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Education & Technology: Now Is the Time – HotChalk CEO Edward Fields (Part 6)

Posted on Saturday, Apr 5th 2008

SM: How do you view the current market landscape today and going forward into the future?

EF: There are 3.2 million teachers teaching and many are headed out the door. Some are retiring, but almost all are fed up with increased demands and little support. 2.8 million teachers need to be recruited over the next eight years to meet education demands. These future teachers are students in universities who use Web 2.0 applications daily, so using a Web-based application is second nature. The high potential for adoption by these future educators is the foundation of our enterprise value. HotChalk’s product is simple and easy to use, so even less technologically-savvy teachers can get on board.

Looking ahead, HotChalk will assess partnership opportunities and consider funding opportunities to enhance our model. Our primary focus is to keep advocating for teachers, while increasing shareholder value by providing depth and value of services.

SM: What are your thoughts on the education technology market overall? Why is there so little activity and funding? It’s a vast and important segment operating under archaic assumptions. How do we turn it around?

EF: The market is relatively tough to crack due to its seasonal nature and the dysfunctional sales cycle which results in wary investors. We can turn this market around by taking care to understand the marketplace and who needs resources the most – namely teachers. Taking the time to listen, understand and adequately address this segment enables us to provide immediate value to our target market. Programs need to stop catering only to administration and IT professionals. This group often perpetuates the archaic assumptions you mention.

Initiatives need to demonstrate value at the outset. They must be easy-to-use and teacher/classroom friendly to encourage early adoption. Any teacher can sign up on HotChalk for free. In five minutes they will be able to view another teacher’s classroom materials and upload their own lesson plans and get feedback from other teachers. This ease-of-use, as well as other extensive resources available to educators, provides immediate value for the school.

SM: Have you given much thought about a potential exit?

EF: I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about the exit. We’re focused on making a meaningful impact on the lives of teachers to drive student results. Getting that right will drive sustainable shareholder value which is what our investors are most interested in.

SM: What have been the key lessons learned from this journey?

EF: Each technology market segment is unique and requires a fresh approach. What I discovered in education is that there are numerous constituencies locked in a dysfunctional state to a large extent because education has become so politicized. That must change in order for real reform and progress to occur. It’s time for us to remove politics from education and support teachers, making sure they are given the resources they need. How else can they equip our children with the tools they need to positively impact the 21st century? That is the question we are asking here.

This segment is part 6 in the series : Education & Technology: Now Is the Time - HotChalk CEO Edward Fields
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This interview was very helpful. Bottom line is that education innovations will not be coming out of the education establishment nor probably the investment community… So we have to coax the creative and risky ideas out through models like this, or other experimental approaches. We probably need an interdisciplinary lab/incubator to explore, experiment, and document. Is anyone doing this?

While reading, I thought of how HotChalk could become a platform for developing lots of networking and other tools, segmented by teaching/subject areas (math, science, languages, history, voc.ed., etc.) and also by student and parent interests. Surely they are already encouraging the development of these kinds of segments & groupings by their users… integrated with vertical searchability and other context, maybe this is something worth revisiting.

Mike Friday, May 23, 2008 at 6:19 PM PT