Here's what's keeping Baltimore's edtech entrepreneurs up at night - Generocity Philly

Purpose

Mar. 31, 2016 2:12 pm

Here’s what’s keeping Baltimore’s edtech entrepreneurs up at night

In as many words: access.

Sleepless in B'more.

(Photo by Flickr user Jack Lyons, used under a Creative Commons license)

This is part of a series about Baltimore's social impact community via its Light City conference.
You made a thing that helps students learn better. Now how do you get that thing into the hands of the students who need it most?

On a Light City panel intended to prompt participants to opine on the role edtech will play in the future of learning, local industry leaders spoke instead about how bureaucracy and cost are keeping the ideal at bay.

That’s just what happens when you’re working in an industry heavily regulated and subsidized by government, said StraighterLine founder Burck Smith, whose company offers low-cost, non-accredited college courses. Speed is predictably slow, and access is only as broad as the government supports that are in place.

“It does not move as fast as you think,” he said. “And you’ve already assumed it doesn’t move fast.”

To former teacher and foreign language education enterprise ClassTracks founder Lida Zlatic, the difficulty of founding a company pales in comparison to the struggles a teacher faces in their first year on the job.

“We’re trying to serve teachers and through teachers serve students,” Zlatic said. And while her focus so far has be making sure her platform works well for students, Zlatic doesn’t want to ignore teachers’ needs for easy use and implementation.

“I don’t want to put one more thing on [a teacher’s] plate. I want to take things off,” she said. “I’d really like us to get to the point where using ClassTracks is easier than not using ClassTracks.”

Wes Moore — a U.S. Army veteran, acclaimed author, founder of Baltimore-based social enterprise BridgeEdu and all-around affable entrepreneur cut to the heart of the problem for edtech: focus and expectations.

Especially when you’re working with low-income and at-risk students, he said, it’s easy to get distracted by the everyday struggles they have to conquer. As he put it, “a whole lot of life” gets in the way for unprivileged students.

From our Partners

When you're working with low-income and at-risk students, it's easy to get distracted by the everyday struggles they have to conquer.

“We have many students who are wondering about where they’re going to live, the fact that their grandmother is sick and they’re now the ones taking care of their siblings,” he said. “All [edtech leaders] would love to deal with any single one of those barriers that exist in the path to higher education for our students.”

But Moore’s most pressing frustration is with society’s tendency to place different expectations on different students.

“Somehow, [low-income students] do not have the same chance of success nor even deserve the same level of opportunity for that success,” he said. “For anyone who decides to work in this space…being able to fight over that with everyone from providers to practitioners to funders is a frustrating process.”

Baltimore, he said, falls victim to the “gatekeeper mentality” — the idea that if you “kiss enough rings,” you might just get your chance to slip under the bureaucratic red tape holding up progress. It’s too much power in the hands of too few.

It’s complex. But that complexity needs to be accepted.

“If we’re serious about the final products, and we’re serious about supporting students who are in many cases coming from more complicated backgrounds, we can’t be afraid to invest in the things we know make sense and put those platforms and supports around them,” Moore said. “We have to … understand that equity means complexity, and we have to be OK with complexity and put the resources behind actually being able to [support] that complexity.”

-30-
LEAVE A COMMENT

From our Partners

3 important outcomes for young people who are taught critical race theory

Student voice needs to be at forefront of CRT decision-making

How student-designed video games made me rethink how I teach history

SPONSORED

Generocity Philly

On June 17, First Person Arts and EMOC launch a virtual event they hope will shatter misperceptions of men of color

Philadelphia

Playworks Education Energized

Development Operations Associate

Apply Now
Philadelphia, PA

GreenLight Fund

Program Associate, GreenLight Fund Philadelphia

Apply Now
West Chester, PA

Friends Association for Care & Protection of Children

Chief Operating Officer

Apply Now

Can schools require COVID-19 vaccines for students now that Pfizer’s shot is authorized for kids 12 and up?

Updated report on gender diversity of eds and meds boards shows some gains

Beyond Literacy: Combining nearly 90 years of history into one org

SPONSORED

Generocity Philly

Good food + good people + good cause = good times

West Chester, PA

Friends Association for Care & Protection of Children

Advancement Associate

Apply Now
Philadelphia, PA

Fairmount Ventures Inc

Associate

Apply Now
currently virtual; soon to be full or partially in-person in Philadelphia

City Year Philadelphia

Individual Giving/Donor Engagement Manager

Apply Now

Sign-up for daily news updates from Generocity