Adapting with a changing industry

by chicagohh

Have you heard statement about how change is good – you go first?  Most of us don’t like change and as long as companies are made up of people, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that companies also resist change. Even when their industry is screaming change it’s often a hard sell.

I used to enjoy the Ritz Camera store at our local mall. It was fun to browse and occasionally make a purchase. But, there was something terrible coming. Like the “rough beast” of W.B Yeats well known poem The Second Coming – The Internet was slouching towards it’s arc of history with a blank and pitiless gaze. Change was coming. Many companies that did not have the experience of Ritz were able to adapt.  Other companies were built and flourished out of the turmoil of a rapidly changing environment.  And yet…Ritz Camera, founded in 1918, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and on September 10 it was announced that all Ritz and other associated subsidiaries would close.

I have been consulting a large education publishing company for the last 18 months on how to improve lead generation (think conversion optimization) for their customized curriculum department. Most of the employees come from a print background and they are like everyone else – change is good, you go first.  On September 12 I heard the following on the radio:

“Textbooks are inefficient for of conveying content. Frankly, we would probably be better served by providing kids with tablets, laptops and other forms of conveying the content.

Textbooks are expensive – they wear out. As do electronics, but less so when you can provide up to date content. From the moment that they’re printed they are out of date. So that’s a concern.”

–Jesse Ruiz, VP of the Chicago Board of Education

There is a lot of resistance in the publishing industry to move – with a concerted effort – to digital client acquisition, but the day of change is coming.  Destiny is slouching towards something new in the education field. A disruption. Will the old guard adapt in time? Or, will a young company that is hungry for success come up with a new teaching program that all but destroys what we (all humans) have used since the dawn of time?

I think a disruption is coming. We have glimpses of what it may be like when we see iPads and laptops used in elementary schools. While an iPad is expensive the schools have ways of passing that expense along to parents. My 7th grader has a school provided iPad and we have to pay $100 each year as “insurance”.  We are in year 2 of the iPad experiment and it won’t be long before we have bought the iPad.  So, any argument that technology is too expensive is just bunk. With Apple’s iBook program for textbooks many class programs are only $15 each.

How difficult would it be to create a 100% Common Core program and sell it for $5? The barrier to entry is not very high and I have a feeling that cash-strapped schools would jump all over a $5 per student program. Combine that with technology that allows students to progress at their own pace with sort of a teacher-as-a-resource – and you have a culture changing disruption in education.

Link to the radio program where Mr. Ruiz speaks about his view on textbooks.

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