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Selling Lessons Online Raises Cash and Questions

NYTIMES.COM | WINNIE HU | 11/12/09

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Between Craigslist and eBay, the Internet is well established as a marketplace where one person's trash is transformed into another's treasure. Now, thousands of teachers are cashing in on a commodity they used to give away, selling lesson plans online for exercises as simple as M&M sorting and as sophisticated as Shakespeare.

While some of this extra money is going to buy books and classroom supplies in a time of tight budgets, the new teacher-entrepreneurs are also spending it on dinners out, mortgage payments, credit card bills, vacation travel and even home renovation, leading some school officials to raise questions over who owns material developed for public school classrooms.

"To the extent that school district resources are used, then I think it's fair to ask whether the district should share in the proceeds," said Robert N. Lowry, deputy director of the New York State Council of School Superintendents.

The marketplace for educational tips and tricks is too new to have generated policies or guidelines in most places. In Fairfax County, Va., officials had been studying the issue when they discovered this fall that a former football coach was selling his playbook and instructional DVDs online for $197; they investigated but let him keep selling.

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