Digital Education Watch: Conclusion

Image by nirots from

Image by nirots from

While technology has, and will continue to, change trade, scholarly and other segments of publishing in exciting ways, its impact on educational publishing will change the way students learn and, consequently, the way our society will operate in the future. This blog chose to focus specifically on the K-12 educational publishing segment’s shift from print to digital because of the incredible influence this shift has on its audience and the publishing market as a whole.

The educational publishing segment has made exciting and innovative advancements with technology, advancements that the rest of the publishing world must adopt to fit the needs of their future readers. Publishers in this segment are creating interactive digital ebooks, apps and programs that engage and assess students, and they’re using technology and data in sophisticated ways to track individual learning styles and adapt to personal needs.

Over the past three months, Digital Education Watch has tracked significant events in the industry by looking specifically at which businesses are making exciting and innovative advancements with technology. We looked at five large educational publishers that have dominated the segment for awhile: Pearson, McGraw-Hill Education, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Scholastic and Macmillan Education. These publishers still dominate the marketplace, and most of the innovative ebooks, apps and digital programs are coming from these five companies.

However, as technology disrupts this marketplace, new services  and products emerge. This blog has tracked four successful startups—Lore, BetterLesson, Clever and GoalBook—that offer teachers innovative online services. These services include social networking for the classroom and for lesson planning; data analysis and management; and online resources for special education teachers. The college textbook company Boundless shows how startups also have the opportunity to compete with the aforementioned big publishers in the textbook market as more schools move away from print materials and look to incorporate technology in new ways.

A common theme among the developments and conversations being made in the industry are the Common Core State Standards, one of the biggest influences in how our current educators are approaching their instruction. Last month at the Frankfurt Book Fair, John Wheeler, senior vice president of strategy, emerging technologies, and content solutions of SPi Global, a company that offers digital publishing solutions, discussed how the Common Core has reshaped the classroom and publishing segment around it. Wheeler explains, “We’re seeing a fairly wholesale move across the educational world from books and chapters to more of a learning outcome scenario. That’s one of the drivers of Common Core. They’re taking a good look at what needs to be taught, how can we guarantee that it’s being taught, and how can we assess that it’s been taught. It’s really caused our publishing partners to take a good, hard look from inception through delivery at how we’re producing content.”

While each of the big educational publishers are taking this good, hard look in different ways, there are several common themes and trends emerging among the digital products they are creating. While many schools are hesitant or can’t afford to completely abandon their print materials, the big educational publishers are quickly revolutionizing their products.  While McGraw-Hill Education aims to offer teachers a middle ground between print and digital, they are evolving their content into ebooks, apps and online learning programs at almost the same speed as Pearson and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, companies who are digitizing their products with full force. As these publishers are using new digital containers, the content is being produced in smaller, more interactive chunks. Because of this new “bite-sized” content, apps are emerging as a favorable format; even the ebooks Pearson, McGraw-Hill and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt are producing resemble apps more than they do print textbooks.

Image by kanate from

Image by kanate from

Another notable trend identified is a focus on personalized learning, one of the benefits discussed in this blog’s post about the added value of digital in the classroom. Startups like GoalBook were created to enhance IEPs with technology, while larger companies like Pearson, McGraw-Hill Education and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt aim to bring that personalized learning experience to all students by developing digital products that analyze and adapt to students’ learning styles. In order to achieve this, another trend has emerged among companies: a focus on data. All three big educational publishers are investing in data analytics: Pearson purchased Learning Catalytics™ in April 2013, McGraw-Hill Education bought Key Curriculum in 2012 and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt recently acquired Choice Solutions Inc. Startups like Clever are also infiltrating the market by offering data analytics services and integrated products to schools and programmers.

After looking at how the dominating publishers are approaching digital products and exploring the services that the successful education startups are offering, my assessment of the educational publishing segment is that technology is acting as a disruptive innovation in the shift from print to digital and the industry is changing drastically as a result. Technology is disrupting companies’ business models and products and, because of this disruption, there is great potential for startups to compete successfully with the big players.

As technology and the Common Core standards alter curricula and lesson planning, teachers and schools will have more options to choose from when selecting their materials. As print textbooks are replaced with tablets and apps, less schools will automatically turn to Pearson and McGraw-Hill for their products and will begin to look elsewhere. I predict that more innovative, technological thinkers will create startups to infiltrate–and revolutionize–the educational publishing segment, and that the marketplace for educational materials will change dramatically. 


Weekly Watch: Nov. 3 – Nov. 9, 2013

Image by bplanet from

Image by bplanet from

Weekly Watch: November 3 – November 9, 2013


Scholastic appeared twice on the Weekly Watch twice last week with their innovative digital products: Publishing Perspectives touched on their use of interactive white boards to teach English to Chinese and other international students. On the same day, Digital Book World featured a press release from Scholastic on their new Book Fair app. While the former is intriguing and shows the breadth of uses for digital educational products (as well as Scholastic’s focus of the fourth educational publishing market mentioned in this blog’s introductory post, English language learning materials), it is the latter that deserves our main attention and that offers a glimpse into the digital future of not just educational publishing, but of the entire industry.

Scholastic remained the 10th largest publisher in 2013 and leads the market in both selling and distributing children’s books. Publishers Weekly notes a shift in Scholastic’s business model after fiscal year 2011, when the company demonstrated a more concentrated focus on educational publishing by creating a Classroom and Supplemental Materials Publishing division, one previously within their Educational Technology and Services division. President of Scholastic International Shane Armstrong noted this shift in a recent discussion of the company’s educational publishing presence in China: “Scholastic isn’t just a publisher any more—we’re moving into educational solutions.”

Scholastic is not only using technology to create new roles for itself in the publishing industry, but adding value to its already established role in children’s publishing. Scholastic’s book fairs are a staple in schools across the nation. They currently have more than 40 book fairs scheduled in each of the 50 states and D.C.; North Caroline alone has 1,050. This past week, Scholastic released their new book fair app, an incredible example of what all publishers need to be doing with technology. Their app shows the future of digital reading and all that it can offer. Scholastic offers the following promotional video of the app with their press release:

Soon, we should all be able to scan titles in our local bookstores (assuming, hopefully, they will still exist) and link to podcasts, videos, peer reviews and other related information. This is the value publishers can add in the digital world: seamless access to a variety of contextual media and other content related to their books and products. Publishing has always been a content delivery system, and in the new digital age, publishers must deliver new forms of content that highlight the context of their products.

By offering students direct access to peer reviews of the books they read, Scholastic’s app encourages to engage in a digital, social reading of their books, a kind of reading that will be applicable to their generation. Growing up with Facebook and Twitter, the current and future students will be accustomed to posting their comments online with others, virtually discussing their thoughts and opinions through a computer screen. By reaching children through a medium in which they feel comfortable sharing their thoughts, teachers can make reading relevant and approachable to students. Also, by teaching children to seek peer reviews of their books online, Scholastic’s app is teaching them early how to filter through all the noise they will encounter online. We learn to identify credible sources in scholarly contexts, but the future generations will need to learn to identify credible sources online to deal with the influx of information available to them.

Scholastic’s Book Fair app also has obvious implications on how students and parents discover children’s books. In my E-Publishing course, we discussed discoverability this week and did group research on how readers find what to read. The majority of people my group surveyed found their reading material online, and publishers should take note of how seamless and rich Scholastic is making this process for children and their parents.

Also to note is Scholastic’s Storia and eReading app.  Scholastic had a tent at the National Book Fair this past September that featured e-read-alouds with their Storia eReading app. When I stopped by the tent, a small group of children were gathered on blankets and bean bags chairs in front of a large screen that was “reading” a story to them. Each page of the book appeared on screen at a time, the text in large font with pictures over certain words, while audio read the story aloud. As the audio read each word, the word was highlighted on screen so students could follow along. This is an important feature of the program that Beth Bacon at Digital Book World discussed last week.

At first, the children at the National Book Fair e-read-aloud seemed disengaged with the screen. Several were distracted by festival goers and others were talking to those around them, but as I looked closer, I noticed that many were fixated on the screen and following the story closely. They were engaged, as if they were watching a movie, but they were actually learning fundamental reading skills. In fact, Scholastic’s digital story-time can increase the effectiveness of reading instruction. In her post on the benefits of digital reading for children, Beth Bacon notes “The research demonstrates that as words light up in time with the spoken voice of a recorded announcer, children look at the text for a longer amount of time than when they listen to a caregiver reading aloud.”

As the leading children’s publisher, Scholastic has great influence over how children find what to read and how they will read in the future. Scholastic recognizes the great potential technology can bring to reading and they’ve dedicated their business efforts to be more involved in the educational content, products and services that surround reading.

Weekly Watch: Oct. 6 – Oct. 12, 2013

Image by bplanet from

Image by bplanet from

Weekly Watch: October 6 – October 12, 2013

Companies to Watch

The integration of technology into educational publishing will not only affect the classroom, but the market this industry operates within. While the current industry is mainly dominated by the “big three” educational publishing companies–Pearson, McGraw-Hill and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt–the shift to digital gives smaller startups the opportunity to infiltrate the market; it also gives big companies that have dominated the digital market, such as Apple, the opportunity to expand their reach.

The Companies to Watch section of this blog will look at what the major publishers are doing–and what they aren’t doing–to move into the digital world. The section will also look at smaller educational companies that are doing innovative things with e-publishing. Some of the startups discussed don’t publish education materials in the traditional sense, such as textbooks, but are using technology to advance the classroom with supplemental tools and platforms. As we saw in the previous post–Limitations in the Classroom–we can’t think of the educational publishing market in the narrow terms of just textbooks and books, but most also take into account supplemental, instructional and administrative tools and platforms for teachers and students.

The Digital Watch List

The big players

  1. Pearson
  2. McGraw-Hill Education
  3. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  4. Scholastic
  5. Macmillan Education

Startups to Watch

  1. Lore
  2. Boundless
  3. Clever
  4. BetterLesson
  5. GoalBook

Which company is making the most interesting advancements in digital publishing? Which company has had the most success in e-publishing? Do smaller startups really have a chance? This section will explore these questions and more.

Digital Education Watch: Introduction

Welcome to Digital Education Watch, a blog dedicated to researching, discussing and contemplating the current state and future of digital educational publishing. This blog focuses on K-12 education and how publishers are using technology to create more interactive and engaging learning materials for students.


By Kromkrathog from

The educational publishing segment is a rich one, both in the value it can provide to its audience as well as in monetary terms. At the end of 2012, SIIA valued the digital education market at $7.76 billion. SIIA Education Division Market and Policy Analyst Lindsay Harman notes how Consulting Services for Education Inc. (CS4Ed) analyzed the digital education market from the survey’s data:

The revenues and products were divided into four major market segments: content; instructional support; platforms and administrative tools; and a special segment that includes advanced placement, special education, and English language learner materials.

Educational publishing has a large market that includes teachers and students in all 50 states; as a result, there are many different needs and preferences to consider when publishing materials for this audience, as well as limitations. Realistically, many schools still can’t afford the technology that will be discussed on this site. The industry is also affected by the federal government and its laws and standards on state educational systems. This blog will explore some of the cultural and economic factors that come with this market and discuss how they are impacting the transition to e-publishing.

The “Big Three” leading publishers in the market are Pearson, McGraw-Hill Education and Houghton-Mifflin Harcourt, but others such as Scholastic and Macmillan Education have a big presence. With an expanding digital market, startups like Boundless and Lore have joined these larger publishers in the race to advance the classroom with technology. This blog will not only watch companies like these that are using technology to enhance their materials in novel ways, it will also track the conversations publishers and educators are having about what more can be done. Over at Digital Book World, Beth Bacon has noticed this growing conversation as well and started a column earlier this year on DBW’s site dedicated to education.

In order to stay on top of the most recent developments in this industry, this blog will gather its research primarily from credible online sources, including general news sites as well as publishing news sites, such as Digital Book World, Publishers Weekly and Publishing Perspectives; it will also explore the websites of publishers within this segment in order to discuss their products. This blog will use scholarly research to analyze the advancements seen online, including Hugh McGuire and Brian O’Leary’s Book:  A Futurist’s Manifesto, and John B. Thompson’s Books in the Digital Age: The transformation of academic and higher education publishing in Britain and the United States. When possible, I will also use my own personal and professional experiences to provide commentary on important issues and trends.

The emerging digital educational publishing industry has the potential to greatly change the way students learn and use information, which will shape the way we use information as a society in the future. Exciting advancements are already being made in the industry and the future only holds more ground to break. This blog will be watching.