I usually stay as far away from vendor-sponsored events at conferences as possible but this year I was invited to a luncheon at the TIES conference sponsored by Promethean and First Tech. I know the folks at First Tech and am friendly with them even though I am highly critical of their products and how their partner Promethean targets schools. I know that for both of these companies the bottom line is the bottom line and for them its all business, nothing personal. But I don't make that distinction myself. I see what these companies do in their rigorous marketing to schools and how they use tactics that might be in their best interest as a company but which might be antithetical to good teaching and learning decisions. It is their propaganda that fuels district IWB initiatives, not sound pedagogical decision making. Its not that I don't like the products they sell, I just don't like how their marketing gimmicks often turn into school policy. To them, when a district decides to cut one or two media specialists so they can afford IWBs in each classroom its just business, nothing personal. But, to that media specialist or to the kids they serve its not business, it is very personal.
So, I agreed to come their luncheon and largely because I wanted to hear what edtech policies were being drafted from their marketing department so I could know what to expect from school districts in the near future. This year their big unveiling was a partnership with Chanel One. If you never attended or worked in a Chanel One school Chanel One was a huge venture from the early 1990s. Their business model was that they would give each school a television set for each classroom in the school in exchange for showing a 15 minute news broadcast to the kids that was made especially for the kids. And of course all this was made possible with advertising. Sure the schools got free technology but at the price of forcing kids to sit through propaganda designed to make them want certain products or make certain choices. In a way it was the Google Adsense model of marketing even before there was a Google.
On a side note, this was also where Anderson Cooper started his career:
Promethean said they were in the early stages of this partnership and are still developing what the final product will look like. So far they have made the Chanel One broadcasts much more interactive and will provide daily lesson plans with flipcharts and activities that work with the ActiveVote and ActiveExpression devices and are tailored to the day's current events. I suspect over time this will also mean that they will run promotions for schools to receive IWBs at a much greater rate, or perhaps signing on to Channel One will come with it a free set of student response systems or something. How many schools will take the bait? It does sound tempting but I also fear what this does to the teacher-student-content relationship. Somehow letting marketing experts write curriculum leaves a bad taste in my mouth. At least the lunch wasn't bad.
What do you think? Is a Chanel One partnership with Promethean good, bad, or ugly?