Happy New Year all,
This is a question that often comes up among professional materials writers and I'd be curious to get the input of teachers who may not work as writers.
Writers often face the problem of sharing materials for free, which benefits our fellow teachers, versus trying to sell materials or request pay for our hard work in creating those materials.
For example, there are a number of websites out there that allow teachers to upload materials and share materials for free, or sometimes for website "credit". As wonderful as these sites are for teachers, they treat creating materials as something teachers would do anyway or a valueless byproduct of teacher work. You don't see websites that ask you to upload a video of yourself teaching for free. It seems like we should expect to pay for quality materials, whether it be from a published book, a book or website published by the teacher themselves, or a site like Teachers Pay Teachers.
However, I also realize that teachers don't always get the materials they need from their schools and that teacher salaries are low. It's hard to expect teachers to pay for quality materials all the time. So how can we balance a teacher's need for free or very cheap materials with a teacher/materials creator's need to make a living?
Just food for thought in the new year.
Hi Walton,Great discussion topic. Let me give you my two cents here.I teach at the Uni level in China currently and I have collaborated with other teachers to develop different approaches to classes, and subsequently developed materials for them. I have no problem working with them to develop materials for them to use in their classes, and I do not mind sharing the materials afterwards with people who ask for them. If it can be of help to them and their students, then so be it.However, I drawn the line at demands or orders (as in imperatives). Case in point, I had developed materials for a more comprehensive approach to the Oral English classes at The University of Science and Technology Beijing. The Foreign Teacher Coordinator did not appreciate my efforts, seeing it as interference with other teachers, so I finished the materials for the first semester of the Freshmen and Sophomore Oral English classes, and left the second term incomplete. We had a new teacher, and at the end of the first semester, he asked me where the materials for the next semester were. I explained that the Foreign Teacher Coordinator wanted him to do it instead of me because she didn't want me interfering. His response was that I could do it, and that he would like the materials as soon as possible to review them. I will not repeat what I said to him as this is a family website.For me, one of my biggest issues is how fast learning transitions, and while I would love to write materials, I cannot imagine writing coursebooks that will still be relevant for EFL instruction (at least in places where we need coursebooks and materials); in most cases where schools provide basic teaching materials, it is usually ESL materials anyway, which aren't very helpful in an EFL environment in my opinion (this is not to say that a good teacher cannot make them relevant, but rather that a relevant text will take some pressure off a teacher and engage the students more).At the same time, generic materials are just that - generic, which means they may have to be tweaked or adjusted depending on the target student(s), so it is challenging for me to write and charge people for a text that they may get 1 or 2 terms out of, or that they will have to modify constantly for their courses.I do understand charging for materials - it is a lot of work (to do a single custom coursework for my Oral English classes takes me about 100 hours of work, and I will do four of these to cover four classes over two terms - that's 10 weeks of full-time hours) and people should be compensated for their efforts. Maybe what we need is a sort of iTunes store for materials - that is, most of the money goes to the artist/writer instead of the publisher?Anyway, these are my (rambling) thoughts. Looking forward to what other people will say.Cheers,Rob
I understand this as a teacher and an author of a textbook. The notion of "freebies" as a means of enticement is logical. This is why I use a free online podcast site to host audio recordings that correspond with the textbook. There are some tracks one could use without the textbook for free, but much of it requires it. So, people do get "freebies," but in order to get the whole experience, having the book is essential. I invite all to see for yourself what I am talking about. I Want To Learn English
Hope this gives you some ideas.
A very difficult issue to solve. I have been teaching for more than forty years and I hope I can give you a possible answer but maybe not a solution.
The first problem is the one-man band concept in language teaching. Teachers do almost everything. Institutions expect you to prepare extensive material for students, assess its suitability, be the model for speech and pronunciation, develop activities, develop exams, quizzes and addtional exercises, find additional resources, and much more.
This makes most teachers desperate for materials, especially, with due respect to book writers and developers, because many texts are incomplete or have no relation to real language. So teachers search for free material to somehow lessen the load.
With regard to getting paid, you have to look at it from the previous viewpoint but I agree that it is difficult to find a way to get paid for developing quality materials. With the development of the internet, there is online publishing, which some people prefer to publishing companies, or you can develop a website for selling your material. However, there is still one problem that pops up in low-income countries: copying materials.
I know that there are countries that don´t have strict copyright laws and people can walk into a copy store and get the whole book. That´s a difficult situation you have to consider since it means a loss of income after all your hard work.
I hope there will be other opinions about this since this is an important issue.
Walton - you raise some good questions. For those teachers/writers with an online presence and desire to sell online products and resources, there is pressure to give something away. Email marketing experts stress the importance of the "freebie" to encourage people to opt in and then get on a mailing list. With so much free content out there, perhaps the tendency is that people feel that they have to give more and more content away. I don't mind sharing a checklist or handout however I think that giving too much away suggests that our content is not valuable. I personally am giving less and less away for free these days. I look forward to other comments.
Hi - just thought I'd jump in with my two cents.
Yes, sharing materials is a topic our teachers address all the time. Really it depends on the course type and the program set-up. In our case, we have two distinctly different programs that address this differently: a 10-week academic ESL program and a wide variety of short-term programs that fall under the heading of Custom ESL Programs. The teachers in the 10-week program have access to folders in our database that hold materials for each course level created by past teachers. Teachers can pull from those materials or develop their own. We encourage teachers to put materials they have created into these folders so that others can use them for that same course in the future. Sharing materials is not required, but highly encouraged. Of course, in general teachers would prefer to teach the same course over again so that they can continue to use the materials they've already created themselves, but when that doesn't happen they are able to see what was used in the past by another teacher. On the other hand, our Custom Programs are so varied that keeping materials specific to any one short-term program would not be very useful. In these programs, teachers need to develop their own materials for each program. However, if it's a program that we will likely need to reuse the materials in the future, we do pay that teacher more for their curriculum development time and we collect the materials and keep them on file to be used in the future no matter who is teaching the next time.
In my experience, teachers find it can be difficult to use another teacher's materials unless they are very general. Using a handout sharing site like printables.com (share a handout and get credit towards another one) or keeping materials on file to share for courses that are particular to one program seem the best ways to share. I believe that as a program coordinator, schools can support their teachers by keeping materials that are valuable to their setting on file and available to their teachers.
Sharing materials is a matter of choice and professional courtesy . Some also use it as a sort of currency to build their reputation for excellence among peers. When your position demands that you create your own materials , you do so on the employer's time, and you are under contract , I think that your creations belong to your employer . If you develop products on your own time and don't use them during your paid workday, you can get the proper legal protection (copyright ) and sell on the open market .
Wow! This discussion went in so many different directions I didn't anticipate and hadn't thought about.I was thinking mainly of creating materials to put out on the Internet or publish somewhere and whether the expectation that those materials be free is fair or not. And there was a lot of great thought about that. I think like most people it's nice to have a mix of free and paid materials out there.But a lot of you raised the excellent point about materials you create at your job, and that binder in the teacher's room full of activities. I certainly wouldn't think teachers should charge money to collaborate in the staff room. And contributing to the teacher resource binder is a great way to help fellow teachers. I'll also say that sharing lessons with fellow teachers and seeing that they liked them was a big impetus for me to move to professional materials writing. I also hope that some of my past colleagues will or recommend my books, remembering what wonderful materials I shared with them.Just to play devil's advocate though, how would you feel if a fellow teacher at your school shared a bunch of excellent lessons. When you go back to ask for more, they say, "Well I have a collection of these kinds of lessons for sale for $10 on TeachersPayTeachers" Would you be offended? Would you buy it? Would you never speak to them again?Now back to reread this amazing discussion thread!
Hi Patrice - yes, iTDI is a great example of the "pay what you can" model of payment. Actually, it's about the only example I know of in the field of English language teaching. And really there should be more considering that, as you wrote, rates of pay vary so much around the world. If you want to read up on the idea of "pay what you can/want", much of what I know about it I've learned from Tom Morkes' website, tommorkes.com. If you do try it out, i'd love to know how it goes!
I wonder if those who think materials are expensive and should therefore be free would be willing to give up their own teaching salaries to pay for the materials instead. I mean... I have as much right to earn a living as they do, right? ;)
I've given my materials away free sometimes--for a limited time or to certain markets/audiences. As long as I control that, then it's my choice. When people steal my work by photocopying it or posting it online, it's no different from their taking my clothes or my food or the gas from my car. Or my car. Even if someone comes from a country that is not considered "rich," they don't have the right to steal my food. The money I get from selling books and working on paid materials is what buys my food. There is no other money... Some people create materials as a hobby. There are also volunteer teachers. I don't object to either of those. But the majority of teachers couldn't work without getting paid for their work; it's the same with materials writers.Those who struggle to afford materials for their classes can1) Create their own materials (i.e., pay in time and effort--since it certainly costs us time and effort to make materials)2) Look for cheaper alternatives. Since indie authors earn more per copy sold (by a significant amount) on self-published materials, they can afford to charge less. I earn more money on a .99 self-published ebook than I do on some of my books from major publishers that retail for $30-$50. And the number of indie authors and small presses is growing.
3) Work to change the system. Don't expect publishers to give away workbooks, CDs, testing programs, videos, student websites, teacher websites, teacher training, conference parties, webinars, and so on, and still be able to keep student book prices low. A decade or two ago, publishers could afford to give away a few ancillaries because they didn't cost as much to create and there weren't as many of them. That somehow gave rise to the system of only the student book and perhaps the CDs and workbooks being sold, and a ton of stuff given free to teachers and students--though the publishers still have to pay (often a lot) to create those resources. I think we need a system where if you want something, you pay for it. If you can't afford it, then you don't buy it. That will ultimately bring prices back down. But... it will take some time.Dorothy