I’m frequently told that I’m wasting my time talking to teachers. Investors tell me that. Other entrepreneurs tell me that. On occasion, even teachers tell me that. Their very logical point is that teachers often aren’t the ones who make the decisions about buying educational software. While an individual teacher might get to decide to use a game in her classroom, whether or not something is bought district wide is decided by administrators above that teacher. That’s where the money is.
I don’t dispute these arguments and I’m in favor of having bags of money thrown at me just as much as the next person. However, I’m well aware of how often schools PAY for technology and never use it! Crazy, huh? It happens all of the time and for lots of reasons:
- Very often, the teachers don’t even know their school has the software. The director of something or other paid for it in April, then ended up taking a different job in June. Come August, the planned teacher training never happened because the new director was too busy learning his new job and answering the 87,765 emails that had accumulated.
- The software never gets installed. See #1 except replace “teacher” with “IT specialist”.
- The teachers truly mean to use the new technology but they have one child in class who is homeless, for whom they are trying to find services, three Individual Education Plans to complete and meetings to attend for students who have disabilities, have been asked to direct the school play and … well, you get the idea.
What I want to talk to teachers about all of the time is what they’d like to see in educational games. What is it that would make them think,
Wow! I really need to have that in my class!
Every chance I get, I ask teachers to review our games, probably to the point of being annoying. I ask if I can watch kids playing the games in their classrooms, if I can analyze pretest scores to see at a specific grade, not what the standards say kids are supposed to understand, but what they actually do comprehend.
I’ve never bought into that Silicon Valley line about “selling the sizzle, not the steak”. Every week, we work on making our games better. To get money, you need to meet with the administrators, but to get your technology actually used in the classroom in ways to make a difference, you need to meet with teachers.
So, that’s what I’m doing.