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Media Companies See a Cash Cow: Education!

August 20, 2012

Today’s NYTimes reports that the Discovery Channel is moving into the digital textbook market because “it sees a growth opportunity too good to pass up.” Looking at a market where it can deliver a digital textbook for $38 to $55 per student as compared to cost of roughly $70 per student for a textbook.

But Discover is not the only company jumping into this market place. Disney, News Corporation (which owns Fox News), NBC, and a host of traditional textbook companies are entering into the fray. One quote jumped out at me as I work on a Race To The Top grant (see next post) that emphasizes personalized learning plans:

“Over the last 10 years alone, we’ve invested $9.3 billion in digital innovations that are transforming education,” said Will Ethridge, chief executive of Pearson North America, part of Pearson P.L.C., the world’s largest education and learning company. “One way to describe it would be an act of ‘creative destruction.’ By this I mean we’re intentionally tearing down an outdated, industrial model of learning and replacing it with more personalized and connected experiences for each student.” (emphasis added)

A cynical blogger might see the USDOE’s recent Race to the Top grant’s emphasis on personalization as kowtowing to the technology industry, but as a wild-eyed optimist about the possibility for change I see it as evidence that the factory school is on its last legs and a new form of schooling is about to emerge. A wild-eyed optimist can envision public schools embracing this new technology and using it to meet the unique needs of each child…. but I also know from experience that democratically operated institutions move VERY slowly and instituting the kind of disruptive change Pearson is advocating might require a complete overhaul of schooling. In my conversations with administrators and teachers in the North Country of New Hampshire and Vermont, it is clear that changing minds quickly will be the biggest challenge in the next five years.

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