Sunday, November 15, 2009

Teachers Selling Lesson Plans

Is it ethical for teachers to sell the lesson plans they create? Do school districts own the work teachers create under contract?

I fall on the side of the teachers in this debate. Besides the practical considerations (prove I didn't write this lesson plan at home last weekend), I can find no compelling reason for school districts to lay claim to my intellectual efforts.

Update, 11/20/09: My contract doesn't address the issue at all, but here are two statements I found in district policies:

Use of district computers, computer networks, and Internet services does not create any expectation of privacy. Work produced by any employee on a district computer shall be the property of the district.

District computers may not be used for personal commercial purposes, including offering or providing goods or services.
So as long as I don't use district equipment to create my lesson plans, or use district computers to advertise that they are for sale, I'm safe.

Now I just have to be creative enough to create lesson plans that people would want to buy.


Scott McCall said...

unfortunately, that's how alot of corporate businesses run with their research and development teams. if someone discovers or invents something brilliant, the individual doesn't own the idea; the corporation does.

Happy Elf Mom (Christine) said...

Well, my husband is a computer programmer and I can tell you that if he invents something or is able to tweak code in some way, that he cannot sell it to another company, etc.

Then again, these sorts of things are explicitly in his agreement when he began working for the company he is with now.

Are teachers barred from TUTORING in their off-hours for money? Seems like a similar sort of ethical situation IMO.

Darren said...

I can see an ethical problem if teachers tutor their own students for money, but not in any other case.

A school district has no reason to restrict teachers from selling their lesson plans. A corporation could lose money or market share if its employees sold goodies they work on at work, but in education, everyone benefits from the practice. What would be a good reason to prohibit such selling?

Rental Property Management said...

I used to be a teacher, and yes I do a lot of lesson plans. However the reference books which I based my lesson plans were all provided by the school. so I guess, it's a 50-50 thing... Oh well, that's how we do it in our school..

PeggyU said...

I can't see why they should object to a teacher selling his own lesson plans. What do they care if a teacher makes some money on the side, as long as it doesn't effect his or her job performance or the well-being of students?

If, in fact, the lesson plans are good, shouldn't other educators be allowed to benefit from them? Shouldn't all children have access to good materials?

Ellen K said...

This may sound petty, but I refuse to share lesson plans on any except the most superficial of levels because I know there are people in my district who "lift" lesson plans and sell them. There are plenty of people who have written successful books based on their personal accumulation of plans, approaches and curriculum. While I will make suggestions and offer ideas, my plans are my plans. I've developed them and reshaped them over a number of years. And someday I may take them and write my own book. I don't want someone else using my ideas to get rich. Or to make a quick buck. If you look at it like a recipe, the chef who develops a dish owns that recipe and can share it with whoever they want. But there is such a thing as giving credit where credit is due.

PeggyU said...

Ellen, I see your point. Had not thought about people reselling plans, and there being copyright issues.

My oldest son's first-grade teacher used to give her students these handout phonics pages, which had her personal art work on them. She put the little copyright symbol on the image. For the life of me, I couldn't see why anyone would want to "borrow" them, but I suppose it is as you say. Incidentally, she retired and is writing books on elementary education topics.

Anonymous said...

I echo Mrs. C's comment. My employment agreement basically gives my employer the right of first refusal over -any- projects I work on. My salary has effectively already purchased that project from me.

But that was clearly agreed on when I started with this employer.

Reference materials provided to teachers, (no matter if the district purchased them), are copyrighted, and subject to the license of the copyright holder. It may not be permitted to redistribute information from these materials.

So this becomes a question of who holds the copyright to a lesson plan (which, unless agree on up front, my opinion would be that the teacher owns it), and under what license the teacher decides to publish it, if any license at all (sharing with everyone, or waiting to publish a book).

For more on the debate about licensing intellectual property, see the raging torrent of Internet screaming over how "best" to publish software.

Lesson plans may take the path of research done at public universities -- currently there is pressure that all research done with public money should be public domain, instead of being packaged and sold.

Or they may take the path of recipes, which are not usually copyrightable at all.

Just for fun, the actual -words- used to make the lesson plan can be copyrighted, but the -ideas- cannot be copyrighted. You may have to patent those.

Welcome, teachers, to the idiocy of intellectual property law.