Are you just in DEN for the coupons?

I was reading a post by a friend of mine, Bud the Teacher, about the new Yahoo Educators Network (YEN?)  group and came to a screeching halt when I read this:

I wonder what others think about whether or not a few hours spent with a corporate cadre is a meaningful certification …

Teachers get something out of that deal, I’m sure.  Why else would so many folks become Discovery STAR Educators, or Google Certified Teachers, or Yahoo Teachers of Merit

Do we want to belong to something that badly?  Do we desperately crave that praise that we’re not getting elsewhere?  Or is there a deeper something there?  A greater understanding that translates into hours of free labor and word of mouth marketing for those corporations in exchange for some coupons, clothing and community?

I started to leave a comment there, but then I realized that I don’t really have the grounds to do so.  After all, I work for the company and have a vested interest in the program.  Not only that, but I wouldn’t be a part of the program if I didn’t really believe in it.

However, all of you STAR Discovery Educators out there don’t have the same baggage.  So I’d be very curious to hear what you think about what Bud has to say.  Why have you chosen to commit to the Discovery Educator Network?  For the fame and fortune?  For the ‘coupons’ and ‘clothing’?  What do you commit to the community and what do you gain from it?

Feel free to leave comments here, but also let Bud know what you think.  I think he brings up some great questions, and I’d love to see how people choose to answer it.


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  1. Martha Thornburgh said:

    Hi Steve,

    Every once in awhile, I question the motives of Discovery Education for setting up this network. Yes, I am sure that it is done to market a product and yes, it is fun to get some goodies every once in a while. I just showed a copy of Planet Earth Pole to Pole that I won to my students. Very nice perk. I am also really looking forward to the opportunity to be a part of the Summer Institute in Berkley this summer. A really wonderful perk. But what really drives me is being in the company of so many creative and innovative people who are pushing the envelope and really trying to be the best educators they can be. I know that I am not the only innovative teacher in my community, but it often feels that way when we are all so busy doing our own thing in our own classrooms. This is my window to that excitement for learning and the creativity in the teaching craft that made me want to become a teacher 16 years ago. Along with my wonderful students, the DEN is my fuel to keep persevering and finding better, more meaningful and more motivating ways to engage students in learning.

  2. Teryl Magee, TN DEN LC Chair said:

    All right, I would be lying if I didn’t say the “perks” were nice. I also will be sharing a copy of Pole to Pole that I won, and as another TN LC person will tell you, I am very competitive. Therefore, for every contest that comes out, I am all over it! That is not why I joined the DEN though. I love the networking that I can do with other educators. I have learned so much from the people involved with the DEN, and I will continue to do so. Without everyone here I would not be into digital stories or podcasting. Yes, I would still be using technology, but probably not to the extent that I am now. If I didn’t believe in what Discovery was doing I would never have thought of becoming part of the TN LC, but I do so I did. Thank you to everyone who has contributed and will continue to contribute to the DEN; this sharing helps all of us become better teachers!

  3. Alison Oswald-Keene, AZ DEN LC Chair said:

    I’m new to DEN and I agree that the perks are nice, but the biggest perk is the ability to work with so many wonderful people. With out the DEN, I would still be doing what I do, but with DEN I’m able to learn so much and share so much!! The state of Arizona is new to DEN, and it’s my plan to spread the word of technology integration and collaboration with this wonderful group of educators.

  4. Brett Harvey, CA DEN LC said:

    Martha and the others up there said it well. I have actually gotten few goodies but I’m still in it. To have a backing with a large company like Discovery means they can bring in resources and fund opportunities, such as the AFI training I went to last month and the DEN Institute I’m going to soon. Sure I would like more perks – Teryl, how’d you win Planet Earth??? My AP Bio kids were asking to see that today! – but I’m in it for the learning as are all the DEN teachers as you see from postings here. I would guess that a network created solely by teachers alone will eventually get hungry for the financial and material resource support that DEN affords.

  5. Heather Sullivan- NJ DEN LC said:

    You can’t please all of the people all of the time….

    To anyone who criticizes networks like ours, I say “have you got something better?” It’s true that teaching can be a “thankless” position at times- but what career isn’t? That’s right, I said career, not job (another discussion for another day!). The difference between having a “thankless” day here & there and getting stuck in the rutt is EMPOWERMENT. Each of us has the power to keep the candle of WONDER & AMAZEMENT about the world around us burning every day- sometimes we just need some help blocking out the wind. That’s what the DEN is really all about. Granted it may mean something slightly different to all of us, but at its core the DEN is a way to keep people who care about our world- our planet & our civilization- to KEEP CARING!

    I think people who dismiss ventures such as the DEN as “just another corporate ploy” are missing the REAL big picture. To an eternal pessimist, everything can be widdled down to a corporate ploy- just another evil plot perpetrated by corporate America to conquer & control…
    To an eternal optimist, like myself, everything in life can be viewed as an opportunity for growth & change. Why shouldn’t we all take advantage of the resources that are availed us? To deny what commercial enterprises can provide, I feel, is steadfast to a fault- “No thanks, you can keep your LCD projector, My kids like my chalkboard just fine!” Oh really? Did you ever actually ask them?

    Yes Bud- I do want to belong to something that badly- something that lets me feel GOOD about what I do & lets me find out about & talk about the good things other people are doing. We all know that we don’t get enough of that in our daily work environments.

    Do I desperately crave praise? No- but I do crave interaction with other educators who are PASSIONATE about what they do. No woMAN is an island. So,to anyone who criticizes educators for belonging to something that, at the end of the day, is helping to make our world a better place, I say, “What have you & your coconut trees done for our planet & our children lately?”

  6. Tonya Wilson - NJ DEN LC said:

    YESSS! The DEN is a great thing to be a part of. Just in the last year, I have benefited from the interaction I have had with talented educators from all walks of life. I’m not sure that I would have engaged in some of the latest forms of technology as fast, if I hadn’t participated in many great and well organized professional development DEN events. Podcasting and digital storytelling and Google Earth and webinars and etc., etc. I have enjoyed myself. Blogging, emailing, observing, planning, creating, collaborating, networking, socializing and much more are things I enjoy doing especially when it relates to my career.
    Yes, I agree perks are ALWAYS nice, but when you are a true member, there’s not enough to compensate the time and energy that goes into this community. Choosing to better yourself as well as “THE WORLD” as Heather stated is what it is all about. Coupons come and go, true commitment is easy to identify and last a long time.

  7. Joe Brennan said:

    Here’s what I posted over on Bud’s blog:
    User groups! That’s what we used to call them in the last decades of the last century of the last millennium. The one I joined in the early 80’s to learn how to get the most out of my Apple II was started by local ham radio operators. Apple, PC and Amiga users gathered once a month to share tips and ideas. We had a phone list of “experts” to help with immediate needs and problems which led to a bulletin board system and eventually a web page. It’s about time educators and corporations catch up to the power of these learning communities. Teaching used to be a very isolated profession. Anything that gets educators sharing, exploring valuable tools, and receiving recognition can’t be bad for students and schools.

  8. Elaine Plybon - Texas LC said:

    Okay, here’s my take on this:

    Yes, the perks are great. Being a person who has often been at the right place at the right time with the DEN, I’ve enjoyed a lot of perks. However, I really believe I would continue with the network regardless of whether I’d gotten any freebies. My experiences in the DEN not only connect me with some really fantastic educators (I often feel very out of my league), it also gives me more confidence to believe that I can truly make a difference as an educator. As to the marketing aspect of it — sure, Discovery is going to tell us about their products and they’re going to give us opportunities to give their products word-of-mouth advertising, but Discovery NEVER makes us feel like if we don’t promote their product, we’re going to lose our membership! On the contrary, the only requirement they have is three events during the entire year for a STAR DE (and if you look at what constitutes an event, you’ll see they wouldn’t even have to have anything to do with Discovery products). In addition, through the blogs, Discovery employees tell us about products that are definitely NOT Discovery products, and encourage us to use those in our classrooms. I have committed to the Texas Leadership Council (and that means a significant time commitment) because I believe in the power of a network of educators like the DEN — I will continue to do so, whether there are any material perks or not!

  9. Hall Davidson said:

    Everyone craves community, for Pete’s sake. “Deeper here?” Uh, yes, of course! It’s not just the stuff. The Love of Stuff is what pulls people out of real communities. There is more than stuff in our thinking, and we primates basically group that way. Look at the news through a lens that sorts folks into communities and a lot comes into focus. It is a pleasure grooming and getting groomed by my fellow DEN members. Ook ook. (PS We get smarter, too!)

  10. Patricia A. Hawkenson said:

    I posted these comments to Bud:
    As a NBCT, I invited you to visit my Language class webpage.
    It is a current testimonial to the knowledge and technology applications I learned from being a part of the Discovery Educator Network. My students and I are posting interactive PowerPoints, podcasts, embedded widgets, a wiki blog site, on-line created activities and quizzes, webquests and MORE! The professional development I needed to guide my students to this level didn’t come from the NBCT process or my own district. It came from my connection with the leaders and members of the DEN. What small perks I earn, such as videos, t-shirts, etc. are passed on to my students as COVETED PRIZES for THEIR efforts and successes. So, yes, I enter competitions to earn them. While our district budget is scrambling to cut staff and services to minimize the 5 MILLION dollar budget short-fall, I have needed the opportunity offered to STAR DEN to purchase equipment at a discount. I need the connections I make through the DEN to put me in touch with tech suppliers who are helping me find a way to purchase a used SMART Board system to go with the projector and audio recording devices I purchased earlier this year. I have purchased (from my own personal funds) over $2,000.00 worth of products this year alone – NONE of it directly from Discovery. What perks are Discovery gaining from me? There are only givers or takers in this world. Discovery gives. I take. I give to my students. They take. I know they will DISCOVER a way to give back.

  11. Jennifer Dorman said:

    I posted a reaction to Bud’s comments on my blog at

    I am copying the same here:

    Bud the Teacher posed a provocative question to his readers:

    Do we want to belong to something that badly? Do we desperately crave that praise that we’re not getting elsewhere? Or is there a deeper something there? A greater understanding that translates into hours of free labor and word of mouth marketing for those corporations in exchange for some coupons, clothing and community?

    It was the launch of Yahoo! Teachers that prompted Bud’s reflection. Yahoo! has joined the ranks of other tech outfits (Discovery, Google, SMART Technologies, Apple, etc.) to reach out to educators. Bud questioned the motivation of these corporate sponsors.

    I am a STAR Discovery Educator and a member of the Pennsylvania leadership council. I have to agree that I, too, initially questioned the same. Yet, regardless of Discovery’s corporate motivation, not a single person could possibly question the motivation of Coni, Hall, Jannita, Lance, Scott, Betsy, Steve, and the other Discovery Educator Network directors and managers. I have had extensive opportunities to work with the Discovery team. They are unquestionably driven by the goal of supporting teachers and, thus, extending student learning.

    Yes, the perks are great. I’m looking forward to geek camp part 2 this summer . . . I wear my DEN sweatshirt and lab coat with pride. I love testing out new features on unitedstreaming and Science Connections. While those extras are certainly appreciated, they are not the reason that I remain an active member of the Discovery Educator Network and coordinate the Pennsylvania blog.

    The connections I have made with teachers from all over the country – people to whom I look for inspiration and support – are invaluable. Though I fancied myself somewhat tech-savvy before the DEN, I was misguided. Since joining the DEN nearly two years ago I have become empowered to engage my students in rigorous and relevant ways with exciting 21st century technologies (blogs, podcasts, wikis, digital storytelling, social learning, etc.) Might I have stumbled across those applications on my own? Perhaps. Though I can say with absolute confidence that my current students would not be experiencing all these technologies and more this school year. My adoption these technologies would have be significantly slower.

    The members of the DEN have become a tightly-knit community of teachers who all support each other through ideas, suggestions, and online and face-to-face collaborations. I have come to rely upon this community for my ongoing professional growth and my students have been the beneficiaries of outstanding commitment of Discovery educators to perfect the art of science of teaching in the 21st century.

    While it is not out of the realm of possibility that we may have all found each other online at some point in time, I would assume that we would have been unable to generate the supportive cohesiveness that Discovery has structured for us.

    I am a better teacher because of my affiliation with Discovery and my students continue to benefit. I am motivated and engaged to push myself – to extend my own command of technology and content. Every time I leave a physical or virtual DEN event my mind is awash with implementation ideas. I just can’t wait to get back into my classroom to engage my students.

    Anything that can accomplish the task of sustaining professional creativity and excitement is a good thing. In the nine years I have been teaching I have sensed a marked (and negative) shift in the public perception of education. I think teachers find themselves increasingly more isolation (both literally and figurative) at precisely the moment when they most need supportive professional learning communities. The demands of our profession have increased exponentially in recent years (and, no, I am not just referring to the fallout of NCLB). The megatrends of which Dr. Willard Daggett speaks – globalization, demographics, technology, and values/beliefs – have created a perfect storm of change agents that necessitate schools adapt or go the way of the dinosaur.

    So, this was a verbose response to Bud’s question. There IS something deeper here. Based on many of the comments to Bud’s posting I feel that I am not alone in that assertion. I firmly believe that teaching is much more than a profession; it is a calling. Great teachers do not simply “go to work” each morning. Teaching is a lifestyle and teachers live to see their students achieve. I know so many educators who sacrifice day in and day out to facilitate those “a-ha” or epiphany moments with their students. The Discovery educators with whom I have collaborated are among the very best of the dedicated and creative teachers I have ever known. It is inspiring just to be around them and, yes, I DO want to belong to something like this “that badly.”

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