CIC CONFIDENTIAL: 9 Insights about Educational Publishing from AAP's 2017 Conference

By Ira Wolfman, President, POE Communications

The CIC conference produced by the PreK-12 Learning division of AAP is always a highlight of my educational publishing year. Here are nine insights I garnered during the most recent conclave, held in Philadelphia in late May. (I’ve included links; most send you to the description of the session and list of panelists.)

  1. One-to-one computer use in schools is rising rapidly. The latest projection is that 50 percent of schools will have one computer for every child by 2019. A recent survey shows that the number of mobile devices (tablets, chrome books, net books, etc.) shipped to schools annually has gone from three million in 2010 to 14 million this year.
  2. Videos have conquered cyberspace and are now universally considered important learning tools. To make more effective and cost-efficient vidsDave Peth of Symbolic Studio recommended the following: Find a format that works across all your videos and stick to it (making production more affordable and scalable). Template everything. Test the content in the template. Then refine your content in line with test results.
  3. To improve the chances that your educational product will be a hit, create it for the systems and tools that teachers already know. If you rely on a new system or format, teachers will have to learn it before they can evaluate your material. That’s a problem. Build in a popular system and you improve the odds that schools will adopt your product.
  4. Very soon, all publishers will have to meet federal accessibility requirements for web content. Don’t panic. Instead, take these first steps. 1) Do an audit to determine the ways in which you need to adapt your content. 2) Put together a policy statement about what you plan to deliver, and plan to include accessibility in the early stages of all your products. 3) Figure out a strategy for getting the tasks done. 4) Do the accessibility work incrementally. Take on these four tasks and the feds should consider you in compliance for now.
  5. Mobile learning is a crucial, untapped market. Smart phones may be banned from some schools but they live in most students’ pockets. In addition, they are ideal for individualized and adaptive learning, noted education researcher Geri Smith. But beyond apps, Smith pointed out, no one is making substantive learning content for phones. Come up with a creative solution that turns smart phones into learning tools (and that works for teachers and administrators, too) and you’ll have a great shot at success.
  6. One attribute tops all others when schools are evaluating your learning product: Solid, meaningful pilot studies. So as you develop new programs, seriously consider crafting a smart pilot study that can deliver good outcomes. If/when it does, have the process written up by a qualified researcher, and include use-case scenarios and FAQ’s in your documentation.
  7. Classroom computer games are gaining acceptance and can be successful…IF developers obey two rulesAccording to Suzi Wilczynski of Dig-It! Games, the must-haves are: (1) Develop an engaging, educational game; (2) Ensure that teachers can learn how to use it quickly and easily.
  8. AR, VR, and MR are poised to become a significant tool for classroom use (and there are some amazing tools already out there) but one element is crucial: Interaction. Teachers and administrators want students to think, act, and learn—not just wander about in an alternative world (or an enhanced real one). Make sure that you require the users to do things, make choices, and learn from their experiences in that world.
  9. Like rock & roll, print will never die. The drive for digital continues unabated (see: numbers 1, 5, 7, and 8) but speaker after speaker affirmed that print is still alive and powerful in the classroom. A huge number of teachers still depend on it as their main tool, while others rely on it as a crucial resource or a key piece of blended learning. Despite all the change we’ve seen, print shows no signs of disappearing. 

This article was first published by Ira Wolfman on LinkedIn.

Ira Wolfman is the president of POE Communications, a media consulting company that works with educational publishers, parenting and children’s magazines, and nonprofit organizations to develop outstanding cross-platform digital and print materials. POE’s team of writers, editors, designers, and web developers bring deep experience in educational and consumer publishing. Wolfman spent two decades as head of content at Sesame Street and Weekly Reader, where he developed innovative web content and periodicals that won more than 100 awards.

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