“You can believe that tweets should be reserved for the birds; you can keep on being wary of those who like to discuss their last “google”; However, you cannot let bad experiences with technology prevent you from embracing an opportunity to help shape new educational technology!”
Beta Classroom, Team Captain Jennie Dougherty
Introduction to Beta Educational Technology and Beta-Testing
Beta Testing Lab, is a space where teachers from across the country find beta technology and enter into dialogue with ed. tech. companies. The feedback from Team Beta Classroom helps them see their products from the teacher’s perspective.
Our collaborations with ed. tech. companies (from entrepreneurs and to old school executives) are powerful. This power comes from their desire to help our students scale the difficult mountains we ascend each day; and our commitment to helping them understand what each step feels like.
Defining Beta Technology
Definition of “BETA” technology
(What we mean when we slap “BETA” onto something.)
+ “Beta” means that most core features are developed but that testing is not complete (both technical and ease of use) and that it is the first time the technology is used by people outside the company.
+ Some software (such as ClassDojo) is in ‘alpha’ mode, which is earlier than beta. This means that the software is not yet feature-complete, but the creators want to test the core functionality to make sure it is useful, and to determine which direction to build in next.
The Nature of “BETA” technology
1. The beta product might not exist after the beta period
e.g. overall feedback might not be positive and the startup decides to shut down or work on a totally different product.
2. The product may change drastically after the beta period and turn into something very different from what it was like when it was first being tested.
3. Everything could be going well, but the startup just shuts down. There is always a risk of this happening for a wide variety of reasons.
Section 1: Beneficial Behaviors and Mindsets
Preface: Startups are flexible, enforcing an expected structure has the potential to kill that advantage. Therefore, this section is simply a suggested way to work together.
Beneficial Practices for Teachers
+ Get excited about technology!
+ Recognize your potential to shape the technology for your own benefit and the benefit of other teachers and students.
+ Believe that startups care about helping you and your students
+ Think of yourself as a superhero helping to create classroom centered technology
+ Believe that technology has the potential to:
* make the teaching profession more sustainable
* help you and your students achieve your highest potential
+ Take advantage of the chance to speak with people who work tirelessly to make your life better
+ Provide feedback that includes specific examples and details about what works and what doesn’t work.
– think of high quality feedback as the most efficient way to scale your impact on education.
+ Be honest. The best feedback is honest feedback.
+ Respect the entrepreneur’s time and be aware of the premium placed on rapid technology innovation.
+ Remind yourself that beta technology is inherently imperfect.
+ Do not expect the entrepreneur or their technology to solve all of your problems; at least not right away…
+ Embrace technology and assume it has the potential to help you solve the pitfalls that you see first hand everyday.
+ Help promising startups partner with other teachers. (Share the love)
Section 2: What Worked
1. I was very clear about the needs of my students and did not question my ability or desire to get those needs fulfilled.
2. I saw how each startup, philanthropic foundation, angel investor, venture capitalist and/or pitch session could make a difference in the education of my students.
3. I thought of my relationship with startups as the best and most efficient way for me to scale my impact on education, without having to leave the front lines of the classroom!
4. I took the excitement that comes from recognizing a technology’s potential, and turned it into action! My actions included the following:
a.- created intensely detailed and thorough reviews of beta technology
b. – provided the startups with recorded “think aloud”/ “user tests”
(you can see one of these at betaclassroom.wordpress.com/full-technology-reviews/class-dojo-full-repor/)
c. – remained mission driven and focused on bringing technology into my classroom, which gave me every reason to provide each startup with the best feedback possible