I gave them rocks. Smooth, round river rocks that nicely fill the palm of your hand. On each, I stuck a sticker with the Education Elements logo.

It didn’t seem right to hand the STEMscopes team a brochure or branded pen. I was at the CAST conference in Texas for the sole purpose of strengthening our partnership. I wanted to leave them with something weighty, something to remind them that our relationship was…rock-solid?

EE river rock

Since starting with Education Elements, I’ve thought a lot about the importance of business partnerships. Our platform, Highlight, is only as good as the data it receives from content providers like STEMscopes. Our consulting services only help students if district leaders trust us enough to implement our advice.

Education Elements sells personalized learning. While I believe that personalized learning is an inherent improvement over “sage-on-the-stage” instruction, I attribute much of the impressive results of our districts to the fact that the districts have a trusted partner (i.e., us) who helps them implement a long-term plan with fidelity. The rapidly evolving edtech market makes such a partnership invaluable for districts.

I think the success of Education Elements reflects a larger reckoning in the education market — that school districts can’t tackle these technology-propelled paradigm shifts alone. The Los Angeles iPad debacle is still fresh in educators’ minds, and districts are eager to avoid similar headlines. It makes sense for them to bring in an organization like EE that has already weathered many edtech storms.

My company has one characteristic that is particularly complimented by our clients: our empathy. Our consultants are all former teachers, our company walls are covered with student art, and every team member — engineering, consulting or sales — is asked to spend time in our partner districts. We believe that, to design successful personalized learning, our team must show a deeply empathetic understanding of student and teacher needs. It is this empathy that helps us forge strong relationships with our districts.

Maybe a stickered rock isn’t the most empathetic gift for a partner company. Probably not something you want to lug with you on a plane trip home. Yet with that same heaviness, the rock shows that I thought about what I would want if I were in STEMscopes’ shoes: a relationship that feels real and has weight. I think quality relationships, between companies and schools, are the key to ensuring that education technology serves its ultimate purpose: improving student learning.

Feature Photo Credit: Tanakawho