We should always ask how the use of any particular edtech helps the learner and educator. Sadly, most of the edtech I have seen over the last 25 years appears to do little for either, one reason so many educators are cynical about the promises of edtech creators and vendors.
Having been involved in the process of building edtech I can say that it’s complex and that on top of having a strong pedagogical basis, successful companies almost always have ‘POPE’ – Product Market Fit, Operational Excellence, Profit, and Evidence.
Getting the operational bit is complex, especially if you want to involve younger students in testing and development. An example of this can be seen in the legal problems facing an Australian company AKQA Pty Ltd, trading as Millipede. Millipede is ultimately part of UK-listed WPP plc
The story begins as Millipede wins a A$27m tender from the Australian Federal government to develop the primary school part of their Early Learning Languages Australia program (ELLA).
Little more than a year later and AKQA Australia are currently in the Melbourne Magistrates Court facing 48 charges brought by Wage Inspectorate Victoria. They allege that over a five-month period in 2021, AKQA employed 23 children aged under 15 for voice-overs and focus groups. In the UK kids can generally work part-time from the age of 13 (even younger in the entertainment industry if they have a Performance Licence ). This is not the case in Victoria where any child under 15 requires a mandatory Child Employment Permit that runs parallel with a mandatory code of practice for children working in the entertainment industry. AKQA faces potential fines per child of $18,174 (£10k) plus their legal costs (say £230k plus £100k in legal fees). Ouch! That’s an HR stuff up of epic proportions, even more so because had AKQA done this work in their Sydney, NSW office there would be no case to answer as there are no minimum age or permit requirements.
So even the international outposts of huge listed companies need a competent local HR person (or advisor) to avoid such basic missteps. In my experience HR is something most early stage companies ignore until they have to raise funds from smart investors; I have also seen mid-sized, established players with parlous HR systems.
One of the many reasons I left mainstream employment was the pernicious mission creep of HR within companies. Having experienced the blunt end, both as employee and employer, my view is that in many companies, HR has little to do with finding and retaining talent. Instead it is a risk mitigation office; a banking friend bitterly jests that HR teams are’ neither Human nor Resourceful’.
I feel sorry for AKAQ, but in edtech as elsewhere when you want to raise money or bid for funding you need to have all your legal and organisational stuff seriously sorted, otherwise you and your investors may get a nasty bite in the (financial) bum!