The wave of Americans looking for more purpose-driven careers during the “Great Resignation” is causing a shift in workers from Big Tech to ed-tech, according to a leading education company.
The chance to make a direct impact on future generations appears to be the key for engineers, programmers and other specialists drawn to ed-tech. Greg Collins, who left a major cybersecurity firm last year to become Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s senior vice president of platform, says he was driven to solve problems for a different segment of society: students and educators.
“The pandemic has given a lot of professionals time to think, ‘Am I applying myself the way I want to?'” Collins says. “The problems we’re solving and the way we’re solving them is really attractive to tech professionals.”
Ed-tech companies are working to smooth the transitions teachers and students are having to make in a rapidly changing K-12 environment, he says. Teachers now have more tools to monitor their students’ progress more closely and the data generated removes any ambiguity about whether the learning programs are having the intended impact, Collins says. “What I saw was a confluence of activity that was making teachers’ jobs much much harder with an impact on students that was profound,” Collins says. “Those are problems tech can help solve.”
Software tools that provide data on students’ progress and highlight where interventions or enrichment are needed give teachers more time to focus on that direct instruction. Collins adds that he’s been fascinated by how quickly teachers and students have adopted new technology since the beginning of the pandemic when some struggled just to join a Zoom meeting.
“It has gone from, ‘How do I start a digital class?’ to ‘How can I overlay digital solutions in my class to change the way I teach?'” he says. “We’re seeing teachers customize quite a bit. We’re seeing teachers use a couple of dozen technologies to connect learning in that digital-in-person environment.”
Ed-tech companies are also having to respond to the massive increase in the number of computers in classrooms, says Alejandro Reyes, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s chief people officer. It is a sign of the long-anticipated convergence between schools having adequate tech capacity and the wide availability of advanced education software. “And there is a group of people who are searching for what technology is going to do for society, who want to see themselves reflected in the betterment of society,” Reyes says. “Ed-tech is directed at the future. It’s directed at children and it’s purpose-driven.”