Lesson Marketplace

There are so many interesting things about the lesson plan marketplace site described in this article. Absolutely, teachers getting tips from other teachers instead of textbook publishers and other major corporations is a smart idea. At the college level, the mailing lists I am on for computing education often field requests for class activities of a certain style or around a certain topic, and they have some associated web repositories. But there are some things that strike me as odd about the auction model.
First, I’m just surprised that there isn’t already a free website doing this – whether ad supported or maintained by a teacher’s organization. Discussion boards have been around forever, and would allow interactive development as well as outright sharing.
Now, a discussion board model wouldn’t have teachers getting paid for the lesson plans they offered. But it seems that, given the sign-up fee and the very low prices teachiers are offering their plans for, most people will just make back their sign-up fee. In a weird way, offering these plans for one or two dollars seems to actually devalue the teacher’s work. If it is something clever enough that someone else would want to buy it, I’m sure it took some time to create and write up. Suppose the idea sold for $1 only took an hour to create – even if we figure the teacher has used the plan themselves so doesn’t expect to be paid for the full value of their time in development, they are also saving the other teachier an hour of their time (at least, since presumably they are looking for a plan because they are having trouble coming up with something on their own for that particular topic). Either way you look at it, you get a radical devaluing of the time and effort to develop a lesson. The article quotes one teacher as projecting he may make enough to eat out an extra time each month – if so, that may be enough money to be worth while. But there’s a value at which I think there is gerater value in having the support of a community where one can share freely and borrow freely – the gap between giving the plan away and charging $1 for it isn’t that large, but freely sharing doesn’t place any market value on the item being shared.
I’m also curious, and really don’t know the answer to this – do schools consider the lesson plans a teacher develoips while working for them to be their property, or does the teacher really maintain absolute control over them, as suggested by this new site? Because I would have thought that schools might have intellectual property rights on work produced for use at a school while in that school’s employ. I would certainly imagine that schools would decline to pursue those rights for the small amounts of money being exchanged here, but wonder if that is another force in keeping the prices down – having them low enough that schools don’t feel it is worthwhile to get involved.

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