“There are 10,000 teachers that might teach the Great Gatsby, and I have no idea what they’re doing?”
Alternatives to “Teachers Pay Teachers”?
Peter Nilsson has taught English at Deerfield Academy in Massachusetts for more than a decade. He and his colleagues understand the importance of sharing resources and lesson plans, and they know they are dozens of sights that try to bring teachers from around the country and globe together to do just that.
But Nilsson believes those platforms are falling short. He says that when a teacher looks online for resources, one of three things usually happens.
- It’s hard to find what you’re looking for.
- When you find something, the quality is unreliable.
- It cost money for teachers.
Some solutions like Teachers Pay Teachers have been successful in creating revenue models and making some teachers money, but Nilsson says it’s not building a free shared knowledge base.
“Content is locked and closed,” says Nilsson.
- You don’t know what you’re purchasing when you purchase it
- It’s locked up in documents which makes it hard to manipulate
- There’s hardly any way to feed your information back into the community
Other platforms are allowing teachers to share information for free, but those platforms are not always very easy to use, often because of poorly constructed search functions.
“There are 10,000 teachers that might teach the Great Gatsby, and I have no idea what they’re doing?” says Nilsson. “Great veteran teachers retire and with their retirement evaporates all of their knowledge.”
What makes a better platform?
Nilsson and his colleagues believe there’s a more effective way to create a shared professional knowledge platform. He feels so strongly about it; he’s on a sabbatical to build Athena.
Athena is unapologetically described as no whistles and bells. No badges. Just a place for teachers to find, share and improve the questions, activities, and assignments we use every day.
Nilsson says teachers are looking for a topic-oriented approach when searching for educational resources. So when you go to Athena, you would find a search bar, and you would arrive at a topic page much like Wikipedia.
If you searched Great Gatsby, it might be organized by chapters and then materials for the entire text. And articles based on characters.
“You would find discussion questions, classroom activities, assessments, multi-media objects,” says Nilsson.
He says, remarkably very few sights use this topical approach of searching for information.
“We’re not interested in creating this just for the sake of creating another platform,” says Nilsson. “We’re doing this because we feel it solves a problem that has not otherwise been solved effectively.”
Nilsson says educators have increasingly found ways to share materials online and that’s really exciting, and it feels like we’re going through our first generation of that with networks on Facebook, Twitter and Teachers Pay Teachers, but there’s likely going to be the second generation of platforms that enable it to happen even more effectively.
“That effectiveness is critical,” says Nilsson
Athena is currently being tested with hundreds of teachers and thousands of resources, but the platform is not fully open to the public just yet. If you would like to sign up for more information, you can head to www.teachathena.org
To learn more about Athena, you can listen to Class Dismissed on your favorite podcast app or iTunes.