This is a big day here at FunnyMonkey (TM) World Headquarters. We are pround to announce the FunnyMonkey Educator of Distinction program, or the FM.Ed.
Not just anyone can qualify for the FM.Ed. To earn a FM.Ed, one must complete our comprehensive training program, which we are currently in the process of designing. In the meantime, we will be issuing interim badges to all educators (interested or not) who:
Are currently teaching; or
Have ever taught; or
Can spell "education;" or
Have walked past a school; or
To indicate that you have earned your FM.Ed, just embed either of these badges below on your blog. Also, feel free to add the certificate to your twitter handle, and include it as part of your email signature.
Select the badge that fits best in the space you have available.
And the best part: once you use these badges, you'll start seeing them everywhere!
I must have been asleep for part of the summer because I missed some great conversations about corporate education/professional development programs for teachers.
Tom Woodward summarizes the crux of the conflict:
That “award” certifying you as a really super X-brand teacher, that free conference registration- these are not things they do for you out of kindness. This is for them. Every single bit of it, bought and paid for. Their return on investment is pre-calculated. If it didn’t make them money, they would not do it.
Reading this makes me think back to 2006 when Discovery Educators Network fired 84 staffers in their education division. According to Discovery, "the positions were unnecessary". Also, according to Discovery:
According to an internal memo sent to employees Wednesday, the division's revenue has grown 350 percent since 2004.
The comment thread on Discovery Education's blog is a pretty good indication of how people felt at the time. The entire thread is worth reading to see how people react when the business logic that drives corporate outreach into education is laid bare.
From Michelle Rivera:
I recently helped sell your UnitedStreaming service to several schools in North Carolina, and I regret that decision.
From Donna Criswell:
I recruited 14 plus teachers in my district to be STAR members.. and some outside my very own district.. all because I believed in the DEN “family”
And really, there is nothing wrong with anything Discovery did. They are a business, and their goal is to increase profit. With revenue up 350% over two years, a simple way to increase profit is to reduce expenses, and people are expensive. But, as indicated in the comment thread, DEN teachers also provided free product evangelizing.
But educators should learn from that lesson. Or from the lesson of Google killing Lively. Or from the lesson of how Apple always releases upgrades mid-summer, while schools need to purchase about 4-6 weeks earlier for budgeting and deployment reasons: then, if these schools want to upgrade and charges these same schools full price for the upgrade. Large for-profit corporations care about education to the extent that caring for education remains convenient, with a reasonably good potential for bringing in profit.
And when we think about how priorities can be inferred from how resources are spent, it's worth looking at how much money Microsoft, Apple, and Google spend on patent litigation alone, relative to what they spend on education. I suspect that the legal teams within these companies are not rewarded with .png badges and meaningless credentials, but with real, actual money.
These companies reach out to teachers because it provides a convenient way to market to kids while maintaining the appearance of social responsibility. They also care about teaching, and the people running these programs are good, intelligent, people, but they are working within a context that is not driven by human concerns. Any good marketer knows that brand loyalty forms at a young age (hey, why else would Joe Camel cartoons be displayed under the counter, where only a five year old would see it?), and tethering the credibility of a teacher to a specific brand just increases the credibility of the brand. Having children use cloud-based products also gives these companies an opportunity to study the interests and use patterns of kids, and that data is marketing gold. And you can actually have teachers apply for this, and the programs are considered a social good? That's what I call thinking different.
And yes, I get that teachers are constantly being called on to do more with less. I also know and like many teachers who have completed these programs. I've even seen some of them teach, and they are people I would be proud to call colleagues. But these programs are a devil's bargain, and deserve to be looked at in the larger context of how we value and fund meaningful professional development.
The main argument I hear in favor of the programs - and these come largely from participants - is that the quality of the program is determined more by the people within it, and less by the brand. And again, that's an argument I understand, but if the value is in the people, you can meet many awesome people at an EdCamp. No corporate branding needed.
Image Credit: "We Don't Need No Steenkin Badges" taken by Thunderchild7, published under an Attribution license.