“Won’t anyone think of the children!?”

Anyone who follows politics for an extended period of time is very familiar with this phrase.  Whenever anybody wants to encourage action or try to stymie everything from entertainment to legislation, the future wellbeing of our children will almost certainly be brought up.  While there are many cases where this phrase will elicit groans and frustration, there is a very good reason why it is so widely utilized: it is very effective at encouraging action.

To a family that has decided to have children, there is nothing more important than making sure they are well taken care of, and anything that is perceived as a threat to their child’s wellbeing and chance at a good life is dangerous and must be removed.  This is something many politicians understand and it can be a very effective tool when it comes time to run for re-election or push through an important piece of legislation.

So why am I talking about politicians and the welfare of children in an article about educational technology?  Because this is the mindset that the emerging ed tech market must overcome if it is to have a lasting impact in our  schools.  Educational technology is a new and rapidly growing business and is filled with exciting new ideas, but new ideas and products will always have to overcome preconceived notions created by the system it is trying to replace. It was true for the printing press in the 1500s, it was true for the Internet in the 90s, and it is true for the ed tech market today.

This current ed tech boom is different from the previous examples in one very important way, however: it is targeting our schools and the way our children learn and aims to change the way we have been teaching our children for years, something that is bound to make the most open-minded parent very, very, nervous.

Unfortunately, this uncertainty does have a huge effect on any CEO or leader in charge of developing new educational technology for a classroom.  Anyone who wants to make a profit from developing learning material will inevitably come face-to-face with the elected officials in charge of school budgets and creating curriculum.  Due to the nature of their job, any elected official needs to keep his or her finger on the pulse of the public consciousness.  If parents are nervous and don’t want to utilize something for fear of corrupting their children, legislators will do everything they can to sweep it under the rug.

So, how can the ed tech business overcome this massive hurdle?  Well, I don’t claim to be an expert on the subject, but I believe there are three things that can be done in order to encourage parents and legislators to bring more tech solutions and ideas into the classroom.

1. Work with legislators to create a definitive policy for technology in schools

Right now there is no definite school policy on how to properly utilize technology.  This has led to fear of abuse within schools, which translates into restrictive tech policy. Don’t get me wrong, I am not advocating for the use of Facebook in schools or allowing unrestricted access to the Internet, but a centralized policy that governs the use of technology in schools will go a long way toward opening people’s minds to new ideas and innovations.

2. Educate the educators

Any emerging tech company that takes the time and effort to invest in actively showing teachers how their products can be fully utilized will have a tremendous advantage in the near future.  When I was in elementary school, the personal computer was beginning to take off, so much so that schools were paying through the nose in order to equip their classrooms with the latest technology.  Unfortunately, the teachers had little to no idea how to properly utilize the computer as a learning tool, which led to these very expensive computers being under utilized or not even used at all, collecting dust and eventually becoming obsolete.  While technology can enhance learning and make it more engaging it will never replace a good teacher.  If the ed tech market is to truly transform education, it must collaborate with teachers and help them realize technology’s true potential.

3. Keep innovating

While there are many new and creative ideas on how to fix the American education system, there will always be problems.  While the constant need for innovation can be found in any industry it is especially true with education.  The pace of human advancement has rapidly accelerated just in the past decade creating new mindsets, ideas and problems in need of solving.  If our schools are to keep up with this relentless advancement, we must be able to bring constant and dramatic change to the way we view education.

Bottom Line: If educational technology is to truly come into its own as an industry it must gain the trust of the current system by developing clear and definitive policy concerning technology in schools, educate the educators on how to fully utilize technology within the classroom, and create a spirit of innovation and experimentation in order to deal with a constantly changing system.