Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Silicon Valley Wows Educators, and Woos Them

This article raises some valid questions:

The demand for technology in classrooms has given rise to a slick and fast-growing sales force. Makers of computers and other gear vigorously court educators as they vie for billions of dollars in school financing. Sometimes inviting criticism of their zealous marketing, they pitch via e-mail, make cold calls, arrange luncheons and hold community meetings.

But Apple in particular woos the education market with a state-of-the art sales operation that educators say is unique, and that, public-interest watchdogs say, raises some concerns. Along with more traditional methods, Apple invites educators from around the country to "executive briefings," which participants describe as equal parts conversation, seminar and backstage pass.

Such events might seem unremarkable in the business world, where closing a deal can involve thinly veiled junkets, golf outings and lavish dinners. But the courtship of public school officials entrusted with tax dollars is a more sensitive matter. Some critics say the trips could cast doubt on the impartiality of the officials' buying decisions, which shape the way millions of students learn.

Mike Dean, a spokesman for Common Cause of Minnesota, a nonpartisan group that promotes open government, was critical of the Apple visits, calling them "influence peddling." He said he believed that a Minnesota law prohibiting government officials from accepting "anything of value" from contractors would apply to the hotel stay and dinners. And he said Apple was offering an experience that made potential buyers feel like insiders.

"There is a geek culture that very much worships Apple, and they're feeding into that to get more contracts." 


Grading the Digital School

Silicon Valley Wows Educators, and Woos Them

Published: November 4, 2011


SAN FRANCISCO — 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.

Grading the Digital School

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