1. A Rant About Ed-Tech Stories in Tech BlogsThe news hit Techcrunch first last night. I'm not sure it was an exclusive, per se, as Arrington's story on Instructure was followed this morning by stories in The Chronicle, Inside Higher Ed, and Campus Technology. But the news hit Techcrunch first, and as I read it, I had to laugh, as it really echoed an argument I've made before: if you are giving an exclusive to Techcrunch as an ed-tech startup, you're doing it wrong. The reasons are obvious, as the poverty of Arrington's analysis is striking. Why should we care about this new learning management system? Why will this new company succeed? According to Techcrunch, CEO John Coates has
been helping Nepalese refugees integrate into American society, and he's a big WWII buff. He purchased and restored a M18 Hellcat Tank Destroyer. You can see the restoration process here (he keeps it in his garage). And here's a video of his wife blowing the crap out of the side of a gravel pit. I like how Coates rolls. The guy has a fully operational M18 Hellcat Tank Destroyer in his garage."Of course! I spent the weekend with educators, and I can't tell you how many times I heard them say, "What we're really looking for as we rethink educational technologies is someone who is really into WWII tanks. Oh wait, yes I can tell you how many times: exactly zero. Actually, the number of times I heard the LMS discussed as an pressing issue for us to tackle as we rethink education and education technology was also zero. I'll come back to that in a minute. Even more than this silly fascination with the CEO's big gun, Arrington's article completely misses the mark. It fails to explain the lay-of-the-land of what the contemporary LMS space is like. It doesn't address the challenges that schools face when they move from Blackboard -- even if it it's something the students and professors want. It fails to refer to the numerous other companies that are already working to unseat Blackboard. And it neglects to mention that, with or without Instructure's "disruption," that Blackboard's share of the LMS market is already on the decline. But Techcrunch also seems to get the story quite wrong in terms of what Instructure actually announced. Instructure didn't launch last night. It launched in 2010 and has already run into legal battles with another LMS competitor Desire2Learn, who filed a lawsuit that the startup had been unfairly rewarded Utah university contracts. What the other major news stories in education blogs point out -- this isn't about a launch but about the release of Instructure's source code. It is the latter that makes Instructure somewhat intriguing as there are already several other open source learning management systems -- most notably Moodle and Sakai. Wired Campus cites Coates' description of these competitors: "Moodle is 'kind of kludgy'; Sakai is 'off in left field a little bit.'" What will Instructure mean for open source LMSs? Will it further fragment the developer community? And will that make Blackboard seem like the better solution? That's interesting and important. WWII tanks? Sorry, not so much.