced valuable and encouraging insights. A subsequent consultation with a much broader sample of teachers went on to highlight potential flaws with the project.

As a result of a clear disconnect between the museum’s and teachers’ expectations, which saw teachers reporting a need for adjustments to the product that would have worked against the fundamental principle of crowdsourcing, the museum was required to reflect on what constitutes an acceptable level of compromise in a project intended to benefit all parties.

This paper explores the role of choice in participation (were the school students more digital conscripts than digital volunteers?) and the importance of the teacher as gatekeeper. Tag London suggests assumptions made about one crowdsourcing approach cannot necessarily be applied to another and reflects on the use of crowdsourcing in a formal learning environment. The museum ultimately decided to pause its use of Tag London with schools, and this paper details what informed this decision.

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