I’m thinking about alternative revenue streams for teachers. The Young Turks recently had an interesting conversation about the ethics of teachers selling lesson plans and resources: Click Here to Watch The Young Turks Debate.
I can see pros and cons of selling resources. In general, teachers are extremely collaborative. My colleagues and I share resources. But even there, I hesitate to photocopy something I’ve gotten from another teacher for a third teacher because I’m not convinced it’s mine to share. There is a bit of a catch to this. If I’m sharing with my next-door colleague (or within the same building), I feel that ‘sharing’ is different than if I’m sharing publicly at a workshop that I’m giving. In a workshop setting, I think it’s extremely important to credit people.
When I do share something made by a third person, it’s because I will tell the person where the resource came from and only if I think the creator would like me to share it. Other resources could be considered proprietary and I think that’s fair too.
There is a saying that teachers used to tell new teachers about finding resources, “Beg, borrow and steal.” I think this may have been a more appropriate motto (a joking one, to be sure) in a by-gone era where there was less incentive to profit from teaching resources and when it was harder to share ideas. I think that our ability to share instantly and across the globe (even copy-righted material) has to inform our decision-making today.
Having said this, I was at my Math Mentor, Fred Harwood’s, workshop a couple of months back. I started to tell him one of “my” ideas for teaching Math which connected well to the topic at hand. Suddenly, I realized that he was the one who had introduced me to that idea in the first place! Clearly, I had embedded the idea into my practice therefore “making it my own”, and yet, I had forgotten that the idea was not originally mine. Just a little anecdote to say that we need to be sponges for ideas, but even with the best of intentions, we can forget to credit people we have learned from. (Not that they are doing it for credit, but I hope you get what I mean.)
Legally, I don’t think one can copyright ideas (except via patent) but one can copyright worksheets and such. There is a lot written on this already.
What do you think of sharing resources for money (books, Teachers Pay Teachers, other?) vs sharing for free? And does publishing your work for profit encourage innovation or discourage sharing?