W02: Is the education marketplace broken?

This is a Discussion Post related to the second week of 522.

Is the education marketplace broken? From your experience and perspective do you feel that money flows intelligently and effectively within education systems to fulfill the mission of learning? Many people consider that the education marketplace is broken because there are far too many political, corporate, institutional, and ideological barriers in place to allow free market forces to ‘correct’ things as they do in other marketplaces. Do you agree? If it is broken, can you suggest any ways to ‘fix’ it?


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155 responses to “W02: Is the education marketplace broken?”

  1. skye ferguson

    I think the quote at the beginning of this week’s readings comparing a surgeon and a teacher from the 1900s sums up the broken educational marketplace. We should have been way more technologically advanced in the classroom so that when the pandemic struck we were not scrambling as much. The very fact that we scrambled shows that we have a broken system. Teachers in the classroom are very separated from the budget. We are supposed to be seen as professionals but we lack a lot of autonomy and control over many class decisions. We usually don’t have a voice at the table when it comes to bringing different technological advancements into our classroom unless like the readings say contribute to the higher numbers on test scores.

    My favorite example is when divisions want us to integrate more tech into the classroom. They introduce us to things like mentimeter and show us the great things it can do … but only offer us the free version of it with limiting features as it will not increase an overall test score rather the functionality of a lesson.

    I think we need to step away from buzzwords like stem and steam. If we are going to incorporate all these trends in the classroom people sitting at the corporate tables need to be prepared to fun it properly so that kids and teachers feel competent.

    Lastly, the marketplaces will never be fixed until we stop teaching for a test. I think if education became more about learning to learn rather than learning with the intent of performing well on a test we would begin to see a lot of success in the classroom.

    ( 18 upvotes and 0 downvotes )
    1. Michael Saretzky

      I also liked that quote, I do think it applies to several classes, however I do think it depends on the classroom that you are going into. In my classroom last year, I had six TVs, five on tables and one on the wall. I regularly had students around the tables, using keyboards and touchpads that were connected with the Chromebits on each TV, and I even used them to do a video game unit in my LA class. Although I had no say in purchasing these devices, we had a very tech ambitious VP a couple of years ago, but the TVs were just sitting around for a while.

      ( 0 upvotes and 0 downvotes )
      1. skye ferguson

        Wow that is amazing to have such a tech driven admin team – it definitely supports the instruction you did. Also good point, it also depends on how knowledgeable the teacher is with regards to using the technology so that a smart board does not become an expensive projector.

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        1. Michael Saretzky

          Yes, it was excellent. Unfortunately, he moved schools, but there was a lot of equipment by the time that he had left. Yeah, it was an odd experience, where I saw when every teacher ask for them and then within 8 years they were all trying to find somewhere to store them.

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      2. Tamara

        I 100% agree with you Michael, that it depends on what classroom you are in, but more importantly what school. This brings me back to my post where I mention that the state of the current education marketplace creates a situation of haves and have nots. You mentioned you had a tech ambitious VP, which is why your classroom had the latest gadgets and tools, reiterating my point that whether or not a school has tech or is tech focused depends on the decisions of one or two administrators (who usually make the decision in isolation). I also had a tech driven Principal for 8 years who purchased 250 iPads for all students, but since his retirement and since the new admin took over, the iPads have been collecting dust and our PD has been focused elsewhere. Sad.

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    2. sundeep lail

      Hi Skye, I want to comment on your statement that the education system struggled to get online when COVID struck. In the ESL industry we nearly crashed…very few teachers were able to deal with the technology of teaching online. In my own organizations we had people quit, other took 3 months leave, other spent 10-15hours a day trying to figure out the technology aspect of teaching online. We definitely have a disconnect between what the teachers need to teach technology in this world. That is where I feel the “Education Marketplace is broken” stems from. The teachers don’t seem to have a say in what they need from the education marketplace sector to really use and implement tools for their classroom. I feel they need more of a say into what is needed, the education marketplace need teachers as consultants, those who actually work in the schools and are educators to really help fix the disconnect between the two sectors.

      ( 3 upvotes and 0 downvotes )
      1. leighton chiverton

        We had the exact same issue around where I’m from. We nearly all drowned when we were made to transition. We had a decent amount of software available to us but because we had such limited hardware in school to allow students to regularly access the software, very few students and teachers were fluent in the use of what we already had. We also had many students who simply did not have a device at home or any form of data connection and the frustrations built up very quickly.
        I firmly believe that every teacher I worked with in the last year would agree that the first step to fixing this issue would be to get to as close to a 1:1 student to device ratio as possible. We are finally starting to see that at the end of this year but we have been calling for 1:1 for years now because we want to be able to access the powerful tools we have already on a more regular basis.

        ( 1 upvotes and 0 downvotes )
      2. helena wright

        I think I can echo what is already being said here. During the pandemic, I worked as a TA at a large University in Ontario. Despite being well-funded, and having access to technical support and resources, everybody was still scrambling. The professors that acted fast and put a learning plan into place were the ones who had experimented with technology to some degree prior to the shutdowns taking place. For example, a professor did “hybrid” classes for a 1-hour tutorial so that students didn’t need to commute to campus for only one hour. She was doing this well before the restrictions were in place and did it to make the lives of the students easier. For each class she had a volunteer moderate the Zoom room as well as a microphone that bluetoothed to the computer. She would pass that microphone around the room when students had questions and were sure to deliver the same teaching experience online as one would expect in person. Instructors like her were already very familiar with online teaching and educational platforms that could be leveraged to support students. She found the transition to online teaching incredibly easy and already set the students up with the support needed to be able to use the technology. This demonstrates how instructor knowledge of technology/ed-tech tools was one of the largest deciding factors between success and failure post-initial shutdown.

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    3. Tamara

      I agree with the frustration that comes when you get introduced to a tech tool, use it, love it, but its full access is limited or only for a set time forcing you to pay to continue to reap the benefits in your classroom! An example within my district was the use of Screencastify (https://www.screencastify.com/). Our school board paid for teachers to have full access during the last few months of school (when we shut down) and we had most of our teachers participate in PD and training related to this tool and many used it regularly with their online teaching. However, when September came, our district announced they will no longer be paying for the subscription- what a waste of all that great training! Learning opportunity sadly missed!

      ( 0 upvotes and 0 downvotes )
      1. Erica Hargreave

        Oh, that is sad, and such a waste of training and the investment in learning.

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    4. Siobhán McPhee

      I really appreciated the quote at the start of this week from the work on Teaching as a Subversive Activity by Neil Postman. The idea also relates to what David says in his introduction to the course, that too few educators are pioneers. I find this so absurd as we are trying to empower our students to be innovators and problem solvers and yet the structure of education has changed little in over three centuries. I am a big fan of Sir Ken Robinson and if you have seen his animation video (https://youtu.be/zDZFcDGpL4U) on the shortcomings of instutionalised education then I highly recommend that you do.
      I enrolled in the Certificate in Educational Technology in 2016 after already taught at UBC for three years. I was attempting to be innovative in my teaching and learning approaches and felt I needed the theoretical framework to continue the work. Over the past few years I have enjoyed most of the courses I have taken within the program and I have been able to some extent to apply what I have learned. I would say though that the greatest benefit I have gained from the courses though is that I have learned to really be able to critique the use of educational technology within higher education. The greatest ‘crisis’ as I see it is that technology and emerging media forms are simply being regarded as ‘tools’ to be incorporated into the existing instutionalised structure of the university classroom. The chalkboard is replaced by the overhead projector, is replaced by the powerpoint presentation, is replaces by the smart board – but has the delivery changed at all? In my experience absolutely not. In attempting to really shift the thinking to be about a truly blended pedagogy where education is more flexible, innovator and applicable I am continuously coming up against the structures which push back and tell me ‘no you must have three one hour lectures a week’. Or as Skye also points out the use of ‘free’ software which the university then refuses to get a license for. Or my favourite which is the purchase of certain technologies because they are the ‘current hot thing’ without any specific purpose. The education marketplace is broken not because there are not amazing innovative and creative tools out there, but because the foundation of the structure of higher education is rotten. After eight years of fighting the system I am weary, and this course is enabling me to feel excited about what I do for the first time in a long time but will it change the structure – doubtful…

      ( 5 upvotes and 0 downvotes )
  2. Michael Saretzky

    When I first saw this question my immediate response was yes. One issue I have found in Alberta, where I have taught for the last fifteen years in the multiple curriculum redesigns. The curriculum may not be recognized as the marketplace, but it is the main factor in many market decisions. In my time here there was the original social studies program, then a new program shortly after I arrived, then almost a new one with the last government but it was cancelled by the next government, but I believe a new one is on the horizon. This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t be creating new curriculums, as there are definitely some outdated curriculums out there, but with each new redesign we are diverting money that could be used in the classroom. These funds are not just being directly diverted from the government coffers. Schools send teachers to PDs to learn about the curriculum or to choose new resources, companies use money to plan and create resources to target the new outcomes. Even in the situation of the cancelled curriculum, K-4 was supposed to be released that following September, which means new resources had to have been planned. One would assume that if a company made a resource that was subsequently cancelled those costs would be recovered by other means, such as an increase in future resources. Again, these are funds that could be going to the classrooms or to by different resources. Overall, the motor that runs the education market, the curriculum, has become too much of a political football.

    As for my solution to this problem, I have two parts. First off, curriculum redesign should scheduled, such as every fifteen years, this will remove it from being revamped with every election, although tweeks could be made accordingly, to allow for such things as new technologies. Secondly, a committee is set up that includes active participants, such as parents, teachers, universities and an equal amount of members of major provincial political parties (I don’t know what would constitute major), this committee will develop the major ideas. For instance, maybe they decide that social studies 7 should learn about Russia or that social studies is an equal balance of history, geography and current events and they could even decide on the main units. Decisions must be done by consensus, I know that this may seem like an impossible task, but I am sure it can be done. Then the design, such as sequencing can be developed by the teachers.

    ( 11 upvotes and 0 downvotes )
    1. Jessica Daicos

      Hi Michael,

      In my four years training and teaching in Melbourne I used 3 curriculum documents, so I definitely agree about the hassle with the curriculum redesigns. Right now, in Ontario, the Ford government seems to keep changing things up, from funding to curriculum to class sizes. Every time, teachers need to invest their time into aligning with the new standards. It probably contributes to teachers often avoiding new trends – they’re just going to change again in a minute anyway. And, you’re right, I’d never thought about the financial and technological resources that get sunk in as well. I wonder how much this volatility also lowers the confidence of edu tech ventures.

      To your point about a solution, Finland seems to do much of what you’re suggesting (of course they do). I believe they’ve managed to isolate school and curriculum reform from short-term politics, leading to much better satability. They also have a national curriculum that is revised every 10 years with heavy input from teachers and stakeholders (Holdsworth Center). I would tend to agree with you that the first point in creating a more “intelligent and effective flow” in the education marketplace is to correct (or find a way to bypass) this issue.


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    2. RyanSilverthorne

      Hello Michael,

      In general I would certainly agree that curriculum redesign certainly gets in the way of our ability to deliver effective learning. Oftentimes when a redesign happens teachers are scrambling to find supplemental materials to meet their objectives and this can be problematic to say the least.

      It seems politics is inescapable these days in every area of life but it’s sad that it has a direct negative effect on student learning.

      While I agree with the sentiment behind consensus I do feel as we will always run into the political problem as long as the government is so closely tied to education. In the end the leadership of the ministry makes the final call and therefore usually are prone to listening to the advice of academics and others who support their political biases.

      I think your idea about scheduled curriculum redesign is certainly a good one. I also believe it makes sense to implement a redesign after an election cycle to avoid politicizing it as much as possible.

      ( 1 upvotes and 0 downvotes )
      1. Noor

        “The politicization of learning undeniably has a profound impact on education, and it’s heartening to see an increased awareness of this issue in recent years. It’s crucial to acknowledge that our education system is not entirely free from external influences, and at times, certain ideologies or perspectives are imposed, irrespective of their genuine correctness.

        I’m currently exploring the idea that research in education might be guided to align with specific educational directives. While I’m still in the process of gathering evidence to support this observation, it’s apparent to me that there may be instances where the learning trajectory is influenced by external factors.

        Moreover, I’ve noticed that learning technology products, in some cases, seem to be driven by a need to ‘sell’ rather than solely for the genuine advancement of education. It raises questions about the motivations behind certain educational tools and how they contribute to the overall learning experience. I’d love to hear your thoughts on these observations and whether others have encountered similar dynamics in their studies or research.”

        ( 0 upvotes and 0 downvotes )
  3. Vijaya Jammi

    The disjuncture between policy for reform and its implementation is often visible in many contexts. Although institutions have ambitious plans for change aided by technology to support learning in the modern context, the allocation of funds for the reform is hard to come. This could be because of the complex structure of the educational system where multiple actors at various levels interact and influence decisions and implementation. As one of the literature reviews by OCED states, ‘due to the cost of reforms and the uncertainty about the outcomes, the stakeholders prefer to stick to the status quo rather than changing’.
    Educating the stakeholders at various levels in the system about the positive benefits of investing in the change might be difficult, but if the decision to bring in the change is strategically embedded in the policy, its implementation might be easier.

    ( 3 upvotes and 0 downvotes )
    1. Siobhán McPhee

      Yes change the policy and the structure!

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  4. julio palacios

    I’m not sure if broken is the right word, but I sometimes feel the education marketplace certainly suffers from a “Keeping up with the Jones” complex that is accentuated by how departments in academic institutions are often siloed from one another. My perspective is predominantly formed from my experiences with a past employer were I was afforded a broad perspective on how different departments were purchasing educational and digital media equipment.

    I felt our readings really hit the nail on the head where it laid out that the bigger the purchase, the further away from the student the decision-makers tend to be. This top-heavy approach seems to inevitably lead to hasty purchases (often fueled by silver-tongued sale pitches at educational conferences) that seem to be applicable / relevant on paper, but falls short when it comes time to deployment.
    I’m not sure if paving a path for a liberated free market should be the answer. Education can be such a precarious market as many of the end users are (at least seen as) vulnerable and one expects the institution to take precautions to ensure that the products and ventures supporting their education are well vetted.

    Alternatively, I feel that if decisions were made more holistically between the ministry, the institution, department and of course, the educators, we could avoid much ineffective purchasing. Granted, this is easier said than done. Especially when one considers how often these entities are pegged against each other when it comes to funding, physical space, spotlighting and growth.

    Coupled with collaboration, perhaps the use of a framework is also necessary. I found the SAMR framework for educational purchases to be quiet interesting. The framework is pretty simple in comparisons to others, as it primary motivation is the student and educator’s experience. (see S.E.C.T.I.O.N.S framework as a more thorough example)

    link to framework

    Mapping the classic chalkboard as an example

    Substitution: Replacing a green chalkboard with a black chalkboard may allow for a bit more visibility at the back of the room, but little else is afforded by the replacement.

    Augmentation: A whiteboard with dry erase markers are easier to maintain, more cost effective, and legible to learners further back. There is a clear improvement.

    Modification: A projected smart board. Allows educators to prepopulate and clear content quickly. Provides educators with the option to copy and send content directly to the student.

    Redefinition – A large touch screen monitor connected to an internet-enabled computer. Not only does this product incorporate the same benefits of the previous products mentioned, but it now affords new learning/interaction opportunities to the learner and new teaching tools and possibilities to the educator.

    ( 8 upvotes and 0 downvotes )
    1. Michael Saretzky

      The SAMR model is great, another one I have used is TPACK. However, one issue that I have with either of these models is there needs to be more thought process before purchasing. For instance, I was a big fan and even advocate for SmartBoards, however I found that they were not being completely utilized, really they were mainly being used as a glorified whiteboard. What several people were missing were the interactive features within the programing. After talking to several colleagues, I found the major issue was time, teachers were either required to spend a vast amount of time learning and then creating lessons or if you may spend time looking for premade lessons. I do believe that if a product is to be successful in the classroom it needs to take teachers time into account and any product that respects a teachers time or even lessens it, allowing them to focus on other aspects of their job has a much better chance at being successful. As such, this is why teachers should be involved throughout the marketplace, as designers, researchers, customers and so on. You may be able to sell a program to a school division, but really if teachers are not using it or utilizing it, then is it really successful? Sorry, this is a long winded response, but I do believe that although SAMR and TPACK are excellent models, before purchasing new technology, but an understanding of how it will impact teachers’ time should be a focus as well.

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      1. julio palacios

        Not longwinded at all. It was a great point and I definitely agree! Whatever purchasing framework that is adopted should include input from the front-line educator. Sometimes a grounded perspective from the get-go can go a long way in avoiding squandering resources and budgets.

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        1. Michael Saretzky

          This is one of the greatest issues I think there is with education, the teachers are often left out of some of the major decisions. Some of my best principals have been the ones that taught one or two classes, so they are then connected to the classroom and understand and respect the needs of the teachers. All to often the teacher ignored in the production line. I remember at my old school just over four years ago a colleague was trying to get everyone using Google Classroom and no one would listen and now they are all using it.

          I will add that prior to reading your post, I had not really looked at S.E.C.T.I.O.N.S. but have now and I do like it, as I felt it is well explained, but not too loaded with information. TPACK is a lot I found, even after a day PD I still went back and learned a lot more. SAMR is nice in that I do not find it too intimidating, it is actually what our division used for tech coaches.

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    2. Siobhán McPhee

      I love the idea of the “Keeping up with the Jones” complex in educational institutions! It is so true that universities are afraid to do anything different because then they may lose students or funding. It keeps the innovation at bay…

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  5. johannes dirk wielenga

    I do not view the educational marketplace as broken, but unique. It seems to work – look around any modern classroom and you will find a plethora of technology from various companies. Take a look at the software you have available to you because of district licencing and you may be surprised by your new found wealth (many teachers around me don’t seem to tap into the software trove of their districts, oftentimes because they don’t know it exists).
    To me, the thing that makes the educational marketplace unique, which perhaps is its hurtle, is that, as this week’s readings point out, there are usually huge amounts of people involved in any purchase, both in terms of the purchase itself, as well as the end-user (often a large number of students who are disassociated from the purchase but are the ones using the purchase). This situation causes is a lot of money being spent on things that won’t actually be used; as Michael points out above, a tech ambitious VP bought a bunch of TVs that ended up collecting dust (until they were finally utilized). Sure, we can focus on having more collaborative purchasing decisions, but we already do that and the problems persist. So perhaps we leave purchasing decisions to the individual teacher, but that will cause just as much wastage, as one teacher might find a benefit from a piece of software, but no one else in the school ends up using it. I think one solution might be to implement more uniformity of tech use within a district/school (i.e. forced buy-in), but I am against this because educator autonomy is a hallmark of progressive learning and what works for one class won’t work for another. I’ve seen some districts hire a technology coach who is booked by individual teachers to come help them figure out anything they want to do with tech in the class – but I also have seen how this service is often underutilized (or improperly utilized). I do like the tech coach idea, but as others here have pointed out, time is the enemy in education and so initiatives like this often falls to the wayside as the teacher cannot find the time to book an appt with the tech advisor, have the appt, and then figure out how to modify or build new lesson plans to implement what they learned.
    To sum up, there are no easy solutions to the problem presented here, but perhaps that’s just the uniqueness of the educational marketplace (understanding, of course, that we should always strive to improve).

    ( 10 upvotes and 0 downvotes )
    1. Neal Donegani

      Thank you for writing this, because it covers much of what I was thinking about when I went through our readings, plus you added more that I have realized from being a teacher. Education is a unique market, for sure, with levels of buyers that are ultimately not the end customer: the students. However, you also made a good point that educators are the ones that are out there with the students’ best interests in mind, and should be the ones making decisions. I too have seen administration buy a bunch of tech that is mostly unused because staff simply aren’t trained to use it. Finally, you talk about uniformity. I understand and truly appreciate you recognizing teacher autonomy, and its value for progression; however, there has to be some room for standardization or conformity when it comes to tech. After all, most educators work in a building that they did not build, yet they make it work. At some point educators are going to have to realize that they have to share the same virtual walls as well.

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      1. johannes dirk wielenga

        Hey Neal, thanks for the reply. You make a compelling argument surrounding teacher autonomy with tech and yes, when I stop to think about it, I agree. I suppose this just brings us back to where we are now in education, though: the district or province buys the big ticket tech that can be utilized by all, while teachers are given a small budget where they can branch out for more specialized tech. I am still left wondering about being forced to use something though, depending on what it is. Perhaps the district buys a PowerSchool license… in my mind I think the district should be able to force every teacher to use it. But what if the district buys some 3D printers…. does someone have the onus to ensure those machines are utilized? I, for one, am unsure. Thanks again for the helpful comment, Neal!

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    2. EmilyChen

      Hi Johannes,

      I like your perspective on the education marketplace being ‘unique’ rather than being broken. I agree with you in that often times technology purchased gets wasted in schools. I think it comes from different positions in the chain of command seeing different things and having perspectives. I think maybe being open and transparent about the purpose behind the use of a certain technology may help. In our private tutoring institution, we try to involve teachers in the decision-making process, however, we noticed that even when we do, there’s still the obstacle of learning how to use the actual new technology. Sometimes if the learning process is too complicated it also hinders the adoption process, and I agree with you that it’s very important to actually work out with the teachers on how a technology should be incorporated into the curriculum, so it doesn’t just become a fancy artwork that just sits there as showcase that the school ‘has it’. Thanks!


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  6. sarka kubelikova

    The readings were a breath of fresh air for me. In our board the tech that we are allowed to use for online learning environments is dictated by non-teaching staff and therefore often misses the mark or doesn’t allow for integration of other technologies that are needed in the classroom, so instead of embracing new technology staff are reluctant to use it. One of the reasons given to staff by our board to explain the limited technologies we are allowed to use is privacy. Any technology where information about a student has the potential to be used or sold is not allowed in our board. For ex. D2L is allowed and uses students full name, Google classroom can be used (for now), but uses an unrecognizable coding system for each student, so you don’t really know who you are talking to unless you have a cheat sheet!

    Let me know if you think this is just politics or not.

    I do think that the system is not working. There should be a way staff have a say or can review possible technologies that can be used in the classroom. I also always make sure to get student’s feedback on what they find works and what they find doesn’t. Ultimately it is their learning that either suffers or benefits.

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  7. Rachel

    Campbell et al. (2007) said “Economies depend on a well-educated population” but there seems to be much argument in terms of what’s considered well-educated.

    I am not sure if I would say the education marketplace is broken, rather, could we say we’re going through some sort of educational inflation? It is troublesome when we have more people with master’s or PhD degree and can’t find a job that matches their credential. Earlier this year, Australian government was proposing an increase of university tuition fee for art degree courses when providing more funding for STEM related courses and BBC has a great article on it: https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20200728-why-australia-is-charging-more-to-study-history.

    This bring to the next question, how do we determine whether one education is more valuable than the other? Do we determine solely by it’s “job readiness” or are we missing other important factors? It is difficult to anticipate how the job market would be like. For instance, back in my time in high school, no one would assume anyone who wishes to pursue a major in math or statistics could make big money. Look at now with all the big data, algorithm, and other relevant work. Statisticians are the hot commodities (so to speak if we want to continue with the marketplace analogy).

    I have students from different programs asking me about how to transfer to a STEM program because “I need to make sure I can find a job when I graduate”. That is why last week, during the Emerging Markets Poll, I reacted so strongly on the success driven model education. A lot to think about, for sure!

    Campbell, J.P., DeBlois, P.B. & Oblinger, D.G. (2007) Academic analytics: a new tool for a new era . EDUCAUSE Review 42(4), 40–57.

    Horton, A.P. (2020, July 28). Why Australia is doubling fees for arts degrees. BBC

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    1. Laura Ulrich

      Hi Rachel,
      You make a fantastic point about the inbalance between degrees and careers. Though I would add that the problem is likely greater than simply which degree one gets. Only a select few of my peers from my STEM degree actually made a career out of it. And they were the ones who were applying for co-op, volunteering in professor’s labs, and taking every available moment outside of class to gain more expierence. Perhaps our education marketplace is flawed in that we treat it like any other consumer-culture market? Those that succeed are the ones who are driven to learn, rather than those who are driven to earn a ticket to a secure future?

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  8. kevin ohearn

    I think that the answer to this question really depends on the education system you are a part of. I am currently teaching at a private school in China with a number of different departments. I am a part of the bilingual department which has created it’s own curriculum over the years with the help of numerous educators who have worked in the school. The school’s board of directors is made up of Chinese people who do not necessarily have a lot of experience in an English classroom. As a result, most of the decisions regarding things like resources or curriculum are up to the the foreign teachers and the associate principal. If we need a subscription to an educational website or need to purchase other educational materials we are able to do so quite easily through the school.

    I understand that many schools and school boards do not allow their teachers to be so involved in decisions related to the purchase of educational materials. This is unfortunate. As a teacher, I feel that we are in the best position to determine what our students need. We are more in-tune with the specific needs of their learners and know what they need in order to be successful. Therefore, our opinions are very important and should be given considerable consideration to avoid misuse of resources. I’m sure many of us have seen resource rooms with class sets of learning materials collecting dust. Generally, I think these materials were purchased because of a decision made by someone far removed from the learner.

    As a general rule, those closest to the learner generally make the best decisions about how to spend money to promote learning.

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    1. Jessica Daicos

      Hi Kevin,

      I think you’ve hit on a good point here about the education system. You discuss it most in terms of the international context, but I think private vs. public is equally unique. Last year, I worked at a prestigious independent boarding school. I didn’t realise until COVID how much of the school’s decisions were based on being an educational product itself. Right from the beginning of the pandemic, school leadership approached their planning from the perspective of “how do we adapt our services to maintain a product that parents will value at a price of 70k?” Everything from timetabling to tech to faculty and staff expectations were driven by this. So, our choice of pandemic tech solutions was made from the need to produce a premium product (the school’s brand), while still being economically viable (to avoid layoffs and possible closure).

      My point is that in an educational market, learning isn’t always necessarily the goal (and I guess this goes back to customers vs end users vs learners). As soon as the educational institution is a product itself a whole new layer is introduced, in terms of strategy and purchasing to add value to the brand. This is probably quite obvious in corporate learning, and I can imagine also pays a piece in post-secondary. K-12 surprised me though. Education may be “get right slow” but there is a much bigger business side to it than I had ever thought.

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      1. kevin ohearn

        Hey Jessica,

        I totally agree with the point you made that in an educational market, learning isn’t always the goal. I have been teaching internationally for the past 7 years and have felt that the school directors are most concerned with school profitability as opposed to student learning and development. For this reason, money is often spent in mays that do not benefit the students. I remember when teaching in Egypt, a new basketball court was installed on the playground. The court was covered in layers of this blue plastic that looks great but was incredibly slippery. Students trying to play on the court often slipped and scrapped their knees. The school was unwilling to remove the “beautiful” plastic (there was a perfectly fine concrete floor under the slippery plastic covering) so eventually the students just stopped using it. However, it did look great for pictures of the school.

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      2. Alice Shin

        The public vs private is an important distinction, Jessica, and it loans to our understanding of who the customers and buyers really are in any given marketplace.

        Particularly true is the reality that learning and quality in the delivery of the learning experience for the end-user is, oddly, not the goal for education or the educational marketplace – it’s pretty much about the proverbial bottom line.

        To add a twist, in the international market and possibly with some private schools locally, there is another entity called the Agent – a go-between that, Kevin, you may or may not be familiar with. This person is basically a people-broker who finds and recommends programs usually for overseas. The end-users, or the learners or their families, will select the school or educational program based almost solely on the recommendation of the Agent. In essence, this Agent is now the customer who will send the end-user to a particular program based not on the quality of education offered to the learner, but on the commission the Agent gets from the school they refer students to.

        If there is ever an example of education being a business, it is this!

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    2. AmandaKong

      Hi Kevin

      Thank you for your response. I think you explained misuse of class resources well, as we do tend to keep lots in storage.Jessica mentioned the economic challenges in private institutions. Both your comments made me ponder on the private school market, which is also part of theeducation marketplace. Private schools can have more a market-orientedapproach, as opposed to the pedagogical approach held by public schools. I am curious about the comparison of the public and private school markets from afree-market standpoint. 

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    3. Erica Hargreave

      Wise words. I have been fortunate in my career to be in similar position to you, of having control over choosing my resources. It makes all the difference and is as you say, the way it should be.

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  9. Erica Hargreave

    Personally from my observations there is a lot that could use fixing in the education system marketplace. It is a system in which a fair bit of nepotism exists and change happens slowly, meaning that purchases are not always made based on the best, but rather on relationships with the seller. Once an item is purchased it is clung to and imposed upon the educators within the system (often for decades), not necessarily because it is the best but because “that is how things are done.” There have been countless examples of this with the online learning systems that schools have been using during the pandemic. My niece’s school board for example is using a system in which the kids cannot save their work, and if the system times out or logs you out mid draft, then you lose everything. Dare I say it, even WebCT, was clung to long past its effectiveness at UBC, I suspect in part because it was designed on campus.

    Education is not alone in nepotism or slow moving change. These exist in other sectors too. I have seen countless examples of this in the film and television industry, and am forever running into the issue of systems in which you can’t safe your work and that time out losing everything you were working on, on government websites.

    Change can happen, but tends to be slow moving, in small bubbles that are allowed to continue provided not too many people notice, and when necessity strikes. An example of this for me this past summer were BCIT’s first online kids camps. The school had the option of me developing them in D2L or in the StoryToGo Classroom. Despite only having a 1 1/2 months to the start of the camp, it took BCIT a month to decide to use D2L, and then on the Friday before the camp, they still could not get the kids A00#s and hence access to D2L. Thankfully I had the StoryToGo Classroom ready, and we learned in the process that it is a more user-friendly and accessible platform for an online kids camp. Does this mean we will be able to use the StoryToGo Classroom for future kids camps for BCIT? No, although it definitely is now a little more likely, provided it does not attract the attention of too many others in the institution who might say “that is not how we do things or what we use”.

    How do we fix these broken systems? That’s a good question, as this is far from a new problem. A few catalysts of change include necessity, competition, and positive attention. The latter is why I am discovering it helps to publicly speak at conferences on the change you wish to see, new ventures, and solutions. Part of catalyzing change is speaking about it, as well creating demonstrations of what is possible.

    With some new ventures, like Elementari, their strategy has been to find teachers that will champion the platform within their classes, creating examples that those making the purchasing decisions cannot ignore. I hate the word, but as someone who is considered an ‘influencer’ in certain niche areas, I am at times approached by new technology ventures to create on their platforms, as a way to gain eyes and attention to their platform. This morning that involved a meeting with a new venture in India called Graphy. I love experimenting on new platforms and I love being invited in early to experiment, so I didn’t really need to be sold on things, but with the concept of developing new ventures in mind, it was interesting to observe a demonstration of the incentives that I was being offered to act and develop content on their platform in a timely manner. I will likely follow up on those incentive offers, as the science nerd in me loves the experiment and loves to observe a case study of what we are learning about in action, and as it strikes me that Graphy might make an interesting case study for the sustainable funding series that we are working on on StoryToGo.ca.

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    1. Alice Shin

      For me, Erica, your comments resonate, and address a core issue of ‘brokenness’ not only in the educational marketplace, but virtually all marketplaces – whenever money is involved, politics comes into play and with it some form of bureaucracy and entrenched culture. People buy and sell based on relationships with the emphasis placed on the benefit to the customer (i.e, decision-maker) and not necessarily to the end-user whose interests they are (apparently) representing. This may be the reason why teachers, administrators and learners/end-users themselves are often not considered in decision-making with regards to curriculum, classroom size, etc. This also explains why some decisions do not appear to offer any increase in quality or value, and seems to happen randomly. This is not to be bitter about the state of our world, but simply to be aware of the forces at play and that we may or may not be in a position of influence.

      These forces are the reality described in this week’s readings, particularly with regards to understanding that the learner or end-user is not actually the customer so that a ‘quality’ solution may not be what is chosen, but another that fills a completely different agenda.

      But I like your example of Elementari which is leveraging teachers to influence decision-makers in ways that cannot be ignored – I hope this works in bringing positive change! Anything helps political will lean in the right direction. And it’s great that you as an Educator and story-teller are in fact in a position to influence – I wouldn’t shy away from that label at all, and it’s great that you’re using it.

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      1. Alice Shin

        But to answer the question posed related to my post above, the educational marketplace is definitely not perfect, but unless the system as a whole changes – which is unlikely – I’d say we need to learn how to manage the educational marketplace instead of fixing it.

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        1. Erica Hargreave

          Wise words there, Alice. – re: “learn how to manage the educational marketplace instead of fixing it.” I suspect that is what Nicole Kang is attempting to do with Elementari, by leveraging teachers to influence decision-makers in ways that cannot be ignored. I am really hoping that she is successful with this, as it does give hope of one way of managing this marketplace.

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  10. Alexandra Scott

    Aspects of it are and other aspects of it aren’t, just like many areas in life.

    The ways in which it is broken is that you have to be a big, well-known and successful company to actually be considered for usage and implementation in the educational marketplace as most schools would not consider test driving a product that is unfamiliar and brand-new generally, thus breaking in as a starting venture is a challenge. Also, the “customer” is quite unclear and often the main people opening their wallets are not even the ones that use it, thus questioning the validity of them being the people who purchase it for an entire school and expect teachers and students make use of it even if it does not improve their way of teaching or learning. So often teachers may decide to stick to the old way of doing things and teaching because it is simpler and easier and less work to figure out as the product is not being sold to the correct person. Also lack of resources prevent schools from actually making use of the educational marketplace because they just do not have the luxury of all students having laptops or Ipads or they do not have the ability to provide WIFI due to infrastructure problems, this is especially true in poor countries like in Africa. So the educational technology market does certainly only cater to a certain window of people with the luxuries and privilege of WIFI and technology.

    The ways in which it is working have been noticed most over the course of the past few months where teachers have been able to switch to online platforms and still offer children and education, may not be the best quality always but it is at least something, then again it depends in which country these learners and teachers find themselves in. Schools have moved rapidly to platforms like ZOOM, MicrosoftTeams, ItsLearning, Edmodo, GoogleClassroom etc in order to produce materials that can be viewed by students at home and viewed by teachers. A few months ago there were schools who had not even considered using any of these platforms and are now religiously teaching on them in order for students to obtain an education. It clearly shows that there is a fast growing market for school platforms that have an easy interface for students and allow teachers ways to share various materials as well as video call with students. It is an exciting time to be in educational technology as it is an opportunity to develop something that caters to students, teachers and administrators needs when school cannot be physically attended.

    The biggest problem I have identified is not what is on the market or who buys it but on how it only caters to a select group of people in the world namely those with the infrastructure and money to implement it and in this sense yes it is very broken. How does one fix it? Well a lot of investment would need to be put into those countries to improve their infrastructure in order to cater for free WIFI and also smartboard etc but the problem is even if this happens the teachers do not receive training or prefer doing things the way they always have and so the stuff is wasted. This is a huge problem in township schools in South Africa, where smartboards are setup and then never used. So a mindset change has to happen as well.

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  11. adrian wheeler

    I personally think the education market is very broken. It is s focused on marketing new and shiny technology with little consideration given to how it will actually integrate into the real world curriculum. Every new piece of educational technology claims to be “disruptive”, “groundbreaking” or “game changing” yet very few are. These products are created and marketed, not for the benefit of the end users, but for “wow” factor. I can’t count the number of times I have seen departments or professors with big grants invest massive sums of money in shiny new tech just to put it in a corner when they realize its either too cumbersome, or doesn’t fit into their curriculum. The second, and related issue is setup, support and maintenance. Who is going to setup the technology? Who is going to train the teachers? Who is going to keep it up to date? and what happens when it becomes obsolete? These are all questions I rarely see asked and become massive problems right from the get go.

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    1. EmilyChen

      Hi Adrian,

      I think your concern is a very realistic one that administrators or the people in charge of purchasing need to consider. Being the person who is involved in making these kinds of decisions, I often find myself stuck as well. Since my institution is privately-owned with investors to answer to, every year we are expected to show how promising and technology forward our schools are. It’s a hard battle, every year I see our competitors are releasing information such as “we are using AI to run student performance analysis” and “we are using VR technology to upgrade students’ experience in learning”, and our investors want to see that we are keeping up also. I find myself in the situation where I need to keep a balance between wanting to keep learning real in the classroom and as you said, make sure that it fits into our curriculum with enough tech support, and also making sure we have some form of ‘wow’ factor as well. Thanks for bring up this issue! It’s something worth thinking about.


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  12. AmandaKong

    Like most existing systems, there is a room for advancement and improvement as the world changes. A successful marketplace is one that is able to adapt to the needs of its’ consumers. As an educator in the public school system in BC, there is a disconnect between the actual execution of new technological implementations at a school district level. There are, unfortunately times where the schools have an initial burst of speed implementing new technology in classrooms, but over time, the momentum stops. For example, we purchased Artificial Reality headsets for our senior students’ respective passion projects. It was initially well-received and some students were able to use this relatively new technology in their Independent Directed Studies. However, it lasted one year and now, the headsets are in storage. We also updated our digital learning platform (Moodle) this past summer, however, it is still relatively outdated compared to others. Similarly, this resonated with this week’s readings comparison of teachers working in the 1900’s.

    A way to fix the inadequacies in education marketplace is to recognize the issues within the system. We need to increase awareness of the systemic issues and long term consequences of falling behind in educational technology. Courses such as ETEC522 will help empower us, as educators to challenge the current status quo. We need to build a sense of priority in helping others, recognize education as an important field. We need to understand the business aspects so that we are able to provide constructive feedback to policymakers in education. In fact, as many mentioned, teachers are often disconnected from making these essential decisions. Front-line education policymakers need to work with educators to develop changes that are vital to ensure the education system fulfills the social and academic purposes. Education needs to be viewed as an essential step for our society to continue to foster and prosper. These pandemic has revealed many inadequacies in the current education system, and we can reflect on the limited amount of choices we can make. Personally, I am grateful to be taking this course so I can take this knowledge and share it with my fellow teacher co-workers.

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    1. adrian wheeler

      Hi Amanda,

      Thanks for your perspective on this, it is interesting to see the same issues in schools as we have in post secondary. It is always such a shame when expensive technology with excellent potential is relegated to a closet. I would echo your call for better communication and a proper partnership between policy makers and teacher, but I would add IT to that equation. In my experience, one of the big reasons technology goes unused is the infrastructure and support requirements were never considered when it was purchased. It can also be helpful to include IT professionals in new technology discussions simply for their expertise.

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  13. EmilyChen

    I don’t know enough about the public education system to comment on this question, however, in the private tutoring institutions sector in China, I believe it is broken in that there’s so much CV funding money flowing around. In the Chinese education system, it is very common and almost deemed necessary for children to attend after-school tutoring institutions. In 2019, financing events in the education industry ranked fourth in China with the amount of financing around CNY 20 billion, that’s roughly USD 2.95million (Khan, 2020), and in the first half year in 2020, funding into the education industry has already reached CNY 17 billion (PongBai, 2020).

    It is hard for small and even medium-sized businesses to compete with the large size companies that have so much capital investment funding and are able to pour millions of dollars into marketing alone. As a parent living in China, I am constantly being bombarded with ads online or offline by these companies. I get phone calls on a weekly basis to ask me if I am interested in private tutoring for my daughter, and these calls include services for robotics, math, STEAM, English…etc. Many parents come into our schools and express that they think our English curriculum is great and is what they are looking for, but end up signing up for New Oriental, TAL, or EF simply because their brand is more well known, and therefore more trusted from the parent’s point of view. With most parents not understanding how to better choose a school that has a good English curriculum, they base their judgement largely on what they see in the ads. I’ve see many good private institutions go bankrupt or get acquired by larger companies in my 11 years of working in China in the private education industry, and I too am fighting to keep my company standing. I don’t have a great solution for this, but what we are doing is simply not trying to compete by doing what the big companies are doing. With their marketing fee being 10 times more than ours, there’s no way we can match that. Rather, we are focusing our attention on customer service to increase retention rate and also customer referrals.

    Qasim Khan, Jan 17, 2020. Number of Financings Falls as STEAM Surpasses K12 Education

    PongBai, July 20, 2020. https://m.thepaper.cn/newsDetail_forward_8351963

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  14. JamieTooze

    I am not convinced that the current higher education business model is broken. Still, I believe its foundations are fractured and decaying due to a lack of innovation, and the recent pandemic has only worsened the situation.
    On September 3, the President of UBC, Dr. Santa Ono, announced that the second semester of the 2020 academic year would also be delivered almost entirely online. Many other Canadian universities followed suit. Now only two weeks in universities ranging from Western Ontario to McMaster and Memorial to UWindsor are rethinking their plans of provided “blended learning opportunities” and “mixed model” instruction as dozens of cases of students and staff testing positive begin to surface (University Affairs, 2020). While there is a wide variety of plans across the provinces and even within universities, they all share one objective – to maintain an economic model that was imperilled even before the pandemic.
    With UBC as a prime example, universities over the past two decades have taken on staggering amounts of debt to expand their physical operations, to attract more students (to pay ever skyrocketing fees) to fund expansion projects. A major selling point for most large universities has been the campus experience, and with COVID 19 looming at the gates, “college life” will likely never be the same. As a result, Canada’s top universities (and likely most higher education institutions around the world) are left with the formidable challenge of trying to attract enough fee-paying students to keep the lights on, ironically, in deserted classrooms.
    The fix for this situation might be right under our Presidents’, Chancellors’ and Provosts’ noses. Community and technical colleges, which generally attract older commuter students seeking a professional credential, have seen a much smoother transition to online education because they have proportionately less infrastructure and fixed costs (Kak, 2020). Without residence fees, parking fees, catering services, convention bookings, and movie production deals, the delicate and extraordinarily expensive pillars of higher education could fail.
    While administrators undoubtedly are trying to preserve some of the college experience out of a deep commitment to their educational mission, most of their recent online contortions seem driven more by economic urgency than anything else.
    Kak, S. (2018, January 10). Will traditional colleges and universities become obsolete? Smithsonian Magazine. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/innovation/will-traditional-colleges-universities-become-obsolete-180967788/
    University Affairs. (2020, July 31). COVID-19: Updates for Canada’s universities. https://www.universityaffairs.ca/news/news-article/covid-19-updates-for-canadas-universities/

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  15. Yannick Wong

    To say the education marketplace is broken is somewhat of an understatement. I’d say it’s barely even a marketplace to begin with. Having worked with or worked in large educational institutions pretty much my entire career, this has always been one of my personal gripes about education in general. There is a distinct disconnect between the powers that be and what actually happens on the ground (i.e. what teachers and learners experience). There is more of a marketplace is private and informal education, but most of our money, time, effort, and focus are on public, institutional learning.

    Public institutional education has two things that don’t go well with a free educationa marketplate. First, it is large, and it is difficult for any large organization to be agile and adaptive. Secondly, it’s important, too important. Education is politics; there are too many players with too many different goals all working to influence what education should look like because it is such an effective tool in controlling society. This is the root cause of all the “political, corporate, institutional, and ideological barriers” in public institutional learning, which is also the cause of the disconnect between decision-makers and what happens on the ground, as I mentioned before.

    Education is politics, and politics as we know it is messy, inefficient, and often unproductive. I don’t see a way to ‘fix’ it given the presence and influence of all the powerful players in the system. Nothing short of a fundamental change in society would allow an education marketplace to function properly. A benevolent dictatorship where the leader cares about education is the only way I can see this working, but how ‘free’ that market would be and the risks of giving someone total control with no oversight are issues that complicate matters.

    The education marketplace is really a great dilemma; education is too important for anyone to allow it to truly be a free market (for better or for worse), yet many of us recognize that a free education marketplace would allow for the best tools to come into use.

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    1. RyanSilverthorne

      Dear Yannick,

      I find your post quite interesting. In general I’d say I agree with almost all of what you say. I currently work as the principal of an international school, using the British Columbia curriculum. I started out in public education and while I am and always be a huge supporter of public education I agree there is no way to separate politics from the equation.

      One advantage I have in my school is that I can use all the opinions and ideas of my staff, but still have the autonomy to make the final decision. I do not have a district supervisor restricting me and it is generally understood that all resources purchased are meant for the benefit of the collective, rather than catering to one specific classroom or teacher.

      I don’t know if I would classify myself as a “benevolent dictator”, so much as a person burdened with making the final decision based on the counsel of other very passionate and qualified people.

      This is certainly a really interesting discussion that until now I have not thought so deeply about.

      Great post!

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  16. raafa abdulla

    I think the education market place is not fully broken or at least it has not been intentionally broken. There are many websites and softwares that advertise themselves differently. Despite their content or usefulness, we see many that hesitate to purchase these products. There are many online tool that are free or share many resources for free. Teachers want to have access to material that fit the teaching style and the budget of a school. There are limited honest feedback regarding these software or websites. Once they are purchased, we can find many limitations or flaws that were not clearly outlined.
    Currently most of these software focuses on quantity rather than quality. They advertise one or two tools and they exaggerated. It is a business after all and developers are trying to sell their products. The quantity that is offered online are so much that it is very hard to choose from. Sometime, we have to choose some thing immediately (like what happen during the remote learning ). If we have short notice, we will select and start to use an online tool without searching for other options or searching for the effectiveness of the current one.
    I am hoping to fix this problem, it is the districts or schools responsibility. They can collaboratively work to create one database on all the educational providers or any online software. We can have investigators give feedback and recommendation. However, we cannot guarantee that there will be no bias :). At least we can have one target place to “pick and choose”.

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  17. Tamara

    The education market place (in the K-12 sector anyways) is by far, without a doubt, broken. One of the biggest challenges faced by teachers is the lack of autonomy, choice, and funding. Through my experience using emerging technologies in my class and as a Technology Coach, I have seen the constant struggle of teachers as they fight an uphill battle to use tech in their classrooms. First of all, most teachers have to bite the cost to use such technologies in their classroom- until the higher ups are convinced it’s worthwhile…but how will you know until you try right? Hence, the battle begins! Second, many teachers (myself included) have had to fight for the right to use certain tools in their classrooms…the privacy concerns and restrictions placed on teachers due to apprehensive district leaders is another definite roadblock! Lastly, in addition to spending our own money on subscriptions or web based services, teachers also have to use their own personal time to train and participate in PD opportunities to make us better at our jobs!

    Unfortunately, our district priorities are decided by district department heads and only PD surrounding those topics is provided and compensated. There is little (if any) opportunity for teachers to be involved in those decisions and the worst part is many involved in the decision making have been out of the classroom for a number of years.

    Aside from PD priorities being set by the district, the rest of the school budget rests solely in the hands of the principal- so whether or not one school has technology, depends on whether or not that specific administrator views it as a priority- creating a situation of haves and have nots.

    For the education marketplace to be fixed, the power, control, and decision making needs to come from teachers, more specifically, teacher leaders who are striving to make positive change in their classrooms.

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    1. adrian wheeler

      Hi Tamara,

      I really like your point about PD. We focus heavily on training instructors at the Faculty of Medicine as we have found it is the most effective way to ensure technology is used and remains a useful part of teaching. Every piece of technology, no matter how cool or innovative has a learning curve and the faculty (or in your case the administration) needs to not only allow, but encourage teachers and professors to learn not only how the technology work, but how it is best used and integrated into the curriculum.

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  18. sundeep lail

    This is such a huge point of contention for so many stakeholders. I have been reading articles from Dana Goldstein, who writes for the New York Times and particularly about how educational policies effect the families and teachers who are on the front lines. She recently did a research of the same textbook but from different States and found that the textbooks change wordings and are customize for the states they are being taught in. These changes are ultimately bought upon by how the states are governed and what the policy makers what to show and teach within their States. That for me is a completely broken system. As J.D. Tuccille, a writer for Reason.com, puts it “the line between education and indoctrination is often blurry when government institutions present the world to the children under their control.”. As Dana Goldstein wrote, publishers are obviously wanting to please governments because they are the ones that will have the ultimate say into what textbooks should be used.
    How do we create education that allows the student to see an unbiased view of the world? How do we stop policy makers, who are funding our schools and our teachers, to take a step back from controlling our curriculum?
    I feel if teachers had more autonomy in their classroom management and teaching, it would help this disconnect between policy and teaching. However, that also brings other issues with how much leeway is too much leeway. However, I do feel that governments should take a step back and not be such a large force with our classrooms.

    Tuccille, J. (2020, January 30). Biased Textbooks Are Just Part of the Public School Curriculum Wars. Retrieved September 20, 2020, from https://reason.com/2020/01/30/biased-textbooks-are-just-part-of-the-public-school-curriculum-wars/

    Goldstein, D. (2020, January 12). Two States. Eight Textbooks. Two American Stories: American history textbooks can differ across the country, in ways that are shaded by partisan politics.Retrieved September 20, 2020, from https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/01/12/us/texas-vs-california-history-textbooks.html

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  19. Feng Mao

    I wouldn’t say the marketplace is broken for now despite there being many political and institutional interests involved in the system. eLearning has become more and more popular over the last twenty years and education boards have shifted the responsibility to teachers to apply digital education systems in their class plans. That said, I feel that educators and policy makers are still finding their way through uncharted territory. As exemplified by the use of iPads in the classroom, there are potential positive aspects to private interest involvement in that text books can become digital and environmentally friendly and there is a common platform to deliver educational applications, though on the other hand, students now spend a considerable amount of time in front of the screen in one company’s ecosystem. The marketplace requires cooperation and feedback between end users, decision makers, and providers to build up a functioning marketplace but it without any reference to build off of, this generation is left to be the first to grow up with the technology.

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  20. ryan valley

    I do not think the education marketplace is broken, but this is from my experience in the private sector working with HR, training, and learning and development people. Many others here have spoken to the challenges of working in public schools and higher education. I think the educational technology marketplace when it comes to buying and selling products and services in corporate environments certainly has less political and institutional barriers than in public institutions, k-12 schools, and universities, although depending on the size and sophistication of an organizations training and talent development team it can certainly be political in its own way.

    To me, the biggest challenge I see is initial digital adoption. Once a company commits to utilizing technology in more processes, starts developing a digital culture, where employees are supported and given what they need to succeed at using digital tools and eLearning, they can work well. Many tech-supplier companies support this process and spend time sending sales people to attempt to get you to start using their products in the early stages so that they become integrally embedded in your systems. I do not think this is broken any more than most industries though, it is up to us as technologists and scholar-practitioners to help organizations make decisions regarding technology adoption that will benefit them the most.

    Regarding the marketplace(s), there are many well regarded vendors in all areas, but I still see a lot of room for improvement. Much of the software developed in edtech has not kept up with other industries in terms of UI and UX. I believe the companies that have gotten away with this due to the necessity of their products and the scarcity of competition will soon have a reckoning as new, extremely fast, Cloud based web apps begin to stream into the market more. I also think that the LMS marketplace seems especially challenging, there are a handful very large companies that dominate the market with aggressive sales teams and constant acquisitions of smaller competition.

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    1. Laura Ulrich

      Hi Ryan,

      Your comment about the lack of competition resonated with me. It seems poorly designed EdTech riddles edcucation . In BC’s public system, many (all?) districts use a web-app called MyEd for everything from attendance to grades to student information. I often joke that it is a prime example of a contract going to the lowest bidder. Its UI/UX is so bad that I spend most of my time clicking randomly when all I want is to print a list of my students’ names. Unfortunately, the Ministry has mandated using it, as it is our way of reporting to them. I wonder how much room there is for healthy competition for something purchased Provincially.

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    2. raafa abdulla

      Hi Ryan,
      I agree with you that it is our responsibility as “technologists and scholar-practitioners to help organizations make decisions regarding technology adoption that will benefit them the most.”. However, is there any platform or a procedure that we can follow to submit our suggestions? For example, I emailed the BC ministry of education newsletter once to suggest some modification and they haven’t even replied to me. I am not sure how willingness they are to our opinion toward their fixed procedure.
      When I was doing my practicum, I also used MyEd (like Laura). I don’t remember if I got any training and we just had to figure things by ourselves. I am surprised that after 5 years, they still didn’t provide much training or at least simplify the platform requirement.

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    3. Alice Shin

      I appreciate your comments, Ryan, and particularly with the distinction between the k-12, higher education marketplace and the corporate world, but in the end, education and industry and the marketplace for both can be equally fractured, depending, on found on the bent of the buyer.

      With k-12 and higher education, funding is from the government (the buyer) which triggers the political machine which we all have observed, unfortunately, in action.
      But this still happens in the corporate sector. One example I experienced is a large financial services provider made the first move to implement an online application process. A good idea in the face of it and how could it not succeed – a large, established, well-known company that had the best the tech space could possibly offer. Yet it completely bombed!

      In this case, the political will to get-the-thing-done was greater than the soundness of the technical and business decisions behind the project (similar in this regard to the public school system). I’m not even sure it completed beta before it was released. Not only were there bugs and glitches throughout, the huge volume of applications submitted all at once continuously crashed the entire system, and resulted in huge backlogs in processing. Retired staff had to be brought back to work to assist and what would normally have taken 3 weeks to a few months to 1 yr in many cases.

      The gist of this anecdote is that the experience, expectations, and culture of the buyer in particular – regardless of the marketplace – seems to play the key role in how that particular marketplace adopts any kind of digital technology.

      But, as you note, Ryan, with greater adoption comes the necessary shift in culture and ultimately this, I feel, will result in less-broken marketplaces as a whole.

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  21. RyanSilverthorne

    Perhaps it should not be, but I must admit that rarely have I ever thought about education in terms of a business venture. However, one of the most important parts of my job these days, as a principal, is deciding on technology and resources in the school. It certainly isn’t a traditional customer experience as the resources selected are seldom based on the individual and more on metrics, research and staff input.

    The readings are certainly correct that we at least want “to appear free of commercialism” but in truth purchase of resources is heavily influenced by marketing, exclusivity and brand recognition.

    There is no doubt, as the readings point out, the larger the purchase, the more removed the “customer” or student is from the decision. When a school, or district, purchases macbooks to be used by all students this is seldom a function of student needs and based more on the preferences of those at the top. Countless examples of this mindset can be linked to failed experiments where purchases were made without a real plan in place, inevitably leading to failure.

    After saying all of this I don’t know that I would classify the “education marketplace” as broken so much as I would say most schools and district’s approach to purchasing needs to be re-thought. The obvious answer to a top heavy purchasing model would be leaving it up to the individual teacher. However, I can say this is also extremely problematic as we are leaving it up to one individual to do research and there are major issues when it comes to vertical alignment as students move up in grades and continually must switch to new platforms, approaches or proprietary word usages.

    The best approach, I believe is to be Factors such as socioeconomic status, demographics, usage needs and student body needs must be quantified and compared against relevant studies. In order to avoid wasting a resource one must first determine who it is for, how they will use it and what they will do to ensure it is being used.

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  22. tara davis

    If we are comparing surgeons to teachers, I think it worthy to compare the public health and public education budgets. While both are deemed as “essential – and deeply complex – enterprises for the common good”, public health has embraced technology whereas educations seems resistant to technology. Could this be due to the roughly 200$ billion difference in their respective budgets? Does each field allocate funding towards technology differently? It appears recent budget increases in education go towards educators themselves (compensation/salaries/wages), whereas the largest share of health dollars goes towards hospitals, drugs, and physician services.

    In 2019, total health expenditure in Canada was expected to reach $264 billion, or $ 7,068 per person. It is anticipated that, overall, health spending represented 11.6% of Canada’s gross domestic product (GDP). Hospitals (26.6%), drugs (15.3%) and physician services (15.1%) are expected to continue to use the largest share of health dollars in 2019. In total, education spending in Canada increased from $61.5 billion in 2012/13 to $68.1 billion in 2016/17. Compensation (salaries, wages, fringe benefits, and pensions) contributed the most to the total growth in spending from 2012/13 to 2016/17. Salaries and wages increased by 9.3 percent, from $36.7 billion in 2012/13 to $40.1 billion in 2016/17, and accounted for 71.1 percent of the overall compensation increase. I recommend the public education budget to increase funding towards technology infrastructure in order for the education system to benefit from new technologies at a similar rate as the health sector has.

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  23. Simin Rupa

    Is the market broken, feels similar to is the education system effective. With that, I pause. I look in my resource room, or what there was, and all I see are texts and articles held together with tape or staples. I try and register students for online sports such as RazKids and IXl, and get told we have so few seats we must prioritize those who need the most. Is the market broken? Yes. Is it specifically one piece, or one ideology, I don’t believe so. I hesitate to say education is not a market or a money grabber. As a PHE teacher, if I were to buy basketballs from a ‘school’ geared supplier they always cost 10-30% more than if I buy from a sporting/retail store. Why? It follows the same for technology, resources, materials. The amazing new programs that come out are priced too high for schools to have autonomy, yet districts are too removed to see their value. The expectations of where classroom funds come from are wrong, and the funds allocated are too few. Education needs to transition into more a saturated market, as with saturation comes competitive prices and superior products. Currently, we are bound by a lack of competition.

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    1. Connie Sim

      Hi Simin, I really enjoyed reading your post! I couldn’t agree more on your point that “we are bound by a lack of competition”. Fairly recently, a friend who is based in Asia wants to enroll her child in an online learning program that is tied to the Canadian curriculum but was unable to find one that caters to her specific needs. There may be many distance learning programs for higher education, but with elementary and secondary schools, choices are really few to none.

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      1. Simin Rupa

        Hi Connie! I find especially with relation to Canadian curriculum and education the bounds are tight. You can find many American or even UK based programs, China has so many. So it really is a lack in Canadian market

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  24. shaun holma

    I do think the overall return on investment in education is low, I would however not say it’s broken in the strict sense that education can and does function properly. Albeit, there are several mediators at play that explain whether the mission of learning is achieved. The knowledge and skill of educators at navigating said barriers (rather than the intelligent and effective flow of money), for example, can at least partially explain positive learning outcomes.

    While I serve an entirely different market now in Asia, the last few years gave me worthy experience in this regard. Working as a member of a team, we had a mission to develop and manage an education and employment program that was designed to meet the needs of First Nation adult learners. The vision of this project was to work alongside First Nation communities across Ontario to foster and enhance education and pre-employment training opportunities for the adult learner. The model provided a balance of services and supports to First Nation citizens with a major emphasis on building self-confidence by facilitating team-building skills and exercises in a cultural context. This program holistically delivered education, life skills, and pre-employment strategies in a way that honours both traditional First Nations culture, as well as the unique needs and values of the individual communities.

    Without the KSAO’s of my team members, the success of this pilot program could have easily waned for a variety of reasons. Instead, starting with a small goal of program implementation in five communities, it eventually served (and continues to serve) 23 communities in varying capacities across Ontario to illustrate education can and does function properly.

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  25. Lyon Tsang

    I feel like the market is working the way it should — assuming, of course, that we actually believe it’s more free / open than not…

    Having said that, it can be hard to see this on the surface though. For example, students don’t get to choose what LMS their institution uses. They don’t get much of a say in what other technologies are implemented either — I should mention however that student mobilization did drive a ban of remote invigilation platforms at UBC recently (https://academic.ubc.ca/academic-community/news-announcements/news/senate-vote-remote-proctoring-software).

    As a university staffer though, I know that there are actually lengthy processes involved with how learning tools are selected in the first place.

    Every product brings something different to the table because that’s how the market works! Management’s job is to weigh the pros and cons before choosing the “best” solution, but keep in mind that “best” in these cases doesn’t necessarily encompass just student experience — it can be anything from cost, privacy compliance, or ease of administration. Unfortunately, this last point isn’t always made clear to the end user…

    This is why there are ALWAYS services catered towards students SPECIFICALLY to address any gaps which apparently exist. Think SparkNotes or KhanAcademy for example, intended to present content better than instructors apparently can. Think custom essay ordering websites or homework help services like Chegg (which I just wrote about here — https://lyontsang.medium.com/contract-cheating-f20b6c2daff7), which will do work FOR students as long as they’re willing to pay.

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  26. markmpepe

    I do not think that the education market place is broken because there are a lot of educational services, applications, platforms, and systems that are available. I personally use quite a few in my music classroom.

    I believe it may come down to the individual user. One of the schools I work at has been partnering with a local company that manages the school tech and software. For example, if you’re a new teacher at my school and you want to set-up SeeSaw or Google Classroom for your class, they can help. They’re great, and I enjoy speaking with them when they’re at the school. Some of the teachers, the user, are still quite intimidated by technology. They’re uncomfortable with the friction when implementing it, because if the class is new to technology you get classroom management issues; it’s easier to photocopy worksheets. Some teachers will inquire about what are the best ways to assess using their recommendations. That’s where the disconnect is, they’re technologists, not formally trained teachers. They can’t help with assessment.

    So, maybe, if a technology support service is created for teachers, maybe that venture can be spearheaded by teachers. Or, maybe, teachers have to be more open to learning these technologies and go through the friction.

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  27. analesa crooks-eadie

    In the education system one of the biggest challenges is ‘resourcing’, the provincial government sets a certain standard. The School District is provided with money, however, due to demands from teachers and parents, more services are required, and that money is usually diverted across several categories or areas. The issue here has a lot to do with how the funding is allocated and how the resources are currently distributed. For example, having separate programs and students leaving classrooms to go see specialist paraprofessionals adds up fast.
    I have seen schools forced to produce an evidential paper trail to keep students labeled for funding. Therefore, I think the education market is broken, this emphasis on categorizing children inevitably has a negative effect on how we view these children and how they view themselves. In addition to this, diagnosis often comes too late in a child’s education due to waitlists, specialist shortages, and lack of funding. My suggestion for fixing this is to rebuild the model. Rather than having a hospital model where students are sent out of the classroom to different people to get “fixed”, we need to move towards the layered cake model suggested by Shelley Moore, where support comes into the classroom. This also promotes actual inclusion rather than tolerance or physical inclusion. It is also more cost-effective. Letting everyone eat one cake is cheaper than making a whole bunch of special cupcakes for individuals.

    Bringing Support to The Students Just Let Them Eat Cake: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9WuygB4j55U

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    1. Joyce Lo

      Hi Analesa,
      I agree with what you wrote. Too often working at school as a teacher, we hear the phrases, “It depends on the funding” or “There’s no funding”. Being a special needs parent, I feel tired of always having to advocate to get the support and services that my child needs at school. Often in order to get funding from the government, we need to outline and provide evidence from specialists and professionals on what my child is incapable of doing–focusing on all the negative things. It is a goal of my family to promote the social model of disability so that we can empower people to find solutions, remove barriers, promote true inclusion, campaign together for equality, and take action against discrimination.

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  28. Adrian Granchelli

    The education market does satisfy its fundamental job of exchanging value or product, so it is not ‘broken’ per se, but it is terribly inefficient and unfair.

    The education marketplace is riddled with information asymmetry, where different players or stakeholders in a market have access to different information. This can lead to distrust, opportunistic behavior, low quality, and in extreme cases complete market breakdown (Zavolokina, Schlegal, & Schwabe, 2020; https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10257-020-00466-4). The efficient market hypothesis states that prices reflect all available information (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Efficient-market_hypothesis).

    There is also unfair competition, where monopoly-type powers are able to succeed, for example Microsoft teams. This makes it extremely difficult for small companies to compete, especially in the educational technology environment which has poor returns on investment and therefore less external capital being invested.

    Additionally, choice is usually removed from the primary consumer – the students. Culturally, school is mandatory for K-12 and students for the most part attend the school within their catchment region. So lack of choice to be a consumer and lack of choice on the particular product. Additionally, students are subject to the tools chosen by others. So does the consumer, the student, ultimately influence educational tools? In other markets, for example mobile phones, the phones that consumers choose (the popular products) ultimately facilitates further development, investment, and refinement. In the education market, the student does not choose their product and further development is instigated by others.

    Every market has their own complications and these do not make the educational market impossible to work in. Unfortunately, these are not easy things to solve. Three things I identify in working towards a better market is transparency, capital investment, and a student centred approach.

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  29. Connie Sim

    I would say it depends. If I were to take the example of an institution I know of, I would say that the education marketplace is broken. The institution is a well-established language school. After being financially impacted by COVID-19 initially, a few of its physical spaces were shuttered. Fortunately, student enrolment picked up after the marketing team got creative and made things easier for the students- accepting lower language proficiency scores, waiving application fees and offering rebates. However, even when the institution grew stronger financially, funds were not reallocated to develop the initial emergency online learning plan. Instructor remains inadequately supported and students are not empowered to achieve their learning goals.

    The question is: Does this happen because the institution is solely focused on making money instead of being driven by values? Having said that, if values are brought into the business, will businesses survive (and even thrive through) COVID-19?

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  30. SallyB

    I think the degree to which you view the education marketplace as broken or not, may correlate to how broken you view the entire educational system.

    I was initially reminded of an article I read a few years ago discussing the utility of classifying the whole education system as “broken”; I wish I was able to find it to share with you. What I remember is the suggestion that the system is not broken because it’s functioning exactly as intended and perhaps a better question is: Is this the system we need in the 21st century?

    Many have commented on how problematic it is that the buyer is rarely the end-user (teacher) or learner (student), and though there seem to be opportunities to work within this market, and examples where better decisions and implementations are made, it does make me wonder if there are venture opportunities elsewhere- in new (different/smaller?) education markets? Ones that may also suggest new systems of education.

    Taking inspiration from how media has been transformed by the internet, I am inclined to consider self-directed and home-schooling markets. In these markets, ventures (is that the correct word?) could sell directly to their end-user and learner, and could (therefore) benefit more from free-market forces and self-correct. Perhaps schools of the future will be more like organized clusters or co-ops with common educational interests and goals; and perhaps there are buyers out there hungry for a better system and the innovative products that support it.

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  31. paul johnson

    Is the education marketplace broken? I would say the answer is complicated and probably relies on perspective and scope.

    If the debate is around marketing and opportunities in terms of marketing directly to students, I would say no, the system is not broken. Creating opportunities for companies to market their product directly to students would probably be a mistake. If you have ever watched a ten your old playing a video game with adds, the reasons for limiting this become very clear. Marketing strategies, especially within the context of big data, have become very effective and could be harmful in terms of providing a narrowing force on perspective and opportunities during a time where this should be expanded. Profits for companies should not drive education; education and the development of contributing members of society should not look like a pyramid scheme, this would be asking for problems. So, in this context it is probably prudent to offer some protections against this practice.

    In terms of big picture purchases, having district level staff make those decisions makes some sense to me. Teachers are in the trenches, to offer an analogy, which inherently means that they can have limited perspective on the needs and wants of the district. This does imply that district level staff are looking at the needs and wants of teachers, which may not be the case. Perspective of leaders comes into play here. Is the leader looking to work as a team participant with teachers or do they see a “broken system” that they are going to fix? This is probably a place where, in certain contexts, the system is broken. If ego is the driving force for leadership, then we will see confounding in motivations for choices. To ensure this is not the case leaders need to have systems in place to ensure they are ‘hearing’ the needs and wants of students, teachers, and parents. So, if these systems are in place, then the system is probably not broken, if not, it is very broken. Improvements could probably be found by implementing provincial auditing of decision-making structures within districts to ensure that learning partners are having a say in the direction of learning. This would represent a very powerful form of accountability and put communities in the position to be the driving force for the education of its members. Even saying that, I do see some limitations. I think that gathering decision making data on a micro level, then coding for themes at a macro level, would be a good idea to avoid ‘squeaky wheels syndrome’ from becoming the driving force for education decisions.

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  32. luke pereira

    I am late to the posting but not being a teacher myself, I learned about school boards from my previous class, and friends who actually work in schools here in Toronto. What I can say from an outsider looking in, is that there is a lot of politics mixed in that disrupts any positive change that can benefit students in the education marketplace. Even the curriculum of sex ed was of debate between the province and boards, the switch to online learning and cutting of staff numbers created turmoil, increasing class room size, improper management of resources, union battles with the province, strikes, and bad school trustees, and the list goes on. And some of these were before covid!. I’m working on a research paper at work on “quality of education and the Canadian experience” across borders for immigrants who come to Canada for hopes of a better life, while their education experience is deemed low even though, they are doctors and engineers. Its strange that while we pride on our teachings as teachers, we seem to forget the global picture of adaptive learning.

    There seem to be a disconnect between teachers, students, technology and of course the governments regulating curriculum.

    Interesting read – https://drpfconsults.com/top-k-12-education-system-in-the-world/

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  33. Aaron Chan

    What does it take to give life to an industry disruptor?

    Consider Uber: you stop calling taxis, call an Uber, hope that you don’t get murdered in the car because the driver has a 5 star rating

    Consider Airbnb: you stop booking hotels, book an Airbnb, hope that you don’t get murdered in your sleep because the owner has a 5 star rating

    Now consider an alternative to traditional education: you stop sending your kid to school, sign them up for the alternative, then pray that you made the right the decision (the alternative has a 5 star rating?) because essentially their entire future is at stake (and they run the risk of becoming murderers)

    I don’t think the education marketplace is necessarily broken – I just think there is a massive barrier to entry, and an equally massive consumer paradigm shift is required. Most people would say traditional education is flawed, but deep down… do we really believe this? I would argue that most people love “school”. We associate our childhoods with school. It’s rooted in our culture and favourite TV shows and movies. It’s where children learn their social skills. People that are homeschooled are weird. School is dear to our hearts and we have a tight grip on it. And for the most part, we turned out okay… so is there really anything wrong with it? But parents and schools are not the only stakeholders. Higher education institutions and employers also play important roles in this shift. But I do think it is possible. It is definitely lucrative.

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    1. Hayley Mooney

      Well Aaron, thanks to your post I have come to realize that I am fully on board with setting my children up for an education trajectory which could possibly result in them all ending up as murderers (perhaps they could form a mafia family?) I greatly enjoyed your post, but have to admit, as someone who is a complete Airbnb convert that as I was reading, I was getting more and more enthusiastic about your idea of some education alternative with star ratings that you could peruse and book online (can I buy the rights off you??). At the moment my kids are stuck with the school we can afford to live near. It’s not terrible, but compared to the one at our last house, it’s a whole lot of traditional lecturing and note-taking. If I could go online and find some viable alternative tonight, I totally would. I’ll take the risk of my children winding up weird – arguably, I’m not sure how positive socialization is for kids in schools these days with everyone addicted to their phones. Let me know if you get it started, I’ll invest.

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    2. brendan stanford

      10/10 would read again! Wholeheartedly agree; I can’t tell you how many times I hear “school didn’t teach me how to do taxes” from peers, only to turn around, proceed to teach taxes to youth only to hear “when am I ever going to use this?” In my mind the “fundamental flaw” of educational markets comes down to the fact that the curriculum is designed by older stakeholders long-deperated from the education system who, through no fault of their own, are blissfully unaware what will actually matter in the market of the future for the children of tomorrow (the student-customer distance as we explored this week). Adult stakeholders can only reflect on what turned out to be important for them personally. Couple that with the fact that a public education system strives to make each unique child prepared for the multitude of professional and/or personal avenues you could pursue in life, and you come upon the inevitable conclusion that a great deal of a student’s education won’t end up being personally meaningful for them (still haven’t been in an urgent circumstance that required me knowing when/why/how the battle of plains of abraham influenced Canadian society today, HOWEVER, I can appreciate its value in retospect , even if I didn’t use it professionally).

      What’s worse is that I see enthusiastic teachers burning themselves out within a few years of their graduation trying to be the “all-educator”: capable of infinite diversification, differentiation and time dilation to boot so that every student has a consistently meaningful, engaging learning experiences on par with all the offerings of the supercomputer-empowered internet age. In truth, I think the future of education is a kind of computer/teacher symbiosis, where AI handles the diagnostic assessment and subsequent differentiation for individual students, while affording teachers useful data to decide which students will benefit the most from their direct intervention. Yet I often feel this approach is rejected for being too cold, too disconnected and too streamlined; unfortunately short of that time-dilation machine to afford educators more time, I don’t see how mere mortals can fulfill all these ideals. Until then, I’ll be taking this approach: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BY6VntTmtIo

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      1. mstr

        Hi Brendan,

        I had to laugh when reading your post. I teach one course in the electrical trades program at my school. The course is called technology and apprenticeship preparation (not actually anything to do with wiring etc). Due to some of the covid school closures the start of the second semester has been pushed back by one week this year. Anyway I have a student give the old “why don’t we ever learn anything we will actually need to know – like taxes.” I said, “okay, done! The next unit we do will be income taxes!” (I have taught income taxes before, and now ave the luxury of an extra week thrown onto the semester with little notice). He looked a little surprised, but didn’t say anything else. We are now just finishing up the taxes unit, and it has gone really well. The students seem to be appreciated learning something they will need to do now or at least soon. While they could just hire someone to do their taxes, I do believe having a basic understanding is important, especially while they have relatively simple tax situations as students. Also, many plan to own their electrical companies down the road, and having a solid knowledge base in accounting and taxes can’t hurt! However, I have to agree with you that the number of flaws that can be pointed out in the educations system vastly outnumber the reasonable responses to these flaws, and no “mortal” can meet a yard stick that is constantly moving!

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  34. JacksonLiang

    Personally, I think the education marketplace is broken in terms of how funding is determined. It feels like a puzzle where all the individual parts come with good intentions, but they don’t fit together.

    Principals have the difficult task of managing funds to divvy at their school. However, at a higher level, the funding they receive is sometimes insufficient. As a resource teacher at some point, I’m aware that students with ELL or ministry designations receive more funding. However, the way this money is used is not always as intended. I hear talks about redirecting funds to other underfunded parts of the school as well as having priority lists of students based on how much potential funding they may provide. I’m not sure. It feels strange to have a price tag attached to a student’s exceptional needs.

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  35. Hayley Mooney

    I propose that we pause and imagine a world where we all got what we wanted. Politicians got something shiny and impressive that wowed their voters, administrators got a product that was affordable and broadly applicable to their large areas of jurisdiction, teachers got something that was easy to adapt to their current practices and quick to learn, and learners… learned ALL the things. What would this product look like? The problem here is that all these customers certainly want something, but is what they want actually what they need? Probably not. The majority of these customers are not academics who have spent years studying learning theory and haven’t a clue on what would actually make a good product (even teachers on the ground are biased by the way they have been doing things for years). I think the factors of ease, cost and appearance vastly outweigh the value of evidence-based innovations in the education marketplace. How do we fix this? Well, for starters we could adopt a Technocracy for our government, and have only experts actually run the school system, making choices for learners that were based solely on what is best for students, rather than popular opinion. Easy peasy. It’s the “nobody gets what they want, but they get what they need” solution. Sadly, for this solution to work we would have to tackle our broken electoral system first. Let me know if you have a quick solution to this problem!

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  36. Marie-Eve Masse

    I worked for a non-profit industry association a few years ago. During my time there, we took over a well-established entry-level workforce certification course and transferred it to an online space. We had pre-established relationships in the Post-Secondary and K-12 realms and continuously worked at ensuring we were getting people in the course. I found as an organization; we were always looking up the ways to make it easier for the educator, which involved us taking a lot of time to understand the system. In the BC K-12 system, we were often saying to educators “Hey, did you know about this grant you can get from this organization to apply towards this certification?”. Or “Did you know this can be applied to Workforce Certificates Training 12 and would give your students credit?”. We then usually educated them on what those options were in more depth. As an organization outside the K-12 system, we were educating what was available to those working in the K-12 system. That is an indicator that is ‘education marketplace’ is indeed broken.

    I could also heavily relate to the ‘Who is the customer?’ portion of this week’s readings because it was also confusing as an organization to know who the ‘customer’ really was. The student is the one who was ultimately going to benefit from our product and the user. The educator had to ‘buy-in’ to it but didn’t seem to have the money or say. The school district had the buying power yet seemed to be disconnected to the needs of the classroom. That is my experience though, I am sure it varies between districts and provinces.

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    1. brendan stanford

      Hi Marie-Eve,

      Ia gree with you; I think the fundamental problem is the distance between purchaser (district) and student; at the end of the day, I think you need the user to have more poroportional say (even a minor percentage) in where their funds are spent. Right now I have 100$ per year that goes within the first month, and then I end up either using supplies another teacher/admin/supervisor bought for everyone or I’m spending my own money and hoping to the funding gods I’ll be reimbursed, which is a toss up.

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      1. Marie-Eve Masse

        $100 is wild, Brendan, thanks for sharing! Working in the workplace learning space – I have a hard time accepting that considering my spending is exponentially higher (and justified).

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  37. alexis reeves

    In my own experience I don’t believe that money always flows intelligently and correctly within the education system to achieve learning. But, it depends on the customer, the type of school and perhaps geographically as described below.
    Working in private schools in Spain especially, it seems the majority of people at the top seem to hold the purse strings quite tightly, even though the enrolment costs are very high in these fee-paying schools, it doesn’t seem to translate to more flexible budgets or increased learning. One of the schools I worked at for example charged students about 600 a month in fees however, the technology was almost non-existent in modern terms in comparison to some state schools I’ve worked at in the UK and Australia. The 25 tablets (for the whole school) were old and could barely function, the students were meant to bring their own school supplies and the food provided was of the lowest quality (and cheapest as the kitchen staff revealed to me!). Now, although the last 2 factors don’t necessarily contribute to learning, they are quite surprising considering the high fees and begged the question of who or where the money was going. The teachers were quite experienced which was good (and lucky for the school) and this contributed to students’ learning despite never getting raises nor having much ongoing training however, from a technology point of view the students were behind what I thought most state school students would be due to the lack of updated technology and therefore difficulty in acquiring education related APPs, the skills needed to operate them and software available for them. The students therefore were lacking important skills that should be developed from early on now in schools to ensure 21st century learning skills are cemented by the time they enter the modern workforce.
    However, when working for public schools in NSW, Australia, the opposite was true. Tablets were available in each class (at most schools I worked at), students were technologically aware and skilled and the classrooms had modern features allowing for flexible workspaces therefore allowing for multiple plugs and for flipped learning opportunities to occur with charging stations, open concept classrooms where project learning could take place and digital cameras and smartboards as well. Now, I’m not completely sure who is in charge of ordering these, but it seemed that the money that was promised to go into the system was actually going into it as far as I could see and was contributing to 21st century learning skills. When digging a bit deeper it seems they have a very clear model on the state’s website to demonstrate how much money is allocated and where it goes within the public school system. There seems to be a base amount allocated to all schools with higher amounts of funding allocated according to schools with higher needs in their student population and neighbourhoods. If you’d like to view the model, I’ve included a link below. Although I can see the flipside of this being that some funding is not always given to the people in need and that some schools may stretch the truth of their reporting in order to gain some funds as well. Nonetheless it seems their system is working quite well from what Ive experienced and perhaps other public and private schools alike would be able to provide a better skillset by following this model.


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  38. Wynn Zhang

    Unfortunately, I do believe that the education marketplace is broken, and I’m not sure if that’s a bad thing. A part of that equation is the lack of a marketplace to begin with. One of the goals in education is equality, and with heavy regulation, the public sector does provide an equitable experience for most students. However, in the private sector, the “market” of education is more skewed. The difference between technology, equipment, and teachers are more profound and there is a stronger ideology of the service provided being determined by supply and demand.

    One of my experiences in Asia was being a tutor in an EXTREMELY competitive field. The culture surrounding tutors was akin to competitive athletes signing with top teams. Firms constantly poach top tutors for exorbitant amounts of money (up to 12 million CAD as an outlier case) and the students consume educational content to match the demand.

    The crux of this system was the educational goal of a standardized score being the product that was being sold by the tutoring companies. Our education has less concrete goals and thus do not have the same pressure to constantly innovate and improve to match a demanding consumer base. Thus, our “market” does not work, but for the sake of equality and an fair access to education, it might not be the worst thing.


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    1. Hayley Mooney

      The tutoring story was a real eye-opener. I’ve never heard of this phenomenon. Of course I’m disgusted at the inequality in education such competition produces, but simultaneously I can’t help but think that I’ve always considered the salaries of professional athletes to be ridiculous, so it theoretically should be more palatable to me that a brilliant tutor was paid this much instead of a sports player or a CEO who falls into their position thanks to family ties (thinking of the Trump family). Really nobody contributes enough to society to earn this much though.

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    2. John Wu

      Hi Wynn

      Thanks for bringing up this point and the commercialized aspect of education. I’m not exaggerating but you’re pretty much bombarded by advertisements of “top/star” level tutors in Hong Kong (on buses, MTR stations, malls etc). The interesting aspect is they’re very conscious about their brand and personal image, at times you might be wondering whether you’re looking at an advertisement for tutoring services or an upcoming pop star/idol event. That being said, I don’t think I’ve seen education being THIS commercialized on such an wide but successful scale. While our classmates might be divided as to whether this is a correct approach, it’s important to understand WHY high school students in HK feel the need to enrol in these classes. University admissions are highly competitive in HK (there are 8 main Universities) and under the JUPAS scheme, high school students essentially take the equivalent of A Levels/our provincial exams to determine whether they qualify. While acceptance rates have increased in the recent years (38% got an offer in 2021), previously it was around 20-30% who were able to qualify for University. As you can imagine, the stress level is immense hence leading to the need to attend tutoring classes. There’s also a common mentality/perception that if you can’t enter University, you’ll be unqualified for professional jobs. As Wynn mentioned, the focus is on a standardized score and personally I feel this this leads to a distorted perception of what education should be, especially when students are conditioned to think like that at an early age. Even when they enter University, they’re overly focused on getting a high GPA as opposed to taking electives which might be “challenging” but enriching in knowledge. When they graduate and work, they might enter a field because the salary is high and not because it’s what they want to pursue in life. When education and life becomes a series of numbers, it kind of indicates that something is fundamentally broken and unsustainable for a person’s wellbeing

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      1. Wynn Zhang

        Hey John

        Thanks for giving your personal experience with HK culture behind tutors. I would like to add on to the fact that this is also common in China as well. Similar to the provincial exam example, all the students in the entire country would have to take the GaoKao, which single handedly determines your ability to pursue post secondary education. It’s incredibly stressful and high valued to the point where the police force has created blockades to make sure that students get to their testing site on time.

        One interesting thing to note is that China recently has completely banned any form of tutoring to reduce the amount of focus on the educational rat race. The industry is around 300 billion there, so it’s a very disruptive event. From a market perspective, there were many exploitative practices with the private education industry, but the ban caught many people off guard and created a new “underground” market where people seek the services of black market tutors, as crazy as that sounds. It just proves the idea that market health might be more difficult to diagnosis than we realize as swings in any direction could change the market, but it is resilient as new ones pop up to fulfill the need.


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  39. brendan stanford

    After reviewing the content and concepts of the week, I think that the distance between customer and purchaser is the primary disconnect that makes this a strange, though I wouldn’t say a “broken” market. Case in point? Chromebooks. Now granted, it says a lot that for a company to truly have an impact on education it has to be GOOGLE, but man did they connect the consumer (student) to the purchaser well. Students love working with apps; google has the ecosystem to provide it. Purchasers love low costs, Google has the servers to host the OS and keep functional costs low. Like most moarkets today, hardware is indeed the tougher mountain to climb, and software is heavily regulated too, but I think piggybacking on successfully implemented ecosystem (and avoiding competition in our “cube” analysis) can help innovative apps penetrate educational markets more easily. I’ll say firsthand from my teaching experience: if they can log in with google or I can share it to classroom: I’m interested. If not, it better be one hell of an application to justify the extra tech skills I’ll need to teach/troubleshoot.

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    1. Ally Darling-Beaudoin

      Brendan, your comment encapsulates what I found a lot of comments did as I perused the channel… it’s really easy to come up with a model that would be a “perfect world” where all parties are connected, supported, and friendly, but in reality, headaches are typically avoided at all costs, because there’s so many unavoidable headaches already! If something can integrate with what already works, then it will be more successful. And, if what you “already have” can ALMOST do what you need, then usually some tweaking occurs before something new is brought into the picture… why take on all the work and struggle incorporating something that will do 100% of what you need, when what you already have could do it to about 95% of the way with no issue? It speaks a bit to Julio’s comment above regarding green chalkboards over black ones… such a marginal improvement, and really, why not just get a whiteboard if you really want to make a change?!

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  40. John Wu

    To begin, let’s define the term “broken”. If a marketplace is deemed to be broken, this would imply that it’s in a fractured state, non functioning and unable to fulfil it’s intended objective. On a surface level, it’s safe to assume that no, the current education system is doing it’s intended purpose which is to keep students in school and teach what they’re supposed to learn. Whether it’s effective or efficient is another topic for debate but from this observation, at the very least there are choices between private and public options for students to consider. While I have my fair share of friends who have graduated from both public and private schools, I don’t notice a massive difference between their way of thinking of mentality. In the end, they’re all received education from school which suggested it’s functional (on a operational level at least). The real issue which is arguably broken is the systematic approach to assigning grades and determining which University you end up in. Curriculums are usually designed to teach students the contents required for exams but not how to succeed in exams. Money in this instance would flow in from private tutoring companies as I’ve heard that attendance does make a difference in exam performance. While I’ve never attended cram school (only went to GMAT/LSAT prep classes), if the arbitrary factor which influences whether a student understands the exam better requires external payment or investing additional resources, this creates an uneven playing field for those who are less fortunate. Education in theory is supposed to be equal yet the reality determines that there are limited spots for enrolment in prestige Universities and the only way to have a fighting chance is private tutoring. While I’m not against the concept of private tutoring as they have their fair share of benefits, this is one example which indirect contributes to a broken education marketplace. Another issue which is potentially broken is funding. At the University which I teach, I’ve witnessed and experienced countless arguments over funding issues which affected course decisions and placed too much emphasis on office politics. In most situations, there is a deep layer of bureaucracy that comes along with funding proposals, whether it’s for joint department courses (how to split the income) or research grants. Even if you have the best intentions or ideas in the world, it’s unlikely to take shape due to the culture of funding. The same situation applies to school districts as they would also face funding/grants issues if they require additional funds.

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  41. hasssae1

    “Student Engagement, or Student Enrolment, That is the Question”…….
    With regard to the Canadian tertiary education, I do not believe that the educational marketplace is totally broken, however it certainly has been fractured for a long time. The Covid-19 crisis hit our higher-education system and worsened this fracture/deterioration and brought to light a lot of systemic issues in education, which already existed but were long concealed.
    Pre-pandemic, majority of brick-and-mortar universities marketed themselves as places with newer physical infrastructure, larger libraries, bigger classrooms, spacious parking, but no real emphasis on what the new generation of students, in 21st century, truly needed. The focus was entirely on student enrolment, and not on student engagement. These dysfunctional business and marketing strategies proved to be devastating once Covid hit, and when business-as-usual was no longer an option for conventional universities. Long before the pandemic, the fundings should have been allocated towards advancing the technology infrastructure, online learning plans, hybrid-classes, creating racially and ethnically diverse student experiences, better student advising, and many more elements that were long considered trivial.

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  42. marie finch

    I think broken fits. We need to start with the foundation of where we learn. Post secondary institutions have government money as well as tuition costs that help their infrastructure modernize so that they can stay competitive, but elementary and high schools don’t have the same opportunity. Many school districts outside of the Lower Mainland in BC haven’t had a new school built within the last 30 years. If we want these areas to modernize we have to have a way beyond just government money to put in the resources and development. Technology moves so fast that the slow moving political body can’t or won’t adapt as fast as society needs, so let’s look to outside input. Take Google for example, it came into our school district, offered technology, resources, accessibility and the learning opportunities to incorporate into our teaching practice. Then Covid made us pivot and even the teachers that had not jumped onto the Google platform were pushed into a way to connect, teach and asses their students. Large corporations are already entrenched in our school, so why not use their presence to start focusing on the actual build and design of a school.

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  43. mary hui

    Is the education marketplace broken?
    This questions is broad. Which education marketplace are we talking about and why do you think it is broken?

    The question does not take into account which client population you are targeting. For example, clients from European region with language skills may have very different needs than European countries that requires translation. In my experience, corporation will only reject a product if it does not fit their business needs. It is wise to be strategic when making long-term decisions. Why buy a product if you have a team of developers in house that can customize that software to your company’s needs? Privacy of data is also important for a large scale company. Take healthcare as an example, I would never want to consider a product that is not reliable and can compromise client confidentiality. A rubric of needs may be useful in determining what the company’s goals are prior to investing.

    Furthermore, with the birth of NFT’s and cryptocurrency and immersive environments, the education marketplace is just beginning to develop. Sure, there are virtual classrooms such as MOOC’s or LMS’s where students can take classes with pre-recorded lectures, there is still the teacher / student hierarchy of learning. What if all that is taken away and developers can create something that makes learning / assessment effortless? Will there be more of an opportunity or interest in investment? The educational marketplace is not broken if it its still in development.

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  44. Terri-Lynn McLeod

    I know from experience that money does not always flow intelligently and effectively to fulfill the goal of learning. During a pandemic, how can a school district have a large surplus when students have more needs than ever? After much discussion at a meeting yesterday, there was no reasonable answer for this. Millions of dollars sitting in a bank account does nothing to help students learn. It makes one wonder what the agenda is behind this tactic.
    Maybe dysfunctional is a better term to use than broken when talking about the education marketplace. In K-12 education, where my experience lies, there is often a great disconnect between those doing the purchasing and the consumers or users (students and sometimes teachers) of the materials. Decisions to purchase technology, at least in my division, are often made at the central office by individuals who have no experience in the classroom. At a recent technology meeting, we were told by the head of IT that they would be purchasing a technology with the rationale that it was being used by the Calgary Board of Education. Our schools and students could not be any different from those in Calgary. Of course at the division level, they are free to purchase whatever products and services they believe are best. The further down the line you go, to schools and individual classroom teachers, not only is there less money, there is less freedom for purchasing.

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    1. Kyle

      Reactionary is how I would summarize boards of education and the pandemic. Since there is such a large disconnect between purchaser and actual “client”, that the purchasers lack the resources to make the most informed decision, schools end up doing the best they can with that they’ve got. It is 2022, and still I don’t think public k-12 institutions have really put any forethought into where education is going, but rather building pedagogies and goals around what they currently have. To the point made above about chromebooks and the ability to embrace what is there in order to continually improve, I completely agree. But does that mindset limit our potential? With more and more funding going into AI R&D, will what school boards already have be able to support this innovation? A framework for short and long term technology use and infrastructure, that better suits the students and allows for more flexibility in growth is what I would like boards to start focusing on. Certainly in the short-term; programs like 1:1 devices, Professional Development for staff to make better, more meaningful use of the technology currently available. However; having the capacity to make outward projections about the direction of learning, the classroom, and how technology fits.

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  45. mstr

    Covid has brought to light that education is a broken marketplace and the students are growingly dissatisfied customers. However, the education marketplace doesn’t follow the same rules as other marketplaces where discontented customers can complain and get a refund! Instead students pay for these failures with their futures and overall well-being. While there’s no lack of areas for improvement I do not have any solutions for how the education marketplace can be fixed, barring any sort of major reform.

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  46. SafaaAbuSaa

    The education marketplace, and more specifically the ed tech marketplace, might be broken, even barely alive in some parts of the world. However, is this brokenness hindering the mission of learning from being fulfilled? Not necessarily. Learners and educators always find ways to survive and thrive. Achieving great things amid this brokenness is possible and realistic. I am not saying that nothing needs fixing; undoubtedly, if anything enhances any aspect of the learning experience, then that’s where the money should go. Maybe classrooms should be commerce-free, existing far away from the greed and personal agendas of the corporate world. Or maybe the global dynamic of free and open source software should be more prevailing?
    Can’t wait to explore this dynamic in the course!

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  47. Jocelyn

    Sometimes it feels like I am simply a cog in the wheel which is the education system. When it comes to decisions regarding the learning technologies that my students use, I have been given both highly centralized and decentralized choices depending on the school. As part of a large public school board, the education marketplace seems flawed and inconsistent [at its worst]. Most of the learning technologies that are available are pitched to ‘higher up’ administrative staff or coaches that are then directed at teachers to implement in the classroom, granted at times with professional development for the digital tools. “Low EQAO math scores, try this new math program!” This was more prevalent in inner city schools with a lower learning opportunity index where more funding was provided for technology in hopes of improving student scores and success. At my current school, even the process of selecting an application for the iPad needs to be vetted by the board to ensure that it is appropriate or can be installed. There is even a discrepancy between paid and free apps- with certain schools allocating more funds toward technology use and others using money from parent councils to fund these requests. At the risk of sounding like a pessimist, I understand these processes of assuming digital educational tools are in place to ensure equity across schools and to provide some standards within the board. In fact, it is more for teacher protection that some applications cannot be used due to certain terms and agreements that may expose the users/ students at risk. In terms of a solution, it would involve an internal and external reflection with the upheaval of educational ideologies (one being a measure of student success) and structural organization of the powers at play.

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  48. Kendal

    A few thoughts on the question from this week:
    a) What business-to-consumer marketplaces do exist that don’t have political, corporate, institutional, and ideological barriers in place? Though (presumably) the creation of educational technologies are intended to enhance teaching and learning, innovation and advancement in the field are ultimately going to be driven by capital, and that capital is unlikely to rely completely on investors (Bill & Melinda can only do so much [https://www.gatesfoundation.org/ideas/media-center/press-releases/2000/05/grant-for-technology-education]…) vs. sale of new services, content, and infrastructure to feed the cycle.
    b) The system also inherently relies on replacement technology. Tech companies rely on their innovations becoming outdated (either functionally or at least aesthetically), so the end-user has to replace them (think iPhones). This creates another layer of complexity to decision-making in the system and also raises questions about sustainability in EdTech. And how can we be confident in our choices when we know that something newer, and perhaps more effective may be coming down the pipe?
    c) I have not worked in a traditional school system, so do not have as much exposure to this system as many of you do, but I can only imagine how frustrating it would be to have learning technologies bought centrally and be so disconnected from the process. I certainly consider this system in need of some adjustments, but it’s daunting to think of how it could be improved. At a small scale, connecting educators to the decision-making process is a start, but I also know that may put an additional burden on educators to be up to speed with learning technologies. Overall, I don’t think there is going to be a “one size fits all” model that applies across the system.

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    1. sage capogreco

      Hi Kendal,
      I think it’s so important that you highlight some of the nuances of the technology market in general. Specifically your point about planned obsolescence. Indeed, when thinking about who benefits from a product that requires renewal every few years, it becomes apparent that a capitalist market is not always the most hospitable for educational needs. I think the burden of obsolete technology then falls on the teacher to ‘make do’. This is an interesting topic because, surely, some of the obsolescence is actually based on the users’ decision-making. For instance, I have talked to a few teachers who jokingly discuss SmartBoards – something that was introduced in classrooms as an innovation, but quickly became old news when placed in competition with all of the other content presentation options.

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      1. Kendal

        Thanks for your response to my post, Sage. I really like how you brought the educator’s perspective into this in that “the burden of obsolete technology then falls on the teacher to ‘make do’.” (Full disclosure – as I do not engage with a traditional classroom, I did not know that SmartBoards are now outdated!:)). There is another burden that many don’t think of in the EdTEch sector, and that’s the environmental burden. In Selwyn’s 2021 article titled “Anticipating educational technology in times of environmental crisis,” they address both the unsustainable use of earth metals, minerals and chemicals in technology hardware (computers, tablets, phones, batteries, etc.) and the energy requirements of running all of this technology. The more we have to “refresh” our hardware, the harder it’s going to be on the planet. I am curious if many tech developers or companies consider environmental impacts in this way.

        Selwyn, N. (2021). Ed-Tech Within Limits: Anticipating educational technology in times of environmental crisis. E-Learning and Digital Media, 18(5), 496–510. https://doi.org/10.1177/20427530211022951.

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  49. SeimeAdhmar

    There is also a kind of unevenness or a lack of uniformity in the education market place when it comes to technology. Certain programs in the same school tend to benefit much more from technology than others. For example, French immersion programs in quite a few schools in BC receive additional funding for classroom equipment. Every immersion class in the school where I worked last year has a computer cart with a class set. Teachers assign work on Google Classroom and students complete their tasks and submit them on the platform. Most French Immersion senior classes are completely paperless. And they used google slides for classroom presentations and debates.
    Readily available chrome books in their classrooms give a huge learning advantage to immersion students, which exacerbate inequity in the public school system. To me, that is another aspect that explains a sort of breakdown in the education system.

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  50. Liana

    I’ve had experience working in both the public and private/independent education systems and I feel the answers to this question is different for each education system. In the public education sector, I would definitely agree that there are more barriers in the education marketplace due to the heavy bureaucracy that exists on the many levels above the actual schools. Based on my experiences, decision making for funding programs and necessary classroom tools, runs through various lengthy processes and cannot easily be applied to individual schools. The allocation of funding within each school district is often very rigid, which doesn’t allow space for expansion. In the independent schools system, schools have the ability to run as separate entities with decision making occurring at the school level. I have worked with a private Ed Tech company that oversees all the Tech support, Professional Development and maintenance for independent schools. They are not simply a tech support team, rather they specialize in school technology programs. This allows for teachers to receive necessary training, promotes innovative learning and enables students to enhance their skillset with minimal barriers. Independent schools are able to fundraise and allocate funds each year specific to the needs of the individual school without the lengthy bureaucratic process.

    Is there a way to fix the challenges that exist in the public education marketplace? Definitely, but that would likely eliminate the need for a board of highly paid policymakers who are in charge of funding allocation and decision making. Sigh. Although there are many broken pieces to they system, an educator with the ability to think outside the box, innovate and be creative, will find their way over the obstacles and create a learning environment that is conducive to 21st century learning.

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  51. joseph villella

    I struggle with this question a bit since I often feel that money and resources do not properly make their way through the public education system. However, as someone who works in the independent system, I am an outsider looking in. From discussions with friends who work in the public system, I often hear complaints and all about the struggles they have with getting proper funding to provide what is best for their students. Issues such as exclusive deals with platforms or suppliers cause problems as if a teacher wants to use a certain resource not available to them directly (even if they researched themselves and made an excellent case for its usage), they’re out of luck. The idea of making use of what you have is reasonable, but issues become apparent when what you have is out of date and/or no longer technologically relevant. If the education marketplace was free flowing and competition was encouraged between companies to offer their best materials for their best prices, I do think the education system as a whole would benefit. Teachers should also play more of a role in this section as ultimately they are the ones teaching their students!

    The main focus of the education system should be focused on providing what is best for the students who will be in charge of our future, not backroom exclusivity deals which truly do not put students as the main focus. An open education marketplace would be a step to accomplish that.

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  52. alexei Peter Dos Santos

    My journey in Educational Technology with UBC made me observe the Brazilian Educational system more deeply, and my first thought was that the Education marketplace is broken. Students didn’t understand the methodology and programs, and teachers were demotivated. Basically, frustration is all over the place. Moreover, the lack of funding and recycling of contents transforms frustration into hopelessness. However, there are flowers in the desert. For instance, in the Porto Alegre area, a public school took advantage of the government budget to insert technology into daily school routines. This school installed interactive screens in all classrooms and trained teachers to develop digital activities. As a result, the school’s project is a success, attracting students, teachers, and the local education system itself. Currently, it has become a regional benchmark for technology implementation. My impression regards sharing these experiences and their environments, providing examples and alternatives for the enormous need and diversity of situations.

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  53. emma pindera

    Is the education marketplace broken, my initial thought is yes. Lack of funding plays a part in the education marketplace. The barriers are endless, and without sufficient funding great educational pursuits and innovations are dead on arrival. What can fix it? My solution is more fundraisers and community awareness, by building the community behind the importance of educational marketplaces and innovations, it not only may raise some funding, but it may raise the opinions and respect that the community has for the work of educators.

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    1. Justine

      Hi Emma,

      Great post. It is interesting that you mention fundraisers. I personally think that the districts have the money, so we don’t need to fundraise for things, such as resources. I more so wish the districts would give teachers more money to spend on their individual resources. Do you agree? I do absolutely agree that community awareness is significant. The community continues to lose respect for teachers. I think back to when I was going to elementary school, and the respect my parents had for teachers. Now, as a teacher and dealing with parents, more often than not, you find yourself in situations where parents clearly lack respect for teachers. This is something we need to build up, and this is an urgent issue.

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  54. Katie M

    I would say that while innovation in the market remains strong, trust between users of educational tools and those producing them is broken. The nuances of the relationship between companies producing educational tools and the consumer are murky at best, in no small part because who the consumer is changes depending on who you talk to. Although many would quickly jump to the conclusion that the student is the consumer, students are often treated as the product and educational programs and devices are sold as a way to improve the product being created by the educational system. In that case, companies aren’t selling technology or programs to the student or even the educators, but to the system in charge of improving the students they produce. Because of consistent lack of funding for public education school boards are often focused less on what would be valuable for students in the long run and more on what is cost effective. In my personal experience, school boards also switch from one technology to another meant to accomplish the same task, every couple years as they find a cheaper option, which leads to lack of consistency for students and educators. On the other hand, some sign onto long term contracts with companies providing education software with little to no consultation with students and educators who will be using it. Often this leads to lack of uptake in use of programs, due to design flaws or difficulty of use, that school boards have funnelled substantial amounts of money into.

    There is also a mistrust of large educational companies among educators because of their lobbying power that supports of vast amounts of standardized testing, which can ultimately lead to a less than fruitful learning environment. There also exists a fundamental difference in principles regarding educators approach to education and large educational companies. While educators do not typically go into or stay in the profession for substantial financial gain, educational companies like Pearson contribute to education with the goal of vast amounts of profit for their company. Educators that I work with tend to value products that arise from not-for-profits, like Micro:bits, because they perceive that their values are more aligned.

    Companies providing educational products need more consultation with educators instead of only catering to institutions that buy their products. Ultimately, if there isn’t much use of the product from individual classrooms because it is not well liked by students or teachers, then the relationship with these companies is unlikely to change.

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    1. Justine

      You bring up many great points. Reading this makes me realize how much more teachers have on their plate. Not only do we need to worry about meeting the curricular needs, meeting our students individual needs, assessing, meeting with parents, and so on – we also need to worry about the resources and I think this is an area that is such an easy fix but the system makes it super difficult. Imagine the teaching that could be done if we had the freedom to purchase our own resources – not resources that are hand picked by the districts.

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  55. Justine

    I think the educational marketplace is broken. For the last two years, I worked as a Vice Principal at my school. During this time, I was able to learn more about the business perspective of running the school. Each school is given a budget for the school year, and parts of that budget can be spent as decided by the school. However, typically, that budget is spent as determined by the Principal. As mentioned throughout this week, the items/services/content/infrastructure that schools can purchase is limited to a list that has been decided by the district. However, the district is quite unaware of the needs of the school. So, even though many of the teachers loved this new, interactive math application, we were unable to purchase it because it wasn’t on the approved list of resources. Instead, we had a choice of about 5 other math games, however, none of these were as interactive, fun, and useful to learning as the math game that we had found. Unfortunately, teachers are given a very tiny budget for their classrooms, so often, it is not feasible for teachers to use their classroom funds to purchase a 1 year subscription to an application that we believe is awesome! Therefore, I do think money flows un-intelligently to fulfill learning. I don’t think there is a quick fix, but a good place to start would be to give teachers increased funding to spend in their classrooms per year. Personally, I do not teach many hands-on and engaging lesson plans as I would like because I don’t have the classroom funds to purchase the necessary items to conduct them. Although the district encourages us to use more hands-on lessons, and shows us the evidence for why these are beneficial to learning, they forget to factor in the money.

    For the reasons stated above, I can see that the educational market is very challenging to break into for technology companies. It really is unfortunate because there are great applications and technology resources out there that teachers want to use, but we simply don’t have money to afford them. From a business perspective, I think that teachers are the customers as we are the purchasers of resources to use in the classrooms. However, these customers have empty pockets, and often are given a “menu” of items to purchase from! Students, then, are almost like secondary customers who reap the benefits of the purchases of the customer. For students, the currency is learning. This is severely impacted by the purchasing power of the teacher.

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  56. sworley

    This type of broad question is tricky as education systems and operation vary significantly across countries and regions, making it challenging to make a blanket statement about the entire education marketplace. That being said, I will be using my personal experience in the BC education system as the reference point for my answer.
    I believe the education system is broken. While my school is in a wealthy area and we are well funded, accessibility and equity is an issue that exist in many regions, with marginalized communities often having limited resources and opportunities. Socioeconomic factors can create educational inequalities, preventing equal access to educational opportunities.
    As was noted in the readings and that famous joke about the time travelling doctor and teacher, our curriculum is stagnant and there is a lack of innovation in the way we choose to present that information. Our traditional education systems often focus on rote memorization and standardized testing, which may not effectively foster critical thinking, problem-solving, creativity, and other important skills needed for the modern world. We are quite slow to adapt and embrace innovative approaches and emerging technologies. Trying to get institutionalized teachers to adapt and utilize new technology is like pulling teeth.
    It was also noted that the game designers can’t be bothered with ‘serious’ or ‘educational’ games as the profits aren’t there for them. This needs to change as those games have a way of maintaining interest and excitement in the younger generation, something we are sorely missing in today’s educational landscape.
    As we push more students towards AP and IB standardization, it can be argued that excessive focus on standardized testing and rigid accountability measures can lead to a narrow and inflexible education system that prioritizes test scores over holistic learning experiences. We have to move away from the cookie cutter approach and broaden our reach.
    While I don’t think that the education system is at a good place, I feel that there are many dedicated educators, innovative schools, and initiatives are striving to address these challenges and create positive change within the education marketplace. Change has to come from the top, and unless the government is incentivised to change, in the form of votes, then the status quo will remain.

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    1. maurice broschart

      Thank you for having mentioned IB and AP. I have taught IB MYP and DP for most of my career, but I was away from this system for two years prior to this one. I definitely am not an advocate for this system as I find that it pigeon holes my teaching and it limits the learning process for my students. I am always teaching towards a test and am not given a lot of flexibility.
      In addition, I was extremely surprised that my school returned to the year end exams model for grades 9 and 10 students this year. Despite what I have been learning in this Masters program about innovative and twenty first century teaching and learning, I have not been experiencing it this year at all. It is so disheartening.

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  57. Paul Brown

    As I went through the readings, and reflected on my own experiences, I don’t consider the education system necessarily broken but I do see it as a rapidly evolving time for Ed Tech. With the pandemic forcing districts, schools, teachers, students and parents to turn to technology, the field has been flooded with new platforms and providing all stakeholders with more choice and variety than ever. At times, overwhelmingly so.
    The choices available can be daunting for teachers to tackle, and many resist change. For example, within the first year of moving abroad to an international school in China we switched LMS from Edmodo to Edsby. The learning curve was reasonably high and administration was met with resistance from teachers, students and parents alike. Furthermore, in Canada the LMS systems can vary from district to district and are essential to the learning experience for students to locate information, submit assignments, find events and track curricular progress. Having an understanding of the online landscape is integral to keeping up with daily student life at my current school. With technology being so integrated into our education experience, our administration is constantly being contacted by sales reps to push the next big thing in EdTech that will ‘transform the school experience’. I see the market as an evolving one that isn’t necessarily broken, but hopefully exists to improve student success, rather than creating more features and delivering similar products that can be challenging for all educational stakeholders to adopt.

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    1. benjamin coulombe

      Hi Paul,

      Completely agree with the seemingly constant barrage of companies bombarding schools with the next big thing in EdTech.

      I never realized how much advertising institutions receive (especially private international ones) and how persistent some sales reps were until I was on the receiving end. I receive, on average, between 1-3 offers daily from EdTech programs offering some new program or a new initiative that will “revolutionize the way we teach.” The sad irony of this is that, buried in the clutter of promotions, there are some programs with potential. Unfortunately, both myself and my current institution are already dug into our current system and adding a new program or replacing an old program is a big ask as it requires buy-in from all parties (administration, teachers, parents, etc.) which is often difficult to get. As result, we fall victim to the reluctance to change or innovate despite being highly aware that we are slowly falling behind the technological curve. I think this idea that we will never be able to keep up effectively with new and emerging educational technology initiatives has caused us to essentially throw in the towel when it comes to being on the cutting edge of new educational tech. From this perspective, I do unfortunately feel that the system is broken or at the very least has some significant cracks.

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      1. Mike Olynyk

        I have been in a similar situation both on LinkedIn and by email. It would be a full-time job to simply try and identify which learning technologies may be different enough or valuable enough to make a change to student learning. I typically use that as my guide when trying to identify if a learning tool is useful…will it increase student learning and how can they provide me evidence that it will.

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  58. benjamin coulombe

    It was mentioned in a few posts from past semesters, but I think it bears repeating. The quote comparing a surgeon to a teacher and how their respective work environment changed significantly or not all, I believe speaks to how broken the system really is.

    However, I do not think the system is broken due to a reluctance to accept new and emerging technologies into education, but rather the landscape of education is constantly changing to adapt to new trends and this oversaturation of what is considered essential or best practices in education is causing educators to revert back to what is comfortable and normal with only minor changes made. For example, the influence of the pandemic pushed eLearning to the forefront of the education conversation but because online/hybrid/blended learning practices were so hastily implemented (out of necessity), there was a budding desire to return to “normal.” As result, what should have been a step forward for eLearning has resulted in a strengthening of the belief that education should not deviate too far from what is “proven” and “comfortable.”

    This may be a controversial take but, I believe, until there is a system, or tool, or teaching practice that comes along that the vast majority of those in education agree is a dramatic improvement over what is considered the norm (highly unlikely to ever happen), the education marketplace will be forever spinning it’s wheels trying to gain the traction necessary to drive education forward while only ever making miniscule gains.

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    1. Carlo Hojilla

      Hi Benjamin – Really enjoyed your post. I often wonder what is considered ‘the norm’? I imagine that this is an evolving definition. Hence, how are we able to continue to measure against a moving target. I resonate very much with the imagery of perpetually stuck and spinning wheels, and the frustration that comes with this. But I remain hopeful like you said that eventually there will be a critical mass to move forward (even if it’s a small gain). Thank you for the discussion.


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      1. benjamin coulombe

        Hi Carlo,

        Great point about my use of the word “norm.” I suppose what I meant was, in education, we have a tendency to fall back to what is most comfortable when we are faced with the uncertainty about something new.

        Even now, as I am typing this response, I am standing in the classrooms of one of our teachers and, despite all the technology and programs available to her, her classroom looks eerily similar to a classroom I would have been sitting in 20 years ago. I am looking at her bulletin board and it is the same board that lined the hallways of my elementary school many years ago. Surely there exists an affordable digital bulletin board similar to a digital picture frame that has been developed for classrooms? But, even if such a technology did exist, I can imagine it would be met with the typical resistance that has come to be an intrinsic part of the education marketplace.

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  59. Carlo Hojilla

    I don’t think I would use broken to describe the current state of the education marketplace. As mentioned in one of the posts for this week, the education marketplace is far more resilient and/or resistant to change than anything. Various stressors and fads have tested this resiliency and yet it still remains relatively unchanged from the 1900s. I wonder if this is innate since the beginning or over time, the marketplace has learned to develop this tough exterior skin and strengthen its resolve. I bring up the example of the COVID disruption as a recent example that tested the system, only to be now brushed off as we return to ‘normal’ (and following @benjamin coulombe post above, there is the issue of implementation that surely contributed in all this). Thought leaders feel opportunities abound and that change will happen (https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-universities-have-a-once-in-a-century-chance-to-reset-what-should-they/).

    I do think that there are several barriers to change adoption however. In the Global Dynamics post, competing/misaligned incentives due to local, national, or global factors tend to muddy the field as there are many layers to consider in the implementation of any technology in the classroom. There is also the issue of equitable access that must always be weighed against the backdrop of any change adoption. The question of “Who is the customer?” for the education marketplace divides the many interested parties (customer vs end-user vs learner), such that no one collective large group can emerge, and so there are less advocates for one form of change versus another. Personally, as an education researcher, I find that the lack of evidence or at least properly constructed trials to test the effectiveness is further used as evidence that change is not needed.

    Ultimately, the goal should be to create an education marketplace that provides equitable access to quality education, encourages innovation, and fosters lifelong learning. I believe the the system as it is can achieve these objectives but will eventually need a more systems-based approach, which is a tall task for sure.

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  60. Roger Zhai

    I would say higher education in some western countries is broken mainly due to factors such as unaffordable tuition, a bloat of administrative staff, textbook costs, cost of publishing in academia, and issues with admissions (e.g. entrance exams, discrimination).

    For the K-12 education marketplace in BC, it is definitely not broken. Even before the recent update to the BC curriculum, it was one of the best in the world and a major export of the province. With the new curriculum, I think it has become even more flexible, innovative, and relevant with the focus on big ideas and skills instead of just content knowledge. Teachers have freedom and autonomy to teach what they’re passionate about and can also gauge what students are interested in learning. There is no required textbook so teachers, schools, and districts can collaborate freely and share resources. There are also no standardized exams or university entrance exams. School districts and public schools provide online learning and adult learning with sufficient funding.

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  61. Terrence Dai

    There are definitely some broken parts, or maybe “broken” isn’t an appropriate word, I would use the room to improve for our existing system.
    To bring about these necessary improvements, a fundamental shift in the decision-making process within education is imperative.
    Instead of relying solely on administrative figures to dictate what should be purchased and implemented, it is vital to empower teachers and grant them a greater degree of responsibility and active involvement in decision-making. After all, teachers are the ones on the front lines, directly engaging with students and possessing intimate knowledge of the curriculum and student needs. Their invaluable insights and perspectives should be leveraged when it comes to selecting and exploring educational technology solutions. On a larger scale, fostering an atmosphere of enhanced collaboration and knowledge-sharing within the education sector is crucial. This can be achieved through encouraging increased participation in educational technology conferences, where diverse companies can exhibit their latest innovations and showcase how they can be effectively integrated into the classroom. These conferences serve as platforms for the exchange of ideas and best practices, enabling educators to stay abreast of the latest advancements. At a more localized level, school boards should actively support and encourage teachers to attend these conferences, while also organizing regular meetings to discuss emerging developments in the field.
    I think addressing the concerns within the education marketplace requires an inclusive approach that values the input and expertise of teachers on the front lines. By listening to their insights and involving them in decision-making processes, we can work towards creating a more effective and efficient education system that prioritizes the mission of learning.

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  62. Kelby Bacon

    From the readings this week what resonated with me the most was the statement, “pendulum swinging between highly-centralized purchasing (advantages of buying power and uniformity) and de-centralized purchasing (advantages in addressing local needs).” In my ten years of working with the public education system in Alberta, this has definitely been the case so far in my career through the shifts in politics. To answer the discussion question, in my opinion when the pendulum is swinging towards highly centralized purchasing I think the education marketplace is not entirely effective in meeting the needs of the learners and can be broken at times. During these periods, decisions on what learning materials and online licenses are purchased are being made by a board of directors, may of whom have never spent any meaningful time in a classroom. From my experience purchases made with an entire city of K-12 learners in mind, doesn’t come close to meeting the needs of all the learners in the system. Having taught in a low socio-economic neighbourhood, then moving school to an affluent area of city, the learning needs of these students who are only a 20minute drive apart is vast. From the perspective of a teacher in the classroom, learners are better supported to meet their needs when buying decisions are made on a smaller scale.

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  63. Douglas Millie

    The current educational marketplace is in a massive state of tectonic disruption that appears broken because of violent clash between traditional and progressive technologies. Practically, education is a very conservative space where the 3 R’s, traditional subjects and standard classrooms continue to dominate discussions. Meanwhile, strategies like “Land-Based Learning” and outdoor classrooms are seen as “riskier” despite strong advocates. Thrown into the mix are curricula that are highly politicized, yet need to be adaptable enough to allow for experimentation. The traditional textbook publishers are struggling to produce products that somehow meet the needs of different types of classrooms, different types of delivery and with apolitical content to avoid being banned. At the same time, they are undercut by grassroots marketplaces like Teachers Pay Teachers, which are more flexible and quicker to adapt to changing curricula and political realities, yet are often stuck in a traditional classroom mindset. Major publishers appear to be increasingly shy of small markets such as Saskatchewan, and teachers are increasingly relying on non-textbook sources for their course content. Ventures like “SaskMoney,” a site dedicated to providing resources for Saskatchewans Financial Literacy curriculum, appear to be a model of cooperation between educators, NGO’s and governments. https://saskmoney.ca/about/

    The old, publisher dominated textbook model for education has been fractured, yet the systems for approving and purchasing resources have yet to adapt to new paradigms, and some markets (even in Canada) are lacking the infrastructure to explore new horizons. With no clear, concise consensus of what education of the future should look like, or evidence that any particular model will work, it is no wonder that the marketplace is a mess.

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    1. benjamin coulombe

      Hi Douglas,

      Really enjoyed your take on the educational marketplace. In particular, your view on Teacher Pay Teacher is very interesting though I would question that if TPT is able to quickly adapt to new curricula and political realities, would that not also enable them to quickly adapt to emerging technology trends in education?

      While I do agree that currently, TPT is dominated by worksheets and activities that reinforce a “traditional” teacher-centered classroom, I would assume the open-sharing nature of the platform would allow for the promotion of more progressive educational thinking.

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      1. Douglas Millie


        My take is also that TPT “could” adapt to emerging trends in education, but that the “demand” is not yet there. There are some technical aspects to this as well that promote the type of products available. Is there a way to sell an entire module that is importable to Moodle, Google Classroom, D2L or Canvas? Are individual educators able to bankroll larger budget media productions? Then we run into the purchaser problem… Are individual teachers willing to pay larger amounts for media productions, or will they look to YouTube? Is there room in the market for a YouTube based, or maybe Patreon based marketplace?

        Maybe this is a better question: What resources do “progressive” classrooms need? In my mind these classrooms might be looking for games for Game-Based learning (either digital or analog,) outdoor classroom projects, or cooking supplies that don’t always translate well into digital formats. But perhaps a competing store that is able to combine both digital and analog resources, still driven by teacher submissions. Or maybe something that combines TPT with the Cricut store, allowing for teachers to up their Cricut game for classroom art, while also introducing robotics concepts.

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    2. Mike Olynyk

      I think teachers pay teachers is a really great example of a simple business venture that for a small cost was able to hit many different instructors. It bypassed the usual bureaucracy involved in getting districts and boards involved and allow teachers to make simple and cost effective choices for their own classrooms. A really interesting business model.

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      1. maurice broschart

        An interesting business model indeed, and one that has allowed me to some money on the side 🙂 TPT shows just how desperate (yes, I’ll use that word) teachers are for finding helpful worksheets, units, plans etc… For me, if I were to allocate more time to continuing to upload products for sale, I would focus on ones that textbooks cannot help us educators with. For example, MYP and DP IB assessments need to be created in specific formats and this is incredibly time-consuming. Because of this, these are sought after!

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      2. maurice broschart

        An interesting business model indeed, and one that has allowed me to some money on the side 🙂 TPT shows just how desperate (yes, I’ll use that word) teachers are for finding helpful worksheets, units, plans etc… For me, if I were to allocate more time to continuing to upload products for sale, I would focus on ones that textbooks cannot help us educators with. For example, MYP and DP IB assessments need to be created in specific formats and this is incredibly time-consuming. Because of this, these are sought after!

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      3. Nick Robitaille

        Good point, Mike. I’ve also thought that there’s a gap in the educational technologies/resources market for a resale marketplace. As is the reality in so many schools, there are often cupboards filled with a range of resources that are not longer used for whatever reasons. Instead of letting them continue to collect dust, I wonder if an online educational resale marketplace could help twofold by helping selling school declutter and raise some new funds, and buying schools get a good deal on materials they need but could not necessarily afford to purchase new.

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  64. sheena outerbridge sjoberg

    Education has become a victim of Marketing. Note. Marketing is a dominant force in North America. – think of all the TV ads which interrupt your viewing longer than the primary presentation, so that you will not forget to buy Dove but lose track of the plot!!!
    Education has been the battleground , so to speak. for politics and as a bona fide financial source. . Both are influences largely lacking accuracy or competency in the field of education. Nevertheless, finance and politics have surreptitiously entered the realm of education, directing and influencing content and curriculum where like-mindedness is more important and individual reflection has taken a back seat.
    Education traditionally, despite being underpaid and hard working, is the bastion of a modern, evolving society. Technology, used responsibly and wisely, would shape concepts and thinking towards an exciting and responsible future. Does this cost? Naturally yes, but quality rears its head yet again!! The question can thus be shaped to say has quality control/ management enhanced or hindered Education today, particularly from a marketing perspective. Quality in this context, refers to both textbook and technology where both may be positive influences when applied correctly. No one can deny the neurological thrill a child may experience when they realise they know how to control a pencil or a crayon. Using these concepts in touch screen technology invokes equal response. Quesion; Is a synapse necessary at this point?

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    1. zheng xiong

      Hi Sheena, I share your concerns about politics and financial considerations have significantly influenced the education landscape. The current educational system is prevalent since the industrial revolution to prepare the next generation to be better workforce. Have the educational system changed much since then?

      We are at a different stage now with Artificial Intelligence adding fuel to the fire. Where is the exit for a better education? Can AI play a role in enhancing education, and if so, how? These are complex issues that require careful consideration.

      On another note, global inequality is on the rise, let alone bringing equal learning opportunities to disadvantaged regions. For areas that’s suffering from hunger, war, and disease. They certainly deserve the decency for food, peace, health, and education. How could AI contribute to this change?

      AI has the potential to make education more accessible and personalized, leveraging technologies like online platforms, adaptive learning systems, and intelligent tutoring. It can help bridge the gap by providing educational resources, mentorship, and support to students in underserved areas, thereby empowering them to overcome obstacles and achieve their potential.

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  65. Trista Ding

    To be honest, I do not know and I felt lost. I do not know if “broken” is the right word for the education marketplace. I’ve been working in the public school system in BC for 5 years and I just feel the flow of the money seems so translucent. There is so much I do not know, such as how much funding we’re getting, why some funding got cut, why some resources were purchased, etc. What resonated with me the most in this week’s reading was the statement that the larger the price tag, the farther the decision-maker is away from the classroom and students. But how they made the decision, I do not know. There are many political, institutional, and corporate factors behind the current financial situation in the education marketplace regarding the public school system, and I do not know how to “fix” these layers of problems. It is hard to say that the money would be spent more wisely if the decisions are made by the front-line teachers since everyone’s practice can be so different and keeping consistency for the students would be a problem. It seems impossible to find the perfect solution, and I’d love to see ways to simply make it better.

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    1. Nick Robitaille

      Hey Trista, I think you raise some interesting points. I currently work in an independent school where I have relative freedom with a budget that I am allocated each year. However, as you mention, this model where decisions are made on the front-line of education is not necessarily the perfect solution either, as an individual teacher’s priorities for resources may not align with other teachers in the school or made not even be well informed. Beyond that, opportunities to save funds through larger bulk purchasing agreements might be lost in this model even if each individual teachers ends up buying similar resources anyways.

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    2. carina losito

      Hi Trista,
      I can empathize with your feelings regarding all of the factors complicating the education system/marketplace. In my 14 years teaching in elementary schools in BC I have experienced many programs that were purchased because they were mandated by the ministry or the district (the distant decision-maker with little-to-no time spent in classrooms). They often involved Pro-D and many hours invested by educators to master using them in the classroom and adapt their use to the needs of the individual students in a real classroom. The lifespan of these mandated programs was not long, and more often than not they were replaced within a few years by a newer trendy mandated program. I’ve also experienced the freedom teacher-sourced resources bring to education. It certainly allows teachers to take the needs of their students into consideration and choose materials suited to those needs. However, as Nick mentioned, leaving educational purchases up to individual teachers can be problematic, as well. During my time teaching in one particular school we moved from a mandated set of textbooks/workbooks/programs to much more individualized programs left up to the teachers in each grade group. We found that there was a real lack of continuity from one grade level to the next. Students had to get used to new programs, terminology, and formatting each year. In some subject areas there was unnecessary repetition and in others there were noticeable learning gaps emerging. Staff members even met to create continuums to ensure, for example, that writing skills were taught from K-7 in a logical progression that flowed from one grade to the next, even if teachers were making separate puchases of learning resoures/materials. In the end, administration returned to a few mandated programs from K-7 in order to ensure continuity. It’s a complex issue. I wouldn’t say that the education marketplace is broken, but I would say that it is in need of some real transformation.

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  66. Mike Olynyk

    I think the question itself leads to a common issue which is the definition for learning can be quite vague. I think this is where data for learning can be very useful. It is so difficult to sift and work through all of the different learning technologies that exist and so often tools are selected because they look fancy or shiny and utilize the newest technologies but they are often not grounded in what I think is the most important aspect which is whether or not they improve student learning. This is somewhat controversial of course because in order for a tool to be able to demonstrate it affects learning in a positive way their needs to be some baseline testing and then follow-up testing. Lately, and for some good reason, as a society we are starting to move away from standardized testing (the BC government did away with provincial exams). But if we have no standardized measure of monitoring student learning how are we supposed to properly evaluate these tools. Now with data tracking and access becoming so much simpler for both teachers, schools and administrators we need to find ways to capitalize on the wealth of data we have to enhance student learning. Big data has been used in the past to criticize certain schools/districts when in my opinion it should help drive allocation of funding to schools/districts that need it most.

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    1. zheng xiong

      Hi Mike, you voiced “the definition for learning can be quite vague”. I echo your thoughts, perhaps you are coming from the ground that learning could be formal and informal. In my opinion, I find a lot of social learning occurs in informal contexts. For example, when kids learn how to share and have fun together in the playground. In my opinion, learning-by-doing is what makes learning more effective and engaging. The same applies to when learners interact with learning technologies, like Minecraft allows learners to create their own story and character. The sense of ownership drives learner further ahead and become more engaged.

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  67. Richard Derksen

    Of the barriers listed, institutional barriers stand out as the elephant in the room for the adult education space. I would not necessarily describe the allocation of resources as intelligent or effective money for large organizations that seemingly have a wealth of resources at their disposal. One of the largest hindrances to this, in my experience, is a default for individual teams or departments to work in silos. It is not due to the lack of communities of practice, but there is an apparent absence of discussion in those communities on which eLearning technologies are effective and if subscription-based programs can be leveraged by multiple departments.

    As stated in the readings this week higher education and adult learning typically use their purchasing power to buy specific programs or an academic brand. I would be curious to know if those same institutions and organizations communicate internally on a regular basis as to how many eLearning technology programs they own, if they have multiple subscriptions of the same program, and if they have discussions on if those eLearning technologies can contribute to a larger ecosystem.

    It reminds me of the Netflix model, where they have recently cracked down on password sharing to maximize the number of subscriptions. In the post secondary and adult education space, it sometimes feels like the opposite is happening for eLearning technologies that already allow for sharing of accounts. I think a change in mindset is needed for the defined customer to work more collaboratively within their organizations to evaluate the programs they purchase. Leveraging buying power and asking questions about efficiency, accessibility and connectivity is one small suggestion into “fixing” and largely broken marketplace.

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    1. helena wright

      I agree, one of the largest challenges is communication between departments, faculty, etc.. and having silos in educational spaces. In one of my previous courses, this was a hot topic of conversation and essentially different programs and departments have their own funding budgets that make cross-functional collaboration extremely challenging. A good example of this is the MET program which is (if I’m not mistaken) primarily funded by student tuition, meaning that it’s operating pretty independently.

      In my own undergrad experience, I felt like there was much opportunity for collaboration between different departments like art and business, to create really cool venture projects, but because things were so segregated – it made that collaboration especially challenging.

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  68. zheng xiong

    Speaking from an international student perspective. I think the Chinese education marketplace is broken. A recent example is when the Chinese government imposed restrictions on for-profit tutoring industry in July 2021. Particularly in the areas of compulsory education (grades 1-9). This affected millions of small and large businesses, including the very well-known and multimillion company – New Oriental Education & Technology Group Inc.

    In my humble opinion, this decision was made primarily for political purposes. Because it explicitly restricts on foreign investment in tutoring companies, limiting their involvement in the sector. Compounding with the fact the Chinese government also limited the issue of passport and hold off passport application. It was obvious that the authority want to centralize, regulate, and maneuver the educational system.

    The market is broken because it’s not market-oriented nor student-centred. The current educational market is fairly top-down, also indicating gaps between buyers and end users. In other words, the buyers may never actually use the material and technologies that is bought.

    A big question mark on how to fix this broken market. I don’t think commoners like me have one or two solutions to change the centralized market plan. What I do propose to cope with the centralized and political educational environment is critically think and choose your own learning content and platforms. It’s probably hard to escape from the top-down dynamic, but as long as the internet is alive and viable. Utilize multiple learning resources, and leverage other open learning resources to facilitate learning outside of the ‘safe net’.

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  69. maurice broschart

    Is the education marketplace broken? YES – In my current school: a private school in Hong Kong yes… money is not flowing “intelligently and effectively to fulfill the mission of learning”. Our school is governed, as many (all ?) private institutions are, by a Board of Governors. This board is comprised of wealthy individuals, who, are all disconnected from the world of Education. This group runs the show and the educators (the true specialists and experts) are at the very bottom of the decision making. In addition to this, the accounting department pinches money from many aspects of our daily lives. Recently, there has been a budget crackdown on printing costs and we have had to spend many meetings as well as respond to many emails about printing issues.
    Solution: an increase in teachers’ power and voice in decision making and increased transparency on how our school is operating… Who are these people and why are they choices and voices making my job more difficult?

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  70. haejin01

    It varies from country to country and working environment. Middle and High schools in South Korea follow the Ministry of Education, and we use textbooks. According to the educational goals in the books, teachers can autonomously prepare activities and develop tests related to learning goals. Most programs for students are ready in schools, and the Ministry of Education supports students and teachers. As a certified and qualified teacher, I agree with this.
    On the other hand, kindergartens and elementary schools in Sydney and Vancouver did not use textbooks, so I prepared and developed activities according to the learning goals, and the children and I had a pleasant time. Therefore, it is case by case. There will be barriers, but teachers can choose the schools they want to work in.

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  71. Nick Robitaille

    This discussion poses an interesting question. Having worked exclusively in private education, I can only speak from this perspective. Currently I work in a not-for-profit independent school that is controlled by a board of volunteer governors taking on various roles. At this school I am given the opportunity to pitch an annual budget for my K-5 STEM program to the finance department. Once the budget is approved/adjusted, I have a reasonable level of autonomy over how my budget is used. Similarly, grade-levels at my school have a budget and are able to allocate the finances as they see fit throughout the year. This system allows for me to seek out the resources I need, when I need them without needing to go through a lengthy process of asking for things and waiting for the chain of command to approve or decline the request. This freedom allows me to make timely choices about the program and what resources I feel are needed. On the flip side, I can also see how this system can also contribute to ill informed, redundant or unnecessary purchases. When I first arrived at the school I was shocked to discover huge stock piles of resources in various classroom and cupboards that did not really seem to be in use of connected to any particular grade or teacher. These “ghost” resources, turned out to be resources past teachers had purchased and when they had left the school, other teachers may not have wanted them and/or were unaware of their existence or their potential. Because of this, I see the financial freedom at my school as being a double-edged sword. While it gives teachers the means through which to purchase resources they feel as beneficial to their teaching without any yellow-tape, the lack of oversight means that there are certain levels of financial waste. Beyond that, while I appreciate having control over my program’s finances, I do recognize that the resources I believe are the most beneficial might differ from another professional with a different perspective and experience. Because of this, I feel though certain purchasing decisions should be made as a team of educators rather than simply a free-for-all style.

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  72. helena wright

    I think I can echo what is already being said here. During the pandemic, I worked as a TA at a large University in Ontario. Despite being well-funded, and having access to technical support and resources, everybody was still scrambling. The professors that acted fast and put a learning plan into place were the ones who had experimented with technology to some degree prior to the shutdowns taking place. For example, a professor did “hybrid” classes for a 1-hour tutorial so that students didn’t need to commute to campus for only one hour. She was doing this well before the restrictions were in place and did it to make the lives of the students easier. For each class she had a volunteer moderate the Zoom room as well as a microphone that bluetoothed to the computer. She would pass that microphone around the room when students had questions and were sure to deliver the same teaching experience online as one would expect in person. Instructors like her were already very familiar with online teaching and educational platforms that could be leveraged to support students. She found the transition to online teaching incredibly easy and already set the students up with the support needed to be able to use the technology. This demonstrates how instructor knowledge of technology/ed-tech tools was one of the largest deciding factors between success and failure post-initial shutdown.

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  73. helena wright

    I do think education is broken, partly because it so deeply values traditionalism and legacy. Educational institutions, especially universities like Ivy Leagues, cling to the past and continue to prioritize their legacy above innovation and experimentation – this is inclusive of educational tools as well. I previously wrote a case study about Blackboard the LMS, and did a comparison between several universities in Southern Ontario and when they transitioned away from Blackboard towards a cloud-based LMS system. Throughout that research, I found that Blackboard was considered a legacy tool, meaning it was a tool that everyone recognized was no longer serving them the purpose that they needed, however, it was the tool that had been used for so long that some universities continued to use it regardless of it no longer being the best option. Despite many universities recognizing that Blackboard had become an outdated technology, many continue to use it well into the late 2010s which was after considerable advancements were made with cloud-based systems.

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  74. sacree

    Broken, or not? This is a challenging question to answer without access to and study of the many different systems and processes that are part of the education marketplace. I agree with the several posts I read above that describe the stockpiling of unused resources, the potential tampering of boards and individuals who have biases and agendas, and the difficulties of organizations tracking and assessing the effective use of funds to promote learning. These are issues, just as they are in any business or political entity that must manage funds, acquisition, and development.

    Working in an independent school, I have the chance to see a greater degree of “free market” than perhaps public school districts encounter. Teachers are often involved in identifying needs and sourcing them in the marketplace. We have a relatively healthy board of governors who set direction but refrain from getting involved in operations. Our resource manager is excellent at identifying underused books and resources and selling them to suppliers while acquiring current materials. A common theme here is the right people with the appropriate authority to make educated and solid decisions. I believe our school, while certainly not perfect in managing money flow, is engaging with the education marketplace effectively.

    I think, however, that when dealing with the education marketplace on district and provincial levels, the term “broken” may apply more. When individuals are making decisions that affect a large organization’s interactions with the marketplace, individuals who are often not directly in touch with teachers and students and their needs, there is less intelligence in the flow of money. How can this be fixed? Not easily! The right people, decisionmakers who are directly in touch with the end users (teachers and students), are essential.

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    1. Jennie Jiang

      Hi Steve, I agree with your thoughts. It is very difficult to say if the marketplace is broken, because the marketplace is not simply based on supply and demand. I think from reading the comments above, and also my many years of experience working in the education industry, one of the biggest reason this industry may not be moving forward enough is due to what we read earlier this week – the fact that it is not the end-users that are designing the learning technologies, or making the purchases, and yet it is not painful enough for students or educators to demand a change. Oftentimes the decision maker on resource allocation, or major purchases for educational needs are far away from teachers or students, and the decisions are incredibly political. Students are rarely involved in a big purchasing decision for big institutions. Furthermore, those that create the educational technology and write the programs often depend on institutions for improvements and solutions. This involves the hard work of many software programmers and school administrators, but again, little number of students and teachers are involved for public institutions. It is very difficult to define what “good education” is now. Is it always guaranteed a Masters or PhD degree ensures a good job today? Does it matter if you study liberal Arts or something in STEM? Students are moving through the education industry the same way they’ve been moving through the system decades ago, and it simply does not impact the institution enough if they do not make big changes. It was embarrassing to see the industry scramble during the COVID 19 online implementation. I do hope policy and decision makers are starting to see the change that is needed, and start to think ahead instead of only being responsive to immediate needs.

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    2. Daniel Edwards

      Hey Steve,
      I think my school setting I am at is similar to you, with funds being more freely available to the teachers. However, a school that was more of a public setting I worked at before had these potential broken issues, like you and Jennie mentioned, with the larger funds being managed by those outside of the classroom and these funds not effecting the end users very much.
      It reminds me of usability and Woolgar’s argument that users will always be configured by the technology in some way (1990). However, it is necessary to find tools that work with the users appropriately.

      Woolgar, S. (1990). Configuring the user: The case of usability trials. The Sociological Review, 38(1, Suppl.), S58-S99.

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  75. delapena

    Upon reading the various posts about this question, I would be curious to take all of these and put it into a graph. I think it would be interesting to see who is for, in the middle, or against? However, I don’t believe the numbers would quite accurately answer the question.

    I don’t believe it is broken. As a teacher, I believe that I have the autonomy to search and test what is out there in the market. If I find value in the product that can fulfill the mission of learning, then I feel the market isn’t broken. As educators in the 21’st century, we’re always trying to find something new, and the marketplace is the best place to see and try the latest things out there. Autonomy is a word that always stuck to me and if that can help me complete the mission of learning (and still incorporating the big ideas and competencies in my subject area) then I believe it isn’t broken. At the end of the day, the student still has to use something to enhance their learning and understanding. Whether that be a textbook, a computer, etc., the mission of learning needs to be accomplished.

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  76. aturpin

    Is the education marketplace broken? The EXTREME short answer: no. The longer answer, well, that’s where we get more complicated. Looking at the discussion posts here, there are so many perspectives from so many parts of the world, each coming from different eras (so many things changed surrounding the pandemic). I feel I cannot accurately answer this question without speaking from personal experience. I teach in a middle class area in Burnaby BC (just outside of Vancouver for those of you that may not be familiar). Realistically speaking, I have never found myself totally down and out in terms of a variety of tools, resources, and other various forms of technology within the, as it has been called here, “educational marketplace”. Through resources such as Teachers pay Teachers, and even various pages on social media such as Facebook, teachers are able to share resources with each other within the curricular realm. People continue to mention corporate intervention where, let’s face it, the main goal is to earn a buck without really making an actually valuable contribution. Don’t misunderstand, I have witnessed the so-called “corporations” attempting to intervene, just to get their share of the financial pie that is educational resources. There is money to be spent and money to be made. I myself have spent WAY TOO MUCH of my own money for my own classroom resources. The main reason for that is that I have become inspired when I go to the right resources, the right areas of the marketplace. The world is entering a very difficult economic time, and everyone knows that the “head honchos” will do everything they can to keep their wealth and continue to get wealthy off of the little guys. But as long as the right people keep on contributing to the educational marketplace, it will continue to be fruitful and resourceful, and those that require those resources (which, let’s face it, is ALL of us teachers at various points in our careers) will always be available, and more importantly, of great use to both teachers and students.

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    1. Nik Ottenbreit

      Well said! I too have never experienced a lack in the variety of resources in the educational marketplace. That being said, it is rather bothersome when I find a valuable online resource that requires payment. You mentioned Teachers pay Teachers; a site that I have had much success in finding resources, but often at a cost. People in previous posts mentioned the abundance of useful interactive resources (eg. mentimenter, kahoot) that are great, but to be used to their full potential, one must subscribe. Thinking about these things made me think it could be valuable for individual teachers to have a small budget that goes towards these types of subscriptions and/or small TPT-type purchases. A collective budget is useful for certain resources, but it doesn’t take into consideration the unique and autonomous teaching styles of the individual teacher.

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  77. Andrew

    Is it broken or congested?

    Choosing how to quantify this statement seemed impossible, even after reading a multitude of thoughtful comments offering research, opinions, and ideas. Key highlights within that resonate with me are:

    – Customers want something, not always knowing what they need.
    – Large (and public) organizations adopt change slowly.
    – The flow of money is highly variable.
    – Technology, as a whole, has made some huge advancements.

    Decorated economics professor, Alvin Roth, once defined a congested market as a market that, “get(s) too thick too fast: there are heaps of potential players, but not enough time for transactions to be made, accepted, or rejected effectively” (Nobel). I interpret the highlights to align closely with this idea.

    Will it break? There is more money invested, more types of technology, and more general adoption of EdTech than ever (this includes technology that does not sit on the leading edge of innovation). Since the beginning of these responses, significant advancements have been made in the power and accessibility of new tools, opening up a variety of opportunities. If a majority of educational markets remain bottlenecked and systems can’t refresh their tools parallel (or close) to the pace of market change, then what incentive is there to continue to develop them?

    Finally, I want to consider the many comments that reference the merger or acquisitions of large companies (e.g., small tutoring business bought by larger, or edX being bought by 2U). Does this slow or increase innovation and to what extent does that impact the future of the market?

    Nobel, Carmen. “How to Fix a Broken Marketplace”. Harvard Business School Working Knowledge. Nov 8. 2010 . https://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/how-to-fix-a-broken-marketplace. Accessed Jan 19. 2024.

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    1. Rich

      Hi Andrew, great thoughts here, love the definition of a congested market by Alvin Roth. My observation to give one answer to your excellent question here:

      “Finally, I want to consider the many comments that reference the merger or acquisitions of large companies (e.g., small tutoring business bought by larger, or edX being bought by 2U). Does this slow or increase innovation and to what extent does that impact the future of the market?”

      I would say that tech acquisitions (which we have seen a ton of in recent years) decrease innovation, but increase the prevalence of application usage. Microsoft is a great example of a cash rich big tech gobbling up innovative start ups. Here is an example of an EdTech acquisition. https://www.investopedia.com/microsoft-msft-acquires-edtech-platform-takelessons-5201210 So Microsoft can expand its ecosystem of offerings into its 0365 suite which already has most of the large education customers that are difficult to acquire (as discussed this week in our readings). At first the Microsoft package offers new acquisition services for ‘free’ to destroy competition, but gradually the overall service package subscription fees grow. For a large institution, it is easier to justify that the huge suite of SaaS product that they already rely on for so many things has raised their subscription fee, they essentially have no choice but to pay. But it is much harder for an institution to vet, prove and justify the expense of a new smaller focused software. This seems to be the trend, the pipeline of innovation comes organically from the venture start ups, and if successful get acquired into a bigger customer ecosystem. On one hand some believe the techs in this regard have become oligopolies stifling small business innovation and eating their market, on the other hand, the cash rich giants offer a great reward for start ups who can prove themselves successful.

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  78. C DeFazio

    Navigating the education system and suggesting if the marketplace is broken is definitely challenging. I grapple with the realization that financial resources often get met with obstacles on the journey through the public school system. Currently, I work in the independent system as we face our own challenges but my sister and many of my colleagues work in the public sphere. I often hear the criticism from teachers who are challenged with so many restrictions due to budgets who are eager to use specific resources for the benefit of their students but are unable to do so. Even well-researched and compelling cases seem to fall on deaf ears in the face of such rigid structures.

    Using what we have for educating our students seems like a good idea, but it gets tricky when the things we have are old or not useful anymore and today it seems that resources and programs become outdated so quickly. It becomes frustrating when I imagine a school system where new and important ideas and programs aren’t so stuck because of too many rules and politics. If we can picture a world where companies were to compete to give the best materials for the lowest prices, I think our schools would be in such a better place. In this system, teachers should have more say in picking what helps their students learn. Right now, there are too many issues that get in the way with being able to get what we want. We need a system where everyone focuses on making sure students get the best education possible, period. It’s like opening up a big market for education, where good ideas and tools can compete to make schools better. That way, we make sure our schools are preparing students for the future in the best way possible.

    In this setting, educators should play a more active role, being the middle person between the educational content providers and the young minds they nurture. The teacher’s pivotal role should not be overshadowed by restrictive policies; instead, they should be empowered to choose the most effective tools and resources for their students. At its core, the focus of our education system must pivot towards delivering the best possible outcomes for the students who represent the architects of our future. Rather than being entangled in exclusivity deals, the education landscape should evolve into an open marketplace fostering transparency, adaptability and a genuine cmmitment to placing students at the forefront. Only then can we truly go where our educational institutions are dedicated to equipping the leaders of tomorrow with the tools they need to succeed in an ever-evolving world.

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  79. nstokes1

    Is the educational marketplace broken? I do not know if I have a full answer to this yet but the more I learn about the business end of the educational field I think it will become much more evident how we need to fix what is missing or broken. I have experienced so many days where I could not believe that my school had invested thousands upon thousands of dollars into a technological tool that was not effective in my classroom. The amount of free resources and tools that were created by individual teachers that were well thought out, effective, and engaging were usually not respected nor implemented because they did not have the clout that many educational technology development companies probably have. I believe that the rise in tools like teachers pay teachers or twinkl are just a small example of when teachers are in the drivers seat for developing tools that actual teachers can use in the classroom. When people outside of the classroom, let alone outside of the field of education, build a tool for what they think teachers would need it creates a gap between what we could use and what is being created. I think it is slowly getting better as more teachers breach the field of development, however courses like this one show us that there are teachers and educational professionals who want to get into the drivers seat.

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    1. sam

      Your post made me consider an education simulation and technology conference I recently attended. Within the conference, they noted that introducing technology in classrooms is not as simple as buying a technology and implementing it into the classroom. The specified that there are multiple factors that need to be considered within the purchase, including software, hardware (low quality or the wrong software can drastically and negatively impact the outcome), maintenance (time, fees, personnel), quality and quantity of collected data that is used for the software. Also, a argument was that sometimes the 80% solution that is created is more effective and efficient than having a program designed specifically for individual needs (which can take years and can be outdated prior to implementation). I think that these elements are often not considered, which cause the educational technologies that are invested in to be less effective. Basically, the product is only as good as its weakest element and that can come across as the entire product being a waste of money. Within my work, based on how contracts work, I sometimes feel like technologies are pieced together – which is fine if effort is placed into their integration. So, not necessarily broken, but efficient and effective? Definitely not.

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  80. Rich

    Is the education marketplace broken? This is such a broad question that I will on focus my answer solely on the Canadian public education sector which is where my experience is. No, I do not believe the marketplace is broken if the metric is on fulfilling student learning outcomes. I think in k-12 we have excellent, well compensated, passionate, professional teachers, modern curriculum and many forward thinking administrators who champion technology and do their best to carry out an inclusive environment that doesn’t leave students behind. On the other hand, there is a disconnect higher up with the governments in all provinces as far as I can see, especially in areas with fast population growth, they have not planned properly to build enough schools. Many schools are well over 100% capacity and many are old and surrounded by portables. When we build a new school it seems to be overflowing with students and needing more portables on day one. This seems to be incredibly poor long term planning and very unintelligent investing from governments in this ‘rich’ country.

    In the post-secondary sector, again, we have some of the finest universities and technical institutes in the world that do outstanding work. The financial mismanagement however, in 2024 is undeniable. There are so many universities across the country in the red running unsustainable financial deficits. Many blame ever growing administrations and student services, a lack of enough funding from the government and in some cases tuition caps. It is complicated problem to fix, but I do believe the question in this forum states it perfectly “there are far too many political, corporate, institutional, and ideological barriers in place to allow free market forces to ‘correct’ things”.

    So while I think we need to get our financial house in order (post-sec) and governments need to plan better and invest for population growth (k-12), I don’t think our education marketplace is broken when it comes to the more granular level for students, educators and outcomes. I think there is room for technology to help in terms of data collection and analysis for decision making and capturing achievement metrics to make sure “that money flows intelligently and effectively”.

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