In conversation with BESA: WonderHub

Cleo Fatoorehchi had a chat with Jonny Page to discuss his ‘TripAdvisor of edtech’

You talk of WonderHub as the “TripAdvisor of edtech”; can you please explain what you mean by that?

TripAdvisor was the first effective way for consumers to share their opinions and experiences with their peers, to help people make informed decisions. We were shocked when we discovered that there was no place for schools or families to go to quickly and easily discover what their education technology options are. 

We saw a gap in the market for an open platform where we present all options without bias and where it is teachers and parents’ voices that are amplified, over those of the suppliers. 

As suppliers are registering their solutions onto your platform, which edtech products and services does your community think are the most exciting?

They are really excited about the latest computing edtech arriving into our schools and homes. We are starting to see ways to enable children to easily make and create in the virtual space and then transform those ideas into reality. Creating and making things is what helps edtech become a cross-curricular tool. School buyers can win the value-for-money argument when they find technology which can be used to teach geography, computing and biology. 

Secondly, products that are designed specifically for SEND students are getting huge plaudits. These can accelerate learning, improve cognitive development and develop social skills. At the same time, they can help reduce teacher workload, something that is much needed. 

We would encourage any suppliers who think that they have something extra special to contact us.

From your experience with schools in the UK, what are the main challenges that school leaders are facing with purchasing edtech?

Many simply don’t have the time or tools to find all their options and quickly compare them. This can lead to decisions being made without consulting teachers, considering alternatives or without getting the best price on the market. Schools have lost much of their group purchasing power and purchasing advice that would normally help with this. 

This factors into the second problem of cost and budgets. We often get companies who are looking to break into the UK market ask us how to do so. The glib answer is to get into a car and drive to 30,000 schools. Sales and marketing to UK schools is an expensive process and these costs get factored into the price that schools pay, which further stretch already stretched budgets. 

When it comes to implementing edtech, what do you see as the main difficulties for schools?

Once the above problems have been overcome, it’s often apparent that the technical expertise to implement and utilise edtech correctly is a rare commodity. This leads to the risk of technology sitting in what one teacher referred to as ‘The Cupboard of Shame’. Speaking at computing teacher training events gives me a great opportunity to hear some of the best and worst examples of this. 

You have started a series of webinars for teachers and headteachers interested in learning more about edtech. What makes you think it’s a format that resonates with them?

Webinars neatly combine the two aspects of WonderHub that we think will make this project a success: video and community. Video is the most powerful way to convey information clearly and concisely to an audience. When we record these live, with interactions from Twitter, LinkedIn and from the panel, it is a reminder that information needs to be shared and nobody has all the answers. 

Cleo Fatoorehchi is Communications Coordinator at the British Educational Suppliers Association