By guest blogger Sean Cavanagh. This item first appeared on the Marketplace K-12 blog.
TES Global, which touts itself as the largest online network of teachers in the world, is opening an online platform that will allow U.S. educators to share content they create via the Web—and get paid for it.
The online educator “marketplace,” as TES Global describes it, has been open to educators from the United Kingdom for a few months now. This week, the company said that it will for the first time allow access to U.S. teachers, who make up about 1.8 million of TES Global’s overall, 7 million-plus network membership.
Teachers will be able to place their materials on the site for free, or at a price. In the U.K., the maximum charge is $10 per resource. But there won’t be a price limit for U.S. educators. Teachers will be able to set the cost, though TES Global will offer guidance.
The company is recommending, for instance, that regular worksheets sell for $1 or $2; lesson plans, videos, and activities, for $5; bundles of units, $50; and a full semester’s worth of materials, $200, TES Global says.
TES Global, based in London, had been partnering with the American Federation of Teachers, a union, to co-develop Share My Lesson, a free collection of lesson plans and other ed resources. But in June, the two organizations announced that they would end that arrangement, with the AFT moving to a new Share My Lesson resource platform, which would offer free materialsto educators, and the TES initiating a plan to launch a marketplace allowing the buying and selling of material.
On tes.com, most resources will likely be materials covering a single lesson or a series of lessons, explained Rob Grimshaw, the CEO of TES Global, in an interview.
Educators will at the outset receive all of the proceeds from those sales, Grimshaw said. Eventually, TES Global plans to charge a commission on those sales to recoup costs and raise revenue.
Teachers can also post biographical information about themselves and their products through the platform. TES says it will offer the teacher-authors guidance and support to help them refine their products and find an audience for them.
TES Global officials say their goal is to give educators an easy-to-use tool to help them find the best academic materials for their daily needs. It also wants to empower them to become entrepreneurs, Grimshaw said.
Finding useful classroom resources is an “enormous workload for teachers,” Grimshaw said. “We’re trying to make that process as simple and straightforward as possible.”
Lesson-sharing sites, in which teachers post materials, and in some cases are compensated for it, have become increasingly common. Those platforms offer the opportunity for teachers to receive feedback from peers and share ideas about resources. They also give teachers varying levels of control over what they’ve created.
Teachers who use tes.com will own all of their content, TES Global says. They also will be allowed to use another platform to share it simultaneously, though the company hopes tes.com will be their “primary partner” because of the support they will receive, TES Global said in an e-mail to Education Week.
There are complications to teachers creating and getting paid for what they create. Copyright experts have said U.S. law is vague on whether educators should be considered the owners of resources that they fashion based on their work in public school classrooms.
Grimshaw says those interpretations are “outdated” and don’t reflect the reality of how teachers share information in the digital world.
“We feel it’s the individual teachers who have put in the time and effort” to put together materials, said Grimshaw, arguing that “there is an opportunity here for a revolution in the way classroom content is created and distributed.”
The use of online platforms for teachers to share curriculum and resources is becoming “standard practice,” noted Rusty Greiff, the managing director for education ventures at 1776, a Washington-based incubator and seed fund focused on education and other areas.
The appeal of the strategy is evident in the fact that commercial publishers have established their own online networks in which their school customers can exchange ideas and information with each other, said Greiff, a venture capitalist who invests in education companies.
“These projects are effective, scalable, and gaining traction,” Greiff said in an interview.
But one of the questions about the business models used by sites like TES Global is whether they can build a large enough, sustainable network of teachers motivated partly by the idea of receiving compensation for what they’ve created.
“Are teachers motivated by money [that drives] a level of entrepreneurship, Greiff asked, as opposed to a general desire to share best practices? “I’m curious how that plays out.”
UPDATE (August 20): I’ve updated this post to make it clear that the pricing structure, which is capped at $10 per resource in the United Kingdom, allows for higher prices for products offered by U.S. teachers.
Screenshot of tes.com site, above right, provided by TES Global.
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A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.