The problem exists in the way that most learning companies develop. Most of these companies grow out of an individual or small group who identify a problem in the educational world to which they believe they have a fix. These people tend to be developers and software engineers who are very good at what they do and are interested in making a difference. All good things, and here-in lies the very big problem that is propelling the EdTech boom to collapse.
These people are very knowledgeable about computers and software, but when it comes to education, they fall into the same trap as most parents, namely that they are operating under the mistaken belief that because they went to school, they know about school, education, and how people learn. Nothing could be further from the truth.
In some instances, these very well intentioned people have recognized their own deficiency and have sought out teachers, or former teachers, to get involved in their project, not merely to add legitimacy to the endeavor, but because they genuinely want make their product educationally effective. This step should absolutely be lauded.
Unfortunately, this is actually a false promise and amounts, essentially, to the blind leading the blind. The overwhelming majority of these teachers-come-learning company employees have had very limited teaching exposure. Two, or possibly as much as three, years in the classroom seems to be the norm in this regard and thus, while they have more experience as an educator than the typical tech guru writing the code, their understanding of the complexities of how the brain learns and how students of various ages take in, process and output information, are limited at best.
If we look at the fact that 10,000 hours is the generally accepted amount of time one needs to practice something in order to attain mastery of it, be it golf, driving a car, coding in a particular language, or yes, teaching, we arrive at the fact that this amounts to roughly 5 years of work experience. Some might even argue that there are substantially more pieces to teaching than simply imparting learning and that only makes the case stronger. If we factor in the reality that a not inconsequential amount of every teacher’s day is spent in the operation of school rather than involved in the practice of education it quickly becomes apparent that the amount of time required to truly understand how others learn and how to teach is actually more than 5 years.
Thus, a teacher who is recruited into a tech firm with less than five years of experience has actually only developed a rudimentary understanding of the learning process and this is the looming problem in the EdTech space as it currently exists today; the vast majority of what is being touted as the next cure all, competing for attention in what is quickly becoming an overcrowded marketplace, as well as for scant school and government dollars, is being developed by well meaning people with little to no true understanding of how to educate.
The byproduct of this system is very fancy technology, frequently forced upon them by overzealous, though well-meaning, administrators and government leaders that not only does not solve the problems it was intended to, but in fact creates new problems that then must be surmounted. Some of these systems are so bad as to actually impede learning, rather than improving it. This is not a matter of the technology getting in the way of the learning, but rather a problem of the technology offering nothing better, or too often, nothing, in the way of learning.
Can this problem be fixed? Of course it can. Will it? That depends on whether those in the EdTech sector are willing to get good and experienced teachers involved in the development process. Until that happens, be ready for a lot of good money to be thrown at ideas that will harm learning and school more than it will help.