We need a reboot!
“Technology is such a pain!”,
“Data! Reports! Analysis! – Arrghh! I have enough to do already!”
You may have heard these merry refrains one or two hundred times in the last decade, but do we ever stop to ask why? Are we all just too focused on the next “big thing”?
I believe that as technologists, we must ALL face a stark reality, that as a collective “Edtech” community, we have made teachers lives harder not easier – We have collectively screwed it up!
It’s time to be honest with ourselves and ask why does this lack high level of frustration exist? We must ask what went wrong and how can we fix it?
Acquisition vs Activation
“Edtech” is a world of great innovation, new solutions and products, which has been led by people who are in general not teachers or school leaders. As a result, we often hear teachers saying they see little value in new ideas and the perception is that the end result is only more work for them, not less.
Any new solution should never be seen as just another system or process to manage. We all too often hear stories about products that are demonstrated to a teaching community, for the innovator to only be told that; “yes it will help me, but I have no time to learn new things like this!”
We have managed to create a cynical and weary customer mindset, which explains why so many “amazing” solutions have failed to be widely adopted by teachers.
What has caused this collective failure?
Start-ups and established educational brands have failed to act in a way that any “community” should behave. We have missed the very essence of what a “community” is and not looked after each other or appreciated the strengths of others.
Our “community” has reverted to being protectionist, introverted, fearful and in my opinion short-sighted. This has seen a pronounced failure of the market to offer end to end solutions; that create efficient and easy to use tech ‘ecosystems’ within schools.
There are many reasons for this lack of cohesive action and an awful lot of it has to do with ego. Ego is a business killer when it comes to strategic relationships and all too often we see the same flawed behaviour. Companies choose to restrict their commercial relationships and refuse to work with partners to the benefit of schools. This is driven by Founders who fear that their Intellectual Property is going to be stolen before they get to realise the benefits of their hard work. No one would argue that being prudent with who you work with is absolutely justified, but to take this ‘paranoia’ to the stage that we do is foolhardy.
Ecosystem Matters – How can the “edtech” industry begin to solve some of these issues?
Firstly we should to adopt the mantra of “a rising tide lifts all boats”.
By building technical alliances with companies and most importantly the people we like will bring additional opportunity. The most valuable way we can all help one another is through the development of an open API environment. API integrations bring joined up solutions to a school and present data streams that work together to reduce a teacher’s workload.
This data architecture would also speed up how leaders can gain intelligence about performance, which will make a difference to a child’s educational outcomes. It is this use of tech that could go a long way to making children’s education more engaging and teachers work lives more rewarding
Here are some of the key learning’s we need to address as an industry:
Replace and learn doesn’t work – If you ask a school to remove an established pillar of their IT environment, such as an MIS or LMS and then replace it with your new solution, you can safely expect a very long and inconclusive sales process. Is it fair to ask teachers to learn new systems at this time?
Incremental improvements are not enough – Aim high and change the world! That is what every startup originally plans on doing and yet somehow most end up with at best incremental improvements to existing systems. Some companies then arrogantly ask schools to pay more for the ‘new solution’, which provides little benefit or additional incentive for the school to change.
Bad processes are acceptable if the risk is low! – Finally and most importantly, the “pain” of operating with poor systems and time consuming processes has become the norm in schools.
Working with painful systems or process is now widely accepted in the culture of education and unless your “edtech” solution or product easily integrates within the existing ecosystem, you’re effectively only adding to processes and the data management time requirements of a school.
School’s WILL accept a poor experience, if they perceive the risk of change outweighing any benefit they receive. If your business drives more efficient operating/teaching practices, that releases scarce resources to carry out more ‘valuable’ work….then you have a winning idea!
We can all start improving the “edtech” community today, by committing to being transparent and collegiate in our approach to one another. We must see other companies as “allies” in the fight to win customers and most importantly focus on how a joined up solution can change the way a school will perceive technology in education.
Good luck from Team EDDi in 2018
PS – Our solution can work with any API and makes it easy for all learning apps to integrate within the EDDi Unified Data Model right now! So get in touch with EDDi today – #eddiknows