To Succeed, Ed Tech Must Be Easy to Use, Good Fit, Analyst Says

Associate Editor


Ed-tech products that have achieved traction in the market—generating revenues above $100 million a year—must fit into existing teacher workflows, Dave Hoverman, a managing director at Parthenon-EY, said Monday in his keynote speech here at the Education Industry Symposium.

“This will be more true than ever going forward,” Hoverman told more than 125 education business leaders attending the event sponsored by the Education Technology Industry Network of the Software & Information Industry Association.

“Those that don’t will be companies that get to $22 million in revenue and go away,” said Hoverman, whose firm is an international consultancy that provides services to education providers, policymakers and investors.

Existing practices in classrooms are unlikely to change dramatically anytime soon, he predicted, outlining several reasons for his conclusion that “ease of use” is the baseline differentiator for product success.

K-12 education will experience only modest growth in funding of about 2.5 percent to 3.5 percent per year through 2019, when 5 percent annual growth had been the norm before the 2008 recession. And much of the K-12 recovery in spending will be used on salaries, benefits and pension obligations rather than programmatic improvements.

Another factor is that “teachers have more demands on their attention than ever before, and plenty of reason to be more risk averse than ever before,” he said. With higher expectations for student learning, and increased scrutiny about it, educators are being told by parents and school leadership that they must “differentiate instruction” by evaluating students’ level of knowledge, tailoring a learning experience to them, and more.

Teachers are also overwhelmed by the number of ed-tech options available. Hoverman cited research from a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation study that asked teachers to name the products they use in the classroom. More than 3,100 teachers identified more than 7,000 products by name, and only 12 products were mentioned more than 100 times.

Even though spending to change classroom practice is not growing, Hoverman said K-12 spending for technology is still at about $10 billion per year. Looking ahead, a long period of tech adoption is coming up as the print-to-digital transition continues because most K-12 instructional materials and assessments are still print-based.

With “ease of use” as the driving force for teachers, Hoverman said it’s important to understand what educators consider easy to use. The answer? Google for searches, Google Classroom and Google Docs.

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