Issues About Making and Selling Educational Products on TeachersPayTeachers


In this posting I will discuss my personal reasons for selling and sharing on TeachersPayTeachers.com, some opinions that people have about teachers selling resources online, reasons why educators sell there, and aspects of TeachersPayTeachers that are often overlooked by the differing viewpoints. I will also share some comments about how to expand the usability of works that are uploaded online that may be agreeable for both viewpoints.

This Post in a Nutshell:

TeachersPayTeachers and Me
Viewpoints About TeachersPayTeachers
     Those Who Frown on TPT
     Those Who Support Earning Income Through TPT
My Opinion on These ViewPoints
     The Obligation to Share
     Qualities of TeachersPayTeachers.com
Share More and Earn-- Do Both


TeachersPayTeachers and Me

I have been a seller on TeachersPayTeachers.com for a little over a year. I admit, I was curious about TeachersPayTeachers when I read an online article about how Deanna Jump made over a million dollars by selling her teaching resources online. At that time, I was an English teacher in Japan on the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program. It might be hard for some to believe, but my salary was actually significantly less than the salary I had when I was teaching back in the states. (The experience I had was definitely worth the trade. =D)

I looked through Deanna and others' online stores, and I thought I could earn some extra income doing the same thing, too. I used to teach elementary and I had a plethora of ideas. However, it wasn't that easy to put my ideas online. Most of the things that I had were not worth selling and didn't look as neatly organized or as attractive as many of the top sellers' items on TPT. I did not have the resources or the time to create attractive sellable resources or free things that I would be proud upload, so I put my ambitions of having an online store on hold.

Half a year later I returned to the United States. I decided that I was not going to get a "real" job so that I could get adjusted to life back home and get ready to go back to school full-time. During that time I had no income, but I wanted to make money doing something I knew well. I remembered a few months back that I wanted to open up a store on TPT, so I made plans to build my store.

In the past year, I took courses full-time, worked part-time, and kept adding original products to my store. I borrowed some lesson and activity ideas from my past experiences as an elementary teacher, but everything I shared or sold was made from scratch. Eventually, my store grew and I earned enough each month to cover my necessities. I have been very fortunate to have TPT as an outlet for my ideas and creativity, and I am also appreciative of all the positive feedback and earnings that I have made through it.

Viewpoints About TeachersPayTeachers

Early on and even now, I "google" TeachersPayTeachers sometimes to see any new articles about it or to read about people's opinions-- which are the most interesting search results. I notice that there are usually two types of writers with opinions about TPT: 
  1. Those who frown on TPT mainly for philosophical reasons.
  2. Those who support the idea that educators can earn extra income outside of their teaching jobs.
There are also those who discuss concerns about legal issues such as Copyright and Fair Use on TPT, though there are very few who get into details about it. (In the future I plan on writing about this topic, so stay tuned!)

In this part of the post, I will summarize and generalize these viewpoints.

1. Those Who Frown on TPT

I noticed that many who frown on the concept of teachers selling teaching resources online do so for philosophical reasons. These reasons are usually connected to the ideals that an education should be open and free. Some people argue that selling teaching resources somewhat takes away from another educator and that it should be made available and free. Some will also add that teachers who teach for the public sector are obligated to keep their teaching resources free.

2. Those Who Support Earning Income Through TPT

Many who support TPT's concept like the possibility of earning extra income and being a part of an online community. Some argue that teachers should be able to earn extra income outside of their regular teaching jobs similar to any other jobs that do not require an exclusive commitment. Examples that have been used are that some teachers do acceptable things such as teach extra classes or do tutoring on the side.

My Opinion on These Viewpoints

Some people who are reading this might assume that my viewpoint aligns with #2 above. I think that I have a mixture of both #1 and #2. I will add some other thoughts that I think balances both viewpoints.

The Obligation to Share

I also think that teachers are obligated to share some teaching resources. Where and how they share it is a different story. If a teacher works in a district or private school, it seems appropriate that what they produce for their work may belong to that entity depending on the conditions set by it. Most teachers openly share their ideas and resources with other teachers naturally, usually with those who are close to them in their grade level or subject area. 

There are a few teachers who actually step into the digital educational world and share their resources online. I applaud those teachers who are involved in any online teacher networks. Sharing and exchanging ideas online is a 21st century educator skill, and for many, TeachersPayTeachers is their stepping stone from their private classroom to the digital world.

If a teacher wants to openly share their resources online with more people, there are many platforms to choose from. Curriki (http://www.curriki.org/) and Wikieducator (http://wikieducator.org/Main_Page) are just two of the vast number of teacher professional learning networks out there. These two, in particular, stress open sharing. One could also openly share on TPT, too. Openly sharing or not openly sharing seems to me to be a personal preference, not a TPT issue. 

Qualities of TeachersPayTeachers.com

 Book Report / Project Packet

People who criticize TeachersPayTeachers neglect the fact that there are a lot of free downloads on the network and TPT requires all sellers to provide at least one free digital resource. My first TPT product was my free Book Report / Project Packet which remains my most downloaded and most frequently rated item. One of the reasons why I continue to upload items is because of all the positive feedback I have received. TPT also has a friendly and visual navigation design, feedback system, and easy-to-use search engine compared to other online teacher portals.

I mentioned earlier that the resources available for download on TPT, especially those that sell, are of a certain quality. Someone put a lot of work into designing and packaging them for upload, and that they probably would not do so for a regular lesson. The products that I sell usually take days for me to create, something I would not have been able to do for my regular teaching lessons. I provide many resources with an open and free Creative Commons license on TPT, and the rest, I feel that I should not be ashamed to earn extra income from my extra work.

Moving Beyond the Selling-Only Mentality

When I first started selling on TeachersPayTeachers I had a selling mentality. After all, I had no income at the time, so it was a place for me to see if I could earn some money. It's still a place for me to earn money, but I also do a lot of other things on TPT. Every once in a while I create something fabulous to give away. I visit the forums to add my two cents, I enjoy interacting and receiving feedback, and I follow some teachers and online entities about trends. Putting my work up on TPT and taking some courses had helped me to take steps to put my instructional materials out in the open and on this educational blog. 

Five paragraphs ago, I mentioned that TPT is a stepping stone for many into the digital world. There are many ways to join teacher networks online, and if your path was through TPT, then I hope you have been able to expand your learning network. There are quite a few threads in the TPT Seller's Forum about teaching, collaboration, and just sharing ideas. Stop by the Curriculum section if you haven't yet: http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/forum/viewforum.php?id=1

Teaching, learning, and collaborating online is a 21st century teacher skill. Whatever platform an educator uses, let's hope that it helps them and others.

Share More and Earn-- Do Both

The important thing is that teachers are participating online. Sharing online means that more people can access the resource. However, there are some things that teacher-sellers do that restrict others from having more freedoms with the downloaded work. I'm not going to get into certain things that are personal preferences, but I do want to talk about something that many are doing unknowingly.

To teacherpreneurs out there, do you understand the copyrights © that you place on your work?

It isn't just a reminder to the user that the work is your creation. Once you create something original, whether you use a copyright symbol or not, it places serious limitations on how others can re-use your work, even for educational purposes. It requires the user to get permission from you if they want to share it with other teachers or share more than a limited portion of your work. Here is an excerpt about the Fair Use of Printed Material from http://www.techlearning.com that is provided on PBS SOCal's link called Copyright Guidelines for Teachershttp://www.pbssocal.org/education/teachers/copyright/ 



It's great when a teacher puts work online for whatever reason, but I think teacher-sellers should consider using open licenses to expand the use of their work. The TPT Copyright FAQ page even encourages it: http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Copyright-FAQ

One of the ways that I retain my copyright but make my work open for others to re-use and share 100% of it is by applying Creative Commons licenses on my products.

That's right. I can still require others to give me credit, I can set conditions for how my work can be used, and I can let others use it quite liberally. Learn more about Creative Commons licenses here: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/ or learn through videos here: http://creativecommons.org/videos

I make a license using an easy license builder here: http://creativecommons.org/choose/ and just copy and past the HTML link into my product page.

Learn more by watching the first few minutes of my video here:


Currently, I am in the process of adding Creative Commons licenses to all of my resources on TPT.

If you want to see how I have applied Creative Commons license on my free or selling products, drop by my store to look at my product pages or download my free items: http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/The-Lost-Teacher

I also have a tutorial on how to add CC licenses on to TPT products, so check it out: http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/GUIDE-to-opening-your-TPT-store-uploading-your-first-FREE-product-1521934

You can put a CC license on just about anything.

In the future I will be posting more about Fair Use, Copyright, Creative Commons, and include these topics in the context of TeachersPayTeachers. I think TPT could really use more resources on these topics. Subscribe by email, RSS, and follow for updates! =)

Conclusion


There are many reasons why teachers sell on TPT and some differing viewpoints about it. Whatever the viewpoint is, the important thing is that teachers are encouraged to be online citizens. If we take extra steps and be mindful of Copyright by being explicit about how our work can be used, we can make it easier for others to re-use and expand our work.