La Dolce Vita: chapter 10, in which we visit Alaska and learn from the people there.

Thanks to John Concilus, school district administrator for the Bering Strait School District, for sharing with me the excellent BSSD wiki. The wheels continue to turn.

One of the critical tasks, when attempting to build a community of doers, is to articulate, as best as possible, the useful work that community members should be taking up.

Let us presume that a thousand Sugar activity developers showed up on our doorstep, right now, today. What would we ask them to do?

To date, we have provided precious little guidance in this regard. This is fine, to a point; we certainly don’t want to turn activity developers away. If someone wants to write a Sugar activity, *any* Sugar activity, we must welcome and encourage that. But without a punchlist of activities that we believe that we must have to further our educational mission, it’s much less likely that those educational activities will be written.

I love the BSSD wiki, and think it’s a brilliant resource — basically because it’s the first instance of a well-documented modular curriculum that I personally have found. Maybe there are others, and if so, I’d love to learn about them, but this one looks like a great starting point to me.

Take a look, for instance, at this document. It attempts to describe every single mathematics competency that BSSD wants to teach to kids in grades K-12, in a modular way. Have a look at some of these competencies, selected at random from a very long list:

MA.00.01   NUM: Counts to 20    Understands that a number represents a 
quantity by counting with a one to one 
correspondence. Reads, models, orders, and
counts to 20. Counts backwards from 10 to 0. 

MA.00.08   MEA: Tells Time      Tells time to the hour using analog and 
digital clocks. 

MA.01.01   NUM: Counts to 100   Understands that a number represents a
quantity by counting with a one to one 
correspondence. Reads, writes, models, 
orders, and counts to 100.

MA.01.08   MEA: Tells Time      Tells time to the half-hour using analog
and digital clocks.

MA.01.16   GEO: Symmetry        Shows understanding of symmetry by cutting 
or folding shapes along a single line of 
symmetry.

A small selection of competencies. Go take a look at the full list if you’re curious; it’s about 25 pages. A lot of competencies, yes — but each one potentially actionable by any individual with basic coding knowledge, sufficiently motivated to provide a simple tool to help a kid learn.

It would have been insane to duplicate Unix in one fell swoop, and had it been presented that way, it never would have happened. Linux came about one tool at a time, one iteration at a time, following a well-established roadmap. Small tools, loosely joined, generating tremendous power over time. Something tells me that’s how Sugar will succeed as well — but first we need that roadmap.

So maybe we should start with math activities that map to these competencies, as laid out by the Bering Strait School District. It’s by no means a perfect roadmap… but it’s a place to start.

I’m curious to hear if others think this idea is worthwhile. It would be relatively simple to turn this competency chart into a wiki of “activities to be written”, and anytime anyone says “gee, I’d like to run an activities sprint,” we’d be able to point and say “maybe we could fill these holes in the second grade curriculum.”

No, it’s not perfect — but it doesn’t need to be. We just need to figure out how to align activity authors and educators in moving towards a common purpose. Imperfect activities can be rewritten. An imperfect curriculum can be rebalanced. We just need to start creating the building blocks as quickly as we possibly can.

This also gives me something to pitch when I go to PyCon. 🙂

La Dolce Vita: chapter 10, in which we visit Alaska and learn from the people there.

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