28 June 2006

Buying the Cow

Did you mother ever try encouraging you to keep chaste by asking "Why would anyone buy a cow when they can get the milk for free?" The imagery this conjures up is mildly disturbing, but I suppose there is something to ponder there. If you have something of value, will others treasure it if they don't have to earn it?

Paul Edelman is encouraging teachers to sell what they normally share for nothing: their very best lesson plans.

The site, teacherspayteachers.com, aims to be an eBay for educators. For a $29.95 yearly fee, sellers can post their work and set their prices. Buyers rate the products.

"It's a way to pat teachers on the back, to value what they do," Edelman said. "They create the material night after night. The best way to value that is to put a price on it."

Lots of Web sites offer lesson plans that can be purchased or downloaded for free. Yet Edelman says they don't cover a fraction of what teachers themselves have come up with. By offering them a way to make a buck, the 33-year-old former teacher says he's found a niche.

He's banking on it. Edelman cashed in his retirement fund and maxed his credit cards to launch the business in April. He keeps 15 percent of every sale, but he knows the only way he will really make money is by getting "teacher-authors" to pay the membership fee.

I'm not quite sure what to think about this idea. On one hand, I understand the investment of time, thought, and purpose into crafting something of high quality in the classroom. All of those things are worth something. But on the other hand, we're talking about the needs of kids here. And if you have something that truly gets to the heart of learning, wouldn't you want kids to have access to that through their teachers? Will this site be just another "gate" that keeps the best instruction out of the hands of the poorest classrooms?


Mike in Texas said...

He's made one critical error in his thinking; just exactly how many teachers are going to be willing to fork over $30 for a membership AND pay for lesson plans?

If I have a lesson I think is great and I want to share it I will post it online for free. So many of the things I do are merely modifications of other people's work, work they freely shared. I wouldn't dream of charging anyone for them.

Anonymous said...

I'm a college professor and I've freely shared lab activities, ideas for discussion, etc., with friends or with former students who wound up becoming teachers. I do not think I would feel comfortable selling my ideas, partly because many of them are sort of "reworkings" or extensions of things already out there for free, or things my profs did in their classes.

There was a move afoot in my state to, in the name of "efficiency," encourage profs to generate MORE stuff - lab exercises, class activities, "active learning plans" - things they might not necessarily use in their classes - and post it on a "special" website.

It never got off the ground, mainly, I think, because the profs in the "vanguard" group - of which I was one - suspected that they'd do lots of extra work, the people in the "political" end of the state university system would take all the credit, and then the program would fall apart in 2 or 3 years - meaning only the "vanguard" group had to contribute work.

I don't know; I prefer a more grassroots/unstructured sort of sharing. I don't even particularly care if I get credit for what I developed; I just don't want to see someone else claiming credit for work I did and they did not. (Especially not someone who gets paid considerably more than I do for considerably less work...)

I have also heard of cases of copy-shops paying students to record and/or transcribe professor lectures, and then the copy-shop sells those notes. Regardless of the intellectual-property question that raises, it bothers me, because it seems to me to encourage class-skipping (as in: I can just buy the notes for this, there's no point in going out in the rain to an 8:00 class...). Of course that means the students miss the actual discussion or any class activities, and they miss the opportunity to ask questions or contribute to the discussion.

graycie said...

One of the strengths of classroom teachers at all levels is that we see each other as colleagues, not customers. I'll share whatever I know or have if it will help another teacher. I'd like credit for what I've made -- not money.

"Ms. Cornelius" said...

We teachers already spend WAAAAYYY too much of our own money on our classrooms. I'm not going to charge my colleagues for them-- unless I ever decide to write a book.

Although those scavengers who hang out at the copy room and steal copies of my handouts so that I end up short the last period of the day? You owe me big time....