As a parent who believes in edtech and a person employed by the industry, I salivate at the infinite capacity of personalized learning yet cower before the reality of our infrastructure constraints and the inequity of hardware distribution. I am fortunate to have children who've used iPads since the first generation iPad was released into the wild but I know this is not the norm. All this is to say, that I believe in the power of apps. I have felt the brunt of crappy apps and I've seen the potential of what really awesome apps can provide youngsters.
When we try an app we know right away if the in app purchases are necessary and worthwhile or not. We know from looking over the app if it's worth $.99, $3.99 or more. From our personal experience, there are a couple areas where edtech companies fail us all:
Using traditional rhetoric in aggrandized but meaningless ways:
One morning, while working from home, I noticed it was very quiet all around me. I was actually getting a huge bulk of work completed. When I looked up each kid was 1:1 with their iPads, but they weren't playing with cake pop makers or beauty and fashion dress up games, they were hard at work on math... was I seeing things? No, no I wasn't. So I asked, "What game are you playing?". Without even looking up they said in unison, "Todo Math". I decided this must be shared on social media, so I went to our blog Twitter and gave a shoutout to @TodoMath. They had to know how happy I was with their product (I love giving props to good companies on Twitter). What happened next let me know that this company actually cared about creating a quality experience for their users. They contacted us right away about the tweet and asked me for an interview.
So... Devs... listen to your users. We are using your stuff. We know if it sucks or if it rocks. We want your stuff to work because honestly, we need a break from our kids. We want them to learn too... Parents and teachers are using your tools with their children for many reasons. It's important that you investigate why. Don't just read the reviews on the app store, actually reach out and gather cases and user stories. Hear the good, the bad and the ugly and figure out how you can implement this feedback into your updates and resource offerings. In the coming 10-15 years I think the apps and tech that will be set apart from the rest will separate themselves because of their user experience... because ultimately tools can't be effective without users.
I'm a former teacher and former college athlete, currently working in edtech. My mission is to get parents to partner with their child's teacher.