Given the amount of funding and resources poured into edtech, why does safety continue to be an afterthought? Especially with regard to online learning tools, schools and districts are often left to their own devices and are pressed to figure it out for themselves.
With over 550 companies exhibiting at this past summer's ISTE 2017 (the International Society for Technology in Education), we can still be sure of this one thing: There is no shortage of innovation in educational technology. Every day, we witness forward-thinking developments, products and solutions designed for learning and student achievement.
After implementing a new product, administrators often experience what I sometimes called the “oh-no” moment, which occurs once the difficulty of ensuring student safety within the solution begins to settle.
Safety in Education Presents Unique Challenges
With the right product development team in place, the sky's the limit. A company with a focus and message of safety is presented with some unique obstacles and limitations. Companies focused on safety have a much smaller threshold for mistakes. It’s fairly standard for companies that offer tangible goods to tolerate waste or loss during production. It’s built into the cost of manufacture. Companies that focus on safety and security are not afforded the same convenience.
This is why, in addition to technology, human beings have always been (and will always be) a part of what we do. Beyond our development team, we will always have expert Safety Representatives who review student email, files and communications for inappropriate content. A company offering safety and security cannot afford to make these mistakes.
Safety Doesn’t Always Appear “New and Shiny”
People will always prefer the purchase a new television over the purchase of a warranty. The former is exciting, whereas the latter is a necessary evil at best. It’s entertaining to walk the exhibit floor at a conference and look for the new and innovative tools that companies are attempting to introduce to the classroom.
Safety tends to be a less exciting, albeit necessary, aspect of education. By nature, people tend to want to avoid thinking about and discussing the problems faced by students, including suicide, bullying, drug and alcohol abuse and the sundry other issues.
Schools and Districts Will Bear the Burden
The biggest reason for why safety continues to be an afterthought in edtech, however, is in my opinion because companies have realized they can count on schools and districts to bear the burden. Generally, schools and districts are the ones directly liable for what they expose their students to, not service providers.
It’s just part of the culture of educational technology. Understaffed and overworked technology, student resource, curriculum and administrative departments are tasked with ensuring that the service and resources they use are appropriate for their students. Going forward, it would be great to see more companies take on the burden of creating safe solutions on themselves.