2019 Was a Very Good Year. What’s Next?
It’s hard not to get excited for the prospects in American education. As dark as the media sometimes makes things sound, the truth is we are on the cusp of a period of educational enlightenment.
Here’s why I say that:
EdTech is beginning to come of age. We went through the Gee-Wiz phase of EdTech. The Gee-Wiz phase was the time when all the EdTech buyers bought shiny objects, without a real plan as to how they fit into learning. Rather than creating a plan and finding technology that could accommodate that plan, they bought tech and decided how to make learning fit the tech. Then, we went through the All You Can Eat phase. A lot of districts are still in this phase, where they allowed countless Apps and programs to be chosen by individual teachers and used in home-made lesson plans. Many districts had more Apps than students, mistakenly thinking that free Apps equaled good value for the district. Now, we are settling down into the ‘What can EdTech do to Create A Better Experience?’ phase. This is where the real fun begins.
Districts are becoming infinitely more discerning when choosing their Apps, programs and learning objects. Rather than selecting whatever is the cheapest or free, they are beginning to understand that learning trumps price, because time spent is the real cost in education. That’s great news for our students, and great news for those of you in the EdTech business. You can compete on functionality, efficacy, and be confident that a superior product can find its way into the market. That wasn’t always the case.
Companies like Google almost ruined the market by giving away so much valuable tech that free seemed like the norm. In reality, all that free stuff made it so difficult for small to mid-sized companies to enter the market that we were in danger of stagnating and even receding. That said, work by The Learning Counsel and other organizations stood firm on the precept that quality matters and less is more, and the word is finally getting through. In our journeys across the U.S. each year, we sit down with district leaders in every corner of the country. We saw small districts with over 6,000 Apps and a large district with over 2 million Apps and learning objects. It’s madness. But after seeing the shift in district attitudes this year, I can confidently say that the madness is waning.
God willing and the creek don’t rise, 2020 will be a remarkable year. Districts are now competing with alternative education in a concerted effort to deliver the best possible learning experience. Many districts are seeing a period of sharp student attrition, and they realize the answer is to become better, offering tech and teaching that charters, private schools and homeschooling can’t. This trend is expected to continue for the next five years, as schools remake their learning to offer student-led experiences, delivered with Uber-like efficiency to give students “just in time” access to consumer-grade tech, small-group learning, experiential trips, art, science, music and more. Couple that with the fact that machine learning and analytics are fast approaching real AI, and you have a recipe for a kind of learning that was unheard of just five years prior.
What does this mean to you? Real decision-makers in education will listen to you now. They have a sense of urgency that they never had before, and they want to find products that will fit into their learning plans and make a difference. Find opportunities to talk to the brass, not the teachers or support staff. Be a trusted advisor, executive to executive. They will appreciate it and you will make sales.
And best of all, our kids win.
About the Author
Charles Sosnik is an Education Journalist and serves as Editor in Chief at the Learning Counsel.