The Electric Educator: Google Moderator: Cast Your Vote!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Google Moderator: Cast Your Vote!

At their Mountain View, CA campus, Google hosts regular "Tech Talks" in which Googlers or other invited guests speak on various topics for the general benefit of the Google Community. Question and Answer sessions were a bit disorganized so Google engineers Dave S. Young, Taliver Heath, and Colby Ranger decided to spend their 20% time creating a tools to manage questions during these session. The result, was Google Moderator.

The simple web-based application allows users to ask questions and vote on existing questions. The most popular questions move to the top. The product worked so well for the tech talks that Google launched it internally to help organize meetings. Not only can users submit questions, they can also submit ideas or suggestions which are displayed for others to vote up or down. Those who submit questions also have the option of including a short YouTube video. In April of 2008 Moderator was made publicly available.
This is an example of a moderator idea on which users can vote.
This form of interaction is often termed "crowdsourcing." The premise is that the collective intelligence of the group is greater than any one individual and by allowing the group to vote ideas up or down, the cream will rise to the top. The larger the group the more ideas are shared and the more reliable the group decision is.

At Google events I have attended Moderator has been used to determine what topics will be covered during the event. I have both submitted and voted on ideas. Interacting with the agenda of a conference in this way is very empowering and provides each attendee with a sense that they are contributing to the direction of the group.

The most public display of Google Moderator came during the 2008 elections when then candidate Obama used Google Moderator in his "Open for Questions" campaign. Over 4.7 million votes were cast.

Moderator on the iPad.
There are a few nice features which make Moderator especially well suited for the classroom including the option choose whether responses can be submitted anonymously and the ability to flag inappropriate suggestions/ideas. If you don't have computers in your classroom (like me) students can access and vote on ideas from home, from the computer lab before or after school, or on their mobile device. Yes, Moderator works on the iPhone/iPod touch/iPad! 

One thing that I don't like about Moderator is that you must have a Google Account in order to submit or vote on ideas. Even if you setup your series as allowing anonymous submissions, users must be logged in to submit votes or ideas. If you are a Google Apps school, this isn't a big idea as your students will already have accounts that will work however if you are not, managing the logins for a class so that they can use moderator is daunting.

Despite this challenge, there are some great applications for moderator in education. Instead of posting these ideas below, I've created a Moderator "series" in which you can view my ideas, vote on them, ad add your own. We'll see which one is the most popular! Don't be shy, vote and submit ideas!

Click to view and vote on ideas!


  1. John,
    Heard you on the "Collaboration" webinar last week... thanks for the great info and I've book marked this to share with my fellow teachers and some of my professors at the university where I'm attending to make sure that we can get the word out about this great tool. Have a great Holiday!

  2. Hi Don,

    Moderator would be a great tool at the collegiate level. I hope you'll add your ideas to the series that I created. Thanks for sharing!

  3. This idea was sent to me via email. I thought it was to good not to share here...

    I've only used moderator for one thing - last year when the 4th grade students (100+), teachers, lots of parents, and the principal went on a 3 day field trip across the state to learn about the coastal plains and outer banks and NC history. Some of the students did not have
    permission to go, so they stayed at school. I used moderator to post questions from the students who stayed at school for the teachers to
    share with the students on the trip. Requests were made for specific pictures to be taken or questions to be answered. The teachers could
    post the answers and post the votes from the students. I thought it was a great way for the students who were at school to stay involved
    and not feel so left out. Also made a lit trip of the journey for the students at school, sharing the stops each day, which I think helped
    generate questions for the next day. (Students did not have computer access on the trip, but the teachers did have laptops to check in each night.) I thought it worked well and has a lot of

    --Linda M.


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