Make Ed Tech a Habit for Users By Capitalizing on Cues

In The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, Charles Duhigg details what he learned about the factors that create and sustain habits. In this series of posts, I’ll discuss how we can incorporate these insights to influence students, teachers, parents, and school systems to adopt ed-tech software and integrate it for good.

Duhigg explains that there are three primary psychological processes essential to lasting habits: cues, cravings, and rewards. A cue is something that triggers every habit. It’s the email notification that surfaces on your smart phone, the film on your teeth when you wake up every morning that compels you to brush your teeth. We all take these things for granted now (they’ve become unconscious habits, after all); what we don’t realize is that both cues were engineered by researchers who were able to capitalize on obvious preexisting realities in our daily lives.

Whether we’re talking about students, teachers, or school districts, we need to keep in mind that no software will be sustainable in education without an obvious cue to capitalize on. And because cues are triggered subconsciously, they’re inherently emotional, meaning a marketing campaign centered on the logical benefits of a product won’t directly turn its use into a habit.

Take toothpaste, for example. The film on our teeth after we sleep has no impact on tooth decay. But Pepsodent, once the most popular toothpaste in the world, realized that the feeling of tooth film against your tongue is obvious—something you’re likely testing out as you read this—and therefore a trigger for brushing your teeth.

Amidst solving problems and positioning products, ed tech needs to take time to study the behavior of students, teachers, and school administrations to find these emotional triggers. Design and messaging must follow. And these efforts will inherently be more challenging than selling toothpaste, if only because of the simple fact that the majority of end users (teachers and students) won’t be making purchasing decisions.

In my subsequent posts, we’ll take a deeper look at the other factors of habit formation in regard to ed-tech integration and explore specific points of entry into the daily routines of students, teachers and administrators.


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