With SITE 2012, SXSWedu 2012, and SXSW 2012 all happening within the span of two weeks, we’ve been keeping quite busy around here. Though these conferences provide lots of opportunities for discussion with colleagues, they also allow us the chance to introduce our students to the burgeoning nature of our field.
Last week, I had the great pleasure of hosting Audrey Watters in my class. Audrey is an education technology journalist and open education advocate that was described by Stephen Downes as “one of the best things to come along in education technology in 2011.” She spoke to my class about educational technology start-ups, educational technology entrepreneurship, and the business world’s recent fascination with our field. These are topics that are at the forefront of our field at present, but are largely missing from our field’s curricula. Thus, Audrey’s visit was of great interest. Our discussion continued beyond the end of the class, and if you haven’t met Audrey yet, you should! She’s knowledgeable, passionate, and says it how it is. Our field needs more Audreys, more people who aren’t distracted by the shiny technologies and their promises, and who are good at analyzing trends and the changes facing education. Audrey’s talk focused on “How Hating Blackboard Hurts Ed-Tech Entrepreneurship”:
Description: The “I hate Blackboard” Facebook group has tens of thousands of members, reflecting no doubt a fairly common sentiment among students and teachers alike regarding the learning management system giant. It’s not surprising then to see a string of competitors arise to challenge it. But how does the focus on Blackboard — on its failures to make its customers happy — skew the way entrepreneurs (and just as importantly, perhaps, investors) think about ed-tech? By focusing on improving the LMS, are we trying to “fix” the wrong problem? What are some of the opportunities for ed-tech startups that aren’t getting enough attention because we focus so much on this one particular company and on the LMS industry?