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The 3 major problems edtech apps need to solve

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The 3 major problems edtech apps need to solve

A while ago, those who felt they were in-the-know, would stroke their metaphorical beards (this was pre-hipster) and pronounce that the digital future wouldn’t be found in a browser, it would be in apps.

For many that’s true, the application is king in many different areas, but in education, the app world hasn’t quite mastered the two key elements that would make the difference between a  mere digital pastime and something genuinely transformative.

Those are the drivers for the kind of ubiquity you’d be looking for – but the breakthrough moment will come when an app tackles these three significant challenges:

  • Mobile-friendly content. There isn’t enough good quality content in education – still less content which works well on a smartphone (too many learning environments still include too much download/upload functionality and even one pdf is too many). Quality content that’s easy to navigate will be key. If education is all about content, so EdTech is about delivering that content properly.
  • And if teaching is all about discussion and ensuring understanding, then high quality interaction becomes the point of all that sociability and mobility that mobile users are keen on. People carry their tech around with them so that they can use it whenever they like. Which, in theory, elongates the periods in which pupils are available for their education. The problem allies in the fact that, generally speaking, the interaction within mobile apps is one-to-one. Educational interaction tends to be within larger groups (classes), and tends to be more discursive than the, say, 140 character limit of some platforms would allow.
  • The outcomes of education are measured in testing: formative assessment can happen on a mobile, the on-going, low-grade stuff. The harder-core summative assessment, that which exams are made of doesn’t. And, after all this graft, that’s the stuff that matters.

So, if your new education technology  app can crack those three problems, then your next round with the VCs oughtn’t to be a problem – and the world might just start to pay attention.

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Jimmy Leach is a digital consultant, working with governments, organisations and people. He tweets at @JimmyTLeach

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