It seems like only yesterday we were looking for a Secondary school for E, yet here we are doing the rounds again looking at 6th Forms and discussing “A” level choices.
At a recent work experience in a Design Studio E had to develop a product and present it to the client. She was discussing this with a teacher of “A”level Business Studies. He said that to develop a successful product you had to listen to your customers. This struck me as such a text book answer that it showed that the teacher (and I say this with the greatest of respect – remember I was one) really had no idea about product innovation or entrepreneurship. Of course companies have to listen to their customers; indeed one educational company tries to claim this as unique to them. It isn’t – every company worth its salt listens to their customers. Not a day goes by when our R&D, not to mention customer service, sales and marketing are not chatting to customers, getting their feedback and ideas and putting everything into the melting pot that will help inform future products and services. So to try to sell yourself as the company that listens to teachers is pure guff.
But more than that, it stifles innovation. All that is produced is a slightly better/cheaper version of what is already on offer. If teachers using the blackboard had been asked how they could improve it they would probably choose a more appropriate background colour and less messy chalk: they would have come up with the whiteboard. But how many of them would have taken the imaginative step to the interactive whiteboard? A truly innovative product will be one that the customer never knew they wanted but the moment they have it they know they can’t live without it. As Henry Ford so eloquently put it “If I had asked my customers what they wanted they would have said a faster horse”!
When Turtle and then Roamer® were introduced they were truly innovative. They were the forerunners of the whole range of educational robots that you find today. They were a complete leap of imagination, but nowadays teachers recognise how much they help access difficult concepts, help pupils work things out and discover things for themselves, engage, motivate and excite while supporting different learning styles. The modern classroom would not be without an educational robot.
The new Roamer® (Roamer-Too) also takes an imaginative leap, providing a flexible learning tool that helps scaffold the child’s learning. It marries the latest technology with current understandings of how students learn.
Of course we listen to teachers, we listen to the problems they encounter every day, we listen to what limitations they face, we listen to their complaints about time, resources, behaviour, money… and then we find a solution. And while we do that they continue to educate, support and inspire the next generation. That’s called teamwork!