For #Education Innovation, It's Less Push and More Pull (Listening)

Friday, August 19, 2011

If you want a good lesson in how the education world can be a laggard in terms of systemic change and, as the software people call it, iteration, look at this example from a good company I've encountered recently, MasteryConnect.  I'm writing this post today in reaction to a great post by Mick Hewitt about his experience with a teacher and her view of how the vendor-teacher relationship operates.

I've argued for a long time that what is missing in education is a media platform that actually allows teachers to speak for themselves about the experiences they have as educators, professionals, even as parents or individuals with their own lives. All of the mainstream media that reports on education or attempts to provide information about education as an industry takes their information from the top levels of education governance, or from policy makers whose decisions decide how education works.

The only two groups of people who have any real contact with what is actually happening in classrooms and with education products are the vendors and the teachers. But until recently, most of the vendors were not tech companies. They were publishers, curriculum providers, supplies providers. As tech and the web created platforms for different types of teaching products, mostly cloud-based and delivered on the web, we've begun to see an interesting trend.

Vendors who did not exist before are taking the natural step and writing about their experiences in the teacher world. And teachers are contributing their thoughts on blogs and in their discussions with vendors. This conversation is making itself on to the web. You'd be surprised at how much of a gap there is between:

Vendors and teachers
Teachers and the 21st Century workforce
Classrooms and real life

We are beginning to see this, and we are beginning to see why. The traditional vendors had a lot to gain by "disrupting" the classroom framework and providing solutions to teachers and students, but they didn't have much to gain by forming relationships. that's because the traditional way of providing system architecture or solutions was Vendor --->  District level admin ---> schools. No need for a teacher to vendor relationship, except for face-time.

That is changing.

My friend Mick Hewitt had a remarkable educational experience with a teacher he calls Miss Jones recently as he sat with her and figured out her needs in the classroom.

It's a long piece, but it's worth the read if you are in the edtech space. Miss Jones has a strong opinion about what it's been like to work with vendors in the current school framework.

To use Bob Moesta's Job to be done framework, vendors have hired school to push their products. Teachers have hired vendors because they have no choice. Influenced by demands from on-high, it's a zero sum game for them. they must take on "solutions" that sometimes run counter to their best practice experiences with students. You see how that could be a problem.

This leaves teachers feeling "left out" of discussions and creation of tools that have, in the end, often led not to learning, but to frustration with the school experience.  Mick was able to document this with: Teachers are not second class citizens.

Here's the core problem, according to his experience with Miss Jones:
We’ve all seen that there is often a giant gap between educators and “solutions providers”. I’ve seen many an engineer come into this market having “the answer.” As many non-educators come into the market trying to solve problems in education, it’s easy to take an attitude of “we know how to solve your problem” without taking the time to really listen and connect with teachers with the spirit and understanding that these are professionals that care about kids and know a lot about solving these problems and doing their jobs. We need to find more ways to bridge the gap of the solutions that we can provide to improve student achievement and what happens on the ground at the classroom level. When we first started MasteryConnect, we worked with a 17-year veteran educator (Trenton, who you see writing on this blog) and we immediately found a gap between his understanding of what was possible technologically and our understanding of the real-world classroom. It has been a great journey as we’ve worked and continue to work to bridge that gap. 
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Jennie Dougherty / said...

Symbiotic innovation between teachers and entrepreneurs redefines the highest potential of effective collaboration. I had similarly valuable communication with ed. tech. startups this summer and we celebrated our success by co-writing a "best practices" paper that explains the actions, behaviors and mindsets that made our "bridge"/partnership so effective. Everything we wrote resonates SO clearly with what you have put forth here. Thank you! And thanks to all who have the foresight to recognize the importance of innovating what we do AND how we do it! Best Practices can be found here:

Douglas Crets said...

thanks for the link. I will look through it.

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