The boom in educational technology is revolutionizing conversations about what school is and what it could be, where it can be and when, and how it delivers education to students.
The last phrase makes me cringe even as I write it. While my search has certainly not been exhaustive, when I look around the ed tech landscape I see more innovation that supports the institutional side (the supply side) of education and less on the the student side (the demand side). The former is still about educational delivery; the latter about student learning, development, and engagement. While these are not mutually exclusive, they are distinct in their premise about how education happens.
Public education has not arrived at its current state simply for lack of technology. It has arrived at it for myriad reasons that I don’t have the time or the inclination to explore here. But, the most important reason for me is that schools have failed to adopt new strategies for engaging students as active participants and co-creators of their own education and learning.
Youth-centric brands, media, gaming, and seemingly everyone else constantly solicit youth input, offer options and customization, and track youth engagement to inform and strengthen their product offerings. Schools are literally the only place students lack this sort of customization, choice, and power.
Mirroring and reinforcing this reality, one of the largest ed tech companies in this country proudly lists its stakeholders on its website. Students aren’t among them.
Students are technology consumers, and savvy consumers at that.
If technology is going to help change the way schools do business and the way students engage in their own learning and development, it cannot simply mirror the demands and “needs” of the educational (delivery) system. To create meaningful change, ed tech innovators need to work with school systems and students to develop products that put students at the center as active consumers and co-creators, rather than mere recipients, of education.