EdTech: The Second Leap

f0282e257c174174a7d0b092a85b777e-0873165cf7ea6a072b0f6a7067002d83 Dear David,

Jeff Green is pictured. Last night, he leaped high to catch a pass with 2 seconds left. Then he made a second leap, this time to score the game-winning basket, thereby defeating your Indiana Pacers.

Got me thinking.

Over at EdSurge, Andrew Plemons Pratt examines a fat (not phat) USDOE report called “Expanding Evidence Approaches for Learning in A Digital World.” APP promotes the idea of:

Pathbreaking edtech startups refining the way they learn about real classrooms--not just by soliciting feedback from teachers and listening to them, but by making field trips into schools and watching how new and traditional education products really get used.


I'd add: from what I can tell, there's actually two big ed tech leaps. One is to get used a few times by many people. Not easy.

But the second leap involves understanding that historically teachers have often discontinued using even edtech products they find to be "pretty good." The second leap is to assume that will happen with your product, understand why, find the pain points, and then engineer something even better, something that makes it into a teacher's daily routine.

If you want the long view on this, Larry Cuban wrote a book 17 years ago called Teachers and Machines: The Classroom Use of Technology Since 1920. A reviewer wrote this on Amazon just a few weeks ago:

I believe that this book provides a lot of value in giving us an accurate history of the use of technology in the classroom and reinforces for the readers how many of these trends--especially trends related to the barriers of education technology practice--continue to be relevant today.

The dot com bubble burst around 2000. Investors realized some companies hadn't figured out how to "monetize."

Lots of today's ed tech bubble exists because companies don't figure out how to "teacher-ize." That is, for an ed tech product to become sticky, it needs to do more than succeed with motivated kids. For any given topic, that's probably a fairly small fraction.

It also needs to work with reluctant kids and the (busy busy) teachers who teach them. That's the second leap.