Friday, August 5, 2011

Curriki for Open (free) Content for Educators

This week, Scott McNealy, co-founder of Sun Microsystems, was the keynote speaker at Silicon Valley Education Fund's ShiftED Conference at Foothill College.  Scott is a great presenter and loves to throw zingers at his audience.  He kept his audience spellbound and essentially put forth the case for why America's educational system is broken, that there is not just a learning gap but a canyon.  We need to make dramatic changes immediately.

Scott sold his company to Oracle in 2010 and is now free to do as he pleases.  One of his passions is the concept of making it easy for educators to access free online lesson plans and other resources rather than spending precious money on new textbooks each year.  As he frequently points out, math has not changed so why keep evaluating and adopting and buying new math textbooks when resources could be better spent?  One of his top projects is Curriki, an online system created to support the development and free distribution of educational materials to anyone who needs them.  Curriki was first established in 2004, then became a tax exempt 501C3 non profit in 2006.

Curriki has lots of supporters from business and educational organizations.  According to Scott, the key is to compel teachers to take the TIME to upload their best work.  Seems to me there needs to be more incentives than just the desire to share.  What will that incentive be?  Recognition? A fun game? A way to win points of some sort? How about the option of special templates or branding/marketing tools?

Also, how can an educator or content contributor know if or how their lesson plans are being used?  Are analytics available to the content providers? I love the idea of open and free content available in the cloud, and the large number and quality of supporting organizations, but in a teacher's busy daily life, something other than yet another email is needed to remind them to visit Curriki.  How about something fun?

I'd like to find time to sit in a workshop with elementary, middle and high school teachers and teacher librarian who can compare Curriki to Shmoop and California's Brokers of Expertise.  

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