- Education & Catastrophe
- Not Giving Parents What They Want
Not Giving Parents What They Want
Education & Catastrophe 36
Screenshot of a Doyobi class in the metaverse
In search of a mysterious treasure, learners set on an adventure and encounter a fearsome dragon who demands a trade of items equal in value to the treasure. Our intrepid adventurers explore and source for items they can trade, but alas! The townspeople show no interest, as these objects have no relevance or value to them. Can creativity and resourcefulness find a way? As learners experience the fun of barter and trade, they develop a deeper understanding of money as a currency and how the economy works.- Barter and Trade, the first Quest in a Doyobi Experience
I run a startup called Doyobi. We help kids learn skills through collaborative problem-solving in the metaverse. Skills like critical thinking, creativity, communication, citizenship etc. Skills that last a lifetime. Skills that help kids make their way in the world. Skills that prepare kids for jobs that don't yet exist.
Skills that parents don't care for.
After one year of marketing Doyobi to parents, it's quite clear that parents don't prioritise skills that robots cannot replace. It's not that they don't value these skills. Of course they want their kids to be critical thinkers and problem solvers. They just don't want their kids to invest the time to develop these skills. Kind of like me saying I want six-pack abs but I'd rather be drinking with friends than hitting the gym. Because kids have more important things to do with their time. Things like math tuition, science tuition, english tuition.
Because grades matter above all else.
Why are academic achievements so important? Because I was brought up being told to study hard, so same goes for my kids. Because my child needs to get into a good college to get a good job. Because everyone is sending their kids for tuition, my kid cannot lose out.
It's the same old rhetoric which, ironically, demonstrates parents' inability to think critically (precisely why we need to help kids learn critical thinking)!
It's a shame we struggle to change parents' mindset about the importance of grades versus skills. Because kids really like exploring the Doyobi metaverse, going on quests, solving problems together, and learning about topics ranging from bartering to biomimicry.
This week's post is about not giving parents what they want.
Foolhardy, perhaps. Let me explain.
It's very clear what parents want is better grades for their child. They will go to great lengths (both time and expense) to help their child perform better academically. As an edtech founder, the obvious thing to do is to build something parents want. Stressing about their child's academic achievements is a pain for parents, so build something that alleviates this pain.
We haven't done it so far because we don't believe academic success does anything to prepare kids for the future. A future where robotics and AI are prevalent. A future where most of the jobs in that future do not exist today. A future where the most valuable skills are skills machines cannot replace - skills like critical thinking, collaboration etc.
Instead of building a product that helps with academic performance, we chose to build something that helps kids learn transferable skills.
We built something (most) parents don't know they want (or need). Kids like it. Parents who sign their kids up for it like it. And we can see the transformation in kids. The quiet kid who now negotiates harder than anyone else on his team. The excitable kid who now thinks, analyses and organises his thoughts before he speaks. The shy kid who has taken up leadership roles in her community in the metaverse. It brings me great satisfaction observing kids in class, debating, collaborating, problem-solving, laughing, and learning.
The problem is that not enough parents sign up. We can't get to a meaningful scale at the rate we are acquiring new parents and students.
So dear readers, I would like your advice on what we should do.
Should we persist with the current product which kids like but parents don't appreciate?
Should we give parents what they want (academic help, but perhaps delivered in the metaverse so kids are actually engaged)?
Should we try selling the current product to schools?
Should we design quests around SDG topics like climate change and sell those to schools instead?
Should we go for the moonshot and build a platform that measures every learner's skill profile and creates a skill transcript for every young person? Valuable for the learner, but no obvious path to monetisation for us.
This is a lesson on not building something people want.
But what if what they want is not good for them? Do we let them have as much fries, burgers and soda as they like?
Would love to hear your thoughts.
If this essay resonates, you may want to check out issue 2 of Education & Catastrophe 'Playful Learning Promotes 21st Century Skills'.
If this was useful to you, please share it with your friends!
Till the next issue!