Memorable teachers are figures who loom large in all our formative years. Everyone can pick out a teacher who had the patience and props to inspire, explain, motivate or focus a young mind. Traditionally the impact of any great teacher bringing a subject to life has been limited to their own classroom, but now the internet is changing this beyond recognition.
Technology’s exponential ability to innovate and disrupt the established way of doing things should no longer surprise us. Airbnb and Uber are just two start-ups that have impacted their respective sectors on a scale simply inconceivable a few years ago.
Education is following suit and today’s classroom heroes have the ability to touch minds on a truly global scale. I’m an adviser at TES Global, a digital education company that manages a huge online marketplace of resources uploaded by teachers and spread across the world every day. I see how this disruption is benefitting our schools and pupils, creating a whole new sharing economy that is changing everything.
Take, for example, the lasting legacy left by the late Bev Evans. She has become the world’s most downloaded author of teaching resources. The work she shared has been accessed more than 7.1m times. She is a true pioneer of the digital classroom.
Evans began creating her own resources as a learning support assistant, with the aim of helping a child at her school in Pembrokeshire with cerebral palsy. She had first-hand experience of the problems the child faced in lessons – one of her own children had similar learning difficulties – and came up with inventive ways to help them overcome these issues. She began to share these resources, as fellow teachers asked to borrow them. This then extended to teachers in the local area, who sought them out. Eventually she uploaded the resources on to a website to make them accessible to all.
Now her lesson plans have been downloaded by more than 750,000 teachers in 197 countries. In 2015 alone, her resources were downloaded 1.3m times. Evans’s legacy is outstanding: her work is an inspiring example of how a single talented educator can now have a global influence.
While adjusting to the changes in technology has been a learning curve for many teachers – albeit an empowering one – our pupils know no different. They are growing up in an era when tech disruptors shake up many sectors. For them, the ability to share on this scale is less surprising, more expected.
The education sharing economy will now only become more embedded. The TES.com marketplace saw more than 200m resources downloaded globally in 2015, with teachers around the world rating each other’s work. To give you a sense of scale, the platform has almost 8m registered users, and downloads often exceed 1m resources a day.
We are now also seeing the emergence of teachers as entrepreneurs. Classroom teachers are not only sharing and selling resources; they’re creating professional development courses and even their own web-based businesses. They know what students want and what other educators need.
The consequence is digital teaching content that is often free, or very low cost. It is tried and tested by and for teachers. The highest-quality work is easiest to find, and is the most relevant and engaging. At a time when a textbook’s periodic table can become obsolete overnight, it is up to date.
Children are the ultimate benefactors of this technology. In an environment of teacher shortages in some places, extending the reach of the very best educators to impact more children is sensible, and will ultimately help to raise the standard of classrooms globally.
See the article in the Sunday Times here