Dear Ed Tech Companies:
Many of you came through for educators in the spring of 2020 by providing your tools for free to school districts. But, let’s face it, you need to make money. When school re-opens in August or September, many things will need to change – and that means you will likely have to go back to trying to make a profit. Here are some things that I hope you will consider as you assess your services and their costs:
- Please make sure that your company is COPPA Compliant – and more. Though COPPA applies to children 13 and under, we don’t want you tracking or selling information from any of the students using educational platforms.
- Ads are irritating. Keep them out if you can. If you can’t, make them short and appropriate for kids. And not gross. Toes with fungus on them can quickly derail a class of any age.
- Your educational tool needs to work on multiple types of devices and any size screen. Bonus if it allows for both online and offline use.
- If you are tiering your pricing, please offer a free version.
- If you had a free tier pre-pandemic, do not move some of its features to paid. Keep those same features free. I can tell you that any company that pulls this trick immediately ends up on my list of never-use-again-no-matter-how-good-it-is ed tech providers.
- Offer an affordable, browser-based plan, that is available for teachers who just want to use your product in their classroom. Affordable – b/c a lot of teachers are willing to pay out-of-pocket (even though we shouldn’t) to avoid district bureaucratic obstacles. Browser-based – b/c a lot of districts don’t allow teachers to download their own software or apps.
- If a teacher contacts you because you are not an approved district vendor, do the work to become one. Don’t expect the teacher to do the legwork. I’ve had to do this numerous times, and it is a nightmare.
- Accept Purchase Orders.
- Play nice with other ed tech companies. Include features that allow educators to import work they have already done, such as flashcards or slide shows, into your platform – and allow for export as well. If applicable, allow for direct assignment to Google Classroom or other Learning Management Systems.
- Keep a list of potential grants that teachers/schools/districts can apply for in case they are unable to afford your product.
- Make it easy for teachers to get help with your product or to offer feedback. There is a 3d printer company that made it to my never-use-again-no-matter-how-good-it-is list b/c it was impossible to get in touch with a live person, the website was a mess of labyrinthian proportions, and of course there was no e-mail contact or online chat.
A Teacher Who Set Up The First Internet-Connected (Dial-Up) Computer in Her School, Donated by a Company That No Longer Exists