This Sunday the Washington Post ran a story about the copyright policy Prince George's County School's is considering. From my understanding it seems that anything created by teachers or students- in or outside of school- would become the property of the school system.
In regards to student work this seems absurd. I don't quite understand what they are thinking. To say that the school would own a student's work- a student who is legally required to attend the school (unless they have the resources to go elsewhere) seems absolutely constitutionally wrong. I can't imagine this policy lasting very long.
From the teacher angle though it brings up interesting intellectual property questions. Who owns the lessons and materials we create as teachers? PG County's policy seems to be a response to Teachers Pay Teachers and other sites where teachers are selling their work. PG seems to want to be the recipient of any funds teachers would earn from selling their lessons. I don't feel like this will actually generate any revenue for PG County- I think the teachers will either turn to sharing for free OR will just stop sharing on-line all together- the incentive to sell lesson plans for money will be gone.
As teachers who owns all the hard work we do outside of school hours? I've been adapting children's picture books for my students. I've bought the books myself, used my own resources and craft supplies to turn the books into touch and feel activities, and have done all of this in my own time (For the sake of argument I'm ignoring the fact that I used Donors Choose. That brings up a whole other layer to the debate). Just because I bring these books into school to use with my students, would that make them the property of the school system? If I did it as a hobby and did not plan on using them to teach, I would assume they would then belong to me.
I have a love/hate relationship with the site teachers pay teachers. I personally refuse to buy anything off of there because I spend enough of my own money on my students- I'm drawing the line on buying lesson plans and worksheets. It's a dangerous slope to fall into- buying worksheets and games for a few dollars here and there... I worry how much I'd end up spending.
I like that teachers pay teachers empowers teachers over text book companies. It's a good move- to give actual teachers the ability to sell what works to other teachers. It's what we should be doing- not depending on text book companies who are not in the classroom. Anything to give the textbook companies competition seems good to me.
On the other hand- is Teachers Pay Teachers actually competition if the school systems are still paying for the text books and teachers are just spending their own money on the additional resources?
Another thing that bothers me about Teachers Pay Teachers is that it puts a significant emphasis on how things look. Of course they have to look good in order to sell- and we all love cute activities and worksheets. But it tends to get into just cute looking worksheets and in the end, a worksheet is a worksheet is a worksheet.
Regardless of my own feelings about the site itself- I am curious to see what happens with teachers and intellectual property. I am willing to bet that teachers are not making things to put on teachers pay teachers during school hours- when would they have the time? Is what we do outside of school hours property of the school system?
Does it come down to what we were hired to do? If we were hired to create a curriculum we could not turn around and sell that curriculum for our own personal gain. But we were hired to teach- to deliver information to students, monitor their progress and modify instruction so that by the end of our time with them they will know more than they knew before. We aren't officially in charge of curriculum. We do it, of course, because we have to in order to survive- but we (sadly) are rarely hired for our creativity and problem solving. In which case, if we develop lesson ideas outside of school hours that we use to enhance our jobs- are those enhancements our property, or the school system's?
Part of me is scared to get the answer to this- what more can they take away from us as teachers? The other part of me is just fascinated to see where this will lead.