Breaking EdTech


There’s a lot of edtech apps out there. I mean, A LOT.

New edtech apps seem to rise just as frequently as our students discover ones for their own personal use (I teach high school, so keeping up with student trends--TikTok is the big current one for them--feels a part-time job, lol).

I think there’s some fair bit of frustration to be had from teachers on this, and rightly so. I worked with a school district last year whose teachers were switched-- and no exaggeration here-- between Schoology, Google Classroom, and Canvas in the span of three years. Brutal.

The problem is that all three are pretty similar in terms of the jobs they do. LMS (learning management systems), right?

This isn’t to say that there’s differences between the three or preferences that certain educators might have. Quizziz isn’t the same as Kahoot which isn’t the same as Quizlet. Each has strengths, weaknesses, and features that the others don’t.

I think the pitfall for many #edtech users is that we--myself included--occasionally prioritize the variety of apps over the variety of applications. 

Let me explain with a metaphor.

In economics, there’s two kinds of monopolies: horizontal monopolies and vertical monopolies.

Horizontal monopolies are like cell phone companies. They all relatively provide the same services, and when it comes to buying out their competitors, they pretty much snatch up people who do much the same thing they do. Is there really a huge difference between the cell services of AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile? Not really.

Horizontal monopolies don’t require a lot of creative thinking. It just takes customers (teachers) being loyal to one brand or another. (Schoology, Google Classroom, Canvas, Blackboard, etc).

Vertical monopolies are very different.  Instead of buying other companies that do what they do (which Amazon still does, of course), vertical monopolies attempt to integrate every level of the customer experience from start to finish. Google & Amazon are the classic example of the 21st century. They offer grocery shopping, music and video streaming, delivery, web hosting, fitness tracking, and more. For both, their prime focus as a business isn’t building brand loyalty. It’s about how to leverage their platform and power to creatively attack new arenas.

So how does this apply to educators?

We need to think less horizontally about apps (Can I replace app A with App B?) and instead think more vertically about them (How could App A do lots of different things?).

Ultimately, this goes back to a cardinal rule of edtech:

“Educational technology isn’t powerful because IT can do really cool things; it’s powerful because it’s in the hands of AMAZING EDUCATORS.”

So I recently challenged my Twitter PLN to come up with a few ways that they “break edtech”, as I like to call it, and show me some awesome examples of how they’ve used apps in some seemingly unintended ways to come up with creative solutions. And they delivered.

Check out their ideas--and feel free to add your own--by clicking here.


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