Instead of textbooks, why not pay teachers for content?

By Brandon Wilmarth

As an English teacher in Oklahoma’s Moore Public Schools, I was recruited by some textbook providers to help them create content. It was a lot of fun, and I was happy to make some extra money doing it. But there are so many teachers in our district who are much more talented than I am. If I was developing curriculum materials that school systems across the nation were purchasing, they certainly could be doing this, too.

So when I became a technology integration specialist for the district, one of my long-term goals was to leverage the expertise of our teachers in creating high-quality digital content.

Teachers are already scouring the web for videos, articles, and other free instructional resources, then pulling these together into coherent lessons and adding their own valuable context to help students understand the material or promote deeper lines of inquiry.

My thought was, why don’t we take some of the money we’re hemorrhaging on expensive, print-based textbooks that aren’t interactive and don’t effectively capture students’ imagination—and use it to pay our teachers more money for their efforts instead?

Our vision is to create a central repository of exemplary digital content that is developed and curated by teachers, for teachers in our district. All teachers would have access to these shared instructional materials. Not all teachers would be required to contribute, but those who do could receive a stipend for their work if it’s approved as a district-vetted lesson or unit.

This would allow us to use our most powerful assets—our teachers—to their fullest potential, while also recognizing and giving value to teachers for the lesson planning and content creation they already do so well.

That’s important, because in Oklahoma, our teachers are among the lowest paid in the nation—and many leave the profession after only a few years. Honoring their talents and contributions could help stop this mass exodus of young teachers as well as veteran content experts and keep them in our schools.

To realize this vision, we needed to have a technology platform that would support teachers in creating and sharing digital lessons. We found this platform in Ogment, which helped us create curriculum by making it easier to grab digital content, including what we found on the web, and turn that into useable lessons for our classrooms.

Part of the problem is not the lack of resources, but rather the overabundance of resources. Every teacher knows how much great content exists online—but managing it all can be a nightmare. Ogment has let our teachers clip videos, articles, games, and other internet resources and put them into lessons or presentations with a simple drag-and-drop process. Then, they can embed questions within a lesson to check for students’ understanding or prompt further discussion—and they can easily share their lessons with other teachers.

Our teachers have used the service to “flip” their classrooms and even personalize instruction. For instance, Tiffany Truesdell, a math teacher at Westmoore High School, says she has used Ogment to make customized lessons for her students.

“I can assign a lesson that presents all the material, and as students go through the lesson, I can have questions that check for their understanding just as if I were presenting the material in class. I can pull videos from any website to enhance the lesson, and if I only want a small section of the video, Ogment lets me assign just that portion of the video in my lesson,” she says.

“Ogment also allows me to differentiate a lesson. For example, if I have a student on an IEP who needs multiple choice, but I want the other students to have a free response question, I can create the lesson once but with differentiated questions. When the questions come up, it will give the IEP student the multiple choice question instead.”

Mrs. Truesdell’s example shows that with the right technology, our district can build a shared repository of lessons that is truly usable. More importantly, a system like this allows our teachers to apply their talents and reignite their passion for creating great content.

We are working toward a model in which we pay teachers extra for the content they create and share through this tool. We’re not there yet; we’re still trying to free up the funding to be able to do this.

But when we come up with the funding to realize our vision, we’ll be able to pay our teachers extra for creating and sharing top-notch lessons—rewarding teachers for their work and restoring professionalism to the field.

Brandon Wilmarth is a technology integration specialist for Moore Public Schools in Oklahoma.

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