How EdTech Survives When Schools Are Sick Of Screens


When I was a teacher in the mid-to-late aughts, any learning time on devices was magical. The laptop cart rolling into my classroom or a trip to the library computers was cause for my middle-school students’ celebration. These kids couldn’t get enough of in-class screen time. Learning online was exciting to them then—but times have changed.

Edtech has lost much of its novelty and appeal. Today, many students prefer learning sans devices. This may be because they’re worn out after the pandemic school closures and subsequent months of virtual classes, or because they prefer more interactive, social class time, or maybe because they find it easier to read on paper than a screen. (Research has shown that reading hard copies leads to better comprehension.)

It’s not just students who are having a change of heart about edtech. Many teachers want more offline work, too. In light of recent AI developments, and the ease of cheating with ChatGPT and apps like Photomath, many educators feel that they need a way to guarantee the integrity of students’ work. Old-school tech-free classes provide that. Noting these teacher and student sentiments, some districts have mandated that there will be no screen time during classes this year.

Time For EdTech To Enhance Its Offline Offerings

For edtech companies to retain and grow their customers in this environment they’ll need to adapt to the times and offer more offline components. Districts always need professional development (PD), and this can be a great way into offline learning for edtech companies. In PD sessions, they can prove their pedagogical chops and sell the ideas on which their tech is built. This will increase the likelihood that teachers will believe in, and evangelize about, the company’s learning approaches, which could lead to increased usage of the original online tools.

In addition, edtech companies should convert their digital offerings to resources that can be used for direct instruction and as paper-and-pencil practice and assessments. They can create lesson plans with optional online practice, and make all of their digital tools printable. The better these offline resources are, the more likely teachers will be to see value in the company and choose their products if and when they do opt for screen time.

The Importance Of Refining EdTech’s Value Proposition

Creating printable versions of some tools is a good idea, but a lot of edtech can only exist online. There’s no way to print an adaptive assessment that has thousands of possible paths and adjusts based on answers. In the case of products like this, edtech companies’ best bet to get teachers and administrators back on board is to sell them on the products’ ROI, especially of their time. You assign a 40 minute adaptive assessment to 120 of your students and spend zero minutes grading, instead of hours. You get this time back and the data that only an adaptive test can provide. With this technology, teachers have not only more time, but also data-driven insights on students, which can make offline instruction more efficient and effective.

This pitch got edtech in the (school) door decades ago when learning technology first made its appearance. Just like back then, today, edtech companies will need to be selling their products and the value of them being digital.

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