The AFT and Britain's TES Connect have come together to create "Share My Lesson," a new digital platform for U.S. educators to collaborate and share teaching resources and innovative ideas, with a significant emphasis on resources to guide teachers in implementing the new Common Core State Standards. The site is live, and teachers are already registering and sharing their best ideas with colleagues around the country.
"Teachers are expected to do so much, often with very little support, and they are thirsty for the tools they need to improve instruction," says AFT president Randi Weingarten. "We know that when teachers share and collaborate—whether it is about the content of their lessons, or their strategies for reaching students—students benefit. Share My Lesson is by teachers, for teachers. It's an easy-to-use source for classroom resources—and it's free. It will become every teacher's go-to online destination for the support they need."
As AFT member Amy Spies explains, one of her biggest frustrations when looking for lessons is that a random online search might pull up thousands of sites, but she has no idea how good they are. "This is one central location where teachers are actually generating the resources, not where some publisher is just out to make a quick buck. These are absolutely tested and tried resources teachers have used," she says. "That's such a huge timesaver."
Simply put, says AFT member Christy Gill, "Teachers are in dire need of quality resources."
Share My Lesson already has more than 180,000 resources, and that collection will grow rapidly as more educators add to it. Any educator, from preschool to college, can register and start using the site immediately. As Spies points out, teachers face numerous barriers to getting and sharing instructional resources on the Internet. Often, "free resource" sites have hidden costs, search functions aren't specific enough, uploading is cumbersome and there is no one-stop shop. Share My Lesson will allow users to upload their own resources, review and rate resources on the site, and download anything, all at no charge. The user-generated content will be supplemented by tens of thousands of resources from hundreds of content partners, including Sesame Street, Oxfam, GreenTV and the Encyclopedia Britannica.
"It brings the best practices right to your fingertips," says AFT member Karen Gant. "If you want to do a good lesson for your kids, there is no excuse. It's right there for you. Just plug in what you need, and it's going to pop right up."
Share My Lesson is a joint venture of the AFT and TES Connect. TES Connect is the world's largest network of teachers with more than 2 million teacher members, and it offers more than 400,000 resources and logs 2.5 million downloads weekly.
"Teachers are the most important in-school influence on a child's education. If you give teachers the chance, they will willingly share their best ideas, most inspiring teaching methods and most effective lessons without hesitation," says Louise Rogers, CEO of TSL Education, the parent company of TES Connect. "We know from running TES Connect that when teachers start sharing their vast knowledge and experience with each other, their lessons get more creative, better and more effective."
Share My Lesson includes a dedicated resource bank for the Common Core State Standards, which are coming to 46 states and Washington, D.C., starting in the fall. These new math and English language arts standards reflect the knowledge and skills students need to succeed in college and careers. But teachers will need the tools to meet these new instructional challenges. Share My Lesson gives them a place to upload and share resources that address the new standards.
Share My Lesson is the latest in a series of innovative, entrepreneurial approaches the AFT has been developing and supporting to improve teaching and learning. "I believe this initiative is the single most important tool the AFT has launched in more than a generation," Weingarten says.
"For every teacher who has stayed up late into the night thinking about how to help a student struggling to understand a concept, or who has wondered about a fresh way to teach a lesson, Share My Lesson offers access to vast resources, right when teachers need them," she says. "Great ideas that enlighten and engage students in an individual classroom now will have a pathway to countless teachers and their students." [AFT press release, Dan Gursky]