Rental Cars and Ed Tech

Here’s the scene.  You arrive in Ft. Lauderdale and head over to Hertz.   The attendant checks your paperwork, tries to sell you the requisite insurance, and sends you off to find space H-116, a Dodge Charger.    You spend a couple of minutes figuring out the lights are on the left, turning signals on the right, seat adjuster is on the console and your foot needs to be on the brake to start the car.  All of this is quite opposite the car you drive at home, but in a few minutes you are on the highway—maybe a bit insecure for the first few miles, but by the time you hit the beach, it feels like you have driven this car for years.   It doesn’t matter that you have never set foot in a Charger before because you understand the skills--the competencies--needed to drive any car.  

Change scene:  Before you sits a room full of instructors.  They all have your product loaded on their laptops and they are looking up at your screen to see where to click next.  You dutifully walk through your next 8 slides that show them how easy it is to create a lesson and what a breeze it is to pull up data.  But what you haven’t established is “do they have the skills needed to drive a car?”  Are you taking them on a walkthrough of the dashboard when you should be helping them to drive in snow?  

If we want teachers, professors and administrators to make more (and more effective) use of instructional technologies, we need to think more about the skills and less about the car.  To do that, it is necessary for product developers to ask themselves a few questions:

  1.  Are you able to identify which professional competencies are most necessary for a teacher to succeed using your product in year one? What competencies will be required to move them to the super-user category in the next year?  For example,

    • Do they need to understand Problem based learning and how to apply collaborative strategies so they can optimize student usage and collect the appropriate data?

    • Do they need to be able to apply an UbD (Understanding by Design) framework to optimize student learning? 

    • Do they need to understand the theoretical underpinnings of flipped classrooms to take advantage of your unique feature set?

    • Do they need to understand the elements of digital citizenship and ISTE standards to confidently introduce your product to students and their parents?

  2. Is it a reasonable expectation that your target customers already possess these competencies?

  3.  If they do, how are you contextualizing your product so that they can apply these competencies to your product?

  4. If they don’t, do you have the ability to help teachers build those competencies? What would be the cost (time and money) to do so?

  5. Could your product’s functionality and/or interface be tweaked to better fit with the target customers’ existing competencies without undermining the pedagogical value of your product?

  6. How can you best engage and motivate your customers to develop these new skills?

As a customer-centric product developer, understanding the competencies required for teachers to have a successful experience with your product is crucial for both ongoing product development and long-term usage.