Thursday, 29 August 2013

Telling Tech Tales...What's the EdTech Story?

"Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin..." is the only one way to start this weeks post.

I realise that this reference will be lost entirely on the younger generation and any non-UK followers, this is from a kids TV show when I was young called "Listen with Mother" and this weeks' 
post is all about story telling.

How important is getting to grips with story telling in business? According to Shane Snow It will be the #1 skill in the next 5 years, and I tend to agree with him.

I would not know where to begin with this this in demand skill if it were not for Hubspot, who had their Inbound Marketing conference recently or for Bill Aulet, who has a new book on "Disciplined Entrepreneurship."

I have also just finished my most challenging project involving, what I hope is, the creation of good, relevant content. All of which has led me to reflect on my endeavours to get to grips with the art of story telling.

Day 1 - Culture Starts
I remember reading an article about the culture at Hewlett Packard and, when asked a question about their policy about looking after staff and they said something along the lines of; 

"We just decided from day one to look after our staff" and added "You're corporate culture starts on day 1"... you can't get to a certain size and then say "OK what's our culture" 

An organisations' culture will develops in a vacuum if its not carefully cultivated. So after reading some great books I realised  that culture starts on day 1 and a vital part of your culture is to have a good story to tell. The concept of good story telling is how the Te@ch Stories logo evolved.
"Our priority is company culture, and our belief is that is we get the culture right, most of the other stuff - such as delivering great customer service or building an enduring brand or business - will happen as a natural by product of our culture. It all goes back to our belief that, in the long term, a company's brand and culture are really two sides of the same coin" Tony Hsieh in the introduction of Tribal Leadership

When Lou Gerstner was commenting on his time as IBM CEO, when he was turning the fortunes of the company around he said;

“I came to see, in my time at IBM, that culture isn’t just one aspect of the game – it is the game.” 

Great Content. Great Products
I want engage with educators in a way that is welcome and will add value to their work. In order to achieve this on a sustainable, long term basis I feel that two things are vital;

1) Provide good, relevant and useful information... creating good content is vital
2) Having great products - Which requires the ability to articulate your vision in early stage development and the benefits of the product when its ready for roll out 

When you read books by Dan and Chip Heath, Brian Halligan, Geoffery Moore, Nancy Duarte and Bill Aulet you are never quite the same again (Never mind edtech sales... I should be in book sales the number of books I recommend on this blog! - Note to self speak to Ken Royal once I finish this post).

All these books have had a profound effect on me and led to the creation of Tech Story which was a direct result of reading about the importance of creating good content, and writing in a way that makes your ideas and concepts tell a story so that it "sticks"

Whats in a Name - What's the Tech Story? 
The Tech Story article was praised by those that read it and I liked how the logo looked, so developed it a little further. The reasons I ended up opting for Te@ch Stories for my Twitter account and Blog was for a number of reasons. Every time I see the Teach stories logo;
  • The Font and colour reminds me that I want to help bring technology in education to life, that any tech project I work on should have a compelling story.
  • The @ reminds me that but it's not a tech story - this is not tech for the sake of tech
Its the  not the !!Reminds me that the te@ch should be an epic adventure and bring learning to life
  • The way you present your ideas is so important! To give your idea the best chance you need to have a compelling story.

    You need to convey to your audience that you are aware of the issues and care about finding a solution in an interesting and  memorable way... at the very least that you should respect your audience enough not to waste their time or bore them with "death by power point!"

  •  Another aspect of this logo are the bright colours, this is designed to remind me that;

     The priority with the tech is that they are great toys that make learning fun

    2) That the logo is Fun... Just because its work doesn't mean that it can't be fun! Why go to work when you can go to fun?!
Nancy Duarte encourages us to deliver great presentations,  Shane Snow, Hubspot and MIT Sloan highlight the value of great story telling and Steve Jobs advises simplicity.

"In a meeting about MacIntoch support documentation, someone said that the industry standard was that user manuals should be written at 12th grade reading ability level. Steve Jobs replied "No. It should be written at 1st grade level...maybe we should get a 1st grader to write it" he added manual comment."
The Steve Jobs Way

The way you convey your idea or  vision regarding a new product/idea/solution can be as important to the products success, and can matter as much the products functionality. David Ogilvy has a great statement to remind us of how to think about our customers with marketing campaigns;

"The consumer is not an idiot. she is your wife… your friends and family” 
David Ogilvy 

Being succinct, compelling and keeping it simple are areas that most people would benefit from and, personally,  I look forward to the day that I successfully put Nancy Duarte's advice into action!

Writers Block!
I am about to publish my latest report "Technology in Education - Algorithms and Relationships" which looks at the importance of the educator-EdTech supplier relationship which, believe it or not highlights the importance of sales people... It would appear that Edtech salesmen are not dead; but they do need to evolve to avoid extinction! 

This EdTech report has taken almost a year to pull together and the main reason for this is because the report is designed to appeal to different groups, and finding the right reference material, structure and content that would have the potential to be compelling to all stakeholders was extremely challenging.

But through this content it looks like it has paid off immediately as I may have the opportunity to produce a video for the report in the style of Sir Ken's Shifting Paradigms, which is a great way make ideas stick.  

Bringing Stories to Life
While I know that I want my presentations and content to be as compelling as the ones that Duarte showcases, you're not always sure about how you are doing.

But one thing that I do know is that I would never have had the confidence to try without Dan & Chip Heath's book to highlight the value of trying as well as a practical "how to guide." 
It's perhaps not surprising that a book about making your idea's memorable has you hooked after 2 pages.

"Made to Stick"  opens by asking you to recall details of a, the Kidney heist, which is about a page long and information from a 6 sentence corporate jargon.

The first story is vivid and has the concepts that make a great story - simple, unexpected, concrete, credible and emotional. The second is uninspiring corporate mumbo jumbo jargon.

The Master Tech Story Teller
For anyone who wants to see the delivery and results of a great story teller who creates great products - how to bring your ideas and technology to life, then there is no better example than Steve Jobs....and I'll leave you in the capable hands of Nancy Duarte who will tell you about the secret structure behind Steve Jobs presentations and other great talks.

In the event that you like my blog/reports and would like to explore this skill that will be in demand within the next 5 years then my recommendation would Go out and get; 

Disciplined Entreprenuership - Bill Aulet, 
Made to Stick - Dan & Chip Heath 
Slide:Ology - Nancy Duarte 
Inbound Marketing - Brian Halligan 

If you don't like the content I produce then at least I've got another 4 years to hone these skills. Like the development of the logo I have a little time to improve and get it right... but with my Te@ch Stories logo I'm unlikely to how important this task is to the culture I want to establish.

I'm not sure if I'll have an idea that will change the world... but if I get it right I may have one that makes a difference in Edtech.

Monday, 19 August 2013

Who Sells Free in Education?

Over the summer I have been working on some research regarding the sales process with technology in education which will hopefully be published by the end of the month.

There is a lot to consider given that there are a lot of interesting changes taking place when it comes to developing new edtech, including the changing nature of the relationships between education and suppliers.

Something that has struck me in my research is the number of high quality services that are free of charge, for example;

Top 100 Tools for Learning
The Centre for Learning & Performance Technologies has ran surveys since 2007 where they get feedback from educators to assess what the best technology learning tools are. This list is overwhelmingly dominated by free services - Top 100 tools for learning

Who Sells Free in Education?

So if we have so many services in education that are free this raises a couple of questions?

1) Is the reason so many services in this list are free tools due to budget cuts?

2) Or is it because the free tools tend to be developed by the major tech companies like Apple, Google and Microsoft? 

3) If there is a free solution Vs a paid for alternative and the freemium product is as good as (or better than) the paid for service... Who sells free in education?

A Potentially Costly Example?

I came across this recently as colleges were looking for ways to monitor any online discussions that were taking place about their institutions. I was asked if I knew anyone that could develop this and what the costs would be. 

Then I attended a workshop by Bill Joos, former Apple and Garage Technology Ventures executive. At this event I found out that, not only does this kind of service already exist (, but that;

1) It is free of charge

2) If a top tech veteran and Venture Capitalist liked and recommended this service... and if a demanding Silicon Valley VC is recommending it then you would imagine that it has passed a rather demanding quality control process. 

I wonder if there are many services out there that educators are paying for when there could be a more cost effective and equally capable alternative...its worth asking the question who sells free all this free EdTech?

With resources like the c4lpt survey, Edsurge's EdTech Index,Graphite and Twitter #edchats it looks like an answer is rapidly starting to emerge... connected educators.

This all points to further evidence that the way suppliers should be engaging with educators needs to be reviewed and my report on Technology in Edu will be ready soon... so watch this space!

In the mean time to nominate your faviourite EdTech tools for the 7th Annual c4lpt survey please see the following link - c4lpt survey 

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Who was that Masked Educator?

A quick education trivia question to start this weeks blog:

Who is responsible for establishing the world's first pre-school nursery? 

The answer in a moment... But first I've found myself thinking about role models and how we treat our pioneers and heroes this week.

I finished re-reading Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged" this week, which gets you thinking! I was also getting flashbacks from my childhood with the release of "The Lone Ranger," and the heroes of the wild west. I was also transported back to the 19th Century life via a visit to the New Lanark World Heritage Site, which highlights the life and work of Robert Owen and his cotton mill.

The Mill? Home of Oppression or Centre for social reform?
I had never heard of Robert Owen until I visited the centre, and was astounded at the contribution that he made to so many aspects of life.

"Owen endeavoured to improve the health, education, well-being and rights of the working class. This driving ambition to create a better society for all took him around the world, from a small mill village in Lanarkshire in Scotland to New Harmony, Indiana in America with varied success" 

Owen had an interest, and made an impact, in a number of societal issues and influenced the reformers who came after him... many of his views seem as relevant and resonate today in their modernity and progressive nature.

But what struck me the most were his views and contribution to educationI could not believe that the man responsible for the world's first pre-school nursery was 30mins from where I live, but I had never heard of him... his observations on pre-school education would not look out of place today alongside Malcolm Gladwell's other education research and examples in Outliers or Blink.

Enlightened Capitalist or Social Reformer? 
I don't know if reading Atlas Shrugged (which advocates free markets and limited government intervention) preceding a visit to a site like the New Lanark Mill is a good or bad thing but one thing is for sure... it really does get you thinking! This capitalist sure seemed to be doing a better job than the Government policy of the day.

What if Atlas Shrugged?
Atlas shrugged also highlights that we don't value the contribution of visionaries, choosing to criticise instead of applaud their achievements. This struck me on the tour of the Mill as Owen faced criticism and opposition that in his lifetime.

Even today Owen's is not the model that comes to mind when thinking of 19 Century factory life, we are more likely to conjure up images like from Channel 4 series "The Mill." Events from the TV show are based on actual events, but are quite a contrast to the inspiring and pioneering achievements of Owen's Mill.

Both versions were a reality, but why is it the latter vision that comes to mind? Why doesn't every school boy know the heroes who helped wring in the changes to these conditions? Is it because we don't value visionaries in the way that we could/should?

Looking for Inspiration...
So this week has really got me thinking, where are (and how do we treat) our heroes today?

Remember when you were young and you'd be playing outside and, depending on your age and interests, you would run around pretending to be all kinds of heroes (for me it was Superman, Luke Skywalker when I was young and would be replaced with Coe, Carm & Ovett)

I suppose, in a way, I've never grown out of this as today I read about people whose achievements I admire, to try to find out about the practices and core values they applied when working towards their goals.

I encourage my kids to find roles models too. But can encounter a problem here.

Where have all the good guys gone?
Whether you look to the world of sport, entertainment, exploration, business or politics there appear to be less people that our kids can look up to today...or maybe the problem is with me and the onset of old-age;

"Accept certain inalienable truths, prices will rise, politicians will philander, you too will get old, and when you do you'll fantasize that when you were young prices were reasonable, politicians were noble and children respected their elders" Sunscreen Lyrics

Or is it something else? Is it that we do have role models but, like Robert Owen, we don't celebrate success in the way that we should?

A Job Well DoneI talk about companies that make really, really, really great products with my kids, this includes Lego, Pixar, Google, Apple, Nintendo, amongst others (not sure if the tech orgs is my influence or a reflection of the sad state of our gadget obsessed youth today...)

We discuss what makes them great and regardless of the term used (I.e. "Because its really cool"), product quality is usually a top attribute. This is usually a result of the founders focus, intelligence, creativity, passion, vision & values... And persistence and determination given some of the huge challenges they face along the way.

If you want friends... Lose? 

Google and Apple once faced the unenviable challenge of finding ways to unsurp IBM, Micosoft, Inktomi and Yahoo to become market leaders.

When these underdogs were competing with larger, more established companies, they were cheered on in their David Vs Golieth battle.

But then a curious thing happens, as Nike CEO Phil Knight, observed "We were the up-and-comers once and everybody liked us... Then we became number one and everybody started criticising”

Today even though Google and Apple seem to be transforming classrooms - and should be praised, and are with a lot educators - they also appear to be dealing with a lot of criticism as well as various copyright, patent and monopoly court cases and issues on a weekly basis.

What changed? Was it that they became so successful that they became part of the establishment, their success making them a target to be shot at?

“Everybody loves success…But they hate successful people” John McEnroe

I think there is something in this, but if we're going to criticise anything in education let's focus on complacency, and mediocrity... Not turn on the pioneers.

Educating Heroes
Does the same thing happen in education? 
  • When I watched "Waiting for Superman" I thought "Wow! What a breath of fresh air Michelle Rhee is"
  • I loved reading about how Arne Duncan cleaned up the teachers cheating on students exams in Chicago in Freakimomics.
  • Who isn't in awe of what Pasi Sahlberg and his team have achieved in Finland and many an educator seem to make the education equivalent of a pilgrimage to get a bottle of their secret sauce.
  • I got goose bumps when I saw Sugata Mitra Ted talk on how technology could revolutionise teaching and learning.
  • I dared to dream that social mobility was still a tangible concept today when I read the results that Mike Feinberg and Dave Levin achieved with KIPP schools. 
Indeed I tend to use the "hole in the wall project" and KIPP schools as yardsticks when assessing any new projects. I.e How might this tech assist self organised learning? Will this idea/project help motivate and educate marginalised groups in the same way KIPP does?

So you can perhaps understand my confusion and frustration when, after a while, various groups start to question the results of these visionaries and heroes...

While I have read some of the criticisms expressed about these education heroes recently, I tend to find myself asking;
  •  Who is writing the negative commentary, and why? 
  • Is there a possible agenda, political or otherwise?
  • Like Google and Apple et al, do we like these projects as they are emerging but success starts to generate criticism?
Do these suggestions sound ridiculous? When we work in a sector where some argue that Union's and tenure is cited as one of the biggest barriers to reform, then it doesn't seem inconceivable - Waiting for Superman - Lemon Dance & "Rubber Rooms".

Meanwhile, whether 19th Century Cotton Mills or Google's server farms and Apple's Tech Orchard, we have capitalists making a huge contribution in education.

We also have educators who are criticised today for ideas and methods which, not so long ago, were widely praised and applauded. 

Holding Out for an... Edu-Hero?
Atlas Shrugged celebrates the visionaries & heroes and asks what kind of world would we live in without them?

Whether its Capitalists achieving world firsts in education or educators trying new things, where would we be without the visionaries in education? What would happen if these educators stopped experimenting and innovating?

Until this evenings #EdTechChat I did not have a satisfactory conclusion to this post, but fortunately the topic was discussing the New Media Consortium's 6th "Horizon Report" which identifies the impact of emerging technologies in education. When you read this report ask yourself; 

Who was it that helped get this EdTech to this point with these promising new tools?

The answer you get may be similar to asking "Who was that Masked man?" or "Who is John Galt?" because the answer is that it was the thousands of educators who research, discuss, experiment and apply these tools.  

For me, regardless of what the critics come up with about Sugata Mitra, KIPP et al, I hold the pioneers in education and the developers of great education tools in the highest regard... I think the Horizon Report demonstrates the impact they make. 

So Here's to the crazy ones - the tech enthusiast educators & those who have thought differently... look at the difference your ideas have made.

Monday, 5 August 2013

The Death of a Salesman... And New Edu Methods?

For those in EdTech who follow my blog you will know that I am looking at a big data set looking for some eureka ideas. 

This data set has involved taking a snap shot of Twitter #EdChats by downloading the Tweets from 150 Edchat sessions over an 8 week period (22nd Apr-10th June) to look for trends. This involves trying to make sense of over 230,000 Education Tweets from over 27,000 different users.

While there is a long way to go with analysing this data there are 2 topics that have stood out immediately;
  • The relationship between vendors and educators on Twitter.
  • That edtech suppliers and new teaching methods seem to face the same kind of development process and pitfalls.
The Death of A Salesman - Old, Tired and Exhausted Tactics
I attended an "Inbound Marketing Workshop" in 2010 ran by Bill Aulet, Head of MIT Sloan Business School, This course highlighted something that I was starting to emerge when dealing with my education contacts - greater intolerance of traditional sales (i.e. cold calling to pitch the merits of your product/service).
I was so taken with this course that I read most of the books that Bill Aulet recommends on his webpage. I found Made to Stick (Who have an accompanying Teachers Guide), Inbound Marketing and Crossing the Chasm were invaluable. This course and these books were the catalyst for me to exploring inbound marketing, endeavouring to produce reports/content relevant to education and getting to grips with social media, as this seemed to be the future of ethical and welcome sales approaches. 

On this course one of the attendees turned to me and said "I thought this course would be more focused on sales and marketing, but so far its all about the customer experience" I replied "I think that's the whole point... that sales and marketing today is about the customer experience" 

Looking at this Twitter EdChat data is a great way to highlight the extent to which the sales process has become all about the customer experience... 

The Customer Journey
A quick glance at Twitter and you will see educators giving A LOT of love for Google & Apple products as well as a number of other firm faviourites.

For example, in the first few weeks of #EdtechChat there were over 100 EdTech companies that were mentioned almost 500 times... A great reminder for those involved with ed tech that great products today get bought, they don't need to be sold.

But where does this leave the role of "traditional, outbound" sales? If you check the Tweets from some Inbound Marketing experts, they predict that cold calling will be obsolete within the next 5 years. 

One Foot Stuck in the Past... The Other Jammed in the Door   
We can get some evidence of this in Edtech through the Twitter data too. While there there are some products that are so useful that educators seem to do all the companies selling for them, there can be a different picture when education suppliers are discussed collectively... The image can be a lot less complimentary;
  • Dear vendors thanks for your support of #ISTE13. We the people also pay &we actually ARE ISTE. PLease don't invade our spaces. #bloggercafe
  • Not just awkward but kinda over the line. If I want a vendor pitch, I’ll go to the Vendor Floor. #iste13
  • @BethStill: Vendors----the Newbie and Social Butterfly Lounge is NOT for pushing your product. It's for networking. Please back off! #ISTE13
  • inbox brimming w/ emails from vendors thinking I am at #iste13 - no, they don't read my tweets. Anyone else find it annoying? #NotAtISTE
  • Dear vendors - as soon as you start talking about how your product will help with testing, I'm out #justsayin #iste13
  • Dear #iste13 vendors ... Please do some research on #samr and how your company helps students and teachers move beyond substitution!
Imagine the repercussions to the brands' reputation if these educators named the companies that annoyed them at a conference with 20,000 educators? 

Why are individual companies/products praised but the collective view of "vendors" can be quite negative? Is this because there are only a few really, really great products compared with a lot of over inflated claims of the latest "must have" tech and/or aggressive sales tactics. 

Are there too many ed tech products that fail to live up to expectations and/or educators are put off by the wrong form of sales and company engagement? If there are too many bad products or aggressive sales people  then its hardly surprising if educators end up being "under-whelmed" when discussing education suppliers collectively. 

If the sector is being let down by too many suppliers then this make it more of a challenge for other suppliers to engage with educators (This is the subject of my next report "Technology in Edu - Algorithms & Relationships).

Walk a Mile in a Sales Persons Shoes
"Have you ever considered how hard it is to engage and sell new products to educators?" is a question I asked some critical friends in education when researching this edtech report . 

The kind of responses I got were along the lines of "No I haven't, boy we must be very difficult to engage with" 

This video is not dissimilar to my experiences, except funnier - Hubspot: You Oughta Know Inbound Marketing

It is not my intention to criticize suppliers or their sales approaches; neither am I defending bad products... (and I'm not sitting on the fence either ;).

What I hope I am doing is highlighting how difficult it is to get all the various ingredients right to develop great edtech. The book description on Amzaon for Dave Feinleib's "Why Start Ups Fail" puts the point I'm trying to make across very well;

"Nearly everyone has an idea for a product they could build or a company they could start. But 8 out of 10 new businesses fail within the first three years. Even only 1 in 10 venture-backed startups succeeds, and venture capitalists turn down some 99% of the business plans they see. The odds appear to be stacked against you!"

Based on this observation its perhaps no wonder that I have found differing fortunes on Twitter regarding different suppliers. 

When perusing the Ed Chat Twitter data I found that new education methods can, suffer from the same issue... and possibly for the same reasons.

A Promising New Education Method... Or "Education Snake Oil" 

Included in the data set I'm looking at are Tweets from the Festival of Education Conference, where Tom Bennett ran a session on the topic of - Why Educational Research often Fails in the Classroom.

Based on the Twitter stream it appeared that the experiences were not dissimilar to the experiences that an edtech supplier might also face. 

Some learning methods seem to become popular after successful pilot, but end up being criticised and, eventually, dismissed when rolled out due to disappointing results.

I was amazed at how much the Tweets about these failed teaching methods/ideas were similar to Tweets about EdTech that fail to live up to expectations (especially the references to "Education Snake Oil") Some of the Tweets included;

  • #Educationfest Tom Bennett on Why Educational research often fails in the classroom
  • @tombennett71 lines up NLP, multiple intelligence and...more...for the snake oil firing squad. #educationfest
  • #Educationfest vast majority of people working in Gardner's field don't accept multiple intelligences - but schools do!
  • #Educationfest another failed theory - Multiple Intelligences. Caught on because sounds good. Not disputing we have different aptitudes
  • @tombennett71 - can't measure multiple intelligences - no scientific basis for their existence #educationfest
  • Teaching isn’t rocket science: why educational research often falls short of adding value to classroom @tombennett71 #EducationFest
  • #Educationfest Tom Bennett Learning Styles don't exist either. This has been disputed since 1978. Most people learn exactly the same way
  • #Educationfest Tom Bennett. Lots of educational research 'made of blancmange'. It wastes time and resources
  • My blog used to be filled with references to Multiple Intelligences. #educationfest #embarrassing
Selling Education
Any early success from these pilot projects didn't seem live up to the promise when they were rolled out. During the autopsy it would appear that these methods lacked research and/or quantification.

Could the root cause of any of the shortcomings in EdTech and these failed new Education methods be for the same reason? Do both suffer from the same 2 common pitfalls;

  • Rolling out too early and/or 
  • Because of poor execution.
In "Why Start ups fail" Dave Feinleb highlights that these are key reasons for new enterprises failuring to live up to expectations - they either get rolled out badly... or more due diligence would have questioned whether they should never have been rolled out in the first place.

Early Roll Out 
Are some of these promising new education solutions rolled out too early? Are policy makers so keen to find a solution that they roll things out without carrying out the best possible due diligence?

It's easy to see how policy makers may want some "quick wins" to fix some of the problems that seem to fall at educations feet, despite a lot of the societal problems having more to do with other factors and less to do with education.

I love reading about how deprived areas in Bromley, Chicago & Boston were "Unslummed." But the areas were all transformed in different ways and with very different conditions... so the methods that were successful in these areas may not be as successful elsewhere.

Therefore is the issue the same problem that sees a lot of start ups fail - success because of some very specific conditions and/or poor execution? Some businesses can suffer from indigestion as much as starvation - periods of rapid growth as it scales up and rolls its product out to the mass market is a critical time. 

Are policy makers rolling out some successful projects too soon?

Poor Execution
There has been discussion from some quarters recently questioning the impact of some previously highly acclaimed projects from Edu & Ted stalwarts.

I have not seen any articles criticising the impact of the initial results, or of the project leaders' commitment to education (or the need for edreform).

If a project is rolled out too soon and misses some critical aspect of due diligence it's easy to see how projects can be cannabalised and key ingredients missed out. This could be due to budget cuts, the idea gets watered down bit by bit to suit various stakeholders views/agendas, or not enough people/hours permitted to work on the project. The overall result is the that the project is less effective.

An Example - Social Norms 
I have some experience of this with work I have done on social norms, I am convinced that this can have a huge impact on Student welfare, studies and aspirations. However, while this is a very simple concept, the execution of a social norms intervention can be really challenging (partly due to the number of stakeholders involved). 

The result is that many of the projects that I am aware of have questionable results and has led to some people suggesting that social norms don't work in the UK, despite some extremely positive results in the US and other countries.

Social Norms can and does work... If implemented properly! But this is a simple idea that can be a real challenge to implement effectively. If you are interested in this approach you should work with Dr John McAlaney and Bridgette Bewick in the UK and Dr Jennifer Bauerle in the US.

The Long and Winding Path... of Trial and Error
Whether we assess new education methods or the relationship with education and their edtech suppliers it would appear that it takes a lot to get the project right. Knowing when to roll the product out and good execution & delivery being key to success (esp during periods of growth)

Getting Ready for Take Off... The Right Stuff 
The Right Stuff (1983) PosterThe early adopters and visionaries are so important in blazing a trail with new ideas in any sector. 

Their enthusiasm sees them find solutions to any obstacles makes connections within and outside of their institution... Their passion and vision for making the project work carries the project forward. 

I enjoy reading about people who inspire me and I focus on their strengths - not their weaknesses - When looking for inspiration on leadership I'm keen to learn from Earnest Shakleton's example and methods... But he's perhaps not someone I'd look to for marital or business advice.

Like most involved in education, I was inspired to read about the results that people who blazed a trail and got some great results.

However today these same people & organisations seem to be coming under fire when the initial results are not replicated elsewhere, confirming Sir Ken Robinson's suggestion that Education struggles to tolerate mistakes.

What does this do in education? Sugata Mitra's "Hole in the Wall" project encouraged thousands of educators to experiment with a new method of teaching - in some settings this worked very well; perhaps not so well in others.

If the results are not replicated in later projects there seems to be the tendency to dismiss the early results, what impact might this have?

Do educators who are developing this method in their classes with some good early results stop exploring the idea? Does this have a knock on effect that educators become a little more risk averse and conservative in their experimentation with their teaching and learning?

It appears to me that developing new teaching methods and new edtech have surprising similarities.  

As I continue to assess new ideas in edtech and engaging with educators, I'm sure to make the odd mistake. But I'll be sure to collaborate with educators in my PLN and work with the early adopters & critical friends who understand that "getting it right" can be a messy process of "trial and error."  

One thing is for sure... based on this data I'm assessing, I know that I'll ready to "rock'n'roll-out when these early adopters start shouting about the work on Twitter and do the selling for me... it sure does sound better than the alternative... 

In the mean time I hope that this post might help other edtech suppliers who are trying to make great products; and that educators might be a little more understanding of how hard it can be even for people with some great edtech ideas to engage with education.