Why EdTech Companies That Do Not Pay Attention to the History of Education Are Doomed to Repeat It
For those in the EdTech world, it is crucial to understand both the history of education and the history of educational technology. Companies can learn from what failed in the past and what ideas continue to return in the field of education. By identifying which ideas are repeated over time (such as problem-solving skills), companies can develop technology that is not simply a “hit” in today’s classroom; they can also develop products that will prove to be long-lasting and impactful.
As Winston Churchill famously said, “Those that fail to learn from history, are doomed to repeat it.” In the case of educational technology, developers and investors need to look no further than the implosion of the “edutainment” industry. What was once a booming market suffered incredible losses as the market became inundated and the quality weakened. EdTech companies should take heed of the following ideas to avoid repeating these same mistakes:
Change Does Not Happen Overnight
Studies have proven that changes in education happen very slowly. EdTech companies should not suggest (nor believe) that their products will radically change education overnight. While their products may be innovative and effective, they must be adopted into the classroom first.
As Justin Reich explains, “Most teachers tend to reproduce what they were already doing. The SAMR model, a taxonomy of teacher practices from ‘substitution’ to ‘redefinition’ is based on this observation that teachers go through a developmental process in adapting new technologies, and that development process usually starts with very modest changes.” Therefore, EdTech companies need to expect the use of their product to be slow and small at the beginning.
Know Your Initial Audience is Different from the Final Audience
While a goal of your educational technology tool is to be accessible to all students, you need to understand that in the beginning, your first audience will be different from the final audience. For example, studies show that new technology and innovation is most often adopted in wealthier communities first and then trickles down to lower income schools.
Understand Quality Matters in a Saturated Market
Finally, learn from the mistakes of the Edutainment era. When the education world was marveling at the invention of educational games such as Carmen Sandiego, multiple edutainment companies arrived on the scene. Unfortunately, many of these companies were looking to make money quickly rather than developing high-quality, well-researched educational products. For this reason, the quality suffered, and the market disintegrated.
Unfortunately, the EdTech market is already becoming saturated – just look at the App Store’s educational games. Therefore, EdTech companies must learn from history’s mistakes and strive to create exceptional products that last even as the market changes.