Teachers: how brands unlocked the classroom market.

Most days I receive an email requests about putting content on my blog. Most claim to read it which seems somewhat unbelievable. To me, branded content is somewhat unethical. I mean, you came here to presumably read about something other than aggregated link bait. Anyone can summarise internet feeds. Having more time than most people to do that is a luxury, not a skill. Branded content has become the norm in educational media feeds, Google this and I-that interlaced with in group jargon such as PLN and docs.

Brands see children as valuable consumers. Teachers  therefore have unique access to children.  It matters that teachers endorse their favorite brands, based on marketing messages. It has a direct economic and social impact on all of society, not just the rich kids who can afford it in Sydney’s wealthy suburbs. Teachers are increasingly aligned brands with subjects, despite curriculum language taking care for decades to expressly avoid it. For example, the curriculum used to say spreadsheet not Excel and word processor not Word.  Yet the ethics of brand endorsement was buried in the rush to rise from the classroom to the exciting world of advisory consulting and conferencing.

Ethical approaches to technology endorsement was wiped out when DEC began bragging about the value of the software on its wheezing netbooks in Labour’s revolutionary class war over classroom innovation. Brands saw a new opportunity. Tech interested teachers would line up for edtech expert secondment, and began taking about their product on a daily basis via social media. Ethics and neutrality was dumped as teachers began courting software, hardware and publishing companies to elevate themselves from the crowd. Even better, they created content, teacher endorsement. The digital education revolution is long since dead, but it opened the door to branded content on an unprecedented scale … despite having no empirical basis and little consideration of ethics. Today one simply doesn’t not talk about popular brands if one wants to get on.

Branded content is isn’t free. Like Apples move to free operating systems, people sell their privacy and independence bit by bit. Teachers, while using technology now have growing personal economic incentives to endorse brands, and produce branded content. For example, there are Google documents with a hundred ways to use Google documents in the classroom. These have higher social and economic benefits to the brand and the creator, than the contributor or reader. This is the new tier of educational content: brand; celebrity; contributor; reader; child; family. Yes, they are often open, but they are clear benefits for the creator.Yes it’s great to share ideas, but the same end (sharing practice) can be achieved without such overt public promotion surely?

It makes me wonder where the ethics system failed and leaders suddenly decided neutrality should be cast aside. I can’t help but observe many leaders seem to be on an endless conference circuit, holding the latest gadgets and being interviewed by brand powered publications. Isn’t the puppy cute, here … take it home.

Innovation is a world used interchangeably with endorsement and information which is endorsed is more visible and more likely to be recognised by consumers teachers. Why rant on about this? … because branded content has an agenda and human impact, and so easily shared and accepted as fact, we might add well let Kyle and Jackie O into classrooms too.