There appears to be no shortage of new businesses looking to apply technology to education. An entire ecosystem has emerged in recent years to develop and promote the latest product or service for the classroom or district. But a major hurdle remains: the divide between what entrepreneurs build and educators need.
The ecosystem stimulating the “edupreneurial” activity ranges from startup instigators (Startup Weekend EDU) and startup showcases (LAUNCHedu, SIIA Innovation Incubator), to startup incubators (Y Combinator, Imagine K12) and startup investors.
But in many cases, enthusiastic edupreneurs are propelled from this starting ramp to run full speed, like Wile E. Coyote, into an oversized anvil — actual teachers. It doesn’t matter how good the concept, how cool the technology, or how pressing the need. There can be a fundamental disconnect between passion and reality.
“Solutions have to be easy to implement. They have to make the teacher feel inspired, rather than stupid.”
And that can keep good ideas out of the classroom.
To dissect the disconnect, the MIT Enterprise Forum of the Northwest recently brought together a group of insiders: traditional education company executive Randy Reina, senior vice president of digital product development at McGraw-Hill Education’s Center for Digital Innovation; a not-so-recently-startup edtech company CEO Jessie Woolley-Wilson, who’s chair and president of DreamBox Learning; and teacher/entrepreneur Lindsey Own, a Seattle-area middle school science and health teacher and co-organizer of Startup Weekend Seattle EDU.
A handful of key themes emerged, casting light not just on what entrepreneurs need to know, but on issues parents and educators should expect as ed-tech startups get more attention. Continue reading