No Learning for Unauthorised Persons

Picture 2I was involved in a conversation the other day, with a teacher, who expressed the sentiment that she would not be willing to share her work with people from other schools. It’s a sentiment that is probably not uncommon. But it does make me sad.

I’ve spent a fair bit of time over this weekend thinking about why it is that teachers often take that position. I even found myself lamenting aloud about it at the dinner table… and my son (14) interjected:

“What are they worried about.. that some students from another
school might do some unauthorized learning?”

We all laughed. But it does raise the question – what is it that makes many teachers create good resources, and then hold them close to their chest as though they were commercially valuable company secrets? Is it really because they don’t want to help students in other schools to learn? Maybe it is! Perhaps they have such a scarcity mentality that they think because VCE exams are standardized, helping other students is tantamount to working against their own students!

Or perhaps they don’t want other teachers getting hold of their Intellectual property. If they spent all that time preparing a worksheet, how dare another teacher just use it and take advantage!! The other teacher might even pass it off as her own! (which would be unethical, but would it really, in any real sense affect the teacher who created it?).

Maybe some teachers are just so entrenched in 20th Century, industrial-age, knowledge-worker mindsets, that they don’t even know why they don’t share their resources with the world. They just haven’t started yet to realize that in the 21st Century, information is just a commodity. Worksheets, podcasts, videos – they are all just commodities. But what really have value in this new economy are the abilities to network with people and to crowd-source solutions to problems. Both of these are enhanced by sharing.

Personally I have found that when you give your work away, you get things back in return. Sometimes (not often) the reward is financial, sometimes its access to resources created by other teachers who reciprocate, sometimes it’s less tangible – a thank-you note, or an email. Last week I received an anonymous monetary ‘gift’ from the mother of a girl I have never met, who listens to my biology podcast, just to say ‘thanks’ for sharing my resources with her daughter. Over the past week I have received more than 25 heartfelt emails and voicemails from students I don’t know – expressing gratitude for the resources I share on the Internet. Here’s just one example:

Isn’t that why we became teachers – to help students learn, enjoy learning and experience success in learning? Why does it matter that this student is not one of my “official students”?

I think the saddest example of proprietary thinking that I have seen, was when visiting a school a while ago, I discovered that the English staff in that school SELL their work to their colleagues in the same office!

I guess we all guard our IP a little. We feel a bit indignant if others steal our stuff without proper attribution. But let’s remember why we became teachers in the first place. (whispers: “it was all about student learning”).

18 thoughts on “No Learning for Unauthorised Persons

  1. I agree , that’s why I became a teacher. It smacks to me as a bit of elitism as well. Some students may not have a the privilege of having a teacher who can explain things so the student can understand. What was she worried not getting the kudos??

  2. Its also the reason I became a teacher. I find the positive impact of sharing resources to both students and teachers an absolute pleasure. The way I view it is simple, what goes around comes around and in most cases when I have been looking for an activity I have been assisted by a number of helpful members of my PLN.

  3. Brilliantly put Andrew… sadly it is a conversation I have heard way too often as well…
    Much kudos to you and your inspiring podcasts as well… sharing the knowledge I believe makes us all wealthier intellectually at least… putting back into the community we serve has to be a good thing… doesn’t matter if they are our students, or students in another country…

    I agree too with MrRobbo, the amount of resources and information our PLNs provide us from around the globe is staggering and wonderful…. only fair we give back πŸ™‚

  4. Funny thing, I have found it easier to share my stuff online than with colleagues at my workplace. After all, so many online colleagues have shared with me and I am grateful as well as inspired by their generosity. This sharing by online colleagues has led me to question why I don’t do this as much in my workplace. I feel it might be a combination of ego – not wanting my work to be used unacknowledged. And a touch of: hey, I put the long hours into this. so why should I let others ride on my coat tails and do it without the effort?
    Why is it that I feel valued by my online colleagues? Perhaps if I just let go, share more with my workplace colleagues, I will feel it there too. Collaboration will prevail over competition!

    • hey brette,

      you make some interesting points there. do you feel valued by your online colleagues because you are part of a professional learning community? there’s a valuing of your ideas and it is there in print. acknowledgement is so important, hey. maybe it is difficult for people to acknowledge face to face?

      i am wondering if this is something that is only in our face to face work place.

      your ideas and the way you teach continue to inpire me…

  5. I couldn’t agree with you more Andrew. Sharing my ideas and “piggybacking” others is vitally important to me as a teacher. This is what drives me to blog and tweet. I’m clearly not alone when planning the weekly planner on a Sunday evening. This is evidenced by the amount of ideas floating about on twitter or new posts popping into my never ending news reader. My personal learning network is right in front of me even if it is sometimes a distraction.

  6. I was nodding with every point, Andrew; well said. I think that if people develop a personal learning network, eg. on twitter, facebook, delicious, diigo, or similar platforms for connecting, they will be so blown away by the incredible richness and amount of resources being shared, they would have a sudden change in mindset. I’m lucky to have the role of teacher librarian, and my job involves finding and sharing resources. Why limit this to my school or even country? I wonder if I would have stumbled across the joy of sharing if I’d stayed in the classroom. Isolation breeds closet-thinking.

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  8. I completely agree with everything you’re saying, and have been having the exact same thoughts and discussions. For myself, I’m hoping that if we can show the power of sharing and collaborating, then teachers will be open to it. I’ve seen a couple of really strong examples lately, and I’m hoping to continue building the momentum of external sharing here at my school. Here’s a post you might be interested in:

  9. I totally agree with all that has been said on this issue. I work on a regional level and have the privilege to visit many schools and see fantastic work being done in our classrooms. Part of my role is collecting evidence of this for the purpose of sharing via the ePotential continuum resource bank. Teachers are often reluctant as they feel that thier work isn’t good enough and fear criticism or the other reason often given is that they are unsure of copyright of some of the content. We need to keep chipping away and encouraging collaboration and sharing of our work as it benefits all of us.

  10. Brette’s comments made a lot of sense to me. An online community is just that, a place where like-minded people share resources. Is it because there isn’t the threat of competition from neighbouring schools? Is it because you are supported and don’t feel like you are the only one doing the sharing? Is it because you aren’t fighting for enrollments?
    More than anything it is a willingness to share resources for the greater good. Hopefully we will see much more of this on FUSE over the coming year or so.

  11. “The teacher not willing to share (TTNWTS)” is actually just the opposite. How can a conversation be so misconstrued? The point TTNWTS was trying to make was to do with why WPSC Biology website should be kept a seperate entity. My argument was that making the website more open would deter the less confident WPSC Biol students from using the discussion board. I have noticed this year that it takes some students a very long time to feel confident enough within the group to post a comment, so if more outside groups are added I suspect it would deter them altogether. I thought Douchy and I both agreed with this at the time. As a Biology teacher at WPSC my first concern is the well being and learning of the students in my class. Have I got that wrong? I have a history of sharing my Biology resources which goes back a long way and I am always flattered when others consider them worthy enough to use. I have been sending my yr 12 resources to students at other schools for a few years now and am constantly thanked by students at WPSC that are not in my class for the use of my resources. Whats going on here?

    • Point taken. I’m willing to concede (and relieved, actually) that I must have misunderstood what you were saying in that conversation. My humble apologies if that is the case.

      I do, however, often hear that sentiment expressed by teachers and apparently so do many of our colleagues who have commented above. For example I hear it whenever the topic of publishing podcasts on iTunes, or screencasts on YouTube is discussed. So the issue itself still needs raising and I do stand by my position that sharing these things in a public space is best practice.

  12. Hi Andrew
    can I start by aying well done at the frankston converge yesterday you made some great points and I will take them away and use them within my teaching practice (even though I am new to this lol ) .
    The points about sharing i can never understand why some teachers have this stand of approach to sharing Knowlege after all thats what we teach students every day is to share knowledge and be proud of your findings .
    I believe in life exprience plays a big part in building a path for the future and would be sad if i could not share this with other teacher or students.
    Resources we put together for our students change so much its best to pass it around and be proud watching it grow, being added to, or even changed at least its being used.

    Thank you again for being a guest speaker at the converge I already feel I am now a better teacher.

  13. Hi Andrew,

    I love reading your blog. This is a very interesting post.

    I wonder whether the next generation of teachers will be much better attuned to the world of free information.

    Chris Anderson thinks kids find it intuitive and normal. If some of these kids become our next teachers, will we have a vibrant collective of freely shared notes?

    Or are we simply lacking the infrastructure for it. A platform where teachers can collaborate and pool their learning resources together. Or even students.

    I’m interested in seeing how we can facilitate that knowledge transfer.


  14. Imagine – one excellent podcast curriculm, teaching one subject which was built in collaberation by the ‘best’ subject matter experts in the world and delivered electronically to all learners across the globe.

    The trend is moving towards forcing teachers to share anyway – don’t and they become obsolete.

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