Monday, November 16, 2009

Teachers selling lesson plans

The New York Times covers a new phenomenon made possible by the internet - teacheers putting up their lesson plans for sale and making some extra cash. You'd think that this would be applauded by all - teachers have an incentive to write better plans and also have an opportunity to supplement their salaries. However, there seem to be two objections: whether the school district is entitled to any profits that employee makes from work made on their time and whether it's just wrong for teachers to charge other teachers for help. It probably depends on what is in the specific contract for each teacher to address the first concern. But school districts really want to get into the habit of suing teachers for the few extra dollars they might be making? And how do you figure out when a teacher created a lesson plan? I do almost all my planning on my own time at home. I just don't have time in school to sit down and come up with something original and fully fleshed out.

But it's the other objection that really bugs me.
Beyond the unresolved legal questions, there are philosophical ones. Joseph McDonald, a professor at the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development at New York University, said the online selling cheapens what teachers do and undermines efforts to build sites where educators freely exchange ideas and lesson plans.

“Teachers swapping ideas with one another, that’s a great thing,” he said. “But somebody asking 75 cents for a word puzzle reduces the power of the learning community and is ultimately destructive to the profession.”
Oh, baloney. Trust an education professor to come up with something so dumb. Think of the incentives inherent in allowing teachers to earn that 75 cents. And if it saves some other teacher a half hour that they don't have to spend recreating the wheel, isn't that worth 75 cents?

I've been putting up various activities for free on the Internet for over a decade on my school website. However, if I had the time to polish things up into a marketable form, I'd be thrilled to put them up for sale. Unfortunately, most of what is involved in a lesson plan is just not reducible to a form that someone else could use unless I wrote down every point or historic anecdote that I make in class to enliven a lesson. But now that there's a market for lessons, perhaps, I'll think about polishing up such plans or tests. And boo on any professor of education who is getting the shakes about a teacher actually making some extra money from her efforts.