I 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”).