Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Twitter is Down: Good Time to Thank Ev Williams!

At the time of writing Twitter is down. Panic stations! What do I do? How do I communicate to the outside world? Should I take to other channels and vent about one of my faviourite social media platforms being down?

Nah! Apart from anything, I'm used to an intermittent internet connection with my old tech and other connectivity issues that have affected me over the past few years. So I think I'll use this time to reflect on a few differences between education and tech companies and to thank Ev Williams for giving this random EdTech sales guy a voice.

Twitter Down: Panic, Vent or Laugh?
So I can't Tweet out to people at the moment. I've been assisting with the UK Digital Citizenship Summit, a project that started as a Tweet and will culminate this Saturday (23rd January) with a conference about the safe, savvy and ethical use of technology at Bournemouth University. This conference has been crowdsourced by educators, students, parents, EdTech suppliers and industry experts over the course of the past 8 weeks.

Not being able to Tweet out or DM people involved has affected some last minute preparations as Twitter is down. Should I be frustrated and vent? Or should I celebrate the fact that the micro-blogging site has facilitated this event?

How strange that something that a service that I derided for the first 4 years of it’s existence and which costs me nothing to use that today I demand that it work on demand 24/7. Then I dare to even think about getting frustrated on one of the few occasions that I can’t access it?

I pay nothing for use of a service  I’ve come to rely on? 

Our attitude to Tech sure is a funny old game today, and I think this is more than apparent in education than in many other sectors.

Can you imagine getting annoyed with your local supermarket if they stopped you when you tried to walk out of the shop without paying for your shopping?

But this is the expectation, we expect our tech free? Weird or what!

Or what if we were to ask Connected Educators, what would you miss most if it took a day off, education policy makers at central and local authorities or your faviourite tech tools?

Culture! Culture! Culture!
Being involved with the UK Digital Citizenship Summit I've experienced the confusing culture that education policy makers have as well as the fantastic can-do attitude when educators self organise and just "get stuck into" a project... and I know which I'd have the more faith in when it comes to getting stuff done! 

Given the choice I have been and will continue to explore a number of ideas where my preferred option is to collaborate with innovative, growth mindset educators and various tech tools just to see what happens and what might be achieved... whether or not any policy makers and the "good and the great of education" choose to engage.

We've seen some fantastic collaboration with various educators and industry experts over the last few weeks. The job title and organisation people represented in their day job didn't matter a jot! What mattered is the willingness to get involved, and then do all that's possible to implement an "No Asshole Rule" and environment

The Why of Companies, Not the What...
Something that intrigues me if the "Why" of companies more than the what:

"Every venture, at its inception, is imbued with a core purpose and set of values that emanate from the founder, shape the organisations culture and largely define its future, for good or ill.

Amazon is famous for its "customer obsession" largely because of its founder, Jeff Bezos, is hell bent on making it the "world's most customer-centric company." Google's mission to "organise the world's information" reflects its founders surroundings - Silicon Valley and Stanford" David Robertson, Brick by Brick 

This is echo'd in other books like Jim Collins advice that you get "The right people on the bus first" AND THEN decide on the destination.

This is highlighted in the book that I'm reading at the moment Nolan Bushnell's "Finding the Next Steve jobs: How to Find, Keep and Nurture Creative Talent"

"Tiffany & Co started out as a stationery store. Nokia was once a paper mill. Berkshire Hathaway began as a textile manufacturer. Kutol Products (Play Doh) was a soap company. 3M began life as a Minnesota mining company"

Likewise, Twitter started out as a podcasting company but realised their idea would have problems when Apple created Itunes. Micro-blogging was a fun project.

Thank You Ev Williams!
Before reading "Hatching Twitter" I was aware that Ev Williams was a Tech entrepreneur I had no idea how instrumental a role he has played in giving me a voice!

Ev Williams created Blogger before going on to be a Co-Founder of Twitter. His "core purpose and set of values" seems to be about giving more people a voice

"We built both Blogger and Twitter with the ethos that more people having a voice in the world is a good thing." Ev Williams

Ev has now moved onto Medium and something that I've also found really interesting is articles like his "Inside Medium" blog posts.

All of my experiences to date are 100% in line with MIT's Bill Aulet's advice that "Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast." Culture matters A LOT and isn't rated at all by education policy makers (As evidenced by the number of times the word "Culture" features in documents like Ofsted's "Common Inspection Framework" documents).

So THANK YOU Ev Williams for giving me a voice and being able to connect with educators who volunteer and take a random Tweet and run with it (In between managing their day jobs and family lives) to events together over the course of the last 2 months. 

Friday, 8 January 2016

Company Vs Community Advocacy

My last post The Corporation Vs The Selfless Giver saw me consider the difference in personality profiles of the "psychopathic corporate boardroom" Vs teachers in the classroom and how educators might find it difficult to say no when people ask for help.

This put me at odds with companies who I like and admire. I found it difficult to articulate how and why it's possible to be a fan of every aspect of what some companies do based on what you know about the company. They appear to have a great culture, they have a great product and they certainly value their users input.

But to then highlight research that suggests these same organisations could fit the profile of a psychopath is a bit of a contradiction.

The only explanation I might have offered before today is that there is a difference between the motives of the founders and their investors who have a say in how the business is run and their main/only focus is that they get a return on their investment.

But then I joined Community Manager Hangout (#Cmgrhangout) this evening, and hope that the moderators and panel have helped me to find a way to better articulate this... It appears to be quite a common community management issue.

I'd like to put this evenings #Cmgrhangout in the context of how my day went.

8am: DigCitSummitUK - Crowdfunding & ROI
I send some emails out to suppliers that educators would be willing to advocate for, if they were able to make it to the UK Digital Citizenship Summit and the BETT Show in two weeks time.

I detail how crowdfunding could cost as little as $150 to send an educator from the US to the UK, how this would be value for money at $75 per event as well as provide some examples of how a return on investment would be possible.

Along with Get2ISTE this is something that a growing number of educators would like to see suppliers support... but this support has been slow to materialise.

9am: Spread Supplier Love... and Win a T-Shirt
I receive an update from a well known and respected EdTech company who have had millions of dollars in VC funding (And I mean MILLIONS!!). The content of the update includes:

"Are you going to BETT? Do you love our product? We invite you to join our XYZ event and the first 30 people to sign up will receive a branded cape for the event... spread the #XYZLove"

Having explored the roll out process of technology in education and the way that companies like Google, Apple, Microsoft etc get traction with their products, this update reads to me as

"Help us sell our product for us and we'll give you a T-shirt," because if a reasonable number of educators are wearing the companies swag and are in the same place at the same time this will put "social proof" to work.

In my Get2ISTE2016: Ways to Get Support During 2015 post I suggested that educators use these same tactics to put "social proof" to work in the hope that it would have exactly the same effect for crowdfunding educators PD.

1pm: DigCitSummitUK - Unsubscribe
After working with the Digital Citizenship Summit organisers on the best possible content, I send an email out to my UK education contacts to let them know about the event on the 23rd January at Bournemouth University... I receive a few replies asking me to unsubscribe them from my updates.

It's disheartening to put all this effort in and the work to get overlooked so easily, especially when other companies can be won over with the promise of a T-Shirt. Neither is this an isolated incident. Nor is this a gripe of a criticism... it's just a fact.

Previously on #Cmgrhangout
An earlier #Cmgrhangout session facilitated one of the best exercises that I have ever done, which helped Tech Stories find the "Brands Voice" (See Using Core Values to Find a Brands Voice).

This is a topic that was touched on in today's session with comments like "Make sure any potential #Cmgr new hires share the company's culture and/or suggestions on how to ensure that they get the brands voice right.

The process and framework that I went through thanks to Dom Garrett means that if I were to say:

"It's possible for me to be a fan of these companies and products but I can  also question if, on this particular issue, it's the most honest relationship possible" 

The comment would be in line with Tech Stories brand voice and core values.

I am indeed a huge fan of many of these companies and their products, but if there is one thing that baffles me it is how educators are willing to add significant value to these companies because they are such fans... but educators don't always get support when they need it with their projects, this is despite some of these companies being extremely well funded.

Something else about my day that is frustrating is that educators can be willing to engage with a brand that they like so easily... but startups can receive an "unsubscribe" message, regardless of how great the service is or how well thought out the content is and is or the fact that the event and content was in collaboration with their fellow educators.

7pm: Cmgrhangout - The Wisdom of the Cmgrs
As can so often happen, today's cmgrhangout provided a few "Ah Ha" moments and some clarity with some of these issues. The topic today was Scoping a Community Manager Role.

Emma Cunningham's Tweet really helped me to see how my perspective is a natural one in the world of Community Management. 

I've never held a formal paid Community Management post but I can imagine that internally there might be a lot of pressure for the community team to demonstrate an ROI with every task, that there could be constant demands from the sales department to identify how each and every action will deliver value.

"We will always do what is right, even if it is not necessarily profitable" one of my faviourite core values from one of the companies that feature in "Small Giants - Companies that Choose to be Great Instead of Big"

So my asking "If educators deliver value to the tune of $20,000 per annum through her advocacy work, but can't get the support for travel costs... where these educators would add more to the bottom line" sounds like it's something of an on-going discussion that's part of the #Cmgr's employer Vs community needs balancing act.  

The question of Community Manager salary came up.As this is a role that is relatively new the salary levels vary and some panelists said that companies will say "They got a Community Manager rock star for a bargain" and #Cmgrhangout moderator Sherrie Rohde said something that is SO applicable to educators.

As long as educators are willing to deliver $20,000 worth of value to suppliers for the cost of a T-shirt, then crowdfunding projects like #Get2ISTE might never become mainstream.

In my last post I drew out the value in $$ that educators deliver, this has not always been an easy topic to raise given how unmotivated my money that educators are, and to raise the topic has been unwelcome by all stakeholders in the past.

I hope that we are over this now and that my last post highlights that if educators let them, then various stakeholders will happily take as much as $100,000 worth of value and offer little in return.

I hope that this post highlights how and why this can happen.

#Cmgrhangout and #DigCitSummitUK
My reasons for getting involved with the Digital Citizenship Summit is because the event endeavours to bring diverse groups together to discuss the safe, savvy and ethical use of technology. 

One of the people we are hoping to get to the event through our crowdfunding efforts includes #Cmgrhangout founder Tim MacDonald. 

Speaking from experience I know that students, educators, education suppliers and other attendees would benefit from having Tim at the event.

Can we get Tim and some of the other educators and industry experts to Bournemouth University on the 23rd January? I've no idea, but I'll continue to think of ways to make this happen.

The call for speakers is now closed but to get involved with the event you can sign up the the DigCit-a-Thon on the 19th January, which is in collaboration with Jaime Donnally and her fantastic EdCamp Global team, or book your free tickets to the event please click on the links below:

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

The Corporation Vs The Selfless Giver

This post looks at the whether any gaps between educators and suppliers is down to the different personalities that "The Corporation" exhibits and how this is different to the "Selfless Giver" nature of educators.

The reason for raising this now is because a few US educators have been so keen to support people in their PLN that they have booked flights and accommodation out of their own pocket. This "Selfless Giving" is such an admirable quality of educators, but do some groups take advantage of this personality trait?

The Kindness Agenda
As well as educators putting their hand in their own pocket to cover the costs of flights I've sent an update to people that I've sent each year for a couple of year now which is to ask How can I help you achieve your goals. Here's the reaction to the post when I first did this two years ago:

I thought that having spent the last 7 weeks assisting with a project that started out as a Tweet might demonstrate that this is a serious and genuine offer, so decided to try again.

There was still the odd "What's the catch" reply but there were also a lot more really nice replies too, and it looks like some exciting new collaboration might be a result of this in the not too distant future.

I also have a little more or an understanding as to why the Edu/EdTech gap might exist.

"The Corporation"
In the documentary "The CorporationDr Robert Hare, consultant to the FBI on psychopaths, highlights how a corporation exhibits all the symptoms and traits of a psychopath... except "there is no soul to save or body to incarcerate"
When we then add to this the findings from Kevin Dutton and his research on 10 Careers with the Most Psychopaths the top spot goes to CEOs.

"The corporate lexicon is full of bloodthirsty metaphors. Business is cutthroat; those who succeed are sharks; and they are making a killing. What better place for a psychopath to really shine? Lots of CEOs are perfectly lovely, I'm sure, but study after study suggest that 4% of them - four times as many people as in the general population - qualify as psychopaths" Kevin Dutton via 10 Careers with the Most Psychopaths.

When we throw the technology sector into the mix and the conversation about Technologies Man Problem and the issue of alpha male personalities in leadership positions, and controversies like when GitHub Founder resigns after investigation, we can see how there is a mis-match between "The Corporation" and some boardroom antics and educators.

NB With regard to the corporate lexicon and educators calls for EdRefom I argue that the sentiment is the same but the different language that is used to convey the need for change gets lost in translation in my Startup Education post.

Educators: Selfless Givers
One of the roles that you are least likely to find people with psychopathic traits is in education, here we tend to find people who fit the "Selfless Giver" profile.

"Selfless givers feel uncomfortable receiving support... they are determined to be in the helper role, so they 
are reluctant to burden or inconvenience others. Selfless givers receive far less support which proves psychologically and physically costly" Adam Grant, Give and Take.

The psychological and physical costs here for educators include leaving the sector due to burnout. I have discussed this with a number of educators, including EdChat Moderators and Connected Educators kindly agreed for me to detail what the value that this "Selfless Giving" has been to others.

We estimate that the time and added value that she has put into helping others could be in the $100,000 over a 5 year period.

EdChat Moderation
I've estimated in previous posts that, based on US Educator rate of pay, spending 2-3 hours on an EdChat would be $3,213-6,114 per annum, would be $16,065-30,570 over a 5 year period.

The value of moderators and their communities who support educators to prevent teachers from leaving due to burnout? Unknown, but probably significant.

EdTech Advocacy & Ambassador Programs
The connected educators I spoke to have been involved on a number of ambassador programs which have included;
  • Time to create and maintain resources on the tech platform
  • Travel to attend meetups
  • Advocating for the technology in her pre-service teacher lectures and her PLN
  • Creating opportunities that either would not have existed for the EdTech companies.

    Being a "Gold standard sponsor" at some conferences can be as much as $40,000. But an educator getting a presentation accepted to discuss how they use their faviourite tech could easily deliver more value than this kind of expenditure. 
  • Every semester for the last 10 years someone that I spoke to got her entire graduate educator class to explore and adopt a new tech tool 
Some people have done some of these activities for countless companies over the last 10 years.The value in terms of time put in and their saving the tech company on overheads and/or assisting with their sales efforts could easily be in excess of $20,000 per annum.

Digital Citizenship Summit
The first Digital Citizenship Summit took a year to plan and was up to 40 hours per week were put into the event US event, and the UK event has certainly been a full time job for the last 8 weeks!

Tech and Classroom Supplies 
This Forbes article highlights how Teachers Spend their own money on back to School supplies, but as a Tech enthusiast who's job involves discussing the latest technology with pre-service teachers this amount is in excess of this figure and I expect it will be for a lot of tech savvy connected educators too.

So you do all this advocacy work taking time out of your already busy schedule and add value to the companies AND THEN pay for tech out of your own pocket too?!

Unpaid Class Related Labour 
And last but by no means least, there is the unpaid labour that goes into all the TLC that educators give their students £7 billion in unpaid labour in the UK.

I don't think anyone will be surprised to see Civil Servants featuring on the 10 Careers with the Most Psychopaths list, if you expect politicians to care about educators in the same way that educators care about their students then, in my experience, you're in for a disappointment!

To hear that a few US educators have decided to pay for their flights and accommodation out of their own pocket, a completely unexpected cost so soon after Christmas, due to a project that I've been involved with is a bit of an issue for me... Particularly given my previous efforts with exploring crowdfunding educators PD with #Get2ISTE.

It is fantastic that members of people's PLN are willing to do this! It really is something else! And another example of how Twitter is not just some pointless random chat, but leads to meaningful collaboration.

I will do everything that I can to get these costs recouped somehow, and hope that planning the event around the BETT Show might assist with this.

These educators are also EdChat moderators and will have probably put in a similar amount of work detailed above, but this event has been schedule to coincide with the BETT Show to give every chance possible of any financial support to help these educators with travel costs would be recouped with a Return on Investment.

We are expecting to announce the first few companies who will be sending two people to the UK for this event, I'm off to engage a few other suppliers to see what happens.