Thursday, October 2, 2014

ZMOT in Education

Technology itself is not changing education.
From the eBook by Mr. Lecinski & Google

The behaviors we have created for ourselves as a result of technology are changing education.

While at Google HQ in August, we heard from the head of Google's offices in Chicago, Jim Lecinski. Soon after hearing him speak, he published an article entitled "ZMOT: Why It Matters Now More Than Ever".  After reading it, you realize our behaviors as a culture are changing because of how we interact with the vast amount of information available online.

Educators needs to know what ZMOT is and how we might use it in schools.

ZMOT means "Zero Moment of Truth", and it refers to the exact moment when a person has a need, intent, or question he/she wants answered and goes online to find it.  A product that can answer that need in the moment has an advantage in the marketplace.  Online presence and advertising allow the consumer to find an answer and the merchant to make a profit. Google has pioneered the concept of ZMOT, and Mr. Lecinski has written extensively about it (click here for Google's collection of ZMOT resources).

Marketers are very interested in the habits and behavior of consumers, and Google is a marketing giant.  ZMOT is easy to think about in your own life:  Think of a recent online purchase you made. What was your original need or intent (a hotel room? household item?)  Now think about how much research you did and how many websites you checked before you hit the final "purchase" button.  Did you research quality, price, design, shipping, promotional codes, etc?  Marketers want to know exactly what it takes for you to finally hit their "buy" button.

But what might ZMOT have to do with education?

Do we know what our student's questions and needs are?
People go online when they have a question that needs answering.  Do we know what our student's questions are?  Do we know what they want to know?  If not, does that make us less helpful to them than the device in their pocket?  The job of a teacher is increasingly becoming setting up the next set of questions we want students to be thinking about.  That's how we stay a step ahead in the "marketing" of knowledge.  But we do not need to have a monopoly on that information anymore - there is a world to support us.

Do students believe teachers as much as they used to?
On a recent road trip, my wife and I read a lot of hotel and attraction reviews before purchasing.  If students are growing up with a consumer mentality of checking 10+ merchants before hitting "purchase", are they going to believe the first thing a teacher has to offer?  On the other hand, it might mean students are willing to consider varied sources before making a final decision.  Either way, Constructivism saves us here - teachers who create the conditions for building knowledge allow students to struggle, research, and build upon their natural curiosity.

Jim Lecinski, the author of the article, offers four tips to win the Zero Moment of Truth in the marketplace.
I think they apply to education as well.  They are:

1.  Use search to uncover and understand the moments that matter.
We need to build relationships with our students.  Our students have questions and needs.  We cannot know those questions without building relationships first - relationships that are even stronger than the mobile device they will consult.  We must search out the moments that matter to our students.

2.  Be present in the moments that matter.
When the question arises, go for it.  Don't put it off.  It took a lot of courage for that student to put him/herself out there and voice that need.  Build time in your classes for these moments to develop. Value questions.  If you can answer that need in the moment, you have made the student's life better and passed on your knowledge as well.  They'll come back again next time.

3.  Have something interesting, relevant, and/or engaging to say.
Do you have something different or unique to offer?  In a system where the ultimate product (knowledge) is pretty much the same from any source (CCSS), do you offer better quality?  Or a better design experience for your students?  They'll come back to you next time if you do.  In a world of standardized learning, teachers must turn to quality and design to differentiate their product (see Daniel Pink's book A Whole New Mind).

4.  Measure the impact.
Marketers are really good at this.  Teachers are getting increasingly good at it.  Everything our students say and do provides data.  Do we harness it and use it to improve our practice?  Do we know where our students are so that we can offer them the next greatest concept when they are ready with their next question or need?

If we truly follow this ZMOT logic in education, we will understand the imperative of breaking down walls between students based on age.  Zero Moment of Truth means students would get the information they need to grow at just the right moment, not by grade level.  It is differentiation, but not based on age or grade level.  It is based on standards, needs, and curiosity.  No more letting some kids sit for days at a time while others are double dosed daily.  Everyone works at their own level, based on current need and questions. Our changing human behaviors are driving us to this new reality.

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