This post is adapted from my post over at Sylvia Martinez's Generation YES blog. Her post is titled Why open curriculum wikis won’t work. As my title suggests, I have a different viewpoint.
From my comment:
There is an enormous gap that is not addressed between wiki curriculum and delivery in the classroom — you allude to it in your closing when you say: “But hoping random lesson plans can knit themselves into a coherent curriculum is just magical thinking. At best, teachers may find a few nuggets they can adapt for their own classrooms.”
The problem you point out is a very real one — to restate it, and to shift the context a little bit, current wiki curriculum efforts are effectively content silos — the content in them can be linked to, can be read for free, can (in some cases) be used for free, but it cannot easily be *moved* and *edited*; ie, recontextualized, or “knit…into a coherent curriculum” —
And this is where Tom’s open source analogy can be repackaged into something that EVERY teacher has done: modified content from a textbook to make it fit their specific classroom context. Heck, when I was teaching I would modify some lessons on a class by class basis, depending on the strengths of the various classes. While most teachers won’t be able to follow you down the road of kernel hacking, they will all be able to follow you down the road of “I built this lesson by using the text for context, an external article for details, and connected the dots via activity/lecture/discussion.”
So, in looking at the dots you lay out: wiki textbook –> classroom interaction, I propose adding an additional stopping point: wiki textbook –> recontextualization as needed –> classroom interaction
The reason why open texts are better have as much to do with content as they do with cost. By providing options that leave the consumer with the choice to edit and redistribute (something you cannot do with traditional textbooks), you are ensuring that all the work educators do within a school when they recontextualize content (aka plan lessons/activities/classes) doesn’t get tossed due to licensing issues, which allows for broader reuse. By using a wiki-like model that allows multiple people to contribute content, multiple people to edit content, and then allows individuals to select pieces from the whole to “knit” their curriculum, you are supporting teachers to work more efficiently as they do work they already do. If this content is licensed under an open license, it means that more people can benefit from that effort.
I blogged about this a while back in a post titled OER’s:Publishing is the Easy Part. On a related note, a secondary use of our Knight Drupal Initiative proposal would be to create distributed publishing tools for sharing and repurposing curriculum between schools.
So, the problem here isn’t in wiki-style curriculum repositories. The problem is twofold: first, most existing repositories are content silos; second, the workflow of teachers isn’t considered in how open content is published. Neither of these issues are inherent in open content or wiki-style curriculum tools.