We don’t always know what we want, or what we’ll really use.

Visionaries can see what we want and create it – Steve Jobs and Apple obviously the leading choice for poster child in this category.

But there is a subtle difference between creating products that people should want vs. what they do want.

A lot of early Apple products were on the wrong side of this divide: the Lisa, the Newton. Mostly because the technology wasn’t good enough to fulfill the vision. And Apple didn’t have the discipline (then) to understand the difference and how it would impact sales.

Nokia had their fingers singed in a similar way; their Communicator from the late 90s really needed fast cellular internet to succeed and failed because of the cost and slow connections. When they created an iPhone-like device in the early 2000s management refused to build it because of the “lessons” learned with Communicator.

The first iPhone was barely good enough in many areas…internet (didn’t even have 3G!; brought down AT&T in NYC and SF for years!) the most glaring. But there was enough there…and we desperately wanted a truly smart smart-phone.

A lot of ed-tech software is dedicated to what programmers think teachers should want. Khan blew the doors off ed-tech because he created something that helped students directly. How many products can claim that? Does Blackboard help students? Not really…no LMS does, at least currently. Blackboard, for students, is the equivalent of a school desk: when you go to a f2f class you have to sit on something.

Currently much of the technology we create tries to add value around what administrators and faculty should do. The ed tech products that will truly change education have to focus on learners, advancing what they DO want, not what they should want.