Why Less Could be More in EdTech

Robert Dillon
The future of EdTech is less technology. Even though the conversations and energy at Future of Education Technology Conference may not have, on the surface, lent themselves to this realization. The largest east coast “boat show” of EdTech definitely had this emerging trend running just below the surface.
As budgets slim, analytics grow in accuracy, and more educators have the metrics to make better decisions around the effectiveness of EdTech, we will more than likely see less blankets and many more applications of precision technology. Even though the expedition halls of conferences continue to be filled with a gluttony of options, it is growing apparent that only be the most precise tools that are agile and nimble will remain in the long-term fleet. Because ultimately, schools need tools that work for their true needs.
They need software that is adaptive, engages, and shapes learning for the best practices that we know that we want in our classrooms, and this level of precision requires deep alignment between schools, researchers, and developers in a way that isn’t seen currently in most of the companies that fill the booths of conferences like FETC. It will require deep, on-going conversations with teachers, leaders, and students to craft the precision tools needed to make the real, substantive in classroom learning.
We currently have a lot of tools that are shiny and exciting that don’t have the long-term teeth to truly embed in district learning environments. This leaves schools and leaders quite skittish about how to proceed in their long-term systems planning. Should they just accept that they will be working with four different vendors on the same service over the course of the next ten years or is there hope that true partners in the field of precision technology will emerge?
Lots of the questions being asked in the informal conversations at FETC continued to be about the issues that educators are trying to solve today, but there are so many questions that aren’t being asked at FETC about the future of EdTech. Questions like:

  • How do we find efficiency with new tools to open up time and space for teachers?
  • What partnerships can truly be crafted for long-term successes at schools and in classrooms?
  • Where is the deep precision that we need from technology partners?
  • How can we use less technology with greater success?

These are the questions that will bring the innovation that we need, and I’m eager to see if any of the other conference conversations allow for some clarity in these areas and more.
For more on EdTech and Innovation, see:

Robert Dillon is the Director of the Research Institute at BrightBytes and Director of Innovation at Affton School District. Find him on Twitter at @ideaguy42.

Stay in-the-know with all things EdTech and innovations in learning by signing up to receive the weekly Smart Update.

Guest Author

Getting Smart loves its varied and ranging staff of guest contributors. From edleaders, educators and students to business leaders, tech experts and researchers we are committed to finding diverse voices that highlight the cutting edge of learning.

Discover the latest in learning innovations

Sign up for our weekly newsletter.


William Chamberlain (@wmchamberlain)

I think educators see technology as 1) a way to make their work easier by using software that grades/assigns work 2) a miracle cure for boredom and 3) a way to look progressive. The reality is the sustained use of technology in the classroom has one real educational benefit, the ability to connect students with others outside the local community. Truthfully, if a vendor can't verbalize how their product helps create those connections I don't have much interest in their products.
BTW did FETC have a fancy makers space?

Sharon Plante

I would also add that we need to consider how technology can be utilized and incorporated to meet the needs of all learners. Technology can increase access and create pathways to demonstrate knowledge for those who learn differently. It can also make a differentiation easier for educators, thus meeting the needs of students.

Amy Peach

Now how do we sort through the products created with the annual 300% increase in funding to these startups since 2011? Hopefully they'll start consolidating in a smart way.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. All fields are required.