For me, one of the greatest tests of whether something is truly innovative is simply the answer, “Oh, Duh!” Take the printing press, light bulb, telephone, car, airplane, smartphone, or computer. In hindsight, they seem so obvious. How could we have ever lived without them?
The truth is generations did cope without these modern marvels, but thanks to visionaries who didn’t accept the status quo, new technologies increased quality of life, brought about democratization, and opened the doors for further innovation to the masses. It is time Edtech procurement (ETP) be added to this list.
The operative word from the last paragraph is “cope”. It is silly to think that in a $12B industry (which received $2B in investments last year), affecting millions of students, we cope with an ETP system stuck in the Stone Ages and we systemically accept this as the norm.
The norm doesn’t lead to innovation. As Henry Ford-car assembly line pioneer—once said, “If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they would have told me a faster horse.” Steve Jobs cited this quote in a 2008 Fortune interview when commenting on Apple’s logic behind creating iTunes. These visionaries weren’t satisfied with the status quo and just as they challenged conventional wisdom, we too need to challenge the current ETP status quo.
Challenging the status quo can naturally attract haters who are okay with the norm and hate, hate, hate, hate change. (reference to Taylor Swift anyone? You can thank my kids for getting that song stuck in your head all day). With all modern advancements, there have been naysayers. Modernizing ETP is not a solution in search for a problem, nor needless buzzwords. There really is a problem. I have experienced it personally and professionally. It is happening right here, right now (now you can have two songs from two different decades stuck in your head).
The good news is that challenging norms and spurring innovation is not a foreign concept to schools. We ask students and teachers to challenge norms and innovate as part of their jobs every day. This is what the Future Ready and 21st Century skills movement is all about. Let’s be innovative, not ironic.
From my experience as a former K-12 teacher, district and building technology leader, we need to change the stone aged ETP because it…
Creates More Cost
There are many technology providers with innovative solutions at school-acceptable price points. If it’s not easy for K-12 leaders to discover and vett less costly solutions, then more expensive competitor products may be installed, taking away already limited school funds. Time is another hidden cost in this scenario. Inefficiency results in more time and costs more money. A marketplace that allows the cost of solutions to easily be compared and efficiently obtained would be helpful in ensuring school are saving money.
Stone Aged ETP invites ineffectiveness. Without adequate reviews, efficacy, and research during the discovery and vetting process, the best technology solution can easily be overlooked. Collegial input is great, but it can be an inherently limited worldview of a product or provider’s effectiveness. An aggregated platform that allows tech directors to see reviews and efficacy data of all Edtech providers can ensure the most complete decision is made.
Stone Aged ETP obscures innovation. This is a subtle but detrimental effect. Innovation both in the classroom and with providers suffers if not discovered, vetted, and reviewed quickly through the noisy and crowded Edtech industry. I experienced this during my tenure as an educator. Who knew there are great vendors that provide refurbished, certified Apple hardware? Or, how about a great application that syncs your district’s Student Information System to Active Directory for a reasonable cost? Can you find them quickly if needed? Having a platform that efficiently allows products to be discovered and vetted better ensures innovation isn’t left in a dark cave without a light bulb.
Edwin Wargo is CEO and Co-founder of 3rd Quote. He is a former K-12 teacher with a Masters in School Leadership who has held district and school technology coordinator positions. Please reach out to him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @edwinjwargo with any comments or questions.
Stone Aged ETP can take away valuable time to focus on students and supporting their learning. Discovery for even simple commodity Ed-tech products can be a very daunting, time consuming process. Add vetting and pricing into the journey and it can become an epic saga. In the same amount of time it takes us to book a transatlantic flight and hotel, we should be able to discover, vet, and get ed-tech pricing, don’t you agree? It shouldn’t take us the time equivalent of actually crossing the Atlantic on a steamboat.
Democratization Takes a Hit
Stone Aged ETP prevents leveling the playing field for schools and Edtech providers. Those with more resources can succeed better than those without. It’s the classic “haves and the have nots” example. Additionally, the Stone Aged ETP process limits voice in the decision making process. A common application and/or process that provide an opportunity for the voices of all stakeholders to be heard throughout the vetting process will ensure that democratization is realized and becomes the norm.
Significant Student Impact
Stone Aged ETP negatively impacts students. I have seen this personally in the form of losing last-minute grant money, having to rush through the discovery and vetting process and having limited funds. If technology costs more money, it’s not effective. Innovation isn’t inherent. Technology is time-consuming just to get and democratization isn’t foundational. It’s the students who are impacted the most in this scenario. I have seen this firsthand. Can we allow our students to suffer due to an antiquated system? NO.
The problems with the status quo ETP system are real. It’s time for us to invite ETP off its high horse and offer it a car. We have two simple choices: (1) build a faster horse and accept the status quo, or (2) take action to improve it by building a better system. John F. Kennedy said, “There are risks and costs to action. But they are far less than the long range risks of comfortable inaction.” Who is ready to make ETP an “Oh, Duh!” innovation?
PS. For you astute readers with children, yes, the six ETP problems create an acronym based on the movie The Croods—which features a family of cavemen—in honor of ETP’s current antiquated approach. Check it out on the great innovation called Netflix where we can procure movies instantly.