14 July 2010

And Now a Word from Our Sponsors

In my job, I get a lot of inquiries from vendors. They know that we are a local control state (each district determines what they want to buy) and that the only budget associated with my job is for my teacher group. So why do they pester? Because even an off-the-record nod I make for a product is potentially a lot of money in their pockets. And there are plenty of teachers and districts who will ask me "Have you heard of Product X? What do you think about it?" So, I have a fine line to walk. I need to be familiar enough with whatever tech options are out there to be current, but not so much that I have too much bias. I don't always hit the right balance, but I try.

I was recently sitting in on a focus group for a new product---a collection of copyright-cleared digital resources for the classroom. I was kinda diggin' the presentation. And then the vendor said that one word that blew the whole thing for me:  alignment. "Our materials are aligned to all the state standards."


Well, maybe that's a little harsh. It's just been my experience that any publisher will claim "alignment" about any product and any standard. They know it's a buzzword. And they know schools are willing to swallow what amounts to little more than random matches of vocabulary words between the product and the standards. Once a vendor says that magic word, I automatically distrust everything else which comes out of their mouth. Correlation, I accept. Alignment, I don't.

On this occasion, I did not decide to be diplomatic. I told this vendor (in front of a room full of people) that I did not appreciate their claim...and that if they wanted to use the term, then they needed to show that they had looked at content, context, and cognitive demand. Afterward, I had some other people in the room tell me that they were very grateful for this observation. We'll see if the vendor took our words to heart.

Even in this economy, there is money to be made out there. I could put ads on my blog. I could move to a corporate space (complete with Pepsigate) and allow my traffic to generate money for my pocket. To date, I have made no money off any presentation I have done or material I have developed. I get lots of requests via email each week to pimp a site or product here (not to mention the comment spam I am constantly battling). I won't say that this space or my time isn't for sale. I hope to be doing some presentations for money in the next year, perhaps put together a Data Viz book for educators; however, a blog really is a relationship among many community members. Some of you read and lurk...others comment...still others share links and additional resources. It doesn't matter what level of participation you choose to have---what's important is that this is a healthy and trustworthy ecosystem for all of us. I understand that vendors have a different purpose with the relationships they build. It's just too bad that they don't get that you can't buy credibility.


Unknown said...

I so agree with your comments! Recently I reviewed one "aligned" textbook and found there was a single paragraph in the entire book that "covered" a full standard in the core! This is not alignment ... I look forward to National Science Standards that allow teachers to have a greater voice in making sure we are not sold something that does not meet our student's needs.

The Science Goddess said...

It is shocking what publishers considered "aligned," but I don't expect the Nat'l Science Standards to cause any change. Just a couple of weeks ago (right after the release of Common Core), there were already vendors at ISTE claiming their products were aligned to the Common Core Standards. It won't be any different for science---publishers will just continue to do keyword searches and pocket money from desperate schools.

Hugh O'Donnell said...

Reminds me of the formative assessment shuck...what used to be a natural and spontaneous check up by teachers on learning in the classroom is now the subject of books on "common formative assessments" and a push by C&I administrators to "develop" formative assessments. Gahhh.

I understand your desire to be pure, SG. We have a vocation... literally, a calling to be educators. And yet we have to watch the unqualified vultures try to make a buck in the midst of our efforts to help kids succeed.

But let me say something else: don't hesitate to accept an honorarium or a consulting fee for sharing your hard earned expertise. It's genuine, and deserves to be valued.

Hugh O'Donnell said...

BTW, I love the "B" word when it's applied appropriately. :D