Amenities that are Necessities - Commercializing @EdModo

"You knew it was coming didn't you?" asked the cynical corner of my mind, the same corner that speaks up when I walk onto an Exhibit Hall floor at a Conference, knowing I'll have over 1000 vendors trying to sell me on their products. The reaction came when a tweet floated by this morning, as I readied my family and I for a trip to the San Antonio Zoo.
Edmodo’s apps use the platform’s existing relationship map to make their developers’ services easier to access. They integrate with Edmodo’s dashboard — posting, for instance, badges to a student’s profile or grades to his teacher’s gradebook.
Apps range from simple modules like a virtual graphing calculator to complex systems like a multi-playersocial math game. For teachers to give their classes access to an app, they’ll pay anywhere between $10 and $100 (Edmodo itself is free to use) .
Source: Mashable 
The real question many of us ask when considering Edmodo's NO-COST service for educators is immediate--"What's the catch? No such thing as a free lunch, right?" Even with course management systems (e.g. Moodle, Sakai), you have to pay in terms of time and effort. As late as a month ago, I was giving serious thought to jumping onto the Edmodo bandwagon. These services--Edmodo, CollaborizeClassroom--encourage you to believe they are offering a philanthropic service, something offered by businesses who want to "give back" to education and educators for all their hard work.

Yes, we know it's not necessarily true, the old saying goes, "You don't look a gift horse in the mouth." Except, that's exactly what we have to do with free services.

Can you imagine it now? "Yes, I'm using Edmodo, but to get an embedded activity, I have to pay $$$."  Given that school districts are adopting Edmodo as free teacher tools, the costs may be low enough to tap into underpaid educator salaries, or, worse, another way to siphon off precious district funding.

And, this is by design, right? Edmodo provides businesses with free entry into classrooms, bypassing school district protections...enabling marketing directly to classroom teachers:
Each app is also available as a standalone product, but the hope is that partnering with Edmodo helps get new technologies into classrooms. (Source: Mashable )

We, as legislators (e.g. Epsilen), educators and organizations (e.g. Edmodo, CollaborizeClassroom, etc.), need to "wise up." We need to remember that "free" for business really means "free for now until you're hooked, and then we can sell you on amenities that are really necessities."

If your school district hasn't been coaching teachers on the new economic realities of using these tools, you're in for a long drawn out disappointing series of conversations..."Why can't I buy this again? It's so great! Look at all my students have done on it!!"

We need more investigative journalism, more discernment a la Howard Rheingold:
Now that anyone can publish anything and search engines turn up inaccurate information, misinformation, and disinformation along with accurate claims, the consumer, not the producer of information, must test the validity of claims. Everyone must learn some elementary critical skills for evaluating information. However, both algorithmic techniques and social (crowdsourcing) techniques are emerging for trying to filter out the bad information and float the best information closer to the surface. 
Some would say that most people are gullible, ill-informed, and easily influenced. At the beginning of the 20th century, the American journalist Walter Lippmann made this argument in his book, "Public Opinion." 
The American philosopher and educator John Dewey responded that if this was the case, we need to build better educational institutions and encourage better journalism, so that people would be less ignorant and better informed. I'd say that this tension still holds, but is multiplied by the overwhelming floods of information that new media afford. (Source: PBS)
Are you an educator and citizen-journalist? If so, then you need to be reporting on the use of tools like Edmodo in your classroom, and the "hidden costs" of doing business.

The goal isn't to demonize these businesses, but to enter into relationships with your eyes open about what the costs are.

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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure


Lisa Dubernard said…
Hi Miguel,

I wanted you to know I enjoyed your blog and referenced it in a blog I recently wrote in a similar topic called "The Problem with Free." You can find it here. (I'd love any comments.)

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