When educators choose new classroom materials their first challenge is to sift through dozens of options and narrow the search down to four to five options. In other words before they say “yes” to one solution they need to find reasons to say “no” to a host of other options.
Prior to Common Core the most significant filter was “alignment to state standards.” If a company couldn’t provide a correlation that showed substantial or complete compliance with a particular state’s requirements it never got past the first meeting. No one really used the correlations once the product was purchased, but it was a useful filter to help narrow the field of choices.
In the last six months I have noticed a significant shift in this process. Most districts now require some flavor of “technology” in any curriculum resource they purchase. Like standards correlations they don’t particularly care what it is – but they won’t consider products that don’t have a technology component.
A cynical publisher could throw some crappy IWB activities and Examview into the mix and call it done and they would be in the game. In many cases this is what “Free With Order” really means.
Leading From The Front
But I don’t believe that is a sustainable competitive response to this shift. Digitization is a true long term wave sweeping over instructional resources. Slapping some junk in the box or burying your head in the sand are not sustainable survival strategies.
Rather than taking the easy out I believe publishers have a responsibility to map out a compelling vision for how they see technology being woven into classroom practice. Like many I don’t believe we will ever get to a pure technology solution – but the blend of traditional print, manipulatives, and technology is evolving in some very interesting ways.
This kind of work isn’t easy – it involves developing a point of view and taking real risks when you allocate people’s time and capital. But the winners in this race will be those who do unto others rather than waiting to be done unto.
At the end of the day educators and students will select the winning visions as practice evolves. Only one of the components of the solutions that emerge will be publishers’ contributions. But – we have an opportunity to add significant value to this process and justify our presence in an era of user generated free content.
You must be present to win.