But where do you find this stuff?
— some variation on this first quote has come up in every professional development session I have ever facilitated.
I just need to sit down and set some time aside to search for lesson ideas.
— a colleague at Google while we were spitballing curriculum ideas.
The fact is that I don’t find ideas for curriculum. They find me. And I mean that as literally as possible. I don’t sit down and start searching Google for “fruit as a metaphor for the coordinate plane” or “Flash games illustrating angle reflections.”
I graduated college several years ago and, like many of my friends, I had to fill that learning vacuum with something. All of us came around to Google Reader within months of each other, which represented (for me) an evolutionary leap forward in managing my own learning.
If we really believe that mathematical reasoning undergirds Everything, then we need to keep learning about Everything, not just about the technical skills common to our own field. (I went at this same concept some time ago, though perhaps a bit inartfully.)
My suspicion, also, is that education will improve fastest when teachers recognize the incongruity between their own most exhilarating learning experiences and what goes on in their classrooms.
Question: what tools are essential to that kind of exhilarating learning? What is in your learning Swiss Army Knife?
Let me urge you to consider that question under the following fictional constraint: every time you tell a teacher to download a new application or set up an account with a new web application, the teacher loses a fingertip.
Bracket, for a moment, the grossness of the scenario. I’ll let you decide how the teacher loses the fingertip. The point is that y’all don’t understand that you’re a bunch of freaks. Someone links up some new online Photoshop knock-off and on muscle memory alone you’re entering in your e-mail address and a password and clonking away at your new toy.
Real people aren’t like that. And you give them too much grief, sometimes, for their unwillingness to sign up for ten different web apps to service ten different nuances in their learning which you have judged to be equally essential.
So: fingertips. Be careful here. I would give the fingertip off my right ring finger for Google Reader. I would sacrifice a second fingertip for Delicious.