When is “EdTech” just Tech?

I’m starting to get sick of the term “edtech”.

Whether its used to excuse a mediocre product or explain an overly prescribed tool, “edtech” has become a loaded term. In fact, most technology that’s being used in the classroom isn’t considered “edtech”.

When I was a teacher, the tool I used the most was Google Drive. Nobody would consider that to be “edtech”, but I used it to plan lessons and track my students’ growth.

Today teachers are more likely to use Google Classroom, but even that is on the borderline for the definition of “edtech”. In fact, the majority of the teachers that I’ve spoken with list products like Box, Genius, and Youtube as their main tools in the classroom. None of those are “edtech”.

When I think of “edtech” imitating “tech”, the product that comes to mind is Edmodo.

When it first started, it was marketed as “Facebook for education” and it essentially was that; a clone of Facebook designed for teachers. Despite their eye-popping usage numbers (15 million ?!), I never found a teacher who actually used it. Side note: that’s why I never trust edtech vanity metrics.

Especially after the challenges faced by the last major VC push into edtech (with Remind and Clever as the last ones standing), investing in education-focused startups is often seen as a sideshow at generalist firms.

That’s a huge mistake.

Between K-12, higher ed, and workforce development, there are tremendous opportunities for startups that do their research and develop an informed go-to-market strategy.

One approach for investors is finding and investing in companies that wouldn’t be considered “edtech”, but have significant and clear use cases in education. Another approach is finding startups working in education that are filling a need that education organizations HAVE to pay for, either due to regulation or grant requirements. The key in either case though is to invest in products that augment teachers and administrators, rather than replace them.

There’s another education unicorn out there somewhere, but I’m pretty sure it won’t be considered “edtech”.