Caring about sharing January 11, 2015Posted by IaninSheffield in Musings, Resources.
Tags: Resources, sharing
In a recent discussion with a colleague regarding our learning platform, I was brought up short by a comment they made. One of the affordances of the platform is the capability to share resources and ideas both within our school and between colleagues in sister schools, which strikes me as only a positive thing. Not so perhaps. The colleague observed that whilst sharing and collaboration are fine in principle, the reality is that the performativity demands placed upon individuals, departments/faculties and schools, mean that we are in competition with one another. As individual teachers we compete for recognition or recompense; we strive for things which make us stand out from our colleagues so that we can meet the criteria which allow us to jump through the next threshold hoop. Departments are continually judged against one another by the exam results our students achieve, the approaches we adopt and the opportunities we offer beyond the formal curriculum. League tables and competition for students place schools in competition with one another, rather than encouraging co-operation and collaboration. I was minded of a conversation I had with a colleague a few years ago about an interesting resource they had developed. When I asked how she was going to share that with colleagues, the reply was guardedly unequivocal; whilst we might have a general principle of sharing with one another, she felt she needed to retain sole access to certain interesting resources so that in the eyes of the students, she would be able to stand out from the crowd.
How depressing. When combined with teachers’ hesitancy or reluctance to make their materials open; the possibility of losing rights and control of their materials; concerns over quality judgements of their resources; and possible copyright claims against embedded content that they have downloaded and reused (Davis et al 2010), it’s perhaps a wonder that any ideas or resources are shared at all. But there are indeed teachers out there sharing and sharing generously, as successful repositories1 like TES Teaching Resources, Jorum, MERLOT, and the OER Commons attest. Or indeed by the exchange of ideas and materials that takes place continually through social media platforms like Twitter and Google Plus.
Why then should this be? Perhaps these teachers have found ways to overcome the organisational, cultural, legal and technological barriers (Charlesworth et al, 2007)? Or perhaps they recognise the value of participating in a community of sharing which delivers benefits including:
- exposure to models of interesting practice;
- conservation of time and effort by avoiding duplication of resources;
- scaffolding and mentoring for teachers new to the profession or to a different curriculum area;
- Inspiration for teachers wishing to redevelop or redesign the curriculum.
(Philip & Cameron, 2008)
For me though, it’s simple moral issue; one of reciprocity. The Internet and the connections it brings has provided me with a never-ending stream of resources and ideas from which I continually draw. I can trace this right back to a website which provided so many worksheets, teaching ideas and wonderful links to support me in my Physics teaching and my students in their learning. Amazingly it’s still going strong under the name of its author – Andy Darvill’s Science Site, Andy being a Physics teacher and early pioneer of using the Web to provide online resources. It inspired me to do the same for my students (and anyone else who dropped by), though my site is no longer around (other than through the WayBack Machine). I gained so much from Andy and others like him, I felt obliged to attempt to pay back some of that generosity, if not directly, then to the community at large. That’s the way it should work shouldn’t it; the more we gain, the more we contribute? Surely we can do better than 90 9 1?