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Brand Ambassadors in the Classroom

Despite the hype, it's unclear if new technologies significantly improve student learning.  Nevertheless, the trend is toward recruiting teachers to promote products ("Silicon Valley Courts Brand-Name Teachers, Raising Ethics Issues," The New York Times, Sep. 2).  The trend raises serious conflict-of-interest issues.

There are state laws and school district policies that regulate public employees.  When teachers receive any kind of compensation for using any brand not approved by their district, they are on thin ice.  Doctors have been warned against taking anything of value from pharmaceutical companies because doing so could influence their decisions in prescribing certain medications. 

Teachers have a captive and impressionable audience that I maintain is unique.  When they use free technology in the classroom, they are tacitly promoting the products even though they try to justify their decision by asserting that doing so enhances outcomes.  The trend opens the door to further intrusion of commercial interests.  I'm surprised that school districts permit this practice.  When I was teaching in the Los Angeles Unified School District, we were told to use only district-approved materials. 

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