This week @karenatsharon wrote a post about learning to use Mozilla tools. She’s been frustrated with the lack of good instruction, and she’s taking matters into her own hands, joining an SMOOC (a “small meaningful open online community,” play on the term MOOC=massively open online course). This particular SMOOC, Women Learning Tech, brings together women who want to learn to build a website with women who have some experience and expertise building websites. This is the brainchild of Kim Wilkens (@kimxtom), and has a twitter hashtag and a Google Plus group associated with it. It looks great, and I recommend jumping in if any of you out there are interested in website building. It’s an example of the kind of serendipitous thing I run into because of being connected to other learners and doers through twitter and through things like #etmooc (a MOOC I’m loosely participating in right now). It’s not directly “my thing” but it connects with lots of things I’m thinking about right now and sends me off in new directions of thinking and creating.
The Women Learning Tech class reminds me of a skill share, which is a physical or virtual place for people to come together and learn from each other. The Boston area (where I am) has an annual skill share, and as their about page says “We believe learning is plentiful, everywhere, and need not come with price tags or expert degrees. We are all teachers. We are all students. We want to live with enthusiasm, so let us learn with vigor!” Many other local communities have skill shares as well, and there is an repository real life and online classes (taught for a fee) at http://skillshare.com.
What if math class was a skill share?
What if we created a skill share as a collective. As it says on the Boston SkillShare site “We believe everyone can teach and learn something.” Is that true in math? What would happen in my liberation math class if everyone shared a mathematical skill? We have a list of things that the class is interested in learning related to math. A lot of the requests have to do with money, and I bet we have a lot of money skills already present in the class. I think we have expertise in other topics as well. Could we organize the class to teach itself? Could we have our own skill share in which each person in the class leads or helps to lead a workshop?
What happens when we hit on something where no member of the class has expertise?
- I could jump in and lead something. I feel confident I could lead something useful in all of these areas, but all would require some preparation on my part, and many would require me to learn something new.
- But, if I’d have to learn something new to lead, maybe someone else could take on this task of learning in order to teach, or a few people could get together to learn something and run a workshop. I could act as a consultant or guide, pointing the workshop leaders in the right direction.
- We could also bring in someone from outside and ask them to participate in our skill share, which would have the advantage of growing our personal learning networks, connecting us with the outside world, and giving us the power to ask someone for training.
What happens when a member of the class has nothing to contribute?
I believe that everyone has something or could learn something. I think the real difficulty is the level of exposure and risk you take on when you lead a workshop. What if other people think your contribution isn’t important? What if no one thinks it was worthwhile or “smart”? What if you make a fool of yourself? What if you look stupid because it becomes clear that everyone else understands everything and that you have no business leading anything?
I think we could find a way to take on the challenge of giving each other the courage to teach each other, even in an area in which we feel anxiety. We can partner up so that the risk (and the work) is spread out between two or more people. We can connect the math to an area where we have greater competence. We can ask people for help!
What if we just don’t have the time or energy?
Fair enough. We’re all busy people, and we’re already all doing a lot. I think it can sometimes be more efficient to learn from a scripted lesson or a textbook. But sitting in class learning from a teacher can also be a waste of time if you either are not interested or you already know the topic. Could we find a way to share learning without taking on a task that seems too huge? What if we ran a skill share like Iron Chef and restricted people to planning a workshop in 30 minutes? I’m sure we could think of creative and crazy ideas that would let us move forward without being overwhelmed.
What would you contribute? What would you want to learn?
If we were to pull of this kind of skill share in some form, what do you think you could contribute. Is there anything on this list (or anything off the list for that matter) that you have some experience with that might help others? I’m asking this both you, the people in the real-life Liberation Math class, and you, the people out in the world who have been commenting and inspiring us. Remember that you are a diverse group, and you thus have a wide range of skills. Do you have some knowledge about how children learn math that might help us? Do you use ratios in design project and know rules of thumb that help you in your work? Do you use some math as part of your photography work? Do you keep a personal or business budget? Do you understand something about taxes or investing? Have you worked in construction or carpentry? All of these areas could be mined for contributions. Even if you can’t see something you already know, would you be willing to learn something and share it? Leave your ideas in the comments below!