Enriching Culture Through Open Content
I woke up in Philadelphia this morning to a string of texts and emails announcing a snow delay across the DC area. I’m still a Californian at hear and unprofessionally giddy about every snow day, but I’m sanguine about missing this dusting so I can contribute to the barn-raising at Almost Educon.
There’s certainly a personal draw to the event. I’m desperate for a day to document, tweak and publish the Google Apps tools I’ve written this year. My head is bubbling over with MakerEdu micro units that I want to codify now, so that I’ll have a framework to expand on and document during the whirlwind of teaching.
Beyond that, I’m excited to build tools that encourage teachers to share and collaborate on their creative material.
When teachers have the luxury of curating and designing their own curriculum, they create better classrooms. Teachers who can craft their own material stay engaged deeply engaged with their subject matter for decades, rather than just staying familiar with what textbooks offer. Just like our students, teachers benefit immeasurably from the opportunity to publish and share their creative work with an authentic audience of peers. Feedback and validation from a community of educators is a critical part of the curriculum writing process, one that few classroom teachers experience.
Schools need to encourage teachers to pursue and share this deep creative work, without having allowing those individual efforts erode the school into a cluster of fragile and isolated fiefdoms. There’s an incredible value in offering students unique experiences in a world where purchased curriculum is increasingly dominated by Common Core and Texas.
I think teachers and schools can both sense this value floating around, which creates an atmosphere thick with FUD and mistrust. I wrote more about the negative consequences of that environment last year . The paranoia isn’t entirely unjustified, but for all that mistrust, schools have little experience or expertise making USE of a teacher’s custom curriculum without them. Even with curriculum maps, teachers write materials for their own use. Handing a new teacher a stack of worksheets and slide decks makes them feel like a year-long sub, and rejects their potential contributions.
There’s a simple step that schools could take to alleviate many of these problems – rapid publication and distribution of teacher created material under a Creative Commons BY-SA license.
Plenty of teachers publish their material into Creative Commons now, but there’s a significant difference between the action of an individual teacher and official policy of a school, defined in and enforced by contract. Teachers can receive direct compensation from the school for their published creative work, either as a stipend or a component of their negotiated contract. Schools and teachers would be legally and morally clear to use materials generated at the school in perpetuity, including as an in-house curriculum that stands apart from a world of Pearsons. Teachers would have strong incentives to build and continually refine their material, knowing that curriculum is now a central part of their public portfolio and their future livelihood.
I hope that barn-raising events like Almost Educon can create a streamlined process for the packaging and publication of academic material with the appropriate licenses. I’m ready to run curriculum “hackjams” on an edcamp scale that encourages collaboration between colleagues from “competing” schools, and see more curriculum design events like Bacon Wrapped Lessons that deliver new material that all of us can build upon.