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Monthly Archives: August 2013


Should digital tools replace textbooks in schools?

Posted on August 28, 2013 by Christian

This time of year kids all across the country are heading back to school. One of the changes that many students are encountering is the shift away from printed textbooks to digital media. For example, the New Prairie school distract in New Carlisle, Indiana is giving all students iPads to replace textbooks. Other schools are giving their students laptop computers to replace traditional materials. While putting these tools in the hands of children is very empowering, the jury is still out on the effectiveness. Recent studies have called into question if the efforts are helping or hindering the students progress. Another issue is security and privacy. What should the students be allowed to do with the technology? How is it monitored? These are all uncharted areas. While I see the great potential of integrating these digital media experiences in the classroom, are the teachers and the curriculum ready for it? What do you think? Would you have learned better with a laptop or an iPad?


Choices, choices....

Posted on August 14, 2013 by ddefreeuw

Late one evening I took a cruise through Netflix to catch up on TED Talks. I stumbled upon Barry Schwartz‘s talk on The Paradox of Choice. I found it fascinating and dug a little deeper online where I read about his now famous jam study:

When researchers set up [in a gourmet food store] a display featuring a line of exotic, high-quality jams, customers who came by could taste samples, and they were given a coupon for a dollar off if they bought a jar. In one condition of the study, 6 varieties of the jam were available for tasting. In another, 24 varieties were available. In either case, the entire set of 24 varieties was available for purchase. The large array of jams attracted more people to the table than the small array, though in both cases people tasted about the same number of jams on average. When it came to buying, however, a huge difference became evident. Thirty percent of the people exposed to the small array of jams actually bought a jar; only 3 percent of those exposed to the large array of jams did so.

While The Paradox of Choice was published in 2004 it seems more relevant than ever. We have more choices than ever before in: cell phones, toothpaste, coffee concoctions, and disposable razors (hydro-flexible-sensitive-hybrid(huh?)-turbo-aloe) and the list goes on…

I experienced “choice overload” earlier this summer on a trip to South Haven where I visited a store that sold olive oil and vinegar. There were so many options, after tasting probably 12 different oils and vinegars I left the store, overwhelmed, purchasing nothing. I really went in to purchase just my favorite – butter flavored olive oil, but was out of the mood to buy by the time I got around to it.

So, this question of so many choices – is it a good thing or a bad thing? I found out there is much, much research on the subject, more than I can cover here. My belief is more times than not, too many choices isn’t a good thing. Heck, just trying to determine what is different from one product to the next is stressful. Then, after you make a choice are you going to constantly second-guess your decision? Wonder if one of the other options was better? I remember my mom telling me when she was little she had two pairs of shoes, one pair for school, one pair for church. I bet that she didn’t have a lot of stress when getting dressed for school.

Simplicity has it's benefits. What do you think? Having a lot of choices, a good thing or a bad thing?


The Power of Fear

Posted on August 1, 2013 by nmcelwrath

I was watching the local news with my wife one evening and was struck by a story of a home invasion in a neighborhood very close to where we live. The story immediately got our attention. We were concerned enough to take extra precautions and make sure exterior lights, locks and windows all were working properly.

The very next day, my doorbell rang. At my door stood a security alarm company salesman who immediately opened up with “There have been some home invasions in your area over the last few days and I wanted to make sure you and your family were protected”.

While his timing was impeccable, this visit was no coincidence. I couldn’t help but think our well-timed salesman watched the evening news to see where he would be selling the next day. After all, these unfortunate news stories are legitimate business leads to him. In hindsight though, I felt like bit of a fool. I fell right into their trap. I was simply a pawn in their well designed scheme.

But regardless of how manipulated I felt afterwards, I still saw the value and - hook, line and sinker, I signed on the dotted line. How it works:

  • Relate the problem to your audience. Our salesman used the aspect of proximity of crime as a relatable point.
  • Make the audience believe in the effectiveness of the product. In my case, the reliability of notifications was the main factor in whether or not I believed this alarm system would protect my family.
  • Make the solution easy. All I had to do is buy a security system and have them install it to be safe.

It works - surprisingly well. Fear was a very powerful motivator for us. Without the news story and timely visit, we would have simply said “No thanks” and watched him kick rocks on his way to our neighbors.

Other industries have harnessed the fear motivator as well. The Cosmetic Industry use your fear of rejection to sell you facial cremes and spot removers. Insurance companies use the fear of loss when they sell you insurance. But with any great power, comes great responsibility (thanks Uncle Ben). You can also cause damage to a brand with fear marketing. Exaggeration of the consequences can raise doubt and resentment in your potential customers.

Seth Godin explored an instance of fear marketing that was harmful to a brand. The motivating factors of fear are undeniable. Implemented responsibly and coupled with other motivating factors, fear as a marketing tool can help drive decisions and generate results.