Monday, 30 November 2015

CEduAD: We Are Better Together

This is an extremely emotional post for me to write and I hope that Connected Educators take a moment to read this as it details how a kind word can change the trajectory of someone whether students, colleagues, members of your PLN, a EdTech Startup... Even a random sales person.

Here is want a simple "5 minute faviour" that a a Pre-Service Teacher, A Connected Educator, a Hot Shot CEO at a Silicon Valley Tech Start Up (The Google of Learning, no less!) and an educator who took a moment to engage has had a big impact on me.

Before telling my story I'd like to share this one with you about Henry Ford.

What Value Does a Kind Word Have 
Henry Ford worked at the Edison Company and his line manager offered him a promotion on the condition that he would give up "wasting his time" on his gas engine.

After making his decision to focus on his car, Ford caught up with Thomas Edison at a conference. Ford told him what he was working on and asked if Edison thought there was a future for the internal combustion engine. He answered:

"Yes, there's a big future for any light engine that can develop a high horse power and be self-contained. No one kind of motive power is ever going to do all the work of the country. We do not know what electricity can do, but I take for granted that it cannot do everything. Keep on with your engine if you can get what you are  after, I can see a great future.” Henry Ford Autobiography - My Life & My Work

This encounter and these kind words were the start of a life-long friendship. I wonder what might have happened if Edison had echo'd Ford's manager's view and told Ford that he was wasting his time.

It Started with a #NT2T Tweet
In July 2014 I was getting pretty exasperated trying to make my plans work in UK Further Education Colleges, two years in and little by way of progress. 

I notice a random tweet about a company that I saw when their website was a holding page, the tweet had a link to a heartfelt post by Founder Mike Lee.

I then saw a reply from a sassy pre-service teacher, Alicia Leonard (@ilorax) who was a fan of EdShelf and was trying to rally people round to save the company.

I thought I could help by detailing my own experiences in support of Mike and highlighted how and why this model was the future of EdTech. This post was no better and no worse than my other posts but something weird happened.

The Connected Educator
Eric Sheninger (@E_Sheningersaw my post and asked people in his PLN to see if they could take a moment to help Mike attract some investor enquiries.

Everyone pitching in to help Mike out saw a successful Kickstarter campaign helping EdShelf out. 

Embedded image permalink

I have benefited in so many ways from getting involved with this call to action from Alicia, writing my pot and Eric then getting involved. Here are some examples of this:
Hot Shot Silicon Valley Startup
In March 2015 I met Ramona Peirson, CEO of Declara (Aka"The Google of Learning")  through a BBC report for international woman's day. Ramona was talking about how she goes out of her way to look for female developers, and how male dominated the VC investment was... But this lady had fire in her belly!

When I heard the topic I jumped up from my seat to get her name to pass onto the Connected Educators who were giving a minority women in tech presentation at SXSWEdu.

When I saw that Ramona worked in Education I sent an invite to connect on LinkedIn. We hit it off immediately! Something that I found strange was that I didn't have to explain my ideas to her, she just "Got it"... she also got my sense of humour too, which is an added bonus.

But before we got to know one another she inspired me with the simplest thing that anyone could, she had an inspiring message at the end of her email:

"Sometimes it is the very people who no one imagines things of that do the things no one can imagine.” Turing

Good Ideas can come from anybody, and anywhere
I cannot tell you how much seeing this any time I got an email from Ramona inspired me. After presenting to Barak Obama after 3 months of going live this links appeared and inspired me even more

Visionary, Really?
As we got to discussing various things I started to get some weird emails through saying how talented and visionary I was with my ideas. I dismissed the comments initially but they kept coming and these kind words started to give me more confidence. Confidence to test the ideas... to implement more instead of just writing about them.

Whether your a Connected Educator chatting to a Social Newbie or with your students in class I would encourage people to read these two articles:
Educators in Scotland and my PLN seem to wonder where I came from all of a sudden with these ideas, as you can see in this post the ideas were always being considered, but not always tested or pushed to far..

The Teacher who Engaged
12 Weeks ago I watched Chris van der Kuyl's keynote and agreed with what he was saying and thought "I can create some momentum with this IF the culture was right".

I wrote a snarky post to see how people would react, would they be defensive and argumentative... or would they be open minded and interested in discussing it.

We got lucky, I sent a DM to an acct that was moderated by a few people and I was speaking to Bob Baldie (@BobBaldie), and he was both friendly and interested in hearing my views and even saw merit in my snarky attitude at the ridiculousness of some of the policy decisions.

Stop and think about this for a moment...
If it was not for Bob being engaging and friendly -> I would not have curated the Twitter data -> Would not have connected with Malcolm Wilson -> would not have engaged with the Digital Citizenship Summit.

Connected Educator Superstars
What kind of opportunities are missed any time people have encounters like this with a Connected Educator

Without mentioning names, I was disappointed by the actions of some "edustars".  This is by no means a gripe session, or pity me, but a hopeful wake up call to them. When I tried to speak with these individuals, I couldn't help to feel judged, deemed unworthy, and looked down upon. Perhaps they were having a bad day, were tired, or just didn't care. Yet, I couldn't help to think, has this "connected celebrity status" gone to their heads? I found it sad that the mindset of "look at me" overruled "we practice what we preach, and make a positive difference in all lives." Are we not educators who preach to our students to be respectful, don't judge a book by a cover, and don't forget where you came from? 

Yes, being "connected" is creating "edu-celebrities." Yet, I can't stress it enough: remember back to your college days when you wanted to be an educator. You wanted to make a difference in the lives of others, instead of seeking personal glory. The Great, The Good and the Sad. Glen Robbins

I'll leave you with Viktor Frankle and his experiences in a Nazi Concentration camp and the value of a friendly face in amoungst the crowd and remind Connected Educators that a RT and a friendly word from them

  • Can save companies 
  • Inspire those who doubt their abilities or ability to #BeTheDigitalChange
  • See someone stop by an pitch in for a moment and have the most wonderful butterfly effect
I know this because I have experienced them all and am the better for it. Thank you Eric, Alicia, Bob and my dear friend Ramona, words truly do escape me. Thank you for believing in me. I hope I can repay the debt somehow.

"Man is ultimately self-determining…in the concentration camps…we watched and witnessed some of our comrades behave like swine while others behaved like saints. Man has both potentialities within himself; which one is actualised depends on decisions but not on conditions"

The $1 Million Dollar Smile Vs Insincere Friendship
The expression one wears is far more important than the clothes one wears on one’s back.

"Charles Schwab told me his smile had been worth a million dollars…Schwab’s personality, his charm, his ability to make people like him, were almost wholly responsible for his extra-ordinary success; and one of the most delightful factors in his personality was his captivating smile.

Actions speak louder than words, and a smile says, “I like you. You make me happy. I am glad to see you.”

…an insincere grin? No. that doesn’t fool anybody. We know it is mechanical and we resent it. I am talking about a real smile, a heart warming smile, a smile that comes from within, the kind that will bring a good price in the marketplace". (D Carnegie)

The Value of A Smile
It costs nothing, but teaches much.
It enriches those who receive, without impoverishing those who give.
It happens in a flash and the memory of it sometimes lasts forever.
None are so rich they can get along without it, and none so poor but are richer for its benefits.
It creates happiness in the home, fosters good will in a business, and is the countersign of friends.
It is rest to the weary, daylight to the discouraged, sunshine to the sad, and natures best antidote for trouble.
Yet it cannot be bought, begged, borrowed, or stolen, for it is something that is in no earthly good to anyone till it is given away.
And if anyone is too tired to give you a smile may we ask you leave one of yours?

For nobody needs a smile so much as those who have none left to give! Dale Carnegie

Mad Learning with a connected Educator

In this post I detail how and why the collaboration between Susan Bearden and Mad Learn has been the inspiration behind the idea of suppliers supporting Connected Educators to get to the inaugural #DigCitSummitUK, how the partnership is still strong after 2 years and why both educators and suppliers should check Mad Learn out. 

2013 was my first attempt at curating ISTE data.

In my Connected Educator Appreciation Day Post I highlighted that I saw the future of sales after seeing the level and extent of Word of Mouth referrals.

So what did I do after joining EdTechChat for the first month? As this was a dedicated EdTech forum I wanted to see if this was typical. I tried to curate the Tweets from all the chats over the same 6 week period.

What was I looking for? Ironically, what I was looking for is what I found this week when I asked my connected educators who they'd be happy to represent at #DigCitSummitUK.

I was looking for the great companies that educators talk about so that I could:

1) Find out what they were doing differently, and

2) Send them my resume

I did manage to down load this data (It only took a month) but didn't do too much with it... There were over 200,000 rows of Tweets, in 6 weeks... In 2013 when there were 159 chats. I dread to think how big that sheet would be today.

It's certainly a good idea if you're in EdTech sales
 I finished downloading this data in June 2013 and there was an ISTE Thingy that people were talking about... What is this ISTE thingy? Asks I, to no one at all because it was the wee small hours.

Detention for the Naughty Teachers!
For those that don't know ISTE is a very pecular form of torture which I think educators who have mis-behaved during the year get sent to for punishment, a 3 day detention for teachers.

What's that? ISTE's a good thing, that educators voluntarily go to? 13 miles walked while attending 1,028 presentations and reading 500,000 Tweets... and that's educators idea of fun? 
OK we'll have to agree to disagree on this point.

Anyway, I follow this bizzare event on Twitter and let's just say I know what life is like for a wheel on a fruit machine because that's what my eyes were doing when looking at the Twitter stream.

All these great resources but no one can read them all whether people are at the event or a group that call themselves #NotAtISTE (I know a hashtag for people who are not there! ...I think that must the stick that admins use for borderline cases, they have sit in class and are made to watch the Twitter stream until their eyes get so sore that they cry and the admin's message is "If you don't buck up your ideas next year that will be you!")

Curating ISTE Data
As with the EdChats I wonder, who's bottling all these links so people can review later? No one that I am ware of has effectively curating this data set and I've made various attempts for the last 3 years, and think I cracked it this year!

Patience with Curating ISTE data
(That post will pick up on the story from there.

The Good Guys of EdTech
My reasons for curating this was the same as the EdChats, I was looking for the good guys... Where are the bright spots at EdTech conferences?

I curated the ISTE data in 2013 and, as with the EdChats that's as far as it went, the idea was put on the "For Later" shelf (See 
An Iste Bytsie Post... with some Big Conference Data and Mining Data... Nuggets of Gold and Pearls of Wisdom.
Lessons from Education Pioneers:
How to Lead Future Focused Change
However, I was to find the bright spot 12 months later... or more accurately, The bright spot shone so brightly that it was difficult to ignore and has been something that I have been looking to model ever since.

Tweeching Sales People
Like all Connected Educators EdTechChat Moderator Susan Bearden encourages other educators get connected, she had developed an app with her students and then thought if they can do it so can I!
Susan created the @TweechmeApp and launched at ISTE 2014.

As a salesperson who was researching the relationships between educators and EdTech suppliers looking for the problems and the solutions... Given what I was focusing on and all the research I had done this was by far and away the highlight of ISTE2014 for me!

If you don't believe me, go take a look at:

1) The Trouble with Conferences... Confessions of an EdTech Salesman 

2) How closely the #DigCitSummitUK model for getting Connected Educators to the event matches what the collaboration with Susan Bearden and Mad Learn looked like at ISTE2014.

The Future of Learning will be Co-Created
Collaboration and co-creation and then educator and supplier pitching in with the sales when "Product Market-Fit" has been achieved... The best possible advocate at an event and at the lowest possible cost.

I've kept an eye on Mad Learn since then and they have built on this successful partnership by taking a very different approach to sales...I can't imagine they put too many cold calls in.

Susan is a #DigCit Moderator and wants to come to the #DigCitSummitUK and Mad Learn is one of the companies that she would be happy to represent: Susan Bearden Fav Tech Tools.

#DigCitSummitUK's commitment to anyone supporting Connected Educators is that they'll do all they can to deliver a return on investment for this support, I would like to make a personal commitment regardless

Paying It Forward... And Backwards

Mad Learn whether you are able to support Susan with this or not, I'd like to "Pay it forward... And backwards"

I'd like to thank you for bring a bright spot that has shone so brightly that your example has guided me to here. I would like to "Pay it Backwards" by encouraging educators to take a look at what Mad Learn does.

I'd like to "Pay it Forward" by recommending to sales people and EdTech companies by suggesting that they take a look at your strategy with engaging educators.

The relationship with Mad Learn and Susan is at least 2 years old now, many working relationships might have gone sour by now... The proof is in this pudding and it appear to still be tasty, so go check out the recipe of the Mad Learn Secret sauce.

In case funding isn't forthcoming for my friend please encourage unconnected educators to download the TweechmeApp so that Susan's entrepreneurial spirit will get her here. 

Sunday, 29 November 2015

#CEduAD: Thank You Connected Educators!

Five years ago I realised that the sales process was changing in Education. I noticed that tactics like phoning educators to discuss the services that I represented were becoming less and less welcome.

On the eve of the inaugural Connected Educator Appreciation Day I reflect on the instrumental role that EdChat Moderators and other Connected Educators have played with my professional development.

Connected Educators' input has allow me to achieve a lot of progress over the course of the last few weeks...without a single one of those phone calls that were proving to be annoying busy educators being made.

The last two weeks have been in the planning stages for the last 2-3 years. In this post I demonstrate how this is a direct result of Connected Educators.

Join Tim and the regulars of #KsedChat tomorrow at 8pm CST
Collaboration and Co-Creation
In 2011 I started to map UK Further Education Colleges as I wanted to make my time more productive for meetings, and also look at the idea of having an app that could help other suppliers to save time with sourcing contact details for colleges (The sharing economy is coming... EdTech may as well get #FutureReady for it).

The data and feedback from my college contacts took me in a different direction. I noticed that colleges had a significant number of commercial services and, if marketed collectively, would be amongst the largest retail chains in the UK. Instead many were marketed as "The Best Kept Secret" and during a global recession too?!

I wrote to colleges to see what they thought of some collective marketing. This email led to 230 colleges saying that they'd be interested in finding out more. I wrote a strategy document at the end there was a "confirm participation" button and would cost £500.

10 Colleges signed up to this within 3 weeks. Not a single phone call had been made and all enquiries after the first email were "Inbound"

Go Slow or Go Home
Around the same time this was going on, results from a pilot were coming through which was a small scale 1 year pilot with 3 colleges.

When we got some indicative results, we shared this with others who were interested in the initiative... The result of  sharing these results?

Five Local Authorities confirmed they'd commission a project that would cost £15,000. £75,000 was secured in 3 weeks, most of which was confirmed over the phone. Of the 1-2 meetings that I was asked to attend, we got confirmation that the project was commissioned within 1-2 days.

When it comes to the best products, people want to buy them. 
Great sales operations are no substitute for product-market fit!

Death of a Salesman
Compare this with the sales model I had been working on, and that my then employer wanted me to continue with:

1) Identify the right person to speak to
2) Arrange a phone call to discuss the idea
3) Secure an appointment
4) Present to SMT at a follow up meeting
5) Wait for a decision

This whole process could take anything from 3-6 Months or more, and has significant overheads as wages and travel costs are accrued and need to be covered.

More significantly than this, if you have a product that takes two meetings and 6-12 months to deliberate over,

How much of a "Must Have" Tech Toy is this? 

How significant is the problem that the solution promises to solve and/or how well does the companies solution solve the problem?

I asked what educators thought of the various reports that I had produced and these approaches compared to the traditional methods. The feedback was unanimous with everyone... except my then employer.

In April 2012, while researching my EdTech Report: Developing Relationships and Delivering Value, I joined the inaugral EdTechChat.

After 5 weeks I saw that my experiences were set to become mainstream. I didn't know it at the time but was later discover were inbound marketing, content marketing, social selling and community management.

My experiences in the first month of EdTechChat was that over 40 companies were mentioned 4-500 times without a sales call or rep in sight! It was all peer to peer word of mouth referrals

I cannot stress just how instrumental EdChats and Connected Educators have played with me re-skilling from Sales to Community Management.

I hope that some of these posts demonstrate the value that me being connected and listening to connected educators has been. Thank you all SOO MUCH! 

(NB A word of warning if you're new to my blog... there's the odd good idea in with some bad writing. Lol)

Mar 2013: Twitter Edchats - Chat or Change
May 2013: #EdChat Idle Twitter Chatter...Or Great CPD Forum
April 2013: Startup Education
June 2013: Mining Data... Nuggets of Gold and Pearls of Wisdom
July 2013: An ISTE Post... with some big data
Aug 2013: Death of a Salesman...And New Edu Models
Aug 2013: Who Sells Free in Education
Sept 2013: How Online Engagement Leads to Collaboration
Oct 2013: Was Henry Ford a Connected Educator?
Oct 2013: The Connected EdChat Modarator
Oct 2013: Live Tweeting - Engaging Policy Makers and Students
Dec 2013: #StartupEduChat Meets #EdTechBridge
Jan 2014: Collaboration in Education - How can I help you achieve your goals?
Jan 2014: The Trouble with Conferences...Confessions of an EdTech Salesman
Jan 2014: Community Appreciation and Gratitude for my PLN... Esp When Going Round in Circles
Mar 2014: Community Building in FE & EDU - Building EdTechBridges
Apr 2014: The Greenwich Village of EdTech
Apr 2014: EdTech Startups & Beta EdChats - Lone Nuts or Visionaries
June 2014: EdTechBridge: Sales Matters in EdTech
June 2014: ISTE13 Reflections - Record, Rewind & Replay
June 2014: ISTE13 Reflections - Death of an EdTech Salesman
June 2014: ISTE13 Reflections - No Country for an Old Fashioned Educator
July 2014: Don't Leave Startups on the EdShelf
July 2014: EdChats by Numbers
July 2014: EdChat Moderators ISTE or Bust
Mar 2015: Online Abuse - I Blame the Politicans
Mar 2015: Digcit Vs the Trolls: I'm a Student Friendly Social Media Educator
Mar 2015: I'm An EdChatMod...Get me out to ISTE2015
Mar 2015: Nikki D Robertson: Bringing Tech Stories to Life
Mar 2015: An Amazing Global Edu Race: Get Craig to ISTE
Mar 2015: A Pledge to GetNikki2ISTE
Mar 2015: EdTechChat - How I met your Awesomeness
Mar 2015: EdChats... Getting Competitive?
Mar 2015: Connected Educator Day: Suppliers
June 2015: Get2ISTE2015 - Any Last Minute Support from Suppliers
June 2015: Get2ISTE2016 - Ways to Get Support During 2015
July 2015: Telling Tech Stories: Self Promotion, Self Doubt or Selling
July 2015: Blogging, Sharing New Ideas... Or Selling?
July 2015: Patience with Curating ISTE Data

Thank You Connected Educators! You Rock!

A Community Managers Best Friend
At the inaugural Community Manager Europe Twitter chat #CmgrEMEA the question "What's your faviourite #Cmgr tool" Christie Fidura gave an inspired reply "Your Ears"

Add to this that many community managers see empathy as a "must have" attribute for successful community management then the future might finally be looking a little brighter than it has over the last few years, because my Community Management training and early experiences will ensure that I never forget the value that a little Empathy can have.

Dear EdTech suppliers, 

I feel my training is complete... please give me a call if you have a great culture and product, if you listen to your users and appreciate the value of empathy and are currently looking for a "newly qualified" EdTech #Cmgr. 

A Message for the Unconnected: Paying It Forward
If there are any startups, suppliers or sales people starting out on their connected, inbound, social selling or community management journey, you may find some of these posts useful.
 If I can do anything to help with your digital journey please don't hesitate to get in touch.

PLN Please Help!
Dear PLN, If you know any suppliers who could support some of my friends with the costs to get to the UK for this event please let me know.

I've also asked my Connected Educator friends to let me know which companies they would be prepared to represent at the event


So if you are on any of these lists please get in touch to discuss the details, we think you'll like the proposal:
If you are a connected educator and are looking for funding for any projects... please get in touch and we can discuss some options.


Friday, 27 November 2015

Connected Educator Appreciation Day

Thanksgiving in the US yesterday...

Black Friday today...

I found out about Community Management through Community Manager Appreciation Day (And am SO thankful that I did!)...

EdChat Moderators and Connected Educators put a lot of unpaid time into their chats & edcamps, and generally helping others...

I'm looking to raise some funds to bring some Connected Educator friends to Scotland for a Digital Citizenship Summit...

Mash it all together and what do we get: A Connected Educator Appreciation Day #CEduAD?

What could this look like? Perhaps a day where suppliers follow their "Black Friday" counterparts and offer a "Happy Edu Monday" discount and/or do a bit of "Social Tipping" to thank Connected Educators for all they do to help others... Including advocating the tools they like, which saves companies on sales overheads.

More than like, better than a share: Change Tip
Perhaps particularly applicable to the venture capital backed companies who have the luxury of being able to take their time with development AND are able to charge nothing for their products AND who get a lot of support from educators.

I've looked at the idea of an EdChat Moderator Day, see EdChat-a-thon at the end of this post:

And I've looked at "Social Tipping" in the past, this started out with:

Neither idea took off. With Get2ISTE  the concept was proved but this is by no means guaranteed to be a success, see Get2ISTE2016 - Ways to Get Support During ISTE2015 to find out why. There was also the fact that most of the support was family/friends and few suppliers.

I find that re-presenting old ideas at a different times and in a different context sometimes works.

Connected Educator Appreciation Day
So as it's Black Friday, I thought I would test this idea and see what kind of response it gets.

Let's see if people get behind the idea of some sort of Connected Educator Appreciation Day hashtag... Maybe #CEduAD and see if people start using it and discussing the idea.

In my EdChatMod ISTE or Bust post I estimated that EdChat moderators have contributed anything between $3-6,000 of unpaid time into their chats each year.

These educators have neither asked to be recompensed AND they didn't like the suggestion when I first suggested it. I believe the reason for this is due, at least in part, to the fact that educators tend to be selfless givers... they give help to anyone who asks, but rarely ask for help themselves.

If this was not the case they might have a little bit of a war chest so they could get more "connected" and help more educators by being able to afford the costs for #DigCitSummitUK.

If educators don't like me re-raising the topic... or, if like #Get2ISTE, suppliers don't rally round that's absolutely fine, no harm done. 

I happen to have a plan B for #DigCitSummitUK. Perhaps the 20-30 Connected Educators who want to come to the event will be interested in EARNING the costs that would allow them to get to Scotland.

Oh and don't worry, I know how busy educators are... so this will be along the lines of a 5 min favour: Something that they can do for others that will only take them a moment but could have a big impact on the recipient.

Want to hear more? Start chatting about the idea of a Connected Educator Appreciation Day on #CEduAD and I'll tell you more ;)

The Art of the Five Minute Favour:
What can Connected Educators do that would only take a moment... but have a big impact?

Sunday, 15 November 2015

DigiLearnScot Consultation - A Dissenters Perspective

This post details how I have been pleasantly surprised at the way that Education Scotland has treated a dissenting voice, and how their current consultation with the Digital Learning Strategy seems "a bit different" to when I have experienced these types of consultations in the past.

My posts must seem a little eclectic this week, from helping to promote the Digital Learning consultation to questioning what the outcomes might be:
But then I questioned if the Scottish Government and Education Scotland's new initiatives will work or if this will be "more of the same" and/or if we should be looking to tech companies more than government initiatives for potential solutions.

Why the more controversial post "Innovation in Education: Tech Companies & Government Initiatives" in amongst others that were more positive, upbeat and helpful?

Digital Learning Scotland Consultation
Through some of my recent activity I was invited to attend the Digital Learning Consultation that was taking place in Glasgow the day after publishing this post. I wanted to make sure that people leading the consultation knew where I stood with this ie I'm happy to pitch in, but was (Please note the past tense) a little skeptical given my previous experiences with FE initiatives and consultations over the last few years.

Previous experiences being that there is "a consultation process" but I can't quite figure it out how it works. It appeared that only certain voices were heard and there were pre-conceived ideas that may have been taken forward regardless of what the feedback was from the consultation... and that's before the politicians bend the findings in a way that would allow them to give some fine speeches.

The Genius of Education Scotland
I don't know what Education Scotland has done with previous consultations, but there is a little spark of genius in what I've seen so far. 

It's a spark that could lead to opportunities that facilitate big changes. Not big pointless changes... but the kind of big changes that educators would like to see.

I got excited about Scottish Education after watching Chris van der Kuyl's Scottish Learning Festival Keynote, but that's not the reason I got involved.

The reason I got involved was because a couple of people engaged with me after writing a post that was critical of Developing the Young Workforce. I can tend to be a little bit snarky in some key posts, this is for quite a specific reason... to see how people react.

Two people came back to me on this post and said "You're right, I agree with what you're saying." It takes a pretty open minded person to say "You're right to be critical of the work that we're doing at the moment" and/or "Yeah, we know we don't have all the answers... We'd welcome your input"

I thought that after writing my post on Wednesday that it would be met with comments like "Who do you think you are to say 'this won't work" or other kinds of intense dialogue. 

This didn't happen. What did happen is that people empathised with my previous experiences and continued to engage with me. Why do I think this is?

Because Education Scotland has seconded people with classroom experience on this initiative. I don't think educators would knowingly put in place a policy that they felt would be "more of the same." Another benefit of this is that;

"There's one thing that teachers value... the advice and input from other teachers"

Open Minds and Open Consultation
So my Developing the Youth Workforce and Circle the Schools post was a little snarky and people engaged with me. The post I published on Wednesday could easily have been seen as argumentative, maybe even controversial... although I maintain that I was simply asking some questions that appear obvious ones to ask. 

The comments were welcome and the sentiment was "We appreciate this and we want to change this."

"You can tell a lot about a society by the way it treats it's dissenters" 

Is a comment that David Robertson uses when describing how Lego treated Mads Nipper, here's what happened;

"An animated, energetic executive who can be strikingly candid, Nipper was not shy about voicing his distress. 'Duplo was the second-strongest toy brand in northern and central Europe after LEGO... And we in all our wisdom decided to kill it' Nipper observed

In 2002 the infighting boiled over. Nipper and three other heads of the company's markets got a call to report to a suite known as 'the firing room.'If you were employed at LEGO and were summoned there, chances are you'd be unemployed when you left.

For months Nipper and the three executives had continued to press their case against Explore... The dissenters were delivered an ultimatum if they didn't shut up and loyally support Explore they would be asked to leave"

In 2004, when LEGO was deeply mired in financial crisis. Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen might well have been tempted to banish the bearer of such relentlessly negative news. Instead he offered Nipper a promotion: head up marketing and product development.

Nipper believed that LEGO had to become far more adept at letting customers help the company determine what the market wanted, instead of executives deciding what customers should want.

But all Nipper knew when he took the call from Kristiansen was that he was about to shoulder a weighty responsibility. As the overseer of all of the LEGO groups product lines, he would be the point man for resetting the company's direction" 

I've been pretty snarky and critical in some of my posts... but these guys are still keen to hear my views. 

Furthermore, there were two comments that Jim Fanning made in his closing statement during the consultation on Thursday;

"We need to collaborate and hear from as many voices as we can on this consultation" and "For the sake of the learners." Attitudes and comments like this remind me of Dave Logan's advice to "identify your core values and align them with a noble cause"

What high performing teams do differently:
Identify Core Values, then Align them with a "Noble Cause"
 With regard to this consultation with Education Scotland and Digital Learning Scotland if it's a case of;

"We'll Collaborate with anyone and everyone so that we identify and implement the right technology in schools for the sake of our young people's future" (Even the dissenters!)   

That's a message I can get behind! I've already explored how my core values have helped inform how and where I'll pitch in with this agenda (See Using Core Values to find a Brands Voice)

What are the Issues? Are there Exceptions?
The other thing that I liked but have not seen too often (But admit my experiences are limited with these things), is asking "What are the bright spots? Where are things working well?"

Indeed with the entire line of questioning it seemed that it was definitely a case of "When you don't have all the answers, make sure you ask the right questions" 

One comment was "It's the same people asking the same questions that we were asking in 2009"and the articles and research that I've read would testify to this, with one exception... Startups are coming. 

Compare Simon Buckingham Shum's "Social Learning Research" when he was with the OU in 2010 with what Declara is doing in this article "Spark Social Learning." 

Education is facing all kinds of budget cuts but we have the somewhat ridiculous scenario of;

"MOOCs were started by two Canadians - George Siemens and Stephen Downes - at the University of Manitoba in the fall of 2008... [Today] Colleges and universities all over the world are buying back the innovation that their ideals, missions and people made possible" Reclaiming Innovation

Whatever the reasons, whether it's because;
  • Educators are leading on this,
  • Other methods and attempts have not worked, or 
  • Of the realisation that the pace of change needs to increase
I've been pleasantly surprised at what I've seen. This consultation feels "A bit different".

Dissenters Needed: So we can go Slow?
As I state in my EdTech report, I actively seek out the voice of people who are not tech enthusiasts. I ask people who will ask the difficult questions if I ask them "What do you think of this product/tech/idea?" 

If I can't think of any "What if..." solutions to their concerns then the perspective of the technology "Laggards" could help prevent the tech enthusiasts from procuring a technology solution that was always going to hit some problems further down the line. 

Here's an example from India: Building EdTech in India, Go Slow or Go Home

I'm sure that a lot of intelligent people made what they thought was the right decision with this... and the decisions probably were 100% right based on the information they had. But something was missing and could have prevented this from happening: The voice of the dissenter.

The perspective of people who are not as proficient with (Or are not fans of) technology are needed here.

Here we go again... THIS will Revolutionise Education
In group situations, the presence of a blocker can actually make the decision making process more rational and less likely to go off the tracks. It gives us a new appreciation for someone who tends to play “devils advocate” ...Although no one is likely to win a popularity contest by playing the devil’s advocate, businesses would do well to respect a dissenting opinion – if not straight out encourage someone to take on such a role. The dissenter, of course, is as likely to be wrong as anybody else, but the discussion of the points made by the dissenter can add perspective to the debate. Sway

Furthermore, I think these voices would be welcome in this consultation. If the only feedback is from those who are proficient and are fans of technology who get involved with the consultation then the same old problems could persist... despite the best efforts of policy makers (On this particular occasion... Couldn't resist).

Culture Fatigue?
Based on my experiences in FE I found that people didn't take part because they were a little bit fed up... How fed up? When I got emails that were undeliverable I sent messages via LinkedIn and asked "Are you still at the college? If not why not?"

The answer was overwhelmingly "Because I got sick of the culture... I was tired of putting work into this initiative and that (Every Child Matters, National Indicators, The Big Society etc)... only for the priorities and goal posts to change and/or the initiative to get scrapped so all the hard work was wasted and now my colleagues are being made redundant, I'm expected to do more with less"

guarantee that I have a "Why should I bother pitching in with this" story that would rival the best of them! 

I am also realistic enough to appreciate the chances of success may be questionable this time round, after all the consultation will involve politicians somewhere along the line... and they're sure to do their best to muck things up.

But here I am I'm pitching in with #DigiLearnScot all the same.

I'm going to spend some time seeing if some of my Scottish, UK and connections further afield (Both proponents and detractors of technology in education) will take a moment to offer their input by completing this: Consultation on the development of a Digital Learning and Teaching Strategy for Scotland

I hope others reading this will take time out to do a "5 minute favour," to do the same. Taking the time out to do this will only take a moment, but could have a big impact on others. If you're a Scottish educator, you may be doing yourself the biggest favour of all, because you *just might* get some workable policies and good ideas to implement in the classroom.

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Google Culture Meets Steve Jobs Hustle... At a Scottish Local Authority?

Steve Jobs Hustle... In a Scottish Local Authority?
This is a post about the similarities that I found when I met Malcolm Wilson and Stuart Lennie, educational ICT Officers for Children's Services at Falkirk Council and my own experiences... and how the issues with Technology integration in education are more about culture and buy in than they are about Technology.

This post would normally be one of my "How I met your Awesomeness posts" but to do so would be a dis-service to Stuart and Malcolm because this was a case of...

Google Culture Meets a bit of Steve Jobs Hustle!
 I would say that I was not surprised, nor disappointed at what I saw when I met Malcolm and Stuart... The quality of the work that I'd seen before we met informed me of what I'd find.

However, I was extremely surprised to find that a little bit of Google and Apple culture would be found at a Scottish Local Authority.

The Culture was there... But the pool tables weren't.
My blog has evolved over the last 3 years and I would have said it has become more about sales and culture than any thing to do with technology in education.  

I've been advocating for the importance of culture and the role that sales plays in EdTech integration... and how broken the sales process is, or how important it is to iterate to achieve "Product Market Fit," and that this is a messy and collaborative process.

Technology does not roll out in a linear fashion: Twitter at Larbert High
While I could write a few pages about how impressed I was and where there were similarities and differences in our experiences, I'm going to focus on three points. 

When I hear about work like this I want to know how it evolved to become so successful. The phrases that I kept hearing during my discussions with Malcolm and Stuart were;

 "We are teachers with classroom experience, so when we work with schools we know what the issues are" and "For the sake of the learners"

This "For the sake of the learners" is something that all the educators I admire seem to have in common. Educators like this have said to me in the past "If we innovate our way out of a job, and it benefits the kids... then we'll do it"

Smart Boards
I know that a divisive technology in education is Smart Boards, some educators love them... others are ripping them out and putting projectors back in. 

Love this History of Technology in Education Video by Smart
Hearing about the methodology, the working relationship and support with the sales rep and also how this team piloted various Interactive Board companies as well as how they went about settling on the eventual supplier was music to my ears.

This is because the culture and relationship between supplier and educator is key. I'm not talking about golf trips and old boys here. 

I'm talking about the ability to co-create, collaborate, roll out and even have the odd constructive (heated if need be) debate about the technology "For the sake of the learner"

Sales Hustle
Walter Issacson said of Steve Jobs in his book that Steve Jobs is the best salesman that ever lived. I would have said that Malcolm and Stuart and pretty damn good salespeople! I know that sales is a dirty word to many, but in this context it's a massive compliment! 

These guys seem to have put a lot of hustle into embedding the technology, technology that they had piloted with teachers and know is sustainable before rolling the product or service out. Malcolm's blog is also a great tool for helping deliver the "Whole Product Solution" 

Developing relationships with their schools and knowing which member of staff to approach depending on the idea/tech and the stage the idea is at, building a network of early adopters, staff who are comfortable with technology, know that new products are "suck it and see" situations. It's all very impressive.

They then provide feedback and ideas to enhance the tech for the mutual benefit for them and their colleagues. 

Sustainable Technology... Or Product Market Fit
When you look at why they are such good evangelists, they would say they ask "will it work in the classroom?" "Is the technology sustainable?" and "will it be affordable and scalable?"

As our experiences differ slightly I would label their "is it sustainable" comment as them asking themselves and their colleagues "Has this product achieved Product Market Fit". 

I would have said that the approach they take is the same as why Apple Pay gets 72 million downloads within 24 hours. Malcolm and Stuart "Ship early" on a small scale then make decisions based on the feedback they get.

They look for product market fit. They diligently assess technology in a small scale with the right groups and as they get feedback and identify:

1) That it works and that the level of expertise required makes it accessible to all
2) That their small scale pilots identify the best product/model/approach - a test of change.
3) These pilots identify and fix any potential problems and bugs with the idea/product.

Then they scale, then they roll out, they provide training for staff and "evangelise" the idea and encourage other schools to give it a try. The approach above means that they have developed a track record for identifying useful tools so they have won the respect of their schools.

NB This meeting and post was written prior to reading this post: Networked PC setup for all Falkirk Primary SchoolsI don't know what other Local Authority ICT managers or District Tech Integration advisors make of this post, or even if they see the genius in it but... as far as I am concerned it is 100% total and utter genius! 

I'd be extremely keen to hear if anyone else has a similar set up or practice when it comes to the integration of technology in their school(s).

Two Smart Guys can Accomplish a Lot
The title of my EdTech report is called "DevelopingRelationships and Delivering Value" and a key message from this report is that;

"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"

Something else that I highlight in my report is an extract from Doug Edwards book, I'm Feeling Lucky, which details his experiences as Google employee #59

“I learned that the obvious solutions are not the only ones, and “safe” choices are not always good choices. I had thought that due diligence meant finding the product most people relied on, then putting pressure on the vendor to cut the price. It never occurred to me to talk to a start-up, even though I worked at one. It never occurred to Larry not to do that. We had different tolerances for risk and different ideas about what two smart people working alone could accomplish in a complex technical area – and that is why I spent 7 years working in mainstream media while Larry found a partner and founded his own company. Two smart guys working on complex technical problems, it turns out, can accomplish a hell of a lot.”

Now I've focused a great deal on Falkirk recently, should I be worried about alienating others by focusing on this dynamic duo? 

I don't know if I should, but I'm not. This is the way that startups operate. They trust their teams to get on with things. I think that there would be more innovation if more people did this.

Not only does this also draw out Chris van der Kuyl and Simon Breakspear's points about entrepreneurial educators

Edupreneurs: Lessons from Educational Pioneers:
How to Lead Future Focused Change
But look what Ted Dintersmith found when this Venture Capitalist went in Search of the Purpose of School

"I met Eric Mazur, area Dean for Applied Physics at Harvard University, and was surprised to discover that many of our country's most innovative ideas about education come from this one physics professor"

While I have met others who are also very innovative in the last few weeks, the model has been the same (and is what Chris van der Kuyl mentions in his keynote), that it's entrepreneurial teachers who are off exploring new ideas and areas of practice... asking "What if..." and exploring the possibilities. Failing fast and failing cheap, but also scaling when an idea looks promising.

So while I am impressed with the culture and the sales hustle of this team, it's also the dynamic and approach that I am a fan of.

Cultural Conditions
I'm not sure how long this sabbatical with focusing on Scottish education will last. It's difficult to keep the cultural conditions going with things like this... But it's worth trying as the kind of culture shift that is possible in these conditions is significant.

Whether looking at the conditions of a situation or a team, I always look at culture first. Sometimes it's the culture that informs me that great work is going on, other times I see great work and track it back and find a great culture.

When I saw Malcolm's blog post Twitter for Schools and Classes I immediately recognised that a lot of time and work had gone into, not just the post, but the work behind the post. As I explored the data I became more impressed with the post, the work and the people.

Regular readers/subscribers will be aware of my political views and the reason I got involved with the referendum was because culturally the conditions could have allowed some Jane Jacobs ideas about diversity and tolerance to thrive.

Scottish Education
On the 24th September the conditions for change in Scottish education were ideal, people were buoyed up by some of the Scottish Learning Festival presentations. Today the conditions are still good.

However, in my opinion in the next 2-3 weeks any chance of the kind of large scale culture change that could be possible in a relatively short period of time could be gone... And my input/involvement will be gone with it.

Is this because I don't care about education or education in Scotland? No, of course not! But... at the same time, I've already made the mistake of spending two years trying to make ideas work in FE. My ideas went nowhere, the time, effort and work on these projects was completely wasted.

I may not be a big important person, with a big important title, but I've got better things to do with my time than to waste it... or worse, waste it by playing the kind of politics some of the good and the great that #FELTAG decided to play.

I get the impression that some in Scottish education are impressed with what I've achieved in only 4-6 weeks of operating in this space, here's a little secret... I've cheated! 

I recognised that the conditions were good to implement some ideas. I'll be gone when the conditions go, this is not because I don't care, but because I know that if I had remained focused on FE then I would not have achieved the results that I did by leaving, because the conditions were not right.

I'll go build on my experience where the conditions are better and return when the possibility for momentum returns. In the mean time I am extremely confident the ideas from Chris van der Kuyl's keynote is possible and could possible within a relatively short period of time... especially when you have teams like the one on Falkirk.