Understanding the Business, Politics and Art of School Edtech Leadership

I am convinced that people who work “in edtech” but outside of schools have zero clue as to how schools run. It becomes even more apparent as my phone rings at the oddest, yet calculated times…beginning of the day, around “lunch”…end of the day. My caller ID almost always bears the name of some edtech company or rep and I cringe each and every time. To keep it real, I also choose not to answer because the “cold call” is such a blatant disrespect of not only my time but all of us that work in schools.

Do you seriously think that I’m just sitting at my desk surfing the web and waiting on a call? I’ve even been out on campuses only to be bombarded with the same urgent message from “that guy from that company” who through his own frustration of me not answering, turned his attention to calling my assistant over and over again. (*cough* *cough*…harassment)

Don’t get me wrong, I do believe in building relationships with the vendors that we work with but telemarketing techniques are the worst possible starting point. It’s a start alright but unfortunately, that start just leads me to despise everything about your organization…even if the product has value.

Actually, if the product had value…you wouldn’t need to “cold call” me, only to be severely disappointed from my response. I would be calling YOU.

If you want to speak to me, email me and if I see fit, we can talk. Otherwise…keep it moving dudes.

Seriously, the cold call is my biggest pet peeve. Anyone that has called me and actually gotten me on the phone…KNOWS THIS!

Having Tech…Not “Edtech”

Sometimes edtech is frustrating, especially tools that are created specifically for classrooms. I got an email from a company touting it’s “create a collaborative workspace” product…comparing itself to Slack. Basically, it was a “Slack”  knock off but branded for education at a cost, of course.

This rebranding of everyday tech tools as “for education” is what is most frustrating about edtech. The reality is that edtech business functions in this way because we’ve created this tunnel for it to happen. Ignoring everyday tools because they aren’t branded for “education” creates a space where things like “fake slack for education”, “multimedia text sets/hyperdocs” and “pdf annotation tools” thrive because when you don’t know better…those things WOW you. They WOW you so much that you build an entire initiative of edtech training around them.

There is definitely space for education focused technology and while I don’t expect that teachers know every tool (the average person in real life doesn’t either), I certainly expect those in tech leadership/decision making to be highly informed of how things work and what is available…because it is literally your job. Also, it’s important to know how data is used within these tools because that too is a conversation that is real and relevant…yet never had.

When I talk to teachers, especially those that think they live in a “tech-less” world, I always begin with the tech that they use every single day in their lives outside of the classroom. It is in this space where we most often find common ground around how to better engage kids, leaning on what engages them. It’s always process…not tech.

…and in a reality where tech almost always leads the process, regardless of what people preach, it is this common ground that blinds out the false sense of hope that edtech overwhelmingly provides.

Seriously…Slack the product at education pricing is much better than leaning in to a “fake slack”…or better yet..TRY slack for FREE.

The Art of this Work

Like many, I struggle in this work at times and this week I needed to be reminded of my “why” and spending as much time as possible in classrooms is the greatest. More than a few times, I was reminded by our students and teachers about the power of giving kids the tools/freedom to learn and getting out of the way. Our fears can sometimes be their greatest barriers and that relates to learning in general…not just technology.


Aside from all of the politics and insanity of pricing, programs and power…the core of this work is in creating opportunities for students. That will ALWAYS be what leads my thinking and for me, as long as students are the focus, the rest is just work.

The art of it is in getting beyond the struggle and standing in the intersection of where kids thrive.

If you’re still “cold calling” me…that’s where I’ll be.


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