Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Digital Learning - PD with Larbert High

Through some research I'm working on featuring in TES Scotland, I was invited to join Larbert High School's Professional Development day on Digital Learning.

This post details what I saw when I visited from the perspective of how and why I believe that Larbert High School and Falkirk Council could easily lie on the fault lines of creative disruption and innovation in education within and across Scotland.

I also include some suggestions about the way innovative technology products could be rolled out.

Here's how yesterday's visit ties in with my ideas and research I've been working on over the last 2-3 years.

A Welcome Reception
The culture hits you the minute you step in the foyer, there are trophies and news clippings all over the place. Obviously this is no different to many schools and college receptions but, at the same time, it is different.

Myself and a few of my EdTech colleagues are convinced that you can tell what a school or colleges' Ofsted rating is by the reception area.

I am met by Martin Shields (@MrShieldsLHS), a probation PE teacher who has been empowered to lead the Twitter session. This may be seen as a brave move for a teacher whose only been in the role for two months, as this may be the first interaction he has with some members of staff so you'll be keen to make a good impression.

Educators have stand up and speak in front of students everyday, but to present in front of you colleagues is nerve wracking in any industry as you're keen to impress in front of your peers.

Just as it might have been easier for Martin to say "Erm no thanks," it may have also been easier for my host for the day, John Doherty, to say "Oh I'll just do the session myself... it'll be quicker and better that way."

This may be what would happen at a Stage 3 "I'm great, you're not" organisation... but you get the sense that "That's not the way we roll at Larbert High."

Larbert staff might not know the reason why "that's not how they roll" ...But I think I do. They appear to be a Stage 4 team (A stage that only 22% of organisations in any sector achieve), according to Dave Logan's "Tribal Leadership" research;

My question to Larbert High staff and Falkirk Council is this:

Can they become a stage 5 organisation? 

In my opinion, they could easily become one. More on that in some future posts.

Younger workers and teachers taking the lead with social media and technology at Larbert also reminds me of other organisations and research that cite this as good practice.
  • Talent Magnets: Attracting and Retaining Young Teachers Through Courageous Leadership"

Mr Doherty, Mr Meikle and Mr Ried
I'm then met by Mr Doherty (@MrDohertyLHS) and my first impression neither surprises me, nor disappoints... But does excite me regarding the possibilities.

The interactions between staff as John passes his colleagues in the corridors are warm, friendly and seem very genuine... Indeed they remind me of the interactions between Chris Grant and his colleagues when I visited Alton College.

After the initial draft and outline of Tech Story, which looks at what educators could learn from Toy Story, I approached Chris to see if he'd collaborate on the article. I was keen to encourage others to consider the difference in culture between Chris and his colleagues compared with the relations between IT staff at other colleges.

I meet Mr Meikle briefly and am introduced to the Rector, Mr Ried, if you want a clue to the source of the positive interactions between staff, then read Adam Grant's book "Give and Take" and then look at the Rector's welcome on the school website;

If you're struggling to spot it, give me a call and I'll tell you what I see.

The Usual Suspects!
Staff make their way to the assembly hall to get an introduction to the day, where Mr Paterson (@Mr Paterson1) outlines what the session is about. It's a great introduction to the day and the rational is clear.

I'm inspired, but again, not surprised., not just with the professionalism of Mr Paterson's event and the educators at this school today, but also with my interaction with educators 3,000 miles away two years ago.

The assessment I had 2-3 years ago, as a result of listening to educators, seem to be coming through.

#EdTechChat Conversation in December 2013
The staff at Larbert may have seen the day as PD on Digital Learning but, given the differences in our experience, knowledge and skills... I see it as something a little different.

I see this as educators selling products through organic word of mouth referrals and that this is the future of EdTech sales.

Class Dojo, Socrative, Edmodo, Twitter, Pinterest, iMovie, Smart Boards products that are either mainstream mass market products (Twitter and Pinterest) or ImagineK12 alumni (Class Dojo, Edmodo and Socrative). Most have Community Managers, while few exhibit at conferences like BETT or SLF.

And I bet Larbert didn't find out about them and/or sign up because they received a sales call once a month for 6 months either.

As I've mentioned in previous posts EdTech incubator alumni companies have better access to educators, investment and have fewer overheads to deal with in the early stages of the startup's life.

These advantages make like-for-like comparisons with companies who are not in EdTech incubators unfair ones (See ROI Vs ROR A Tough Sell for Edu Suppliers for more info regarding this point).

How to replicate the advantages that companies who are lucky enough to be in an EdTech hub and/or part of these incubators is a question I've been working on for a while now.

The Technology Adoption Cycle
As well as, or more accurately, as part of solving this conunderum... I've also explored how technology gets adopted.

Technology does not get adopted in a linear fashion. This is something I highlighted in my EdTech report Developing Relationships and Delivering Value in 2011, and I continue to try to raise awareness of.

At the moment, I am doing this through curating Twitter data in Scottish schools. Here's an example of what this data tells me about where Larbert is with the adoption of Twitter. They are approaching the "Late Majority" (See p26 & p39 of this EdTech Report)

With 130 staff and 58 on Twitter Larbert is approaching the "Late Majority"
Even at a forward thinking, innovative school with a great culture the adoption process takes time. Larbert High opened their first account in 2011 and have just under 50% of their staff on Twitter. But the toughest part of roll out for them is done... They've "Crossed the Chasm," when many Scottish schools appear to be at the start of this journey.

This is why I've been curating the Twitter data, and this is why I'm so excited about what I see at Larbert High. This result was far from a forgone conclusion, as there appear to be proponents and detractors. Ensuring that the right people assess a new product at the right time is key.

Here's the data that I've used and here's who the data tell me are the early adopters and proponents at Larbert are: Tech Adoption Larbert High

You can see from this spreadsheet that people/department started using Twitter at different times, the frequency of use also  varies. I've added columns to highlight who the early adopters and proponents are, as well as the "Early majority" and what appear to be detractors (ie people/departments who opened accounts but are not too active. Btw I totally understand and empathise with the tech skeptics).

If the detractors were the first group to try Twitter the story here may be quite different. But, in this case there were enough early adopters who were proponents who probably encouraged others to take a look at Twitter as a teaching resource.

This assessment is purely through interpreting the data, maybe staff can look at this and confirm if the accounts in yellow were the advocates/proponents/mentors for others with micro blogging?

Falkirk & Larbert - Raising A Digital Nation
As Scotland wonders "How can we innovate quicker with technology" I can't help wonder if the fault lines of creative disruption in Scottish education points towards the team at Falkirk Council and Larbert High School. If any School or Local Authority has similar (or more) traction with Twitter in their school than this:

List of Larbert High Department and Staff on Twitter
List of Carmuirs Primary Departments, Classes and Staff on Twitter

Regarding Larbert High School they are already using tools from Imagine K12's 2011/12 cohort, so what if...

They got to trial Imagine K12 (And other EdTech incubator) products from the 2014/15 cohort free of charge (or even in a way that they were compensated for their time?!), to build case studies so that roll out was organic? No more sales calls for educators, and reduced sales overheads for the startup founder?

I think I'll spend a little bit of time putting some sales hustle into selling this idea to a number of stakeholders.

I'll start with Larbert High, guys you're already using ClassDojo and Meet the Teacher... Here's how I met their awesomeness, and the criteria I used to assess what they were doing.
If you're interested, I have a list of others like this (Including more "How I met your Awesomeness" posts).

Sales & marketing departments must refocus away from selling products and toward creating relationships. Partnering with customers is a key component. The primary challenge here is not technical, but cultural Geoffrey Moore, Crossing the Chasm

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Imagine you’re the Founder of a Tech Startup... Implementing van der Kuyl's Keynote

The Scottish Learning Festival was on last month and Chris van der Kuyl, Chairman of 4J Studios, gave a fantastic keynote speech on the need for all stakeholders to increase the rate that new technology was being adopted in Scottish education.

I agreed with everything that Chris said (Well, with the exception of one thing, but I'll leave that for another post). 

I also happen to have been working on a lot of what Chris was advocating for over the last few years, with varying degrees of success... and a fair share of failures too.. The most important thing about these experiences in this context is that I know why some projects succeeded and why others didn't.

You see, with each project and initiative my approach was exactly the same. So why did one project work while others didn't? It depended if the educators were connected or not… and what the culture of those connections was like.

I had a fair idea of what was needed following Chris’ keynote. I've not been involved with Scottish education for years so there was a need to;

1) Listen to the sector
2) Assess what stage Scottish Education was at regarding the adoption of technology
3) See how connected Scottish educators are

Curating the data from Schools Twitter accounts allowed me to achieve all three goals in a relatively short period of time.

After looking at the data my assessment may not be a good one,  if it wasn't for one thing: Chris’ keynote.

Chris has provided the catalyst to create some momentum, but this won’t be here for long without a concerted effort.

In a moment I'm going to ask you to look at some data, and want you to imagine that you're the founder of a hot Technology product... and you’re wondering which sector to operate in.

The dataset I've used is when the 740 Scottish schools that I've sourced on Twitter opened their account. The aim is to demonstrates how appealing Scottish education is at the moment AND to show what it could be like... IF educators did one thing:

Got connected and collaborated
In the way that Chris advocates for in his SLF keynote.

You're the Founder of a Tech Startup...
Here's your market intelligence Scottish Schools Adoption of Twitter, now here's what Nancy Duarte describes as the "what is" Vs "what could be" scenarios that I can see when looking at this data.

What is...You  have a product that you feel educators could benefit from. The cost is £3,000. You decide to give Scotland a try.

Over the course of 9 years, there are 740 Schools out of 2,700 who subscribe to your product... of which 8% (67 schools) no longer use the service, so may be detractors who are dismissive of your service. This factor may impede growth.

These are detractors, not because there is anything wrong with your product... but because the sector did not realise how new ideas get adopted.

The revenue is £2,200,000 over this period. At a wage of £30,000 per annum that’s 8 members of staff (That's without considering any other overheads)… Hardly an appealing proposition that's going to set the heather on fire!

This rate of growth is likely to see one of a number of outcomes, all of which leads to a lack of focus in this sector. This may include;

1) Avoid Scotland and go for larger markets (After all our neighbour has over 20,000 schools and the US X5 that number, and they ARE connected and are generally easier to deal with).

2) Operate in Scotland but look at other markets at the same time.

So Scotland either misses out on an opportunity entirely, or the service is not quite as bespoke as it could have been because the organisations' focus and resources are split between different regions.

What could be...
Now imagine that Scotland got organized and was able to shrink this sales cycle so that this same revenue (£2,200,000) could be achieved in 2-3 years... and not over a 9 year period.

I appreciate that mentioning the revenue that a company makes may be off putting to some, but to do that is to miss the point.

If Scotland is easy to deal with, it will become the "go to" location for innovative startups when they are looking for a good place to roll their service out. I have also had discussions where founders have told me they could reduce their costs but up to 50% if educators were easier to reach.

The difference between the "What is" Vs "What could be?" In my opinion, it's as simple as getting plugged in to one another and spit balling ideas and discussing best practice. I know that various quangos and big important people with big important titles will puff out their chests and say that this already happens.

All I'll do with remarks like this is point to this -->  Scottish Schools Adoption of Twitter and say 9 years, a free tool, with a ton of education based case studies... and 30% adoption, that's your idea of being connected? Really?

If you're a Scottish educator please follow as many of the accounts on page 4-7 as this will help put the necessary "Network Effects" in place, and we can take things from there.

Thursday, 15 October 2015

An Unexpected Place of EdReform: Circle the Refugee Camp?

Ikea, Teach for America, Pearsons PALF, Apple, Google, Alt School and Declara walk into a refugee camp... The start of a bad joke? Or the beginnings of a crazy idea? 
It's the latter, this post details something of a crazy idea that just might be feasible and, in the grand scheme of things, may not require too much from each stakeholder to implement... but potential advantages and win-win scenarios for everyone involved. 
I wonder #WhatIf... Silicon Valley startups were to "Circle the Refugee Camps" not with concrete walls and barbed wire like our governments do, but with empathy, compassion, assistance and (of course) the Bay Areas' unique blend of irreverence of the status quo and their ability to massively creatively disrupt?
This post was drafted a while ago when an episode of Downton Abbey was on (Bear with me, this is relevant), the idea has a number of sources and this was one of them. 
I'm picking up with the article now as I'll be having a discussion with an organisation later today who has an interest in ideas like this. 
Furthermore, if they like the suggestion and wanted to explore the idea further, they are in a rather unique position of being able make it happen. More on the organisation at a later date. 
In the mean time here's the story, and the story behind the story... how ideas come from collaboration and "slow hunches"
Come Dine with Me: Refugee Special
Both the title and the start of this post (As well as a lot of the content) is in reference to that formidable can-do Silicon Valley entrepreneur, Ramona Peirson.

Ramona is so passionate about finding solutions to the Syrian refugee crisis that she got the following group of people together to discuss some solutions;
A former neo nazi, a Baptist reverend, a Ukranian investor a strategiest for the US Department of Education and two Jews
Can you imagine the conversation with that group? Oh to be a fly on the wall in the room! They should have recorded the evening and aired it as Come Dine with Me: A Refugee Camp Special

Downton Abbey Vs Silicon Valley
Not long after hearing about this story Declara's other Co-Founder, Nelson Gonzalez, curated an interesting article on how Silicon Valley startups and others are innovating solutions in refugee camps: Humanitarian Innovation: The Power to Change the World.
So... I'm reading this post while my wife is watching Downton Abbey, a show I'm not a fan of as it's a reminder of how elitist and divided Britain is.

"When Jony Ive was asked what it was like being a Knight of the realm, he replied "You know what? Out in San Francisco it means absolutely nothing, Back in Britain it is a burden" Jony is referring to Britain's strong class divisions."  Leander Kahney
Something I found to be an interesting combination was the fact that the show was sponsored by Amazon Prime and an advert for Santander bank came on and spoke about Apple pay almost as much (If not more than) their own brand.

So there I am reading about humanitarian innovation in refugee camps, with a show about class elitism on the TV but the ads are about two Silicon Valley tech companies... one that started out as an online book retailer, the other a PC maker but who are now operating (and massively disrupting) the stuffy banking and broadcasting sectors.

Developing the Young Workforce Vs Circle the Schools
I compare policy makers attempts with reform and change with Californina based tech companies and startups regularly in my blog.

When reading through the Scottish Governments Developing the Youth Workforce document, I felt that a lot of time and money could have been saved by getting in touch with San Francisco's One City organisers. Here are my thoughts on that particular issue:  Developing the Youth Workforce and Circle the Schools

After writing this post the Circle the Schools organisers got in touch and we had a conversation where we expressed an interest in collaborating with one another, all within the space of a week. So it it makes sense to me to look to California for solutions to these kind of issues.
EdTech Is Tough
Over the last week I've been using Twitter (Another Silicon Valley startup) to demonstrate how challenging education can be to engage with, as well as suggesting ways to improve things. The usual caveat here: this is not a criticism of educators, but is down to a number of factors.
The issues here are significant and the kind of innovators and investors who could help facilitate a "nation of innovation in education" are shying away from EdTech, as the market is too difficult.

Will Scotland be able to operate at the pace that's needed in education if tried and tested products that have been around for 9 years (and are free!), but appears to only have around 30% of uptake?
If we take all of the above into account, as well as Declara's response for dealing with this "EdTech is tough" problem;
"The U.S. education sector is highly fragmented and politicized; it's hard to win major contracts for radically new approaches without a lot of tussles. By contrast, in countries such as Chile and Australia, the national authorities can embrace new tools quite quickly and decisively" Ramona Pierson, Declara CEO via Forbes
This might bring us to an unexpected place of EdReform..
An Unexpected Place of EdReform: Circle the Refugee Camp
According to the Humanitarian Innovation article there are 43 million people who live in refugee camps for up to 12 years! Wow!
  • What would it take for the West to positively affect education in these camps? 
  • If this was achievable, what would the benefits be for the various stakeholders?
I've no idea what the education provision is like in these camps. If the provision is poor (or non-existent) and you're there for 12 years, surely this will do nothing to aid the existing crisis. But... 

#Whatif... Ikea, Teach for America, Pearsons PALF, Apple, Google, Alt School, Declara and others were to enter the scene.
IKEA innovates to create a cost effective "Pop up school" along the lines of the one room Alt School model, Pearsons PALF and Teach for America come in to provide the benefit of their experience and expertise... then Google, Apple and Declara etc move in with their apps, solar chrome books and access to western teaching materials... and the whole thing is supported in the same way that Circle the Schools is.
This could be an opportunity to re-imagine education from scratch, maybe even exploring some very different ideas at different camps and assess what's working best.

Refugee EdTech Ain't so Tough?
How much resistance would there be if EdTech companies were to say, we've got this idea and we'd like to trial it at the camps' school... would it be a case of;
"Oh we need to do a risk assessment, and that will take approximately 9 years... See you then" 
Or would it be a case of

"You want to come in and help educate our kids with a new idea? Sure, come on in!"
Then, if you get an effective case study in a place like a refugee camp surely getting traction in the West will be a bit easier? 
  • What about the long term impact of this for the camps and the west?
  • Would a more educated camp be able to "Unslum" itself to become a desirable postcode with STEM'ed up kids keen to improve there surroundings and full of new ideas.
  • Could refugee camp residents improve the neighbourhood like the residents of Boston's North End did?
  • Would these educated refugees be welcome by the west as they would be actively sought by universities and companies because of their skills?
Through the research by the authors of Immigrant Inc we already know that immigrants are more likely to be entrepreneurs than the indigenous population.
Then there are things like soft skills and core values to consider... what would be the implications of having people who spent 12 years in a refugee camp being leaders in various areas of life?

Would we have leaders who had more empathy and compassion given their experiences and humble background?
I've no idea to the answer of any of these questions, nor do I know how insane the idea is... but when the organisations you are speaking to are based in Silicon Valley and have core values along the lines of "Be Bold" and "Achieve the Impossible" then you sure don't feel quite as silly as you might publishing random ideas like this. 

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

How I Met Your Awesomeness: Meet the Teacher

In this post I detail how I first found out about Meet the Teacher/Parents Evening System and, if people like what they hear in this post, I encourage educators to do a quick "5 minute favour" as Nikki Robinson and Steve Isaacs have done in the past.

Given the momentum of the Scottish Governments Enterprising Schools and Developing the Youth Workforce, Digilearn Scotland etc I hope that some of my new Scottish education connections might also be in a position to help an award winning, innovative Scottish EdTech startup out.

I am confident that members of my PLN on the other side of the pond will be keen to help someone like Marcus Field and his team out... Once they hear about how I met their awesomeness.


It's the run up to #ISTE2015 and I'm trying to get buy in with one of those crazy ideas I have from time to time. On this occasion it's #Get2ISTE, an idea designed to crowd fund educators PD and getting the costs of the conference covered.

I curate exhibitors Twitter accounts in the hope of reaching out to them to look for their support. Meet the Teacher is one of the exhibitors, they are also one of only two Scottish companies who will be at the event. "Cool!" thinks I, and check out what they do.

I make a note drop in on the guys to find out more about what they do. It's taken a while but we finally spoke earlier this week, we had a chat to see if and how I might be able to help them with their growth plans.

Enterprising Scotland... Meet an Enterprising Student
At the Scottish Learning Festival among the various initiatives that was launched one was Enterprising Schools which is;

"The online resource and professional learning community centred on sharing and developing creative ideas for enterprise education"

If Meet the Teacher founder Marcus Field was at school when this initiative was around he might be one of the projects success stories.

Marcus started his company in fine Silicon Valley/HP style... working from his bedroom while he was still a student in 2006, and started working on the company on a full time basis when he graduated in 2012.

Today the company is an award winning EdTech company, works with over 2,000 schools and employs 11 members of staff... and counting.

Great Teaching... and More of it
Subscribers to my blog will know that a question I ask when assessing any education solution is "Does this facilitate great teaching and more of it?" I would have said that the way that Meet the Teacher removes the need for teachers trying to co-ordinate their schedules for parents evenings and booking rooms does fit this criteria. It frees up educators time as there is less admin.

The other thing that I'm hot on that the company seems to have is the right culture and attitude towards their customers.

Free Trials, Repeat Bookings & Word of Mouth Referrals
We discussed how Meet the Teacher gets new business, how they look after existing customers and their net promoter score.
Net Promoter Score:
On a scale of 1-10 How Likely are you to recommend this org to a friend or colleague?
Everything Marcus told me was extremely positive! For example;
  • A lot of new educator enquiries came from;

    i) Word of mouth referrals... Music to my ears!!

    ii) Educators who's children's school use Meet the Teacher. They find the user experience is such a positive one... so get in touch to find out more about having this for their own parent evening
  • Their ratio of repeat business was extremely high. Last... but by no means least
  • They have so much confidence in their product that, as you can see from their ISTE exhibitor bio above, the first Teach Meet/Parents Evening is free. 
What's not to like about all that? But, in case you were not aware...

EdTech is a Tough
We discussed another favourite topic of mine: Sales.

The company has clearly achieved "Product Market Fit," have got the implementation, customer relations and engagement with educators right... so I'm going to put in an "ask" with two groups of educators (Obviously other educators are more than welcome to join in too though! Lol).

There were two projects that I was involved with that got a big mention during ISTE 2015, but my involvement with both projects started in June 2014, and was for a brief period of time. 

My experiences with Nurph and #Get2ISTE led me to see how different the sales process could be and encouraged me to see what's possible with blogging (See Blogging, Sharing New Ideas... Or Selling)... So here's me asking ISTE2016 delegates and Scottish Educators what's possible with this start up. What impact would you doing a quick 5 minute favour have?

ISTE2016 Delegates
Nikki Robinson and Steve Isaacs helped Nurph get traction without a single phone call being made or any sales people required in education. This, in turn, helped remove any objections to the idea of #Get2ISTE.

I wonder if some of the US educators in my PLN might be willing to follow suit and do me a quick favour and click on the "Book a Demo" button on this link: Meet the Teacher.

Scottish Educators
With all the talk of innovation in education, adopting technology quicker and encouraging entrepreneurship... how about giving one of the few award winning EdTech companies who are based in Scotland a helping had?

In my previous post I demonstrated the extent of the problems with adopting new ideas, 30% of uptake with Twitter after 9 years? How about taking a few moments out of your busy schedule and hitting the "Book a Demo" on this link Parents Evening System 

If all goes well I look forward to seeing Meet the Teacher on the big screen at ISTE2016.

Is It Switched On? It is at Larbert High

This post is unabashed and unashamed fan mail, it is fan mail about two teams who have achieved something that I have tried and failed at in the past.

It is also fan mail with a purpose, which is in support of Chris van der Kuyl's Scottish Learning Festival keynote (Yes, again! Get used to it, it's going to feature around here for a while), specifically around the idea of entrepreneurial educators exploring new ideas.

This post is about what Falkrik Council and Larbert School have achieved with social media.

The data I've been exploring this week all points to what Google employee #59, Doug Edwards, observes in his book "I'm Feeling Lucky"

"Two smart guys working on complex technical problems, it turns out, can accomplish a hell of a lot". Doug Edwards, the extract on page 34 of this EdTech report is worth a read

The dataset that I've been exploring this week highlights that Falkirk schools have really embraced social media. I highlight Larbert High School in particular in this post for two reasons;

1) They have a collective following across their 39 Twitter accounts of 17,000 people. The next closest school has 5,500

2) It appears that this medium has become embedded in every part school life.

100% Roll Out of an Idea in EduI'll get to Falkirk council's Malcolm Wilson and his extremely switched on team in a moment, first a question for educators...

Outwith tech like Microsoft Office and email, how many products or services are there in your school that almost every department or member of staff uses can you name?

This was a question I found myself asking in 2014 as my aim was to find a product that had a chance of getting adopted by every FE College.

When starting out with this plan I soon realised that there are few products I could name that were adopted by even 50% number of FE Colleges.

Even worse than this, when I asked some really tech savvy educators (who really know how to assess tech in edu) how many products they use that they'd recommend to other educators, the answer was around 30%?!

At the same time I have found products that are 100% fit for purpose in education, but when the stats indicate that around 25% of Scottish schools are on Twitter, you realise that

1) Here is a product is free, has been around since 2006 and has more case studies from educators than you would know what to do with BUT the medium appears to only have around 30% uptake from the sector.

2) Educators would recommend between 30-50% of the tech they use.

You soon realise that the process for adopting new ideas is broken. Taking these two points into consideration and you realise that

What Lambert High School has achieved is AMAZING! 

The driving force behind this achievement is probably down to 1-2 people who evangelised about social media to make this happen... and I'm guessing that it's a certain Mr Doherty (@mrdohertylhs)

Now Mr Doherty and other proponents of Twitter at the school may well have faced all the challenges that other educators have faced and/or are currently negotiating their way through;
  • Resistance to the medium from some people/departments
  • Navigating through the risks, developing social media policies and discussing what to do with any negative experiences/bad PR
  • Trepidation about sending that first "Hello world" Tweet
  • Thinking about what to send and when to send it
  • Detailing the benefits to other members of staff and encouraging them to give it a go
I've had a lot of people come to me asking for my advice about developing their social media presence since TES Scotland mentioned me in their article on Friday. Want my advice on this... Here it is summed up in one word (Now there's a first for me!):

At least that's what educators would call what I am about to suggest if social media was an exam that students sat. 

Send a Tweet out to Mr Doherty and Mr Meikle (@MrMeikle) and ask what they did. 

Indeed #ScotEdChat looks like it's about to start and they might be ideal candidates to moderate a session on Buzzing School Communities on Twitter.

A Fantastic Community Resource!
Why would anyone want my advice when these guys have achieved something that I had tried to achieve but could not?

Furthermore, if people want to see Scotland become a nation of innovation in education technology, in my opinion, Larbert High School and Falkirk Council is where it's at!

I would like to highlight that this has less to do with Twitter/social media and more to do with the fact that this school have managed to get traction with an idea across the whole school! Guys you have my utmost respect! (For whatever that's worth. Lol)

While I would recommend people speak to these guys regarding social media before coming to me... there are a few ideas I have which I think could help with schools/Local authorities regardless of what stage they are at with this...I may even have a few ideas that could help Larbert High develop things further.

I look forward to exploring the possibilities with everyone that has got in touch with me so far, and would welcome new enquiries from other schools and local authorities.

Is it Switched on Like Malcolm Wilson Is?
As with Larbert High, if any local authority was looking to replicate Falkrik's success in their region, I would suggest that you beat a path to Malcolm Wilson's and Stuart Lennie's door... or to save on time and travel costs you could just Tweet out to them (@claganach &@IsItSwitchedOn... Love that account name!)

I thought that I was in for a treat early in my research when I was looking for Scottish Schools on Twitter and received this reply from Malcolm;

A *Must Read* Post: Twitter in Schools and Classes
Malcolm's post is inspired! The minute I saw it I realised that a lot of hard work has gone into this. If any local authority is looking to replicate the kind of roll out with Social Media that Malcolm and his team have done, you could do a lot worse than replicating this article and listing the schools within the LA who are on Twitter.

Just like my maps and spreadsheets Malcolm's post puts "Social Proof" to work and is particularly effective with people who have a "customer profile" which Geoffrey Moore identifies as being in the "Late Majority"

New Ideas do not roll out in a linear fashion:
Geoffrey Moore's Technology Adoption Cycle
It is through curating and sharing information that we uncovered the extent of the differences in terms of the number of accounts and number of followers in Scottish education. 

It is through the work of a handful of individuals driving an idea forward that has helped a local authority dominate this medium, with one school being particularly open to the medium and adept at it.

Let's do what Chris vander Kuyl (@Chrisvdk) suggests in his Scottish Learning Festival Keynote:
 Lets cheat... 
Erm... I mean collaborate!

Tweet out to Malcolm Wilson, Larbert High and the other schools who are doing well with this and learn from them.

I know that's what I'll be doing! Malcolm, Stuart, Mr Doherty, Mr Meikle... Coffee? If so when and where? 

Monday, 12 October 2015

Twitter in Scottish Education

Following the interest in my research around Twitter in Scottish schools this post includes more data.

This time I focus on the 124 Scottish schools that I found who have more than one account. Collectively these schools have 629 accounts covering various subjects and topics... and provides these institutions with a reach of 175,000 people

Two weeks ago I listened to Chris van der Kuyl's Scottish Learning Festival keynote and, like many, I agreed with everything that he said.

I had tried to make ideas that were not too dissimilar to his ideas on innovation in education work in FE from 2012-2014. Any suggestions that I might have about Scottish schools using Twitter may not differ a great deal from this "Twitter in FE Report" that I wrote in 2010 but, given the budget cuts etc, I was to eventually find that FE wasn't in a good shape when it came to new ideas or innovation at the time .

In July 2014 I sent some information out to see if Scotland might be a good place to test my ideas but, as I mention in my last post, I found that it wasn't and/or my approach didn't work. What a difference a year makes!

After hearing Chris' keynote I got to work... I had some ideas that I thought were relevant. A challenge was that I didn't know too many people in Scottish education but after two weeks of employing some community management techniques the timing and my experiences with projects like #Get2ISTE have seen quite a different reaction.

Since the Scottish Learning Festival I have written 5 posts in support of Chris presentation. I am keen to use data to prove how and where I feel that Chris ideas are where things need to be. The first thing to do to prove this (And to get an idea of the lie of the land with where things were with social media in Scottish education), so I have been curating information over the last few days.

I 100% believe that what Chris mentions is possible, but something that I feel will greatly facilitate things is whether or not Scottish education can "get social".

I got to work on some research and it featured in TES Scotland on Friday. The research was nowhere near finished (and still isn't)... but I feel that it's important to put "social proof to work" to encourage others to get connected.

I will be adding to the existing resources that I have already shared and before sharing the latest spreadsheet there are two important points I would like to highlight.

1) This dataset is not complete, this does not every school Twitter account. I would welcome people to share any accounts that they would like to see added to the spreadsheets and maps I'm curating.

2) For anyone that is not on social media and is reticent to give it a go and think I'm one of the rah-rah-rah social media is great brigade... you're wrong.

I was skeptical and reluctant to get onto social media and would never advocate technology for the sake of it. I look for tools that can facilitate

Great Teaching and More of it

Which typically means that the tool frees up educators time so they can spend more time in the classroom or tools that facilitate learning outside the classroom.

I've not looked at too much of the content of Scottish schools twitter accounts... But I have no doubt that the kind of buzz that was around during the independence referendum could be applied to education.

Don't believe me? Please see the last paragraph of this post from the day before the General Election:
Chris van der Kuyl's presentation has provided a big opportunity, and I am confident that some of my experiences can help with this.

For any social media skeptics reading this, why should you listen to me? I would suggest that you shouldn't and that you don't! That said, I know the one thing that educators trust more than just about any other source... the views and opinions of their peers.

So instead of listening to me, maybe you can answer a question for me... which is this:

If Social media is such a waste of time/big risk/detraction/flash in the pan* (*delete as appropriate) in education why would schools like @LarbertHigh @GrangemouthHS @Fettes_College @StMungosFalkirk and @Stirling_High have 129 accounts between them?

Maybe the answer lies in the fact that they can reach 36,700 people with the click of a button, whether these followers are students, parents, local businesses or other educators, clearly they see there is value in this medium. Here's a link to a few Scottish schools Twitter accounts
I will be pulling more information together to do what I can to encourage people to "get social" here's the latest data set in two spreadsheets.

Scottish Schools with Multiple Twitter accounts
Includes 121 Scottish schools who have more than one Twitter account and have a collective reach of 175,000 followers. 

Scottish Schools Subject Based Accounts
This details the 413 accounts that focus on difference subjects and have a collective reach of 67,000 followers.

Surely there are some opportunities here for organisations like BBC Learning, SQA and Digital Scotland? Maybe it's also time to start using some #ScotEd hashtags (ie #ScotEdPE, #ScotEdSci, #ScotEdBiz etc) so students and faculty staff can share ideas and resources.

Map of Scottish Schools on Twitter 
Click on the map pin for more details about each school acct
NB All lists are still being worked on so please write a comment below or Tweet out to @EdTech_Stories if you want an account to be included.

More data and ideas to follow. I hope they help with some of the things that I believe are possible within a relatively short space of time.

After writing this post I noticed that Gary Walsh (@PeopleValues) is looking to establish #ScotEdChat, getting a new community up and running can be tough going so please support Gary by joining this new EdChat.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

A Nation of Innovation in Education: Getting Social

This post looks at the importance of Scottish schools getting social if the country is looking to become a nation of innovation in education... And in order to get social, some hustle will be required.

So, I'm following the first day of the Scottish Learning Festival via Twitter and a curious Tweet catches my eye. 

The Tweet is from TES Scotland and highlights that in a room full of educators and education stakeholders, only 3 people raise their hand with a question for the Education Minister.

My first thought is "That sounds like a culture and/or trust issue." This maybe isn't exactly news or an original insight given that educators are on the verge of industrial action.

#SLF15 Stats
But I wonder what the data has to say on the issue. I make a note to check the profiles of people who are Tweeting on the #SLF15 hashtag after the event… The results are a little surprising! What's surprising here is the lack educators voices at the event. Out of 545 people posting there were only 24 schools and 71 educators.

94 Suppliers
88 3rd Sector
84 Central Government
71 Teachers
28 Council 
24 Schools
2 Students

Out of over 500 people posting on the hashtag, only 20% are people who are in the classroom today. 

These stats remind me of an event I went to that was designed to help stakeholders engage with the areas local schools and there was a room full of 150-200+ people and when someone asked "How many people are here from schools today?" ... four hands went up. It was hilarious and depressing at the same time.

Perhaps there just aren't too many Scottish Educators on Social Media I think to myself. 

Raising a Digital Nation? Then Get Social!
Then on Friday I watch Chris van der Kuyl's keynote Raising the Digital Nation and I'm blown away, everything that Chris advocates for are things that I have been working on in education... However, the challenges are significant.

If anyone is looking to act on Chris' call to action then, in my experience, a big priority will be for schools to "Get Social." I’ve been looking at these issues for a while and have had projects that have been successful and others that failed. I have a good idea of why the exact same approach worked in one area of education, but didn't in others.

In my opinion, whether or not Scottish educators are able to become "Connected Educators" will have a big impact on how quickly change can be made. 

As a random sales person the best (Indeed the only) way to demonstrate this is to get data that supports this suggestion. This week I pulled together 610 Scottish school Twitter accounts and started curating and analysing the data.

Scottish Schools Twitter Data

In forthcoming posts I will be exploring this data in detail. There are three things that I hope to demonstrate is that;

1) Adoption of Technology
Technology does not roll out in a linear fashion and that, whether looking at education suppliers or government initiatives, the way things are done at the moment could be massively improved.

These improvements are pretty much what Chris advocated for when he addressed the Scottish Learning Festival delegates.

2) Social Media Training
The dates when school twitter accounts were opened and number of Tweets and followers that each schools has varies a great deal. The dates varying is normal and to be expected. 

52 accounts have more than 1,000 followers 
76 have less than 100 and 
53 accounts appear to be dormant. 

One school @KirnPrimary has 1,200 followers but has only sent 268 Tweets, while @Stirling_High has 1,900 followers after sending 10,300 tweets out.

What are the factors here? Will the data suggests that there may be a training issue with social media?

Something I am sure I would find curious is if I were to compare the followers that these groups have with education decision makers (MPs) + how often MPs visit the school / the number of times the MP has discussed social media with educators or students. 

Just before the General Election I curated the number of followers that candidates had as I wanted to assess the correlation between the election and Twitter followers. Collectively the 558 MPs on Twitter had almost 7 Million followers (But they also had more budget and may have had a dedicated social media advisor)

3) Raising a Digital Nation
Based on my experience and research, there are a number of factors that lead me to believe the things that Chris van der Kuyl discusses are possible... that Scotland can become a nation of innovation in education. It is also my belief that this could be achieved within a relatively short space of time, that is IF Scottish educators can become more social. 

One aspect of my work in the US has been to discuss the sales process and how technology gets adopted with my education contacts.

I hope to use this data set of Scottish Schools on Twitter to discuss the value of understanding things like "Network Effects," "Feedback Loops" "The Technology Adoption Cycle," "Product Market Fit," "Net Promoter Scores" and customer profiles.

The next link that you click is my attempt to put "social proof" to work to encourage more schools and educators to get onto social media and connect with colleagues. Check out this map of how many Scottish Schools have a Twitter account

268 Primary Schools & 246 Secondary Schools on Twitter

I'll be mentioning a few tools, resources and ideas in follow up posts but if seeing the number of schools who are now on Twitter has encouraged you to open an account, here are some suggestions for you to get started.

1) Open a Twitter account
2) Download the Tweachmeapp
3) Join the New Teachers to Twitter group by following the #NT2T Hashtag

4) October is Connected Educator Month, so check it out
5) Follow all these Twitter accounts to connect with other schools
6) Check out this list of EdChats and connect with colleagues who you have shared interests with. 

Friday, 2 October 2015

EdTech is Tough: Welcome to Scotland

It's been a busy two weeks for me and, as I've been engaging with Scottish stakeholders, it's been a pleasant change of scenery too. I go past the Scottish Education offices every day. I don't go in and they have not invited me in.

I don't know why they have not asked for my views, although it's not surprising as I'm just a random sales guy. From my perspective, the reason I have not camped outside their door can be found in this post.

Following the Scottish Learning Festival I'd be a lot more receptive to popping in for a coffee. Indeed I've had a lot of engagement from people over the last two weeks, including policy makers and government officials.

Even more exciting though is the fact that co-ordinators from San Francisco's Circle to Schools got in touch this week saying they'd be interested in collaborating... How cool is that!! We'll be having an initial conversation later this evening and I cannot wait!!

This post details why I have not focused on Scottish education and highlights why I have over the last two weeks. I also hope that the next few posts will see me get more involved in the future.

NB For any Scottish educators who are not aware of my work elsewhere, I am an advocate of word of mouth referrals. I feel there are better models that we could be exploring when it comes to new ideas products and services being adopted in education than pointless random sales calls.But this requires a culture shift involving all stakeholders

When detailing my experiences, any frustrations expressed are in no way aimed at educators... but the situations that create them, regardless of whether it's poorly thought out policy, a lack of budgets, educators being asked to do more with less or that there is way too much ineffective technology out there.

Why Startups Fail
The next few posts that I write have the potential to be the most significant things that I have ever done (or will ever do) in education... but the ideas may go passed by unnoticed, why? The answer can be found in the comment below:

Product market fit means being in a good market with a product that can satisfy that market" Marc Andreessen

In "Why Startups Fail" Dave Feinleib highlights that some sectors can be a challenging target market for start-ups as there are two painful truths about them;

1) They are very hard to reach, and
2) They have no money.

The product may be compelling and users need the solution, but the supplier is not able to reach their customers effectively!

This is the reason I have not focused on Scottish education previously. I felt that the ideas were good. Cost wasn't an issue because it was £0... I couldn't reach the audience.

This is by no means meant as a criticism, getting adoption of new ideas in education is a challenge everywhere. I am simply re-counting my experiences here, I know what the issues are and feel that some of my ideas can help remove them.

Neither are the challenges specific only to education, Feinleib highlights that this is the case in many industries.

The reason for focusing on this today is because there seems to be some enthusiasm to explore these concepts following Chris van der Kuyl's Scottish Learning Festival keynote presentation.

Circle the Schools
I have pitched in and got behind Chris' call to action from the Scottish Learning Festival because I have been thinking about ways to replicate the Circle the Schools initiative for quite some time... Ever since MIT's Bill Aulet told me that he encourages his students to avoid EdTech because "EdTech is Tough"

We have hundreds of innovative companies who are finding EdTech tough... what would happen if things were easier in Scotland?

I have a reasonably detailed plan, which is pretty much ready to go. I've been working on this for the last 2-3 years. More on these ideas in my next post. In the mean time here's a post from June 2012

Culture in Education: A house Divided Against Itself Cannot Stand

This was one of the first posts I ever wrote and, while its a bit of a mini novel, I am still working on ways to implement ideas around this kind of collaboration today.

July 2014: Further Education and #SaveEdShelf
From 2012-2014 I had tried to make the ideas I will be sharing to work in UK Further Education. This was an extremely frustrating experience.

In July 2014, through helping a competitor, I realised there was a possibility that my ideas were valid... Maybe it wasn't me, maybe it was them? So I went looking for new areas of education to test the ideas.
Is Scotland a viable Community for Technology Innovation in Education?
Aug 2014: Engaging Scottish Educators
In August 2014 I went on the website of every Scottish school, got the schools email address and sent the following email

Subject: Assistance with Social Media & Tech Integration 

Dear Colleague,

Please allow me to introduce myself to you. My name is William Jenkins and, according to some Social Media sites in am an “Influencer” with regard to Technology in Education.

For the past 13 years I have been working with Universities & Colleges and I am currently looking to explore the value of replicating some of the projects and work that I have done in Colleges and Universities in Scottish Schools. Some of the projects that I have worked on include;

I have also been advising a Principal with their roll out strategy of social media and technology, a summary of some of the advice provided can be found in this blog post “The Problem with EdTech Integration.” 

I am keen to explore the value of some of these projects and others within Scottish schools, and am looking to liaise with some Tech savvy “Early Adopters” to assess the merit of some of these ideas. 

I would be grateful if you would share this email with any colleagues who might fit the profile of an early adopter and ask them to get in touch if they might be interested in exploring some ideas with me. Please feel free to ask anyone to contact me directly or they would be welcome complete this Early Adopter Network Survey

None of these projects will have any costs associated with them and could even generate some additional revenue for the school.

I hope that you have found this letter of introduction useful and I would welcome any queries that you may have.

Kind regards


The number of replies received? Three. One person requesting more information and two schools asking to be unsubscribed so they didn't receive any further information from me.

For any Scottish educators who are not aware of my work and who may see this as a criticism, it is not. I have been a big advocate of suppliers doing things differently, and my view is that sales people should not be required today.

For my #EdTechBridge and #EdTechChat friends who dislike receiving sales calls as much as I refuse to make them (mentioning no names @S_Bearden @Mr_Isaacs) my question to you is:
  • What could and should I have done differently with this introduction?
I had just spent 2 years in FE on plans that I had to abandon because "EdTech is Tough," so I wasn't too keen to even explore in any great detail. Whether it was my approach or some of the things that affects educators elsewhere that are beyond their control (No time or budget and always being asked to do more with less), I explored other options.

I found that US education was better placed to consider my ideas and I have had a few projects work well within the last 12-18 months.

Sept 2015: Indyref Reflection
Two weeks ago I was reflecting on the independence referendum, this led to engagement with Scottish MPs and eventually to many General Election candidates.

People engaged with what I had to say, so I developed the ideas further. My motivation for this was to raise the profile of social media in education and to highlight the value of community management to policy makers.

Sept 2015: Scottish Learning Festival
Chris van der Kuyl's speech was spot on! In my opinion everything that he mentioned is what's needed... and everything that he mentioned I have been working on for the last 2-3 years.

Given Chris' experience in the gaming industry he used examples from the world of tech and gaming and terms like Moores Law etc.

I have done likewise and can see how network effects, positive feedback loops, social proof, optimal distinctiveness and a rage of other things that tech companies use could help with EdTech integration.

To stay with an example from the world of gaming, the challenges with innovation in education is perhaps not too dissimilar to what the startups in the fantastic film Indie Game experience.

This film follows a group of game developers who try to make it as a struggling startup in the gaming world.

If your game is available on Microsoft, you have the distribution channel all sorted with the console and pay points. gamers can purchases with a click of a button and the customer acquisition cost is £0.

If your game is not available for the main consoles... If your game is not available on Xbox or Sony consoles or accepted in the Apple/Android store, your going to struggle. (Erm, unless the game is called Minecraft. Lol).

EdTech is Tough... Because of Distribution
In education distribution is a big problem. People are starting to realise this and this is why we are seeing big education companies who do have distribution starting EdTech incubators (Pearsons, Adobe etc).

This is also something that investors understand. How else do you explain all the tech products which are free of charge, but get millions of investment by Silicon Valley VCs?

Are they building distribution now so they can turn a profit later? Or have VC's all of a sudden got in touch with their social responsible sensibilities?

Oh and, by the way, if you're the kind of person who disagrees with this assessment about distribution because there is some government central procurement nonsense then, being brutally honest and in my humble opinion... you haven't got a clue about what the issues are or what's required.

I had FE people disagreeing with me that FE was tough 2 years ago, they felt that because they had all these procurement quangos they were easy to deal with. If this is such a fantastic model, how come FELTAG is still struggling? How come the nicest guy in the world left FE a few weeks ago despite working on a truly fantastic product?

Oct 2015: Social Media & Social Proof
When I wrote to Scottish educators 12 months ago, if I received more than 1 reply and 2 unsubscribes, what I would have done with my social media experience is the same as what I did yesterday, which can be found below (Except that it's 12 months later).

Scottish Schools: Twitter Accounts and Statistics
(NB This list is by no means complete. These accounts and stats were pulled together so I has data for my next post. If you are aware of any other Schools schools on Twitter let me know and I'll add them to the list.)

My next post will focus on how compiling this list will put social proof to work and I will analyse the data to make some observations and recommendations ie what would be needed in the first instance to put these distribution channels in place that would enable Scotland to be at the centre of innovation in education

As you will see these observations are based on concrete examples of how and where they have worked in the past.

Oct 2015: Circle the Schools: Welcome to Scotland
Watch this Space... After analysing this twitter data I will write a post that will have everything that is needed for people to implement an initiative immediately after reading the post.

There will be no need for strategising or committees, no need for funding from MPs, you won't even need approval from SMT. If you want to innovate you'll be able to start exploring a range of "Yes, if..." options and it will take less than 5 mins of your time to get the ball rolling.

I am more excited about this than any other project I've ever been involved with...and that's saying a lot! I've worked on a some projects that I am extremely pleased with.

I think the ideas and suggestions will have the potential to be big, but I am also a realist... So, at the same time, I also fear the suggestions will end up like the email that I sent to Scottish educations a year ago.

Or that, like those other opportunities I have been excited about in the past, momentum will be lost and bad decisions will be made because of a lack of collaboration and due diligence.

Only time will tell which will be the case but, for the moment though I am extremely excited about the potential.