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Software May Not Eat Education, But Innovators & Educators MUST Grab Coffee



In his recent blog post “Software Will Not Eat Education,” Ben Stern, Manager of Education Partnerships at TeachBoost and advisor to Ponder, reasons that software will not “eat” education because the main problems in K-12 are human and political issues: the achievement gap, funding disparities and teacher attrition.

However, he caveats that there are three conditions under which software can positively affect education:

  1. Ed tech should be designed to focus on a narrow set of problems.
  2. Ed tech companies ought to make sure the problem they solve is a real problem, not a mere annoyance.
  3. To focus on the right problem, companies must assume a purely Socratic approach.

Condition #3 addresses most of the concerns related to software’s ability to “eat” (or at least snack on) education: for software to add value in the classroom, teacher adoption is critical. Innovators can ensure teachers will endorse new technology by working closely with them to identify a specific (Stern’s condition #1) and meaningful (Stern’s condition #2) problem.

We can simplify Stern’s three conditions to one elegant concept: Educators must be involved with and passionate about the development of ed tech. According to Christine Zanchi, Executive Producer of the Next Generation Preschool Math project (NGPM), a 4-year, $3.5 million National Science Foundation-funded research project focused on the development and integration of digital math content in the preschool classroom, “Technology implementations live or die with the teacher and whether they understand how the technology supports pedagogy in the classroom.”

NGPM addresses the importance of educator involvement through a collaborative process with educators focused on improving the development and implementation of their technology:

  • Development –NGPM observes teachers, collects their instructive language and incorporates this language into the game. Because teachers have an understanding of how to effectively communicate with students, NGPM bases the game’s instructions on the teacher’s voice versus a developer’s interpretation of didactic diction.
  • Implementation – NGPM provides onsite sessions to orient teachers to products and foster an understanding of the most effective use of the technology. Additionally, NGPM offers online coaching resources for continued training.

As we continue to assess potential ed tech investment opportunities, we look forward to discussing the methodology and results of including educators in various stages of the innovation process.

Catalyst Investors employs a proactive, research-based approach to investing. We target sectors that are experiencing above-average growth. If you are a growth-stage eLearning company seeking investment, our team would love to start a dialogue. Please send inquiries and business plans to [email protected].

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