Friday, 13 December 2013

#StartupEduChat Meets #EdTechBridge

I am working on a new report and have a back log of blog posts that I am working on. Given that one of the major Startup Edu Weekends was a couple of weeks ago, I thought I'd focus on innovative start ups in education... and tell you why they frustrate me?!

I have discussed the merits of #EdTechChat in a number of posts, how the discussions have helped me form a number of new ideas. In today's post am going to raise a complaint I have about the chat... 

Every week, without fail, people discuss the EdTech that they find really useful - the functionality that makes them such great tools in education etc... But there is rarely any mention of HOW they became such great products. What was their development and roll out process?

NB EdSurge do a great job with exploring this but as someone who wants to explore this in a lot of detail I find their coverage can leave me wondering "But how..." on some specific points.

As I am not an educator there are some topics where I am not able to contribute a great deal in #EdTechChat sessions so find myself "lurking and learning." This week was one of those kinds of chats - it was an hour of me watching the Twitter wall cascade... app after app that educators find so useful that they are recommending them to others. 

As I sat back and watched these Tweets there were two thoughts going through my head; 

1) The future prospects of EdTech sales people is about as promising as someone on the check out counter Vs a self scan machine - Replaced! Redundant!

2) Look at all these companies and EdTech tools that have a "eText book" roll out - developing education tools that I'd be delighted to be associated with - being praised by their customers and with "Net Promoter Scores" so high that users have become proponents and fans.  

But what about "how did these companies do this?" I wondered why is it we never discuss this? Then I wondered;

Is it up to educators to explore (or even care) about how these results were achieved? 

As a driver, when you jump in the car, you want to know that it will take you to your destination... not how to build an internal combustion engine. 

Educators priority is to make sure that the #EdTech tools work in the class, not how the engine works. There is a big difference between the shiny customer facing car showroom and the factory they are built in... or the garage where  poorly designed or old cars that have broken down are towed to.

I am extremely interested in how do we create better EdTech tools, how can we explore this in more detail? 

Surely the best thing to do is to head down to the race track and ask the precision engineers who are on the fast lane with building great #EdTech... and asking the dare devil drivers to take our inventions for a spin to see what it can do.

I think this is an important issue because as David Feinleib reminds us  in Why Start Ups Fail;

"No-one sets out to build a bad product... but it happens all the time"

And goes on to tell us just how much we need to "get right" or, depending on your perspective, how easy it is to get things wrong! There seems to be enough services in education that are not quite fit for purpose to demonstrate this to highlight the need. 

Now there are some fantastic articles by EdSurge that do go into some detail about this, my current favourites that I can't stop Tweeting about being "EdTech in India - Go Slow or Go Home," "How Good Ideas Go Viral," "SVSUmmit: EdTech Jamboree" "How This Start up won over Oregon" But could we be doing more?

Start Up Edu Winners

If it's so easy to get things wrong then surely we should be asking those who are getting it right for some help. Anytime I see #EdTech being praised there seem to be one of two attributes;

1) They are developed by (or with close collaboration with) educators, or
2) A disproportionate number appear to be coming from some of the dedicated EdTech incubators that have been established.

But there are challenges with these models given;
  • Educators teaching commitments and budget cuts they are extremely busy, so it can be challenging for smaller companies to engage with the sector.

    This is something that the winner of Startup Weekend Edu, Tinker Ed, is looking to address as they will help to bring educators and start ups together to road test ideas.
  • EdTech incubators have worked hard to establish a network of experts and mentors - whether seasoned tech entrepreneurs, investors or education experts.

    However there are only a handful of these incubators  - and it's great to see a couple being established in the UK.
Therefore I wonder if there might be value in some kind of #StartupEduChat - a forum for suppliers to network and share their expertise with other providers... A PLN for EdTech suppliers.

This could also be a place for educators to offer their input on product ideas and improvements, but also to find out about how startups are operating in terms of best practice and culture that educators could experiment with at their schools and in their classrooms. 
I think that there are benefits to this kind of forum for suppliers and educators.

I would be delighted to be involved in establishing this kind of EdChat, but feel that others may be better placed to lead on it and (this will come as no surprise to my regular readers) I am thinking specifically of EdSurge here with support and/or co-moderators from people like;

  •  #EdTechChat and other EdChat moderators
  • Graphite and other Edu peer review sites
  • Startup Education Weekend winners
  • EdTech incubators
  • Startups that have achieved rapid and/or organic growth
If you like the sound of this idea and would like to be kept updated about it please fill out the details on the following link - #StartUpEduChat Survey

I look forward to hearing what the various #EdTech stakeholders think of this idea.

15th March 2014 - Update 
#StatUpEduChat Crosses Over #EdTechBridge
After canvassing my contacts on this idea and trying to get things going I noticed some really interesting discussions on the #EdTechBridge hashtag at the #SXSWEdu conference. I followed the trail of Tweets and found that Steven Isaacs (@Mr_Isaacs) and Katya Hott (@Katyamuses) had the same idea but were coming at this from Educators perspective. Here are some of their posts on the issues that they had identified and led them to the idea of #EdTechBridge.

I will be emailing everyone who has expressed an interest in #StartUpEduChat this week and letting them know about this development and encouraging my Education and Supplier contacts to get behind this. 

As my EdTech Report "Developing Relationships & Delivering Value" highlights, there is such a difference in products and services that are developed with educators input whether by; big tech companies who understand the development and roll out process, EdTech Incubators who have an infrastructure of experts that they can call on; or entrepreneurs like EduClipper & Crowdmark who are educators-turned-entrepreneurs.

Please get behind this community and feel free to take a few moment to complete this #EdTechBridge Survey. Whatever your skill, job title or background, if you've got an interest in Education Technology its time for Edu and Techies to Assemble... great products 

EdTechers Assemble! 


  1. William, I did fill in your survey, and commend you on wanting to develop some bridging strategies between edtech entrepreneurs and educators. I see a lot more interest in bridging in the K-12 space (US).

    However, the situation in higher education seems quite grim, perhaps because there isn't really a community that binds educators (mainly adjuncts). Adjuncts teach largely in isolation, are terribly underpaid and overworked--and are not at all accustomed to participating in the process of innovation. Tenured faculty by and large have no incentive. I acknowledge this is a gross generalization and I don't mean to oversimplify--and there are many exceptions--but it's the bottom line based on my own experience as an adjunct.

    I say all this to point out that all of us interested in "bridging" the gap between educators and entrepreneurs will need to acknowledge the difference between creating bridging opportunities in K12 and in higher education. Strategies will need to differentiate between one sector and the other.

    Even being an educator, as an entrepreneur I found it extremely difficult to reach educators. I did finally manage to do so during early prototyping, but it was very difficult to solicit interest and participation.

    I truly don't see how it's possible to develop a viable ed tech product without educator feedback throughout the dev process--although it happens every day.

    Looking forward to more of all this.

    1. Hi Domitilla,

      Thanks for the comments above, really appreciate your feedback. I agree with you in that there seems to be a lot of progress with the K-12 space in the US compared with others.

      Personally I think that other "bridging organisations" like EdSurge, Startup Weekend and EdTech incubators like Imagine K12 have played a significant role here.

      I have the same issue in the area of education that I work in and have spent a year looking into this and have recently published what I believe will be a viable solution and can be found at -

      A community that I would recommend anyone involved with EdTech sales in the community of Community Manager #cmgr #cmgrhangout #cmgrchat. I believe a better model is achievable... but it sure won't be easy?!

      Look forward to discussing this further