Edtech Influencers and the Exploitation of Teacher Voice

There are many issues happening in the world that are much more important than discussing edtech influencers.

For starters, hurricane Harvey disappeared from twitter’s trends and yet the effects of it will have great impact on schools here in Texas for years to come. Donor’s Choose has a Hurricane Harvey fund that will go directly to classrooms affected. Since you’re here, please feel free to support students who need it.

In addition, it seems as though DACA is in danger as “he who shall not be named” is looking to end this program which will hurt thousands of immigrants and communities across this country because apparently cruelty is a thing now. Learn more here.

It’s also Beyoncé’s Birthday. You can even donate to her Beygood foundation in support of her organization’s Houston relief efforts which will provide continued support to families much like they did after Hurricane Katrina.

All of those things are much more important than edtech influencers and yet in a matter of minutes, depending on when you read this, there will be a twitter chat hosted by #edtechchat in response to Natasha Singer’s brilliant NYTimes piece on how Silicon Valley uses “Brand Name Teachers” and ethics concerns.

Let me first start by saying that as someone who is in a number of “ambassador” programs, what you read in that article is not typical of these programs. I wrote about it in May. Feel free to read it here.

I think that it is important to make this distinction between programs that support professional learning/community from “influencer marketing” which is targeted at those with hefty social media followings in hopes that it may spark interest in teachers that follow specific social channels.

As someone with a few thousand twitter followers and a verified account, I get emails often from companies that want me to not just try their products but also share across my social channels. This has always been such an odd request to me but there has never been a temptation to engage in such practices.

I work with companies often and I absolutely try products and send feedback but all of that takes place behind the scenes and most definitely not in classrooms.

I may try a tool with my family but students are off limits as that is absolutely not the purpose of school.

To make matters worse, edtech companies that utilize these “influencer marketing” practices often use socially shared “positive feedback” on their marketing materials which they then tag as “teacher voice” and technically it is, except for that part where they paid for it, product or financial, which in my opinion, negates the entire transaction.

In the world of marketing, influencers are thought to be people who have the ability to impact the purchasing decisions of others.

Think…Kardashian…instagram model…flat tummy tea…waist trainers…teeth whitener

That’s who you are.

Why on earth would anyone think that this practice has a place in education?

More importantly, why the heck are people defending it?

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