To Share or Not to Share, that Shouldn't be a Question

Photo by Ansonlobo, from Wikimedia Commons

When studying about my moral obligation and moral imperative, it seemed extreme. I “owe it to others to share” (Dean Shareski) information, practices, and lessons that I have developed or encountered to improve learning for others? It is enough to make one feel guilty for not already having a platform in which to upload and share my entire Google Drive that is packed with countless hours of preparation, collection, and creation. Am I wrong for being hesitant to share my resources or am I being selfish?
Education is such a unique profession but I will try to draw parallels to another profession, medicine. I have a doctors appointment tomorrow to examine a birthmark on my upper cheek that has recently become irritating. I rely on my doctor to have acquired the resources to make informed decisions about my skin. This doesn’t mean she has conducted hundreds of hours of research and studied birthmarks but rather that she has made herself familiar with the work of others through the web of medicine networks. She accomplishes this with her commitment to continue to develop professionally. The doctor that she may send me to will do the same but will have more training and education in their particular field. How does this differ from teaching? We want our doctors to exchange findings and information our health so why wouldn’t we want teachers to make the most informed decision when educating our youth. By definition, sharing allows and promotes these exchanges which ultimately impact student achievement or provides a remedy for a patient.
I believe there is another underlying idea to this concept of sharing and I think I can draw another parallel to the pharmaceuticals. Someone produces a cure for an illness, often in pill form, and charges a fee for the consumption of that medicine, whether it is you or your insurance company that pays the bill. How does that differ from designing an effective unit that allows students to reach authentic learning that produces measurable achievement? Is it not better for humanity to share these “discoveries” with the same moral obligation? It is easy to say yes. However, the University that I attended obtain a career in teaching felt differently. They charged me a small fortune, my third born, and the majority of my leisure time which is now dedicated to finding ways to offset that small fortune (aka student debt).  
This is why I don’t blame teachers for wanting to be compensated for their “remedies” on sites such as Teachers Pay Teachers and understand the value of such a platform for many teachers to share resources. I would hope that Martin Shkreli-like teacher does not exist but rather a person who puts in their personal time, example Dan Myers, gets what they deserve. (I knew I recognized Dan Myers from our readings and it was from a TedTalk video that I watched in another class. If you haven’t seen it, it is worth a listen).  I think this also speaks volumes of the teaching profession and the type of individual that it attracts. Those that are selfless which is reflected by the tens of thousands of free resources that are available to teachers.
As an educational leader, creating and promoting the use of PLNs for teachers to build a network of resources that are particular to their interests and needs will give educators the opportunity to reach levels of professional development that couldn’t be offered in any traditional PD settings. The educational leader needs to help build and cultivate PLNs while ensuring teachers are using or finding trustworthy resources. The network that is built will only as good as the resources that are in it. I also think that leading the culture of sharing teachers’ ideas in social spaces must mean that leadership itself is participating in the shift in culture.
As Erci Sheninger notes “Everything is changing--society, the educational landscape, and learners - and it is time for educational leaders to embody a modern, progressive form of leadership.” The concept of PLNs in my district would certainly be considered modern and progressive. The use of these platforms promote the 6 Secrets of Change presented by Michael Fullan (2008) especially with (2) connecting peers with purpose, (4)learning is the work,(5) transparency rules and (6) systems learn. Change is difficult but it can be rewarding to break the loops we see in an educational system that is currently not getting the most out of our students. If a traditional teachers’ impact has no boundary on their influence on our youth, imagine the impact of a teacher that practices connectivism through PLNs and social media outlets. If “knowledge is networked and distributed in nature” (George Siemens) then, as Dean Shareski states, “Why would we hoard good teaching and learning. There is something very unethical about that.”


Podcast on EDTech Now with Lee Schneider interviewing Eric Sheninger

Comments

  1. Ralph,
    This was such a great post, your blogging style is very easy to read and I love being able to follow your thinking through all that you share. I wholeheartedly appreciate teachers and administrators who freely share their creations, in fact I rely on many of them during my Google for Education workshops. However I also do believe teachers who create and provide services for others outside of their scope of regular responsibilities do deserve to be compensated for such. So it's such a tricky line to draw! My issue with Teachers Pay Teachers is mostly the rampant levels of copyright infringement on the site, where people are essentially recreating others' original works and repackaging and selling them as their own. I hope you'll continue to be an advocate for PLN-building in your district, it's amazing how it can truly transform an organization into a culture of learning!

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    1. It is a delicate situation and I think policing TPT's users should be a common sense procedure. However, that policing will come at a cost which will most likely be pasted onto the user. Would this produce less resources? Would it provide better resources? Do the producers of the content even know the copyright infringement laws? Maybe TPT should consider providing an educational course prior to users being able to post content for profit.

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  2. Ralph,

    I love the connection you make to the practice of medicine. In fact this analogy could go on and on in numerous professions. Yet a lot of people still find something inside of them that makes them question whether or not they should share what they've created or discovered. I have to wonder if the "American Dream" has anything to do with this. A land of opportunity centered around entrepreneurial ideology can help people "get ahead" in America. Over the past two centuries people have admired Rockefeller, Ford, Koch and Zuckerberg for, at the very least, their ability to create a great deal of wealth through their knowledge. Had they shared this knowledge they may have lost some of their fortune or fame.

    An example of this is Mark Zuckerberg. The lawyer for the Winkelvoss twins (who some believed to have come up with the idea of Facebook) says, "I believe I can say, ethically, that the case did involve allegations that Mark 'stole the idea for Facebook from the Winklevoss twins,' but, if one is talking merely about 'ideas,' such an allegation would rarely be actionable in a court of law" (article below). This example of sharing of information coupled with the idea of "getting ahead" to get a promotion, money, prestige, etc. is definitely something that could holding back some people from contributing to their profession. As for education, most people in the field are their to help their students succeed. This in itself can be enough to overcome these insecurities for a lot of teachers.

    Zuckerberg case: https://www.quora.com/Did-Mark-Zuckerberg-steal-the-idea-for-Facebook-from-the-Winklevoss-twins-considering-they-did-get-65-million-from-a-settlement-last-year-How-legitimate-is-their-claim?scrlybrkr=0c67ff7c#

    -Taylor Good

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    1. Taylor, this is a great example. Thanks for sharing! Even Steve Jobs and Bill Gates were found to have their hand in someone else's cookie jar and these men are seen as technology pioneers. Technology, specifically in coding, relies on the copying of others and improving the original.

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  3. Ralph,
    I don’t think that you are wrong for being hesitant to share your resources located on your Google Drive because it is a natural reaction to the intellectual property that you have created.

    Great parallels to the field of medicine and pharmaceuticals as it pertains to professionals developing their own practices through research and then making a profit from self-generated products to elicit positive outcomes.

    As far as Teachers Pay Teachers is concerned, I am in complete agreement with teachers selling their intellectual property to gain extra income. However, I also tend to side with Lyn that the site may or may not necessarily and properly manage or monitor the copyright infringement levels. The ASCD’s Educational Leadership publication has a great article from 2014 discussing how principals and school districts need to train their staff members in copyrighting their intellectual property should they want to gain a profit: http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/oct14/vol72/num02/Who-Owns-That-Course¢.aspx.

    I also agree with your statement that “the educational leader needs to help build and cultivate PLNs while ensuring teachers are using or finding trustworthy resources.” I think as we move forward in the twenty-first century, a major role of an administrator’s job is going to be building that individual professional development/growth-mindset among their teachers. As the lead learner, the principal is going to have to demonstrate the best methods to increase one’s PLN though reliable sources regardless of the platform.

    -Steven Bilski

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    1. Thanks for sharing that resource. I've never considered who has the rights to the materials that I've created for my classroom. I only assumed they would be mine but the article does make me reconsider that. I could certainly see the issues behind a teacher using time throughout the school day to develop material that they would later sell for profit. This 'double-dipping' is troublesome. .From the ASCD artible you posted "....determining on whose time a product is created has become difficult as work and personal life blend and schools expect teachers to do a lot of work outside their "contract day." Sean's post below discusses this idea. But if I spend my summer doing nothing productive towards the next school year, I receive no increase, or decrease of pay. If I spent my summer developing lesson plans for next school year, I receive no increase, or decrease of pay. I think this becomes a big incentive for teachers.

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  4. Ralph,

    Great post, I found many of your points to be very interesting. Starting with your first point in which Dean Shareski said he “owes it to others to share” I tend to agree. However, now that I think more about this topic I believe it is a little extreme. As I sit back and reflect over all the time and energy I put into my expanding my Google drive documents so that my instruction is more engaging and meaningful for students I am now wondering why do I “owe” anything to anyone? However, I still do think that sharing is key to being a team player; you brought up numerous examples in your post that made me think a little more deeply…thank you for that.

    Your analogy to teaching and medicine was an awesome one. Specifically, the example in which you mentioned that we want our doctors to share information in order to make certain different perspectives are taken into consideration so the patient has an accurate diagnosis is convincing and thought provoking. The same thing can also be said for teaching; teachers should be strongly encouraged and expected to share similar lessons, plans, and insights about teaching and learning in order for all teachers to become better at educating our youth. With that being said, you didn’t mention just giving over a lesson, or essentially just doing the work for another teacher. I would go so far to suggest that neither of these ideas contribute to the notion that sharing ideas naturally helps a teacher become better. Unfortunately, I have feel put myself in this situation and now wish I didn’t just give up a lesson to a teacher who was merely being lazy.

    You brought up Dan Myers and indicated that he talks about the idea of getting what you deserve in teaching and that he doesn’t blame teachers for wanting to get paid for their work. I tend to disagree, I believe teachers are paid well for the work they do at home and at school and shouldn’t charge for their work primarily because we are all in this field of education trying to find the best ways to help our young people succeed. Also, I learned that some districts have clear cut policies that indicate that teachers are not permitted to make money off of the work they created while using district resources, time, etc. So, while your parallel to medicine resonates with me and is relatable to education, I tend to disagree with you and the shared perspective of Dan Meyers.

    Ralph, another point that you shared that was spot on for me highlighted the obvious about a PLN- that it will only be as good as the resources you have in the PLN. For example, if a bunch of mediocre teachers are the core of a PLN, the chances of getting great ideas, innovative and inspiring strategies or student work seems unlikely. However, if the PLN is established and includes really strong and caring teachers, there is no doubt that the group could motivate and inspire teachers and leaders to become even better teachers and leaders.

    George Siemens along with Dan Shareski was mentioned as very pro sharing and individuals who believe in the importance of promoting networking for teachers. I definitely agree with them about the importance and value of sharing and networking. These opportunities can and often do lead to bettering ourselves as teachers/administrators and ultimately making a positive impact on the students we teach and serve.

    -Sean Feeley

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  5. Ralph,

    Great post, I found many of your points to be very interesting. Starting with your first point in which Dean Shareski said he “owes it to others to share” I tend to agree. However, now that I think more about this topic I believe it is a little extreme. As I sit back and reflect over all the time and energy I put into my expanding my Google drive documents so that my instruction is more engaging and meaningful for students I am now wondering why do I “owe” anything to anyone? However, I still do think that sharing is key to being a team player; you brought up numerous examples in your post that made me think a little more deeply…thank you for that.

    Your analogy to teaching and medicine was an awesome one. Specifically, the example in which you mentioned that we want our doctors to share information in order to make certain different perspectives are taken into consideration so the patient has an accurate diagnosis is convincing and thought provoking. The same thing can also be said for teaching; teachers should be strongly encouraged and expected to share similar lessons, plans, and insights about teaching and learning in order for all teachers to become better at educating our youth. With that being said, you didn’t mention just giving over a lesson, or essentially just doing the work for another teacher. I would go so far to suggest that neither of these ideas contribute to the notion that sharing ideas naturally helps a teacher become better. Unfortunately, I have feel put myself in this situation and now wish I didn’t just give up a lesson to a teacher who was merely being lazy.

    You brought up Dan Myers and indicated that he talks about the idea of getting what you deserve in teaching and that he doesn’t blame teachers for wanting to get paid for their work. I tend to disagree, I believe teachers are paid well for the work they do at home and at school and shouldn’t charge for their work primarily because we are all in this field of education trying to find the best ways to help our young people succeed. Also, I learned that some districts have clear cut policies that indicate that teachers are not permitted to make money off of the work they created while using district resources, time, etc. So, while your parallel to medicine resonates with me and is relatable to education, I tend to disagree with you and the shared perspective of Dan Meyers.

    Ralph, another point that you shared that was spot on for me highlighted the obvious about a PLN- that it will only be as good as the resources you have in the PLN. For example, if a bunch of mediocre teachers are the core of a PLN, the chances of getting great ideas, innovative and inspiring strategies or student work seems unlikely. However, if the PLN is established and includes really strong and caring teachers, there is no doubt that the group could motivate and inspire teachers and leaders to become even better teachers and leaders.

    George Siemens along with Dan Shareski was mentioned as very pro sharing and individuals who believe in the importance of promoting networking for teachers. I definitely agree with them about the importance and value of sharing and networking. These opportunities can and often do lead to bettering ourselves as teachers/administrators and ultimately making a positive impact on the students we teach and serve.

    -Sean Feeley

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  6. Ralph,
    Thank yo for your thoughtful post. You make several very good points about the the culture of sharing. Providing PLN's for our staff and providing PD 's and PLC's helps them to say connected to be progressive. Providing learning opportunities that engage teachers is respectful of their time and their profession. I feel a truly progressive leader and district will recognize that often, we are not respectful of our teachers because we don't provide engaging PD that addresses the modern educational landscape and students. I agree with you that we should compensate teachers for their contributions and validate those contributions in various ways, even monetarily. Our society is governed by capitalistic principles, and we should also apply those principles here. Let's face it, most educators are female and we are expected to adhere to this moral code of always putting the student/child first or else they will pull out caregiver card. Expecting those who have valuable knowledge to always contribute to the body of knowledge for free, seems unfair. I don't believe we would be expecting so much charitable work if it was a male dominated career path. However, education has been dominated by women for quite some time. The resources allotted to it b the government dwindles every year, and yet educators are suppose to just make it work.

    If we truly expect everyone to contribute to the body of knowledge, we need to make it meaningful, and it needs to be in an environment that is funded appropriately and allows for charitable donations that don't stifle those that contribute.

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