How to become an education tech person
January 26, 2013 4:49 PM   Subscribe

What can I do to get started on my dream of creating a website that provides the tools that I believe should already exist for teachers?

As a first year teacher, I have a lot of ideas about ways that we could better use technology to help teachers along with things like lesson planning, grading, creating rigorous assessments, and collaborating with other teachers. While there are many great tools out there, I believe that many of them could be improved upon and packaged into a comprehensive system.

Technology has always interested me, but I am not at the coding and creating-my-own-apps level--nor am I much interested in learning the nitty-gritty of how to code. Over the summer, I would love to intern with an education tech company to get a feel for the industry, but I'm not sure where to begin. My homebase can be either New York or New Orleans.

Where should I start? Are there any particular companies I should be researching? Books I should be reading? Classes I should be taking? Places I could intern with over the summer?

Thanks in advance.
posted by melancholyplay to Education (6 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
 
I think a comprehensive survey of what's been done and what's out there would be a very important place to start. There are, it seems, tens of dozens of teacher lesson plan/hack/grading sites, and most of them suck, and in general IME, teachers just use Google. I'm sure a good project design could rescue this, but it would have to be big, useful, not depend on user submitted content, and somehow in front of a great number of teachers. But I'd begin by surveying the many, many existing teachers sites, or maybe just the top 100 in terms of traffic, and developing a simple spreadsheet metric of what they do/don't offer, what they charge for what kinds of access, etc.

I often think that if there were money to be made here, Scholastic or EBSCO or someone would already be doing it - they have the infrastructure and the direct marketing capabilities, and were early to the web. There must be an economic/pragmatic (not technical) reason this doesn't already exist, and it would help to try to understand that first.
posted by Miko at 4:53 PM on January 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


The teachers and school administrators I talk to all seem to love Aimsweb, so a good start might be to figure out how to build on and improve that system. Not sure where they're physically located, but it would also probably be interesting to do an internship with them.
posted by plantbot at 5:26 PM on January 26, 2013


I started on (and then faded from) a MOOC callled EdStartUp 101 convened by David Wiley at BYU. It was interesting and gave me some good guidance. Life intervened and the MOOC began to diverge from what I really needed at the time, but it was helpful. You can still read through the old blog posts to see the kind of idea development processes they recommended and get an idea what others are doing. There are lot of people out there who want to do just what you want to do. Maybe find a couple of like minded folks with the coding skills you need to partner up with.

As Miko said there have to be some good reasons why it doesn't exist. Off the top of my head: lack of money/resources to support teachers and give them much tech training; institutional programs that are "closed" so you don't see them; school privacy policies; just plain time. If you want to get teachers to adopt a whole new system, they have to be willing to invest time in learning/using that system. I would want to be pretty sure the pay off would be there and that my school system wouldn't squash things after I invested any of my very scarce time in mastering a new system.

I'm guessing you've already looked at things like Udemy, Edmodo, EduFire, and Instructure/Canvas?
posted by Gotanda at 5:32 PM on January 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Seconding what Miko said. Do your homework and see what is already out there. With the growth of SmartBoards in classrooms, sites like Teachertube have become more popular too. In terms of software to use in-house, that is a bigger deal and schools buy into grading/attendance programs like Classmate, (this is the one we use at my school where we do attendance, grading, task tracking, discipline and an parent portal to name a few features). There is Study Island which is popular for remedial help. I refer my students to sites like Memrise for online study tools. Scholastic has rolled out an e-reader called Storia and an online store. There is another site our director mentioned, and the name eludes me, but it was a site where teachers could put up assignments and resource information for students to use.

Those are the educational sites I am most familiar with and examples of technology that already exists. You also might want to check out major textbook publishers; more and more of them are including online resources as part of their text series, making them more appealing to educators. If you find that your ideas aren't already being implemented somewhere, then I'd suggest contacting one of these companies and see what kind of opportunities are available to you.

Good luck!
posted by NoraCharles at 5:32 PM on January 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


If you're in the Bay Area, try the #edtech meetups put on by EdSurge.com ("The Best in Education Technology"; "EdSurge is an independent information resource and community for everyone involved in education technology.") They held a Sharktank-style set of presentations on edtech products last week, winner was a company that streamlines multimedia digital storytelling (Meograph; "we help our customers (teachers) help their customers (students) tel tell their stories"). Basically the group is trying to get developers & teachers to talk to each other, so developers will build what the teachers need.
(Someone who took extensive notes has yet to write them up.)
posted by ahaynes at 9:36 AM on January 27, 2013


Disclaimer: I work in online education and educational technology.

As has already been pointed out above, there are actually lots and lots of companies working on a variety of products and services for the market, and while your focus is on helping teachers, the real money is in selling said products/services to schools/school districts/states. Teachers aren't the primary audience; students are. If you do develop your ideal teacher support system, it would still have to be hooked into whatever LMS and/or SIS is being used by your would-be customers, unless you also plan on building all of those systems into one vertically-integrated platform.

I think it would be an interesting experiment to look at an LMS like, say, Moodle or Sakai, and start thinking about how its teacher tools could be improved or added on.

Feel free to MeMail me if you have any questions!
posted by evoque at 12:53 PM on January 28, 2013


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