A Brief Rethink of Education (Part 5: Edtech and its problems) - John Tan

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A Brief Rethink of Education (Part 5: Edtech and its problems)

Edtech solutions are supposed to solve problems – that’s why they exist but have we ever thought if they curate unintended consequences? With billions invested into so-called edtech companies, every edtech firm is attempting to promote their new “revolutionary” product for students, teachers or whoever they end up “selling” their product too. The education/edtech industry is really difficult to be in and it is simply ignorant in nature to think that just because one went through the education system, they are somehow justified to set up their own edtech business proposing to solve a problem which may not be needed or exist in the first place.

In the long run, education will face even problematic issues considering the approach which edtech companies take when selling their products to school. The word “selling” is the key term here – an economic transaction which is dependent on the school having the financial will to do so is required. In most cases, especially with high pressures upon school budgets, schools lack the necessary capital to even think of buying solutions which are marketed to them. Edtech companies will then move to where the money is – it seems only logical to do so. Where an edtech product statistically improves the lives of pupils or teachers, does this not present the question – are only those with the capital available entitled to purchase solutions which may improve educational attainment? You see where this one is heading.

Founders must think carefully about entering the edtech industry or otherwise spend time fixated on a wrong solution with even worse consequences. Founders must establish that their solutions are for pupils – not teachers nor administrators. Even tools which free up teachers’ time will inevitably result in teachers spending more time with pupils – thus, the pupils benefit from this in the end. Like any other industry, new solutions in edtech must be so much better than existing solutions, in order for them to stand out among the countless and ubiquitous solutions out there.

Many edtech companies focus on solving problems which they know they can measure. Of course, it seems only logical to have statistics to prove teachers and students that a product works. However, they forget the human aspect of education; aspects which can’t be easily measured such as creativity or how students behave in different environments. In order to better education, we must first better the individual by creating approachable products which consider human nature and are truly a delight to use. And of course, make individuals happy. That’s the whole point of innovation in the end. Happy people, happy world. Technology can never be pushed. It is essential that edtech products are shaped to the needs of individuals, and that requires a deep understanding of human nature – what individuals want, their dreams, their hopes, and their ambitions.

John Tan

Move education forward. Move the world forward. And get closer to the truth. Excited by the intersect of psychology, design, tech and education.


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