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Is it Free?

Teacher training and Development

Is it Free?

<![CDATA[I very often talk to teachers about online apps and great new tools and the standard question always is: "Is it free?'"
And of course it's natural for teachers – who are amongst the world's worst paid people for the amount and quality of the work they have to do – to look for free apps and tools.


On a UK pay scale, a colleague recently told me that they make 23 pounds an hour. In Athens, if you  have training and experience, you will be lucky if you make 9 or 10 euros – the average is 6 per hour while the official hourly rate is 4,5 euros per hour  for only 8 months a year; in the summer you can live off the sun and the sea and unemployment benefit of 300 euros per month  (for some people, not even that).
So if most of my better paid colleagues look for free apps, why would the low-paid colleague do anything different? Teachers look for freebies because

  • Their school won’t pay
  • They can’t afford to pay themselves
  • If it’s free, why pay?

So we all flock to the free options and use them, create accounts, create materials, until one day, the company goes bust and we lose everything!
Of course, the paying users lose even more!
A typical example was one of my favourite online animation tools Xtranormal  I loved this app and used the free version along with thousands of other teachers, then started paying to buy more scenes and more characters and to have the option to download and save my videos!  Suddenly the company announced they were closing and loads and loads of teachers lost all their work.
This is what you can now read on their website, written by a team of people trying to resurrect the service: xtranormal

No more losing the movie maker

No more losing the characters that some of you had bought

No more losing the movies that you had made

So what are the going rates?

On the flipside of this, you have your average startup company which creates a great product or serivce and they offer a free plan for a limited range of presentations and one or two templates.
Pricing   Slidebean
I believe most start ups think in terms of ‘Well, what’ 29 dollars a month? It’s not that much money!’  Or 19 dollars a month!!!
Well, I tell you that at the end of the day, if you pay for a few services like we do as a school, the bill at the end of each month is quite steep!!!!
Compare this to the infinitely more versatile and original Prezi pricing plan and you will note the difference.
Of the two services, this is the one I would be more likely to pay for for this, and of course, other reasons, such as the versatility of the presentation templates, the desktop variation of a presentation which can be downloaded and played on one’s pc or laptop…
Pricing   Prezi
Up to a couple of years ago, I used to pay a 29 euros per month subscription to Survey Monkey – when I calculated the cost of each survey I did using their services, it has cost me more than 300 or 400 euros!!!!
Google does it for free!!!!

One more example – my favourite screencast software – the famous Jing

TechSmith   Screencast.com  online video sharing  Plans and PricingCompare it with my OTHER favourite screencasting software, Screen-cast-0-matic

Go Pro    Screencast O Matic   Free online screen recorder for instant screen capture video sharing.

Compare two great screencast apps – Jing at about 100 dollars a year and Screen-cast-o-matic for 15 or under 10 if you go for the 3 year discount!


By contrast, most tablet  apps are much lower in price; for example, purchasing Microsoft Powerpoint for my iPad costs nothing, where you would have to pay almost 80 dollars US for the PC version. Keynote is now free but if you purchase an iPhone or iPad and even if you need to buy it is less than 20 dollars US – compare to powerpoint above!

Make the price right!

Make the price right, people! You can’t jump from nothing to 30 dollars a month – bring your prices down and you might get a lot more people paying!
You  let me have dropbox for free but if I want to pay, you ask me for 100 euros per month! 
Why would I pay that when Amazon asks for 70 a year for unlimited storage space!!!! Get real!!!! And OneDrive gives me 50 GB for free – Plus free online use of the latest versions of the Office Suite! 
This has happened to me time and again! I am willing to pay to keep my content safe but prices are too high – so I will keep going for the free versions for as long as I can.
P.S. Just like governments would make more money if they lowered their taxes – but greedy so and so’s that they are, they keep losing more and more money every year!!!!!]]>

6 Responses

  1. Cristina Cabal says:

    I totally agree with you there.
    Another example is the site Empressr.I was terribly upset when , after dedicating lots of hours and energy to creating beautiful presentations for my students and embedding them onto my webiste, I one day find that without any notice from the developers the site has disappeared. No chance given to download my content.
    I think from now on I am going to stick to the always trustworthy Slideshare.
    On the other hand, I am flabbergasted by what you say about a teacher’s salary in Greece . I had no idea it was that low. OMG! It’s not fair!In Spain , domestic help is charging 10 euros/hour.

  2. Eric Roth says:

    Thank you for highlighting the fine print that many users, not just English teachers, often overlook. While some companies have become uber-wealthy, the vast majority struggle and many go bankrupt. English teachers can also lose access when a free service becomes a subscription service at an unaffordable price. Perhaps it behooves more of us to follow the ancient Greek wisdom: Η φτήνια τρώει τον παρά. If you buy cheaply, you pay dearly.
    Allow me to also express my shock and dismay to read about average English teacher salaries in Greece. Your post illuminates a side of the economic crisis in Greece that we seldom hear about in the United States. Given this economic stress, it’s more than clear why so many continue to flock to free online services – even as we always hope for the best and often expect the worst. Hang in there!

    • I think a lot of companies are out to make a quick buck, Eric and don’t really think about a long term service!
      But even if you CAN afford it it’s mad! Compare Jing and Screencast-o-matic prices. Why would I want to pay the 100 dollars when I have a great product for so much less!!!

  3. Yossi Shimon says:

    Hi Marisa,
    I couldn’t agree more with those that say ”why buy it if it’s free?”.
    As a teacher working in Israel, we are some of the most underpaid, underappreciated public employees in the country. Where ever one finds ways to save a few pennies, one should do so. There is no overtime and teachers can be called for after hour meetings, parent-teacher meetings and so on at the behest of the school, at whatever hours are needed, without getting paid for all of these extra-curricular activities. I personally, bought a laptop at my expense and have been using it in the classroom at my own risk. There is no insurance for the computer whatsoever and if there is a blackout in the middle of class, a student bumps into it and drops it or any other disastrous thing, it’s my problem. I am a great fan of online learning and activities but I don’t get any budget from my school for this. So obviously I and teachers like me are always asking the question, ”is it free?”. If it is, bring it on, if it’s not, forget about it…
    By the way: in Israel teachers get paid around 40 Shekels an hour, which is roughly the equivalent to 10 USD so there you go…
    Thanks for your post,

  4. Viktor Nordmark says:

    Hey Marisa,
    Thank you for reminding us startups to be very careful when setting prices on edtech products.
    If you’d like to replace boring Google forms in the future, we at hubert.ai are developing a tool to collect feedback through chatbot conversations.
    Hubert will simply contact every student separately and discuss, for example, how the last course went. This way you get more qualitative answers and a more engaging experience for students.
    And yes, we will have a free version 🙂
    The beta will be released within a few weeks. Sign up on our website hubert.ai to be the first to try

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