The problems of school modernization Part 1

We are afraid to trust the future of children of questionable technological endeavors.

The editor of the Internet magazine Wired Jason Tanz recently published in his column reflections on why are we still so afraid to let the world of web technology to break into a fresh wave in the classroom. Indeed, we do take advantage of social networks, including for work purposes, installed on smartphone instant messaging to be always connected, I use Google Now, which kindly informs the estimated travel time, and quietly sent data about its location. But once on stage the students, all these great apps and services in front of our eyes turn into creepy Orwellian tools of total control or in the hotbeds of Vice and advertising. We do not want to let children, and especially organized to allow schools to use what you wear every day. What’s the matter? Here is what Jason.

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We want to see the school continue

A few months ago I noticed one small app for messaging called Pencil (you can substitute here the name of any modern messenger). This service is a young company, typical of a startup that is developing at the expense of investment, is quite nice. I told the mother of one of the classmates of my son. The fact that this application was recommended by the school administration to be used by teachers to communicate with students and their parents: the headmaster watched web technologies and tried to implement them in the work of their colleagues.

However, this mom was very worried. She wasn’t sure that you can trust such an important thing as intra-school communications, some unknown start-up firm.

You know these startups with their eternal turnover of key performers, each of whom has access to the database. But what about security?

I about this service I knew nothing, but he seemed harmless, not like many modern messengers, that really hit their coverage (say, WhatsApp, with a base of 700 million users). In addition, I was dissatisfied with the existing information system at the school — the information came mainly through e-mailing. Inefficient and cumbersome way to communicate something quickly and get feedback. It seems logical that a separate intra-messenger — quite graceful exit from the situation.

Nevertheless, to introduce service Pencil for use within a single school in San Francisco proved to be impossible, despite support from the Director. In conversation with the Director revealed that he held talks with this startup in the fall of 2013 and even invited its Creator on a school-wide Assembly, but all to no avail. The teachers didn’t want to get used to the new system (even with a friendly and simple interface), the parents were worried about data privacy. No one, absolutely no one wanted anything new.

If you now go to the page the Pencil, you can see that they gave up all attempts to penetrate the education market. Now it’s just “simple application messaging”. I contacted the Creator of the Pencil, Yogesh Sharma, and asked about what happened.

We were at an impasse. The decision depended on many parties — the Directors, the parent Committee, teachers, administration to education. And all of them already have an established practice of doing business. You are on the firing line, and nothing can be changed, because no one is able to make quick decisions.

When the “lower classes”, and the “elite” want

In a situation with Pencil is not surprising. The last couple of decades, entrepreneurs and representatives of education do not leave attempts to apply the disruptive power of the Internet to the educational system, but are powerless in the face of bureaucratic obstacles and excessive caution state authorities. Recently, however, the creators of the Internet services try to bypass the administration and offer their products directly to teachers and parents.

Also at the time happened with the success of Apple in the corporate sector: as soon as organizations understand that the vast majority of their employees use the iPhone, they had no choice but to turn Apple products into the corporate communication.

Offering products to individual users instead of completing the licensing, you can reach the masses. Perhaps therefore, in recent years educational start-ups have become a tasty morsel for investors and venture capital funds. According to research firm CB Insights, in 2014, educational startups received $ 1.87 billion investment, and it’s 55% more than in the previous year. New products and services appear almost every day. There are very successful examples: Amplify (which was written about Jordan Shapiro), Engrade, ClassDojo.

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About investments in the field of Education Technology can be read here.

Despite the rare success stories, experience from a small startup Pencil speaks eloquently about the fact that the promotion of the technological product through the rejection of parents and teachers becomes very difficult. The same happened and is happening in the field of health care: many primary care physicians unwilling to use the electronic methods of doing history. Teachers are also afraid of changes in the usual workflow. In addition, it is undeniable bias against everything that comes from Silicon valley, which is famous for creating services that collect data of millions of users, and then selling them. Almost all parents and teachers are confident that the new web development hails from there.

Michael Walden, a partner at venture capital Fund Rethink Education, focusing on educational start-ups, says:

This is all reminiscent of the Wild West. In this market so far only unresolved issues. What technologies uses each school? Information what kind of is processed? Who owns my personal data? Where they will go? These issues scare absolutely everyone, hence the negative reaction.

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