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Planning for the Future of Education Technology

10/8/2020
— Ali Koper, VP, Consumer 

The way we teach and learn has been wholly disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, with EdTech quickly emerging as a link to learning. Since the spring, we’ve felt and witnessed the challenges faced by educators, parents and students. This came to the forefront ahead of the back-to-school season. As plans to reopen schools remained nebulous, educators and administrators scrambled to build new tech stacks and media coverage surged 156% this July, compared to last. From dinner conversations to memes, education technology has gone mainstream.

Throughout coverage and conversation are constant reminders of the challenging time we find ourselves in; for instance, devastating stories of students without access to education and uplifting examples of teachers going the extra mile. The unifying theme is that all of us — from teachers and parents to EdTech leaders and IT decision-makers — want to do our best to keep students learning, all while staying safe.

Making that happen will require resourcefulness. According to a New York Times survey, 75% of parents are overseeing their children’s education and over one third of parents have made a tech purchase or upgraded their Wi-Fi to help with distance learning. Parents are now de facto IT decision makers, teachers are juggling parenting while working from home and students are providing tech support to peers. The needs and goals of our audiences have blurred.

EdTech communicators have an opportunity to reflect on their organization’s purpose and mission to optimize their brand’s communications, providing the help and resources these shifting audiences need. Our work can help students emerge from this crisis with the learning they need to be successful. Doing so requires us to find and amplify human voices, pivot toward a future vision and find ways to stay ahead as the landscape continues to shift.

 

Highlight resources and successes

Media influencers in the EdTech space aren’t looking for executive talking points. They want impact, emotion and first-person experiences. By shining a light on your customers who have found successes, whether big or small, you can help meet the need for resources while humanizing your story. Pull their learnings into your media engagement and consider the types of assets that will help your audiences meet their own objectives for teaching and learning.

For instance, we know that educators, parents and students need help and resources. In fact, research by Microsoft Education found that a full 38% of distance learning conversation focused on tips, tricks and resources.

 

Elevate your advocates

Now is the time to ensure you that sales, marketing and communications have agreed on an efficient process for identifying your customers and partners who can share their solutions. Once customers with noteworthy experiences are identified, there are several ways to bring their stories to light. Do they have an inspiring story that would move a lifestyle reporter? Can they offer practical advice that would best be conveyed in a contributed piece? In addition, the utilization of brand platforms, including social media and your website, ensures you’re engaging audiences directly.

 

Think long term and big picture

The last six months have brought heartbreaking social issues to the forefront: Racial inequities in education and how difficult it can be for educators to address them, how educators have long been asked to do so much with so little and the critical importance of social and emotional learning.

Many of these topics are only now receiving the attention they deserve. The time to act is now. Your organization has an opportunity to execute your mission of better serving all students and teachers, ensuring we emerge from this pandemic better than before. Start with some soul searching. Ensure leadership is aligned with your mission, exhibiting heart and action, to develop a future-forward narrative, articulating what this mission means today and in the years to come. To enact your mission, take your point of view public and remember, each time you share it — whether with a reporter, a partner or a customer — you listen as much as you speak.

 

Stay ahead with always-on rhythm

In this dynamic and crowded news environment, communicators stay relevant by seeing around corners. There are a few ways to do this:

  • Establish a continuous, data-driven approach to monitoring how the education technology conversation is evolving. Keeping tabs on shifting themes and voices will enable you to adapt how you engage media and customers week by week.
  • Ensure your owned channels are reaching the right people with the content they want and need, allowing you to keep conversation steady, despite external factors.
  • Balance immediate results with resource investments that will pay off in the future. This is particularly important at a time when the nation’s collective attention is divided. Carve out a part of your team’s time to plant seeds that will bear fruit in the new year. This includes finding voices and stories within your organization that might not rise above a current news climate, but will pay off in the long term via in-depth, emotional coverage.

 

By prioritizing human storytelling, thought leadership and balancing nimble and continuous outreach with future-focused investments, we can use communications to share the resources that all educators and learners need — for today and beyond.