As the CEO of an edtech company, I frequently find myself in conversations centered on the conflict between the human art of teaching and the transformative power of technology. While this feels like an important and urgent discussion, it’s a red herring that I believe is holding us back as an industry. We will be far better served, in my opinion, focusing on how we can integrate technology with the nuance required to enhance our efficacy while honoring the one irreplaceable element at the core of teaching–humanity.
From the earliest philosophers and sages to today’s modern classrooms, the essence of teaching and learning remains a fundamentally human endeavor. The question that is so popular to ask–will technology replace people–isn’t really one that bears mentioning because it assumes that taking humans out of teaching and learning is a good thing. Let me be clear: it is not!
If we take this as a given that our goal is not to replace teachers with technology, but instead to use technology as a tool that improves the efficacy of our educators, we can have a more productive discussion. Specifically, we can focus on how we can leverage technology as a resource to remove the structural barriers that exist in education–whether they are geographical, financial, data-focused, or logistical. This is a question worth exploring!
A guiding principle at BetterLesson is the understanding that technology should reduce the cost and burden of teaching. This extends to a broader concept of investment–an investment in the invaluable time, energy, and resources educators invest in their craft. By using technology in a strategically integrated way, we can streamline processes, and allow teachers to focus on their core mission–fostering connections with students and cultivating an environment conducive to learning.
Along the way, we will have to contend with the fact that the path to effective and equitable education through technology is not without its challenges. Embracing technology in this way requires a mindset shift, and trust that the seemingly high upfront cost will provide a worthwhile ROI, if executed correctly. This is not just a financial investment; it is a commitment to shaping the future of education and, by extension, the future of our society.
Additionally, we must be mindful of potential pitfalls in technology integration and ensure that our zeal to adopt new tools does not contribute to existing inequalities. Addressing the digital divide is a critical consideration: it’s not just about introducing cutting-edge tools, but also ensuring equal access to the benefits of edtech for all students, irrespective of their socio-economic background. This means a meaningful review of the necessary infrastructure required to use technology tools, like access to the internet, as a critical part of our adoption work. In championing the cause of humanizing edtech, we are really looking to achieve one goal above all: creating an environment where every student has the opportunity to shine as brightly as possible.
I firmly believe that the first step down the road ahead is adopting a new perspective on technology and teaching. This conflict between the traditional and the modern has always been an alluring but false narrative. Classrooms today exist virtually, we have near 1-to-1 device distribution, and the internet is being used in new and inspiring ways to democratize access to education tools. We use technology in new and novel ways everyday. It’s critical that edtech businesses and our education system are working together to make this exploration a fruitful partnership, which means meaningful discovery and dialogue on the best ways to work together. The best answers will emerge from partnership rather than competition.
It’s my sincere hope that we can embrace technology not as a disruptor but as a partner in our quest for effective, human-centered education. Together, we can create a future where learning has less limits than ever before, and every student has the chance to realize their full potential. Humanizing edtech is not just a vision; it’s a call to action for a brighter, more equitable future in education.