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Living the Gig Life: Tom Vander Ark’s Plans for My 6th Grader

live the gig life_2

That my kid was a potential stepping stone to the introduction of the entrepreneurial spirt – so valued by those pushing the gig economy – into our public school and also a source of financial gain to boot, was a sobering.

It also raises big questions:

Where are the local protections to keep kids from being exploited?

Who owns their work and other personal data?

With the push for badges, internships, and other in-school workforce training, what happens to the child labor laws that made public education possible for so many kids?

For the first time ever, I got to attend a Network for Public Education Conference and participate on a panel.

During my presentation, one slide caught the attention of a reporter for EdSurge. The panel was called Parent Hopes and the Gig Economy.

Here’s the slide:

Future of Work K-12

This is what the reporter had to say:

In the session, Leith called out influencers such as Tom Vander Ark, a former education director with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and one of the webinar’s presenters, saying he’s “now planning out” what her “sixth grader might be doing in the future for work.”

According to the talk, that future may be moving towards the gig economy, which the Bureau of Labor Statistics refers to as “a single project or task for which a worker is hired, often through a digital marketplace, to work on demand.” Leith offered another way of describing it: a “series of little jobs” people in the future will have to work “enough to make ends meet.” Leith also claims the workers themselves don’t handle the money, but rather, a platform like Uber—”the middleman”—does.

That concerns Leith. She and others think the gig economy will work for some people, but not all. For instance, research done in 2016 from data and consulting firm Hearts & Wallets suggested that gig economy workers in their 40s, 50s and early 60s within a certain subgroup had high satisfaction rates working in the gig economy. But critics have argued that the gig economy model doesn’t protect workers from exploitation.

Leith is also worried about the way advocates are advertising the gig economy to young students. She feels there’s a false “positive sell” that uses language such as “you’re gonna choose your gigs, and you’re a creative of the new economy.” A more accurate description, she said, would be to say that the gig economy relies on “low paying jobs” that won’t make it possible to “buy a house.”

I think my comments were interesting because the ed-tech “thought leaders” don’t spend much time with the parents of their designated end users.

Parents who aren’t thrilled their students are beta-testing products for free or their public schools are being transformed into workforce development pipelines.

That someone would dare to criticize Vander Ark was news in itself.

More Ed-Tech Adventures with my 6th Grader

Back in 5th grade, I refused to sign the release for my kid’s work to be uploaded to Seesaw. Seesaw compiles digital portfolios of student work and was started by two former employees of Facebook.

As you can imagine, taking such a hard anti-technology stance in the land of Bill Gates put me on the short list for President of the local Tinfoil Hat Society.

A year later the New York Times broke a story explaining how Seesaw is essentially bribing teachers to do product placement in their classrooms, and even worst, teachers are branding themselves and welcoming this commercialization of their profession.

Ms. Delzer also has a second calling. She is a schoolteacher with her own brand, Top Dog Teaching. Education start-ups like Seesaw give her their premium classroom technology as well as swag like T-shirts or freebies for the teachers who attend her workshops. She agrees to use their products in her classroom and give the companies feedback. And she recommends their wares to thousands of teachers who follow her on social media.

“I will embed it in my brand every day,” Ms. Delzer said of Seesaw. “I get to make it better.”

That my kid was a potential stepping stone to the introduction of the entrepreneurial spirt – so valued by those pushing the gig economy – into our public school and also a potential source of financial gain to boot, was a sobering.

It also raises big questions:

Where are the local protections to keep kids from being exploited?

Who owns their work and other personal data?

With the push for badges, internships, and other in-school workforce training, what happens to the child labor laws that made public education possible for so many kids?

Back to The Future of Work and What it Means for K-12 Schools Webinar

During the webinar, Michael Chui, Partner, McKinsey Global Institute, dropped this truth bomb.

In the future, will there be enough work? Historically, we have had enough work despite technology entering. I think in terms of actual amount of demand for labor, it’ll be there. But I do think there will be potential challenges in transitioning people from what they’re doing now as machines do some of what people do now into the new jobs of the future. Some of those things do have to do with retraining, re-skilling, even as people are in the workforce. And I think there’s a lot of work to be done in doing that successfully of scale. And I think that’s a challenge. And you also made reference to the fact that geographically in the United States, labor is at multi-decades low. Even that rate has declined over time. And if we’re going to have the outcomes, often times new jobs won’t be created in the same places where other jobs, you know, might be declining in employment. We’ll need to solve that challenge, as well, in terms of labor mobility. It’s been one of the things that has been, you know, underpinned, you know, good outcomes in the past in the economy and when we do — and then, one of the other challenges that we do see going forward, there’ll be enough, potentially enough work, we’ll need to transition people. And we also have a question as to whether or not the work will pay. Some of the modeling shows that, in fact, income polarization or inequality, whatever you want to call it. And Tom made reference to this before, a hollowing out of middle-aged jobs potentially could be exacerbated by technology, as well. 

Even enthusiastic supporters of the gig economy are worried about its negative impact on the the amount of jobs, living wages, and employment of individuals in their 40s, 50s, and early 60s.

Here’s the giant red flag, which Chui awkwardly admits: some of the modeling of the gig economy shows more income polarization and increased inequality.

Of course, common sense points to the very same thing, but it’s interesting the “thought leaders” are worried about it too.

This should scare everyone who wants their kids and grandchildren to have the opportunity to live in a fair and stable society.

-Carolyn Leith

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One comment on “Living the Gig Life: Tom Vander Ark’s Plans for My 6th Grader

  1. Laura H. Chapman
    November 12, 2017

    This shows the creep and creepiness of the press to make this generation into entrepreneurs and workers for the gig economy https://finance.yahoo.com/news/wework-going-kindergartners-now-100017355.html

    For an example of a teacher functioning as a marketer for tech products look at this website and the “advertising policy” written by a teacher who sees no conflict of interest in marketing products on her website and using students as guinea pigs. https://www.cultofpedagogy.com/ed-tech-tools-2017/

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