From the Editor - A quiet revolution started by teachers

17th May 2013 at 01:00

The best revolutions are the quiet ones. No bloodshed, no violence, no marching and no sudden disruption of the television schedules. The steady advance of women in the workforce, for instance, the increased edibility of British food since 1975 and the blessed decline of heavy metal music everywhere apart from Germany and Sweden.

It's the same with the growing influence of our teaching resources. As of this month - a week last Thursday, to be precise - we calculate that 50 million teachers and students now benefit from the lesson plans posted and shared on TESConnect by educators around the world (see pages 22-29). So we're blowing our own trumpet, which is a bit rich because it wasn't our idea.

Teachers started to use our website's messaging system to send each other lesson materials back in 2005. It was their initiative, not ours. Over the years we have provided them with the tools and functionality to expand the resource bank, but essentially this has been a bottom-up revolution as well as a quiet one.

The statistics are impressive. In a single week, the 600,000 resources on TESConnect will be downloaded 3.5 million times and will be accessed by 20,000 new members. The range is vast (all subjects and ages are catered for), as is the quantity (3,500 resources are devoted to teaching Shakespeare alone).

But more impressive still is the urge that teachers have to post their best resources online and learn from each other. Mathematics teachers in Manchester, England, inspire mathematics teachers in Manchester, New Hampshire, in the US. Biologists in Australia can swap lesson plans with their colleagues in Europe. History teachers everywhere can have disagreements across continents about what to teach and how to teach it. And then there is the simple satisfaction of sharing a good idea. As one teacher in Spain said of her resources: "Someone said they had used them with children with special needs in England and that made me really proud."

Of course, there are criticisms. Functionality and organisation can always be improved. And to the teacher who informed the world that the lesson plans had saved her so much time that she no longer had an excuse not to have sex with her husband, all we can say is: sorry.

Some people have suggested that we should have a Kitemark for the resources and grade them for quality. But for us to impose any kind of hierarchy would undermine what makes the site so powerful: trusting teachers to rate each other's ideas. They - not publishers, pundits or policy wonks - are best placed to figure out what works in the classroom. The fact that millions of them spend hours of their own time in the evenings and at weekends creating and sharing best practice should humble politicians who regularly lecture teachers on how to do their job.

Over the past decade, governments have spent small fortunes trying to devise the best education policies. They have then spent a lot more telling teachers how to implement them. Perhaps, over the next decade, they will learn to listen to and trust the teachers who, as our online community demonstrates, are more than capable of figuring out the answers for themselves.

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