Five Rules For EdTech Entrepreneurs

The use of tech in education has always been fraught with problems, going back to the days when we didn’t automatically assume that “EdTech” meant “something with a computer attached to it.”

Filmstrips were going to change everything. Mimeograph machines were going to change everything. No dust chalk was going to change everything.

Sometimes EdTech really does move us forward a step or two. Sometimes it’s a huge waste of everyone’s money and time. The problems seem varied and many, but they almost always boil down to one simple issue–instead of coming up with a product that teachers can really use, companies come up with products that they think they can sell.

Every teacher who has been in the classroom for more than three years has suffered through that special professional development session.

The company’s sales rep (who once upon a time taught for a year or two before deciding he’d rather have a job with an expense account) explains that this product, system or software will be absolutely awesome–all teachers have to do is change what they do and how they do it.

Sometimes it’s an issue of user-friendliness; early electronic gradebooks didn’t talk about classes and assignments but instead offered menus for “bins” and “batch sorts” and assorted other programming jargon.

Sometimes the problem is more extreme, like a company telling builders that they can throw out their old tools and just use this great new set of technochisels; all the builders have to do is discard the old model of assembling parts and instead just start with a giant chunk of raw material and chisel it down to the shape of a couch or cabinet or a house.

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