The Teacher/Salesperson

This is another #slowchatpe blog collaboration. The quoted first half of the blog as well as the blog idea was written by Makisha Rogers (@kisha4tech).

written by @kisha4tech

Edtech is a multi-billion dollar industry. As such, it is no surprise that everyone wants a piece of the pie. Start-ups and established organizations are claiming to have that great transformative resource that schools need. Now, in for-profit companies, a vendor repping a product may go directly to the the salesman in the trenches, and tell him why and how he needs to sell a product. Perhaps the salesman likes the the product, but he knows there are much better products out there and he does not think his customers will bite so he does not want to waste his time. Instead of walking out, the vendor tells the salesman that he can earn money for selling this product, and if he sells more than any other person in the region they will fly him to Hawaii for an all-expense paid trip.

As a salesman, what would you do?

This is a problem that we in the education world may face. As companies attempt to get their product in schools they may begin to solicit teachers to do their marketing, effectivity turning them into salesmen. Now if a teacher is passionate about a product, I agree they should share that product with the world. But if money is involved, it could become tricky and may even cause people to overlook a better resource for our students. And if they are trying to convince others to use that product, well you get where I am going with this.

So here are a few questions to think about…If an edtech company  comes to you asking you to try their product, write about their product, rep their product at conferences, would you do it? Saying yes to this is fine, but let’s go further. Would you do it if you did not believe in the product and knew there were much better options out there? Would you do it if they offered you money? Do you know people who would?

If you know even 1 teacher who would answer yes to the last three questions, is that cause enough to stop and critically think about the potential problems this could have for our industry? Could legal issues arise?

I am writing this to simply provoke thought around the matter. Honestly, I wrestle with my feelings about this. As I am writing, I find I have more questions than answers. I am sure I will have more discussions about this with my PLN and my mind may change again. So, I am not knocking anyone’s eduhustle, but I will say if you are a educator/salesman…please don’t try to sell me and my students crap!  I will leave with this statement… Educators, let us lead with morals, lest we be turned into a pack of shady salesmen.

written by @schleiderjustin

Education companies are already leveraging education professionals to help sell their product. They have “ambassadors” that hock their product on blogs, at conferences, during podcasts and multiple other social media platforms. I want to be perfectly transparent here. I will be an official ambassador for SeeSaw, have received funding for our Voxcast podcast and BlabberMouths blab by Spark, and spout the virtues of Voxer to anyone that will talk to me for longer than 30 seconds. The funding we receive for the podcast and Blab covers the cost of the podcast. I have not received a dime of money for my services. There have been times where my meal has been covered by Spark.

This brings up the question of how reputable an endorsement of these products truly is. Spark pays my podcast and Blabbermouth bill; would you expect me to say anything other than they are the greatest physical education curriculum resource out there? If one day SeeSaw sent me to a conference or Voxer gave me a blue tooth speaker do you think I would speak negatively about their products? No that would be silly.

What I will respond to Makisha’s above comments are that I loved the product before I willingly became a mouthpiece for them. SeeSaw is the best digital portfolio platform that I have ever used. Hands down. I spread the word about SeeSaw before they even created their ambassador program. Voxer has pushed my professional development more than any other social media platform has ever done. They created the ambassador program under our (a handful of educators) insistence that it was needed. Spark has the best curriculum that I have researched in the physical education world. It is easy for me to look in the mirror and say that endorsing these products will positively impact your students.

This is a slippery slope though. What if Voxer stopped working effectively? What if SeeSaw started to cut corners and their product started to slip? What if I found a better curriculum than Spark? I personally would stop being a mouthpiece for those companies. Anything my name is attached to is top notch. My “brand” is about finding creating and amplifying the best in education.  (Hence my association with DCTV430, the Voxcast, BlabberMouths, Slowchatpe, The Kinesthetic Classroom as well as SeeSaw, Voxer and Spark)

Can we say this is true with all educators? Do some educators profit from the endorsements? Do they get free trips to #ISTE, get stipends at conferences, get kickbacks if they get a district to sign up for their product? I am sure this happens. If they are directly profiting from their relationship do they have a motive or angle to sell their product? Absolutely! This isn’t a problem if their product is top notch. What happens when they don’t believe in their product? Or another product comes along that is better? That is the worry that Makisha and I have. Will they step away from their relationship? The study of human nature says maybe not.

The next time one of your “edurockstars” is espousing how great a product is, ask them what are you getting from it? Does Google pay you? Are you selling a book? What’s your cut of the book? Dave and Shelly Burgess have created a pirate empire. You can learn how to shave like a pirate, cook like a pirate, and play hide and seek like a pirate. (ok maybe that was too much) When they tweet how great a book is do you ever ask yourself why? How much of a cut are they getting? Do they really believe that every book they publish is great? Check out Teach Like a Pirate and Learn Like a Pirate. They are in direct opposition of how a classroom should run. One is all about the sage on the stage while the other highlights how to be a guide on the side. Neither is wrong and neither is right. My point is that they are publishers and that when they endorse a book they publish, it directly benefits them. That’s not a knock on them it’s simple math. You buy a book they publish they are making more money.

When you ask “edurockstars” what’s in it for you, hopefully, you get the answer that I just love this product, nothing more. I would venture to guess some will get defensive and tell you everyone is doing it, stammer, or try to gloss over your question. There is nothing wrong with making money if you are transparent to your PLN and consumers. We are not naive. Education is a business. As consumers, you need to make sure you know what you are getting and who is profiting from you and your school districts purchases. This will make sure you are not influenced by anything other than the product. 

Q1: What influences you and your school district in buying Education products?

Q2: How do you learn about new Education products?

Q3: Would you endorse a product that you didn’t love if you would receive something that would help you or your students?

Q4: Do you ever think about people’s motivation when they tell you something is great and you should buy the product?

Q5: What Education books or tech do you recommend? Are you profiting from them in any way?


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