OPINION: An Open Letter to Education Technology Entrepreneurs
A library media teacher presents her wishlist for working with edtech providers
I have gained a new appreciation for teachers in my role as the Library Media Teacher at my school. My primary responsibility is to help support teachers with the integration of technology. On several occasions I have been blown away by the high level tolerance teachers have for technology malfunctions. It makes me wonder how many teachers right now are suffering from technology woes in silence.
I have had several teachers lose valuable time trying to figure out how to use poorly designed, or complicated applications. Some have come to me angry and heart-broken from having lost grades, and or content created for their classes. Yes, many of these technology woes are self-inflicted (user error) and school districts need to do a better job of providing professional development on educational technology, but a lot of times I see teachers get burned by applications with a poor user interface. The biggest culprits I see creating technology woes for teachers are online gradebooks and learning management systems.
Teachers’ bad edtech baggage is heavy, and can make it challenging for me to introduce some of the many exciting edtech tools that are being created by the next generation of edtech entrepreneurs. For this reason, I will not recommend a new edtech tool or community unless my team has tried it out first.
I wrote this letter to summarize why I think many teachers are reluctant to try or adopt new applications, even when it appears to be in their best interest:
Dear Edtech Entrepreneurs,
First impressions are a lasting impression. If you want me to use your application more than once, my first experience must provide instant gratification. I do not mean to play hard-to-get, but I have no time to waste. Grading, lesson planning, student clubs, parent conferences, supervision, letter of recommendations, professional development--and did I mention grading?--consumes my time.
You promise me that your application will save me time. I have heard this broken promise too many times to fall for it again.
What is the initial time investment I am looking at before I see results?
What types of support will you provide? I am turned off by help centers that cannot provide me with the answers I am looking for.
I want to learn, but I need your support and patience. The support you provide me is just as important as the design of the application.
Timing is critical. Summer time is the best time to get to know each other. If you are serious, our summer fling can turn into a serious relationship.
Will you come to my school? Long distance relationships are not going to work for me. I need a visit from time to time.
I am looking for a partner, someone I can trust to help me navigate the changing landscape of education.
Your future customer?
Angela Estrella is a professional development facilitator and Library Media Teacher at Lynbrook High School in San Jose, California. She supports teachers with the integration of technology in the classroom, and is responsible for developing, implementing and coordinating professional development opportunities for teachers. Angela is currently in her seventh year of teaching. She is a San Francisco Bay Area native and received her B.A. from UC Berkeley. You can follow Angela on Twitter at @am_estrella and read her blog at http://amestrellaworld.blogspot.com
This op-ed first appeared on Angela Estrella's blog.