3 reasons edtech ignores social capital


Aug 2, 2016

Edtech entrepreneurs around the world have keyed into the enormous potential for edtech to disrupt the traditional content and assessment market. But with a laser-like focus on academic tools, entrepreneurs and school systems alike risk losing sight of how technology can also enhance students’ relationships with adults and one another. In addition to dramatically shifting how we deliver instruction, technology stands to reshape how we guide and mentor students and how we might expand their social and professional networks.

But unlike the boon in online learning, technologies built to reimagine how we connect students and expand their networks are few and far between. In this video, I explore the top three reasons that the edtech market seems to be ignoring the opportunity to use technology tools to build students’ access to social capital—and how practitioners and policymakers can address this gap.

Julia is the director of education research at the Clayton Christensen Institute. She leads a team that educates policymakers and community leaders on the power of disruptive innovation in the K-12 and higher education spheres.

  • Iain

    Pity there is no such thing as ‘disruption’ of the ‘innovators dilemma’.

  • Nice summary. I agree completely and thank you for highlighting the fact that even though we are well into our second decade of continued conversations about 21st-century learning our accountability measures remain pretty much attached to end-of-course exams and grades. I fear that the second reason is more than a tendency. We are required by law to protect students. It would be great to explore what we can do about this problem because along with our desire to provide authentic, connected, collaborative, and personalized learning, comes the need to incorporate tools that encourage internal and external dialogue opportunities.

  • I’m especially interested in this question from the higher education perspective as there is a compelling and emergent research base on singular, transformative relationships in student success. Ed tech bells and whistles continue to be driven by an instinct to mimic social media platforms which produce a mix of loose networking rather than perfecting capacity to deliver sustainable instructional relationships. And at the institutional end — we’ve rushed so hard to think about scaling and cost-cutting, have not encouraged faculty to think about social capital building, and thus indirectly not pressed the question with developers. Again — I hope there are ways to sharpe a K16 & beyond perspective on this conversation.

  • Consider:
    a) faculty are trained as content experts, they are incentivized via promotion and tenure to focus on content/publish-perish
    b) the funding sources measure student progress based on content mastery
    c) globally, students want access to the social and cultural capital that a university degree supposedly validates, such as the certificate given to the Straw man by the Wizard of Oz but all fail to realize that this image comes from the historic demographics of the past
    d) the walls of the Ivory Tower are permeable today with social media such as FB and Twitter.
    e) “students” are a different population and not all are the recent secondary school grads, nor are they going thru in lock-step 4 year programs, living on campus or not engaged with the world outside of the Ivory Tower
    f-“n”) ….

    The post secondary institution is not “old main” and thus the analysis has assumed the euivalent of a “straw man” in establishing the arguments presented here