DEN takes a huge step backward

Categories Education, Technology

Goodbye StopThe following is a response to a recent email I received concerning a decision the higher-ups at the Discovery Educator Network recently made. I tried joining in the forum discussion for this very topic, but for some reason (perhaps their server is overworked at the moment?) I could not.

So instead, I’m posting it here. Be warned, this isn’t exactly a positive posting. Part of me is worried about what this could do to my permanent record, but then I think of how friends of mine are now unemployed and I continue.

Way to go, DEN! Let’s take people trained as teachers and have them try to find jobs halfway through the school year because at the drop of a hat you’ve decided the personal touch that the Field Managers provided (I wouldn’t even be in the DEN if it wasn’t for Rachel, and many of the more technophobic teachers need something more than a web site.) was no longer what you wanted.

FarewellReally. That’s a great way to show you care.

One forum posting mentioned that its now up to us to carry on, and I agree. It is our job to help out our colleagues when it comes to tech savvy stuff. My first action as a DEN member was to lead a workshop to get teachers blogging, so while I know I have more learning to do I’m far from being a novice.

And while we move to help our colleagues take little steps forward, DEN has taken a colossal step back.

I do feel the need to say that I don’t mean to belittle the website in any way. Steve has done an awesome job putting this site together and I know its been a big help to many. Its just that the activities and interactions planned by the Field Mangers were in many cases the necessary bridge that got non-members interested in being members and members interested in being active members.

Since promoting the DEN was a full time job for them, they had the time to promote it well. You know what? My classroom lessons take precedent to being a salesman for the DEN. My Art Club, wife, family, and friends come before that too. The DEN was important to me, but it is far from being a career for me. Saying “Now its your job to step up to the plate” makes me think instead about taking my ball and going home. That isn’t a response that you would get from a full time employee.

GoodbyeI understand that I might cool down after a while. Perhaps I might even see the wisdom in the direction the DEN is taking. (I’ve yet to see a worthwhile explanation, just some corporate lingo about shifts and moving forward.)

But I won’t be wearing my lab coat any time soon, I’m removing links to the DEN from my blogroll, the next batch of pictures I need for a lesson will come from Flickr’s Creative Commons section rather than unitedstreaming, and right now I’m watching the National Geographic Channel out of spite, if nothing else. I don’t even feel bad anymore about my county considering a switch to Safari Montage.

I don’t know if I can support an organization that can’t even support the very people who helped to make it something worth mentioning in the first place.

At least I had one good year.

[tags]den, Discovery Educator Network, Discovery, mistake[/tags]

Aaron Smith is a Media Arts & Technology Teacher who spends most of his time on computers. In his free time he plays video games, edits videos, and misses his wife dearly.

7 thoughts on “DEN takes a huge step backward

  1. Again, the wisdom of this decision is as yet unseen. Lately, Discovery has been all about show us the money…hence, all of the promotions of COSMEO.

    The timing of this decision is horrible…not to mention just WRONG. Hi guys…yeah, thanks for making us more money…by the way…you’re done…Merry Christmas.

    Oh sure, it’s all about the bottom line…but to a company who prides itself on education, it’s supposed to be about the people…the students…the folks who bring you all of these educators who in turn support your bottom line.

    I am disgusted. period.

  2. I could not agree more that I am deeply disturbed about this change. The letter I received was definitely corporate lingo with NO true explanation of the new directon of the DEN. My Field Manager was my link to the Discovery Educators Network. She worked hard to support me and went out of her way to do this. Because of HER, I thought this whole DEN thing was much more than a mere marketing ploy. BOY, was I wrong.

  3. Hi Aaron,
    I attended the National Conference with you. At that conference I was so impressed with the Discovery operation. If anything, I was disappointed that we didn’t spend more time with the field managers. As educators, we all know that you get more from people through your personal contacts then any other way. Incentives are nice, but given limited time, an educator will always opt for the personal relationship over any other. I am not good at reporting things like trainings but I really tried because of Dawn, our field manager. I think that the U.S. decision makers really need to spend a week in the life of a teacher. We just don’t even get a 30 minute lunch, like those folks in business that get an hour and sometimes getting to the bathroom is a most challenging task. How are we expected to keep up with the newest technologies if we don’t have someone helping us to. The field managers were always *on*.. weekends included, providing a necessary push to our spreading the word about U.S. Who do these folks think is going to do that? who will I extend myself for? what stakeholders are there now? I think the field managers were rated by the numbers, how crazy is that. Numbers don’t tell us the whole picture… how come we weren’t asked. If we are stakeholders in this company then why weren’t we asked – i.e.what would you rather see – Discovery buying up another video company ( or the field managers. No contest! I just don’t get it. I guess Discovery folks don’t understand nor care about their client. Education is not like Industry, it isn’t the bottomline for us. We can’t decide not to keep kids because our state testing scores might go up. A family, is just that. A family goes through bad times together and works together for a solution. Your best ambassadors, in fact your only ambassadors, were your fielf managers. I agree with you Aaron, I’ve had enough trouble finding the time to promote U.S. when there was support. It is not my job to promote a company, my job is to help provide the best resources that I can to the teachers and the kids, and those resources had better work and be easy to use.

  4. Aaron, you summed it all up. I refuse to continue to move Discovery forward when they’re now doing pretty much nothing for my kids. I can get all of the information that I need for anything I want to do from any website on the net. Am I going to take the time to do all of it? Not likely. Rachel Amstutz was the fire that moved me to do things I might not have otherwise sought out myself. I’ve had enough of Discovery. They can’t be trusted.

    And I just earned a hooded sweatshirt which I’ll never get because there’s no Rachel to send it to me. If I got it, I wouldn’t wear it now. If I wore it now it would only irritate me.

  5. I have to say I’m completely shocked to hear that the regional field managers are no longer “full time” at the Discovery Education Network. I agree with many of the comments already posted here – the field managers are the ones who made DEN so much better than any other company trying to reach out to educators. Since the field managers were former teachers, they knew what teachers needed and how to get it to us. I have often said that this is what set DEN apart from the rest of the sites and companies out there. Once I knew how beneficial the field managers were to me as an elementary teacher and a college professor, utilizing them for their knowledge and resources became priceless. Field managers had the power to motivate teachers to try new things with technology (especially Unitedstreaming) and the power to inspire us to keep active in our efforts within the DEN. I have been to two different trainings over the weekends sponsored by DEN, and have learned more in those training than I have in 10 years of staff development through the public school system. Thanks to Rachel Amstutz, I have trained more teachers and peers on unitedtreaming and recuited for the DEN because I felt valued as a teacher though DEN. I wish our opinions as teachers and DEN members were heard on this subject before a decision was made since I feel that the outcome would have surely been different than what we are now facing. It’s truly a loss to lose our field managers full-time. I can’t imaging they will be able to have the same impact when only hired as a ‘part-time’ employee. It makes me wonder what value DEN places on the very members they are trying to recruit and retain as faithful users.

    The field managers had plenty to do on a full time basis through the DEN. I wonder – will they have to try to find jobs back in the classroom 1/2 way though the year? As a teacher, this is next to impossible. The field managers left secure jobs to work for Discovery, only to be “cut back” right after they began working full time for DEN. Taking the field managers away is a disservice to us and to them. People say that DEN is not going away, but it’ll just be different. I’m not sure it’s for the better.

    I’m sickened to think that someone, somewhere thought this was a good decision for the DEN. Instead, they have lost the faith of those who they have tried to recruit over the last year or so.

  6. Hello. We’ve never met in person but have seen many of your items on line and I think you met one of my best friends and teaching peers (Lance) at the National Conference this summer.

    I have commented on this situation at my blog: and feel much the same way you do. I love the PEOPLE at DEN but am totally disgusted by the corporate side of what has happened. I know Steve, Scott, Betsy and the rest of the gang that is left are great people but I feel as if I support Discovery than I have been taken for a ride. I really don’t want anything to do with the DEN right now – a group that I loved and promoted willingingly for over a year.

    I will be watching what you do and listening to your thoughts as well as other DEN members out there. This has really rocked me to core.

    I’ll be listening.

    Eric Langhorst
    Speaking of History Blog and Podcast

  7. Hi Aaron,

    I think we all share your sentiments. I’ve posted on the DEN website and now I’m reiterating my feelings here. I, like you, am disappointed. I am also hurt for our friends. These folks were the living, breathing embodiment of the DEN. I cannot fathom the thinking processes that brought Discovery to this point.

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