AFT Joins The Privitization Bandwagon! And, Should The AFT Have Gone American?

AFT is jumping into the online lesson plan business with a collaboration with British firm TSL Education. This is of course, under the operational definition in our silly national education debate, “privatization” or the “corporate” approach.  Nonetheless, it’s a good idea although the lesson plan sharing arena is getting increasingly crowded. Big question seems to be, will the AFT brand be powerful enough to distinguish this venture from the others?  For every teacher making $700K selling lessons on peer-to-peer sites, there are other ventures struggling for traction.  Still, considering the enormous need for curriculum and lesson plans it’s a welcome development overall.

Update: The smart-ass wing of the ed policy world wants to know, what happened to buy American?

Update II: More seriously, the fine print here may be the more substantial delineation between these different sites and ideas. The terms of use for this new AFT service, Share My Lesson, are interesting and ironically appear to be the least favorable to teachers of the major lesson sharing services operating today.

[Related: On Twitter AFT President Randi Weingarten says there are no plans to make money on the content teachers generate but TSL’s CEO told The New York Times they plan to build a business. Weingarten’s statement isn’t incompatible with the CEO’s but it does raise questions about what exactly the business model is. From The Times:

Both TSL and the union have invested cash and staff time worth about $10 million combined in the American site. Louise Rogers, TSL’s chief executive, said that although the company would eventually want to make money from sharemylesson.com, teachers would always have free access to the material created by other teachers, as well as content from other partners including Sesame Workshop; WETA, the public television and radio station in Washington; and Student Achievement Partners, one of the architects of the common core standards that 45 states have agreed to adopt.]

The Share My Lesson terms of use read in part:

With respect to all Content you post on the Service, you grant SML a royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable, non-exclusive and fully sub-licensable right and license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform and display such Content (in whole or part) worldwide and/or to incorporate it in other works in any form, media, or technology now known or later developed. With respect to all Content you post to the Service, you hereby waive any moral rights you have in the Content. You agree to perform all further acts necessary to perfect any of the above rights granted by you to SML, including the execution of deeds and documents, at our request. SML does not acquire any title or ownership rights in the Content that you submit and/or make available. After you submit, post, email, display, transmit or otherwise make available any such Content, you continue to retain any such rights that you may have in such Content, subject to the rights, licenses and privileges granted herein.

That’s obviously a different model than Teachers Pay Teachers, which is set up to help teachers make money off of good lesson plans and content they develop.

It’s also different than Better Lesson, whose terms seem to fall between the Share My Lesson and Teachers Pay Teachers approaches.  Better Lesson’s terms read in part:

(c) Ownership of User Content and License Grant. You retain all of your ownership rights in User Content that you upload to the BetterLesson Platform. However, by uploading the User Content to the BetterLesson Platform, you are granting BetterLesson and others the right to use your User Content. The default license for all User Content uploaded through the BetterLesson Platform is Creative Commons, Attribution Only 3.0. Therefore, unless otherwise agreed to in a separate written agreement between you and BetterLesson signed by an authorized representative of BetterLesson, the following applies to all User Content uploaded through the BetterLesson Platform:

(1) You hereby grant to BetterLesson a worldwide, non-exclusive, transferable, assignable, fully paid-up, royalty-free, license to host, transfer, display, perform, reproduce, distribute, compress or convert for distribution, and otherwise exploit your User Content, in any media formats and through any media channels. Such license will apply to any form, media, or technology now known or hereafter developed. This license grant will continue even if your User Content is removed from the BetterLesson Platform by you or otherwise. By uploading User Content, you hereby warrant that your User Content is free of any digital rights management protections or functionality, including any software designed to limit the number of times User Content may be copied or played.

(2) By distributing or disseminating User Content through the BetterLesson Platform, you hereby grant to each authorized User of the BetterLesson Platform a non-exclusive license to access and use your User Content under the terms indicated by you when you uploaded such User Content, which shall at least include a limited, non-exclusive, personal license to view and download such User Content in the manner contemplated by these Terms and the BetterLesson Platform. The foregoing license granted by you terminates as to a specific piece of User Content once you remove or delete such User Content from the BetterLesson Platform provided, however, the right to such User Content arising out of distributions occurring on or prior to deletion of such User Content from the BetterLesson Platform survives the removal or deletion of such User Content.

2 thoughts on “AFT Joins The Privitization Bandwagon! And, Should The AFT Have Gone American?

  1. jeffrey miller

    Interesting post, Andrew. But look, whether you think so or not, the corporate take-over of education is underway. I actually like the idea of teacherspayteachers. Better, it should be, school districts paying teachers for unique and innovative curriculum products. I don’t mind bringing a business model into my school, I just want it to work for me and my students. I have my own products that I will soon try to market, as it happens. And I’m sure as all heck not going to give my hard work and talent away to my district or a union. Weingarten has some good ideas in some areas but this is not one of them.

    Seriously, the wrong kind of privatization is going on in schools. The ones making serious cash are corporations which might be ok if the students were doing better but they’re not. Allow teachers to practice innovation and pay them instead of Pearson–then you will see results.

  2. Doug Levin

    Good concept, but questionable judgment by AFT in implementation is my sense. There are easily dozens of such sites in existence and already in the works and am not sure why there is a compelling need to spin up another (proprietary) competitor in an already fragmented market. Seems like this sends a confusing message to educators and is working in cross purpose to existing state/district investments in the same. Near as I can tell, the site actually compounds the worst of the issues with existing platforms: lack of interoperability, lack of clarity on intellectual property of contributions, unclear alignment to standards, walled-garden/winner take all perspective on users, etc. AFT could have played an honest-broker, elder statesman role here; instead, they jumped in with one player to compete with dozens of existing products. It’s akin to launching a set of AFT-branded textbooks. Missed opportunity that hopefully can yet be salvaged.

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