Teaching is not a rich person's game. Duh. But marketing materials have a way of displaying all of us as extreme penny pinchers. Take, for example, a couple excerpts from teachers featured on the restyled Apple and Education landing page (plenty on this in the future). The spotlights on iPad and Mac deployments have some good things to showcase, but there's a lot of the same old marketing talk. Then there's this:

Brandi McWilliams:

Every teacher is on a budget. If you see an app that costs money, keep looking. A lot of times there is something similar for free.

And a second.

Amy Heimerl:

I always search the free apps first. There are so many great free apps out there in every subject.

I mean no disrespect to these educators. Like of all us, you make the best of the tools at your disposal. If a district is willing to fund an iPad program, good staff find ways to make use of the investment. But these quotes are dangerous stuff.

I have no problem with free. Many good tasks can be accomplished on an iPad using the built-in apps or ones that are free. These quotes suggest that you have no business paying for anything, that free always wins. 

A lot of students are looking to become software developers. It is an industry hurting for native talent. Computer science is a degree that can take you anywhere (just ask crazy engineers in education), and the kind of students who would make great programmers don't always have access to learn about it in school. To say free apps are the only way to go really devalues the work of a computer programmer. What happened to a business model of selling a product for more than it cost to make? What kind of support do you expect from a developer who makes little to no money on their app? What are the odds that free app still works when it's time for iOS 8? What is the impact of going with free apps that are supported by ads? What are you telling students about the value of hard work?

There isn't much more of an App Store gold rush anymore. These guys are not all millionaires.  Some are lucky to get sales that cover the cost of development. To devalue their product in such a way that free is the only acceptable option does a disservice to their profession.

Aren't teachers the perfect demographic to understand what it feels like to have your craft devalued?

Let's assume the school bought all the iPads in your room, so you never had to make the $300-500 investment. A $5 app (1-1.6% of the purchase price!) does not have to be purchased for each and every one of your classroom devices. Signing in to the App Store on each iPad will allow a retrieval of purchases: 


I have 15 iPads in my room. A lot of what I use is free. Some of it was paid ($5-15). Anything I paid for was purchased once. Plunking down $5 for an app that can be put on 15 iPads quickly sounds like a bargain to me. Why restrict myself to free? 

What did you spend at Office Depot this month to get ready for school? 

If we're starting to say apps are just as important as pencils, where's the demand for free pencils? 

Though we did solve that free calculator problem. 

AuthorJonathan Claydon