Ask the expert: smartly investing in education technology

Second in a short series of weekly chats about all things edtech in 2018. Please meet Matthew Lynch, Founder and Editor, The Tech Edvocate

What are the main priorities for edtech investment this year?

Neuroscience. Still in its infancy, the field of neuroscience has created a new understanding of how the brain works, learns and even controls the body. The neural networks within the brain are far denser than originally thought, and the implications for learning are huge. As a result, savvy edtech companies must develop learning products aligned to neuroscience

Artificial intelligence. Artificial intelligence is a growing phenomenon. Every time you ask Siri a question on your iPhone, you’re using artificial intelligence. Artificial intelligence is taking over the world of automobiles, too. New cars feature self-parking, and driverless cars may come sooner than we once thought. But in education, artificial intelligence is lagging behind. Trailblazing edtech companies should take advantage of this.

One of the largest roadblocks for schools and universities in implementing tech is budget constrictions. Do you think current budgets reflect the importance that the education sector is placing on technology?

I think that all governments realise the important role that technology plays in their economies. However, only a few forward-thinking governments are making adequate technology investments in the education sector. Those that do not, cite finances as a major impediment, but they don’t realise that they can either make investments in tech now or face the consequences later. One day they will wake up and find out that the bulk of their citizenry are technologically illiterate and unable to compete with their peers around the world.

How can education institutions work to keep pace with evolving edtech without blowing budgets?

Every school wants to offer its students the best, most current, most meaningful opportunities. In the modern era, this means providing its learners with appropriate and useful technology. Unfortunately, technology can also be very expensive. With school budgets ever tightening, being fiscally responsible and taking advantage of cost-saving measures is paramount in making sure that students are best taken care of and given the best opportunities. 

Technology is becoming a necessity in education. Preparing students to use technology is an essential real-world skill. Following money-saving tips will help your district make the most of the money they have to provide the students with the technology they need.

Matthew Lynch

What are the top three most important considerations for schools and universities when considering edtech investments?

A lot of considerations go into building an edtech product. The best edtech products utilise adaptive branching, engage students, and collect learning data. That requires you to understand how the brain learns and retains. 

As you construct your product, you’re also going to need education leaders to validate the tools they use. 

There are many voices in the sector promoting tech for certain causes. Which elements of education do you think are most in need of edtech investment? 

Over the past decade, I have been pleased to see edtech entrepreneurs stepping up to the plate and developing edtech solutions aimed at helping all students to succeed academically. This, of course, helps to bring about education equality. For that reason, investing in edtech can help us achieve education equality and should be of the utmost importance to entrepreneurs and investors that want to be the change that they would like to see in the world. 

Some schools and universities are struggling with a lower budget than their peers. How can institutions be proactive in raising extra funds for tech investment? 

Including technology in your school and classroom is an important way to help students learn and grow. However, sometimes budget constraints may hinder progress. It’s important to know that there are ways to support technological growth at your school, without dipping into your savings. There are many ways to be creative and raise funds for school or classroom tech. A number of companies and foundations regularly donate to schools, for example the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Getting in touch with local companies could also garner some good contacts to help with tech procurement.

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