Fostering Professional Collaboration with Share My Lesson
When we set out seven years ago to create the American Federation of Teachers’ Share My Lesson as a crowdsourcing site for educators, we wanted to provide a free online space where teachers could share with teachers and a space that they could see as their own. We knew that teachers scavenge and share resources all the time; and we wanted to facilitate the collaboration process and also help fill the real needs and resource gaps teachers were encountering as they grappled with implementation of the Common Core State Standards. What we discovered almost immediately was how much and how often our users were sharing their resources! Teachers from New York would upload a lesson and share it, only to find teachers from across the country downloading, adapting and using the lesson with their students.
We had three core values when we started SML:
- The site was open to all;
- It was free to subscribers; and
- Educators would pick and choose the best content to add to Share My Lesson and choose what they wanted to download.
Our intent for SML was not to tell teachers how to teach, or what to teach, but to provide a free site where they can find, share and evaluate resources. And we accomplish this goal every day on Share My Lesson. While the AFT Innovation Fund helped some teams of teachers create content that was initially designed for and available on SML—and we have many content partners that share high-quality materials on the site—our abiding belief is that teachers are professionals and know what resources best serve the needs of their students.
Fast forward seven years, and we have nearly 1.6 million members and more than 400,000 resources in every grade and content area. Our site is owned by educators and vetted by educators. Resources that are more popular, downloaded and viewed more often, and rated favorably rise to the top in searches.
Building Community Through Collaboration
And today, as I look at the most popular SML resources of the last decade, I am proud. We created a platform and you—the SML community—brought it to life. The top resources of the decade tell a real story about what teachers need in the classroom, from instructional strategies and subject-specific lesson ideas (including this top lesson on ratios from an AFT Innovation Fund partner) to staying current on the national and international events that affect us all.
Looking at the top news stories of the past decade, you’ll see teachable topics that reflect the current events students and adults both are following, including an interest in mental health (Do Smartphones Cause Anxiety in Kids?), fake news (What Is the Difference Between a Lie and a False Statement?) and confronting white nationalism and racism, as well as addressing gun violence and #MeTooK12 harassment.
In that same vein, the most reviewed resource collections and webinars reflect educators’ interest in digging deeper into difficult subject matter like trauma-informed practice, tackling hate (particularly after Charlottesville, Va.), and combating anti-Semitism via an in-depth conversation with director Steven Spielberg on teaching Schindler’s List), as well as elevating discussions on race and identity, social emotional learning, building empathy and taking strides to prevent bullying. In a quote from a recent professional development webinar on immigration, an SML member emphasized the value of using what was available on SML in the classroom:
"Sonia Nazario's Pulitzer Prize-winning book Enrique's Journey paints a poignant episode in the lives of illegal immigrants in the United States. This webinar provided a more comprehensive and insightful perspective on the issue of illegal migration. I can surely use what I learned from this webinar, as a tool to teach and approach immigration as a topic for class discourse."
And in our desire to keep SML ever more relevant for our members, we will be expanding our newest feature in the new year: SML Communities, where individuals, school districts, AFT local affiliates, professional learning communities and parents can create an open or closed community and curate collections of resources, choosing what to share because, after all, you know what resources best serve the needs of your students.
Here’s to more professional collaboration in 2020 and beyond.
See something missing from our lists? Comment below with what you think should have made the cut!