A tale of caution when using free materials

Publishers respond with innovative products

Educational publishers say they understand the draw of free or one-off materials for purchase online. But they caution administrators: Just because you can build a car from parts and tutorial videos from the internet, it doesn’t mean it makes sense.

Many publishers employ experts who have doctorates in instructional and curriculum design—which they say is a different skill set from classroom teaching.

Curriculum continuity across grade levels and subjects is especially important, so fourth-graders, for instance, learn everything they need to know to be prepared for fifth grade. Without that, gaps can be created in student knowledge while other skills are over-emphasized.

“When teachers went to school to create their craft, they were taught to deliver great instruction using the resources they were given—not necessarily to develop resources for the curriculum” says Scott Kinney, senior vice president of education partnerships at Discovery Education. “While one or two teachers can do that, it doesn’t make sense at scale.”

Jay Diskey, executive director of the PreK-12 Learning Group with the Association of American Publishers, acknowledges that teachers sharing materials they have created has disrupted the industry.

Many publishers are responding with innovative products, including incorporating videos, animations and tutorials into the reading experience of digital textbooks. In addition, many offer assessments, progress tracking and other resources that benefit students and teachers.

In addition, Diskey cautioned administrators to recognize the importance of copyright or else face potential legal problems. “We’re not opposed to anyone who wants to make OER or open-license material” he says. “But in some cases, copyrighted materials are being remixed in inappropriate ways and we get concerned.”

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