Aug 082011

Digital Classroom: Three Drivers of the Digital Classroom

Digital Classroom: Marketing strategy essentials & tech insights from Frank Catalano

Digital Classroom: Digital K-12 education is finally coming into its own.

This simple statement may evoke disbelieving cries of “What – again?” Those of us who have been around the Lego block a few times recall similar statements during the boom-bust cycles of packaged personal-computer software, multimedia CD-ROM, and dot-com, bringing to mind pioneering names like Oregon Trail, Number Munchers, and Knowledge Adventure.

The assumption during each cycle was that consumer trends in personal computing were so compelling that they would force their way into K-12 classrooms. The reality was that consumer tech was a much less irresistible force than the classroom was an immovable object – immovable, in that it had been largely unchanged since the ’50s. And I don’t mean the 1950s.

Two developments may make this decade the charm: consumer-level expectations about technology among educators and their influencers, which set the stage; and three rapidly evolving digital trends that are unique to education.

The Consumerization of Edtech

I’ve worked in both education and consumer digital technology for nearly 20 years. When I straddled the abyss, I was told that being in education technology was great. After cool new digital products were introduced in the consumer market, the education market would figure it had a decade to determine how or whether to adopt and integrate the technology. As a result (the reasoning went), only proven, winning technologies would be selected (and, uh, the LaserDisc). The downside, of course, was that education would always be a decade or more behind everything else.

Enter the digital natives. Not the students. The teachers.

If you’re under the age of 30, you probably don’t recall life without the personal computer. If you’re under the age of 20, you’ve never not known the Web. Many new teachers sit in this delta. They are used to and expect ubiquitous personal technology. So do many administrators, parents, state legislators, local school board members, and an ever-widening sphere of K-12 education influencers.

It’s a demographic sea change in expectations that has caused some of the largest and most established educational publishers to re-think how they develop products.

Consider the annual Ed Tech Industry Summit, hosted this May in San Francisco by the Software and Information Industry Association (SIIA). Scholastic Education president Margery Mayer revealed in her keynote speech that to model data dashboards for new educational technology products for schools, Scholastic reviewed,, and – all unabashed consumer websites.

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