Against my better judgement, the increasingly rabid conversation around edtech has driven me blog.
So let’s just jump right into the middle. The number one issue that is preventing schools and companies from really seeing the value of technology in the classroom is procurement. That boring process of evaluating, selecting and purchasing products is the number one impediment to schools getting the right stuff and to companies participating in an actual competitive market.
How do i know this? Well there was Digital Promise study that shot around the country. Other than that, every time a group of school district leaders get together procurement is what they discuss. They may not use the P word but it’s what they mean. School districts rightly worry that the edtech stuff is ineffective, too expensive, hard to manage and may give away sensitive student information to the wrong people. I’m also starting to hear the term snake-oil. Companies complain that schools don’t know what to ask for or how to evaluate their products and that government procurement is way too bureaucratic.
So edtech companies take note. I guarantee that if you follow these 5 crazy steps you can break through this procurement quagmire and your product sales will match that hockey stick projection you show your investors.
Crazy Step 1: Make a product that has clear proven value to TEACHERS. Proven doesn’t mean testimonials or ratings or case studies. It also doesn’t mean quoting existing research and claiming to have followed it in developing your product. That’s all important but it’s gravy. You need the beef. You need to pay for a lot of independent and verified efficacy research of your product. Pharma does this.
Crazy Step 2: Promote the fact that you are soliciting independent research on your product. Publish the research papers on your website. People like me will notice and be impressed. If you claim to have independent research but can’t make that paper available to all, well then you may be making snake-oil my friends.
Crazy Step 3: Hire a lot of trainers and integrators that actually go into schools for FREE. Yes for FREE. I’ll say it again, FREE. Principals and teachers are not technicians. They are educators. They have advanced degrees in education but that doesn’t mean they understand or can use tech. Our call center answers very basic tech questions everyday from teachers who need help changing fonts or sorting columns.
And here is a bonus tip. Claiming that your product helps close the gap for students without access to good teachers will never endear you to teachers.
Thank you for reading.
Hal Friedlander, CIO NYC DOE