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?
[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.]
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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:
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2 Replies to “AFT Joins The Privitization Bandwagon! And, Should The AFT Have Gone American?”
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.
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.