31 July, 2007

"Educationized" wiki?

According to this news article, teachers in Charlottesville, VA, are learning how to use open, web-based technologies to create, edit, and share curriculum materials. Specifically, they are receiving training in Curriki, the brainchild of Sun Microsystems CEO Scott McNealy. According to eSchool News online, which also posted a story about Curriki earlier this year, McNealy envisioned Curriki as "a way to provide disadvantaged teachers and students around the globe with open and unfettered access to high-quality educational content."

That's great.

What is not so great is how Executive Director Bobbi Kurshan describes Curriki: "We've taken the wiki idea and educationized it."

This is horrible. It seems highly arrogant to suggest that wikis are anything other than educational to begin with. The whole wiki concept, after all, is based on community knowledge building!

I've explored Curriki briefly; it is indeed a free and open community with many members and lots of potential to grow and expand. But something about Kurshan's comment just flies all over me, especially after I read her bio and noticed the many affiliations and former positions she has held with commercial enterprises, including Apple and Microsoft.

Be vigilant! The education profiteers are sweeping in to co-opt the homegrown, organic qualities of the read/write web.
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4 comments:

ms. whatsit said...

I agree with you. To assume that wikis were un-educational before Curriki is just another advertising scam.

WikiSpaces and PBWiki will continue to work just fine for me, thankyouverymuch.

Rob said...

I think you're reading too much into the comment. I take it to mean that Curriki is a wiki tool optimized for curriculum-building, in the same way that Wikipedia is optimized for encyclopedia-writing.

The ways in which Curriki "educationizes" wikis are: 1) allowing wiki-pages to have education-specific metadata applied (grades, subjects, etc) 2) making it easier to group wiki-pages into sequenced collections, so you can build big, structured curricula.

Soon, it will also let you align resources to curriculum standards, rate and comment on resources, and search a database of resources while sorting by rating (In an encyclopedia it makes sense to have only one article on each topic, whereas in a curriculum community, there can be many. But then you need different search mechanisms, ratings, etc.)

And a couple stray points: 1) It's really a teacher collaboration tool, so they're not in competition with student-facing wiki tools. 2) And Curriki is a nonprofit and so definitely not a profiteer. You may see some commercial activities, but toward the end of mission, not profit.

I've been working with Curriki a lot this summer, which may color my perspective...but it also means I know quite a bit about the project and its aims. And I know that these are people who love wikis, not people who want to undermine them.

Jennifer K. Lubke said...

Thanks for the firsthand perspective on Curriki. You make some important distinctions that I did not realize.

I am not ready to write off the resource based on one comment; I just thought the comment a bit presumptuous and the semantics plain awful.

I've bookmarked Curriki and look forward to tracking its growth.

Mr Harrington said...

Hi Jennifer - thanks for this post it gave me food for thought as to the benefit or otherwise of the Curriki idea...
Paul Harrington
( link to your blog from my post also)