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Union Funds On-Line Lesson Sharing… thanks to the UK

June 26, 2012

EclassroomNews and the NYTimes  each featured articles late last week reporting on an initiative launched by the American Federation of Teachers that will allow teachers to share lessons with each other for free. Piecing the content of the two articles together can lead to some paranoid conclusions. The Eclassroom News article begins with the following lead:

Discussing education reform at Stanford University last year, the leader of one of the nation’s largest teacher unions decided to turn the tables and ask a question of the audience.

“You’re all technology people,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. “Could you actually help us?”

Weingarten said she received one call—from Louise Rogers, chief executive of TSL Education, a United Kingdom-based company that operates an online network that lets teachers around the globe access, review, and discuss lesson plans and other learning materials.

So… no US company called to offer help. Why? Well, here’s an excerpt from the NYTimes article:

Anyone who types “lesson plans” into Google will come up with millions of hits, with a variety of online resources at sites like Edutopia.orgThinkfinity.orgTeachingchannel.org,Readwritethink.org and Betterlesson.com.

Some offer free material, while others, like Weareteachers.com andTeacherspayteachers.com, are sites where teachers sell lesson plans. Textbook publishers and other educational companies also operate Web sites where teachers can buy material.

So… US companies are looking to SELL lesson plans to teachers while the AFT was looking for a platform that would allow teachers to SHARE lessons.… and it took a partnership with a British company to make it possible. And what’s in it for the British Company?

TSL, which generates its revenues by selling teacher recruitment ads in its Times Educational Supplement and Times Higher Education magazines, started the Web site four years ago and has since amassed two million registered users in 197 countries.

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.

So TSL, the British partner, isn’t completely altruistic, but it sees a clear benefit in forming an alliance with the AFT while US technology companies, presumably, shied away from working with unions.

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