Can Two Extra “Vs” Help EdTech Save Education?
Last week I heard Guy Kawasaki talk about his passion for writing, his two latest books: “The Art of the Start-Up 2.0” and “The Art of Social Media,” as well as the updated MVP (Minimally Viable Product) model. During his livestream interview withStartup Grind’s founder Derek Anderson, Kawasaki reiterated his appreciation of the Lean Startup model and provided details on the two additional “Vs” he hoped might strengthen Eric Reis’s model. As Kawasaki says, “The concept is that you have this Minimal Viable Product. You do the prototype, you test, you get the product out there.”
Adding Value and Vision
So why do we need a couple of extra Vs?
According to Kawasaki:
The first V is for Viable. It’s foreseeable that you will make a return, that your revenues will exceed your costs.
The first extra V is for Valuable: You are changing the world. You are doing something significant. You are not simply making a buck.
The second extra V is for validation: You have something that makes a buck, but it validates your vision for the future.
Where Are the Two Vs in EdTech?
The two Vs reminded me of proliferation of EdTech products and companies and how we need to be wary of digital bells and whistles masquerading as the saviors of education.
With the endless rollout of iPad apps alone (TechCrunch reported 20,000 education apps developed for iPad in 2012 alone), one has to wonder how much “V” (any V at all, really) has gone into each one.
Lest you label me a Luddite, I should tell you that I’m a huge fan of educational technology, and I spent half my professional career helping corporations train employees using online simulations and schools expand their footprint with online courseware. But I simply have to sometimes wonder how many of today’s solutions are developed with these two Vs in mind. How valuable is the solution in rescuing education from the test-driven, grades obsessed institution it has become? And what vision is the product serving?
EdTech Products in Largest and Smallest Concentrations
Think about where the largest concentration of technology tools in education is focused today. A quick scan on The EdSurge EdTech Index reveals the highest concentration of products in the following five categories:
Language Arts (90)
With the exception of Games, these are fairly standard subjects, right? Much of the software in that list is designed to align with and promote success with implementing the CCCS. There’s a theme here.
Where do you think the lowest concentration of tools lies? Looking at student-facing applications in K-12 with 10 or fewer apps in their respective categories, we see:
Digital Storytelling (9)
Maker and DIY Tools (10)
Social Learning (10)
Video Instruction (16)
To be honest, I think this second set of numbers would be higher if there were more a little extra “V” involved.
Rifting on Value
Guy Kawasaki is as powerful a speaker as he is an effective writer. When he talks, you can’t help but pay attention and enjoy yourself. And most of the time you are wishing you had said whatever he just said. So maybe my rifting on the “two Vs” is my way of showing my respect. That being said, I’ve got to admit that “value” can be interpreted in a lot of different ways.
Using technology to help understand and expand the ways in which people can learn is of tremendous value. The work being done to understand how people think and learn and applying that to blended learning programs, for example, is adding great value to kids previously “stuck” in preconceived notions of how to solve problems and one-size-fits-all curriculum plans. These are real tools that can help teachers support learning in diverse populations. It expands and scales the capability of those who already know how to personalize learning and enables those who may not have been doing so much of that already.
Building a better way to help kids practice for a test?
One of the other topics Kawasaki and Anderson discussed was the concept of “nail it and scale it.” “When do you squeeze the trigger?” as Anderson put it. Kawasaki’s response is to run a qualitative test: “Have you jumped curves and pushed the technology enough?”
I think this is exactly what is happening. Everyone is pushing the technology, and that is a really exciting thing. But without a coherent, game-changing educational mission, an EdTech company on its own may just be pushing the technology. That’s not really enough.
You need a little more “V.”