Education Copywriting | Education Marketing & Content

The Birthplace of Education Technology? The Industrial Revolution

by Scott Sterling

Education technology machine

The world of education responds to external pressures and movements. Socrates is credited by many to have invented the concept of scholarship, which gave birth to his method. There was the printing press, which is probably the only rival for the current age. The press made it possible for people to read things other than expensive, handwritten bibles.

But then there is the movement that truly transformed education. In fact, it produced almost everything about our current education system that we recognize: the Industrial Revolution.

I was curious about what the industrial age did to education and how those changes were perceived by the parties involved, as a comparison to these current times. The only thing I knew was that eventually people started treating education like an assembly line. Ask the teacher who has to perform five high-stakes assessments this year whether or not they feel like a cog in a machine. Nothing’s changed in that regard.

I hit upon an article by Edward W. Stevens, Jr. published in the winter 1990 issue of History of Education Quarterly. The article, entitled “Technology, Literacy, and Early Industrial Expansion in the United States”, turned out to answer many of my questions and produced a lot of parallels.

First, the powers that be recognized that the current system was not producing students who were capable of contributing in the new industrial economy. “Traditional literacy”—reading, writing, and arithmetic—needed to be augmented. As Stevens puts it, “This mean, first, integrating the literacy of traditional language with the principles of natural science mediated by numeracy and the logic of mathematics.” That’s right. They were wrestling with STEM in the 1800’s.

The texts being produced to guide people in working the machines were too complex for the reading levels the current public education system were producing. Arithmetic is far from the geometry and algebra that would now be required of anyone hoping to participate in the economy. There was an “achievement gap,” although it was spread among all of the (free) people in the land.

This metamorphosis took time, and for some it wasn’t coming quickly enough. This gave birth to mechanics’ institutes—ad-hoc organizations who offered day and evening classes in management and entrepreneurship, not to mention skills like basic knowledge in physics so they would understand how the machines worked. These were skills outside the norms of education at the time. Sounds a lot like a charter school to me.

Eventually, the institutes needed to add another concept: art. Or, more accurately, drawing. Advanced literacy skills weren’t enough to get your point across if you were a mechanic or engineer, otherwise you would have to describe things “by such circumlocutions as ‘the 137th spindle from the left,’ ‘the lowest step of the cam,’ or ‘the upper right hand bolt on the governor housing.’” This is why in patent applications you now see a lot of diagrams. In the mechanics’ institutes of the mid-1800’s, STEM became STEAM.

Eventually, all of these mandates trickled down into the broader public education system. They have stayed to this day. Students still take art (although it is being shoved aside). They also take physics, even though many will never need the subject in their professional lives. The common curriculum of the 21st century is not modern at all. Neither are the concepts that we currently seek to add to it.

What does this tell us about education technology, the adoption of STEM, and wholesale changes in education as a whole? First, that education technology is not a revolution and we need to stop treating it as such. It’s just an evolution of changes that happened nearly 200 years ago. Something new will come along, but it won’t be next week or even next year. Stop rushing our students into things that ultimately might not matter.

Second, that those changes were a success. America went on to become the premier industrial power in the world (after a war or two sorted out the competition), but it was a century after the mechanics’ institutes were started. These things take time.

The temptation for people of the Information Age is to believe these are unprecedented times. In the education technology movement, that has led to a sort of breathless hyperbole and competition. People find the need to be first, to blaze a new trail in all manner of technology adoption. I remember the blog posts that appeared the day after Periscope was released discussing how this new tool can be used in the classroom. This frenzy is not helping anyone—particularly our students.

My 5 Best Content Curation Apps

by Scott Sterling

Content Curation

Although there is some disagreement, most content marketers believe in the 70/30 split. You should only share your own content about 20 to 30 percent of the time. The rest is made up of content from other sources that you find relevant. Think of it like this: ever met someone at a party who only talks about themselves? How much fun is that person to be around? How likely are you to stop paying attention?

Finding good, relevant content to share, comment on, and engage with can be difficult. But content curation is important. Here are the apps I use every week to get the job done.

Flipboard

What I like most about Flipboard is ease of use. You follow certain topics and move through articles and blog posts quickly. Occasionally, it suggests more topics for you to follow. Then you can get more breadth in your curation. They offer apps for everything and make it easy to share what you find among your networks.

Klout

I have to be honest in saying that Klout doesn’t provide me with the breadth of content that some other outlets do. What it does show you is usually right on point for the topics that interest you. It also keeps track of your social presence for you. You then can see what effect your efforts are having.

Nuzzel

Nuzzel is part curation app, part alert system. When a certain number of your friends or follows (you can set the threshold) share an item, you get notified. Then you can see if it’s something worth sharing yourself. If it’s getting traction among your network, it’s worth knowing about.

Impactana

Impactana is a search engine that not only shows you which pieces of content are being shared based on the terms you input, but also what pieces are having impact—articles that people are actually interacting with. That way you can tell what might get shares, follows, or whatever your goal might be.

Spigot

Education marketers, listen up! I just heard about Spigot recently and I’m impressed. It’s a content aggregator just for education topics. The list focuses on research, practice, and other content forms that can help build out your share list fast. You don’t even have to click on something to preview it. Just hover over! I wish everything was like that.

Need some help with your content efforts? Check out the services I provide.

What Teachers Want Out of Their Technology (and Their Education Marketing)

by Scott Sterling

 

I was recently guided toward the Teachers Know Best report. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation recently surveyed more than 4,600 teachers to find out how they are currently using technology and how it can be improved. Naturally, there are many insights in the report for education marketing as well.

First, how they currently use technology.

According to the survey, 48 percent of teachers have adopted the use of data to drive instruction. On the opposite end, 24 percent are simply opposed to the use of technology in classrooms.

It’s the middle 28 percent, who are either overwhelmed by technology or only use technology to prepare for assessments, where some growth can occur. Show those teachers—more than a quarter of the 3 million+-strong workforce, what technology can do for them and their students. This means educational materials, like videos and webinars, have value.

How do products make it into the classroom? 59 percent said they choose products recommended by other teachers. 53 percent reported that they hunt for products themselves. Less than half take recommendations from their administrators.

These findings scream for social engagement. If teachers are more likely to listen to their colleagues than their bosses, or to hunt for products themselves, then they certainly won’t listen to marketers. If you want results, you need a teacher’s voice.

Now, what do they want?

Perhaps the most striking part of the report is where they asked the teachers whether they think the current resources in their subject area and grade level are effective in helping students learn the standards. The only product category that scored over 60 percent satisfaction was math products for elementary students.

Particularly negative opinions slanted toward science products in elementary and middle schools (only 43 percent approved), middle school social studies (44 percent), and anything in high school other than ELA (all around 50 percent). There is a definite need for a game changing product in those categories.

Then there are the overall benefits that lead them to use a technology product. Not surprisingly, 53 percent said that alignment to their standards and lesson plans was important.

What isn’t important? Some things that ed tech products have been focusing on recently. Enabling a high degree of teacher control, developing perseverance and grit, finding gaps in understanding, and freeing up teacher time for more high-impact activities were all important to less than 20 percent of respondents. Those are some big talking points that I usually try to suggest in pitches. Maybe it’s time to recommend some new strategies.

If you need some help getting these strategies off the ground, check out my Content Services page.

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Infographic: The Blog Publishing Checklist

by Scott Sterling

Blog Publishing Checklist

 

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What the Ad Blocker Has Done to Marketing

by Scott Sterling

Ad blocker content marketing

I came across this excellent report from Adobe and Pagefair about the breadth and scope of ad blocking around the world and what effect people using an ad blocker have had on traditional advertising and marketing.

First, the numbers:

  • Ad blocking is a growing industry. The number of people using such software has grown 41% year over year.
  • 16% of the US online population blocked ads in the last quarter.
  • The estimated loss of global revenue due to ad blockers: $21.8 billion.

The report even helpfully went into the use of ad blockers based on industry. 26.5% of the people who visit gaming websites are blocking ads. I didn’t think the education sector’s number would be as high as it is: 16.9%, fourth most pervasive.

I’ll be honest: I block ads. I had to wait for a good ad blocker to come along for Safari, but I do it. I wasn’t alone; ad blocker usage on Safari has grown 71%, the most of the major web browsers.

Why do I, and other people, block? Because no matter how annoying traditional advertising can be, online advertising is much more jarring. Pop ups, weird sounds, inappropriate GIFs. They severely detract from the online experience.

So what are marketers supposed to do?

First, ad blockers will never reach a saturation point, even though the report’s authors make the good point that the upcoming iOS 9 release will allow ad blocking. That should increase ad blocking in mobile markets substantially. Even with that, you will never see the majority of web users install an ad blocker.

Second, there are plenty of effective (ish) advertising venues that aren’t blocked. Google ads still tend to come through, as does sponsored posts on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

But, most importantly, this is just another reason to consider allocating more resources to content marketing. Why use a form of marketing outreach that many, many people are going to great lengths to disrupt? Good, quality content not only gets through ad blockers, it actually propagates itself! No more throwing money down that $21.8 billion well.

Like most people, I believe in balance. I think there are still uses for advertising and they can work in concert with content marketing. But why try to work against a consumer that is becoming more and more sophisticated, when you can work with them as a partner?

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5 Tools That Make Social Media Easy

by Scott Sterling

content marketing tools

You might have noticed that I’ve been tweeting and posting on LinkedIn a lot more frequently recently (if you haven’t noticed, follow @ScottIsSterling).

This isn’t because I’ve been bored at work and pass the time on social media. I’m busier than ever. The real cause is that I’ve found some amazing tools that have made being a consistent presence on social media easier than ever. I’m sure they can help everyone from the freelancer to the bigger companies. Here we go:

Buffer

Buffer is what I’ve been looking for since I got into this business. You simply link up your accounts (it supports all of the big networks). You then load up their browser extension or use their mobile app. When you see something online you want to share, including your own posts, you just click the button. Buffer then brings up a window that lets you craft a message and then loads it into a queue to be automatically shared. Spend an hour or so Monday morning and you don’t have to worry about social media for the rest of the week, although I’ve found that it’s addicting to Buffer things as you tool around online. You also get some basic analytics on your shares so you can see what’s working and what isn’t.

Klout

Klout isn’t new, but it can still be a very valuable tool in social media. First, they were the ones who quantified social media presence with a “Klout score”. But they’ve also added some great curation tools, based on the thing experts and influencers in your chosen fields have been sharing online. Klout also lets you schedule posts, but I’ve found it’s not quite as easy as Buffer, especially with their mobile app. Still, it’s a great place to find good content when your Buffer has gone dry.

JustRetweet

JustRetweet is another solution to content curation when you don’t necessarily have anything to share yourself. You go through the site and pick some tweets to retweet. In doing so, you earn credits. You can use those credits to “pay” people to retweet tweets that you have entered into the system. It’s basically trading retweets, which can really help get a new blog post off the ground. Just make sure the links you are retweeting fit into your general message.

Tweetdeck

Tweetdeck is Twitter’s own power client for the person who just loves to see Twitter scroll across all day. It lets you schedule tweets (but you don’t need that if you’re using Buffer). I’ve been using it to participate in Twitter chats. It’s much easier to follow the fast and furious chats in real time rather than having to refresh. I highly recommend Content Marketing Institute’s #cmworld chat Tuesdays at noon EST, by the way.

Nuzzel

Nuzzel is an app that aggregates the things being shared by your friends online. If something is going viral, you’ll know about it and be able to react accordingly. You can even set alerts based on a custom threshold. For example, if three or more people in my network share the same thing, I know about it.

Know of any other great tools? Let us know in the Comments.

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Long-Form Content? Apparently Worth Trying

by Scott Sterling

Sometimes content marketing is a marathon

 

Longer content has been a growing part of my work over the past several months. Sure, there’s still plenty of 400 to 500-word blog posts to go around, but my clients have recently seen a need for 1000+ word pieces recently. They seem to be on the cutting edge of content marketing.

I was drawn to a recent MarketingProfs article by Seth Price that helped make sense of this trend.

Around the Internet, 55% of visits last less than 15 seconds. That can’t be good for bounce rates (visits that only result in one page being seen). But according to the research cited in the article, if you can hold a visitor’s attention for three minutes, they were twice as likely to come back to your site.

The other research I thought fascinating was the average word counts of the top-10 ranking sites on various queries—more than 2000 words! And the average went up with the site’s ranking position, topping out at around 2500 words for top-ranked posts.

What does this say to me?

First, it’s not time to rewrite and combine all of your existing blog posts, especially in the education space. Teachers are busy, visually-oriented people. That’s why they have flocked to Pinterest. It’s quick, easy, and graphics-heavy. There is still room in our industry for infographics, short blog posts, and brief videos. Depending on what your results are showing, I believe they are still preferred.

That being said, those clients of mine who are ordering longer pieces? They have multiple uses in mind.

They might post them in their whole form. One had a plan of printing them for use at conventions and other in-person sales opportunities. They might also produce them as a short white paper to use as a gated marketing piece. When that lifespan has ended, they might split the article into smaller posts. One even wants to repurpose a piece as a few podcasts or maybe a webinar.

Not only is this approach more efficient for them, but it’s something you can’t do with shorter content. You can always cut longer pieces down. Adding to shorter ones is much more difficult.

It’s a strategy that’s apparently worth thinking about, but you need to have a dynamite topic to discuss. There’s nothing worse than trying to string out a topic that doesn’t have the legs for a longer form. The reader can tell.

And yes, I am aware of the irony of writing about long-form content in a post that’s around 400 words.

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7 Back to School Marketing Tips

by Scott Sterling

school marketing

 

The conventional wisdom is that early summer is the prime time for back to school marketing in education. Although that might be true for big district-wide purchases, there are still plenty of opportunities for both district- and consumer-facing education companies—if you have the tools.

Focus on teachers

Like I said, most districts are finished with their purchasing cycles. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t opportunities with teachers. Not only are they in the market for small-ticket items, but a lot of them are about to start applying for grants. You can get your product on their wish list with the right outreach.

Offer grant writing tips

Grant writing content is huge this time of year because deadlines are closing in and teachers have the time to be brainstorming about great unit ideas. Any help you can offer will draw a lot of interest.

Use all of your channels

Try to reach these teachers wherever you can. They’re still in ramp-up mode, so they are probably checking their social networks regularly. Offer some deals on Facebook, Twitter, and through your email list. Pin some tips on Pinterest.

Leverage the back to school theme on your blog

This might be common sense, but most of your blog posts for the next month should be related to back to school. Offer classroom setup tips or ways to score cheap school supplies. Lesson ideas are huge as well.

Be lighthearted

It’s still summer and most teachers don’t want to get bogged down in anything too serious. Try to keep your messaging light and fun.

Partner up

If you have any partnerships with other organizations, like ed-tech groups or associations, see if you can collaborate on some outreach initiatives. They probably have the same back to school mindset and might be interested in some content that can fill their channels as well.

Offer some pre-school goodies

When I was teaching, a lot of our back to school breakfasts and inservice materials were sponsored. Now’s the time to start sending out those branded coffee mugs and instructional materials.

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Periscope Education Marketing Ideas

by Scott Sterling

MOHAI_Periscope

 

Webinars, although valuable as a content strategy, are complicated. It’s hard to line up a speaker that people want to tune into. The technology often has hiccups. And, more often than not, they just aren’t very interactive. People can’t just pop in. They sign up in advance and receive a link.

Enter Periscope.

Periscope is a relatively new app, recently purchased by Twitter, that allows anyone to broadcast a live video stream via their mobile device. It’s social in that anyone browsing through Periscope at the time can access the stream (if that stream is made public, as opposed to private for friends/family).

The main selling point is ease of use, both on the part of the broadcaster and the viewer. This makes regular video broadcasts possible in the hands of a brand. This is what sets it apart for education marketing; teachers are busy people, so you have to give them a lot of options to participate.

For example, a wellness coach friend of mine has been experimenting with the app. She simply takes a regular walk around town, discussing ideas that come across her Twitter feed or through other means. She’s on Periscope around three times per week. She says her audience at any given time is half existing customers and half new people who have just popped in because they’re interested in the topic. Needless to say, that’s valuable.

So how do we use this in the education space?

First off, Periscope is not about to replace your favorite webinar client for more formal presentations anytime soon. Structure is actually valuable in that setting. You want to have lead time to generate interest and capture attendees’ information.

But what about informal videos, produced by employees? Say you consistently receive questions regarding one of the features of your product. Dispatch one of your product people to give a quick demo.

Releasing a new feature? Same thing.

Hosting an event? Nothing wrong with broadcasting the proceedings (as long as you weren’t selling tickets). Think of presentations on a conference exhibit floor or visits from attention-grabbing thought leaders.

There’s also some value in simply producing a behind-the-scenes view of your company. Most of your customers haven’t met your employees. Putting a human face on your organization can build some grassroots support.

What can you get out of Periscope?

First off, more eyes. If your topic is engaging enough, random people will show up.

Second, take the opportunity to continue the engagement via some of your other social networks or your website. Hopefully the visitors get interested enough to find out more about the producer of the live stream they just enjoyed.

This is just an example of the kinds of strategies we discuss over on my blog. Check it out!

18 Thought-Provoking Education Marketing Statistics

by Scott Sterling

There are as many surveys and studies about marketing as there are for any other business… maybe more. Some are just generally interesting while others have specific implications for marketing in education, particularly content marketing.

Social Media

  1. Only 34% of marketers use Pinterest to distribute content. In our business, I think that’s a mistake. The popularity of Pinterest among teachers is impressive and only growing. (Digital Marketing Philippines)
  2. Mostly, people share content to entertain others rather than educate. Engagement in content is always a goal, but maybe there’s more room for lighter fare. (MarketingProfs)
  3. 72% of ad agencies feel online video advertising is just as effective (or more so) than television advertising, according to Marketing Land. Since most educational companies can’t afford TV ads, this is great news.
  4. In a related note, videos on landing pages increase conversions by 86% according to Social Fresh.

Email

  1. 47% of email opens occur on a mobile device (Informz).
  2. Smaller emails have higher open and click rates. In my experience if your email blast is more than 200 words, you’ve gone too far.
  3. The average email metrics: 98.28% delivery rate, 34.04% open rate, 18.03% click rate (Informz).
  4. Highest open rates? Emails sent at night. Highest click rates? Emails sent in the late afternoon.
  5. Subject lines fewer than 10 characters are opened almost 50% of the time.
  6. Average return on email marketing investment is $44.25 for each dollar spent! (Dotmailer)

Content Marketing

  1. 93% of B2B marketers in general are using content marketing. (TopRank)
  2. Only 42% view themselves as successful in the endeavor. (TopRank)
  3. 65% viewed case studies as effective. The only format more popular was actual in-person events (70%). (TopRank)
  4. Companies spend 25% of their overall marketing budget on content (Heidi Cohen)
  5. 54% believe quality content is their most effective SEO strategy (MediaPost)
  6. Only 31% of Fortune 500 companies maintain an official blog (Sword and the Script).
  7. 46% of people said they would be more likely to seek out information about a product after seeing it in an online video (41 Stories).
  8. The average user spends 88% more time on a website if it features a video (41 Stories).

Excited about any of these prospects? Check out the services I offer.

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