Technology has become a valuable asset for education. However, many schools lack the budget or other funding to afford certain supplies or state-of-the-art digital tools in every classroom. One way around this? Teachers are becoming brand ambassadors, choosing and testing products from various businesses, often in exchange for incentives such as t-shirts, gift cards and payment of travel expenses to industry conferences.
Accepting such offers poses risks for teachers of violating district ethics policies and even state laws. Yet brand ambassadorship in the classroom is becoming common nonetheless; so here are four major things entrepreneurs should consider when deciding what products to pitch to classrooms and how to look for teachers to support those products as brand ambassadors.
1. Include educators in initial conversations.
As teachers mature professionally, they come to understand what best supports their students’ learning. Recently, as the use of technology in our schools has grown, conversations between businesses and teachers have increasingly included the topic of educationally focused technology.
In fact, some startups have sought out teachers/ambassadors as product testers. Others have sent out customer-service representatives who listen to instructors, fielding their queries to identify their greatest needs — the idea being that there’s no point in introducing products with little or no value.
Rather than waste time and money, companies have begun to work with teachers to elicit their opinions, gauge the value of prototypes and determine what works best for each specific educational environment.
A few companies have established programs that target teachers. These include the Apple Distinguished Educators program and Google’s Certified Innovator Program. Another example is the Microsoft Innovative Expert program. Each runs for a year and includes conferences and collaborations with teachers to develop and create innovative educational tools.
Some of the industry giants behind these programs have even detached these efforts from marketing, instead labeling them as professional development initiatives aimed at educators.
2. Remember that teachers and kids are individuals.
The teaching styles of today are more personalized. Historically, classrooms reflected more of a factory model of education, with desks arranged in rows and teachers delivering instruction to what were thought to be passive students.
Fortunately, this approach is much less common today. Teachers now routinely arrange desks into pods that facilitate…