CfA Releases New Report Documenting How Google Helped Spawn the EdTech Industry and Invaded America’s Schools

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: January 16, 2019

Contact: Bryan Dewan, bdewan@campaignforaccountability.org, 202.780.5750

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Campaign for Accountability (“CfA”), a nonprofit watchdog group focused on public accountability, released a new report, Capturing the Classroom: How Google Sidestepped School Authorities to Push its Products into Schools, documenting how Google’s products invaded the American K-12 education system with the help of teacher-evangelists, the EdTech industry, and taxpayer dollars.

Read the report here.

CfA Executive Director Daniel E. Stevens said, “Over the last decade, Google has built a network of obsequious teachers, administrators, and EdTech organizations who shill for the company’s products.  Millions of teachers and students are now using Google products in their classrooms, but critics – including those in Silicon Valley – are questioning whether students actually benefit from this arrangement. Parents should be asking whether putting Google products in the classroom is benefitting their children or tech companies.”

Google began its education outreach in 2006, when Esther Wojcicki – the mother-in-law of Sergey Brin, a Google founder – designed a pilot program to connect Google with teachers. Wojcicki’s insight – that teachers and administrators themselves would be a far more effective sales force than company representatives – transformed Google into a major player in the education industry.

CfA’s analysis of publicly-available information about Google’s education initiatives – including from open records requests, grant materials, financial disclosures, and school board documents – outlines a three-pronged strategy Google has used to capture the classroom.

First, Google pitched its education products directly to teachers, connecting them with lucrative consulting contracts and turning them into advocates for Google’s products. Google’s connections with its teacher-evangelists, however, has raised thorny questions about potential conflicts of interest and time spent away from educators’ primary jobs—teaching students.

Second, Google convinced school districts to use their own professional development funds to train teachers on how to use Google’s products.  By using taxpayer funding to pay for these sales presentations, Google has essentially pitched its products to school districts for free.  This tactic has in turn spawned an entire new customer base for Google’s EdTech partners.

Third, Google has relied on well-connected educators to promote its interests on both the local and national levels. For example, Jennie Magiera and Chris Craft, two evangelists with Google for Education “partner” EdTechTeam, advised the U.S. Department of Education and Obama White House officials on technology in schools.

Google has also tried to influence public discourse about technology in the classroom by investing in television programs and documentaries that portray technology use in a positive light. For example, Google sponsored an education-focused video channel called Infinite Thinking Machine, which effectively served as a vehicle for Google to push its education products to teachers.  Additionally, the Sergey Brin and Anne Wojcicki Foundation funded Learning Matters, Inc., a non-profit video production company that produced an hour-long PBS documentary highlighting some of the potential benefits of education technology.

Mr. Stevens continued, “Google learned from Big Tobacco and soda companies how to hypnotize children into becoming lifelong customers. Since Google’s business model requires the company to know everything about individual consumers, Google has a leg up over its competitors if the company can get access to kids – and their data – from an early age. Parents, teachers, school administrators, and taxpayers need to be aware that Google’s concerted approach to taking over America’s classrooms may not align with the best interests of America’s schoolchildren.”

Campaign for Accountability is nonprofit watchdog organization that uses research, litigation, and aggressive communications to expose misconduct and malfeasance in public life and hold those who act at the expense of the public good accountable for their actions.