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Our editorial director Chris Piehler recently had the opportunity to sit down with Carmello the Science Fellow, founder and operator of three early education schools in New York, for a chat about how he finds new EdTech products and how he prefers to be approached by vendors.
Here are a few tips to help you be sure you’re putting your best foot forward when talking to potential clients in the early education arena.
Carmello said that as an educator—and particularly as the head of three preschools—he can’t afford to become complacent about the materials he offers his students.
“You always want to be as innovative as you can be as a pedagog and as an educator,” Carmello said. “And you always wanna meet best practices and try to give your kids the best experiences. So I am always a nerd at heart and I'm always researching things. While my wife might be on Twitter and Instagram and Facebook, what am I doing? I'm Googling new coding sets for two year olds.”
If you’re trying to reach educators, that’s good news. They’re trying to find you too. They want you to reach out—as long as you’re providing solutions and helping make their lives easier.
As a preschool leader, Carmello said that he is often looking for ways to build on a product and extend the learning it offers to children in younger grades. It’s difficult, for example, to find a classroom robot designed for children younger than five, according to Carmello, because younger students tend to break sensitive robot parts like motors.
“Computational teaching is key because you want to lay foundations when kids are young,” Carmello said.
“And if I'm saying it's that important and it's only my four [year-old students] that have it, well, that's not fair now because if I have three and two-year-olds, I need to make sure that they're getting that experience so that by the time they are four, they're that much more comfortable coding the robot.”
Even if your product is geared toward students in a particular grade band, it’s a good idea to understand how a teacher working with younger or older students might adapt use of that product to their own students.
“I do not have a model that I could incorporate and then scaffold up,” said Carmello. “I would absolutely love that.”
Sometimes it may feel like you’re just firing marketing emails off into the ether, never to be seen by human eyes, let alone a potential buyer, ever again. If you’re sending them to Carmello, however, not only are his eyes landing on them but he’s actually excited to receive them.
“You know,” Carmello said, “it's very rare that I get an email from a company saying, ‘Hey, we have this new, amazing, innovative product. Would you like a sample of it, or to hear more about it?’ A lot of the time I have to go out and do grassroots work to get that information. I wish it would happen more because if it were delivered to me, it just makes it that much easier for me to want to venture out and know more about what that product is.”
So don’t avoid cold emails. Just be sure what you’re sending is useful, not spammy.
If Carmello is any indication, your follow-up efforts on emails will pay off, as well.
“What I love,” Carmello explained,
“is after they send me some information about the product, so many times the company will say, ‘Would you like to get on Zoom or can we set up a call?,’ and to me, that's like a slam dunk because it's all about customer service and customer relationships. I know what my families want from me as an owner of a school, and I want the same thing from the people that are trying to sell me something. I don't want it to be just, you want my money? And then the minute I pay you, you're gone. You know, I wanna be able to call you if I have a question, if something's not working, I wanna be able to troubleshoot.”
Don’t Skimp on Professional Development and Educator Support
Carmello said he loves having written materials to help him learn about a product, but said the holy grail of teacher professional development and ongoing support is some kind of interactive development program.
“A lot of teachers get very complacent in their curriculum, and when you have to introduce something new and innovative, they're fearful and you can't blame them. Imagine being [an adult] and you all of a sudden are expected to learn and then teach something. To a lot of people that is a frightening experience,” said Carmello. “If there's an organization that has the capability to bring in the staff development in person,” or now today everybody's using Zoom platforms, there's just so much that you can do.
Carmello pointed to a professional development experience in which some of his teachers learned to use a 3D printer on campus.
“I broke them up into groups and I explained the process,” Carmello said. “They were like children working for hours, laughing and loving the building. An in person model of staff development is just by light ears the best method because it creates a sense of comfortability. There's somebody there to answer any questions and to me that's the best.”
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