Are Innovation and Education a Perfect Couple or a Dangerous Match?

Innovation Education

There is no disputing that the pace of innovation and new technologies being delivered to the education marketplace is at an all-time high. It seems new offerings and companies seem to sprout up faster than the weeds in my garden. In fact, Forbes cited 2015 as the year gamification went mainstream.

The question: “Is all this innovation a good fit for educators and learning professionals alike… or a dangerous dance partner?

Webster defines an educator as “one skilled in teaching or a teacher.” Upon first blush you might say that would align great with the world of innovation and technology, but I am not sure I share the same view. As an innovator you must be comfortable with both risk and failure which are two attributes that most educators can’t afford in their daily lives.

Here’s why:  Educators, be it in your child’s school or the ones that prepare and deliver your corporate training, don’t have the luxury of failing as the expectation parents and business sponsors place upon them has no wiggle room. This doesn’t mean that they don’t want to embrace innovation or try new technologies and approaches to teaching, it just means that they are inherently more cautious than say your sales or marketing professional (who is willing to try anything to generate more leads or sales).

For many years this has not been a problem as the technology community has generally ignored the learning space. However, today the education technology industry is booming. A 2017 Forbes article notes, “According to a report from EdTechXGlobal and IBIS Capital, the global education technology market is expected to grow 17% per year to $252 billion by 2020.” [1]

Given the exponential growth of the EdTech industry, now learning professionals are being asked on a regular basis about technology that allows you to do microlearning, continuous learning, social learning, game-based learning, gamification, 360 peer reviews, crowdsourcing, content curation, and so much more. Business professionals and parents alike want to know what new innovative approach learning professionals are leveraging to change training from boring to fun, from mundane to engaging, from less effective to extremely effective, and oh, by the way, measure it all.

Recently, I expressed disappointment in one of my vendors with a fellow board member. The board member asked me to walk in the shoes of the vendor. He asked me to think about the challenges they faced in getting the job done and if my response was in kind with their service failure. At first I wasn’t ready to budge, but as I spent more time thinking about it I realized I was focusing on the little picture vs the big one which enabled me to find happiness in the outcome and led to an apology on my behalf.

It was this request for reflection that spawned me to think of the challenges facing Educators today in the dawn of technology innovation in the Edtech space. Is it fair to expect a teacher or instructional designer who spent years in college learning the art of instruction and content creation to simply just… adapt? And then, even if they wanted to, how easy is it for them to make it happen?

Is it fair to expect a teacher or instructional designer who spent years in college learning the art of instruction and content creation to simply just… adapt?

As a teacher you have very limited resources and zero control over budget and technologies chosen to educate your students. Most of those decisions are made at the state or county level (plus, it’s not like they have a ton of discretional income to augment the expense of using innovative tools in the classroom).

The corporate learning professional doesn’t have it much better. They must deal with groups like procurement – who are experts in slowing down the buying cycle, security – who are so scared by the #cybersecurity threats that exist today limit content types you can even share with your learners and, Information Technology – who must integrate this new solution into your world and are overloaded serving the entire company.

Though the hurdles are great for both classroom and corporate educators, innovation and technology continue to integrate into the education world with new and exciting options each month. An Inc. article notes, “Technology in education is not new by any means, but the industry referred to as EdTech still has that new car smell, a sheen that hasn’t quite worn off yet. Still in its infancy compared to most industries, this space is far from saturated and there are dozens of innovations to look out for.” [2]

It is tough to be an early-adopter in today’s education world. Those who want to change and be known as innovative have to do so understanding that there is more than just embracing it- they have to be willing to fight for it as well.

What are your thoughts on change within the learning industry? Comment below.

[1] Berger, Rod. “The Somewhat Tenuous Business of EdTech.” Forbes. February 9, 2017. https://www.forbes.com/sites/rodberger/2017/02/09/the-somewhat-tenuous-business-of-edtech/#674d53392b89
[2] Hendricks, Drew. “3 EdTech Trends to Watch in 2017.” Inc. August 29, 2017. https://www.inc.com/drew-hendricks/3-edtech-trends-to-watch-in-2017.html