Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Oh the Marketing!

This weekend, I tweeted about a K-12 educational marketing white paper that floated past my desk. The more I pondered the report, the more I realized I had more than 140 characters to say about it. The “key takeaway” that stuck with me concerned the marketing tip to innovate disruptive technology in stages… the exact wording being

The interactive whiteboard segment offers a particularly instructive example of how disruption can happen slowly, in stages, and still fuel growth (meaning marketing/sales growth – not learning growth). At a time when schools are reluctant to invest in new technologies, this market has exploded, and one key reason for the rapid growth is that the technology need not disrupt traditional classroom practices: for a teacher standing in front of a classroom, and interactive whiteboard can be functionally similar to a blackboard. Ignoring the argument about whether this is pedagogically sound, one less derived from the success of interactive whiteboards is that technology succeeds best when it disrupts least.

Let me take this apart…

1. The interactive whiteboard first hit the market in 1991. So by slowly, they apparently mean over 20 years. That’s really slow folks. Too slow for our students.

2. Let us remember market value. While many of our vendors claim to be partners in education (and some may even believe it)… the bottom line is they are for profit companies. They need schools to buy their product. Period. According to the Association of American Publishers, in 2006 educational materials was a $8.1 billion industry for publishing. I appreciate everyone needs to make a living,.. this is not a rant about costs. However, we as educators need to remember educational products electronic, print or plastic are a for profit industry.

3. Educational resource companies do not teach your class. Bad pedagogy is on us.

4. The industry surrounding education is marketing to the lowest common denominator. If we sit back and allow manufactures to dictate our teaching by dictating our resources… then nothing is going to change. They do not think we want a disruptive force affecting daily classroom practices.

No one is creating magic in a box for $29.99, $599.99 or even $3999.99. The time, the talent and disruptive change is going to have to start with the classroom teacher. Daunting, yes… but rather exciting.

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