I came across this open letter from a teacher to ed-tech entrepreneurs, which I recommend to anyone planning to reshape the educational landscape.
The writer of this blog is a teacher and PD professional, who makes an impassioned plea to developers of innovative and disruptive ed-tech products to spend a little more time thinking, or talking to their customer, in this case, teachers. The essence of her post is that in order for her to recommend any new product or service to the teachers at her school, it must meet several criteria. These include many of the factors any new product or app should have, including an “instant-gratification” UX – no cumbersome set-up time or complicated data migration issues. Also, readily available support from the vendor, including, if need be, a site visit. (This one may pose a challenge for freemium-priced products, but clearly support is a major requirement). Fair enough, but I would argue that there is another factor that determines the success of any new technology in a school. That is, the adoption rate by teachers. Any single teacher may discover a new tool that makes her/his life easier, but if that teacher is the only user in the school, the product will have limited traction in the market. So the challenge for the entrepreneur is to create a solution that makes advocates, or better yet, evangelists, of those early adopters. The user experience should be so compelling that other teachers who look over the first teacher’s ask, “Hey, where do I get that?”. (This is known as the Instagram adoption model.) If it results in some measurable parameter improving by a standard deviation or more, then it is likely that it will get the attention of other teachers, and perhaps even the principal. The adoption rate will increase geometrically if this achievement can be obtained while decreasing costs or time spent on a mind-numbing task. According to the teacher-blogger Ms. Estrella, the worst offenders apparently are grade-book and learning management systems.