Scott Messinger: Founder, Common Curriculum

Scott Messinger is an elementary school teacher in Baltimore, but in his off time, he is working with colleagues to put together Common Curriculum, an online curriculum sharing platform that allows teachers to mash together their own work. It also tries to solve the problem of “dry runs” in curriculum building.
Teachers and curriculum makers sometimes build a curriculum, it gets sent out in a PDF file, but it never gets tinkered with again, and other teachers and administrators just have to take it for what it is, a kind of disengaged stab at a unified teaching pedagogy.
Here is his “Manifesto on Curricula,” which he put together with a few others in the hopes he could rally teachers together to work on common purposes, as well as a “common core curriculum” in public education.

Our Manifesto on Curricula
Scott Messinger, Founder of Common Curriculum
Independent publishers, teachers, and school districts around the world are creating innovative, world-class curricula. These small publishers need a way to publish their work, either as open source or commercial products. Our product lets small publishers publish their curricula and connect to the teachers that use it. As we’ve developed our product, we’ve formed the following critique on curricula in America.
– Teachers don’t need more online lesson plans. They need online curriculum.
Teachers don’t have time to google for lesson plans every day, much less try to figure out how to string the disparate lessons they find into coherent instruction. Teachers need access to digital curricula. A curriculum, in its simplest form, is a coherent connected set of lessons aligned to clearly defined learning goals. More complete curricula contain assessments and resources like worksheets, videos, powerpoints, handouts, and textbooks. At the moment, teachers can find millions of lesson plans and very little curricula online. This needs to change.
– Teachers need ‘living’, not ‘dead’ curricula.
The curricula that is available online is typically abandoned and not actively developed. The best curricula is ‘living’ curricula, improved continually by a team of curricula writers who are incorporating other teacher’s feedback. The internet is littered with resources and lessons, which have been abandoned by the people who have created them.
– Curriculum isn’t a wiki. Good curriculum needs coherence.
Wikipedia is generally accurate, but consistently disorganized. Likewise, curriculum created on a wiki can be disorganized and lead to disjointed instruction. Great curricula has a central vision that is maintained through editing by a core team of curricula writers.
– Curricula should be easy to use.
Teaching is complex enough.  Using digital curricula shouldn’t be. Digital curricula should have a simple user interface and be efficient to navigate. Confusing web interfaces, 50+ page PDFs or Word documents aren’t simple or efficient. Teachers should be able to download or view any resource within 5 clicks after logging in.
– Curricula should be easy to create and share.
Any teacher, non-profit, or publisher who has an idea to publish curricula should be able to put their materials online and either sell it or give it away.
– Curricula should be easy to sell.
Small publishers, non-profits, school districts, and teachers who have created great curricula should be able to profit off it by sharing their idea with the world.
– Curricula should be published in open formats so multiple curricula can be mashed together.
No curricula is perfect. School districts, schools, and teachers should be able to mash up units from various curricula to create a product that uniquely meets the need of their students and community. Right now, the major publish

Getting Smart Staff

The Getting Smart Staff believes in learning out loud and always being an advocate for things that we are excited about. As a result, we write a lot. Do you have a story we should cover? Email [email protected]

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