Placing your media production in context
My research has found that teachers are interested in my product and that my prototype, after beta testing appeals to them as some thing that they would be happy to use.
Unfortunately for me having developed a product is not enough. To actually sell my product I have begun to develop a business plan, discover who my audience is and the best ways which I could reach out to them. It is also important for me to keep track on whether the systems that I put in place are effective in reaching out to the right people.
Conducting a quick Facebook check using it’s very useful advertising tool I found that there are 1,037,424 people on Facebook alone who ‘Have expressed an in interest in or like pages related to Educational technology’ and thats people on Facebook alone. Thats 1 in 4 people, 1,23 billion users out of a population of 7.046 billion as of 3 days ago according to expanded ramblings and trusty old google. Thats a massive audience, and also a massive deal of competition.
So how can I make my business stand out amongst the competition?
The interactive whiteboard was first developed in 1991 and by 2004, 26% of British primary classrooms had interactive whiteboards.
Although this was below the expected revenue of a predicted 1 in 7 classrooms within the whole world, the expansion in the use of interactive whiteboards globally has been vast with becta_2010_htss_report indicated that 98% of secondary and 100% of primary schools had IWBs by 2010.
So today, a product made solely for use on an interactive whiteboard is essentially aimed at every if not all schools.
This also means that the use of technology within the classroom is generally accepted, which is positive in that it makes the prospect of my business less daunting to my target audience but it also means that I am not the only business to take advantage of the acceptance of technology in this way.
However on my side is the niche, the specific use of marker technology to bring interactivity to PSHE that I have incorporated into my product and to help that sell for the fun and proven to be powerful tool that it is I have begun to put together a structured business plan working closely with the creative futures department of my university.
Through working with creative futures I have learnt that, there are 2 different types of business plans. A ‘formal document is often a necessity for securing external funding and may include supporting appendix references to increase the likelihood of this ‘whilst an informal business plan is a personal guide for the owner to plan the intended route for their business.’
For now, with the help of creative futures I have begun to develop a formal business plan based on the principles of Nesta, a resource for business newbies intended to ‘Make Innovation Flourish’,-
On the detailed completion of my business plan my intention is to then create an informal one to try and get external funding via my university with the creative futures team, if there is sellable intellectual property of which I actually own the rights to.
As my resource is an educational aid it is some thing which investors within the university tend to look favourably on.
In the event of developing my product to the point of selling it would be important to use an advertising technique which reflects the type of product that it is.
The business experience show community blog states that “Innovative marketing is important for making the most of what you already have.”
And so to practice my innovative marketing skills, using mozilla editing software I have taken an existing interactive poster and played around with the css code using the available tutorials.
And this is the final product. An advertising campaign which is interactive, just as is the software.
This module has taught me a great deal about every stage of innovation and the importance of research in developing. I have learnt that, through interaction with educational software advertising agency TeachersWithApps that developing an innovative idea, with enough research, can be hugely beneficial.
After asking for feedback on my product via Twitter, I caught the interest of TeachersWithApps. They are currently reviewing the potential for my idea in the market to give me a rough idea of where I am at and whatever happens I will most definitely, whatever happens keep developing my innovative ideas from now on through thorough research and reflection rather than on a whim. This way I will never stop learning.
Gregory,A. (2014). How to write a simple business plan. Available: http://sbinformation.about.com/od/businessplans/ht/how-to-write-a-simple-business-plan.htm. Last accessed 5th March 2014.
The final prototype that I have created is based on the principles of how advertising works in the educational business context and that is why every piece of paper or photograph that I have put into the folder is based on market research and research into reaching an audience. I have achieved this through looking at other competitors ways of distributing their ideas as you can see in earlier blogs and this is a breakdown of how I technically achieved each element.
The actual folder
Essentially just a net folded together to look fancy but as the shell for the actual resource inside it needed to
- Look professional
- Represent its contents
- Stand out within competition
and this is where the knowledge of branding came into play. I sketched out the semiotics of what I wanted to represent, notably the use of a hand as a symbol of classroom interaction and discussed my ideas with a graphics designer. Together we put together the final design using Photoshop and illustrator and sent it off to a professional printers to be made.
Working with a professional associate was a beneficial experience, I learnt about budgeting, communication and unfortunately but beneficially the importance of checking a design before finalising it. On the front cover stands the tag line ‘Somethings cannot be taught from books.’ Taken from a real interview with a student in a discussion about my product it speaks exactly what I wanted it to, however it doesn’t speak it in a way which is grammatically correct. Within minutes of noticing my mistake I contacted the printers and unfortunately it was too late. Annoying? Enormously. Some thing (two words) to learn from? Definitely. Attention to detail, especially for selling an educational resource for the classroom is hugely important. Some things cannot be taught from books, and how frustrating it is to make such a mistake in a real life business situation is one of them.
Schon talks about a cycle of learning and in that way that experience was perfect, I developed something through research and then popular knowledge gave me an area to improve on and in the future I will be more careful with the detail.
The letter and FAQ’s
Throughout my research I have spent a lot of time talking to teachers and those within the educational sector. So to create a letter, on the size of A4 without sounding too desperate and to sell my product back to the audience who has helped me was something which required research before hand.
Surveying teachers on existing resource packs as you can read about in my previous blog showed me that a popular resource pack was ‘Stonewall’. Their straight to the point and honest approach in why their resource should be used in the classroom inspired me to write a letter to the teacher which not only breaks the ice but aims to explain the benefits of PshMe. Within the surveys I also discovered that teachers felt favourably towards the inclusion of frequently asked questions so I included these too.
If there was one thing which I would improve is stating the particular age of which the product is aimed at, to do this I would need to do even more research into the curriculum and age appropriate expectations. In the future I will be working closely with a group of teachers and those educated in this area in order to do this.
Although I’ve done research into the technology behind augmented reality I am as far of from being a software programmer as Joey Essex is in learning how to tell the time. This is why I used existing skills and archive footage to demonstrate my ideas as closely as I could to the real thing.
I would love to have put more time into this demonstration as the animation was very basic, which is for my part a sign of bad time management but I thought that the screen shots were more effective in demonstrating my ideas and these went down particularly well in the beta testing of my folder.
I enclosed prompt cards to accompany the Demo DVD to replicate the interactivity that is a key theme with my software.
In the future I look forward to working with a programmer to actually replicate this interactivity into a demo as well as the software itself.
Example lesson plan
Context has become apparent to me as very important, as I have not been able to develop the software yet. I felt that a lesson plan which actually shows a way that my product could be used would help to do this.
In my feedback, one respondent very recently stated that:
The emotional issue of confidence in using technology is something which I aim to deal with consistently throughout the future development of my product.
Thinking back to the above comment and to this feedback during beta testing:
I listened to the respondent, as schon tells us to learn from our research I enclosed a small note explaining the basic technology behind the software in a way that establishes a popular concern, child safety within the use of technology.
So I have developed an innovative product by the terms of what my research defines one as, based on the genuine needs of teachers in a genuine context and have learnt and developed from my mistakes throughout to create an idea which, evidently whilst it still has room to grow also has room to sell. And that is where the business plan comes in.
Effective reflection is, according to schon 1983 “the capacity to reflect on action so as to engage in a process of continuous learning” as thus I must continue to assess the genuine value of my product in what will be its genuine context, the educational sector.
The education sector, is both internally funded (from donors, and parents associated with schools) or externally funded via the government.
The government has banded schools into three categories. For example, for secondary schools, the median funding for areas outside London with low levels of deprivation is £5,021, rising to £6,849 for high levels per student. However, the data is not given for academies, which are outside local authority control and have larger budgets, so the figures do not give the whole picture. (BBC News, 2014)
In terms of my product, it is interesting for me to note that, in the schools where the area is considered ‘ Socioeconomically disadvantaged’, and there is a greater need for education in subjects such as money handling, there is more funding available per student. What adds to the value of my product significantly is that it is available for those with greater need of it.
‘Students are considered socioeconomically disadvantaged if they participate in the free and reduced-price lunch program or if neither parent graduated from high school. The National School Lunch program provides free lunches to students whose family income is below 130% of the federal poverty line; it offers reduced-price lunches to students whose family income is between 130% and 185% of the poverty line. Lunch program participation is often used as an indication of family income levels at the school.’
If we look at the Local authority attainment data for pupils eligible for free school meals in 2012 then by this definition, Coventry alone had a significant 24.8% average uptake for free school meals in 2012. So for almost 1 in 4 students comes some spare cash towards educational resources, such as PshMe.
For a product to be innovative it needs to do more than simply sell however and make a valuable impact.
As discussed before the department of education states that ‘All school’s must teach PSHE’ so this would suggest a value on the subject itself. But what value would my resource have, on completion, within education?
Existing PSHE software ‘My world’ was praised in its use by Chosen Hill school.
The Student Mentoring link (within the software) has been used by several pupils, with one or two emailing in regularly. The mentors themselves have gained much from the experience and have said that it has enabled them to appreciate others much more and has modified their behaviour in school: they made front page of the local paper for their work on anti-bullying!
Although in many ways this software is different to the one that I am developing, this provides some evidence as to the impact of technology in the teaching of PSHE and that in can indeed have social value.
As this interview was not endorsed by ‘MyWorld’ this further enhances the validity of this case study.
Thinking back to my own product, I have yet to find educational software that uses the same technology as PshMe so it is difficult to estimate the value of this product specifically in this way.
However, to test the value of my own product, I used the technique that I discussed in an earlier blog as slightly more personal and more likely to provoke honesty. The interview.
Unfortunately via the internet, I asked the primary school head teacher back at my old school what his initial thoughts were on my product which I sent over to him by post
Other than the obvious weaknesses in using email to gain feedback , asking some one of which I have personal attachment too is not reliable enough to run a whole business off. However some of the things he said, mainly that it fits into the current contextual industry that he is exposed to everyday suggests that it is worth developing further.
I now need to begin developing a business plan of how, who, why and where I will sell to.
Barksfield,J. (2013). Chosen Hill School case study. Available: http://www.pshe-association.org.uk/content.aspx?CategoryID=1144. Last accessed 4th March 2014.
BBC. (2014). What does the schools spending data show?. Available: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-12175480. Last accessed 4th March 2014.
Great Schools. (2014). Socioeconomically Disadvantaged. Available: http://www.greatschools.org/definitions/ca/data_definitions.html. Last accessed 4th March 2014.
Schön, D. (1983) The Reflective Practitioner, How Professionals Think In Action, Basic Books.
Final analysis of every single bit of data; The Use of Qualitative Content Analysis in Case Study Research. 7 (21), p4-7.
The possible strategies for conducting vital research are discussed in Florian’s Journal on qualitative content analysis. It discusses the pro’s and con’s of using either quantitive or qualitative research.
The general deductions that I made from this reading in relation to how I would conduct my own research were;
Although qualitative research techniques are sometimes viewed within a professional context as being less professional than quantitative research, with a greater room for misinterpretation qualitative research is characterised by Cassel et al as being:
“a focus on interpretation rather than quantification; an emphasis on subjectivity
rather than objectivity; flexibility in the process of conducting research; an orientation
towards process rather than outcome; a concern with context—regarding behaviour
and situation as inextricably linked in forming experience; and finally, an explicit
recognition of the impact of the research process on the research situation”
Subjectivity, an opinion or an assumption which can vary day-to-day or between people according to Lland, E (2003) is beneficial in gaining opinion and so could be a useful way of gaining personal feedback about what teachers feel works for them personally rather than ticking a box for what works to a set out criteria. Objectivity, also defined by Lland, as observable or factual data that can be repeated could also be beneficial in assessing the value of my product as it is has the capacity to repeated, and that is ultimately more appealing to an investor than an opinion that may have a volunteer bias.
I therefore decided to use a mixture of both quantitive and qualitative techniques to gather my final and conclusive pieces of data.
Volunteer bias, is something which I have not been able to overcome throughout my research and this is therefore a limit to the validity of my research and can be defined as Volunteer bias which can be defined as the bias that comes from the fact that a particular sample can contain only those participants who are actually willing to participate in the study or experiment (Heiman, 2002). As I have contacted the respondents to my surveys and interviews personally, even via the internet they may still have felt obliged to answer in favour.
To limit the effect of volunteer bias throughout my research, I have only disclosed the details of my innovation after the surveys were completed if requested. Although it does not erase the potential for respondents to answer surveys in a way that would ‘do me a favour’ this technique is talked about frequently within many of the resources referenced below as largely effective.
Other than the volunteer bias, to limit the effects of my own subjectivity I composed a final questionnaire to explore the issues that were initially discussed and their own opinions of my final prototype in relation to these issues discussed in my earlier blogs, so that rather than analysing my own opinions I can at least analyse the external opinions who will be consuming the product, and are not emotionally attached to it.
In the first instance, I took this recurring concern from a primary school teacher about the current teaching of PSHE:
and asked the same group of teachers this, in relation to my final prototype.
I used a multiple choice style question to gain quantitative data for the key piece of information, so that it could therefore be plotted easily visually onto a graph.
80% of the teachers who I sent the folders to and answered the survey replied yes.
The simplicity of a multiple choice answer has both it’s advantages and disadvantages. Whilst the answers are less susceptible to misinterpretation by myself, the person whom will take the answers forward, multiple choice questions do not provide the respondent with the opportunity to explain their answers, and more importantly to ask question of their own to really understand what is being asked of them. (Bjornsson 2012)
To gain qualitative data I used a comment style question so that the respondent was more open to offering their personal suggestions.
These two answers in particular demonstrate both the strengths and limitations of using open ended questions.
Whilst the second answer is useful and clearly suggests an area for improvement for me to further work on, the first answer ‘Not sure’, throws into question whether a qualitative answer with little use or a quantitative answer, with a multiple choice answer which is not truly reflective is preferable. It is arguably a question of ethics, but ultimately I would rather create a product developed because of a genuine need and is therefore innovative rather than one based on false statistics.
That is why, for the next stage of my strategy, I will think about my product contextually in terms of its market value.
Bjornsson. (2012). Pros and con’s of multiple choice. Available: http://www.researchgate.net/post/Pros_and_cons_of_multiple_choice_questions. Last accessed 3rd March 2014.
Doyle,B et al. (2004). http://www.asdatoz.com/Documents/Website-%20Objective%20vs%20subjective%20ltr.pdf. Available: http://www.asdatoz.com/Documents/Website-%20Objective%20vs%20subjective%20ltr.pdf. Last accessed 3rd March 2014.
Heiman, G. W., (2002). Research Methods in Psychology. 3rd Edition. Boston & New York. Houghton Mifflin Company.
Kohlbacher,Florian. (2006). Qualitative social forum . The Use of Qualitative Content Analysis in Case Study Research. 7 (21), p4-7.
Using the data from the surveys I sent to 10 different primary school teachers, I have gathered the qualitative data into a quantitive word cloud to highlight the themes which were most consistently apparent.
The general feedback I received was very reassuring, the most commonly used words show up the largest on the word cloud that I created and as you can see the general feeling towards by folder is that it is clear and helpful. The areas that I need to work on according to this data is letting the reader know a little more about how the technology behind the product works, in an easy to understand way.
The disadvantages of the research that I have conducted through surveys, according to Prof. David Taylors introduction to research methods is that surveys are cold and there is no opportunity to easily ask follow up questions. Especially with doing my surveys via the internet and in a short space of time this is a significant disadvantage to the validity of my research. However, assuming the data to be accurate representations of the general publics opinion, developing a short note for the teacher to see what the technology is behind the product, as requested, is a helpful place for me to start.
Using Allard,J et al’s journal on 3D modelling I have since put together this note detailing the use of technology such as markers for teachers. If I had more time, and I will in the future for the development of my business I would like to return my folders to the peer group as previous and ask them specifically about the effectiveness of this information. This would also confirm the effectiveness of my current strategy into market research.
Allard,J et al. (2010). Marker-less Real Time 3D Modeling for Virtual Reality. Available: http://artis.imag.fr/Projets/Cyber-II/Publications/IPT04.pdf. Last accessed 3rd March 2014.
On finishing putting together the contents of my resource folder, I have sent off the folder and a short survey to several teachers to beta test my product and see whether I am on the right track, or if I’m not then what I need to do make it suit the needs of the audience.
In my folder so far, using the market research of existing resource folders and the opinions of these, there is:
The actual folder, branded with the graphics developed by myself and a graphics designer.
A letter and faq (2) for the teacher, offering a brief insight into the product and clearing up any possible concerns they may have.
An example lesson plan to put my resource into context.
And a DVD of a demo and screenshots of the software, including prompt cards as a visual guide.
The questions that I have asked my focus group are:
Using the responses that I receive, I will continue to develop this idea accordingly to the wants and needs of my audience, the teachers.
The actual contents of a research folder are, in terms of being innovative the most important but the last couple of days I have been developing the branding of my resource folder. Although not the most important stage every stage of development should still be undertaken in an educated way, based on existing knowledge.
Starting with the name that I would choose, I wanted something that would represent what the resource actually was but in a fun way.
Existing brand names, were typically no longer than one or two words and whilst some were a bit cryptic others made a little more sense.
I wanted a hybrid of fun but professional, so opted for something more sensical to the theme;
The PSH bit, personal, social and health is obvious but the Me! bit is to represent how the software is personalised to the viewer and is all about how you think.
And thats what the ethic branding of my product is; it’s fun but professional, follows the existing curriculum and is personalised.
‘Some things cannot be taught from books.’
And there is my tagline. Based on the feedback from one of the students I asked about the current teaching of pshe in schools. To create an innovative product, according to ‘What is innovation” by AGI, is to create something based on the genuine needs of your audience rather than something that you just have a desire to develop and that is exactly what I have intended to do throughout.
And on to developing a logo, although I’ve had a little practice with photoshop before I opted for help with developing my ideas more professionally.
Talking to a graphics designer about my product opened my eyes to the theme that I mentioned before, when designing something for a strict function, functionality is more important than typical attractiveness. Whilst branding is important, in that it creates the first impression of a product, where schools are under tight constraints of many varieties simplicities is appealing in a resource for the classroom.
Working with the graphics designer, these are the designs that we have come up with so far.
The hand represents a willingness to interact in the classroom, the speech bubble to signify the freedom of speech and the light through the hand the use of the interactive whiteboard and advanced technology. Following the rule of simplicity, a logo which could be placed all over various products within my folder, the second one on the right is my favourite.
Following the rules of ‘innovation’ however, I will leave it up to the actual audience to tell me if it works or not as I ask them to beta test my resource folder in development.