EdTech – Educational Technology – combines two very different worlds. As a startup, it is important to realize the intrinsic differences that are brought together in this new and exciting field. On the one hand, “education” is synonymous with institutions and conservatism, while “technology” is driven by innovation and out-of-the-box thinking. An EdTech startup needs to bridge the gap between the institutional world and the world of innovation.
The Institution-Innovation Paradox
What is the institutional world? On the one hand, institutions are broadly based, providing a needed service that is well established, and part of the mainstream. The best educational systems in the world have shown a long history of incredible scholastic achievement, leading to great technological advances. On the other hand, institutions may be heavy, showing difficulty to adapt or change quickly. In the educational space, new ideas and methods are often slow to penetrate universities and schools the world over. Moreover, the learning methods are often those same methods that have been around for centuries. Paradoxically, institutions are the cradle for great innovation, and yet are the last to adopt innovative teaching approaches.
In the past, learners needed to go to school or university to learn. But now, a world of self-help tools has sprung up with the advent of online and mobile learning. This consumer market is characterized by focusing on the consumer: What does the consumer want, like, capable of doing? What will make his/her life easier? In the educational world, learners are quickly moving to mobile. A good mobile learning product has a consumer DNA that delivers a good learning user experience that is fun, social, and easy to use.
Education goes Consumer
Today, the education sector is going through a disruption. Consumerism is creeping into the educational institutional world with BYOD and BYO tools. Nowadays, teachers or trainers are coping with consumer products that are brought into their classroom or that they bring in for teaching, and are scrambling to use them to good effect. Education innovation is not waiting for school boards, parent teacher’s meetings, government decrees, training program directives, or board decisions. The classroom is no longer traditional. It is already being infiltrated with consumer mobile products that are used by students in institutions whether the institution likes it or not. So, with the new fact of life that students the world over are using their mobiles to learn, it is now the turn of EdTech to marry the two worlds of Ed and Tech.
Moving from Old-Style to New-Age Teaching
With the adoption of new mobile teaching tools (BYOD or school provided devices), a new type of blended learning emerges that incorporates mobile tools, endless information sources, community based solutions, games, etc. At first glance, this looks chaotic. But let’s take a closer look.
In the past, a teacher was the sole source of information and would be the only means of delivering learning content to all. This meant that there was one single teaching method (provided by the teacher) and learning content strictly defined by the institute (curriculum). But we are all different, and learners have their own individual strengths and weaknesses.
Today, every student has access to full libraries in his/her pocket, more than any teacher could ever know. Each student is equipped with a strong mobile computer that is connected to the entire human repository of knowledge.
Soon, a teacher can be a mentor and not simply a dry content delivery tool. The New-Age teacher will be able to coach students for maximal learning benefit, guiding each student to take advantages of individual differences, and suggesting customized learning. The mobile computer will handle the repetitive and dry tasks of delivering the content, while the teacher will identify the human characteristics of each student and direct and advise on the best tools and approaches. Humans will do what humans are best at – feeling, perceiving and identifying the human qualities in a learner. Mobile computers will do what they do best – finding, retrieving, and providing information.
EdTech will Change the World
What does this mean for education? It means that students, teachers, institutional administrators, corporate, and governments will be coaxed by EdTech products to become more individual-oriented in their approach to teaching. It means that EdTech will foster a new, innovative type of blended learning that encourages individualization, good user experience, and learning satisfaction, by providing flexible and results-oriented solutions. If in the past, institutions were used to getting one method to try to fit all, EdTech products will provide a variety of solutions that indeed fit all.
So, what does it mean to be an EdTech startup today? It means to be the bridge between old and new. It means to be at the turning point of human educational evolution and be able to change the way people learn for centuries to come. After all, how many times in life do we have a chance to really influence the world? We are at the beginning of an educational revolution. If you choose to join, you can leave a mark for future generations. Isn’t that inspiring? It is for me.