To misquote Dick Gregory, I spent several years last week in Boston at MDR’s annual EdNET event. Stimulating company and practically a lifetime’s worth of conversations squeezed into 2 days. One veteran of educational technology saw a change from years ago: where the industry was leading the market in the ’80s and ’90s, he thinks now the market – the educators – are ahead of the industry. Many”techies” are trapped in the same paradigm of online learning or more properly online teaching. While the school folk deal every day with a “digital native” generation for whom technology is not gosh-wow or even a means to an end, but just part of the environment, like water to fish. That requires different answers because the problem is different.
Proof that the problem is no longer “sell me technology” came in a breakout with a district superintendent from rural northern Georgia. Asked if he saw a future for mobile technology in classrooms, he reacted as if he’d been asked if there was a future for air. “We let kids use their cellphones in the classrooms now,” he said. “Not for making calls, but for photos, sharing, other apps. It’s the wave of the future – just a question how they’ll be used.” When rural Georgia has accepted mobile tech in the classroom that unhesitatingly, it’s game over.
But he and other educators loudly voiced the problem of bandwidth – not internet, but human. The past decade has loaded more and more on teachers and administrators, in terms of mandates, time, testing, and pressure. As much as they may want more technology, mobile or otherwise, something has to move over to make room. There simply aren’t any spare minutes or nerve cells left. So no matter how great your latest product is – what will it replace? What can it make unnecessary? What will it let them give up (and will administration be ok with that)? Funding aside, making a case to make room for your product may be the biggest challenge you face selling into education for the next couple of years.
Mike Baum, Sophia Consulting LLC