If you're an educator who hasn't heard of TeachersPayTeachers.com (TpT), you might be missing out on a new way to access classroom materials created by teachers, for teachers. Online educational marketplaces, such as TpT, Amazon Inspire or HMH Marketplace, have become popular sites for some teachers to get on-demand access to curricular supplements that meet their needs.
One challenge is that most schools have not established appropriate practices for the use, distribution and creation of online educational materials. We are university professors and former middle and high school teachers who, over the last several years, have conducted research on online teacherpreneurship, as the practice of teachers marketing original classroom resources online has become known. Using the knowledge gained along the way, we came up with four guidelines for academic coaches, technology coordinators, professional development directors and any school leaders seeking to navigate this emerging area and looking to help their teachers navigate it as well.
1. Get on social media and learn what the excitement is about
First, school leaders should learn about the work of online teacherpreneurs. One of the best ways to do this is by setting up professional social media accounts (if you don’t already have them) and following teachers on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest. If you are not sure where to start, ask your teachers about the communities and teacherpreneurs they follow. Teaching Tolerance’s article, Educators and their #Community presents an excellent list of popular teacher influencers contributing diverse perspectives. On social media, you’ll see teachers sharing details, personal examples, and questions about how to implement lessons available in online educational marketplaces like TpT. We encourage you to add your expertise to the conversation.
2. Talk to your teachers
Next, it is important to talk with your teachers. Who do they follow on social media and TpT? What impacts does this have on their practice? Some teacherpreneurs may reinforce the status quo, or worse, propagate ineffective pedagogical approaches. On the other hand, some teacherpreneurs may introduce new, practical ideas that work well for today’s teachers and kids. Learning coaches and school leaders can support teachers in cultivating a productive and inspirational professional learning network rather than an echo chamber. Why not engage in this pursuit collectively as a staff over the school year?
3. Establish school and district policy
Teachers need to understand regulations for sharing teaching materials, stories, student photos, and even selling their own educational materials, via the web, and how these practices connect to ISTE Standards for Educators. In our research, we have observed that school and district technology policies may be limited and/or out of date when it comes to the topic of online educational resources and online teacherpreneurship. There ia an opportunity for teachers to help advance policies on this topic. In the process, they may gain experience solving real-world digital citizenship issues — something we ask our students to do in the ISTE Standards for Students.
4. Provide professional development
Finally, teachers need help to become critical evaluators of the teacher-created content they find online. They need professional development opportunities where they can explore the question of what a “high quality” classroom resource should look like. Teachers might use a rubric like the “Pinning with Pause Checklist ” to quickly evaluate the quality of an activity they find on TpT. According to this rubric, teachers should ask questions such as:
- Does the activity support my learning objectives? Is the learning goal commensurate with how much time and resources it requires?
- Is the content accurate and up-to-date? Are people and cultures represented in an authentic and nuanced way?
- Does the activity give my students windows into new cultures or contexts? Will this activity not harm students with marginalized identities and/or backgrounds?
Want to learn more?
For more information on the topic of teacherpreneurship, the following readings provide a useful background and may inspire critical thought around this practice.
An overview of online teacherpreneurship. This New York Times article provides an overview of the history of TpT. It also explores why teacher-created materials have become popular.
Perspectives of an online teacherpreneur. This opinion piece, published in PBS NewsHour, was written by an online teacherpreneur who describes the work that goes into creating resources. She makes an argument for why teachers deserve compensation for creating online materials and explores the professional benefits of teacherpreneurship.
Legal and ethical responsibilities. The Atlantic explores the options teachers have for sharing their materials online. Should they share for free via openly licensed sites or should they sell on TpT? How much work does it take to adapt a classroom resource so it will be useful for other teachers to adapt, and should one be compensated for these efforts?
Social media and teacherpreneurship. This article from BuzzFeed News shares the stories of several teachers across the U.S. who use Instagram and TpT to supplement their teacher salaries. They share their thoughts on protecting student privacy when posting online, social media as a professional networking tool, and the benefits they experience as online teacherpreneurs.
Issues relating to copyright and teacher-created materials. In this article, Education Week considers the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and its implications for TpT sellers who post material that infringes on someone else’s copyright.
Online teacherpreneur-created materials have become increasingly prevalent in PK-12 classrooms, and the practice shows no signs of slowing. As part of digital literacy, teacher leaders need to be aware of the practice and ways to help teachers make educated purchases of materials intended for classroom use.
In addition, teachers need to be aware of legal implications of sharing or selling teaching materials via the web, and how these practices connect to ISTE Standards for Educators.
Perhaps most importantly, teachers need support in becoming critical evaluators of teacher-created educational content they find online. Educators need to explore the question of what a “high quality” resource should look like. We hope this guide serves as a helpful resource as you engage in this journey.
Catharyn Shelton, Ph.D. is an assistant professor of educational technology at California State University, Stanislaus. As a former high school teacher and current teacher educator, Catharyn is interested in how teachers learn and lead in online spaces. Her research on online teacherpreneurs was recently published in the Journal of Research on Technology in Education.
Leanna Archambault, Ph.D. is an associate professor of learning design and technology at Arizona State University. Her research areas include teacher preparation for K-12 online and blended classrooms and the use of innovative technologies to improve learning outcomes. She recently co-authored K-12 Blended Teaching: A Guide to Personalized Learning and Online Integration, an openly licensed book for teachers. Prior to entering the field of teacher education, she taught middle school English language arts.