Voice of the teachers
Over the last few years I've worked with hundreds of teachers, product managers and executives to build products for the education market. Yet I still attend conferences, tweet-ups and teach-meets where teachers often talk about not having the right tools, or having to yet again use a tool not fit for purpose. Sometimes the blame lands at the solution provider for building the product in isolation, sometimes it’s just a tool that was pushed onto them by a department. But sometimes, sometimes the blame falls on the teachers themselves.
Working in the education industry you often hear people quote ridiculous numbers, “it’s a 252 BILLION dollar industry, and if we can just get .5% we’ll be rich!”…. In all honesty, if I hear that or similar again I may actually be physically ill, but there is a point to the fluff, there IS money in education. Because of the incentive of the market size (ignoring the fact the education market possibly has the longest sales cycle in the universe), there are more people than ever trying to build ed-tech products. Unfortunately, most of them fail. Not always from a lack of trying, (or often what I see as complete lack of any business model) but from a lack of understanding the problems in the industry, and correctly leveraging their educator audience. We can sit here and have a ‘pity party’ for all the failed ed-tech startups, but wont someone please think of the teachers?
With more brands leveraging social media, it’s never been easier to talk to the people who built that tool you love to use in the classroom, or hate to even talk about in the staff-room. In many cases teachers forget they have a voice and their input often helps dictate where some of that crazy 252 billion dollars go. So why aren’t all of them using it? While teachers learn and practice thousands of times a day on providing feedback to learners, there’s often not much in the way of feedback for solutions providers. We can argue an element of tech burnout, but at some-point the mediocre teacher feedback can play a role in the mediocrity of the solutions.
Help us, help you. If you have a product you love, reach out to the creators and tell them. If you have a product you hate, tell them why, tell them what’s missing, tell them if there was just x feature you’d use it more. Explain the problem to the developers, the social media boffins or whoever you can in the exact same way you do to your students as to why they shouldn’t play with the power outlet.
You have a voice, use it.