Forward-thinking educators from around the United States converge in Seattle this week for conferences sponsored by two of the biggest names in technology: Microsoft and Google.

Both events are two-day affairs that highlight company web-based tools to promote inquiry-based, real-world learning experiences. The format for the two events differ:

Microsoft’s Innovative Education Forum will be hosted at MS Headquarters in Redmond. Keynote speakers at this event are researchers Dr. John Medina and Dr. Jane McGonigal. 100 participants will be in attendance and portions of the conference will be streamed via UStream. According to promotional materials, the group will head to some iconic Seattle landmarks to create project-based activities about the experiences.

Google Teacher Academy is held at Google’s Fremont office in Seattle. Presentations are made by classroom teachers who share successful Google product implementations across grades. 50 participants are split into teams that will spend time sharing ideas and resources, crowdsource questions that will define the agenda, and interact with Google employees and Google Certified Teachers to learn more about classroom opportunities. Day 2 at Google will be an “unconference.”

Criticism

Tom Woodward suggests that participation in these events is unbalanced, and that selected teachers become marketing tools for company products. He offers words of caution for teachers embarking on corporate-sponsored professional development. The post has a healthy discussion in the comments section…spread across the spectrum of opinion. Jabiz Raisdana offered this reposted Tom’s succinct reminder [Thanks to Bill Fitzgerald for clarification around the source of the quote -Ed.]:

This is a transaction, a business transaction. Make sure it’s an equal transaction.

Regardless of what you believe the motivation behind sponsoring such events may be, these companies are recognizing that many teachers put countless unpaid hours into professional development and are investing hundreds of millions of dollars in education. Teachers focused on relevant and meaningful classroom learning need to understand the dominant paradigm whether or not they choose to critique or defy it.

For-profit companies such as Google and Microsoft are successful because at the core, leadership is adept at analyzing a marketplace problem, thinking creatively about solutions and then bringing product or service to market. These companies hire people who excel in their fields; whether that is engineering a responsive search engine, designing a user interface that compels viewers to action, or creating healthy balanced meals for thousands of employees a day. These employees have the communication skills and skill sets that many teachers strive to foster in the classroom.

Resources

If you are interested in learning about professional development opportunities that center around a product suite, take a look at the following resources:

 

Thanks to Lee Kolbert and Dr. Mark Wagner for information and links about these events.

Full disclosure: I (Jac de Haan) am a Google Certified Teacher and a Lead Learner for Google Teacher Academy, Washington.

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4 Responses to For-Profit for Education

  1. Jonah Leston says:

    Thanks for the links. I’ve heard of all of these programs before.

    It is upsetting that web 2.0 companies are influencing education with money, but the government in the US doesn’t seem willing to support our schools so something has to give.

  2. [...] Jac de Haan sets me straight regarding how confused I’ve been about the motivation of large corporations to sponsor teaching academies. . . Regardless of what you believe the motivation behind sponsoring such events may be, these companies are recognizing that many teachers put countless unpaid hours into professional development and investing hundreds of millions of dollars in education. [...]

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