02/07/2014 03:17 pm ET Updated Apr 08, 2014

While Choosers Aren't Users, the EdTech Disruption Will Take a Different Path

Digital disruption of familiar industries has taken an almost familiar path - consumer expectations begin to vary from the traditional delivery of a supplier. And into that gap, there comes the upstarts, who base their products and services on the expectations of the consumer, and not the legacy habits of the supplier.

So music, newspapers, TV, and lots of others, have begun to, or have already, changed radically, offering new kinds of content, packaged in new, digital ways.

Many assume the education market will follow the same path - the traditional school model will become increasingly irrelevant as upstart companies provide new tools for learning and collaboration amongst pupils and for monitoring consumption, understanding and achievement amongst teachers.

But in the education, the model isn't quite so simple - the supply chain may well be made of of incumbents and upstarts, but their users are not their choosers. Pupils are the ones at the end of the supply chain, but they rarely may the choices surrounding their education. As they get older, they have a greater say, of course, on their secondary education, but their input is far bigger on the details (which subjects) rather than the basics (which school).

The chooser is, of course, usually the parent, and their choices are clouded by other issues than just the mechanics of lesson delivery - they want to know their child is safe, is in the expected location, surrounded by his or her peers and learning social and physical skills too. In terms of the disruption of the market, parents will often be a conservative influence, their choices coloured more by their own education than by the possibilities of digital.

In short, education is not the 'pure' market of, for example, music, where music fans found new ways to avail themselves of what they wanted. A sort of digital literacy is missing in education where parents need to be able to assess models of education and products which they will never use. And while a guiding hand is available from the likes of GEDB, the kind of digital maturity which would enable true transformation is still some way away.