Earlier this spring the old debate restarted in Finland: should teachers create their own educational content or not? Here my two cents on the topic. First the mandatory disclaimer: I work for Sanoma Pro, a provider of educational materials and solutions.
The foundation of my argument is as follows: the time teachers spend interacting with their pupils/students should be maximized, both in quality and in quantity. I believe this is the most important part of teachers’ job and needs every support possible. This is why I like for example flipping the classroom as a framework.
There are many daily bottlenecks getting in the way of this interaction. Examples are grading assignments, assessing tests, searching for information, and organizing classroom seating. Teachers should be offered with easy-to-use tools for managing these kinds of activities. Whatever parts can be automated, should.
The above are what I would call routine tasks. They can indeed consume a lot of time but are not in the heart of teaching and pedagogical thinking. Creating pedagogically sound educational materials and building courses on top of them is very different. Far from routine, I’d say. So it is more important to help teachers with this activity than it is with say assignment grading.
Even if a teacher had the skills to create fine educational content—and many do have!—we shouldn’t assume that they do it on top of the actual teaching. At least not in the current model of how their work is organized. Note that I am here referring to primary and secondary education, not to higher ed.
Each teacher is an individual and has a unique way of running the class. Therefore it is important that the educational materials are not “one size fits all”. Of course we should provide teachers with a solid curriculum-aligned default path through a course. But that’s only the baseline.
Functionalities for adapting and personalizing the course are also very relevant. My experience with teachers is that this is generally what they want. They want content they trust to be of good quality, adapt and enrich it to fit their personal preferences, not create such content from scratch.
These functionalities become a lot better now when the educational materials are shifting from print to digital. They can be complemented with online tools of all sorts. The teacher can easily select the content he or she is most comfortable with and also choose to fit the pupils’ individual styles and characteristics.
Catering the personal preferences of teachers and pupils alike can presumably lead us to more engaged students, increased efficiency in teaching, and ultimately to better learning outcomes.