Corporate, Cost of Education, Domestic, Education Quality, Elementary / Primary / Junior, Ethics, Friend, Fraud, or Fishy, High school / Secondary 2, Opinion, Required, School teachers, Students - Written by on Tuesday, November 8, 2011 19:26 - 1 Comment

Garden Of Good & Evil: Apple Inc. Sales Staff Woos Educators To Take A Bite


by {Giorgio Constantine} via Flickr under CreativeCommons

Should Apple be flying educators from Midwest school districts out to Cupertino, Calif., wooing them into buying $1.2 million worth of iPads for high school students? Should the educators and administrators from places like Little Falls, Minn., be accepting multiple trips and inking such deals with Apple? Like the Biblical characters of Adam and Eve, would they be less apt to take a bite of this Apple if they didn’t put themselves in a place of temptation near the Tree of Good and Evil in the Garden of Eden that is Silicon Valley? This story from The New York Times by Matt Richtel on Monday exposes some sales tactics Apple is using in the education technology space. It also shows that Apple is incredibly interested in the education space, which is a good thing for education technology and digital learning.

Our Opinion (Paul Glader, Managing Editor): While it may be legal, it doesn’t seem quite right for school districts to be taking these trips. It would be much better for Apple sales staff to visit the school districts and make a business case for the districts to buy iPads without the wining and dining. We would hope these districts or schools put the purchases up to a vote of their school board … and with input from students and parents! Meanwhile, we do like the idea of rural students in Minnesota, Iowa and South Dakota (my home state) receiving free gifts of iPads from Apple or gear from other tech companies. If such philanthropy were part of the picture, the free trips wouldn’t look questionable.

What we don’t gather from this piece in the Times is how the districts actually plan to use these iPads in the schools and, therefore, justify the huge contracts! Do the iPads come loaded with special education software? Or is this just the latest way to use taxpayer money to buy cool gadgets that students can use to play NFL Madden in class? Look up recipes for pot-brownies? Send sexting messages faster and more prolifically to classmates? Or use for actual algebra tutoring – depending on their interest? We would like to hear from Apple, the students or the educators on why school-funded iPads is a good thing. Perhaps we are missing something? We welcome input in the comments section or via email: Here are some highlights from the Times:

Three times over the last two years, school officials from Little Falls, Minn., have escaped the winter cold for two-day trips to Silicon Valley. Their destination: the headquarters of Apple.

In visits the officials described as inspirational, they checked out the company’s latest gadgets, discussed the instructional value of computers with high-level Apple executives and engineers, and dined with them and other educators at trendy restaurants. Apple paid for meals and their stay at a nearby inn.

The visits paid off for Apple too — to the tune of $1.2 million in sales. In September, Little Falls handed out iPads to 1,700 of its 2,500 students at a celebration in the school gym. And a few days earlier, 200 teachers got a pep talk via video chat from an Apple executive whom the school superintendent had come to know during his company visits.

Richtel notes that Apple has used this strategy of executive briefings to generate sales … for a decade. It also makes participants sign non-disclosure agreements, saying it helps protect business secrets. The practice has raised the ire of some watchdog groups. The practices show the difficulty Apple has in changing the education technology landscape.

Even Mr. Jobs, Apple’s co-founder, turned skeptical about technology’s ability to improve education. In a new biography of Mr. Jobs, the book’s author, Walter Isaacson, describes a conversation earlier this year between the ailing Mr. Jobs and Bill Gates, the Microsoft co-founder, in which the two men “agreed that computers had, so far, made surprisingly little impact on schools — far less than on other realms of society such as media and medicine and law.”

The comments echo similar ones Mr. Jobs made in 1996, between his two stints at Apple. In an interview with Wired magazine, Mr. Jobs said that “what’s wrong with education cannot be fixed with technology,” even though he had himself “spearheaded giving away more computer equipment to schools than anybody else on the planet.” Mr. Jobs blamed teachers’ unions for the decline in education.

Still, Mr. Jobs seemed to hold out hope that devices like the iPad could change things by replacing printed textbooks. Mr. Isaacson writes that the textbook market was the next big business Mr. Jobs hoped to disrupt with technology.

And, by the way, Microsoft has a program that covers airfare, hotels and meals for participants in its events for teachers. It does have some internal guidelines to these practices, which Richtel details in the story.
Via The New York Times: (November 4, 2011; Silicon Valley Wows Educators, and Woos Them)

by ! Santiago Alvarez ! via Flickr Under CreativeCommons


1 Comment

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Richard Lefrancois
Dec 4, 2011 9:41

Your editorial is interesting, the title very captivating, just wish you could have dug deeper. I can’t understand why the Little Falls Community Schools System’s superintendant had to be so deeply invovled. He actually went to Apple three times, and reportedly travelled a few more times on Apple’s dime to speak on their behalf as sitting member on the Minnesota Rural Education Association. Why did he not delegate? Why did they not compete this thing? Why did they not drive to the nearest Apple store to get briefed on the technical specifications of the iPads? Why such an expenditure when the System has budgeted to spend more than its revenue? What about the long term aspect of the program; aging, damaged or lost equipment, new students and future needs? Why not institute a buying program by students, with a component piece to help those that cannot afford it? In any situation where public funds are used, regardless of the government level, a good portion of the funds are wasted. This is another example. You want to save trillions, attack waste. rlf

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