Monday, 28 October 2013

Live Tweeting - Engaging Policy Makers & Students

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, 26 October 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Social Media... Goes with the Job!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Getting Plugged In...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Out Bound Sales... Out of a Job?

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, 25 October 2013

Question Time - Bad Education or Rock Star Teachers?

In his book "Audacity of Hope," Barack Obama highlights the importance the media plays on his image, and the impact this portrayal can have with the general public;

"For the broad public at least, I am who the media say I am. I say what they say I say. I become who they say I've become."

Last night on Question Time we had a group of panelists who seemed to want to out do each other, as usual. They were discussing whether educators should be qualified or not. I was intrigued at the line of argument that the panelist decided to take the debate;

"I went to a bad school, and it didn't do me any harm" seemed to be the sentiment, which was then countered with "Oh yeah, well I went to an even worse one than you!"

I can't imagine what it must be like being an educator in the UK at the moment - no job stability with policies like 0 hour contracts, wage freezes, bias towards independent schools (charter or private), children who at worst have some serious behaviour issues and at best show no desire to learn and, in some cases, get little or no support from parents.

Now that's a bad enough set of circumstances for anyone to work with. To then go home at night and, when not marking assignments or making up lesson plans, are treated to what can only be described as some horrendous press coverage - including from their employers of all people.

This is how we treat the people we expect to inspire our kids?

If there was an argument at all for filling our classrooms with people who were not fully qualified educators, it is because we have demolarised this vital profession to such an extent that maybe they have considered the press coverage over the years and thought;

"What's the point... according to the debates on shows like Question Time, these kids will turn out just fine! In fact the less I do the better, I might even get a shout out in the 'I-went-to-a-worse-school-than-you-competition' on Question Time in a few years time"  

I know it's a crazy idea, but imagine if we could have had the panelists say;

I was brought up in a deprived area and it was Mr/Mrs XYZ  who opened up a world of possibilities

In general, I tend to prefer the way that people who work in tech convey the same messages as politicians do, and the "I came from humble beginning and overcame the odds" story is no different... and the role that they feel that education played. I love Google's Jamie Casap's Ted Talk - Saving the Silver Bullet

Malcolm Gladwell and other highlights how people become successful BECAUSE of their humble beginnings, not in spite of them. This is something that Andrew Carnegie agreed with;

"It is not the rich man's son that the young struggler for advancement has to fear in the race for life. Let him look out for the "dark horse" in the boy who begins by sweeping out the office"

And check out this from poor to rich infographic (Other fantastic one re: fortitude, persistence, resiliance and grit at Funders and Founders). People who battle against the odds like this to achieved their goals should be applauded and held up as role models, but is criticising education really necessary?  

PR Nightmare?
Even if our educators don't feel like being subjected to further demolarisation from their employers via Question Time at the end of the day they can always change the channel, right? Maybe not.

On our screens at the moment we have a number of shows that include educators... but none that convey them in the most positive light. These include comedies like - Bad Education, Man Down, Big School, Some Girls. We have also had a few series of The Inbetweeners.

I appreciate that these comedies are not aimed at teachers, as they highlight some of the coming of age issues young people face today. Neither do I lack a sense of humour, I find some of these shows quite amusing. But almost every show portrays educators negatively? What is the impact of consistently conveying educators in a less than positive light in popular culture?

People talk about the role violent films and games have on young people, what happens when most of the shows with classroom scenes includes regular student disruption?
Or when the educators are all angry, grumpy, depressed and/or incompetent?

Today's News: Tomorrows Fish & Chip Paper... Unless it's every day!
Why don't you switch of the Television and do something else instead? Good idea... 

Where's the newspaper? Any mention of education in the press is also invariably negative, like;
  • The usual running argument with politicians about whether it's teachers who are failing our students; or policy makers failing our educators. This leads to,
  • Articles about the "dumbing down" of education 
  • Employer dissatisfaction about young people not being employable
  • Some scandal about a teachers' inappropriate behaviour
It's the newspaper's job to sell papers and we all know that bad news sells better than good news... That is with the exception of the celeb gossip.

Every day, without fail we have what I can only describe as the most banal commentary about our precious celebrities... and if you saw Katie Price arrive at The Festival of Education you will know that educators are not immune to this phenomenon. 

Then we wonder why all our young people want to do when they grow up is "be a celeb?"

This also exists in the world of sport in the US with college sports coaches making more than other educators, and college sports students getting scholarships and even get paid by the college. The argument here being that the students make a lot of money for the college. 

I can see the both sides of the argument here, but look at what Apple, Google and Microsoft are doing for the economy so, using the same argument, did Steve Jobs, Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg's most influential teachers get paid a sports coaches salary? 

Is it any wonder this is our young people's aspiration when this is the treatment they get?

Popular Culture & Policy?
Does this negative media image of educators and love affair with all things celeb lead to policy makers asking; 

"Why do we even need our educators to be qualified?" 

Sounds ridiculous doesn't it? Wonder if you'll still be thinking that in a few paragraphs time, once I've put my argument foward; or maybe you will... except think that I'm a little crazy. Meh... that's fine, I can live with either!

Too Cool for School!
The Apprentice and Dragon's Den first appeared on our screens in 2005. I have worked at start ups since 2001 and with the exception of tech startups, and usually only when there was a particularly heavily funded failure, I don't recall there being a huge amount of startup coverage then.

Today being an "Entrepreneur" is all the rage, there are umpteen shows with and/or about entrepreneurs... Indeed if you compare some of these entrepreneurs businesses with their TV commitments, you might think that they are now more celebrity than entrepreneur... and who can blame them given our love affair with celebs.

The start up agenda is now tearing its way through every aspect of our education system. Would this have been the case if it were not for these shows creating entrepreneurial celebrities?

You may scoff at how finkle this all sounds but w
e are irrational and politics is a popularity game - which lends itself well to aligning with celebrity, trends and quick fixes that allow for great soundbites and flashy ideas. Even if they have no substance. What could be better? How about an initiative that provides soundbites that promises to fix education AND the economy!

Am I committing some kind of education sacrilege by claiming that education entrepreneurship won't work? Does entreprenuership not have the potential to be a game changer? 

Sure, it might!  MIT alumni companies have a combined revenue of $2 Trillion, which would make it the 11 richest country in the world!

But stop and think for a moment, what kind of EDUCATION do you need to get into MIT? It's a risky business and needs smart risk taking. Or what about how tough this "exciting entrepreneurial life" can be. What about facts like;

8 out of 10 new businesses fail within the first 3 years, or only 1 in 10 VC startups succeed (and they turn down some 99% of the business plans they see) or the heavy psychological price of entrepreneurship... and that's for the successful ones!

Regardless of these inconvenient statistics, we are now seeing all these dynamic, go-getting entrepreneurs involved with education and creating some hoopla. 

Their energy, dynamism and celeb status gets everyone worked up and energised, which is really fantastic. 

Education needs closer links with business so the curriculum matches what students need to succeed.

By their very nature, entrepreneurs are change agents - always looking to improve things and make inefficient markets more efficient, again this is great. Peter Sheahan highlights in Talent Magnets how positive Australian education leaders found getting some training and mentoring from business leaders.

I also love that experts visits schools. If this is a entrepreneurial celebrity this will get everyone excited - students, parents, teachers, local and national politicians. He/she comes in gives their inspiring talk, this should be a regular occurrence and I love this post by Robert Peston about the value of Speakers for Schools and Skype Classroom. 

Where things are not so great, is that entrepreneurs are being listened to more than our educators. Maybe after one of these events the politician and entrepreneur have lunch and the topic of "what they would do to fix edu" comes up. Maybe the celeb says; 

"You know what, I couldn't help noticing how miserable the staff were? In my organisation everyone is an upbeat-passionate-go-getter, I wouldn't have people who looked that miserable working for me" Then it happens... Some bright spark says 

"We need more people like you in our classes, people with passion and energy... why do you even need a qualification to teach anyway?"

I agree with the argument that a student who is taught by someone who is passionate and knowledgeable about their subject, but not a qualified teacher, probably would learn more than a qualified teacher who is demotivated, uninspiring and uninterested in the topic that they are teaching.

The innovators that policy makers are looking for already exists in education, but it is not obvious because they are buried in procedures, policy, league tables and teaching to exam guidelines.

The reason startups has the high energy, go-getters is because the culture the entrepreneurs establish, which includes autonomy and trust.

But why can't we have the best of both worlds? Because it would take years? Because it would be too expensive? Because it would be impossible? I disagree.

But then again, I've spent a long time in startup land and John Doerr's definition of an entrepreneur is; 

"Doing more than anyone thought possible with less than anyone thought possible"

NB I think that its a little ironic that anytime a school or college has a start up event that there are hardly ever any Education entrepreneurs in attendance. Is there a moral in this story? Could it be, if you want be an entrepreneur when you grow up don't work in education?

Educators Rock! So Let's Make them the Rockstars!

If you think I'm crazy you can stop reading now because, as far as you're concerned, I'm now entering into the realm of the truly bizarre.

If I've put forward a convincing argument then, i
f you can't beat 'em... Let's Rock'n'Rock!

Let's go get all entrepreneurial
 and celeb! Let's give education a big make over... With a little bit of positive PR why can't educators get a bit of celebrity status?

Although, while Gok Wan might be able to make people look good naked; would he be able to make educators look good in the classroom? And which would be the bigger challenge for him...Lol.

Oh you think I'm crazy now too, eh? OK, I have 7 words for you (I think its 7... there's a bit of awkward punctuation involved, so it may be 10) - Dara O'Brain,,, Big Bang Theory


I think that Dara Obrain's "The School of Hard Sums" and"Science Club" programmes are great ways of making education cool... he even managed to have some hard sums on the quiz pages of some newspapers. What a refreshing reprieve from the usual negative press.

We also have the fantastic "Horrible Hostories" TV series and "The Simpsons and their Mathematical Secrets

We know that celebs sell and that people listen to them, how difficult would it be to have a series on "The teacher who inspired me" running in the press?

Would this be successful? There are a number of studies that highlight that positive messaging works very well, and its worked for all things Start Up.

I understand that there was a study in Denmark where some students whose aspirations were "To be a celeb, to be famous..." but with an 8 hour intervention where they heard about projects that scientists and other professionals were working on, they came away saying "I want to be a scientist when I grow up"

The Leveson report has highlighted that politicians have a close relationship with the media, so implementing this could be as simple as a couple of phone calls away.

Rocking with the Stars of Tomorrow!
Just look at what The Big Bang Theory is making physics a popular subject or what, and The Princes Trust is doing to make computer science cool... how many code rockstars of the future will be saying in a few years time; 

"I got into computer science because I spent an hour coding with Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and some Angry Birds" 

Will you be encouraging your students to join in with the #hourofcode?

More campaigns like just might help to Re-Brand teachers so our educators get the reputation they deserve - Rockstar status... after all, how many rock stars & and celebs would we have if it wasn't for some of the educators who inspired them?

Super Hero Teachers?
Or you could follow Matt Dickinson's lead and get in touch with DC Comics and Marvel to create your very own super hero alter-ego which is Mecha-Man to help inspire a generation... all in the name of science

An example of an educator firing up the imagination of students outside the classroom as well as in lectures... At least one educator has achieved the kind of status that more should have. I look forward to other educators and subjects getting the same kind of Marvelous PR (geddit, couldn't resist).

And if all else fails then you can go get all business like, earn $4 million teaching in South Korea, then come back and teach as an entrepreneurial celebrity... complete with a teaching qualification. Sorted!

Monday, 21 October 2013

The Connected #EdChatModerator?

I have been fascinated with EdChats since I opened my Twitter account and have explored a number of issues over the course of the last 12 months, including;

1) How many regular EdChats there are?
2) What a valuable platform Twitter is for sharing ideas in education

3) How much educators Tweet! 

My account goes into meltdown during education events like ISTE and Connected Educators Month. There are over 150 regular Twitter EdChats and wanted to explore them so downloaded all the Tweets over a 6 week period. Some of the questions that I was hoping to explore included;

1) Which chats have the largest audience?

2) Which have the largest number of Tweets?
3) If and how frequently popular links were circulated across EdChat sessions
4) How many chat sessions educators regularly tuned in on, who were EdChat social butterflies
5) Which EdTech suppliers were being mentioned on EdChat hashtags

Should there be an EdChat Moderator Hashtag or Website?
While I still have a bit of work to do with this (which I don't mind as creativity is really just persistence), I have some observations which has led me to wondering if it would be useful to have a dedicated #EdChatModerator hashtag or website.

A lot of Moderators are connected educators and are connected to one another already collaborate - #EdTechChat was manic on the weeks that #FlipClass and #SatChat joined in the discussion.

However, based on the data set and with my involvement with a few EdChats, I thought some kind of Edu moderator resource might be useful for a few reasons;
  • New Moderators - There appear to be new EdChat sessions appearing more frequently, there are also some EdChats that are more established than others so;
Would a Moderator hashtag help to share ideas and give some useful tips to new moderators and/or encourage others to establish new sessions?  
  • Digital Citizenship & Student Moderators - There are a few chat sessions (both edu and non-edu related) that are ran by students, and may be a trend that looks set to continue, as students try to establish a positive digital footprint while they are still studying.
An #EdChatModerator hashtag could also be a useful resource for students for advice and tips if they were thinking of establishing a chat session, as well as to help other edu moderators, 
  • Archives - With 150+ weekly EdChat sessions this equates to 1,800 storify archives a year, how many educators will have the time to look through all of these? How many great links and resources are being missed but a wider audience?

    The issues around key topics like, Digital Citizenship, will be very similar for #ukfechat as they are for #edtechchat or #edchat. However there will be a number of innovative solutions in each session that would be applicable to everyone.
What if there was a centralised #EdChat archive that included a searchable database of all these sessions? What a fantastic resource!
  • Previous and Future Topics - When looking at this EdChat data sample there were a number of recurring topics and questions asked across the sessions.
What if moderators and participants of EdChats knew what topics others will be discussing... wouldn't it be great to see who had discussed these topics previously, and be able to check the archive for useful questions to ask, links and ideas etc.  
  • Topic Specialists - If people with experience in a certain area knew in advance when a chat session was discussing their area of expertise, they could make a note to attend the session. 
What if experts in student blogging, Twitter for CPD etc knew when each chat session was discussing their specialist topics - would this give participants new ideas to consider?  
  • Shared Topics - At certain times of the year, or with major policy announcements/changes a lot of EdChats may be discussing very similar  topics.
Would a Moderator resource help facilitate a collective voice? For example, discussing the topic on the same week? Or asking the same questions about policy changes and then handing all the responses to the policy makers? 
  • EdChat-A-Thon - If EdChat Moderators and participants like this idea, as it's "Connected Educators" month, how about launching it with a bit of an event...
    With 150+ EdChats would it be possible to co-ordinate a 24hour session with each moderator & chat running a 1 hour session where every session focused on the same topic and asked the same questions?

    Is it possible? How many participants would there be? How many Tweets? How many new connections and ideas would there be? ...And how many EdChat addicts would participate for the full 24 hour EdChat-A-Thon?
If Moderators or others see any merit in this idea... I'd be happy to help out in anyway I can. 

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Was Henry Ford a Connected Educator?

Or more accurately... was Henry Ford educated connectedly? 
What were the consequences of leaders at disrupted industries (music, retail, gaming, media) being disconnected from what their customers wanted and what was happening in their industry? Are networkers as important as leaders? 

And is this post simply preaching to the converted as the unconnected are unlikely to read this?

Think & Grow Rich... Networks?!
In 1937 Andrew Carnegie wanted to study the philosophy of success, Napoleon Hill undertook this project and produced a book that is something of a classic in business and self help circles.

Given that the title of this book is "Think and Grow Rich" and that there are few educators I know who enter the profession to become millionaires, I'm not sure if too many educators will have read this.

The core message from this book is that an individual with desire, faith and persistence can reach great heights by eliminating negative energy and thoughts and focusing on the greater goals in hand... (sounds like just what the social mobility doctor ordered!) Some of the 13 "steps" listed in the book might not look out of place in the classroom and include: 

Faith, Autosuggestion, Specialized Knowledge, Imagination, Organized Planning, Decision, Persistence, Master Mind Group, The Subconscious Mind, The Brain 

As its connected educators month I wanted to highlight the value of Henry Ford's "Master Mind Group" or what we might call our network connections or PLN today;

Ignorant... But with a Great PLN (1916)
During World War 1, a Chicago newspaper published editorials which called Ford 'an ignorant pacifist.' Ford brought a suit against the paper for libel. When the case came to court, the attorneys for the paper asked Ford a variety of general knowledge questions which were intended to prove that he was ignorant.

Ford was asked questions like "Who was Benedict Arnold?" and "How many soldiers did the British send over to America to put down the rebellion of 1776?"

Ford became tired of the line of questioning and said "If I should really want to answer the foolish question you have just asked, or any of the other questions you have been asking me, let me remind you that I have a row of electric buttons on my desk, and by pushing the right button, I can summon to my aid people who can answer any question I desire to ask concerning the business to which I am devoting most of my efforts. Now, will you kindly tell me why I should clutter up my mind with general knowledge, for the purpose of being able to answer questions, when I hire people around me who can supply any knowledge I require?"

That answer floored the lawyer. Every person in the room realised it was the answer not of an ignorant man, but a man of education. Any person is educated who knows where to get knoweldge when needed, and how to organise that knowledge into definate plans of action.

Henry Ford had all the specialised knowledge he needed to become one of the wealthiest men in America... It was not essential that he have this knowledge in his own mind.

I'm sure we could have a discussion about this regarding rote learning etc but will focus on CPD and PLN.

It's Networkers we need... not leaders
As a recovering EdTech salesman, I doubt I would have a leg to stand on if someone accused me of ignorance, but like Ford, while I may not have many answers... social media sure has made it easy for me to find someone who does!

In addition to this, according to a comment that I read during the World Economic Forum, this may stand me in good stead, as a seasoned venture capitalist suggested that; 

"During a recession it's networkers we need not leaders"

I wonder what people's initial reaction to this statement is? If we consider and review comments from the CEO's, Directors and Senior Managers during key points during the disruption to the music industry, gaming, retail, the media etc you might find that you agree with the statement. 

Were there people in these organisations who were saying;

"We need to consider what we are going to do about these up and coming companies, who are doing things differently?"

Almost certainly! And they were probably "connected" to various people and communities within their industry who were telling these networkers "You need to check this out" and "You want to keep an eye on XYZ."

In education it's the connected educators who are forming links with like minded people who share, values, interests etc who are giving up their free time to attend edcamps and unconferences, being inspired and enthused at these events, going back to their schools and collaborating online with one another to explore new ideas. And (eventually) these ideas become mainstream.

Steven Johnston highlights the value of networkers when describing "slow hunches" and Where good ideas come from

Preaching to the Converted
Would the examples above help encourage an unconnected educators to get online? Or, perhaps more accurately, will they even see this post? If they are somewhere online and the subject line catches their eye, are they likely to open it? Or will they see it and think "Oh not 'connected education' and social media again!"

I will be detailing my own journey which I might call; 

I am sure that my story will be along similar lines to others, adding to the voice of many others who detail;

  • How much we learn from our online connections
  • The fantastic connections I've made and that I woudn't have otherwise have "e-met"
  • How being connected has helped my career
But who will I be reaching out to? The already connected?

Disconnected... And Not Interested 
Tom Whitby had a great post patience for the unconnected and he highlighted that the easiest sale has now been made - the early adopters are all signed up!

The early adopters with any new idea accounts for 20% of any given market. If we were to compare the number of connected educators within any given region/sector/country, would we find ourselves at around 20%? In sales organisations make 2 huge mistake which are;
  • That they assume that sales progress in a linear fashion and that the same presentation and process will appeal to every customer. 
    Early adopters are looking for new innovations for game changing ideas - Steve Jobs saw the value of two emerging technology ideas with Napster and MP3s 
    to get a jump on the competition.

    While pragmatists take a lead and learn from early adopters they don't tend to adopt these ideas until they have been tried and tested
  • They put their best sales guys on new projects and they get early wins from the initial 20% to prove that there is potential in the sector, once this has been proven the top sales guys are moved onto the next new market/project. 
    This is precisely the wrong thing to do, the time you need your best sales guys is when the early adopter market has been exhausted. Ideas that get to this point are at a key point where they will either be adopted by the main stream or won't progress beyond a handful of users

Convincing the Disconnected 
I wonder if educators are starting to find some entrenched camps in the staff room, those raving about being a connected educator Vs the disconnected... and no matter what you say they are closed to the idea.

This was me, I had a pre-conceived idea of all social media channels, ideas that I had formed without doing any research on the topic at all! Two things changed this view for me;
  • During a conversation with a major EdTech provider and discussing my experiences, I was asked "Why are you not on any social media channels? If you work in EdTech its a pre-requisite these days, you need an online profile."The introvert in me screamed "NOOOOOO" (in a tone and volume that would rival Luke Skywalker when he discovers that Darth Vader is his dad) 
  • The next thing I did was walk over to the youngest member of staff at the company I worked at and said "Social media... what's it all about"
    In one statement which outlined a business argument for Twitter he had me hooked! ...more on that in my next post... 

The point here is that the things that convinced me were offline and were related different methods to what I had been exposed to before, they focused on career prospects and other opportunities that I was missing out on.

Is the connected educator agenda approaching "the early majority?" If so, does the recruitment of others require some different approaches? ...And, regardless of the data and the number of connected proponents, is the most important and toughest sell for getting educators online now upon us? 

I understand that Arne Duncan will be a guest on a chat session on Monday as part of Connected Educator month... I wonder what would happen if the discussion at the water cooler on Tuesday morning was "I joined a discussion with Arne Duncan last night?" with no mention of social media and if (or when) colleagues ask "How did that come about?" it might just get them logging on and checking all this connected stuff out.