I am pretty unimpressed with some recent articles from the New York Times on Education, and this one is not an exception: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/02/technology/silicon-valley-teachers-tech.html
This article outlines how teachers who participate in ambassador programs are as a bad as doctors that prefer drugs that were promoted through free lunches. How Insulting!
I was insulted by the article on multiple levels. First, teachers are intelligent professionals and they can make intelligent choices (I know this is the doctor argument).. but how they came to the technology they promote is not accurately represented.
For example, I am not a FlipGrid ambassador but I could see doing it.. Why, I explored a free trial of the software and it filled an educational need.
Have I told other teachers about it? You betcha!!!
Did I need someone to give me a t-shirt to promote to others – No.. because I am a professional that understands how people learn and the transformative power of technology, so I made an instructional choice that I am jazzed about. I tell others about it because it works for my classroom and I am excited about what it does.
There are lots of programs that I tell people about: Flipgrid, Twitter, Explain Everything, BookCreator, Clips, Adobe Spark Suite, Canva, CoSpaces, Remind, Doink GreenScreen, Code.org. Swift Playground, Botball Robotics and Badgelist etc.. Am I member of any of these promotional programs? No, because I am lucky enough to have the resources of a University and I am not starved or completely reliant on my own funds to get tech for my class. (But I do spend a bunch of my own money – for example I paid for Flipgrid because the paperwork was not worth my time). I have rejected technologies and do it all the time – because I am a knowledgeable professional and can make choices.
But here is the big point of this- I care about the education of children and college students – and you insult me to think that I quit being a professional when someone gives me a sticker and all judgement flies out the window when someone gives me an endorsement. I am a professional, a thinking and ethical professional. Educators are professionals.
We are starving our teachers, so yes, some of them are pimping themselves out for t-shirts and stickers so that they can get access to the tools that they know work well with kids and helps to supplement their curriculum. I would consider being an ambassador for access to some of the free professional development they get. Some of these ambassadors are great member of my professional learning network – (PLN) and they show me things about these tools that help me be a better teacher – things they sometimes learned through the access of the ambassador programs.
As far as being an Apple Distinguished Educator – the article has it backwards. It is not an ambassador program, and I did not join it to get free Apple stuff.. I was doing Apple stuff and I joined it to get the ability to make the Apple stuff I was using better, interact with the development teams, and work with other educators that are doing amazing things. (They do talk about this) There are Apple fanboys in the group, but honestly there are real conversations about workflow and what works best.. (which is not always Apple products). I know there are Apple people who tire of my criticism and critique. I am insulted that the article infers that by being part of this group I have lost my ethical compass. Let me be clear, I am part of this community to make my teaching and student experience better – through my learning and advanced knowledge. This was a very ethical choice!
The way that we fund our schools has created this ethical dilemma. If we continue buying devices and then said – you can’t get any apps or programs for them, we force our teachers to be creative and try to get what their students’ need in different ways. From the Tulsa teacher panhandling for school supplies to the constant barrage of teachers asking for copy paper on Donors Choose – we have cut these professionals off at their knees. They know what is best for kids, because they are trained educators, and in our deficit educational economy, I too would get a free program if I wore their t-shirt a few times. If you don’t want teachers to have hustle and be scrappy- then fund them fully and provide them with a rich environment where they continue to learn and are free to innovate themselves. Right now we are not doing that.
We need to trust our teachers to use their best judgement and we need to allow them to explore the professional tools available to them – like any educated career. Back to the Doctor argument – we don’t keep Doctors from prescribing other drugs, but they may not have the time to fully explore them. What we see with teachers, is that they having to hustle to provide the basic classroom resources, if we supported them appropriately, with both the tools, resources and time – they too could have more tools available in their pedagogical toolkit to help all learners learn.
In the end, the ethical dilemma is ours as a society and community. We have the power to support and fund teachers and they deserve our respect, support and thanks -each and every day!