If you’ve read any news or blog articles about education in the past two years, you’d know that the schooling world is currently screaming for getting more technology into the classroom. Yet a big reason for the long delay of this marriage is that the best developers simply don’t care enough about education. Sure, techies want the education system to improve just as much as the next person, says Rafael Corrales at Learn Boost, but they just don’t have as much passion as educators have for technology. There’s no way we’ll ever hit that revolutionary new learning platform until we get the best engineers fully behind the cause.
EdTech Entrepreneurs: I’d like to propose a way for you to do this: Create a product that techies want to use for themselves. Think of how tech people are always the first adopters of something like Hunch, Quora, or Twitter. By similarly making your engineers users of their own product, you’ll not only instill an essential passion in them, but you’ll generate interest among the core tech media that will lead your Ed Tech startup to the best investors and partners in the tech world. No product can become the next Twitter or Foursquare unless you are being backed by the key promoters and thought leaders who matter in technology.
Now, you may be thinking that your particular educational product is just geared toward schools or classrooms, so how could you ever make it go viral throughout the tech world? And that’s because your product is probably very content-focused. Your great game about photosynthesis or a simulated discussion forum about the French Revolution may be fantastic to sell to a school (after 3 years of painstaking negotiations with education procurement officers), but it’s not a new technological innovation that has potential to change education the way Michelle Obama pleas for revolution. We need a game-changer that helps people learn anything, anywhere - not just in schools. (Besides, the best tech people are not in school and will never get excited enough about your product to want to jump on board in the first place.)
That’s why I applaud companies like Udemy, whose crowd-supplied video curricula appeal to the masses as well as to those inside the world of education. (In fact, I recently took their Raising Capital for Startups course myself!) When I recently interviewed Udemy’s co-founder Eren Bali, he confirmed that reaching the masses who crave targeted, flexible educational solutions is a much more viable path toward a new standard educational platform than focusing exclusively on students in schools. Schools – being slow-moving as government institutions will always be – will be much more likely to adopt a technology once it’s already gotten mass acceptance. Teachers are only now starting to use blogs, wikis, and discussion boards prolifically in the classroom.
Brainscape hopes to continue spreading this attitude by providing education solutions that anyone can use and get excited about. In addition to our academic-focused apps like GRE Vocab Accelerator and Spanish Verb Genius, we’ve got products to learn more about blackjack odds, beer & wine, and even the Pittsburgh Steelers. We hope that our platform – and others – can continue to spread successfully by being relevant to techies as well as academics.