The world of technology is an ever-changing and exciting one. As consumers, invariably what we want technology that makes tasks easier and cheaper, or that keeps us entertained.
While there is no denying that consumer tech enriches our lives, there are drawbacks.
Uber’s on-demand system means that once the taxi companies have all gone bust meaning that people living in the suburbs will no longer be able to book a car. Spotify’s instant access has made treasured record collections a thing of the past. And Netflix’s vast library of instantly accessible films and boxsets means that many viewers simply click away unless productions provide potentially shallow, immediate thrills.
Fundamentally, we want things quicker, easier and cheaper – but does this mean we value those things less and less?
There are parallels with education technology. To get sales, edtech companies must offer something that people want. But if that is quicker, easier and cheaper education then we may risk losing something important. We would all like to excel with minimal effort, but education does not work like that – there are no shortcuts to learning. Companies that ride this trend will not succeed in the long run.
With this in mind, here are four ways that edtech businesses can make a difference to the future of students right now, and build a truly sustainable product offering:
Create technology that meets a need not a desire
Educational institutions often adopt consumer technology simply because it is desirable, not because it will give the student a better future. For example, a major trend over the last few years has been for schools to buy tablets for use in the classroom. This may look good to prospective parents, but it has had mixed results.
While businesses may succeed in the short term by capitalising on such trends, educational institutions are starting to become more aware of the failings in such crazes, as the results don’t match the hype. A sustainable strategy for edtech businesses must be to create products that actually solve real problems and answer real needs.
Businesses must make sure that the tech they create addresses the challenges that students face, rather than creating gimmicky technology. It will be the former technologies that demonstrably improve learning in the coming years. To identify existing needs, businesses should conduct research into the issues that currently obstruct student attainment.
Tech should develop core skills rather than spoon-feed
Some skills take time to develop. Anyone who has learnt a musical instrument can attest to that. We want technology to make every task easier, but when it comes to education easier does not necessarily mean better.
Technology should be used to overcome the barriers to learning which some students face and to develop hard-to-teach skills, rather than to offer short-cuts. Education is our way of investing in future generations by helping people to achieve their potential and cultivate the skills that they need for success. We need businesses to create technology which works towards that goal – difficulty in study is valuable to and works towards the learning process.
We are fortunate to have an education system that values understanding, analysis and discourse over simple fact-regurgitation. We need to make sure our edtech is developing those skills and not just spoon-feeding information for exams.
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