Students in the Curry School of Education’s teacher preparation program spend countless hours creating lesson plans for a variety of classes where they are learning cutting-edge teaching theory. Until now, those plans were uploaded to a closed online database where they were both difficult to share among fellow students and ultimately became inaccessible to students upon their graduation.
Shannon Wendling and Kristen Pollard, during a ten-minute break from class, shared their frustrations about the lack of collaboration and access to lesson plans that were being created by the dozens. By the time class was to resume, they had brainstormed the possibility of a blog where lesson plans could be posted, categorized and shared by both current Curry students and alumni, once these students graduated.
“One of our aims was collaboration,” explains Wendling. “Each student’s lesson plans are designed and used in isolation, then tucked away into individual folders. With the project, we aim to leverage the collaborative space of a blog for Curry students and graduates to gain a dynamic, rich forum for their best lesson plans and ideas.”
With a pilot website created by the spring of 2011, the project was originally named Currypedia and functioned solely as a repository for lesson plans.
As the blog developed, they needed a technological expert to make it a workable, logical space – and so their team expanded to include Jonathan Chang. With Chang on board, the site could become more than just an encyclopedia of lesson plans; it could become a collaborative online community where students and graduates posted ideas about topics in education, book and movie reviews, behavior management strategies, stories about the first year of teaching, and of course ideas for excellent lesson plans, grounded in research-based practices and educational theory.
“We created curryed away to address the gap between the teacher education program at the Curry School and the teacher education experience in our classrooms,” said Pollard.
The larger site has now been named curryed away, with the Currypedia database of lesson plans as just one part.
All Teacher Education students at the Curry School are given a user ID and a password. Once they register, they can begin posting ideas and lesson plans. Once students graduate, they can take these ideas into their classrooms and return for fresh ideas or the support of a known community.
The curryed away project has been well received by faculty in Curry’s Teacher Education program.
“For the spring 2012 semester, I worked with Shannon, Kristin and Jonathan through an independent study,” said Assistant Professor of Education Amanda Kibler. “I was honored to pose questions, offer feedback, and provide encouragement to such innovative young teachers.”
Other faculty in the program have encouraged Wendling and Pollard to share the project with their classes.
As they move into alumni status themselves and into their own classrooms as first-time teachers, Wendling and Pollard look forward to taking advantage of what they have helped to build.
“Shannon and I will certainly be contributing our own first-year teaching stories to the site,” said Pollard.
But being in the classroom means that their roles as builders and monitors of the project will lesson.
“It is now up to the users to populate,” said Pollard. “We hope that curryed away will become a place for users to learn and share—and altogether become the kind of fun, challenging, and motivating teachers that Curry has prepared us to be.”