Why Education Entrepreneurs Need To Move With Education—Not Disrupt It
Edtech investments reached an incredibly high number in 2018, with $1.45 billion raised—the same amount that hit the market in 2015.
However, raising venture capital, regardless of the industry, is not a guaranteed measure of success in any business.
Various entrepreneurs are moving away from working with investors because expectations that come along with money don’t always match the entrepreneur’s vision. When startups have to go along a different path solely because they need funds, they can quickly burn through cash and go out of business.
If you’re an education entrepreneur who is looking to break into education, here’s a tip: technology is not the only area where teachers need assistance.
Learning outcomes will always matter above everything else—not the amount of money startups can make or the number of apps or subscriptions one sells.
For entrepreneurs who have never worked in the education system, it is critical to note that teachers lack support in various areas outside of the traditional buzzwords floating around Silicon Valley.
Personalized learning, gamification, virtual learning, all things digital, and every other word or phrase surrounding the education technology industry cannot fix education as a whole.
Every student who walks into a classroom comes in with a different story.
Students come from various situations and backgrounds regarding learning, and need different resources and educators to address how and what they learn.
A few of these different learning needs to consider include:
- How students learn best
- Multiple intelligences
- Learning levels
- Background knowledge
- Culture differences
- Language ability (English as a Second Language or Bilingual)
- Socioeconomic status
- Personality traits (introvert or extrovert)
- Family issues
- Mental health concerns
- Varying experiences before they come to school
Effective education is built on personal relationships teachers form with their students, positive social and emotional development, and learning outcomes that apply to the real world.
Learning how to interact with peers, make solid friendships, create projects, solve problems, use creativity, apply critical thinking, and master the art of communication are essential pillars of an effective and productive classroom.
Where does that leave the education technology crowd?
Education entrepreneurs need to integrate and collaborate with the system, not solely try to disrupt it.
Entrepreneurs should choose one problem to solve, research a specific issue, talk with educators, and work hand-in-hand to find a solution. Trying to tackle one unique problem can also bring a richer product or service to the system rather than taking the approach of trying to fix an entirely arduous world.
Education is complicated, messy, and involves endless numbers of intricate details and needs that nobody can solve with technology alone.
Kids are human, and teachers are human—and technology can help, but it cannot replace teachers, nor fix an entire ecosystem.
For example, a kindergartner or preschool aged child who is walking outside of his or her home for the first time alone needs to feel safe, secure and loved.
No app can look down into the curious eyes of youth, and bring comfort to the first learning experience outside of a child’s home.
Entrepreneurs must recognize that schools are in the business of education, and the bottom line for effective educators are healthy student outcomes.
Teachers have wasted endless hours learning about technology products—just for the sake of technology.
These types of empty initiatives do not apply to school culture. What happens? Technology products end up sitting on a server that nobody uses after a few months, and schools call themselves 21st-century because they have Chromebooks in the building.
Entrepreneurs who can identify the needs of a defined classroom culture outside of the popular tech bubble may be onto something.
Next week, I will bring in different ideas that entrepreneurs can consider working on right now. Some of these objectives can include professional development, teacher support and training, mental health assistance, curriculum development, classroom management strategies, fundraising, and more.
These fundamental concepts can seem small from a bird’s eye view, but they can have an incredible impact.
If you’re an entrepreneur who has built something for the education system, please consider areas outside of the technology world—it may just make you stand out as the next big player.
Stay tuned next week as I dig into ideas, and hear from teachers who can tell you precisely what they need—especially as we begin the new school year.
This article was originally published on my Forbes column.