Proper Packaging Can Make Ed-Tech a Classroom Habit

When it comes to school-wide adoption of new technology, the process can be sluggish. The fact is, any new technology is effectively an experiment that will impact the lives and futures of students for better or for worse, meaning hasty integration should be a legitimate concern.

What this amounts to from an ed-tech perspective is, although the status quo may be ineffective, it’s simply safer. Current practices in education are de facto habits. So unless teachers and administrations take a step back and examine habituated behaviors, preexisting practices will likely remain intact.

But there is a workaround. As Charles Duhigg points out in The Power of Habit, we can inspire the adoption of new habits by packaging them to look like preexisting ones. Duhigg provides the example of making the consumption of organ meats a staple in America. Prior to World War II, organ meats weren’t really considered food. However, when feeding soldiers abroad meant slim pickings at home, the government recognized the need for change and sent out a national campaign of mailers filled with recipes incorporating kidneys and livers into typical American dishes, like meatloaf and pot pie. Within just a few years, organ meats were the new comfort food.

Parents are well aware of this trick—making “mashed potatoes” out of cauliflower so their kids don’t turn up their noses is an example. This can extend to education: as the Common Core State Standards has been integrated in over 46 states the past six years, one of teachers’ top complaints has been a need for updated textbooks. I don’t think there’s a plainer example of how a new practice could have been more readily adopted. Keep the familiar covers; just change what’s on the inside.

Entry points with ed-tech should begin with a careful study of the habits that teachers and administrations have developed inside and outside of class. Once you have pinpointed these habituated practices, find one and disguise your product accordingly. Only then—when you have a foot in the door—consider incorporating the big-picture changes that you know will transform education.

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