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Web Site Offers Global Collaboration On Education


Web Site Offers Global Collaboration on Educational Resources

UNESCO awards 2007 King Hamad Bin Isa Al-Khalifa Prize to Curriki: A Web site that provides free access to school curricula developed through collaboration by a community of educators has won a prestigious international award.

Curriki: The Global Education and Learning Community recently was named a winner of the 2007 King Hamad Bin Isa Al-Khalifa Prize, sharing the honor with the Claroline Project, which is based in Belgium at the Université Catholique. They were selected on the recommendation of an international jury by the director-general of UNESCO, Koïchiro Matsuura, who will present $25,000 to each of the two laureates in a ceremony at UNESCO headquarters on December 19.

Curriki, originally founded in 2004 by Sun Microsystems as the Global Education & Learning Network, is different from other e-learning sites in that it focuses on complete curricula and not just a textbook or lesson plans, and provides easy-to-use tools for creating curriculum packets out of content available on the site.

"Curriki is a kind of Wikipedia of education curriculum," Executive Director Barbara Kurshan told USINFO. Wikipedia is the multilingual online encyclopedia that has been built collaboratively.

In 2006, Curriki became an independent nonprofit organization under its current name in response to a need expressed by many ministers of education around the world for cost-effective, universally accessible curricula.

The 10,000 learning resources available on Curriki are used regularly by 35,000 people, Kurshan said. Current offerings range from lesson plans, assessments and media clips to complete textbooks, all available at no cost.

When community members view the resource pages, they are able to comment, edit and group content to create a lesson, course or curriculum.

When Kurshan visited Ethiopia recently, the minister of education told her the biggest problem he faces is not staffing the country's 13 new universities but meeting the need for educational materials. That is precisely what Curriki and the open-source community can do, Kurshan said.

"With the advent of the Internet, we now have a unique opportunity to change the curricula paradigm, and thereby to dramatically expand access to quality learning while reducing the cost," she said.

The Curriki Web site is available in French, Spanish or English, but educators can post materials in any language. The Web site soon will be available in Portuguese, Russian and Hindi.

A WORLDWIDE DIGITAL PLATFORM

Curriki hopes to join forces with the $100 laptop project launched in 2005 by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Nicholas Negroponte. Curriki is involved in discussions to ensure that as much of its material as possible will be accessible on the laptops.

"One of the largest problems is that kids don't have access to textbooks, they don't have access to libraries, they don't have access to information; and teachers don't have materials to teach in their classroom," Kushan said. "Books are too expensive and they don't get distributed and they don't have a capacity for instructional design." Curriki provides a digital "platform and a community for people worldwide to share," she said.

The AARP, formerly the American Association of Retired Persons, recently announced it would be partnering with Curriki and will encourage its more than 1 million retired educators to vet and screen submissions for accuracy and appropriateness for educational application.

Curriki's initial focus is on kindergarten through grade 12 curricula in the areas of mathematics, science, technology, reading and language arts, and languages.

Educators can use Curriki's online tools to share resources with others or to write a textbook or build a curriculum. Starting early in 2008, Textbook Wiki will enable groups of educators to take a curriculum framework and use the tools to create and edit a book map, or sections and pages of an instructional textbook. The Currikulum Builder enables users to select individual lesson plans, course syllabi, learning activities, scope and sequence hierarchies and other educational elements found at www.curriki.org to build a complete, fully-integrated curriculum.

Curriki intends to do research on its impact. "We believe strongly in research," Kurshan said. "We have to show it works" to convince governments, teachers and school districts to use it.

"The instructional design process historically -- not just in the United States but worldwide -- has been very top down," she said. "Ministries of education say, 'Here's the curriculum, here's the objectives, and here's the pedagogy we want you to teach it with.' We don't know what's going to happen when you collaboratively build curriculum. To me that's what's exciting about Curriki."

"We're upsetting the cart in a lot of ways," Kurshan said.

Additional information about the educational resources and the open source educational community is available on the Curriki Web site.

ENDS

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