Teacher sharing certainly isn’t a new idea, but the ways they share, the types of resources they can find and the impact their lessons can have (even beyond their own classrooms) certainly has. In fact, the concept of teacher sharing has expanded into an emerging industry all it’s own. Much like the music and entertainment industries, sharing amongst teachers looks completely different than it did 20 years ago.
A veritable plethora of websites now offer everything from professional development tools for teachers to full-on grab-and-go lesson plans for their students. It’s enough to make any K-12 teacher feel like a kid in a candy store. And why wouldn’t it? The benefits are tremendous.
First and foremost, sharing saves time—something just about every teacher agrees they don’t have enough of in the first place. Teachers can spend less time re-inventing the wheel every school year and more time focusing on connecting with students and attending to their individual needs.
Teacher sharing also offers educators more engaging and dynamic content for their students. Teachers can discover and evaluate dozens of different methods for teaching the same topic. These differentiated instruction techniques help all students better acquire and retain the knowledge they need, increasing teacher effectiveness.
By providing content and materials at little or no cost, these sites also save money. This is an especially exciting benefit for many teachers who purchase classroom materials using funds from their own (already slim) salaries. Not only can these sites save money, some are also making money for educators. “Teacherprenuers” are using their own teaching talents and successes to make bank. Selling their materials for just $1 has turned a few committed teachers into bona fide millionaires (according to a New York Times article)—which just goes to show how much teachers value effective and engaging materials, enough that they are willing to pay to get them.
Here are some of the most popular teacher-sharing networks in the digital realm today:
This middle school teacher-founded online educator community is the Google of teacher sharing. Teachers Pay Teachers has over 2 million available resources and nearly twice as many active members. You can find everything from lesson plans and units to activities, games, Common Core resources, classroom decor and more. They even have free downloads and weekly sales on featured paid content.
Curriki has been named a finalist for the Best Source for Reference or Education in the 2016 SIIA Education CODiE. They provide easy-to-navigate content for classrooms and professional development. As a member you can download and even recommend suggestions for units or courses. Plus, their library touts thousands of resources that are already aligned to current educational standards.
More so than many other sites, BetterLesson provides personalized professional development (PD) through coaching. Their work revolves around a continuous learning process designed to make PD individualized, relevant, engaging and—some might say most importantly—ready for immediate use. Classroom content can be browsed by grade, subject or Common Core alignment and each unit includes a list of standards that it meets. Units are further broken down by steps involved as well as suggestions for how much class time each of the steps should take.
Funded by the American Federation for Teachers (AFT), Share My Lesson provides completely free lesson sharing for educators across the U.S. Lessons are not only searchable by grade and subject, but also provide a rating and list the number of times each lesson has been viewed and downloaded. Their professional development library includes 60+ hour-long webinars on a slew of topics. And, considering that Share My Lesson is fueled by the AFT, a high level of attention is paid to standard alignment (by state).
While their site isn’t as fancy or visually exciting as some of the other more well-known teacher sharing destinations, Teacher’s Notebook allows teachers to set up their own virtual shops were they can sell their content to other educators. Resources can be browsed by type, shop, grade level, subject area or price—and content ranges anywhere from free to $10 and up.
Edmodo allows teachers, students and parents to connect in a virtual “classroom.” There are plenty of groups, forums and discussions in which teachers can share tools and experiences with one another. In addition to a virtual classroom, having your very own library makes it easy to organize, sort and share assignments. Edmodo’s simple, clean design and the ability to rate and review shared content makes it very user friendly.
The Khan Academy offers personalized continuous learning through free “world-class” resources. Teachers, strategists, designers, developers and experts in their respective fields devise and implement this not-for-profit’s self-paced learning tools. They provide learning dashboards for all students (and teachers who are also students) to track progress and see areas where they might be struggling so adjustments can be made. Not a teacher-sharing site in the traditional sense, but a great resource for educator/expert-created content that can complement in-class instruction.
Even though their tagline is a bit of a tongue twister (Thinking Teachers Teaching Thinkers®), Teachers First aims to keep their resources easy to find and simple to use. In addition to lessons and professional development tools, they also provide a list of featured websites to use in the classroom for teaching topics like financial literacy and business, along with the grade they’re the most relevant for. Content is created by teachers.
While it wasn’t specifically built with the purpose of providing in-class or PD content for teachers, it certainly provides a great forum for collecting and sharing content from sources all over the internet. You can search for resources using keywords and once you find “pins” you like, you can pin them to your own board for future reference. Plus, you can find teachers to follow who are pinning great content (as a super time-saving way to find curated content). In fact, you can start with our Pinterest page.
Teacher-sharing networks are just one tool educators can use to complement their efforts. They’re certainly not going to tackle all of the numerous hurdles today’s educators face, but they can alleviate some of the pressure.
They can save time, money, frustration and (in some cases) even provide personal support. They can help teachers reach more of their students, find inspiration and grow professionally. And, they can serve as a powerful reminder of one of the very first lessons we all learned—the importance of sharing*.
*In the spirit of sharing and becoming even better, we’d love to know what works for you. So if you have any other go-to teacher resources we should know about, or would like to suggest ideas for specific professional development article topics, shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.