I got word that a recent publication of mine was now published in an issue of Learning, Media, and Technology. It has actually been available online first for the past ten months, but since I haven’t been good about blogging about recent publications, I figured this was as good a chance as any to write a post about it. This piece is called “Lifting the Veil on TeachersPayTeachers.com: An Investigation of Educational Marketplace Offerings and Downloads” and is a collaboration with Catharyn Shelton, Matt Koehler, and Jeff Carpenter. Matt web scraped over four million pages associated with resources from the TpT platform, and we took a quantiative descriptive look at resource metadata, including subject areas, grade levels, resource types, Common Core State Standards, user ratings, and prices across those resources. We then interpreted our findings through José van Dijck’s writing on embedded values on digital platforms—this was my first real dive into van Dijck, and I’m particularly proud of that contribution. Here’s the abstract for more of a peek:
TeachersPayTeachers.com (TpT) has emerged as an alternative to traditional curricular publishing houses; however, the critical investigation into this for-profit platform is limited. The aggregate content offered and downloaded from the platform through 2019 was Web-scraped, enabling us to construct a content model of TpT and provide descriptive results regarding the interactions between content, technology, and users/usage on TpT. We find TpT’s content model implicitly redefines what constitutes an education, elevating holiday activities and classroom decor to the same level as established curriculum. In terms of content, learning standards were largely absent and user ratings were uniformly high, casting doubt upon the validity of these technological features. 87.9% of resources were under $5, however, many small sales add up across users, indicating the platform extracts significant value from educators and schools. We discuss how the online educational marketplace phenomenon stands to impact the future of curriculum production and the teaching profession.
I have an absurd number of free eprints left to share at this link, so please grab a copy and let me know what you think!
Because I’ve wiped old longform blog posts as part of a summer redesign of my website, I wanted to point out that we’ve also done some previous work with this dataset. In 2020, Matt, Catharyn, Jeff, and I published a research note with an early focus on distribution of sales on the platform, problematizing the idea that TpT can help teachers make money from work they’re already doing. There’s no paywall for the research note, but you will need to create an account to access the note). Here’s the abstract:
Online curricular marketplaces such as TeachersPayTeachers.com (TPT) are challenging conventional notions of curriculum, the professionalization of educators, and the exchange of capital in P-12 education. In this research note, we explore these issues by presenting an accounting of: (a) the size and scope of TPT, (b) the number of TPT resources being downloaded, and (c) the financial transactions associated with TPT educator-storefronts. Findings indicated that TPT hosted 4,018,173 classroom resources from 208,748 educator-sellers with 1.5 billion all-time downloads and $3.9 billion in total sales. 69% of all TPT downloads were of free materials. However, an overwhelming 81% of total TPT sales were attributed to the top 1% of educator-sellers (n = 1,524). TPT’s massive scope suggests it has introduced an important disruption in P-12 curriculum, with implications for the professionalization of educators. Furthermore, TPT’s unequal distribution of wealth across educator-sellers suggests disparities in the extent to which individual sellers are part of this disruption.
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