Sunday, November 15, 2009

Market for lesson plans

College professors sell textbooks, business school professor can profit from case studies, and now there's a market for lesson plans for elementary and middle school classes: Selling Lessons Online Raises Cash and Questions .

The "cash" in the headline is clear enough, while the "questions" seem to be of two kinds. The first is about intellectual property, who owns what:
"While some of this extra money is going to buy books and classroom supplies in a time of tight budgets, the new teacher-entrepreneurs are also spending it on dinners out, mortgage payments, credit card bills, vacation travel and even home renovation, leading some school officials to raise questions over who owns material developed for public school classrooms."

The other kinds of questions involve the repugnance we sometimes see raised by markets for things that used to be given away or handmade:
"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.” "

The internet is a big facilitator here:
"Just about every imaginable lesson for preschool through college is now up for sale — on individual teachers’ blogs as well as commercial sites where buyers can review and grade the material.
Teachers Pay Teachers, one of the largest such sites, with more than 200,000 registered users, has recorded $600,000 in sales since it was started in 2006 — $450,000 of that in the past year, said its founder, Paul Edelman, a former New York City teacher. The top seller, a high school English teacher in California, has made $36,000 in sales.
Another site, We Are Teachers, went online last year with a “knowledge marketplace” that includes lesson plans and online tutoring."

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