This past weekend I had the honor of attending — as a panelist — the 1st annual EdTech Boston Conference. This event brought together both entrepreneurs and educators to engage in discussions ranging from how to break the barriers of integrating tech in the classroom to what role teachers and students can play in beta testing.
It was, I must say, one of the most positive education-focused events I’ve ever been a part of, and here’s a few of my top take-aways:
1) Ever too often when people gather in rooms together to voice their opinions/efforts/concerns/perspectives on today’s state of Education, a negative tornado erupts on why Education is “broken” and fingers fly to point to the causes. Saturday’s conference was far from negative and all fingers pointed to sharing information on great startups we should all know about and teachers hungry for beta technologies.
Here’s a list of edtech startups collectively texted from the audience — while not comprehensive, it’s a great taste of those represented.
Here’s a shout-out to BetaClassroom, a collection of teachers that fellow panelist Jennie Dougherty (English teacher of Brockton High) has fearlessly led to engage teachers’ voices early in the edtech development process. Phenomenal idea, phenomenal team leader (Jennie).
2) Flexibility. Empathy. Real. If an edtech entrepreneur has at minimum these 3 qualities, their traction of early product testing in classrooms will be substantial, as echoed by many speakers and panelists throughout the day. Answer the phone. Visit classrooms. Write thank you letters to the teachers AND students giving feedback on your new product(s). Listen to the teachers’ cries for compatibility with IE7. Yes, it takes time, but the time will pay off in the end when you have teachers vouching for your product(s) with their peers…at conferences, workshops, through published articles.
3) Freemium! Teachers are inundated with new tools through so many channels, so if edtech entrepreneurs provide FREE opportunities to just try out the product(s), this gives teachers a chance to dive in for themselves on why this product may/may not make a difference in the classroom. Really, teachers are kind of like VC’s — they are trained to think of all the risks associated with your product because at the end of the day they’re the ones responsible for 30 kids ($30million), and if *it* fails, frustration and embarrassment ensue.
Many other take-aways of course, but these stuck out for me — already looking forward to next year’s conference!