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Harry Verwayen at “Images for the Future” in Holland has commented in his blog on the ambitions we’ve laid down for ode, which he broadly supports. Well, he believes strongly in the vision, but, like most people, hopes to see it done right as he believes liberating educational content is vital to embrace the modern student’s outlook and behaviors.

“This is an environment where changes have been notoriously slow to take root. Where the current generation of young children that have in fact been ‘born digital’ spend their free time between msn, gameconsoles and their pc but receive their education primarily through old fashioned books and whiteboards. “

This is an evident dichotomy facing education today. A student has to walk between two worlds, you might call them “analogue” (the classroom) and “digital” (everything outside the classroom).

We should take comfort in the fact that the line is blurring (there are loads of fantastic digital torch bearing educators out there, unfortunately they are still the minority) but essentially todays students are still immersed in the same education system you can trace back through generations.

I think what we’re doing is simply the next natural evolution in teaching. In fact I’d say education lends itself more naturally to this disaggregated approach to content than most other industries – teachers have always been extremely passionate about collecting the very best materials to suit their style and their students, no matter where they come from.

The Internet has given educators an unbelievable treasure trove of content and interaction but it’s not designed for that specific use, in fact the Internet is not ‘designed’ at all – you simply find the least painful resource e.g. Google and try your best to wring everything you can out of it.

But even the mighty Google is ham strung by being designed to work for everyone (which is another way of saying it’s designed to work for no one). So as we (the collective group) get “better” at the Internet the more sites like Google will frustrate us as our needs become deeper and more profound, well beyond keyword searching.

ode will be one of a number of new “find engines“, not “search engines”, for education. The difference being a search engine expects you to know exactly how best to search for something e.g. the right combination of keywords, and gives you a single object back (the right one hopefully), a find engine provides a number of facilities to help you locate data and resources around what you want (or indeed influenced by what you already have).

Ask.com has positioned itself as a find engine although I think it misses the point somewhat – it’s still a general search engine – and the term works much better in a specific domain. It’s a need that fits well into a vertical marketplace such as education or music where peer review, editorial recommendation and folksonomy help enormously.

Ultimately ode has a major battle on it’s hands on two fronts: convincing content owners to change the way they sell their content and educators to recognise how wonderful this might be for them and their students. Still, nothing good comes easy, right?

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The irony of the thing is, any place but a movie theatre, that’s a joke, but if you sit in a theatre and hear ‘In a world‘, you don’t hear laughter.”

Don Lafontaine, the gravel voiced man who has voiced over 3,500 trailers, who wrote his own scripts and popularised the term “In a World…

There are hundreds of books, thousands of blogs and plenty of companies dedicated to marketing but promoting a new software platform into the nascent digital education market is not so well understood, or at least proven.

Web 2.0, blogs, Wikis and RSS are in schools (mainly with the students!) but are still only representative of a small percentage of the communication channels used by the majority of educators. We appreciate that.

Hence schools are still bombarded with old school calls to action: leaflets, Rep visits, catalogues, email newsletters, cold calls and conference requests to name a few. The noise must be deafening. It might not please (or surprise) the more traditional marketeers in our industry but the vast majority of these pleas for attention end up in the bin or ignored. A 1% response rate to a flyer is considered a huge victory. 1%! Think of the trees if nothing else. Just because you can measure it doesn’t mean it’s effective.

The newest generation of educators is no longer passive, but thoroughly proactive when sourcing educational content thanks to the internet. Does this make “marketing” as we understand it obsolete?

So every time the ode team is asked what our marketing strategy is we can only reply “whatever you are used to, we probably won’t do it”. This might lead you to think we’re all about stealth marketing or viral marketing or gaming Digg. But not really, that sounds like the sort of thing that would wind Bill Hicks right up and his genius is unassailable so we’ll give them a miss I think.

You can’t hide from your customers anymore behind corporate speak, business jargon or be overly manipulative. Your mistakes are amplified and your methods transparent to the world. You can no longer control the message.

We don’t want to patronise our users by pretending we’re not in a 2 way conversation with them. This is how really effective marketing has changed since the advent of the internet – you have to try harder to be relevant, be more personable and honest. Just be more exciting. One easy way to understand how using old style marketing cannot really deliver to new style consumers is the modern art of the film trailer.

The 1977 Star Wars trailer:

The 1999 Phantom Menace trailer:

The original 1977 Star Wars trailer makes the film look drab, cheap and unengaging. In fact nothing like the the actual film itself. The Phantom Menace trailer on the other hand makes the film look thrilling, mysterious, epic and heart stopping. In fact everything the film is not. A clear case of the marketing being better than the product, which happens all the time these days. What a let down, eh?

What seems to work best these days is concentrating on involving and talking to your users, getting them passionate about your offering and making the best product you can.

It’s not “If you build it they will come” it’s “If you build it and it’s awesome they will not only come but bring their friends too”.

Your product is the message.

What is ODE?

ODE will be a webstore where educators can buy little bits of digital educational content and put them back together any way they like. Simple.