Via @fnoschese, here’s the Google Trend on searching for “Lesson Plans”
Wow. I can think of lots of little reasons why this might be happening, but none seems sufficient in itself. I know for instance that my wife Nicole used to search a lot more for art lesson plans but two things happened. First, she got into a Pinterest community that started bringing that stuff to her. Second, after a big sweep through her materials her needs became much more specific.
So that’s a possibility, though frankly I don’t think Nicole is the median teacher.
Another possibility is that the rise of the lesson plan swapping mega-site (and the lesson plans for profit industry generally) has reduced the number of people turning to the open web for these needs.
A third possibility is that for various reasons this term is just a lousy proxy for people searching for lesson plans. I saw a few people on twitter mention that perhaps this was due to fragmentation of queries — people are searching for more specific things. But playing around with this idea in trends I was surprised to find that for most queries I typed in, the decline was still evident. “Common Core” queries formed a tiny, tiny blip upwards, but for most other queries “Second Grade Reading Activities”, etc, you found the same pattern. From whatever point Trends starting tracking, it headed towards decline:
Pumping these search terms into Google Trends began to feel spooky, like stumbling on the inevitable heat death of the universe. There’s a general rule when you find something happening everywhere at once like this — it’s either an artifact of measurement, or something is going on at a really fundamental level. I’m still leaning towards artifact of measurement (we’re missing something fundamental about how these figures come about), but maybe that’s because the other explanations are either unconvincing (The Pinterest Revolution!) or disconcerting (Triumph of the Textbook Curriculum; Rise of the Lesson Plan Mega-site). Either way, though, anyone who cares about use of open resources in education should be watching this closely.