I don't remember where I heard this, but someone made a very good observation as to why educational software pales in comparison to the kind of experience kids get at home on their Xbox... the development budgets on the average video game are exponentially higher. So, kids can shoot bad guys with cutting edge graphics, but learning geometry takes them back to 1990.
So why not make educational plugins for Halo? Shoot bad guys with ellipses and paralell lines... or construct tanks by solving math problems with angles. God forbid kids might learn something and have fun at the same time.
The same is true about education and web applications--schools are getting left behind because of antiquated notions about what students should be exposed to.
Take Blackboard, for example. The company has made a huge business out of selling a content management system to schools as enterprise software. Schools pay thousands of dollars for installation and implementation of this education portal so that teachers can get their classes online.
Has anyone actually seen or used Blackboard? I've taught classes and I've tried to use it. Its awful. It looks like it was designed in 1998, and compared to the sites that most college students spend their time on, MySpace and the Facebook, its about as captivating as cafeteria food.
This is a market ripe for a lightweight, social web-app. Students would love to logon, get their homework, search the profiles of other students in their class, pair off in groups, like to MySpace profiles, etc.
The only problem is, schools are slow decision makers and they've already invested so much in Blackboard. So, for a product to go viral, it needs to be grassroots and free.
But free necessitates some kind of advertising, and that's where the party ends for an educational web app. Schools have gotten a lot of heat for bringing corporations anywhere near the classroom and so the market shys away from such a thing.
But this is hypocritical and unrealistic. Corporations sponsor athletic teams. They run ads in school newspapers. Plus, its not like schools have a monopoly on the eyeballs. What do you think students get exposed to when they head to the web or turn on their school cable? What about MySpace and the Facebook? These companies recognize that students are consumers, too, and there's no reason why they shouldn't be exposed to responsible advertising. The great thing about the web is that, unlike athletic sponsorship, students can tune it out and switch services when it gets to be too much for them.
A few people are out there trying to do online content management apps for education, and so far, none of those services have even approached the advertising model. I say why not. What's wrong with a tabbed portal where students log onto where they get their homework and travel deals for spring break in the same place? Its not like they're getting pop-ups in the middle of a history lesson. These are the kind of advertisements students actually want to get and its silly if they can't be used to support web applications that enhance learning a lot better than the clunky Blackboard enterprise software does.