Something wiki this way comes

In his first year as a Teach for America teacher, Rob Lucas of Teachers’ Lounge found himself spending hours writing lesson plans, wondering why he couldn’t build on the knowledge of more experienced teachers. So Lucas is starting a “wiki,” which will be a collaborative site where teachers can post and polish lesson plans. Lucas writes:

It often seems as though there aren’t enough hours in the day to grade papers, keep in touch with parents, and deal with administrative hassles — to say nothing of creating a year’s worth of high-quality lesson plans from scratch. The most agonizing thing for me, though, as I sat up planning lessons late at night, was the knowledge that thousands of other teachers across the country were doing exactly the same, that many of them were planning lessons similar to my own, and that thousands of other teachers had done so every year for decades. Yet there was no way for me to fully benefit from the experience of all those who had come before.

I’ve created this website to change that. It’s a new type of collaborative website called a “wiki,” where most pages can be edited not just by a webmaster, but by any registered user. That means you can post lesson plans, links, handouts, PowerPoint presentations — virtually anything! And you don’t even have to know HTML. Editing a page is as easy as using a word processor.

My vision is that over time, we can develop an extensive library of creative, finely-tuned, engaging, exciting lessons.

On Teachers’ Lounge, Lucas mentions James Stigler’s The Teaching Gap: Best Ideas from the World’s Teachers for Improving Education in the Classroom. Stigler describes how Japanese teachers “polish the stone,” constantly discussing how to improve lessons. Teachers learn from each other. Here, teachers often are isolated, even from colleagues in the same building. The Internet should change that.

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  1. Wikis are a great idea for this kind of enterprise. I participated for a while in Wikipedia at

    I often felt exactly the way he felt in my first years of teaching!

  2. Mike in Texas says:

    Thanks for the story and links!

  3. Walter E. Wallis says:

    But you have to do like preachers with store bought sermons – get it in a typeface that resembles handwriting.

  4. Eric Holcombe says:

    Why is it when the students “wiki” their term papers, it is called plagiarism?

  5. Because it is plagiarism?

  6. Student ‘wickis’ a term paper — he/she has circumvented the process of being able to show their grasp of a concept. Student has cheated and has broken the system.

    Teacher ‘wickis’ a lesson plan — teacher has efficiently shared an effective method to convey said concept that he/she already has mastered to the point to be qualified to teach in the first place. Effectiveness is the key. No additional points for originality.

  7. Eric Holcombe says:

    “wondering why he couldn’t build on the knowledge of more experienced teachers”

    Doesn’t sound like a master to me. I thought they were all plain vanilla in the union world. Aren’t they compensated for constructing their own lesson plan? Isn’t “wiki” circumventing part of the job they are paid to perform? If you “wiki”, can I have some of my tax dollars back?

  8. Since when did we start requiring teachers to be absolutely original in their lesson plans? Let’s give them as many tools as possible at their disposable to be able to teach children effectively.

  9. It seems incredible to me that teachers are apparently unwilling to help new colleagues by sharing their lesson plans. New teachers shouldn’t have to go to the internet for help when they should both have colleagues willing and able to help and also have an advisor or mentor to help.

    Sink-or-swim is a pretty brutal and wasteful method. With all their focus on group learning and ‘socialism’, you’d think teachers would apply the principles they’re forcing onto their students. Could it be that it’s because they personally find those same methods to be useless? Just wondering.

  10. Richard Brandshaft says:

    Eric Holcombe and others,

    Someone had it right a few topics ago: “Unthinking union bashing”. (Actually teacher bashing in this case.)

    In engineering, where the desire to get things done sometimes transcends political doctrine, being original unnecessarily is called “re-inventing the wheel” or “NIH syndrome”. (“NIH” for “not invented here”.)

    With a student paper, the whole idea isn’t to find the answer but to find it yourself in a certain ways. Just like the idea of running isn’t usually to get from A to B. Stangely, I was actually surprised that this distinction is too subtle for conservative teacher bashers. I suppose I shouldn’t have been.

  11. Eric Holcombe says:

    “Just like the idea of running isn’t usually to get from A to B”

    So if a student researches a topic and cuts and pastes, it is plagiarism, but if he runs from A to B (types that same research he studied) it is legitimate work?

    Richard, engineers are paid for their expertise. Engineers with less expertise are paid less. Of course, as a union supporter, I wouldn’t expect you to understand pay differential based on merit or experience.

    Engineers also are subjected to “high stakes” tests for their licenses. They also, believe it or not, have to major and be degreed in an engineering field to be licensed to practice in that field. A rather not so subtle point that professional educators can’t seem to require for themselves.

    Keep those union dues a comin’. They’re needed for the IRS audit…



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