Pop sent me a great link today of a New York Times article by Winnie Hu, the Education Reporter for the Times, “Selling Lessons Online Raises Cash and Questions“. It is an exploration of how some teachers are currently selling their lesson plans and materials they use in class for cash on sites like TeachersPayTeachers and WeAreTeachers. On the surface this seems wonderful, but there is another aspect as Joseph McDonald points out in the article:
the online selling cheapens what teachers do and undermines efforts to build sites where educators freely exchange ideas and lesson plans.
“Teachers swapping ideas with one another, that’s a great thing,” he said. “But somebody asking 75 cents for a word puzzle reduces the power of the learning community and is ultimately destructive to the profession.”
I do not want to judge teachers getting money to support their families and pay mortgages, but at the same time if the goal really is what Alice Colburn says she seeks in the piece,
Alice Coburn, 56, a vocational education teacher in Goshen, N.Y., said she saved two to three hours each time she downloaded Ms. Michalek’s PowerPoint presentations instead of starting from scratch. “I hate reinventing the wheel,” Ms. Coburn said.
Then I think another alternative besides paying needs to be available. Her sentiment is exactly like Hacker Precept #2 “No problem should ever have to be solved twice.” which I previously wrote about being a key component of the website Public Domain Education I hope to help construct. One thing I want to keep in mind is that should Public Domain Education be viable it will not replace things like teachers selling lesson plans, textbook companies, or all sorts of people making money off of education. Money is a powerful motivator and many of the learning products people create to fill their pockets are outstanding, like Richard Grahm’s “How are you?” Song.
Nevertheless for people who don’t have the money to spend on said resources and to create resources where more people can contribute at the same time, sort of a linux to the private windows, or firefox and internet explorer. Linux and Firerfox were created by thousands of individuals with day jobs, constantly refining their creation based on experience.
The open source approach is not an enemy of the private one, merely an alternative.
Corrections & Amplifications
- 17 Nov 2009 – Added a link at the top of the page to Part II of my exploration of this article.
- 15 Nov 2009 – Other posts on public domain education.
- 15 Nov 2009 – Michael Horowitz wrote an exploration of Linux vs Windows which is an amazing example of a web document that is updated to respond to user comments and changes. I particularly like the feature which allows readers to show or not show different sections, including his “2 cents”,
Will Linux spread to the point of becoming a serious competitor to Windows on the desktop? No. And this has nothing to do with which is better, no matter how you judge “better”.
Consider the keyboard in front of you. The key arrangement was made long ago when keeping the metal wires connected to the keys from hitting each other was the big consideration. Now that that no longer applies, does anybody switch over to a keyboard with a better design? No. All of us who know how to type, are used to the current arrangement of keys. Switching to a new layout would be a major disruption and thus have to pay back in a major way. I don’t think desktop versions of Linux will pay back enough to encourage people to switch. My Linux experience is not extensive, but coming to it with a Windows background, as most people will, it is often frustrating to figure out how to do ordinary everyday things.
Servers are another story. So too are call centers and other single-use environments where Linux makes a lot of sense.