Voices From The Field: Educators Share What Edtech Entrepreneurs Should Know
“In this article, which will be a short series, teachers, superintendents and support staff from public schools around the country share their insights based on the following questions:
- Why some teachers are afraid of technology
- Best advice for entrepreneurs who want to go into education technology
- What catches a teacher’s eye for a prospective product”
I’ve included my response here because as I go back into the classroom in a couple of weeks, I want to remain optimistic about the future of public education in Ontario, in Canada, and in the US.
I feel that ‘education’ is becoming more and more exclusive, and I don’t know that it has to be that way. The facts remain that public schools are getting less funding, and that teaching as a profession is becoming less and less attractive to newcomers.
If public education is to thrive, two fundamental shifts need to happen;
- Teachers need to be supported.
- Schools need to become innovation hubs (you can read more about this idea in this website).
Here is my contribution to the article – I will try to expand on these ideas in the coming months, your comments are always appreciated. Thank you, R
On Technology Resistance: Rich Baxter, 7th-grade educator says, “To use technology effectively, schools need to be places of innovation, and they are not designed to be so. So how can we expect teachers and students to use technology in productive ways? Our prime minister says Ontario classrooms are an environment that is generally hostile to teachers, so why would a teacher want to exacerbate that situation by innovating with technology?”
Best Advice For Entrepreneurs: Entrepreneurs who want to have an impact on student learning in a financially and socially meaningful way should spend resources marketing solutions directly to learners or their parents. We are facing a 69 million global teacher shortage by 2030.
The education space is not where the future is headed, and if we continue to use the term edtech, I think that’s where we are getting stuck.
Switch the term to learntech and market directly to the consumer – especially youth who are not and will not be served by our crisis-ridden education systems (with a few global exceptions) – and now an entirely new market of learners opens up. Global education and global learning to me are not the same things.
Global education is systemic, but global learning is personal, meaningful, and fulfilling, and the hope for our future survival and prosperity. But the [r]evolution must come from within us, with the humbling realization and the responsible acceptance that half the world’s population is carrying with them in their pockets in the form of mobile devices, the solution to all our global crises, and the other half is not.
I have been teaching for 25 years and have been innovating in my classroom for most of that time. My classroom went paperless around 2012 and technology hasn’t changed all that much since then. I espouse a hybrid approach that includes tasks that have both an analog side to their digital side – and this comes back to arts education, which is by nature technical.
Technology helps when students are encouraged to produce the media they also tend to consume. For example, they learn about dance by creating dance. They learn how to draw by drawing. They learn how to write by writing. They learn about video production by producing videos. Technology has to support and help implement those acts of creation, and I think a lot of the technology that was created years ago still isn’t being used properly now.
Catching An Educator’s Eye: I am interested in edtech products that help learners realize their creative visions mainly through arts or entrepreneurship practice, which by nature are technical endeavors, but the technology doesn’t always equate to digital, and there should always be hybrid solutions available to learners. So as entrepreneurs do we invest money and time creating new technology or do we invest by creating awareness of how to use the technology that already exists? I advocate for creating awareness and giving hope so that people know that they can learn – and I don’t think you need education systems to achieve this goal.
Rich Baxter is a founder, educator, and advocate for social innovation, the arts, and entrepreneurial education. His program The Bootstrapping Checklist was Shortlisted in the Teaching Delivery Category and Showcased on December 5, 2016 and December 4, 2017 in Philadelphia at the Reimagine Education Awards and again in 2020 and exists in the Creative Commons as an open innovation project. Rich is a judge in the K-12 category for Reimagine.