Can teachers sell their lesson plans online or do schools own the material?

Do teachers own the lesson plans they develop or do school systems own them?

Do teachers own the lesson plans they develop or do school systems own them?

There is a growing market for class lesson plans, and teachers are earning extra cash by selling their plans online on such sites as Teachers Pay Teachers and We are Teachers.

The New York Times reports on this thriving new marketplace and the debate over rightful ownership of lessons plans:

Now, thousands of teachers are cashing in on a commodity they used to give away, selling lesson plans online for exercises as simple as M&M sorting and as sophisticated as Shakespeare.

While some of this extra money is going to buy books and classroom supplies in a time of tight budgets, the new teacher-entrepreneurs are also spending it on dinners out, mortgage payments, credit card bills, vacation travel and even home renovation, leading some school officials to raise questions over who owns material developed for public school classrooms.

“To the extent that school district resources are used, then I think it’s fair to ask whether the district should share in the proceeds,” said Robert N. Lowry, deputy director of the New York State Council of School Superintendents.

Beyond the unresolved legal questions, there are philosophical ones. Joseph McDonald, a professor at the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development at New York University, said the online selling cheapens what teachers do and undermines efforts to build sites where educators freely exchange ideas and lesson plans.

“Teachers swapping ideas with one another, that’s a great thing,” he said. “But somebody asking 75 cents for a word puzzle reduces the power of the learning community and is ultimately destructive to the profession.”

Teachers like Erica Bohrer, though, see the new demand for lessons as long-awaited recognition of their worth.

“Teaching can be a thankless job,” said Ms. Bohrer, 30, who has used the $650 she earned in the past year to add books to a reading nook in her first-grade classroom at Daniel Street Elementary School on Long Island and to help with mortgage payments. “I put my hard-earned time and effort into creating these things, and I just would like credit.”

What’s interesting are the responses to the Times story. A first-year teacher wrote:

Lesson planning was my downfall two years ago when I was a first-year English teacher.  I bemoaned that the lesson plans of the many English teachers who had preceded me and worked with the same curriculum were unavailable to me.

I previously worked for a medical education company where all concepts and strategies belonged to the funding sources that paid the employees’ salaries. Because we weren’t expected to waste time reinventing the wheel, we were given access to the best ideas and practices. Yet as a public school teacher, I was told by the head of my department that teachers own their plans.

But another teacher responded:

Try as I might, I cannot recall taking a vow of poverty when I became a teacher. Nor can I remember ever being compensated for the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of hours I’ve put in on weekends, evenings and vacations.

Teachers continually develop and tweak lessons, often on their own time and without the use of district resources, to reach an increasingly diverse and sophisticated population of learners. The fact that we are willing to pay for lessons superior to the curriculums bought by our school districts doesn’t cheapen what we do; it raises it to a new level of commitment.

This is a very interesting question, but I lean toward the argument that lesson plans were developed as part of the job so they belong to the school. In the same token, if teachers are buying lesson plans, why should it come out of their pockets? Shouldn’t the schools pay?

What do you think?

83 comments Add your comment

Perturbed

November 24th, 2009
5:15 am

Isn’t it just self-created merit pay, a way for good teachers to stay teaching without cost to the districts? I can’t believe there are people against this, they feel that teachers have to take the vow of poverty.

Straight shooter

November 24th, 2009
6:34 am

Lesson plans should be filed and kept by the school for use by other teachers. A car designer for Ford can’t sell the design she created to Chrysler even if she thought about it and worked on it after hours at times. She gets paid to design cars. Teachers are paid to develop those lesson plans. Either case, the product belongs to the employers.

Straight shooter

November 24th, 2009
6:36 am

No, the lesson plans belong to the school. The school pays the teacher to develop and teach lesson plans.

Von

November 24th, 2009
6:49 am

Teachers own their plans.

Married to a teacher

November 24th, 2009
6:50 am

My wife spends countless hours outside of the classroom working on being the best teacher she can be.She teaches 8th grade math and it’s a non-stop process.She is always working to improve on her lesson plans.You can’t stand still with these plans.They constantly need “tweaking”,sometimes to make them more challenging and unfortunately,sometimes having to “dumb them down”.I’d be elated if she could profit from them.She spends 15-20 hours a week working outside the classroom.Why shouldn’t she be rewarded if the opportunity is there?

Schools dont own my work

November 24th, 2009
7:30 am

Schools do not own the things that I developed on my own time outside of school. DeKalb does have some activities for my subject and yes I use them, but I use my material 99.99% of the time. I own my lesson plans and I share with my colleagues, but there are 2 things here: One, the school system has no copyright located on that lesson plan so it is public domain. Second, It is my work that I create for my classroom wherever that may be. If schools “own” lesson plans, then lock me up from stealing from Bryan, Chatham, Effingham, Gwinnett, Clayton, and may other school systems outside of Georgia. Those Lesson plans were ones that when I worked for that system or student taught, I developed that for a class. I took my time to do the planning. I implemented it. I can take that when I leave. I do not have to give it out if I want to.

As a first year teacher, go try asking a 20+ veteran teacher for Lesson Plans. They will be reluctant to give you everything because they had to struggle just as much as you do in your first year. They might give you some ideas and pointers, but they arent just going to hand over files from 20 years and not expect something in return. I wouldnt.

Its our work, let us get paid for it if need be. I cannot stand when teachers are held to this super high accountability level that we have to work for peanuts, and if we do something like post pics on facebook with a wine glass in our hand, we are out the door. Why arent Doctors/Judges/Police/ and god forbid politicians held to the same standards as teachers? The world would almost be a better place if they were.

E

November 24th, 2009
7:41 am

It likely depends on their contract. Most businesses have you explicitly sign away rights to the materials you develop, even on your own time. Do the teachers? If not, they’re probably fine.
If they do, there is little excuse for the schools to not provide past plans to the current teachers and exchange or pay for them when it may be necessary. Either solution benefits the teacher (extra $$ or extra time/assistance), so long as it is consistent.

Judy

November 24th, 2009
7:43 am

If a teacher creates a plan outside of the school, without use of district resources, then it has to belong to the teacher. The examples given above did not take into acount the employee being compensated in ways teachers are not for their ideas. Teachers can always choose to sell their best ideas and totally rely on what the district gives them for the student.
Now that would really be a crime.

Judy

November 24th, 2009
7:44 am

Also this gives the teacher site some free publicity. I had heard of it, but I am sure many have not.

joe

November 24th, 2009
7:45 am

The law is pretty clear. If a teacher creates the lesson plan on a school computer/property during their paid day of employment… the the lesson plan belongs to the school.

However, if it is created outside of school hours on their own computer/private property… the lesson plan belongs to the instructor.

Judy

November 24th, 2009
7:45 am

Good point E.

MyOpinion

November 24th, 2009
7:53 am

If a teacher signs a confidentiality clause that states that all thoughts, designs, ideas, etc created while under contract with this school belongs to this school, then the lesson plans belong to the school. If not, the lesson plan belongs to the teacher. If a teacher can travel from school to school, from district to district with the lesson plan they created, then the lesson plan is property of the teacher.

It’s funny how people are constantly comparing teaching to big companies. Ford and other companies may have maintained the rights to a design once completed, however they have also rewarded the employee that created the design. If a company decided to make that same employee take furlough days after signing a contract for a specific amount of days, that employee could sue the company for breach of contract. Good teachers are not rewarded enough for the good they do and are the first to be blamed for the problems of society.

ScienceTeacher671

November 24th, 2009
7:56 am

The teachers I’ve worked with have always freely shared plans with coworkers. I’ve never even thought of selling or buying lesson plans.

That said, when I worked for a research facility, I had to sign an agreement that anything I developed while working for that company belonged to that company. I’ve never heard of a school requiring such an agreement, so I think legally any “intellectual property” would belong to the intellect that developed it (but I’m not a lawyer so who knows?)

V for Vendetta

November 24th, 2009
8:18 am

Now THIS is an interesting topic! I would agree with what many people have already said: Creating lesson plans is part of the job; however, we are not compensated for the countless hours it takes to develop plans from scratch, and much of that work takes place outside of the school. The comparisons to big business are apt, but only with the aforementioned catch. Why are we not compensated for our time?

Look, before someone chimes in saying that they work well beyond the “normal” (yeah right) 9-5 hours, let me add something. I used to work in the business world, and I did not work eight hours a day–far longer. However, I was paid more then (right out of college) than I am now, and I also had the opportunity to make FAR more money depending on performance. A teacher has no such opportunity.

As far as the legal implications go, I’m fairly certain that the school system I work for has not exerted ownership over anything created by a teacher. Therefore, as I understand it, I am well within my rights to sell material I created during my own time.

If I ever write a book about my time as a teacher, does the school own that, too?

If I ever become a public speaker, using my time in the classroom as part of a larger presentation, does the school have a right to that, too?

I don’t think so. We need to hear from some lawyers on this one!

Maureen Downey

November 24th, 2009
8:38 am

V, I am not a lawyer so I can’t address the intellectual properties nuances of this issue. However, I can tell you that journalists would also maintain that they are not compensated for all the hours they work on stories. Many reporters work on stories after hours and on weekends, but there is never a question about ownership of the finished product.

One additional note to those who say innovators are rewarded in other fields. I once profiled the chemist who created a top selling men’s hair product – he and his wife had bought a rundown house for a dollar in Delaware in a then unique neighborhood rehab program and that was why I was writing about them. I didn’t even know his real claim to fame until I met him.
Although the product became one of the best selling products of all time for his company, he said he was just another staff chemist in the product development department, no great salary increase, no fame or fortune, just back to work on the next new product line. He certainly wasn’t a millionaire when I met him as a retiree.
Maureen

Jenny

November 24th, 2009
8:39 am

When I sit down,develop a really great lesson plan on my own time with my own computer and research all of the information NO ONE OWNS it but me! It is absolutely ridiculous that this question exists!

Allen

November 24th, 2009
9:05 am

Maureen–
Completely off topic: a suggestion for a new blog thread: DCSS–which as we all recall is perpetually complaining about not having enough $–just opened an exercise facility for staff at their HQ. Read more on the Dekalb County School Watch blog

DeKalb Conservative

November 24th, 2009
9:07 am

I guess the initial question is if this is covered in any type of contract.

On the surface I think teachers selling lessons plans is an excellent idea, especially in the atmosphere whichs has everyone whining about standardized testing. If a teacher has created a good process that other teachers want to use then absolutely they should be able to sell their work AND ::gulp:: profit.

If people were so worried about this then they should have demanded more from school districts and book publishers to provide better lesson material.

DeKalb Conservative

November 24th, 2009
9:08 am

This is the free market speaking… we don’t make teachers write their own text books, isn’t it logical to think the children will ultimately benefit from the sale and purchase of superior lesson plans?

sped teacher bibb

November 24th, 2009
9:19 am

It’s a shame that only DeKalb gets it. Do students benefit? That should be the concern. Everyone else here thought around the problem,or should I say the solution. Let’s see,we should deny our children a better education over a property rights struggle. Poppie-Cock!

Reality 2

November 24th, 2009
9:26 am

Two issues here.

What exactly are teachers’ “work hours”? Unlike other professionals, teachers’ “work” isn’t completed while they are at their work sites – some by choice. So, how do we define what teachers did “on their own time,” if what they did was to help what they are contracted to do, i.e., to teach students?

Issue #2
I have trouble with the assumption about this whole practice of “selling” lesson plans. Lesson plans don’t teach students. I’ve seen plenty of lesson plans that are sold as well as freely made available on the Internet that are not much beyond junk. I suppose if anyone wants to buy junk, it’s his/her choice, but somewhere underneath this whole endeavor is the notion that if we have a perfect lesson plan, then kids will learn – and we can just replace teachers. I think teaching is much more complicated than that.

V for Vendetta

November 24th, 2009
9:45 am

Maureen,

Good point. In that case, I would say that a teacher should not be allowed to sell his or her lesson plans. (On a separate note, I’d be willing to bet you make just a tiny bit more than the average teacher. Just saying . . .)

:-)

Maureen Downey

November 24th, 2009
10:00 am

V, You would be surprised. You can see for yourself ( http://www.payscale.com/research/US/Job=Journalist/Salary).
Arthur Levine, former president of Teacher’s College, used to tell me that journalism and teaching are both poorly paid fields, but that journalism had more appeal.
Not sure if that is still the case in these odd times, but I do have unlimited access to pencils and bad coffee. (Unfortunately, I drink tea.)
Maureen

Lee

November 24th, 2009
10:11 am

The bottom line…

… is that this activity is not generating much revenue right now. If it ever becomes significant dollars, look for school systems to move in and claim proprietary rights to the intellectual information.

To the poster who stated that veteran teachers are reluctant to share lesson plans with the new teachers, I say transfer out of that school at the first opportunity.

A better question might be this, “Are detailed lesson plans worth the time and effort expended to develop them?” Unless you are a first year teacher or happen to teach a topic that is new to you, I’m guessing probably not. Then again, it may depend on the individual teaching style.

luvs2teach

November 24th, 2009
10:27 am

My contract says nothing about confidentiality or intellectual rights – I would be extremely surprised if anyone’s did. It does however state that we are paid for a 7 1/2 day with the other 2 1/2 hours per week to consist of “other required duties” – after that I’m off the clock and off-contract. While I have never bought lesson plans from one of these sites, I have bought books (usually with my own money – rarely with with school money) from stores such as The School Box, and I wonder: how is this any different? How is this any different than if I were to put together my plans and get it published?

We all tweak what we get (school supplied materials) and supplement with our own (found, purchased, or created from scratch) – you have to! No single “canned” lesson plan is going to work with every groups of kid, with every teacher’s teaching style. I share my stuff freely at school and through conferences and the web, and I take advantage of others’ willingness to do the same.

No offense, Maureen, but I take serious issue with your stand on this on this. I think because of how journalism works, you’re seeing parallels that really aren’t there. Developing a lesson plan for your classroom isn’t the same as writing an assigned story for a paper. You’re being paid for the product – we’re being paid for delivery – the product is up to us, developed by us, and in my opinion, ours to do with what we will as it is owned by us. I brought a lot of ideas with me to my teaching job that I incorporate into my lesson plans – the school has absolutely nothing to do with those, and I should be able to profit from them if I so choose, whether I incorporate them in lesson plans or not.

30 year teacher

November 24th, 2009
10:51 am

Just a comment: Several years ago I gave detailed lesson plans which I had used successfully many times (and had been evaluated while using them) to a new struggling teacher. My then principal made a point of complimenting the new teacher and telling the rest of us old folk in a dept. meeting that we would do well to copy her initiative in presenting the material. She never spoke up to say where she got her lessons and I have never shared plans since! Good plans take an extraordinary amount of work and research and mine were always written at home outside of classroom time. If I had wanted to sell them I would have felt entitled to do so.

Old School

November 24th, 2009
10:55 am

Look at the money good ol’ Max Thompson is making (not to mention Tom Daly) with his teaching methods and materials.

curious in Georgia

November 24th, 2009
11:06 am

I wonder exactly what teachers are paid…

I wonder if teachers would buy lesson plans…

I wonder who owns art work students produce…

I wonder who owns texts/exams teachers write…

RJ

November 24th, 2009
11:19 am

Maureen,

I don’t think the pay matters. Contracts don’t state that lesson plans belong to the school system. As someone stated, you’re being paid for that article you’re writing, we’re being paid for delivery. Many of my ideas for lesson plans come from research I’ve done or teaching experiences. Like many teachers, I spend a great deal of my own money (unlike any other career I’m aware of) to teach my classes. There is no reimbursement of these funds, and only a couple of hundred dollars can be written off on your taxes. Maybe that should be a topic. Why are teachers EXPECTED to spend their own money to ensure the education of someone else’s child.

Singing to the Choir

November 24th, 2009
11:31 am

If the contract the teachers’ sign state anything about intellectual property then that would clarify the rules. I do know that teachers must declare any earnings from outside sources such as speaking engagements, books etc. THere is some wording to the effect of making sure you aren’t double dipping, i.e. selling something created using the district’s resources.

I don’t see anything different from a teacher and others in the business world. I too negotiated a contract, what my payment (salary) would be, bonus structure (if you aren’t getting that then go back to your negotiations) insurance options. Having said that, I actuall “sold” an idea to a major manufactor. The idea was a huge project that save millions of dollars and improved customer satisfaction. I thought of this at home, put plans together and presentation at home using my own resources. I was not compensated additionally for the idea. I did work on the implementation of the idea at the company. I don’t see where teaching is any different.

V for Vendetta

November 24th, 2009
11:39 am

LOL! Yikes, Maureen!

And I thought all of you journalists lived like the guy who wrote Marley & Me. :-)

I do agree about the appeal factor–perhaps more respect, too.

Echo

November 24th, 2009
11:41 am

I stopped sharing my stuff when I saw my notes posted on the webpage of the Georgia State Teacher of the Year…with no credit given to me. I would have freely allowed anyone to use my stuff as long as proper credit was given. I plan on selling my stuff, it is MINE. I put a lot of hours into my work, why shouldn’t I expect compensation?

Maureen Downey

November 24th, 2009
11:44 am

V, If I had written “Marley & Me,” this blog would be coming from Bermuda.
Maureen

Ex-teacher

November 24th, 2009
11:49 am

The example of the chemist who developed a phenomenal product but was never paid extra for his time is a faulty analogy. The guy’s retired, right? In today’s market (er, pre-recession), if he was truly responsible for the gist of the breakthrough, he’d have been rewarded by his company in some way – or if his company was asleep on its feet and failed to do so, he’d have been snapped up by another. Forty years ago people worked in the same place nearly their whole lives, and loyalty between company and worker existed in a way that is nearly unheard of in today’s mobile labor market. Today’s teachers also change schools for a better working environment or convenience, if not for any salary increase. To suggest that they shouldn’t take their own lesson plans with them is ludicrous.

As another commenter noted, if any significant amount of money comes into play, this will end up being decided by the courts. But I will say this – if I were that teacher, and the school to which I had devoted so many hours and emotional energy dared to question my right to my own intellectual output, they would lose an excellent teacher that very day. The language appropriate to a public forum can’t express the rage I would feel.

Additionally, I feel the best analogy to this situation has been overlooked. College professors may or may not get paid for articles they write in peer-reviewed literature, I don’t know. But I’m certain that if they write books or anything else receiving outside compensation, they profit from that. A wise school would adopt the same attitude toward any teacher good enough to profit from their lesson plans. This in no way would stop teachers with an open-source inclination from following that route. That argument boils down to “If we keep them from getting paid, they’ll give it away for free.” Really?

Overall, I have to say that the public failure to consider teachers professionals – displayed by the fact that this is even a matter for discussion – is exactly what drove me out of teaching in the first place. I loved teaching for the brief time I did it, and my students loved me. But this whole mindset that teachers ought to be society’s savior, and sell their souls to do it? That’s bllsht.

irisheyes

November 24th, 2009
12:48 pm

I guess I don’t see it as any different as the teachers who have written books about what they’ve used in the classroom. If they develop something on their own time, they are the owners of it. If it was intellectual property of the school, then they wouldn’t be able to take the plans and lessons with them when they changed school districts, would they?

RJ

November 24th, 2009
12:59 pm

@Singing to the choir, teaching contracts and salaries and non-negotiable. You’re paid based on your years of experience and level of education. Contracts cannot be revised, they are the same for everyone within that school system. It is quite different from the corporate world.

RJ

November 24th, 2009
1:00 pm

Also, you’re only paid for your years of experience in public education, not private.

luvs2teach

November 24th, 2009
1:08 pm

After reading the original NYT’s article and all 237 (!) comments, as well as checking out the two referenced sites, it’s clear to me that a lot of people don’t understand much about what the sites are offering, the difference between “lesson plans” and other “teacher-created materials,” and what a teacher’s contracted day is like (or for what work exactly the teacher is contracted).

First, a large part of what’s offered on those sites are not “plans” per se. They are support materials that teachers have created for a classroom activity; the activity sometimes developed fresh from the teacher’s own mind, sometimes modified from common activities (making ice cream to show of change in state for example). There are worksheets, tests & quizzes, games, and powerpoints – none of which look like the type of lesson plans I have to turn in, but do look like supplemental materials I might use from my textbook, buy from The School Box, search for online, or develop myself.

Second, collaborating on lesson plans is a far cry from a student plagiarizing a paper. Most resources shared on the web, whether freely or for profit, ask that proper credit be given and usually have a name or website printed at the bottom. Resource books tell you that copies can be made for classroom use. Nothing from a textbook, resource book, or online can be used as is in anyone’s classroom – it all has to be tweaked, and any teacher who tells you otherwise is one of those slackers giving the rest of us a bad name. I have never used lesson plans from year to year without tweaking it – I’ve never used a test either – I don’t teach the same way each year, and I don’t have the same kids. There are more teachers like me than not.

Third, there is nothing currently in Georgia’s generic teacher contract that addresses intellectual property rights. Schools are collaborative by nature, not competitive – therefore “no compete” clauses would be irrelevant.

Finally, most teachers developing their plans and related materials do so at home and off the clock. Much of our prep time at school is taken up with meetings, parent contact, filling out paperwork for RTI/NCLB/etc, and grading. Despite the name, minimal planning is done during “planning time” at school, outside of making copies. Most teachers develop their “stuff” on weekends and over the summer, at home, with their own computers – given that a lot of school networks block much of what we may want to use, that’s key. We develop “stuff” in classes we are taking on our own time and our own dime. I’m paid for 190 (+/-) 8 hour days – the rest of the time is my own, as is anything I create during that time.

luvs2teach

November 24th, 2009
1:10 pm

RJ – “you’re only paid for your years of experience in public education, not private.”

???

Then to what does the phrase “salary commensurate with experience” refer???

Old School

November 24th, 2009
1:12 pm

RJ, teaching contracts are indeed negotiable- at least for those of us hired out of industry and for football coaches. All teacher salaries begin with a salary based on years of experience and degrees held. Local supplements can be used to sweeten the pot to whatever level the board wishes. There are a few other rules like the principal has to make more than his/her teachers (or something like that) but contracts can negotiated. It just might not happen very often. . . unless the team is winning.

Tony

November 24th, 2009
1:41 pm

From a school board’s policy manual:

PUBLICATION OR CREATION OF MATERIALS

The school system may have legal claims on all products created by its employees which in any way may be an outgrowth of their job responsibility. In order to minimize misunderstandings about the ownership of such products, the Superintendent of schools will put into effect procedures to be followed by all persons who are or might be developing commercially attractive products which are or might be construed to be associated with their normal job responsibility.

Copyright and Patents

The Board of Education recognizes that staff members under contract to the school system may, in carrying out their professional responsibilities, develop patentable or copyrightable educational materials for use in the school program. It is understood by the Board and the staff members that such materials developed as part of regular employment are equally the properties of the school system and the employee.

The Superintendent of schools shall insure that contractual agreement form and the assignment of copyright interests form shall be executed between the employee and the school system when requested by the Board and/or the employee.

It is also understood the educational materials created by an employee during his or her leisure hours when not fulfilling contractual duties to the school system are the property of the employee.

And the procedures accompanying the policy:

The following procedures should be followed by all employees who are or might be developing commercially attractive products which are or might be construed to be associated with their normal job responsibility.

1. A notice of intent to publish or manufacture should be filed with the person to whom the employee(s) is administratively responsible.

2. This administrator should then prepare a report containing the following information:

a. A description of the product.

b. The name of the person or persons involved in creating the product.

c. The percentage of duty time, if any, of the person’s normal job responsibility which was devoted to creating the product.

3. The report should be filed with the office of the Superintendent.

The Superintendent shall thereupon appoint a committee of three persons having knowledge of the product, excluding those involved in creating it, to review the report and make a recommendation for action to the Superintendent. Prior to making his decision, the Superintendent will confer with the person, or persons, eligible to receive royalties to help assure a mutually satisfactory arrangement.

RJ

November 24th, 2009
2:16 pm

@luvs 2 teach, apparently that only means commensurate with your public school years of teaching. I know because I taught private school for two years and it wasn’t included as a part of my teaching experience. Maybe it was only that particular school system. But that is what HR explained.

@Old School, not in my school system. Don’t know where you work, but here you cannot negotiate your contract. It is based on what I stated earlier. Coaches receive supplemental pay like music teachers. If a school chooses to offer additional money they can. But it would come from that school’s budget. I just asked an administrator in my building. Again, this is in my school system.

professor

November 24th, 2009
3:03 pm

ex-teacher,

If articles are published in professional journals, college professors are rarely compsensated. Moreover, often times, they sign the copyright to the publishers. So, publishers can make money with the article, but professors won’t see a dime.

The situation with books also vaies – if you write something for a professional organization, the situation is more or less the same for professors. Textbooks and other commercial books are different – authors get loyalty, but you need to remember that academic books don’t sell anywhere near popular books.

Patents are a much more difficult issue. If a professor gets a research grant and develops something, in general, the patent belongs to the university – and it probably should since the equipments belong to the university even though it was the professor who brought the money to get the equipment.

For college professors, “on the clock” is a rather difficult concept – since their contract includes teaching, research, and service, there are things they do away from their campuses that are still within the scope of their work. They also enjoy a bit more flexible schedule, both time and location. So, if they are working on a research paper or any creative work at home, is it really a part of their job or not?

I don’t know how performing arts professor handles their work. I’m sure they are compensated if they perform at a concert, etc.

At the end, though, I think this discussion will be probably irrelevant as I can’t see much money involved in buying/selling lesson plans.

luvs2teach

November 24th, 2009
3:11 pm

Rj – gotcha – I thought you meant the private sector, not years teaching in a private school – confusion mine :-)

[...] Read more: Can teachers sell their lesson plans online or do schools own the … [...]

Tony

November 24th, 2009
3:41 pm

Earlier, I posted a page from the policy manual related to this topic. Materials that are developed as a primary function of one’s job, unfortunately, belong partially to the employer. The analogy to the chemist and car designer are very appropriate to the discussion at hand. Early in my career I had an opportunity to offer input to a school system’s “intellectual property” policy similar to the one I posted. I was adamently opposed to having such a policy in place as it infringed on the rights of the teacher/developer of the materials.

On the other hand, I have rarely seen this policy enforced. It simply isn’t that lucrative.

Singing to the Choir

November 24th, 2009
3:51 pm

RJ – the point still holds, they knew what they were getting into when they did signed the contract. If they don’t like the terms then go somewhere else.

CharlesTheMuse

November 24th, 2009
4:30 pm

Is anyone else kind of worried about the implications of a school owning how you chose to deliver information to a classroom? If a school owns the method, they can control how you do it, can’t they?

Anyway, it seems to me that just as a chemistry company hires you to produce chemicals (pardon the simplicity) and a newspaper hires you to produce articles, a school hires you to produce educated students, not to produce methods to educate the students. The chemist may use a different scientific method than the chemist next to him, but how he does it doesn’t matter as long as he stays within the parameters set by the company for safety or legal reasons. The journalist may have a different way of collecting information than another, but she must still produce an article. The method you personally choose to use to impart information is your lesson plan. The school may require you to make one, but they never gave you any insight as to how to make it most effective. How you choose to go about fulfilling your obligations is up to you as long as you deliver the product you set out to deliver and you do not violate any rules.

To address the underlying controversy of this story, teachers selling their lesson plans makes me uneasy, but that’s a totally different argument.

luvs2teach

November 24th, 2009
4:40 pm

Singing to the Choir – and the point still holds that it’s not currently addressed in our contracts, but according to Tony’s post, some districts have considered it to an extent. How enforceable (as far as practicality goes) it is is an entirely different question.

I personally like:

“It is also understood the educational materials created by an employee during his or her leisure hours when not fulfilling contractual duties to the school system are the property of the employee.”

That’s my point exactly – my school day and so-called planning time are so filled with everything but lesson development, that I have no choice but to do it during my “leisure hours.” I’m looking through stuff right now to upload to the site.

catlady

November 24th, 2009
5:12 pm

Mrs. Downey, in the case of journalists, your work product is what you do. You are paid to produce a column, so your work belongs to the AJC.

In the case of teachers, a lesson plan is a byproduct of what we are paid to do: instruct students. It belongs to us.

When my lesson plans are no longer mine to do with (sell, give away, etc) as I please, they will be written in code or something, so that they are comprehensible to me. Actually, they are kind of like that now!

Will we also be required to turn in our bathroom product brought forth on school hours?