“We are all in this together” said Harry Tuttle (Robert De Niro), the rogue air conditioning repairman in the Orwellian bureaucratic nightmare of the movie Brazil, when asked why he risks his life to fix people’s air-conditioning without filing the appropriate forms. And so it is with the history of innovation in educational technology. True change has only leaked into the porous sole of the K-12 environment through the vision and passion of individuals (educators and students) intent of doing what they can within or around the system. This has certainly been the case since the dawn of my time working at the intersection of technology and learning.
Think back, if your thinker goes back that far, to the year 1979, or just imagine… (insert harp music here.) Sony introduces the Walkman, the Shah is overthrown in Iran, Star Trek: The Motion Picture is released, and Ukiah High School buys the first Apple II personal computer for the Math and Science Department. After it arrives and the few math geeks (me included) set it up and run the then just released Visicalc (the first spreadsheet), we all say, “That is great! What else can we do with it?!” Not much, it turned out, at least not without money to buy the few expensive programs that were commercially available or the time to write them ourselves.
Then I found out about the “Apple Core Shareware Library” at my first Apple II user’s group meeting. The next month I brought all the blank floppy disks (think CDs, but funkier) I could find to the meeting and spent the whole time copying disk after disk of games and programs of all types, all miraculously free for the having. Each program created or transcribed was donated by other hobbyists and user group members from around the country and given to the “Public Domain.” It was like a secret underground punk band mix tape (for that new Walkman), but for computer geeks. Our small but distant outpost two-and-a-half hours north of the Silicon Valley was overwhelmed with the bounty.
It took weeks to filter through and look at it all. As it turned out, much of it was garbage or didn’t work properly. But there were a lot of gems in there too, like the Crossword Puzzle Maker, and the free micro database for logging and tracking all of these programs we just acquired. The programs were mostly written in Basic, so we could edit and fix the programs that did not work right during many late night debugging sessions intermingled with bouts of “Dungeons and Dragons.” We got the Star Trek game working just before the movie came to town. In hindsight, it was a rather boring game, but at the time it was really cool.
Fast forward 30 years (cue more harp music), and I find myself basically doing the same job I took out of high school. The Internet is a wonderful bounty that makes those 200 floppy disks of the original Apple Core library look puny indeed. It is filled with both garbage and gems. Curriki stands as the place, like the Apple users group of the past, for those who have a common need and a common interest to find, sort and polish the diamonds in the rough and bring the great value of that work to all of us in the educational community. The investment required is time and support. We need the tools to organize, update and redistribute the content we share. We need ways to find things that are relevant and appropriate to our students and colleagues. This is what we at Curriki are striving to provide.
You can help us help you by letting us know about the tools and support that you need most. Add comments to this posting and let us know about the features and training materials that will help you bring more content to Curriki and use what we already have more effectively. We are now thinking about “Curriki 2.0″ and where to focus on in our next evolution. We are excited to enable you all to become contributing members to our common library, because… we are all in this together.