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NEWSMAKER

Wacky for Curriki 

By Barbara Axelson | August 2007

Scott McNealy's vision of open source and online community building aims to improve online resources for education.

Most people would say their children inspire them. Not many can show the proof like Scott McNealy, the visionary chairman and cofounder of Santa Clara–based Sun Microsystems. He can point to Curriki, the hot education Web site that permits users to contribute and tweak assorted educational material.

McNealy’s idea came about three years ago when he was assisting one of his children with a third-grade science assignment. As he attempted to search online for basic information on how electricity works, he decided that free academic resources could benefit students and teachers and save schools money. California alone spends in excess of $400 million a year for educational resources for K–12 students.

Curriki was born. The name is a combination of curriculum and wiki (as in the popular Wikipedia). The site is an open source curriculum repository and community that captivates teachers, parents, and students as they post or download information.

McNealy likes what he sees so far. “With 35,000 members and 3,000 assets in just six months, Curriki is already exceeding our expectations,” he says. “One person referred to it as EduTube. We want to move the market at large to delivering universal access to K–12 education through the open source model.”

The wealth of Web-based education materials online right now makes it that much harder to find a central repository that teachers can trust. McNealy wants Curriki to be that place: where educators can not only find but contribute materials such as lesson plans, sample tests, and video tutorials all developed and built by the community. “Not only do they have one place to go,” he adds, “but they can create a MySpace-like page for themselves to manage all their content.

”The Curriki idea continues to evolve. In June, AARP (American Association of Retired Professionals, Washington, D.C.) announced a partnership with the Curriki community to, as they put it, “eliminate the education divide.” The plan is for AARP to encourage millions of teacher retirees to use the site to contribute and assist in the creation of thousands and “ultimately millions” of educational objects and to participate in a community to change learning and teaching in the future. AARP teacher-members from the National Retired Teachers Association will aid in the growth of the high-quality content, which ranges from assessments and media clips to complete textbooks, all at no charge.

Curriki and AARP are connecting retired teachers to form the first group of volunteer educators to use the site. Experienced subject-matter experts will organize resources, review content, supply curricular materials of their own, and train teachers. Curriki outreach through these Web sites and publications will invite teachers to form dynamic communities, both physical and virtual, ultimately encouraging travel to collaborate with colleagues in developing countries. “The [AARP] announcement is the epitome of the principles on which both Curriki and Sun were founded: open source and community-built content,” says McNealy.

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