Industry Ambassador Michael Jay Talks Forging Relationships and Guaranteed Ways to Fail in the PreK-12 Market

The Lamplighter Honors, presented by the AAP PreK-12 Learning Group, celebrate the extraordinary accomplishments of the learning resource industry and the ongoing mission of helping every child receive a world class education. At the 2013 Lamplighter Honors Gala, held December 9 at the Russian Tea Room, representatives from across the education and publishing world will join together to honor this work and recognize the individuals who have made significant contributions to advance the field through their ideas, talents, and tenacity.

Michael Jay, President of Educational Systemics, will receive the Ambassador Award for assisting associations, publishers, and education community members to cross boundary lines and work together. From tirelessly working on the Learning Resource Metadata Initiative to providing invaluable counsel to industry newcomers, he has forged new relationships that benefit everyone in the PreK-12 market. Below, Michael talks about the importance of sharing information with colleagues and competitors and the shifting dynamics of the PreK-12 market.

The lines between print and digital, consumer and educational products are blurring, opening up the PreK-12 market to a broader range of companies. What piece of advice would you give someone entering the school market for the first time?

“Neither a follower nor a leader be.” PreK-12 is a highly buffered market by which I mean that the market as a whole is slow to adopt strategies that shift the status quo. While we see significant innovation taking place in several schools and classrooms worldwide, most educational environments remain grounded in more traditional practices. Sustainable change is evolutionary not revolutionary. Creating commercial products only for those at the very leading edge of practice results in failure. In fact, there are two ways I can guarantee failure… create a product for one particular customer with the intent that it will be used by a large community and creating a product with all possible learners or learning environments in mind. Just as no one builds a house with 2.58 residents in mind even though that is the average number of people per household, the education opportunities lie in addressing the needs of each learner and not the average learner. Design and develop products with present implementation in mind, an eye to the future, infrastructure that supports reuse of your assets, and be engaged with the education community to observe shifts and help drive change.

Why is it important to you to give your time to helping people in our industry connect?

It is said that information is power. Some choose to hold that information close and share it  only when they believe that they will realize immediate personal or professional gain from releasing that information. I have found to share information and connect people is far more empowering. Bringing together people with different ideas, context, & perspective is alchemy. Some see this as selfless giving yet, at least in my case, it is selfish in that I find it exciting to see two or more people get together and make something that is greater than they could alone. This is particularly true when it comes to education-related projects as resources are so constrained. We are fortunate to have a lot of talent in our industry, people committed to much more than growing their business and profits. Bringing together people with complementary skills and interests can go a long way to improving the quality of education for all children.

What do you think has been the most significant change in our industry over the past five years?

The easy answer is technology of all sorts. However, I still see traditional practices being applied to technology enriched environments that could support more rich learning. Technology alone does not change our industry. If we focus on the US, assessment has had a strangle hold on our schools, but has had minimal impact on making progressive changes in educational practice. While technology can play the ‘heavy’ role by supporting regulation and compliance, it can also free us of the constraints of our educational industrial complex. We see many publishers investing in content management environments, essential to the reuse of instructional assets and making an organization adaptable to change in instructional strategies.

There are still many publishers that are not making changes to how they operate and therefore are unprepared for the larger investment required to adapt to a shifting market. The change we see today is only the tip of the iceberg. The future promises some exciting changes. The investments publishers can make today to improve the efficiency of their organization will be essential to participating in the larger changes to come.

What trend are you watching right now that you think will impact the PreK-12 market in the next 5-10 years?

While this is not a new concept, the change I see on the horizon is a shift in where we expect learning to take place. School will remain an anchor point for formal learning yet there will be greater acceptance that learning not only extends outside the classroom but may even originate outside the classroom as well. Mobile and personal technology will play a large role in catalyzing this change and yet the biggest shift will follow, a shift from institution to individual. We already see a smattering of students opting out of a traditional educational path choosing to start community college while in high school, engaging in private or home-based primary education, and extension programs to pursue their interests. Learning Management Environments free both learner and educator from a lock step curriculum allow us to reimagine the nature of instruction, use of instructional resources, and the student’s role in their own learning. Where once, accountability required that every child follow a prescribed curriculum, we have the capability of tying learning to measurable outcomes while providing flexibility to both learner and educator. This shift will change many of the assumptions we make today about PreK-12 education.

Steering a vessel through shifting tides and changing winds can be challenging but it also presents opportunities. Those who will be providing instructional resources for learners in 10 years and beyond will have to accommodate or, better yet, embrace this change.

Learn more about the Lamplighter Honors Gala how and you can join the celebration.

Lamplighter Honors