We all know that it has been a booming year for NYC and EdTech. At around 7PM on Monday night, I turned around in my seat to view the back of Projective Space and realized exactly how much progress we’ve made. The NYEdTech Mashup was packed. Over 200 people came out to show their interest and support for educational technology and innovation. We still have a lot of work to do, but I just have to take a moment and point out the great growth we have seen.
Education is becoming everyone’s burden to bear, and nothing makes me happier. Finding solutions should be a shared responsibility. Education is no longer a problem for teachers, parents or policy makers alone. Now there are so many individuals coming from a variety of fields saying, “Wait…we think we can help find a solution to a problem.” The energy surrounding entrepreneurs in education innovation never ceases to amaze me. It is almost natural for us to get lost in our problems, but not entrepreneurs! Entrepreneurs have this amazing proactive vibe that we really need right now in education. Sadly, teachers used to share that proactive attitude, but over the past few years many of the teachers I know have become saddened by the system and the methods for measuring success. It felt wonderful to be in a room full of like-minded individuals who want to support children and teachers in reinventing what learning looks like inside and out of the classroom.
3 Things that Made the Night Special:
- There were teachers on the panels – how revolutionary! Many EdTech events pay little or no attention to teacher voice. Jim Shelton made a great point when he encouraged entrepreneurs need to reach out to teachers like Rhena Jasey, who admitted that she felt a major discomfort with technology. How true Jim! Almost all of the teachers I meet at these events are tech gurus – we need to captivate the ones who aren’t.
- The audience was large and important, yet friendly and approachable. While I wish I had a better idea of the mixture of the audience, I was really excited to be surrounded by innovative minds in the industry.
- The questions asked during the first panel pushed buttons. Questions like, “What should we be funding?” and “Why is technology failing?” These are the questions that are challenging to answer, yet crucial to ask. Well done Doug!
3 Things I Hope to See Next Time:
- More teachers! One definite takeaway from last night is the importance of teacher voice in the conversation. In order to do that, we need to have more teachers present. I for one, will be reaching out to my teacher friends to get them engaged in the discussion on edtech and innovation and I hope you will too. Dare I say it, it might be fun to have teachers lead a portion of the discussion – classroom style…high engagement???
- Stronger EdTech Demos – Having sat on the second panel during the EdTech demos, I definitely felt there was something missing. As a teacher, I find pitches to be tricky. I would prefer to see how a product was actually used in a classroom, or hear a teacher’s experience using the product.
- Small group work and/or opportunities for networking. I wanted to know more about the makeup of the audience. Perhaps a quick hand raising warmup could do the trick. While I love listening to and participating in panels, I would like to see a balance of panels and smaller group discussions.
Perhaps the most important moment for me was when Rhena Jasey (teacher) spoke out about her discomfort with technology and the intimidation she felt being in a room filled with techies. This is crucial for EdTech Entrepreneurs to understand – just because you think your idea/product is simple, a teacher may not. There is a great divide and it grows every time EdTech entrepreneurs build products without teacher feedback. We need to work on finding ways to support teachers who feel intimidated in this space, and it needs to be during a time that is built into their profession. While there is a hilarious rumor that teachers get out of work at 3:30PM, the truth is that teachers take home tons of work with them. The technology needs to be simple and take time off of teachers’ day rather than add to it.