On design & efficacy in ed-tech
This article in Idealog featuring Kendall Flutey the co-founder of Banqer, is bang on, with regards to edu-tech design and efficacy in classrooms.
She says Banqer is not actively trying to enter into secondary schools, as it is designed for primary and intermediate students. However, it is currently being used in secondary schools.
"To craft a product that appeals to both six year olds and 18 year olds would heavily decrease the overall user experience. There would just be too much compromise in catering for both age groups. There are very few examples of successful educational, or otherwise, products who capture the entire schooling market and satisfy strongly at both levels."
Too often in education, we want a product that does everything. The perfect example of this desire is the market for School Management Systems (SMS). The SMS was originally designed to allow staff to complete electronic registers, but now often includes behaviour and assessment monitoring data, timetabling capabilities, and reporting templates and databases.
The Ministry's DELTA programme is currently reviewing the ongoing strategies and usage of SMS in New Zealand schools.
Learning Management Systems (LMS) are another category of ed-tech, that aims to capture anything and everything about not just the process of learning, but also the infrastructure of education.
The fact that the number of LMS applications such as Canvas Moodle and LMS style Google Classroom apps on the market seemingly proliferates exponentially year on year is telling.
It seems to me that LMS developers aren't actually building products that schools need, or that schools aren't actually able to define well enough what they need.
Banqer on the other hand has deliberately focused on a specific section of the education sector, and with a very specific product.
Kendall makes these points later on in the article:
"...Given the fluidity in our curriculum in terms of how things are delivered, we do have an opportunity to adopt edutech strongly in our classrooms. I think New Zealand is already teaching the world a lot, in terms of questioning what a classroom environment looks and sounds like.”
"...If we keep viewing the classroom as a zero-sum game, we are going to be the losers. We cannot afford to fear cross-subject contamination – you don’t only need to learn maths in a dedicated maths hour. The same applies for all subjects.”
These two comments are, I believe, critical to understanding what is at the heart of the challenge of utilising ed-tech most effectively in New Zealand classrooms.
Basically, this challenge is that our curriculum and environment are highly fluid, whilst the ways by which we manage our schools is not fluid enough.
These states exist at the same time. For instance, consider that:
We are actively developing and investing large amounts of money into building MLEs and ILEs to support flexible, personalised learning. We also do have a flexible curriculum that allows us to develop and redevelop content to best suit the needs of children in front of us.
At the same time we also still struggle to adjust our invisible biases and understandings of how learning can be delivered and supported. Our biases are often made visible in timetables, pay structures, and assessment methodology.
Those of us in the education space need to really reflect on why that tension exists - between the fluid and the non-fluid - and seek to address it in productive ways.
Kendall is one of the few ed-tech leaders I know who is able to see this conundrum, has built a product that can fit within it, while supporting teachers and students, and yet is personally still able to reflect on the potential for positive change in our systems.
It's fantastic to see her success, and that of the team behind Banqer. Those of us in NZ education should be checking out what they've built, and be humbled that she's giving back to the sector in such a positive way.