Oh Dear, Here Comes Amazon

Amazon

Amazon made a big announcement last week that has potentially significant implications for the K-12 schools environment. As I’ll explain in a minute I think this is very bad news – an outcome that I’ve been warning about for over seven and a half years.

So, here’s the news from Amazon:

Amazon Enters Teacher-Created Resource Trade With Ignite

Back around eight or nine years ago I was writing in support of and in favour of websites such as Curriki (there’s a link in the list of useful sites on the right hand side of the blog page that’s been there all that time). This was also a site on which teachers exchanged lesson plans, exercises and other resources, but for FREE.

Here is the article I wrote on this blog seven and a half years ago. This was the time when Teachers Pay Teachers came on the scene and started to make a real impact with stories of individual teachers earning phenomenal sums from selling their education resources:

My Blog Post – May 2012 – Selling and Buying Lesson Plans

In that article I raised some of my concerns. The article about Amazon raises the serious point about the breaches of copyright that have clearly raised their head in the intervening years through sites like Teachers Pay Teachers. When textbook writers or the producers of online curricula gather materials they go through a carefully worked out process of taking permission for the use of original texts, artwork etc. None of these niceties are likely to have been followed by teachers selling lesson plans. Amazon are implying that their selection processes will eliminate this issue.

In my earlier article i highlighted that this was only one of the issues. As well as the ideological questionability that goes against the ethos of educators as natural sharers of knowledge, skills and abilities there is also the fact that teachers in schools do no (or today certainly should not) work in isolation. Even in a stand-alone private school anywhere in the world a teacher is likely to be part of a department and will work in collaboration with their fellow subject experts to prepare lessons.

Today there is a far greater emphasis on cross-curricular learning. in these circumstances lessons and plans come together as a result of multi-disciplinary brainstorming, planning and ideation. If an individual teacher then takes those plans and sells them online, the trust and collaboration breaks down.

Further, particularly in the private sector,  schools will consider that the lessons developed and delivered in their school or schools are part of an evolving, original, unique and proprietary schema of learning. All the teachers and leaders in the school work together to create these to meet the needs of their pupils within the context of their school’s vision, mission and values. In these circumstances it is highly questionable that any individual teacher should consider they have a personal right to take that material (or some part of it) and sell it elsewhere for personal gain.

When I was directly engaged in teaching my lesson plans were not rigid, carved in stone edifices.  Rather, they were a set of guides and structure that I had prepared to work backwards from the learning needs of my pupils, in my classroom at that time. From one delivery of a particular topic to the next I might produce very different plans because i was working with a different cohort of students. In applying my personal knowledge of the class dynamics I would select or design activities and exercises that would work best with them. One class might be very lively and need calming with some introspective activities, whilst another pursuing the same learning goals might be more reticent and need some activities to draw them out of themselves.

Finally, lesson plans and classroom resources are not meant to be simple blocks of knowledge and facts to be delivered to the students. This satisfies only the first, or at most the second level of Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning. Further, today’s best teachers are always designing their lessons with a view to weaving in opportunities for pupils to acquire or build upon Twenty First Century skills as objectives with at least as much relevance and importance as the ‘syllabus to be covered.’ How can that be done in a cookie cutter ‘for sale’ lesson plan?

I continue to believe that the selling of lesson plans is bad for education and bad for teachers as a whole and ultimately bad for pupils and their learning. If we want to find ways for the best teachers to enhance their earning potential I believe there are far better ways that serve both them and the wider educational field. That’s for another day.

Criticism

Jeff Bezos

“If you absolutely can’t tolerate critics, then don’t do anything new or interesting.”

Jeff Bezos, Founder of Amazon
(Who knows plenty about both being criticized and doing new and interesting things)

Amazon Dives in to Maths Education

It's intriguing to see one of the giants of online business diving in to the online Maths market

The Seattle Times - Amazon Launches Math Education Movement

The article suggests a particular aim to overcome fear of Maths which can pose such a very real challenge for some children. Interestingly, they have latched on to the concept of the Growth Mindset of Professor Carol Dweck at Stanford University.

They are promising resources to support teachers, so this is going to be a very interesting initiative to follow.