What Exactly Do You Want, Michael?

Chris (whose writing I love) has an idea:

I’m about to make a suggestion that’s wrong in specific and important ways, but probably right in general. We need GitHub for math curriculum.

GitHub is a tool for software developers. I could be wrong (I am probably wrong) but it’s not a tool that is primarily used for collaboration in a non-online sense. My impression (I am probably wrong) is that GitHub is essentially a more open distribution channel. You can copy the code and make your own version, which is forever associated with the original. This makes new versions a lot like suggestions, and the original might fold your changes into their versions.

I guess this is a sort of collaboration, but my point is that it’s not “hey Chris we’re writing this bit of code together so let’s go to GitHub and work this out” collaboration. It’s more like Wikipedia, sort of, where anonymous people in the crowd are making their small contributions to the effort.

Chris calls this as collaboration, fine I admit it he’s right:

Most crucially (so I’ll break it out of the bulleted list), collaboration is built into the DNA. I said “you” a lot in that list, but only because English lacks a distinct plural second-person pronoun. “You” could be your algebra team, or your math department, or your district curriculum folks, or…you. The whole point of community curriculum repositories would be for a group of education professionals using their collective expertise to take ownership of curriculum in a sustainable way.

I am totally agnostic about whether this is or isn’t helpful. Actually, I bet this would be very helpful to some people. But something happened when I was reading this, and maybe this sometimes happens to you. My first time through, I was nodding vigorously because I just assumed that Chris was describing the exact thing that I want and need. And because Chris is his own human person he was not. I only realized this later.

So, here is the thing that I want and need. (I think I want it. Be careful what you wish for is the law for new tools.)

I want a very simple web page that quickly captures a plan for a sequence of lessons. This might be a unit, or it just might be 5 lessons or whatever. I want a link that I can just share that would say “Developing Understanding of Fraction Addition” and have quick descriptions/images/links to the four activities I’m planning on using next week.

I want a thing that quickly makes these very simple web pages.

I want this because I don’t know a good way to share my units or unit planning on twitter or my blog. I want an object that I can refer to during discussion and collaborative planning. (The same way collaborative planning sometimes happens under the #CthenC hashtag on twitter. An example.)

And then I want to be able to make my own copies of other people’s units and modify them for my own personal record keeping and eventual sharing.

This is not a technological request that would massively change the world or solve any of the problems that Chris is describing. It’s just a modest need that I regularly feel in my online math teaching life. Maybe it’s insanely tricky to design this thing, maybe everybody else in the world is perfectly happy with Google Docs, or maybe nobody particularly wants to share and talk about other people’s units. I don’t know. But this is something that I think I want.

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4 thoughts on “What Exactly Do You Want, Michael?

  1. I feel the same way, Michael. I don’t actually want a list of cool lessons. After 6 years lurking online, I have seen a lot of lessons. I want lesson sequences. I want units of instruction.

    I’ve experimented in this in two ways. One, which seemed to go over badly, was to blog about a five-day lesson sequence on suqares, square roots, and the Pythagorean Theorem here: http://www.kenthaines.com/blog?category=one+week

    Either it wasn’t interesting or people just missed it. But I didn’t get any feedback. And it certainly isn’t easy to link to and refer to.

    My second way was through my Global Math presentation on integers. I suggested an entire unit of instruction in that, but again it’s not in an ideal form. It’s a long video you have to watch and then find the bitly within the video and go to my Google Drive to print the materials.

    I would LOVE to have a repository for units of instruction. That’s the size of teaching that I am most interested in at this point. I am absolutely sure that someone has a better unit on scientific notation than I do, and I want to read about it.

    But there’s still the problem of simplicity. To explain my unit on squares and roots, I wrote 5 full blog posts. To explain my unit on integers, I spoke for 40 minutes. What would a 500-word summary of a unit of instruction look like, and would it be at all successful in explaining what makes the unit great? I am not sure.

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  2. Hey, lets do this. I run mathsticks.com (primary maths) but would love to add a github type lesson_sequence repository… Would you be interested in contributing/sharing?

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    1. jduffty:

      I’m all project-ed out for the moment, so I don’t think I can be part of the design process. But let me know if I can help in some smaller way, and OF COURSE if you make a tool that does what I need I’ll use it!

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