I look forward to the day when all of the information needed for a good education is free and accessible online, and indexed in sort of a chronological progression from simple concepts to intricate ones.
Imagine, then, scrolling back to 4th grade, and at your leisure going over some subject that you never really got, until it clicked. Or imagine a precocious 4th grader scrolling forward to learn about high school chemistry, because she thinks it’s fun.
Probably most of the information is already online, but it’s not indexed as a roughly linear education. (I don’t imagine it as one line of course, but a bunch of branching parallel lines; the main trunk is of interest to most people, with parallel branches for niche subjects.)
The value of such an index is that you could tell which subjects were nearby to other subjects, either in topicality or chronological complexity — a sort of timeline browsing for education.
In looking for such a thing, here are some really interesting resources I found:
The Eisenhower National Clearinghouse, a K-12 math and science teacher center. Currently free, but unfortunately “the U.S. Department of Education will not continue funding for a national mathematics and science education clearinghouse beyond ENC’s current contract year ending September 30, 2005. We believe that ENC has provided a valuable service to the nations K-12 mathematics and science teachers over the past 13 years, and we look forward to continuing that work. We are currently developing plans to deliver ENCs products and services through subscriptions to schools, organizations and individuals beginning in October 2005.”
The Gateway to Educational Materials, “a Consortium effort to provide educators with quick and easy access to thousands of educational resources found on various federal, state, university, non-profit, and commercial Internet sites.”
California State Board of Education content standards, a reasonably fine-grained overview of one state’s curriculum; something like this could be the backbone of the index I’m thinking of. Other states and countries have similar curricula, of course; do you have a favorite?
Guidebook to Examine School Curricula, a publication from the U.S. Department of Education. How to evaluate curricula, with an emphasis on math and science, and comparative evaluations. Includes an excellent “Executive Summary of A Splintered Vision: An Investigation of U.S. Science and Mathematics Education” which examines the current defocused state of math and science educational goals in the US. It is methodical and smart in its approach to goals. An excerpt explaining perhaps how we got here:
U.S. education has been influenced profoundly by a deeply seated ideology springing from our national experience with the power of industrial and assembly-line production. This ideology revolves around the idea of producing uniform, interchangeable parts that can be assembled into desired wholes. Translated into education, such thinking views school mathematics and science as partitioned into many topics that form the building blocks of curricula. As a result, our students may grasp the pieces but not the whole.
We have applied the term incremental assembly to this ideology and believe that it may well keep the United States from finding other, more coherent and powerful ways to think about and organize curricula. This is unfortunate. Henry Ford, presumably, did not try to make all models simultaneously on the same assembly line.
US National Science Teachers Association’s National Science Education Standards, standards for the educational process — not a curriculum, but still interesting.
US Department of Education’s Federal Resources for Educational Excellence, a comprehensive subject-based index to Internet educational resources.
MathForum @ Drexel, a great collection of math indexes and materials.
Now, wrap a peer-to-peer-based tutor/mentor/learning system around all this information, and you’d really have something.