April 23, 2010

A Legend of a Business Model for Learning

Filed under: edtech,education,learning,TeachersFirst,teaching — Candace Hackett Shively @ 12:46 pm

Ning  shook the world of web 2.0 junkies late last week by letting everyone know that they are going to change their terms of service and no longer offer “free” social networking spaces. Many, many teachers will ask, “who cares?”  Those who have been teaching and learNing using these spaces have filled the twittersphere and a vocal Elluminate get-together to vent, discuss alternatives, and stir a web-based uprising for web 2.0 consumer rights. The conversations in Elluminate the other night included several digressions into web 2.0 business models  as seen through educators’ (idealistic?) eyes. Adam Frey of wikispaces articulately shared their philosophy for K-12 schools and was careful to underscore the fact that every tool has its own unique model. We educators would like to think that the nobility of our cause is enough to justify “free”– forever.  After all, we gave up the big bucks to serve kids, so why can’t these web 2.0 companies? Free is the noblest route. But in today’s web 2.0 world, will it last?

As a person who runs a FREE (ad- free) web site, I am often questioned about where the money comes from.  Teachers — and even my curious friends — are secretly skeptical that we at TeachersFirst must be:

a. planning to “bait and switch” to a fee-based service as so many others have done
b. quietly advocating for a frighteningly evil cause
c. vulnerable as
minnows about to be eaten by the Big Fish of the web
d. secretly funded by independently wealthy philanthropist individuals (ha!)

Actually, you should have blackened the space for e. none of the above. Unlike today’s amazing web 2.0 tools, we are a simpler site.  You can’t remix, mash up, or random-generate anything except ideas and resources for learning. What you can do is FIND anything. Good stuff. Written or reviewed by Thinking Teachers. Free. No strings. No “while in beta.” No ads creeping in next to what you really want to see. No bikini-clad models selling you anything. So skeptical (thinking!) teachers ask me directly,  “What is YOUR business model?”

The answer is simple: Robin Hood.

goldcoin.jpgOur non-profit parent company is fortunate enough to have something that cellphone companies want to buy–or lease: frequencies. Those same companies that make money from your teenage students’ text messages and from charging people for precious minutes are also giving us their money. Rob from the rich (cell companies),  give to the poor (teachers). What truer justice could there be?

I wonder, though, why this “business model” could not be translated into other web venues. Wikispaces has adapted the semi-Robin Hood scenario….Take (at a reasonable fee) from those who CAN pay, and give to over 300,000 “poor”  classroom teachers. Strike a blow for Robin.

Today’s web 2.0 world has far more tools than can ever possibly survive. There are so many slideshow makers and PowerPoint wannabes that our review team simply drew an arbitrary line and stopped reviewing them. Perhaps we should examine the Robin Hood legend long enough to point out that Robin Hood is himself a physically fit, thriving benefactor/thief. Those not strong enough for a few sword fights will not survive, even if they are able to snag a few bags of gold. But I sure hope the good ones will wield their web 2.0 swords a bit on their way to hand over the coins of learning to the kids  and teachers who are ready and waiting.

1 Comment

  1. […] more: Think Like a Teacher » A Legend of a Business Model for Learning elluminate, philosophy, seen-through, […]

    Pingback by Think Like a Teacher » A Legend of a Business Model for Learning « Social Computing Technology — April 30, 2010 @ 4:17 pm

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