Why "Tech in Ed"?
The promise of EdTech is to deliver more equitable outcomes to all learners, but are we headed the right way to deliver on that promise?
It is undeniable that when we achieve equitable learning outcomes for all learners, technology will have played an integral part of that achievement. I’ve been supporting the development of impact-focused Education Technology for the better part of the last decade, and I’ve never been more sure of that statement. But it’s very difficult to gauge whether or not we’re getting closer to delivering on that promise. The problem is that the story of EdTech is not typically told through the lens of impact on learning outcomes.
About a year ago, mid-pandemic, we were watching live as school closures started to affect the EdTech sector. The headlines were all inescapably similar
💥 EdTech Booms! Golden Age of EdTech! Promises of new educational models! Disruption! Disruption! Disruption!
When we asked EdTech entrepreneurs about how closures were affecting themthe stories we were hearing were starkly different. We heard stories of a lack of early round investment dollars, cancelled purchase orders, long seasonal sales cycles, implementation nightmares, and dwindling runways. EdTech entrepreneurs were not “in” on the booms advertised in the tech media.
The headlines were confirming that the dominant conversation in EdTech over the last couple of years was not driven by tech’s impact on learning outcomes; it’s been driven by investors. Now, investors are an integral part of any innovation ecosystem. Risk capital is imperative to the healthy functioning of the sector, but their outlook on the space can’t be the only one. Private capital’s job in any startup ecosystem is to make bets and generate returns. In EdTech, those returns are merely correlated with learning outcomes, not its primary goal.
What would it look like to talk about the EdTech sector from a lens of impact? Would we say it’s booming? That this is the Golden Age? What would it look like to champion the notion that technology can be an integral part of our education system (whether it makes venture scale returns or not)?
We think that through this lens, it becomes critically important to
Support early stage EdTech entrepreneurs, especially ones with experience in the classroom, to start companies
Support schools in developing their capability to discover, evaluate, and adopt technologies
Champion models that are built to drive equitable outcomes
Importantly, the growing body of evidence is pointing to the fact that the effective use of Education Technology can disproportionately - and positively -affect the learning outcomes of historically excluded students. EdTech can lead to proven interventions like:
Effective personalized learning at scale
Enabling flipped/blended learning models
Enabling asynchronous/distance learning when necessary
Removing bias in educational situations wholly dependent on observation
We’ve seen a tremendous amount of anecdotal evidence from entrepreneurs working with schools (and new research studies being done) to be reasonably sure of the following assertion: Technology interventions can elevate and extend the best practices of teachers and can help in having outsized positive learning outcomes for historically excluded populations of students.
In other words, our sector would be better served by understanding how to adopt more “Tech in Ed”, rather than simply adopt more “EdTech”
This is what’s at the heart of what we do at Project FoundED. We support new innovations in EdTech, and build new channels to ensure educators can more effectively adopt that technology.
We’ve been hard at work over the past year as we tried to make sense of the innovation in the field, and schools’ ability to adopt/adapt to it. We started by building a community of EdTech entrepreneurs - all motivated to ensure our sector stayed focused on learning outcomes - and used their stories to keep a pulse on the work being done in the field. A year later, our community already has over 1,500 members - all founders of EdTech companies. It is a vibrant community of folks driven by creating better learning outcomes for all learners. Building an EdTech company is not for the faint of heart, and our community is supporting each other as they build solutions to today’s most pressing education problems.
The flip side of the EdTech coin - educators and schools - is no picnic either. The difficulties facing in-classroom educators today are well documented and myriad. Deteriorating mental wellness, unmanaged expectations from the districts and parents, and straight up staff shortages: the challenges are real. Chief amongst these challenges is that
..there is no consensus, much less process, on how successful (and impactful) technology adoption should be done in school systems.
Some schools systems run IT-led processes, others are initiated by instructional departments (and often stalled or canceled by IT), still others are championed by whoever is most passionate about the potential new tool.
A tech sector driven by investment outcomes might take a look at the challenges inherent in deploying to schools and simply walk away - it all looks like risk to an eventual return. We can’t let that happen though. If we believe that Technology plays a role in delivering equitable outcomes (and research is starting to say so), then we have to take a more holistic approach to supportin
g the sector.
How do we support schools in doing better technology adoption?
How do we support entrepreneurs in building impact into their business models early?
What are more flexible (and patient) funding models to allow EdTech entrepreneurs the time and space to build their traction and impact?
How do we go from an EdTech sector to one that champions Tech In Ed?
We don’t (yet) have the answer, but we are motivated by finding the solutions. At the very least, we want to have a conversation about it.
Tech in Ed is a free publication created by Project FoundED. You can help us expand our capacity to do this kind of work by selecting a paid subscription below.
Project FoundEd Update 🗞
Launching Project FoundED Strategic Advisory Services - we are pleased to announce that Project FoundED is launching strategic advisory services!
Built on a foundation of years of experience in growing and scaling EdTech organizations that share our mission to positively impact historically excluded learners, Project FoundED advisory services are proven to help organizations lay strong foundations, scale and achieve impact.
For entrepreneurs these services look much like the work we’ve done in the past as Entrepreneurs in Residence: advising on product, business model, go to market, and fundraising strategies as well as general executive coaching.
For funders and investors, these services take the form of strategic thought partners and portfolio analysts.
If you or someone you know needs this service, please reach out! If you want to chat more, you can find time here.
2023 Office Hours Available! ⏳ A chance to connect with the Project FoundED community. Project FoundED Office hours provides a mechanism for founders to learn from your expertise or connect on fundraising while you have the opportunity to gain visibility for your organization/brand, build your pipelines and help achieve our shared goal of equitably educating all learners. Reach out if you’d like to learn more about donating your time and sponsoring Office Hours.
The End of Year Networking Social - presented as part of the EdTech Founder Series hosted by AWS EdStart, edinno, and Project FoundEd - is an opportunity to join fellow edtech innovators from the K-12, Higher Education, Workforce, and Lifelong Learning sectors to make connections, grow networks, and inspire new collaborations going into 2023! This event is designed for edtech professionals and founders to engage in meaningful conversations across the AWS EdStart, edinno, and Project FoundED communities.
The Global EdTech Startup Awards (GESAwards) is the world’s largest edtech startup competition. Initiated by MindCET (Israel), GESA was co-founded by the Open Education Challenge (EU) and EdTech UK in 2014.
The Awards will identify, showcase and recognize the world's most promising EdTech startups for 2021. Semifinals will take place in 10 more locations (Tel Aviv • Tokyo • Paris • Helsinki • Frankfurt • Cape Town • Los Angeles • Monterrey • Curitiba • Delhi • Madrid • Moscow • Accra •Milan •Hong Kong ).
We're excited to bring you the Global EdTech Startup Awards 2022 US West Coast Semifinals event on November 30th, at 2:00 - 3:30 PM PT | 5:00 - 6:30 PM ET.
Hear from early-stage startups and learn about how innovative solutions are supported by some of the most prolific EdTech investors from the US West Coast.
This event will feature the following judges: Alexandra Argo, Investor at GSV Ventures, Graham Forman, Managing Director & Founder at Edovate Capital, Enzo Cavalie, Investment Associate at Reach Capital, and the host of the event - Deena Minwalla, Managing Director at StartEd.
Get Funded! 💰
The Learning Engineering Tools Competition 2022 (Due Nov 20, 2022)is a multi-million dollar price challenge to leverage technology, data and learning science to meet the urgent needs of learners. This year’s Tools Competition will aware more than $3 million in prizes and will be one of the largest edtech competitions ever.
STEM Education Research Grant(Due Feb 24, 2023)The U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF), Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Schmidt Futures and Walton Family Foundation have collaborated to create a specific funding opportunity within the greater BCSER program that prioritizes proposals targeting K-12 STEM education, particularly those with a mathematics focus, and emerging technologies such as learning analytics, natural language processing, sensor technology, and tools for analysis of educational datasets. Proposals should focus on building STEM researcher capacity, including proposals for the implementation of institutes with a budget of up to $1M and individualized plans with a budget of up to $350K. Researchers from minority-serving and two-year institutions are especially encouraged to apply.
Research Grant Opportunity: New Request for Applications from IES due February 23, 2023 regarding research on Digital Learning Platforms: Up to ten Research Teams will join the Digital Learning Platforms (DLPs) to Enable Efficient Education Research Network (SEERNet), which currently includes a Network Lead and five Platform Teams. Applicants can learn more about SEERNet here.
Project FoundED Investor Office Hours: This month’s Project FoundED office hours are hosted by GoodTechNation. goodtech nationcis home to an early-stage ‘Investor-Advisor’ initiative founded by Maher Kaddoura with a mission to support ambitious founders building technologies in the ‘Learn & Earn’ space. Advisory is at the heart of goodtech nation’s offering and we do this by working very closely with founders to first understand their needs and then curate a tailor-made plan for addressing them. We look for breakthrough technologies and founders who are future leaders in the space of ‘Education, Financial Inclusion & the Gig Economy’. Founders need to have a deep curiosity and a unique understanding of the world + the humility to acquire skills they don't yet have + the ability to attract/hire an amazing team and build a product which addresses a real problem. What we are not looking for are founders who are just interested in building a Unicorn from today.
Learn more about GoodTechNation and submit a request for funding here.
This position at ISTE: Senior Director, Industry Partnership, is an awesome opportunity to influence the relationship between edtech providers and educators an increase the impact of edtech. If you know anyone who would be a good fit, please encourage them to apply!
If you’re an EdTech entrepreneur and you have not joined our community just yet, you can do so here.
If you are an education leader and want to help drive the conversation about leading with an impact lens, please reach out to us here
We are a 501c3 nonprofit. If you are a funder and are interested in hearing how we do our work, and the various projects we have underway, please also reach out. We’d love to partner with you.