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A few months ago, I asked if I was the only one troubled by Doodle 4 Google, the in-school marketing campaign art competition put on by the good folks at Google. Since then, over 16, 000 K – 12 students across the United States have spent valuable class time helping Google redesign their logo, just like Dennis Hwang does for special occasions and holidays. Unlike Mr. Hwang, the thousands of students working to “re-design” Google’s logo aren’t paid employees of the corporation. They’re just unpaid labour in Google’s latest marketing campaign to establish brand loyalty in young students, take over the learning and become the curriculum.

Check out the classroom product placement and unquestioning student/teacher adoration for the Google logo in the video below.

I see no pedagogical value in having students take a logo of a corporation and tweak that logo (all the while staying within limits set out by the corporation.) What’s the learning happening here that cannot happen with a similar art project that doesn’t involve students and teachers looking at, talking about and focusing on a brand’s logo for hours each day over the course of several weeks?

I’ve said before that I recognize the role that corporations can play in public education. Google’s tools are fantastic for educators and students alike. I’ve seen Dell computers and proprietary software empower students in the most under-serviced neighbourhoods. But when the corporate element in schools ceases to be a tool and becomes an ad, designed to not further learning but shape brand loyalty and influence, then educators must ask themselves exactly what are they exposing their students to?

What especially galls me in this video is the apparent complete lack of any critical thinking and media literacy skills in the educators interviewed. Their willingness to hand over their own class time and their student’s creativity to Google is deeply worrying and either a signifier that these educators are bankrupt of ideas on how to fill the school day or completely unaware of how they and their kids are being used by Google’s marketing department.

Near the end of the video, one teacher mentions that Doodle 4 Google taps their creativity and then asks: “What better way?” Perhaps if she thought about it for even a second and tapped into her own creativity, she’d come up with a few ideas.

I’m keeping my eye on this ad campaign and dreading the inevitable day it makes its way to Canada.

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