Packed up your holiday trimmings yet?  I’m proud to report my decorations but for one ornament made it safely to the attic this weekend.  The ornament in question was deftly pulled from the blazing Christmas tree by my husband only moments before it too was to become ash. Yep, we’re weird enough to torch our tree every year but don’t worry, we don’t stand around it drinking beer and saying “will ya’ look at that!”  For us, it is a noble ritual to mark the end of the holiday season; a kind of passage of the prior year to the Valhalla of the Pines. Well, that and it looks cool.  There’s something else I like to figuratively burn every January:  last year’s marketing language.  Here’s a rundown of five B2E buzz words you should think about setting a match to, and what you can replace them with.

  1. Old:  Simple   New:  Smart

It’s important for software to be simple, and not just because you are working with the occasional pre-reader in a student user, but primarily because in most cases your B2E product is not going to command much dedicated PD time, and a solid 80% of the people that use it will have no direct training from you at all.   Edtech marketing is rife with the word “simple” to emphasize how easy it will be for teachers to learn a product and to pass that knowledge on to students and maybe even families.  But “simple” isn’t strong enough for 2016.  Now your tools need to be better than simple, they need to be “smart.” Smart connotes the smart phone, artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things—big 2016 concepts.  Does your product deserve to be called smart?  Does it learn from the user?  Does it analyze or suggest?  Then yes.  If no, then you now know what your product team needs to work on this year.

  1. Old:  Personalized   New:  Student-directed

Personalized learning is critical – perhaps the most critical need in education right now.  But just like “differentiated” before it, personalization has unfortunately been so over used as a descriptive edtech benefit that I find it to be white noise now.  One of the key components I’d suggest highlighting instead is the growing branch of personalized learning, “student-directed” learning. More and more educators are finding the path to a more personalized and engaged education is requiring students to direct and monitor their own learning path.  Student-directed is a stronger yet more specific claim, and it is one that doesn’t sound like it requires more work from the teacher.  If you aren’t comfortable with this term for your product, try terms like “student-centric” and “student pathways” to wean off of personalized.

  1. Old:  21st Century/Next Generation   New:  Why your product is revolutionary

Kids born at the turn of the century can drive already.  The novelty of the new century is officially over.  If you want to refer to the 21st Century Learning Skills, you can refer to them by name, but also by the 4 C’s which is almost as common a reference and doesn’t sound as archaic.  “Next Generation” Assessments are on thin ice with many educators and policy makers — not necessarily the greatest word association.  Honestly if I hadn’t already used the word “smart,” it would be a good replacement for these terms as well.  Smart really does cover efficient, brilliant, revolutionary technology.  But even better instead of the easy “21st Century” reference is the specific reason your product takes it to the next level.  Is it adaptive?  Tell us precisely how.  Is it based on ground-breaking research?  Explain it.  Take the time to tell educators WHY your product is innovative and you won’t need lame throwbacks like 2.0, next gen, or the Nimbus 2000.

  1. Old:  Game-based    New:  Project-based

Anyone who gave a kid (of any age) a video game for the holidays knows that the term “game-based” learning is not terribly appropriate for most educational software.  Let’s not embarrass ourselves by comparing educational games to the mega-budget game franchises that may inadvertently teach more about strategy, problem solving and teamwork than they intend, when what we really mean is that we have entertaining and engaging platforms on which kids do the same kinds of practice work they’ve previously done on paper.  In 2016 it will be increasingly difficult to get away with the claim of game-based learning unless your name is Minecraft.  Meanwhile, however, B2E’s are increasingly and validly contributing to the rising project-based learning movement.  Educators need a lot of support here, from PD to platforms to assessments all geared toward this new paradigm.  Perhaps your product has a lot to offer PBL but you haven’t been marketing yourself that way.  It’s worth a brainstorm session.

  1. Old:  Comprehensive   New:  Modular

It’s not that being comprehensive isn’t important, but it sounds restrictive today.  I like to describe learning software as one of two things – a board game or a deck of cards.  A board game is an integrated series of lessons and pathways that a student begins at a Start point and marches toward Finish.  That concept was great when technology was a mystifying black box, heck teachers gave you extra points if they “didn’t have to touch it.”  Times change.  Now that teachers publish their own multi-media lessons and produce their own flipped courseware, they aren’t too keen on lessons in sets.  Consider how a deck of cards differs from the board game.  It’s something you can shuffle and deal in any order. Teachers want modular components that can likewise be individually delivered on various learning platforms for individual students in the order of their choosing.  So when you think about integrated curriculum vs. modular – it’s the latter that will rule in 2016.

Here’s to a great new year of smart, student-directed, specifically innovative, project-based and modular learning!  Sounds like 2016 to me!

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