Edtech is surging, and parents have some notes

Parents reflect on the past few months of remote learning.


Unlike most sectors, edtech has been booming over the last few months. Flashcards startup Quizlet is now a unicorn, digital textbook company Top Hat is finding unprecedented surges in usage and student success business Edsights raised nearly $2 million from high-profile investors, all from inbound interest. Investors are so confident that homeschooling might become a trend that they just invested $3.7 million in Primer, which creates a “full-stack infrastructure” to help parents get started.


But as tired parents juggle work, family and sanity all day, nearly every day, they say edtech is not a remedy for all education gaps right now.


Parents across all income groups are struggling with homeschooling.


“Our mental health is like whack-a-mole,” said Lisa Walker, the vice president of brand and corporate marketing at Fuze. Walker, who lives in Boston but has relocated to Vermont for the pandemic, has two kids, ages 10 and 13. “One person is having a good day. One person is having a bad day, and we’re just going throughout the family to see who needs help.”


Socioeconomically disadvantaged families have it even worse because resources are strapped and parents often have to work multiple jobs to afford food to put on the table.


One major issue for parents is balancing a decrease in live learning with an uptick in “do it at your own pace” learning.


Walker says she is frustrated by the limited amount of live interaction that her 10-year-old has with teachers and classmates each day. Once the one hour of live learning is done, the rest of the school day looks like him sitting in front of a computer. Think pre-recorded videos, followed up by an online quiz, capped with doing homework on a Google doc.


Asynchronous learning is complicated because, while it is not interactive, it is more inclusive of all socioeconomic backgrounds, Walker said. If all learning material is pre-recorded, households that have more kids than computers are less stressed to make the 8 a.m. science class, and can fit in lessons by taking turns.


“Even though I know there’s a lot of video fatigue out there, I would love there to be more live learning,” Walker said. “Tech is both part of the problem and part of the solution.”


TraLiza King, a single mother living in Atlanta who works full time as a senior tax manager for PWC, points out the downside of live video instruction when it comes to working with younger children.


One challenge is overseeing her four-year-old’s Zoom calls. King needs to be available to help her daughter, Zoe, use the platform, which isn’t intuitive for kids at that age. She helps Zoe log on and off and mute when appropriate so instruction can go on inte