— Dan Jones —
When it comes to sharing teaching resources, educators tend to live in one of three camps: open-source resources, paid-for resources, or “forgetaboutit, I don’t share my teaching resources.” For now, we’ll just focus on the first two. The opinions around this topic run deep and wide and there are numerous websites that allow teachers to list their teacher-created resources and share them to the world. As we looked at the pros and cons of each approach, we tried to nail down what works best. Here’s what we found.
Steve Griffiths, is teacher of science, biology, and digital technology at a public high school in Brisbane, Australia; Darin Carr, leader of pedagogy and innovation at St. Columbia’s Catholic University in Springwood, Australia; Colette Marie Bennett, language arts and social studies coordinator for K-12 at West Haven Schools; and Adam Hill, teacher at Victoria Shanghai Academy in Hong Kong — all have strong opinions on the good, the bad and the ugly of sharing resources through online platforms.
Steve Griffiths has been sharing resources with his colleagues for years, and he even conducted his Master’s thesis around the impact of providing Flipped Learning resources to entry-year educators in his school. Before becoming an educator, Griffiths had a career in Workplace Health and Safety for a large supermarket chain in Australia. He shared that it was a “no brainer” for every store (over 500 separate stores) to use the same system and not have every store trying to create their own version of the Health and Safety regulations. When he became an educator, he said, “I couldn’t believe that the teacher in the room next to me might be spending the same number of hours at home, the night before, preparing the same lesson as me. I understand that every class is different, without a doubt, and I am also aware there is research that says providing resources to teachers reduces their autonomy and it deskills them. My experience has been that the teachers I share resources with are very appreciative of them and it doesn’t deskill them.” What Steve found was that, through the sharing of resources, the teachers were being exposed to various pedagogy and reduced the preparation time. The teachers are investing in differentiating the lessons, extending the lessons, and finding ways to support their students. The generic information that can be found in any lesson on the topic is present, and the teachers can “play around with the edges.”
Colette Marie Bennett offers a slightly different perspective on sharing resources, especially when the sharing of the resources has been monetized. In her article, Teachers Pay Teachers-The Fast Food of Education, Bennett says that “these purchases offer immediate gratification. A solution with little to no effort. No mess to clean up.” She sees this easy access to resources similar to that of fast food. The online platforms are “a solution for teachers who did not have the time to prepare lessons.” She goes on to say, “But too much fast food is bad for you. That is a fact. Fast foods are high in calories, fat, salt, and sugar. Fast food is linked to health risks (Type 2 diabetes, heart disease). Fast food is associated with weight gain and obesity. A similar weight gain is happening in classrooms.” One of the biggest issues that Bennett takes with the online platforms is that there is “no oversight or quality control of the materials online. While a lesson plan shared with the teacher next door may carry credibility, the user reviews on a website from buyers can be suspect. There is no quality control or regulation on the seller’s platform.”
Darin Carr is of a similar opinion when it comes to online seller platforms for education resources. He said, “There is great variability in the quality of resources. Some of the resources are rooted in research and are well tested, where others are created on the fly and do not carry the depth of content. It is really hit and miss.” When I asked if these online platforms are helping or hurting education, Carr said, “I believe that they have the potential to help. When teachers find quality resources and educators, who are experts within their field of study, that are focused on providing research-based supports, then there is immense potential for these online platforms to help education.” He went on to say, “These online platforms have the potential to hurt, though, when resources are created to make a quick buck. It decreases the quality of the resource, and directly impacts the final outcome or reason for purchasing the resource.”
Adam Hill is passionate about sharing resources. In his blog post, My Issue with Teachers Pay Teachers, he says, “We work in a profession that relies on collaboration and sharing. We would be unsuccessful without it (or certainly much less successful). I’m a firm believer that we’re all in this together, and we all make each other better for the sake of our students. I care about your students. I don’t know them, but I want them to succeed. If I can support you in any way, I’m more than happy to.” He is clear regarding his position regarding the sharing of resources, but he takes a strong stance that educational resources should be open-sourced, or free to all. He says, “Something about teachers paying each other really doesn’t sit well with me.” Hill summarizes his blog post with a quote by Angela Maiers, “When you are not sharing your brilliant ideas, you are doing a disservice to others.”
Hill is not alone in his opinion of paid-for resources. I asked Steve Griffiths if he felt the results of his collaboration with teachers in his school would be different if he started charging them for his shared resources. Griffiths shared, “I have a philosophical view of open-source. Whether it is right or wrong, it is how I feel, that there is service before self. I just want to share with other teachers so that they can get excited about teaching this way. Colette Marie Bennett proposes that it isn’t necessarily the purchasing of resources that is bad, “But a steady diet of fast food calories is not healthy for the body or for the unit binder. Before investing, teachers should decide if these lessons and materials are just packing on the pounds of busy work.” She goes on to say that many of the monetized websites contain “pages and pages of mediocre material that can pack on the pounds and clog the arteries of curricula and ultimately block the delivery of the vetted materials.”
All of the online educational resource platforms contain a vast conglomeration of resources; they vary from lesson plans to worksheets. When I asked Steve about Flipped Learning resources, specifically, he said that “anyone can get video lessons from YouTube for free, but we know that a video is not a lesson. It is a lesson component or tool. FLGI’s new platform, The 3.0 Exchange, has tremendous potential in providing accompanying resources for the Group Space and Individual Space.” Griffiths went on to say that there is a reason why teachers cannot just download a lesson or unit of study and have it universally apply to their classroom, though. He said, “Your school, your context is different than mine. You have different state curriculum and different students. There is good stuff in the resource that you can use, but you probably will not want or be able to use it wholesale.” He went on to share that one of the biggest challenges when looking for resources is not the availability of resources (open-sourced or monetized), but so much out there that it is hard to find what exactly you want.
During a discussion with a colleague on this topic, a provocative point surfaced. Creating Flipped Learning resources can be very time consuming, a high-quality lesson could take twenty to 30 hours to create. My colleague asked, “Why is it fair for one teacher to give up a couple of weekends to create a lesson plan and give it away to another who spent the weekend with their family?” Wow, I replied. I never thought about it that way. He mentioned a Reddit discussion where the topic was received 285 comments. The general consensus may surprise you. Take a look, then leave us a comment. We’d love to know what you think: Sharing teaching Resources