Zap! Some #EdTech goes the way of Zaption

I really liked Zaption. I blogged about it. I used it to help guide learning with students and teachers. I recommended it to others.

Now it’s gone. Well, almost. Officially, it’s still going to hang around until Sept 30, according to their website.

Our desire to have an even greater impact on how the world learns is one of the many reasons we’re excited to join Workday. Workday serves some of the world’s largest organizations and educational institutions that are eager to have better, more engaging learning experiences. We are excited to expand our reach by rebuilding our technology as part of the fabric of Workday’s applications, including the highly anticipated Workday Learning. We can’t wait to show you what the future has in store.

“highly anticipated Workday Learning“… Highly anticipated, I’m sure by some. But not by me. I actually not anticipating it at all. I was quite happy with Zaption. But they did what small start-ups do. As a colleague said over lunch yesterday, “Isn’t that the dream? Build a small business and keep building until you can sell it off?”

I suppose it is the dream. I am not at all saying that Zaption has done anything wrong. They have done something that is inconvenient, but last I checked, my comfort isn’t their priority. Quite frankly, given the situation that the Zaption team was in, I have no evidence that I wouldn’t have made the exact same choices.

Besides that, this isn’t the first time this has happened. There’s been a variety of EdTech groups that have come and gone. Others have started free and switched to a variety of different paying models. (If Desmos ever does this, ug… the sorrow-filled blog post I will have to write then…)

There’s a basic conflict to this. Sustainability requires money. And if money isn’t going to come from the users, then it has to come from somewhere. These independent EdTech groups will need to get paid. They will either go under, get bought/sponsored by a large money source, or start charging their users. And it’s tough to say which. As Yogi Berra said, “Making predictions is always hard, especially when they’re about the future.”

This is why Google, Apple, and Microsoft are still the big dogs on the block. They aren’t getting purchased. It’s why when my local districts needed to revamp their math curricula, their final decision was between HMH, Pearson, and Holt. Pearson doesn’t get purchased. HMH isn’t going under. It’s what has kept Texas Instruments as the standard tech offering in so many math classrooms. They are safe. As enthusiastic as schools can sometimes talk about innovation, the risk tolerance is still pretty low in most cases.

And there’s safety in building your class materials on a platform that you are confident will be there when school starts in the fall.

But what can we learn from this? Well, Zaption was a particular application, yes. But they represented a type of learning, a type of engagement. There’s a vision for how students can interact with a certain bit of content. The vision isn’t broken and other things (EdPuzzle, for example) will provide what Zaption did. The value isn’t completely lost because the value wasn’t completely in the tools. It was in the lesson. It was in the learning. It was in the interactions the students had with you and with each other because of it. Tools come and go. Nothing lasts forever.

Zaption just reminded us of that.


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