I expected to hate this NYT opinion piece. And this one. Before I even began reading, I was formulating counterarguments in my head.

But I’m often a fan of Jessica Grose’s writing. And I’ve been reading “The Scout Mindset” (and recommending it to anyone who will listen).

Sometimes when a writer is critical, you can get caught up in the parts they get wrong vs. seeing the parts they get right.

So I hit the pause button.

Sure, both articles paint “edtech” with a broad brush. Although she highlights positive examples, she doesn’t dig into some of the applications that I’m most excited about like the potential for VR to improve STEM outcomes in college and K-12; the impact of “talk tech” on early childhood development; on-demand, online tutoring; or the application of speech recognition to early literacy assessment.

But even as someone who believes deeply in the transformative potential of technology in education, much of her perspective resonates.

It is true that too much money is spent on technology with questionable or no efficacy.

It is true that “companies have [not] had to prove that devices or software, broadly speaking, helped students learn.”

I agree with Grose that “refram[ing]” the “conversation around tech in schools” is not only the right thing to do from a parent, policy, and pedagogical standpoint, but also because if we’re not “getting the results we want as a society,” the edtech sector can’t thrive either.

This will be unpopular, but a not insignificant portion of the blame for underwhelming outcomes should be laid at the feet of the edtech sector itself. The good news is that the sector is in, perhaps, the best position to do something about it.

Years ago, an early literacy company that I advised was awarded a significant contract with a major urban district. Just a few months-in, they saw very little usage. The product was well-researched and effective, and the company had invested heavily in thoughtful PD to support implementation.

Rather than blame the district or educators (and ride out the ‘partnership’ hoping that no one noticed), the CEO offered the district a partial refund: “Perhaps we were overly ambitious. Let’s get this right and make sure it’s working before we grow.” He found a partner in a district leader that led to a scaled-back, but ultimately successful initiative. It expanded over time. Outcomes improved.

I’ve seen that pattern play out before, and while it is not the norm, it represents the sort of restraint that is often closely correlated with long-term commercial success in edtech. It’s also just good business.

A growing number of organizations are now working to establish the underpinnings of a better-functioning market by forging collaboration and collecting data to help public sector decision makers better understand what works where and why. Foundation dollars have been poured into smart-demand efforts designed to better understand the needs of educators and support district decision-making. This is important work.

But beyond the systems and incentives, there is the issue of responsibility. Education businesses should be held – and hold themselves – to a higher bar. That means owning their role in outcomes. It might mean growing slower at times, or making investments in implementation that lower margins. That doesn’t mean that commercial success and educational outcomes are at odds.

Grose concluded her first piece with a clarion call to action. “If we don’t hit pause now and try to roll back some of the excesses, we’ll be doing our children — and society — a profound disservice.”

I’d urge the edtech sector to consider the same.

In the meantime, I’ll look forward to Grose’s next piece, which will cover “solutions to some of the problems posed by ed tech, and how we might create a future where we can minimize some of the most egregious hazards of distraction and invasion of privacy, and realize some of the potential of technology’s most fantastic educational promises.”