Those "5 Things You Need to Know About EdTech" posts seem to crop up on Twitter every couple weeks -- Tech isn't the Point of EdTech, EdTech is about Learning, EdTech is Exciting. But for those who've heard and read it all before, here's a completely different take on that headline.
1. There is no such thing as "free." If you didn't pay for it, then you yourself are the fee. The data you produce and the connections you open up are generally worth a whole lot more to the longer term business plan of any ed-tech startup than the dollar you might spend to download an app. The CEO of a well known ed-tech startup on the West Coast recently remarked to me: "Our business strategy is the typical Trojan Horse scheme." Yup. And if you think this is the rambling of a lone-wolf... well you might want to start chatting with some folks who do biz dev for ed-tech. Free is the new expensive.
2. "Open" isn't so much about content as it is about the distribution arrangement. Though as users we tend to think about the Internet in terms of content, in reality the Net is agnostic in terms of what's written or posted upon it. The core function of the Net is more as a distribution mechanism, or more precisely as an environment of connections that allows for myriad distribution. And depending who has developed what, the different applications that live on the Internet have varying degrees of openness. That includes ed-tech. A good way to gauge the "openness" of your favorite ed-tech company — whether for-profit or non-profit — is not to ask them whether their content is free and freely available, but to ask whether they actively participate in the creation and modification of Open Source projects and whether they have a commitment towards public APIs. In other words: how does the company itself contribute to opening the channels of distribution?