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BetterLesson Looking Better

I have no idea when the BetterLesson team deployed this feature, but it’s great. Essential, even, for this kind of site and the implementation is exactly what I would expect:

One click and you have the lesson plan in PDF and all the supplementary files in a folder on your desktop:

However finely they’ve tuned their downloading, the upload procedure still encourages teachers to share content standards, worksheets, and pacing guides, which, unless I’m wrong, aren’t anything that will set a community of teachers ablaze. My persistent impression is that creative educators will feel constrained by BetterLesson.

9 Responses to “BetterLesson Looking Better”

  1. on 21 Jan 2010 at 6:28 amJason Dyer

    Rather more importantly (to me anyway) the search feature isn’t terrible any more.

  2. on 21 Jan 2010 at 3:44 pmKate Nowak

    I can’t help but think BL must be hackable and we can make it useful subverting its paradigm. Not like, maliciously, but use what is there in some clever way.

  3. on 21 Jan 2010 at 3:48 pmCLIMEguy

    Have you given any thought to helping build the math component of betterlesson so it works well for the kind of creative teachers you have in mind? I got turned off by my initial exploration of the site because of the weaknesses mentioned. Maybe the creators of this site would be responsive to our critiques? It would be nice to have a great lesson database in one place that offers this creative flair.
    -Ihor

  4. on 21 Jan 2010 at 6:01 pmDan Meyer
    Jason: Rather more importantly (to me anyway) the search feature isn’t terrible any more.

    What’s your criterion? It no longer returns a world history lab off a “proportions” query, which is nice. But its top result for “proportions” is a worksheet with a list of problems like, “What is 30% of 45?” which raises two possibilities, one more troubling than the other:

    1. BL merely needs to tune-up its ranking algorithm and has inadvertently buried some awesome proportions lessons beneath the junk.
    2. This really is the best proportions lesson in BL’s archive.

    Seriously, is there a easier concept to knock for a home run than proportions? I could list a dozen passable activities off the top of my head and none of them would be “worksheet with percent problems.”

    It’s possible that BL will go public and enroll more users uploading better material allowing BL to tweak its search algorithm. I just don’t see it, though, given their current protocol for content creation which is prioritizes standards, pacing guides, check boxes, and worksheets.

    @Kate, how do you hack those constraints? How do you index the awesomeness of the fish tagging exercise? What text field does the teacher fill and what does she fill it with to tell a search engine that “an awesome exercise in number fluency is going on right here!”

    This seems supremely tricky to me and especially tricky if you’re trying to create a tabula rasa for use by any educator of any content area and any level of skill.

    Which is why, per Ihor, were I to design my own content-sharing site for teachers, I would begin with certain assumptions about good pedagogy. It would have to be downright difficult for teachers to upload junk lessons.

  5. on 21 Jan 2010 at 10:04 pmJason Dyer

    But its top result for “proportions” is a worksheet with a list of problems like, “What is 30% of 45?” which raises two possibilities, one more troubling than the other.

    I was assuming the troubling one.

    Before I had trouble finding anything even remotely related to the topic I typed in.

  6. on 21 Jan 2010 at 10:19 pmJason Dyer

    Decided to test theory. Here’s the best thing I found, under the *art* lessons:

    http://betterlesson.org/lessonfiles/view/10231

    Also, this one was funny:

    http://betterlesson.org/lessons/view/896

    Lesson Plan

    1. Teach fractions by cutting up a cake or rice-crispy treats.
    2. Kids will pay attention because they like sugar.

  7. on 25 Jan 2010 at 3:02 pmAlex Grodd

    Thanks for the above comments—as always, appreciate the thoughtful feedback. A few notes from our end:

    We completely agree with your two core points.

    1. There is massive room for improvement in the quality of the content on BL–specifically, there are not nearly enough lessons that capture the excitement, fun, and nuances of teaching a great lesson
    2. A large reason for this is that our current interface encourages/prioritizes file uploads over thoughtful lesson creation.

    As a result we are in the process of completely overhauling our interface to make the focus on building out great lessons–this includes a complete redesign of our My Curriculum section as well as tweaking ‘calls to action’ and interface elements throughout the the rest of the site. Your posts and comments have really helped to inform our thinking in this area. It’s going to be a 2-3 month redesign but we’re excited about the shift and would love to get your feedback. Let me know if you’re interested in seeing some of our initial designs and wireframes.

  8. on 16 Feb 2010 at 6:59 pmBen

    But you see, the one Achilles heal of any social network, no matter how stringent you make the guidelines, no matter how particular you develop the rubric for a quality upload, there will always be the detritus posted right along with the really good stuff.

    Come on, this is simple bell curve stuff that a math teacher should have pointed out right away :)

    Oh, and all those horrible lesson plans, I’ll kindly take credit for them if you want :P

  9. on 17 Feb 2010 at 6:45 amCLIMEguy

    In response to Ben’s comment:
    But you see, the one Achilles heal of any social network, no matter how stringent you make the guidelines, no matter how particular you develop the rubric for a quality upload, there will always be the detritus posted right along with the really good stuff.

    What Ben says is correct, but if we yield to that logic then nothing of substance can be created.

    In a recent Wired article by Chris Anderson http://www.wired.com/magazine/2010/01/ff_newrevolution/ writes about the first open source car company “…The Rally Fighter’s body was designed by Local Motors’ community of volunteers and puts the lie to the notion that you can’t create anything good by committee (so long as the community is well managed, well led, and well equipped with tools…The result is a car that puts Detroit to shame.”

    Dan – you lead and we can help you build it!
    -Ihor