In my search for a teaching position I came across this gem in a collective agreement:
INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RIGHTS
29.01 An Employee who wishes to create or develop school curricula or school resources which are not on the Department of Education approved list of school curricula and resources, and/or use these school curricula or resources with students must seek permission from the Executive Director prior to developing and/or piloting such curricula or resources.
29.02 All school curricula, resources or material which are created or developed by an Employee during the course of the Employeeâ€™s employment with the Employer shall, for all purposes, be the property of the Employer, unless there is another arrangement made in writing between the Employee and the Department of Education. “
Isn’t that cute? A bureaucratic solution for a non-existing problem. The normal default behaviour is that when a teacher creates content as assigned by the employer, the employer owns that content. This moves the default to “all your ideas belong to us”. Is it a move to stifle creativity? Is it ignorance of the teacher’s role? Is it ignorance of how education happens?
To see why this matters to teachers, consider a new teacher going to work in some organization for the first time. Typically, the school will provide an abundance of resources but from time to time the available resources will not meet the needs of the students and be compliant with the curriculum. In that case, content has to be found or created. To make material that is relevant to students and therefor more effective, a teacher normally creates content in the form of documents, or images etc. that in the opinion of the teacher will promote effective education. What happens when that teacher changes employers? Under this new default rule, the teacher cannot automatically take that content along to the next position as a resource on hand. Instead, the teacher will have to recreate the content in the new place, a completely unnecessary burden.
This is not about teachers writing textbooks or doing private business in the employer’s site. This is about doing what teachers do. In fact, the rule will likely be ignored because it is largely unenforceable and the employer is essentially pressuring teachers to violate the contract in the ordinary course of business, perhaps as a lever to dispose of teachers who “rock the boat” in some other way. The rule cannot likely be implemented with hundreds of teachers requesting permission to keep their ideas for themselves. The few who do make the request will likely be told, “No”, and be stifled.
The rule is obviously unfair as well. Teachers who created content in previous circumstances may freely use the material so the students get the benefit of previously generated material but students of other employers will not get the benefit of content created by the teacher under the rule.
The rule could have some benefit to students to exclude inappropriate content from schools but that is a tiny problem if it exists at all. For the problem to be eliminated employers of teachers need only provide an abundance of resources or supervise teachers more closely, something they do not do for budgetary reasons. I have often been in a situation where suitable resources were published but the school had none and was told to make a request for next year’s budget… Content needs to be available for the courses offered and there will always be some content that is needed that is not anticipated “last year”.
In my favourite role as a teacher of information processing, the content under consideration could be a web site I design or a computer programme, or some illustration or documentation or an assignment or test. This rule, if followed rigorously could mean that I am prevented from sharing my work with my fellow teachers on the LAN. How silly is that? Clearly I cannot publish even for internal use my own content without permission. Will the employer give me blanket permission with a licence to use the stuff throughout the system? Will the employer insist on previewing presentations at meetings and conferences? It gets too silly very quickly.
Sigh. Bureaucrats. It’s another thing to make the interview interesting.