So Much Money is Being Invested in Edtech, But Has This Positively Affected Student Outcomes?
According to Techcrunch, global investors invested $8.15 billion in Edtech companies in the first ten months of 2017. You would think that with so much money invested, Edtech would have proven itself by now. Yet, many Edtech startups fail and schools and educators hesitate to take the plunge.
So the question remains – does the tech actually benefit students? On the surface, Edtech in the form of artificial intelligence, data mining, and machine learning can provide students with personalized learning opportunities and guide them through their entire learning process. In reality, educators have found that these systems don’t meet the needs of students.
One reason for this failure, according to many commentators, is idealism. Startup founders are often not educators themselves; they are erstwhile students who want to resolve learning issues they experienced. These talented people mean well. They want to solve issues in education, but the actual issues have changed. Today’s developer is yesterday’s student, out of touch with today’s education and learning challenges. They remember the challenges they faced or the challenges their teachers faced and want to solve those, instead of having real conversations and collaborative discussions with educators and students who are facing these challenges directly.
The best teachers put hours of work into preparing lessons. Much of a teacher’s work is done outside of class and after hours. They face many challenges on different fronts, from new technologies that must be mastered to diverse student demographics. If you want to make things better for them, you have to talk to them to find out what would help them. Most leading figures in Edtech are not educators themselves and they are not necessarily collaborating with educators on the many pressing issues that face them.
Another very real issue is the lack of confidence amongst teachers to implement the technology. The majority of teachers do not currently feel confident in their ability to integrate technology effectively in their classrooms.
A nationwide Samsung survey of K-12 teachers confirmed this. The survey found that 37% of teachers are keen to use technology in their classrooms, but they don’t know how. Some 60% say they feel they are inadequately prepared to use technology effectively. An even higher percentage (76%) say they would like a day of training dedicated to technology.
If we fail to assist educators to use technology effectively, Chromebooks, tablets, interactive whiteboards, and apps in classrooms won’t reach their real potential.
There are other reasons why some educators are not embracing the promise of Edtech. In their experience, technology in the classroom is very distracting and can lead to worsening classroom performance.
Teachers also say that relying on technology leads to bad study habits. For instance, taking notes with pen and paper has become something of the past. Yet, scientific research shows that students retain information better when they write it down on paper rather than take notes on an electronic device.
The thing is, educators are not entirely convinced about Edtech. On top of that, they are not being adequately consulted on it. This disconnect is one of the many reasons why we haven’t yet seen Edtech reach its full potential.