Y'all Are About To Lose The Most Important Resource You Have In Ed-Tech

I fully get that I’m biased here, but I also have a unique view into the world of ed-tech. I’ve watched my partner in crime Audrey Watters (@audreywatters) dedicate herself to understanding the world of education technology over the last eight years. You can read her work on Hack Education, but it really is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to her research, and the valuable information she produces each year for the ed-tech space.

Her weekly round-ups pull together all of the most relevant signals that occur each week, pulling all the links together into a weekly roundup, and resulting email newsletter. Her research goes back to June 2010, and is something she has faithfully tackled each week, with over 250 email newsletters in the inbox. Audrey does all of this unpaid, and out of her passion for understanding what is going on, and providing the community with an understanding of the landscape.

Her regular research is all available on Github, with a variety of projects ranging from watching the conversation around robots, all the way to detailed funding information that is driving ed-tech investment. All available on Github, in lightweight web standards, and machine readable formats whenever possible, allowing her work to be forked, downloaded and reused in other projects. Again, the majority of her research has been unfunded, and fueled only by her passion for understanding the positive and negative impact technology is having on our children.

What really blows my mind when it comes to her work, is the amount of energy she puts into her year end roundups, where she takes everything she has curated, written, and talked about over the year, and then publishes robust narratives regarding what has happened. Repeated every year since 2010:

  • 2017: The stories that were told this year included “fake news,” “the innovation gospel,” and “robots are coming for your jobs.”
  • 2016: Trends include for-profit higher education, personalization, and discrimination by design
  • 2015: Trends include online education, privacy, for-profit education, and activism via social media
  • 2014: Trends include outsourcing, social justice, data, and privacy
  • 2013: Trends include MOOCs, the Common Core State Standards, data, and privacy
  • 2012: Trends include MOOCs, learning-to-code, and the flipped classroom
  • 2011: Trends include Khan Academy, the iPad, and social media
  • 2010: Trends include the resurgence of ed-tech startups and ed-tech investment

Take a look at a couple of those years to get an idea for the scope involved. She spends the entire months of November and December working on these. I’m not talking 8 hour days, I’m talking non-stop, wake up until she goes to bed work, with breaks for eating. Again, all of this is unpaid. She does all of this because she cares about what is happening.

I watch all this work occur behind the scenes. I talk through a lot of this work with her over breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I see her work so hard, seven days a week. This is one of the reasons I’m always so pissed off when the lazy, ignorant waves of entrepreneurs come along each year and accuse her of just hating technology. They don’t see the scope of work, talk with her about what is happening, and then label her as a luddite bitch who is just in there way. These people bother me, but I get their motivations, and what they are looking to do. They are interested in making as much money off education as they can, and she is in their way.

While those people bother me, what really grinds my gears is all of the people who benefit from her work, and tend to also care about the ed-tech space, but do not support her work. There are many people who donate to what she does. Thank you. However, there are many, many, many people who have pools of money for some pretty meaningless things, benefit from what she does, yet do not support her work. There is nobody doing what Audrey does in the space. She produces an enormous amount of useful work each week, and each year, all without their help or investment. She has spent thousands of unpaid hours, while other folks in the ed-tech space enjoy fat six figure salaries, and take her work for granted.

I’ll let you in on a secret. She’s burning out. Each year end round up gets harder and harder, the bullshit gets thicker, the trolls keep trolling, and I’m guessing she has maybe one, maybe two more years left in her. Ideally, someone should be paying her 100K for her year end roundup work to continue. Someone should fund it entirely, or a handful of people and organizations should come together and make sure it is properly funded, or it is going to go away. The lack of funding for her work really reflects the ed-tech space in my opinion, where only a handful of people truly care about the space, while the majority are either just looking to sell things to the space, and have convinced themselves they care, with the rest are just mindlessly repeating the marketing bullshit that gets passed around by those in control. Honestly, I’m looking forward to post Hack Education days, but I actually get what the space will be losing when all of this ends. It makes me sad. It makes me mad. That y’all would just let this happen.