Educating young people is an industry like any other. It may not appear the same as the industries that were built around the manufacturing of automobiles, airplanes, buildings, or other products. However, and whether fortunately or unfortunately, education is also an industry and with that comes a demand for paid resources.
Companies all over the world profit from the education of young people. Of course, that is not necessarily negative, because schools do need desks, paper, textbooks, chalk, computers, and other supplies and equipment used to assist in the education of children. In addition, the manufacturing of supplies and equipment leads to employment, profit, and more for many companies and individuals.
However, there are many companies or entities that create and will distribute free resources, equipment, supplies, and other products that may or may not meet the needs of the students. Rather, they meet the agendas of the companies or other entities providing the resources. It is often difficult to dismiss free resources, especially with budget restrictions. However, it is important to closely review every “free” resource, supply, or piece of equipment offered.
Before a district, school, teacher, or homeschooling parent decides to download, order, or use free or low-priced resources offered, they should be aware of the following:
- Some resources may be strong on advertising but weak on effective content.While there may be some content, the advertising can get in the way. If a company selling milk offers a nutrition curriculum, they may include their milk products as the centerpiece of good nutrition. This would be a blatant case of advertising over quality content.
While some free school equipment is hard to pass up, districts need to ensure that the company name on the newly installed scoreboard consistently meets the values of the community. This goes for the advertisements that appear on classroom content, worksheets, posters, and other resources too.
- Resources may be agenda-driven and not content-driven.It is likely teachers instruct students on the difference between facts and opinions. It is a fact George Washington was the first president; yet, it is an opinion that he was a terrible or great president.
However, some privately or publicly sponsored curriculum will blur the line between facts and opinions. There may be companies that are “left” or “right” leaning and will present the legitimate facts, but in a subtle way will intermix opinions that meet their philosophical or political agendas. Read through the content or compare it with another source to determine if it is presented in a biased way.
- Classroom resources may not be created by experienced or qualified individuals.Unlike the resources offered by Learn Bright, there are some free online resources available to schools and teachers that were created and written by people who may have never been in a classroom. In addition, they may be from places in the world that do not have the same standards or expectations as the place where the curriculum will be used.
For example, a curriculum writer in the United States might be better suited to creating effective lessons related to American history than a person who has never sat in an American history class. Furthermore, a company using inexperienced and unqualified individuals to create curriculum may be viewing the content from a marketing perspective and not from a teacher’s or student’s perspective.
- The content may be sufficient, but the suggested delivery of the content is ineffective.The information and content that is part of a curriculum may be great and useable for most teachers. Some sponsored content includes step-by-step instructions for the delivery of the content and the information that is to be presented to the class.
However, the organization of the content, delivery method, and/or step-by-step instructions included may be ineffective for classroom or homeschool use. The curriculum writer that created the content may not understand how it should be taught in the classroom due to his or her own lack of experience as an instructor. Make sure to pay attention to these “extras” when deciding which resources to use.
Finally, before downloading or obtaining anything “free” from one of these sources, it is imperative that teachers, principals, and other school personnel closely review the resources, supplies, or equipment being offered. This includes reading through the fine print, contractual obligations (if any), restrictions, and any other documents that are included with the resource.
Free quality content, equipment, supplies, and other resources available through privately or publicly controlled companies or entities are definitely useful and helpful for districts, schools, and teachers of every grade level. However, not every free resource comes from a reputable organization like Learn Bright. Follow these tips and you can make sure that your students are getting the best content possible and make your job a little easier.