By Roger Tagholm
Educational technology needs to be as simple to use as a traditional book, but requires a different mind-set among the teachers and professionals who may be buying it. These were two of the conclusions from speakers at last week’s session “Ed Tech: Lessons to be Learnt,” as part of the Digital Minds for Publishing conference at the London Book Fair.
Steve Connolly, Publishing Director for Further Education and Digital at Hodder Education, said: “We’ve over complicated things. If you give a teacher a printed book, they can evaluate it in five minutes. With Ed Tech, if it takes longer than five minutes, you’ve lost them. You’ve got to make it simple.”
Michael McGarvey from Cambridge University Press, said that in Ed Tech “you have to get away from linear thinking. In traditional publishing, we’re uncomfortable with iteration. We like to make it prefect before we send it out. But in Ed Tech you get it out there, you get feedback, you alter it, you move on.”
For Jim Riley, founder of the online education business tutor2u, the need for a “distinctive voice to reach your target audience” was one lesson learnt, while another – and he admitted this one had been very painful — was realizing that customers are more important than users, “because it’s customers that pay the bills”.
Asked by chair Ben Barton of education-through-gaming company Zondle, how they would spend “a notional £1m”, Riley said he would “back content and systems that helped students” and Connolly said he would invest “in a set of people who can engage with our core aim – and give them free rein to experiment”.
And with that “if only” scenario, it was class dismissed.