Saturday, September 2, 2017

Some Thoughts on the "Edupreuner" #EdChat

An article in the New York Times by Natasha Stringer, Silicon Valley Courts Brand-name Teachers, Raises Ethical Issues, went live today and I'm featured in it. I wanted to write a post to share some of my more in-depth thoughts on the issue. Not because I feel the article got things wrong, but because there is limited space in an article and I wanted to share a bit more of what I think.

I agree that becoming ambassadors and working with edtech companies does raise interesting ethical questions. For me, I have only agreed to work with companies that I have already used their product and think it is good for students and/or staff. That is my prerequisite when I think about ambassadorships or the like. I do not feel I can honestly write about or support a product I do not use or like. That just seems like a basic aspect of what I do. I wouldn't be a Google Certified Innovator if I did not use Google Products. I do understand that there are those out there that rack up ambassadorships like badges and that hurts the overall community because it can lead to distrusting the authenticity of people's opinions.

There have been times when companies have sent me items to review for the site and they are not any good. These have ranged from small edtech items to 3D printers. I always try everything out, see how it could support learning in my classroom or school, and then share the feedback to the company. If the product is not good, I provide some feedback and do not write a trash article on my site. I do not do bad reviews. In personal conversations, I will steer people away from bad tech if they mention an interest in it. I never want to be associated with bad tech just for some free swag.

When I do find something that is awesome and my students love it, I share it with anyone. My first ambassadorship was with Evernote. I was a vocal Evernote user and shared about it all the time. They reached out to me and asked if I'd be an Education Ambassador. It did not impact me and the way I wrote or shared about it. I was already loving it and sharing. This is true for the most of my commitments. I love their products, share about their awesomeness, and someone reaches out to me and a relationship is formed.

I use the word relationship because I am a busy person and I want to make sure the people I will be working with over time are people and their mission is something I believe. I have had a wonderful relationship with Dremel. They have been supportive of getting 3D design into classrooms and have listened on how to engage teachers effectively and how best to support them. I also love working with littleBits. They have an amazing team of people looking to get STEAM into the hands of as many children as possible. I love working with them and support their work. I did this long before they had any ambassador program. I was interested in Raspberry Pi, signed up for their Picademy, was accepted, fell in love with all things Pi, and think they are one of the best tech companies out there. I have to feel a strong connection to a company if I plan on working with them long term. I have to like their staff and feel that they are actually listening to me to make their product better for educators and students.

I have always disclosed the different groups I work for in posts because I never want to hide anything from my readers. I have the badges on my website for everyone to see and I note on the end of posts if the post is connected to an Ambassadorship. I have always disclosed the things I bring into the classroom with students, staff, and parents because I want to be honest. It is important to follow all of the rules and guidelines your district has in place. I had a meeting with my district that clarified how this would work.

I am able to bring in expensive edtech to my school without straining a budget. There are plenty of companies out there that do not have good edtech products. If I can review the good ones and pass along those to other teachers so I can save them from wasting money, that is a good thing.

I also have received top notch professional development from these these various companies. That experience and knowledge tied together with my years of classroom experience is what helps me in my career, not just getting free stuff.

I know that budgets are tight for schools around the country. If my experience with a piece of edtech can help schools make an informed purchase that saves them from spending money on bad tech, then I have done a good thing. I feel like I have helped students and teachers in places far outside of my school and I like that.

When it is all said and done, I advise everyone to look for multiple opinions on any piece of educational technology to make sure you are getting the very best for your students and staff.