A New Community for Classroom Teachers

Recently, there has been a flurry of headlines about the development of online platforms where teachers can share professional resources ranging from lesson plans to summative assessments across multiple disciplines and age-levels.

Prominently, the American Federation of Teachers has partnered with TSL Education, a British publishing firm, to invest $10 million into Share My Lesson.

On its website, Share My Lesson explains that “developed by teachers for teachers, this free platform gives access to high-quality teaching resources and provides an online community where teachers can collaborate with, encourage and inspire each other.” Share My Lesson further highlights its value-add as a means to support teachers as they make the transition to Common Core Standards. (Perhaps there is an implication here that teachers might not be receiving ample support elsewhere?)

Share My Lesson allows teachers to upload and access classroom materials; it also allows teachers to rate the material uploaded by others. Thus, the online platform enables teachers—who have many critics these days—to critique one another and foster productive conversations about what actually works in a classroom while transcending state and district boundaries. Share My Lesson also clearly acknowledges the twin concerns of how to create classrooms that embrace Common Core and how support experienced teachers as they transition to Common Core.

In many ways, Share My Lesson is not a novel idea. In less than one second, a Google search of “lesson plan” yields near twenty-four million results, which suggests that many other people have used and are using the internet to distribute teaching materials.  What does appear to be novel, though, is the venture’s commitment to facilitating dialogue and building a community of educators…and its effort to address a topic—Common Core—that many in education and teacher preparation may not know how to address. Should Share My Lesson be the only opportunity for educators to communicate in this capacity?  What if a school or college of education built a similar platform for its students and alumni? Alumni at various points in their careers could support one another, teach each other, and reinforce their relationship with their alma mater. In an ideal scenario, alumni could even have the chance to connect to former professors or contribute to the creation of curriculum for incoming college students. Time will tell, but perhaps the greatest merit of the virtual community is its ability to reinforce the actual community.

Building New Revenue Through Technology Transfer at Schools of Education

Today’s EdWeek highlights the recent infusion of venture capital into the education sector, and profiles the story of the development of a research-based literacy tool created by faculty at the University of Minnesota College of Education and Human Development into a start-up company called Early Learning Labs, launched this month:

Universities Generate Ideas, Support for K-12 Startup Companies (EdWeek, May 15, 2012)

Eduventures research suggests that opportunity exists for schools and colleges of education to develop research-based tools and products into profit through similar means.  In June 2011, Eduventures released the report Understanding and Identifying Innovative and Entrepreneurial Business Models for Schools of Education, which outlined several methods for Deans and SOE leaders to consider to build revenue outside of tuition dollars, including developing marketable products and/or partnering with for-profit companies to do so.  These partnerships are common across schools of business, engineering, or medicine, but are still rare among schools of education.  However, as the “education industry” grows, so does the opportunity for revenue through these means for universities.

In addition to the University of Minnesota example profiled by EdWeek in the article cited above, a few examples of this have surfaced through Eduventures relationships with institutions and organizations across the country.  For example, Stanford University and Pearson have partnered to develop and market new performance assessment measures for schools of education, namely, the “TPA” which is currently being piloted in several states.  In addition, 2Tor partnered with USC to successfully co-develop and co-market USC’s fast growing online MAT program that leads to initial teacher certification.

What potential might exist to build revenue through similar “technology transfer” at your school/college of education?  Ask yourself these questions as you consider the scholarly work that your faculty are currently engaging in – there could be more opportunity than you think.  Also, take the time to talk with fellow Deans and leaders at your university in business, engineering, or medicine to learn more about how they have developed revenue via these means in the past.

Eduventures members of the Schools of Education Learning Collaborative can download the full report, Understanding and Identifying Innovative and Entrepreneurial Business Models for Schools of Education, by clicking here.