I started as a secondary school science teacher in 1978 and retired a few years ago. It goes without saying that we didn't have computers back then; we didn't even have photocopiers. If I wanted material to give to students, I had to write, copy or draw out the content myself and then use a Banda machine to make copies, which was incredibly time-consuming. Lessons back then were more like lectures, with the teacher writing on the blackboard and the students copying it down.
Photocopying came in the 80s and made things a lot easier and then in the 90s we started to get computers too. After that, we didn't need to rewrite everything by hand or make our own materials anymore. In a lot of schools now, departments buy schemes of work that contain worksheets, together with permissions, for us to copy as we need. Some schools don't buy them, but syllabuses change a lot so it can be too time-consuming for a teacher to try to create their own materials only for them to become obsolete soon after.
The ability to copy pages from textbooks is incredibly useful. We wouldn't always have enough textbooks to go around, so I'd make photocopies of the relevant pages. You can also go to places like Times Education Supplement (tes) and get resources there, sometimes paid or sometimes free. There are just so many options for teachers these days, which means we get to be flexible with what we offer students. While some students are fine just copying from the board, others learn differently and need the application and interactivity that a variety of exercises can offer. Making students think about and apply the concepts rather than just copying them down hugely helps recall and understanding.
Students often asked if they could keep photocopies, but having to write the material up themselves and complete exercises was an important part of committing it to memory. However, I did let students keep the copies if they were struggling with the material or had difficulty writing, since it made learning more accessible for them. Being able to find and copy a wide variety of materials means teachers are adaptable to different students and can be - as schools say - facilitators of learning. However, some schools don't like teachers making a lot of copies and some forbid it entirely. It's quite expensive and I think some view reliance on photocopies as not good for learning. I used them frequently and found students appreciated them though, and we'd reuse them in multiple classes to keep costs down.
PowerPoint Presentations were the other main way I used external content to teach. Linking to videos within presentations was an engaging learning tool for students (though, a word of advice to new teachers: always watch the entirety of any video you plan to use before class - just because it starts innocuously doesn't mean it is), as was using images off the Internet. Producing my own material for every lesson in every class would have been unfeasibly time-consuming, so technology has been a real help with giving me other options.
I never really thought about copyright I suppose, though I noticed in recent years that schools seemed to expect teachers to understand copyright and know what we were and weren't allowed to copy. I don't recall being given any guidance or information on copyright or what was acceptable though. I'd assumed there was some kind of system in place, but I'd never heard of CLA or the CLA Education Licence before this. I had a good grasp of plagiarism, but didn't know much about the importance of copyright. Using third-party content is an extremely valuable part of teaching - both for the teacher who doesn't have the time to make their own materials from scratch and the students who need a variety of sources to learn - so being taught why and how to use content properly would have been valuable.
About the Author
The writer was a secondary school science teacher from 1978 to 2016. She taught at a variety of schools in England through this time and is now enjoying her retirement.