Why the Edtech Potential Will Never Reach Its Potential
There are more computers available for students in U.S. schools than ever before. More than nine out of 10 schools now use computers and more than 39 million students and 74,000 U.S. schools now have access to internet speeds of at least 100 kilobits per second, per student.
Yet, with all this hardware and connectivity, edtech has not reached its potential and doesn’t look to do so in the near future. Fact is, most teachers are not using new technologies to transform their teaching. Let’s look at some of the reasons why edtech companies struggle to succeed.
The idealism problem
Too often edtech founders start out with an idealistic plan to solve learning issues they experienced as students. They don’t have a background in teaching, they are like you and me: people who went to school and had some unfortunate experiences that they believe can be resolved with technology. The problem is today’s students face different problems: constant change, constant connectivity, and a much less nurturing community. It’s impossible to design effective technology to solve today’s challenges that students and teachers face, based on the learning experience of one or two founders.
Teachers are not consulted
More often than not, teachers hear about a new tech solution that they must implement when administration informs them about a procurement. They are often not involved in the decision-making process. But that’s not all. Edtech entrepreneurs usually arrive with tech solutions to problems they identified without consulting educators.
What happens when edtech professionals don’t consult with educators? It looks to teachers as if edtech founders are not interested in education as such and don’t grasp what education really entails. Founders are creating their companies for other reasons and being excluded from the process, educators tend to resent them.
Teachers resist technology in their classrooms
Many teachers have indicated that they don’t have the confidence to use technology in their classrooms. The resistance is also present among younger teachers who have grown up with technology and are not intimidated by it. Teachers are resistant to integrating technology in their classrooms for a number of reasons. They fear that they might lose control of a class absorbed in the internet on iPads and laptops. They also worry that kids will look at Facebook or Instagram instead of doing assignments. Many teachers are also not convinced of the educational benefits of edtech products.
Edtech products are not great products
Edtech won’t succeed if it doesn’t improve its products. Most edtech products lack user-centered design. User-centered design focuses on the users and their needs in each phase of the design process. Too often edtech products are based on what entrepreneurs perceive the needs of teachers and students to be and not on their actual needs. Therefore, their products fail.
In short, an industry that ignores the needs of its customers can never reach its full potential. Edtech entrepreneurs must get out their offices and into classrooms or prepare for failure.