Never start with Tech in EdTech.

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(This is a multi-part series on my learnings in Ed-Tech, mostly revolves around what (not) to do basis my observations and learnings)

EdTech as the name means Education and technology. There is a reason behind the order of the word. Education and then technology. One of the most common reasons behind EdTech failures is that Edupreneurs make this mistake of doing technology for the sake of it and the education part of it is ignored or is seen as afterthought.

While this approach might work great for side projects or experimental projects but for serious EdTech attempts this approach might come as a death bell.

We ourselves have committed this mistake and paid dearly for the same. For almost 2 years we trying to create an B2B EdTech startup which gives educational institutes various tools. As part of this we were trying to build some great technology to help empower institutes, publishers to reach out to their audiences and provide great value. Our team used to conceptualize and churn out great tech products — we even created a AR App which when hovered on a page of a book will display some educational content in 3d interactive manner.

Anyways the point is we were simply fascinated by the power of technology and what it can do to revolutionize education, we were so romantically involved in it that we ignored the practicality of it. We learnt our lesson hard when we approached the customers and there were hardly any takers, and even in few cases where they were it came out that the technology can be a great marketing gimmick but what’s ultimately important is the learning outcomes.

Education is a pretty old segment and a lot of research has already gone into it. EdTech is an attempt to enable incremental changes for betterment in the field of education which otherwise would not have been possible a decade earlier because of lack of technology. Edupreneurs make a common mistake to think Technology is primary, its farthest from truth.

The problem, I have come to identify, lies with the approach and framework of thinking. Let me explain.

Imagine you saw an awesome piece of technology and then start thinking of its various applications. You think in education it can have a huge difference and impact and then you create an Edtech company around it to use this technology and bring it into education. This thought process for the most part of it is the cause of failure and people in Edtech with a strong technology background commit this mistake.

Ideally it should have been completely around. For anything to cut deep in education it should solve some tangible problem and/or improve tangible outcome significantly. See the significance of the word tangibility.

You see a problem in education worth solving (I agree there are many) and then you think of how you can solve it. You construct a solution and tech is part of your solution (may or may not be necessary) and then you go about solving it. Tech may make your solution more scalable, tech may make your solution efficient, or tech may be the core thing which solves your problem. But in whatever scenario tech should be an after-thought and not a place to start thinking from. It merely should be a tool which helps you in your core problem solving.

Tech can be woven around education, not that technology is frozen and education is woven around it.

In the above approach you keep the education problem at the center and that’s what matters in the end. By the other approach tech becomes the core and then a lot of time is wasted in optimizing for it whereas you must always constantly should be optimizing to solve for the education problems.

Everyone understands there are so many problems in education worth solving, let that be the focus and not just bringing technology into the classrooms. It is just a matter of perspective but that’s what matters.

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