What Chocolate Can Teach Us About Curriculum

Imagine you are at
your son or daughter’s play with a distracting hankering for a piece of
chocolate. After much internal debate, you decide to satisfy your sweet tooth
by allowing yourself exactly one piece of chocolate. In the lobby, students are
offering two options—a Lindt Truffle for $0.14 or a Hershey Kiss for $0.00.
Which do you choose? How much does price factor into your decision?

Thanks to the
research of behavioral economist Dan Ariely, author of Predictably Irrational, we can put a bit of concrete data to this

A couple of years
back Ariely and his team set up a table in front of a public building to sell
chocolate at various price points to test how price impacts consumer behavior. In
their first experiment they charged the following and got the following

  • Lindt truffles: $0.15 (73% of customers chose this option)
  • Hershey's kisses: $0.01 (37% of customers chose this option)

In the battle of quality versus price, it appears that “quality” won
out. Now, in the second experiment they discounted each option by a penny:

  • Lindt truffles: $0.14 (31% of customers chose this option)
  • Hershey's kisses: $0.00 (69% of customers chose this option)

From the first experiment
we can see that Lindt is clearly the preferred brand of chocolate. Even when
Ariely and company priced truffles at 26 cents and Kisses at a penny in
subsequent experiments, Lindt still won out. Yet, the moment FREE! was introduced into the equation,
Kisses won the battle of consumer choice by a landslide.  Why? Ariely writes, “Zero is not just
another discount. Zero is a different place. The difference between two cents
and one cent is small, but the difference between one cent and zero is huge!”

Moving back to our
school play… Which will you choose, the relatively “expensive” Lindt Truffle or
the free Hershey Kiss? Now, what if you have the option of a Lindt Truffle
($0.14), a Hershey Kiss ($0.00) or a piece of your neighbor’s infamous triple
chocolate fudge ($0.00)?

FREE! fudge sounds quite lovely, doesn’t it? Especially knowing that your
neighbor has been cooking fudge for years and is a real expert in the realm of
chocolate… Getting hungry?

Where am I going
with this? Well, for the past four years the organization I direct, Curriki, has provided access to tens
of thousands of lessons, units and learning objects to people across the globe
free of charge via the Web. With nearly 90,000 registered members of our site,
we know Curriki is providing a valuable service to
educators in need of the right
lesson at the right time and at the right price point for their classrooms.

Now to date, that price has been FREE!, but as Curriki
aims to sustain itself over
the next ten years and beyond, we are wondering
if our pricing structure and product are in need of a revision.

The content on Curriki is not the
expensive and polished Lindt chocolate that the major textbook and supplemental
providers represent. Nor are we the lower grade but wildly abundant
“edutainment” web sites that share the same instructional value as a Hershey’s
Kiss. Instead, Curriki is that rich, time-tested fudge that your neighbor
makes. Like the fudge, the quality of the educational resources on Curriki is
the product of years of experience. What is exciting about Curriki is that it
leverages the collective experience of educators around the world, giving them
a place to share ideas, content and best practices. By harnessing all of this
institutional knowledge, Curriki is inverting the publishing paradigm. Rather
than relying on publishers to create content, Curriki empowers classroom
teachers to build and share their best work.

We believe that breadth, depth and
the classroom tested nature of the resources on Curriki give them substantial
value. As Curriki now explores creative ways to sustain
itself and find the right product/market fit, we again need the input of the
education community. Teachers, administrators and parents, help us out by
responding in the comments section below!

  • In light of the financial pressure that most schools are under, how comfortable are you moving from a polished textbook to a repository of teacher-created content?
  • What does high-quality educational content mean to you? Has it been tested? Is it comprehensive? Is it research-based? Is it problem-focused? Is it aligned to standards and learning objectives?
  • Does the price tag on a piece of content impact your perception of its quality? Does an expensive textbook feel of higher quality than FREE! teacher-created content?

As Ariely states in Predictably Irrational, “Most people
don't know what they want unless they see it in context". Given the
context above, share your thoughts with us! Are you excited by a world with
abundant teacher created, classroom-tested curricula? If so, what value (or
“price”) would you give for its access? If that value is greater that $0.00,
why not take a moment to promote
Curriki and the sharing of content internationally

Barbara Kurshan, Executive Director:Curriki

P.S. Still thinking
about chocolate? Check out this excellent teacher-created
on the history and science of chocolate courtesy of Curriki member
Sarah Wostbrock.