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Collaboration between education technology companies and school districts is essential to education in the future: Interview with CEO of the Institute for Educational Innovation, Doug Roberts

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The past three years have highlighted the increasing reliance of students on online learning platforms, which has accelerated our use of both Training sites to me learning management systems. The catalyst for COVID has seen an explosion in the education technology sector, according to Grand View Research’s 2021 reportThe market size is estimated to be $89.49 billion in 2020, and a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 20% is projected from 2021 to 2028. With all this interest from investors, it is important to remember the audience of education technology companies and the essential communication with them to learn across Internet to work. The Institute of Educational Innovation (IEI) is made up of more than 60 of the nation’s most innovative mentors, who are dedicated to working with education technology providers to make learning more engaging and accessible for K-12 learners.

eLearning Inside was contacted by IEI CEO Doug Roberts to talk about the new insights supervisors bring to the EdTech conversation, launching the foundation Sobs Choice Award:

You mentioned on your website how because of COVID, your organization has had to move to smaller, more virtual events and meetings. How has COVID changed the education landscape from kindergarten through high school, for both students and educational bodies?

a: While home learning works well for some, and flexibility in learning styles is important, there is wide recognition that students should be in schools.
There is a lot of talk about “recovering from learning”, but supervisors are not looking back – they are forward looking and focused on meeting the needs of their students and families where they are now. This requires flexibility, adaptability, and innovative thinking – qualities that our supervisors have demonstrated so vividly throughout the pandemic.
In addition to instruction, school districts are increasingly required to provide many services to students and their families, including social, professional, medical, counseling, mental health, dental, and food services. The more roles we ask our schools to play, the more important they become.
The pandemic has also changed the relationship between school districts and technology providers. EdTech companies have done an amazing job in coming up with solutions to the many challenges created by the pandemic. But at the same time, there is still a disconnect between some of the technology being offered to school districts and the solutions they actually need.

What do moderators bring to the EdTech conversation? Do they represent views that are lacking in other areas of the field?

a: Epidemic Devil Do they represent views lacking in other areas of the field? Determine the dedication, adaptability, and entrepreneurial spirit of the country’s supervisors. They know their areas better than anyone else and can provide valuable insights to solution providers on use cases and feasibility of business models and implementation plans. Supervisors understand the classroom, procurement process, budget, and policies of councils and the communities they serve.

At the Institute for Educational Innovation (IEI), my role is to bring together educational technology providers and supervisors to engage in constructive problem-solving and innovative thinking about technology in schools. Companies, investors, or philanthropists considering a new learning solution can come to the IEI, meet with our moderators, get feedback on their idea, and hear from service managers about the specific needs of their area. Entrepreneurs and executives looking to expand or continue to expand their existing services or solutions can work with the IEI to grow their relationships with some of the country’s most innovative region leaders

Are there any online educational platforms that have stood out during the pandemic?

aThe pandemic has been a reminder that one size does not fit all when it comes to technology. Each school district faces unique challenges that require specific solutions. The school is ultimately a participatory system, so any tools that can best support that crucial teacher-student engagement are the technology that is sorely needed.

However, we’ve seen a rise in the number of solutions that provide direct guidance to students and those who help school districts manage multiple digital education platforms. The pandemic has revealed that our industry has produced a variety of high-quality solutions and services, but the areas are left to connect the dots between a separate set of independent solutions. The IEI hopes to lead the mission to galvanize the education technology industry around the needs of the regions by leading some of the country’s most thoughtful supervisors.

It recently launched the Supes’ Choice Awards, what features do you look for in a good EdTech product?

aEach school district has unique needs and the technology required to meet those needs will vary. What works well for one school district will not necessarily work well for another, depending on demographics, location, size, culture, etc. It can be difficult for moderators to weed out many of the emails they receive from well-intentioned solution providers, and it can be difficult for those companies to understand the needs of the areas they are promoting.

Education technology companies often make the mistake of overthinking features before they take the time to listen to supervisors about what their school districts need. IEI admins are not looking for features. They are looking for partners. The younger the company, the more priority you place on the people who started and run the company. You may not have grasped everything yet, but if you bring your product team into Zoom with your district leadership team to identify a potential new feature or report, you’ll earn the district partnership for several years. The “advantages” that IEI supervisors look for are humility, the ability to listen, and a firm commitment to the students they serve.

That’s why the IEI launched the Supes Choice Awards – to give EdTech companies of all sizes a chance to have their products reviewed by school district administrators and receive valuable feedback on what a good product for their district might look like.
The Supes’ Choice Awards uniquely provide feedback to all participants, not just the winners. There are 15 categories companies can enter (and companies can enter multiple categories), including Innovator of the Year, Best Pivot on the Dime, Stock Champion and Anti-Racism, and STEM/STEAM Education Solutions. Registration is scheduled for October 30th.

In parallel, what features do you think EdTech companies should avoid when developing their products?

aWhat supervisors prefer, and what works best, is when companies interact with school districts about their individual needs and specific challenges, rather than just pushing the latest “kitchen sink” product or solution on them. These two-way conversations, which the IEI helps facilitate, unfortunately don’t happen often enough but they can provide tremendous value to both parties.

There are no silver bullets, so if you offer one, the conversation ends before it even begins. And the surest way to ignore district leaders is to email them that you have a solution to ‘learning loss’. This is a red flag you don’t listen to what the interrupts need.

In your opinion, what should educational technology companies pay attention to when it comes to what students need from online learning?

a: While it’s great that companies are working on solutions to support virtual and remote learning, the core of the K-12 experience still takes place within the “four walls” of the classroom with guidance from a trusted classroom teacher. Solutions that seek to support students outside of the school day should include opportunities to engage classroom teachers.

It is also important that all solution providers pay attention to equity not only in their business models and use case designs, but in the recruitment of their leadership teams. Districts increasingly want to work with providers whose teams look like the students they serve.

What new developments in EdTech are you looking forward to/watching for the future?

a: I hope EdTech companies will do a better job of engaging with the areas they deal with in order to learn more about their own challenges and needs and then invest in technology to meet those needs. There is often a disconnect between the products that are created and the actual needs of the school district. Focus less on features and more on people. The way to build your business is not by building features, but by building relationships. This is what we do at IEI.

The application deadline for the Supes’ Choice Awards ends on October 30th.

Featured Image: Compare Fiber, Unsplash

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