Friday, 13 December 2013

#StartupEduChat Meets #EdTechBridge

I am working on a new report and have a back log of blog posts that I am working on. Given that one of the major Startup Edu Weekends was a couple of weeks ago, I thought I'd focus on innovative start ups in education... and tell you why they frustrate me?!

I have discussed the merits of #EdTechChat in a number of posts, how the discussions have helped me form a number of new ideas. In today's post am going to raise a complaint I have about the chat... 

Every week, without fail, people discuss the EdTech that they find really useful - the functionality that makes them such great tools in education etc... But there is rarely any mention of HOW they became such great products. What was their development and roll out process?

NB EdSurge do a great job with exploring this but as someone who wants to explore this in a lot of detail I find their coverage can leave me wondering "But how..." on some specific points.

As I am not an educator there are some topics where I am not able to contribute a great deal in #EdTechChat sessions so find myself "lurking and learning." This week was one of those kinds of chats - it was an hour of me watching the Twitter wall cascade... app after app that educators find so useful that they are recommending them to others. 

As I sat back and watched these Tweets there were two thoughts going through my head; 

1) The future prospects of EdTech sales people is about as promising as someone on the check out counter Vs a self scan machine - Replaced! Redundant!

2) Look at all these companies and EdTech tools that have a "eText book" roll out - developing education tools that I'd be delighted to be associated with - being praised by their customers and with "Net Promoter Scores" so high that users have become proponents and fans.  

But what about "how did these companies do this?" I wondered why is it we never discuss this? Then I wondered;

Is it up to educators to explore (or even care) about how these results were achieved? 

As a driver, when you jump in the car, you want to know that it will take you to your destination... not how to build an internal combustion engine. 

Educators priority is to make sure that the #EdTech tools work in the class, not how the engine works. There is a big difference between the shiny customer facing car showroom and the factory they are built in... or the garage where  poorly designed or old cars that have broken down are towed to.

I am extremely interested in how do we create better EdTech tools, how can we explore this in more detail? 

Surely the best thing to do is to head down to the race track and ask the precision engineers who are on the fast lane with building great #EdTech... and asking the dare devil drivers to take our inventions for a spin to see what it can do.

I think this is an important issue because as David Feinleib reminds us  in Why Start Ups Fail;

"No-one sets out to build a bad product... but it happens all the time"

And goes on to tell us just how much we need to "get right" or, depending on your perspective, how easy it is to get things wrong! There seems to be enough services in education that are not quite fit for purpose to demonstrate this to highlight the need. 

Now there are some fantastic articles by EdSurge that do go into some detail about this, my current favourites that I can't stop Tweeting about being "EdTech in India - Go Slow or Go Home," "How Good Ideas Go Viral," "SVSUmmit: EdTech Jamboree" "How This Start up won over Oregon" But could we be doing more?

Start Up Edu Winners

If it's so easy to get things wrong then surely we should be asking those who are getting it right for some help. Anytime I see #EdTech being praised there seem to be one of two attributes;

1) They are developed by (or with close collaboration with) educators, or
2) A disproportionate number appear to be coming from some of the dedicated EdTech incubators that have been established.

But there are challenges with these models given;
  • Educators teaching commitments and budget cuts they are extremely busy, so it can be challenging for smaller companies to engage with the sector.

    This is something that the winner of Startup Weekend Edu, Tinker Ed, is looking to address as they will help to bring educators and start ups together to road test ideas.
  • EdTech incubators have worked hard to establish a network of experts and mentors - whether seasoned tech entrepreneurs, investors or education experts.

    However there are only a handful of these incubators  - and it's great to see a couple being established in the UK.
Therefore I wonder if there might be value in some kind of #StartupEduChat - a forum for suppliers to network and share their expertise with other providers... A PLN for EdTech suppliers.

This could also be a place for educators to offer their input on product ideas and improvements, but also to find out about how startups are operating in terms of best practice and culture that educators could experiment with at their schools and in their classrooms. 
I think that there are benefits to this kind of forum for suppliers and educators.

I would be delighted to be involved in establishing this kind of EdChat, but feel that others may be better placed to lead on it and (this will come as no surprise to my regular readers) I am thinking specifically of EdSurge here with support and/or co-moderators from people like;

  •  #EdTechChat and other EdChat moderators
  • Graphite and other Edu peer review sites
  • Startup Education Weekend winners
  • EdTech incubators
  • Startups that have achieved rapid and/or organic growth
If you like the sound of this idea and would like to be kept updated about it please fill out the details on the following link - #StartUpEduChat Survey

I look forward to hearing what the various #EdTech stakeholders think of this idea.

15th March 2014 - Update 
#StatUpEduChat Crosses Over #EdTechBridge
After canvassing my contacts on this idea and trying to get things going I noticed some really interesting discussions on the #EdTechBridge hashtag at the #SXSWEdu conference. I followed the trail of Tweets and found that Steven Isaacs (@Mr_Isaacs) and Katya Hott (@Katyamuses) had the same idea but were coming at this from Educators perspective. Here are some of their posts on the issues that they had identified and led them to the idea of #EdTechBridge.

I will be emailing everyone who has expressed an interest in #StartUpEduChat this week and letting them know about this development and encouraging my Education and Supplier contacts to get behind this. 

As my EdTech Report "Developing Relationships & Delivering Value" highlights, there is such a difference in products and services that are developed with educators input whether by; big tech companies who understand the development and roll out process, EdTech Incubators who have an infrastructure of experts that they can call on; or entrepreneurs like EduClipper & Crowdmark who are educators-turned-entrepreneurs.

Please get behind this community and feel free to take a few moment to complete this #EdTechBridge Survey. Whatever your skill, job title or background, if you've got an interest in Education Technology its time for Edu and Techies to Assemble... great products 

EdTechers Assemble! 

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Disconnected, Disengaged...Or Dispossessed?

This week a report that I've been involved with over the last 10 months was finally published. I am really pleased with this research and extremely proud to be associated with it. 

This is the 5th report like this that I have worked on in the last 3 years, and there is always a great deal of anticipation about how each one will be received within the FE community.

I wasn't quite prepared for the reaction I got from some people and am left wondering if it is an issue of disconnectedness, disengagement of dispossession... and was hoping that some FE people might be able to provide some insight.

I started working on this project last December, which I anticipated would take 3-4 months to complete. I thought this was ready in April and sought the critical input from my Fantastic PLN, but got something of a mixed response... some felt the work was really good; others felt the main points could be drawn out a bit and/or structured a little better.

Six months and 2 complete restructures later, I sent the updated draft to my PLN and to some well respected tech experts. I was delighted at how positive the feedback was for the revised version, and looked forward to circulating it.

This report went out this week and there has been some great praise from people that have read it. Thank you! I am extremely grateful for all your comments and feedback... It truly does make all the work well worthwhile.

However sharing this report has highlighted an aspect of FE that I would like to explore.

This report advocates the importance of focusing in a niche target market. For me this is the UK Further Education sector.

While I do engage with a lot of US educators on Twitter, but this is because I find it useful to connect to discuss what they are doing, as it helps to generate some new ideas and develop some "slow hunches." 

For example, this new report took on an added dimention in April when I joined #EdTechChat, and saw the kind of relationships that US educators had with some of their suppliers.  

FE is a somewhat "Disconnected" area of education compared to the US, but was surprised to see that the traffic to my blog is, with more and more frequency, coming from the US and, on occasion, clicks from the UK is relegated to 3rd behind Russia, Indonesia and other countries (which I am extremely grateful for, thank you - and hello - Russian and Indonesian educators).

However, this international traffic is all from Twitter and I email updates & newsletters with links to my blog directly to my FE subscribers, so it does make me wonder if my posts are making a connection... maybe they are, but it is just that US educators are more connected. If this is the case, that's fine. However, if this is an issue of engagement, then this is more of a concern.  

When the report went out I was really surprised to see people unsubscribe from my newsletter and updates.

I'm by no means arrogant enough to think that my content is so compelling that everyone must read them. Nor am I suggesting that people should not unsubscribe from updates that are not relevant (although I was confused when people who are connected via LinkedIn unsubscribed from Mail Chimp... I may be a digital immigrant trying to figure stuff out, but I'm sure LinkedIn connections are not just for decoration?)

What is concerning with this particular project is that it has been put together with input from so many people, both within FE, and from some extremely experienced tech experts.

Indeed, I don't even feel this is my work, All I did was gather advice and practices from people at MIT, Google, Silicon Valley Tech experts & VC's and attempted to pull it together to highlight some ideas that FE might consider exploring to benefit from the advice and recommendation of these tech startup experts.

This is my 5th report, which is an attempt to produce useful content based on "In Bound Marketing" principles. I would have no problem putting any recent unsubscribers down to the fact that the content simply is not good enough and say to myself that I "Must do better" - Wonder where I have heard that before from a group of educators?

This has been my view and attitude with my other reports, but not with this one. The source material for this report came from people with a vast about of knowledge about technology and start ups. The final draft was also reviewed by people who are involved with companies that turn out GREAT EdTech... so poor content is not a factor this time.

But when I circulate this great piece of work that I am so privileged to be involved with I find that; 
  • People who are connected on one platform request not to receive my updates via on anther social media channel?
  • FE based enterprise orgs who are contacted decide, for whatever reason, not to engage.
  • It can be a challenge to get some FE organisations to even re-tweet an update any time such a request is made  
So where does this leave things? 

The sector didn't seem to appreciate tired old "out bound" cold-calls... but attempts at Community Engagement appears to have its challenges as well. 

I know that people with sales experience are renowned for their persistence and ability to take rejection, but this is bordering on the ridiculous... Anyone who didn't have the thick skin of a "recovering salesman" might start to take it personally.

As I detail in my latest report, experienced tech entrepreneurs can tend to stay away from education, if they have the choice of entering other niche target markets with their products. I've always been a bit of a slow learner but, after 13 years, I'm starting to see what they mean. The irony here is that this new report suggests that, with a little effort and planning, FE could be a fantastic niche target market. 

I have been known to be persistent with my projects, and am life long learner who is not afraid of critical input in the name of self improvement. 

So I'll try a more direct approach to cold calls and exploring inbound marketing... to simply ask the sector what its looking for. Therefore, if you are involved in UK Further Education I would be extremely grateful if you could take a moment to let me know;
  • What kind of engagement the sector is looking for from their suppliers
  • Which suppliers are producing the best services in terms of their sales team, product quality, customer service, user friendliness
  • Any individual sales people or account managers who are exceptional at what they do, so I can see if they might be willing to give me some tips and advice about their techniques and practices.
I see some fantastic EdTech coming out of the US as a result of collaborative approaches and a lot of companies looking for inbound marketing techniques, and thought that they would be well received in FE too... and maybe they will be. But, for now at least, there sure is a feeling of being dispossessed.

Makes you wonder if maybe it's time to move on... 

Monday, 28 October 2013

Live Tweeting - Engaging Policy Makers & Students

As usual I have been checking the world of education through the invaluable window of Twitter this week. I couldn't help notice how different the view was when I looked across the pond compared with my own back yard.

It has been two years since I produced my Twitter in FE report where I compared the similarities and differences between how UK and US Colleges were using this social media platform. Twitter in the US looks like its well on its way to becoming a mainstream learning tool in the not-too-distant-future. I wonder when (and what it will take) for the UK to catch up. 
This month has been second year of "Connected Educator Month," which is funded by the US Department of Education and, as far as I can see, appears to have helped to take Social Media in Education to a whole new level. 

It is important to highlight that I have not always been such a proponent of social media and I have detailed my journey in this "One Small Step for a Digital Immigrant" post, I hope that anyone involved with engaging educators with any commercial products/projects will find this useful.

Policy Makers, Educators & Twitter
Ever noticed the kind of running skirmishes that educators and policy makers have on Twitter, both groups appear to "Tweet at" one another, or avoid each other. There certainly does not seem to be much Tweeting to or engagement. Through the work of Tom Whitby, Arne Duncan and the team who moderate #EdTechChat there has been a significant development. 

Tonight (Monday 28th Oct) at 8pm ET (12am GMT) the US Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, will be engaging educators during this weekly Education chat session. Obviously this is not without its risks, and my initial thoughts were

"How on earth did the guys pull this off?"
"This is a bit of a big deal in the development of Twitter in Education!" 

Then I got a little concerned, if you've ever checked any of the UK education hashtags for #Gove then you'll appreciate the source of this concern, I wondered if this engagement would be nothing more than educators "having a go" at Arne Duncan and attacking him on some of the governments' current education policies.

A brief  intermission in today's post... Speaking of Education policies you have got to read Ch2 of Malcom Gladwells new book on class sizes, as well as this report - The causal effect of class size on scholastic achievement, here are some Tweets to give you some idea of Gladwell's argument;

Intermission Ends
With regard to educators just "having a go" I should have known that the #EdTechChat moderators had everything in hand! They have put together a post which, if read by all participants before this evenings chat, I don't think there will be anything to worry about. 

Check out the post that they came up with to let participants know how they expect all their guests to be treated, not just policy makers: Arne Duncan - Some thoughts on Digital Citizenship

A great post! You can tell they are educators who are used to taking control of excitable groups, can't you?

Meanwhile... back at the ranch, I noticed that #SLTChat (Senior Ledership Team Chat, Sunday 8pm) are trying to encourage the Department of Education to take part in their session next week, perhaps DfE can check out Susan Bearden's post and the #EdTechChat event this evening to see how it goes, and then consider engaging with #SLTChat next week.     

I also suggested this to policy makers who work in FE that they might want to try this too, but like #SLTChat have not had any reply but, as Tom Whitby suggests, this is perhaps to be expected initially as It's a big step to consider taking. 

What is a little ironic though is that a guest speaker at an FE event was talking about how to engage your audience on Twitter... I think I have been following this advice, but I find that it remains something of a challenge;

Live Tweeting in Class
For example Live Tweeting in class is something that has intrigued me and have suggested this in my Twitter in FE report. We have discussed this as a topic for #ukfechat and there are a couple of colleges that I am aware of who have explored the use of Twitter in class.

When checking out Tweets for #CE13 (Connected Educator Month) I came across MsSanders class and their #SandersCE hashtag and here's the conversation we had;
Once I got over the shock of what I saw, I was struck by how  thought provoking, intelligent and articulate the students were, what a way for;
  • Parents to see what students got up to that day - can you imagine the conversation;
    Parent: "What did you do at school today?"
    Student: "Not much"
    Parent: "Did you learn anything?"
    Student: "No"
    Parent: "Thats not what your class Twitter wall say's"
    and them quiz them about the topic using the Tweets to make sure he/she hadn't dozed off! Bazinga!
  • Educators to not only teach the value of Digital Citizenship, but help provide them with a positive digital footprint as the student's Tweets will be full of answers about course work
  • The school to promote itself and, for those interested in compiling evidence lessons, what a great evidence base... not to mention a great advert for an educators personal brand - I know I'm a fan after only seeing a few Tweets.
I know that there will be other examples of live Tweeting, but this class really stood out for me. I have so many questions for MsSanders about how this was established, what the barriers and considerations were before implementing it, how you manage live Tweet lessons etc and look forward to discussing this further with MsSanders, and others.

In the mean time I would encourage UK educators to check out some of these "Connected Educator" events, I have learned so much through taking the time to find out what social media was all about and how to make it productive for me in progressing with my personal and professional goals.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

One Small Click for a Digital Immigrant… A Giant Leap into a New Online Universe?

Its not just educators that need to consider how they should be adapting in a connected world... many suppliers working with EdTech also need to wake up and smell the java script (See what I did there?). 

I have detailed some of the changes I've noticed in The Death of an EdTech Salesman, but getting to this point with these observations sure has been a bit of a journey... a journey into an alien environment where I wasn't sure of the terrain to start with.

People told me I was leaving a digital footprint but I didn't feel the ground under my feet... it was as if there was no gravity at times... it also appeared to be a cold, dark place to start with. That was until I got connected...then the lights came on!

In November 2010 I had no digital presence at all... The reason? Because I couldn't care less what anyone had for breakfast; and didn't see any reason why people would be interested in what I had either - And that pretty much summed up my view of social media.

How much research had I done prior to forming this evaluation of the various online platforms? Zero, none... didn't even check out their website or any videos about social media!

My (rather strong) opinions on the topic were formed from negative press coverage that appeared in the news from time to time. Not once did I consider that this negative coverage might be a way of the mainstream media to fend off this digital threat, which was affecting their circulation figures.

I can't wait til the next school reunion to give my teachers a lecture about critical thinking! 

So what changed my view on all this? You know what they say about necessity being the mother of invention...

Social Media... Goes with the Job!

My employer at the time had taken the decision to relocate the business so, for the first time in almost 10 years, I found myself in the market for a new job.

One of the short term goals that I set myself with was to get an interview with one of the top 3 tech companies. 

I managed to have a discussion with the head of Edu at a company that many people in EdTech dreams of working at, we had a brief discussion about my experience and achievements, then I was given the following advice;

"You tell me all these things that you've done, but why can't I find you on any social media channels? If you want to work at a major tech company, it's expected that you have an online presence today."

"Oh great!" I thought "I have to learn how to tell people what I had for breakfast before I can even get an interview!"

After this discussion I marched over to the youngest member of our IT team and said; 

"Social media... what's it all about? What's the point? I don't get it? But it would appear that I need to!" (Followed by a huge "Humph," slumped shoulders and petted lip that would rival many a toddler when in full tantrum mode)

The response I got had me hooked immediately, which was something like;

"I have a tech idea that I'm working on, and have 4,000 followers who I am discussing the idea with. I get their input and some help with beta tests... Not only will these guys tell me when the product is ready, but if 10% of my followers become customers, then I'll have enough sales to launch the business and have revenue for the first 3-6 months"

"HANG ON A MINUTE!" I screamed "Are you telling me there is a business argument for being on Twitter?"

Getting Plugged In...

I opened my LinkedIn account later that day and started to connect with people I knew. I didn't have any kind of social media plan, but I do recall deciding to work on one social media platform at a time, getting to grips with it before opening any other accounts.

After a couple of months I opened my first Twitter account, but didn't start Tweeting immediately. I pulled together lists of organisations and people in Further Education and observed how they were using Twitter. 

I also read a book that would change the trajectory of my entire career, the book was Social Nation which I found to be fantastic introduction to social media. The author was Barry Libert and he was extremely generous with his time, gives excellent advice... and has the patience of a saint! My first Tweet was; 

...And Being Sociable
I got a reply from Barry, and did not realise at the time, but my very first tweet would also be my first experience of online engagement leading to offline collaboration.

After reading Social Nation I attended an edu communications conference. A common complaint during the workshops and discussions was;

"Our comms department is facing all these budget cuts, and the one thing that might be able to help is social media... but our SMT/admins won't let us fully explore this due to the perceived risks" 

I thought "I know exactly where the senior managers are coming from... because I was there a couple of months ago, I've got a list of industry Twitter accounts and have just read a great book full of useful ideas"

I contacted Barry and asked if he would allow me to use material from his book, and if he'd like to get involved. He agreed.

I cannot convery the debt of gratitude I owe Barry, he was so generous with his time in assisting with the structure of the report which, after umpteen drafts over a few months, finally took shape and ended up looking like this - "Twitter in FE."

Barry's input was instrumental in providing me with the experience and confidence for my other reports and projects.  

Inbound Marketing - Out of this world!
While researching this Twitter report I attended a course that also rocked my world! The course was on "Inbound Marketing" by MIT's Bill Aulet.

This course crystalised some of the observations I had, as my sales calls were becoming more and more unwelcome. This course explained why this was happening, what the changes were... and what to do about it.

There probably is not a day that goes by where I don't use principles and ideas based on this course. Aulet's book "Disciplined Entrepreneurshipcovers much of the workshop and the core message is;
Sales and marketing today are all about your existing customers 

If your customers are not happy then your org will struggle with securing new business

You get happy customers by really getting to know them, understanding the issues they face... and having a commitment to finding solutions to the challenges they face to add value to the org

Tweet Success - Blast Off
When the Twitter report was circulated the response was really positive... so positive that there was a significantly different experience when making sales calls. I would call people that I had never spoken to before and instead of being greeted with "Who are you" and "Is this a sales call?" in a terse tone of voice, I was met with a cheery "Hey William how are you?" like they were speaking to a trusted partner.

I don't know if you've ever considered how challenging it can be to introduce new services to educators, but it's pretty tough! Usually this involves liaising with a number of departments, all of  whom have different priorities and responsibilities, so can tend to have slightly different buying criteria when assessing products.

So it helps if a number of departments know who you are. Therefore I decided to try find content and reports that would demonstrate to different stakeholders that I had some understanding of the issues they were facing.

We're in Business
With the success of this initial project I thought about other groups that I wanted to engage in an ethical, welcome, "inbound" manner. I wanted to engage SMT/admins so thought about the issues that they were facing, what was keeping them up at night? 

Colleges were starting to feel the effects of some budget cuts, so I got to work on thinking of ways to generate income for colleges.

I looked at some of the companies that were thriving despite the economic downturn, identified the practices that were helping them to buck the trend, then thought of ways that these could be applied to Further Education. 

But increasing income was only part of the story, I kept Stanford's Fredrick Terman example in mind and that he encouraged his staff to "go out and get acquainted with local industry and those who were doing interesting and creative things." This resulted in producing this "Business Development Ideas for FE" report.

A lot of the ideas from this report was taken from "Inbound Marketing"  and was written in collaboration with Hubspot's Higher Ed Specialist, Brooke Freedman.* Hubspot sure is an organisation who knows a thing or two about permission based marketing and business development!

*Why don't you give Brooke a call to see how she can help your school or college with your marketing objectives?

To Infinity... And Beyond
The next project was great fun... I'm talking out of this world fun! Kid's play even!

The annual British Education Training & Technology (BETT) Conference was coming up and I had just read the fantastic "Made to Stick," which advocates how telling compelling stories makes ideas and concepts "Stick"  (Every educator should have a copy of this book!). 

I then read an interview with John Lasseter for our very own Pixar Boy, and came across a comment that he felt all good movies need; 

“You have to tell a compelling story that keeps people on the edge of their seat... [and to do that] you populate that story with really memorable and appealing characters.”

We then watched Toy Story, I had this comment bouncing around my head. I put an outline together which became "Tech Story - What Education can Learn from Pixar's Toy Story

Various college departments enjoyed reading this as much as we did writing it... especially the techies.

Culture! Culture! Culture!
A lot of my reports and blog posts referenced Google, Apple, Microsoft and other organisations that have great cultures, so decided to make this the focus of my next project.

This is one of my faviourite reports as it highlights just how complex some of the issues are, I hope it also highlights how ridiculous it is to attempt to lay all the blame on educators! Or expect them to shoulder all the responsibility for fixing these many and complex issues.

But, at the same time, there there are some impressive results that KIPP and other institutions have achieved. From what I can see one of (if not THE) key differentials here appears to be around the issue of organisational culture.

NB Regardless of politics and/or what you're view on charter schools are, or some of the negative stories in the press... none of this changes the fact that KIPP have a system that is getting entire classes of under privileged kids to college. Previously these kids had more chance of ending up in jail than college. Therefore, as far as I'm concerned, Kudos to KIPP! They are among my list of Education Heroes.

The only regret I have about this report is that I wish I had read "Tribal Leadership(Another book that every edu leader should have on their bookshelf) before writing Culture in Education, but I will have plenty of blog posts referencing David Logan and CultureSync's amazing book. 

Technology in Education
When looking for my next project I decided to develop Tech Story further by turning attention to the different cultures that exist between the various EdTech suppliers and their education partners.

When I started researching this project I was not aware of EdSurge, when I did find out about their work I realised that my ideas were heading in the right direction... because the EdTech Startup guru that is EdSurge, was already implementing them! 

I'm a huge fan of what EdSurge and US EdTech incubators like Imagine K12 etc are doing. They sure do seem to turn out some innovative companies who have great relationships with educators. I hope that initiatives like Invent-ed will enjoy similar results in the UK.

This Technology report can be found here - Technology in Education (And check out Bill Aulet's comment on P4... How cool is that?!)

Time & Content
All of these reports were done in my free time, as my managers at the orgs I worked at "didn't get" what I was doing, or how it was helping with sales. This is ironic as these out of hours projects were more welcome and had more of an impact than interrupting people with sales calls.

In sales and sports the saying goes "You're only as good as your last sale/race," with social media I think its fair to say "You're only as good as your last post." 

I feel fortunate to have an eclectic set of books to refer to and hope that I have enough understanding of education to come up with some useful ideas and observations... but am always concerned about whether the way I structure the content do the ideas justice!

Writing style aside, something that is crazy is that I've always had these ideas, the books have sat on my bookshelf for 10+ years... But social media has given me a voice and ways to circulate my observations and ramblings.

Taking the time to consider the changes in education sales and putting together some good (or reasonable) content has provided a "random EdTech sales guy" with opportunities that are not usually available to sales people... but I'll take advantage of them, and continue to explore all things "connected."

But all I have done is follow Bill Aulet's advice and have got to know my potential customers. For people involved in education this has never been easier... you can get to know this audience 24/7... because they never stop chatting on social media platforms, so much so you might wonder if some educators ever spend any time in the classroom! There are some serious Twitter addicts in edu...  

Educators are from Earth... Connected Educators are from #EdChats
I started to see some strange # symbols attached to some of the Tweets educators were sending and found that they were part of a whole new online world - #EdChats.

I joined one of these chats and someone Tweeted "Hi William, I've seen some of your reports and like what you have to say..." I had to ask "Are you sure they are my reports?" They confirmed that they were. It appeared that some of my ramblings had preceded me, which is kinda cool!

I also found that there was a fledgling #ukfechat (Feel free to drop in and say "Hi" anytime... but esp on Thurs at 9pm GMT). I joined the discussion regularly and this led to me starting to post blogs regularly... both because participants encourage one another, and because the chat topics generate lots of ideas to blog about.

Something struck me about some of the rhetoric from the EdChat participants, the EdChat sessions were a real highlight of their week. I found this curious but discovered that the reason for this was because they were connecting with like minded "growth mindset," "Open-minded Educators," "Lifelong learners," "Early Adopters," groups that are capable of ringing in the changes. 

I was reading a book called Switch which highlighted why educators felt this way - any time reformers are given a free space to discuss ideas, without any negativity, but a real "can-do lets-do-it attitude," positive change becomes possible.

How much of an impact do these guys have? If you ask me these educators are to education what Steve Jobs "Let's be pirates" were to Apple - the innovators, the change agents, the reformers!

Need evidence of whether its #EdChat or Change? Just check out the traffic on the #ce13 hashtag, or their newsletters with the stats... and remember this is only the second year of Connected Educators Month!

Read the book... then
get the T-Shirt

Some of my blog posts have helped me to attract an international following which is great for cross-pollinating ideas (a euphemism for blatant plagiarism if ever there was one! Well what do you expect, didn't I just say these guys are the pirates, just ask Dave Burgess!) 

These international discussions also prevent you from getting lonely while you are waiting for your colleagues to get all plugged in and connected up.

E2E Sales - Coming Down to Earth... with a Bump!
One of the biggest things for me in this digital journey has been the realisation of how much things have changed... and that the skills that I had will be less
 in demand in a few years. 

In 2006/7 traditional sales methods were relevant but, by 2010 I noticed that outbound cold calling was a lot less welcome.

When following the discussions from #ISTE13 and #EdTechChat I discovered that not only were they unwelcome, they were on their way to becoming obsolete! I was astounded at how much educators were doing all the selling for EdTech suppliers who had great products. 

Not only were there almost 500 mentions of 40 companies in the first 5 weeks of #EdTechChat... there were whole discussions dedicated to suppliers who understood educators needs Google/Apple Apps and others.

How on earth is a sales guy supposed to compete with that? If this trend continues the only products that will need "sold" in a few years time are the bad ones... definitely NOT the kind of EdTech I want to be working on or associated with! 

Out Bound Sales... Out of a Job?

This is something that "Inbound marketing" experts agree with - that cold calls will be a thing of the past within 5 years time... but is something that people with traditional sales skills disagree with "There will always be a need for salespeople to cold call" they tell me, any time I discuss my journey with them.

I'm not sure what the future of unconnected educators will be, but when I consider;

  • The opportunities that have presented themselves 
  • The connections I've made 
  • The things I've learned 
And compare these experiences with the future of my colleagues who refuse to explore new methods of engagement, I sure am glad that I'm experimenting with being a "Connected Edu Supplier".  

One thing is for sure, the next time I speak to the head of education at a major Tech company... they shouldn't have any problems finding me online.

Another thing that I have learned from this journey is that I can never visit Boston. The reason? Because the number of drinks that I would owe Barry Libert, Bill Aulet and Brian Halligan for the ways they have assisted me would, quite probably, bankrupt me! Thank you! You Rock!