Advice from my father: "You can do all the R&D you want designing the world's greatest dog food, but at the end of the day there's only one test that matters: Will the dogs eat it?"
In the Wild West that is the education software business, nearly every app I see fails that very simple test. Tens of thousands of man-hours of work, millions of dollars, and...? An app that teachers and students use grudgingly or not at all. Why? Because while it may be "powerful" and "flexible" and "based on years of research" it doesn't actually do what they need it to do. It doesn't help students learn about the world, and it doesn't help teachers facilitate this learning. What it does is create noise - additional tasks, additional steps and additional headache, usually around making the technology work. Technology-enabled classrooms run a very serious risk of becoming classes in Tech Support rather than in their stated subject.
Now, before you think me too arrogant or dismissive, let's get two things clear:
1. I think technology in the classroom is the cornerstone of a meaningful education
2. My company has just entered the fray with an education app, and this app may very well fail the dog food test
I'll defend my first point in more detail in another post, but let's underline the second. My team spent a year making the best, most helpful education app it could come up with. We sincerely believe that this app will help make education better. Specifically, we believe that it will give teachers and students the tools they need to make technology work for them rather than against them.
And we may be wrong.
That sentence was frightening to write, but also a bit invigorating. It's not often I feel like a peer of the big players in the space - Khan, Gates, Coursera, Pearson. But in this regard we're all in the same boat. We each gave it our best shot. We did our R&D and ran with our best ideas. And now all of us, great and small, stand behind our bowls of dog food, waiting.
Graham Porter, CEO
Thumbprint Educational Software Inc.