What’s Wrong With Education Software?
For the purposes of this article, there’s an important distinction between “educational” software and “education” software. “Educational” software refers to the tools that students and learners at any level use to supplement their instruction, whether in a classroom of on their own. “Education” software is the term applied to the titles that power the school itself, such as administrative software, organizational titles, electronic lesson plans or grade books, etc.
It’s no secret that K12 education software (again, not what the students are using in class, but the desktop software that teachers are required to use by the entire school system) is lagging in terms of functionality and affordability. Here’s how it tends to play out: out of the blue, the school system or the state board adopts a new software title to power the administrative side of things, a title that they paid through the nose for. The software is slow and cumbersome and barely an improvement, but it ate up a significant portion of the state’s budget due to licensing.
That’s if the school system even bothers to adopt new software.
But one teacher–Al Bryant, a former programmer and web developer turned high school math teacher–arrived in his new teaching position and was appalled at the crappy software his school was using. He wrote a new title himself, and offered it to the school for free after a beta testing period within his grade level.
They decided to pay for a different software title instead.
Bryant’s attempts to get better exposure for his software, Cram Quest, have proved difficult. He advanced through multiple rounds of the television show Shark Tank before dropping out due to the high percentage of financial control they wanted over his software. He also had a Kickstarter campaign for his title in order to pay for marketing, but failed to reach the full funding amount.
With the extreme financial restrictions placed on education, it would seem logical that an employee who develops software and offers it to the school for free would be given a medal instead of told, “Thanks, but no thanks.” Instead, schools operate the way they always have, resistant to change and willing to shoot themselves in the foot if it means using a vetted company to provide an outrageously expensive product rather than trusting the brilliance of one of their own. It’s too easy to jump to the conclusion that schools don’t even trust their own teachers to be all that brilliant.