Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Using Core Values to Find a Brand's Voice

This post looks at if and how it might be possible to use core values to find the voice of the Tech Stories "Brand". 

I detail how and why we can go from helpful and supportive to getting a bit snarky, questioning the approach that people have taken if and when good opportunities for change are lost in education. 

I look at how and why this has happened with two FE projects and the Independence Referendum. Part of the reason for writing this post is in the hope that going from supportive to snarky doesn't happen with acting on Chris van der Kuyl's Scottish Learning Festival Keynote.

During #Cmgrhangout this week co-moderator Dom Garrett made a great comment with regard to finding the voice of a brand Vs your own voice as a Community Manager. This is an important topic for me at the moment because;

  • I am considering taking Tech Stories from a personal brand to a start up.
  • My activity over the last few weeks has seen me engage with policy makers and I need to decide how to deal with this as a brand.
I have been a little snarky in my blog in the past, sometimes in a considered and controlled way, at other times in quite an angry and frustrated way... and usually always about politicians and policy makers.

As Dom highlighted, being snarky is OK. Some organisations can be a little snarky and it works for the brand, but the Community Manager could be really nice and friendly on their personal feeds. 

It was quite funny when we discovered that Dom's #Cmgrhangout co-host Jonathan Brew was the voice of a brand that was popular with the women on the panel in a previous hangout.

Blog to Brand
If and when Tech Stories becomes a Limited company any previous grumpiness can be explained away as "This was when it was my personal blog" but 

  • What if I am snarky after this point?
  • What if staff are hired and I don't like their brand of snark? 
  • How do I differentiate any snarky comments I make today with others further down the line... if I don't have some guidelines?
The reason for exploring this today is because, following the Scottish Learning Festival, people I would normally be snarky about seem interested in what I have to say.

Thinking Out Loud: Core Values
The rest of this post is me "Thinking Out Loud" and spit balling some ideas, in part to let policy makers know what to expect and (hopefully) to start the process of setting some guidelines around Tech Stories voice.

I'll explore the issue of the brands' voice by road testing the core values as part of an ongoing assessment to see if they are able to help guide and inform day-to-day decisions.

Having had 10 years experience working with educators, so I know how difficult it is to innovate! 

There may be one or two people in a committee or SMT meeting who may be 100% up for exploring a new untested idea, but others may be less convinced. All perspectives and voices are valid and need to be heard!
Where it all began: Characters from Tech Story:
What Educators can Learn from Pixar's Toy Story
For the benefit of the "Hope over Fear" VoteYes educators who are proponents of technology and are frustrated with the pace of change... imagine if our ancestors had listened to the detractors with the Darien Scheme? Scotland may never have lost its sovereignty in the first place;)

I've found that the trick with listening to all voices and being able to innovate is to follow the example of tech companies, which is to work with the right groups at the right stage of an ideas' development.

I empathise a great deal with laggards. You might even say that I "get" the laggards more than I get the early adopters (I have a Blackberry and have no intention of reading a book on an electronic device any time soon. Enough said?).

Furthermore, just because you are not a fan of (or are not proficient with) technology, it does not mean you can't still be a master craftsman of an educator. 

Someone who draws this out better than anyone is Mike Fienberg. His 2014 GSV Summit presentation was fantastic, one of the messages was;

Master craftman of an educator in a bare room Vs A mediocre teacher with all the gadgets and gizmos...

Which class would you send your kids to?

In my opinion, what's important is making sure that you have people like Scott Hayden, Chris Grant and Dundee's very own Caron Sandeman in your school or college.

I even have empathy for politicians (believe it or not). We saw how keen Barak Obama wanted health care reform, but he faced some serious challenges with opposition parties and the industries lobby groups.

I also get that politicians need to show that they are doing "something" in a 4 year period to keep their jobs (whether reshuffle, or losing their seats in an election). One of these challenges may be that good ideas can take a while for results to come through.

I can't imagine that a politician would get praised too much from the media or party whips if their conference speech to included

"What my predecessor established is working, let's leave it another few years"

So having an understanding of the any challenges that people face in their job and obstacles with affecting change is important.

Honest Relationships
I will work with anyone, as long as the relationship is an honest one. I would far rather argue with a critical friend to identify the best solution, than politely go along with a bad idea just because the relationship wasn't strong enough to have an honest conversation and be able to say 

I've highlighted in a number of posts how I feel about the political classes... views that are not without good reason where I have plenty of solid examples of self interest and uselessness.

This includes personal experiences with this group. For example, a Minister for FE said that that they would "welcome hearing about my experiences," then suggested that I follow up with their colleagues. I took the time out to provide some ideas... and then hear nothing back from the "Right Honourable Gentleman" or any of their colleagues?!

This is by no means an isolated example. I mention this one in particular because I felt that the project the MP was involved with was focusing on the wrong area. 18 months on I see nothing to change my view... Except that the threats to the sector are more real than ever.

Today the sector seems as demolarised as ever while startups working in education are catching up at such a rate that I can see how the sector may be overtaken and disrupted, as I highlight in yesterday's post: The Pace of Change and Online Collaboration.

In the past I have tried to share my experiences and research with Gazelle, FELTAG and #The45Plus to question the direction they were heading in and/or to detail the opportunities that they were losing (See below).

It's not easy for anyone to hear "I think you're focusing in the wrong area." I know this because I spent 2 years trying to make ideas work, and letting go was an extremely difficult decision to make... Especially when I felt I had a good idea of where things might be heading.

We will collaborate with anyone where we can help, this includes collaborating with competitors. We will also highlight when there's no point of collaborating because the culture isn't right. This is regardless of how invested we are in a project. Some things that we are definitely not a fans of include;
  • Meetings where people throw their power about and/or strut their egos about and generally know so much that they won't listen to everyone in the room.

    I could not believe the crap that a friend at the Department of Health told me went on in MP's meetings, things like you can't speak to a Minister unless they speak to you first... fine china at the top end of the table for tea and cheaper stuff as you go down the table to the minions. I've no idea how accurate this is, if there was any exaggeration but, if it's true... GOOD GRIEF! GET A GRIP! 
"I do not recall anyone who thought that the internal combustion engine could ever have more than a limited use. All the wise people demonstrated conclusively that the engine could not compete with steam. They never thought it might carve out career for itself. That is the way with wise people – they are so wise and practical that they always know to a dot just why something cannot be done; they always know the limitations. That is why I never employ an expert in full bloom. If ever I wanted to kill opposition by unfair means I would endow the opposition with experts. They would have so much good advice that I could to be sure they would do little work" Henry Ford
  • Death by committee ie when you're told by a dozen people a dozen different reasons why something won't work.
“It can’t be done”, said the manufacturer positively, “no machine built will do that – it is out of the question”  “Out of the question!” exclaimed the engineer, “if you will come down to the main floor you will see one doing it; we built one to see if it could be done and now we want more like it.”

The factory keeps no record of experiments …a record of failures – particularly if it is a dignified and well authenticated record – deters a young man from trying. We get some of our best results from letting fools rush in where angels fear to tread. Henry Ford

Give me the 1-2 people in each committee who have a "Yes, if..." attitude and we can leave the "No, because..." Folks to debate precisely why it can't be done

How can we Help
Chris van der Kuyl said that education lacks leadership when it comes to innovation and, based on my experiences, I'd argue that he's right.

I think that the source of this lack of leadership has it's basis in some of the comments above and because people are too full of their own self importance to have the courage to say "We don't know the answer" and/or they will only collaborate when they see a benefit to them. Because of:
  • This lack of leadership (Or the inability to say "I don't know the answer"), 
  • The fact I have no problem saying "I haven't got a clue," but I do have 
  • A "What if..." attitude 
  • My sales, community experience and my research, I have a good idea of what's needed for ideas to get traction 
Today, I just get my sleeves rolled up and pitch in to try and create momentum if and when the conditions for change looks good. 

When I do this, I get the impression that people find it a little disarming... and maybe even wonder "What's the catch?" 

There is no catch. I'll help out for as long as the conditions look good, but I'll leave when the conditions change or when the idea/project gets a bit of momentum. If people question my motives I'll simply highlight these links:
We want to do quality work. We want to have quality relationships (Maybe defined as going good while having fun), and a good quality of life and the right life/work balance. I don't think any of this is possible if you don't have empathy, the right kind of relationships, be willing to collaborate and to just pitch in as and when you can.

I've found that good things come from working in this way. This is why I am exploring these values in the context of different scenarios, because they are so important to me. Even before any company is established, because CULTURE MATTERS!

A Snark in the Tale
If and when I get involved it's because the conditions are good and the opportunity is big. When the conditions are not good, we'll have honest discussions... even if the relationship is not there. Here are 3 examples

If enterprise in FE had went well colleges would be rolling out like Entrepreneurial Spark is.
  • I shared details of my Business Development Report with a founder of Gazelle 6 months before Gazelle was formed, the reply I received was "Interesting, I'll come back to you." but this person never did come back to me regarding the ideas I shared with them. 
  • I also suggested that Gazelle speak to Sir Tom Hunter because he had just delivered a speech at Holyrood. The content of his talk was that, after 10 years working with Strathclyde University on an entrepreneurship program, they had not made an impact on increasing entrepreneurship in Scotland. Four years later and Espark have! 
  • I suggested that listening to entrepreneurs who made their money a few years ago may not be the best people to listen to. A well known luxury gym celebrity entrepreneur was opening 2 new gyms (and moaning about customers on social media who were saying his costs were too high), while The Gym Company was opening 60 gyms in the same period. 
  • Despite suggesting 10 ideas ideas that could generate income for FE I didn't manage to engage people involved with this and detailed my thoughts in my The Problem with Gazelle post. This was written in the hope of being heard with the FELTAG project.
With a little bit of collaboration and due diligence the Espark model could easily have been the one that FE could and should have adopted, instead we have a Entreprenuship program that has not achieved product market fit and has 27 colleges using a program that has cost £3.5 million.

I spent a year on my Technology in FE report: Developing Relationships and Delivering Value and tried to get anyone who would listen, that they were focusing on the wrong area.
  • I tried to reach out to the good, the great and important of FELTAG to share my research and expertise.
  • When I eventually did get through to people, after making an unconventional introduction, I was asked to share my experience but I heard nothing further.
The conditions during the Independence Referendum were special! I wrote 30 posts between Sept-Oct 2014 and mostly looked at the culture of the post referendum movement. I even argued that the conditions that led to Silicon Valley's uber collaboration were here during the referendum (Ie that the relationship between England and Scotland was not entirely different to William Shockley and "The Traitorous Eight". 

I left the scene when these conditions disappeared.  

Raising the Digital Generation/Developing the Young Workforce
The opportunity here is immense, not because of the government's Developing the Young Workforce report, if they'd looked at California's "One City" approach they might have saved a lot of time and money. 

The opportunity is here because of Chris van der Kuyl's presentation, IF momentum can be built. 

Not only am I a huge fan of Circle the Schools, I 100% believe that Scotland could become the most innovative country when it comes to technology in education. There are certain conditions that make it ideal.

But there are a few challenges... Challenges that Chris' presentation would address. However, enthusiasm for this message will not be around for long. By the time all the committee meetings and MP reports have been drawn up, any opportunity might be gone.

Chris is right, this is not the time for strategising, this is the time to act,,, so I'm acting. Just because I can. Through previous projects I have an idea of some things that might work (Not saying they will, I'm saying they're worth exploring), so I'm testing the ideas. 

As always, people know where to find me and I'm happy to collaborate... In the mean time, I'll be pitching in and doing some stuff regardless of whether people get in touch or not.

In summary... 
As a brand we can and will get snarky, this snarkiness will usually be fueled by the idiocy of big important people letting big important opportunities slip... Just because they have big and important jobs/expertise/titles* (delete as appropriate) to listen. 

As a brand Tech Stories will not get grumpy or snarky without adhering to these core values. 

We'll make sure that we understand the external and internal pressures and challenges when engaging with stakeholders.

Honest Relationships 
It is only through honest relationships that the best solution can be found. If the relationships are not ones where we feel comfortable having difficult discussions, regardless of who the person or group is, how senior, "honourable" or influential is... we need to consider the value of maintaining the relationship. 

We'll collaborate with anyone as long as the conditions are good and we're not on the bus to Abilene and/or no progress is being made due to power trips, egos and procrastination 

How Can we Help
We'll help out where and when we can any time we feel we can help and when the conditions look promising. The reason for providing any assistance will be... Just because we can.

Calling it a Day
However...If we offer the benefit of our experience and people are not interested and/or fail to take advantage of opportunities with good cultural conditions for change... then we cannot guarantee that we won't leave the scene and, as we do tell all the important people that they've been idiots because they have squandered an opportunity.

Is it just me or does this sound like "If we like you, we'll be friendly... But if you decide to play funny buggars, we'll be telling you exactly what we think of you as we're getting out of dodge?"

Meh! I can live with that! ...because life's too short and there's too much work to be done to be playing politics, I'll leave that to the experts and bow out gracefully (or maybe even disgracefully and grumpily) and move on to something else.  

Monday, 28 September 2015

#SLF15: The Pace of Change & Online Collaboration

This post is the first in reply to, and in support of, Chis van der Kuyl's closing keynote Raising the Digital Generation in Scotland at the Scottish Learning Festival. 

In this post I consider the possibilities of online collaboration as well as some potential dangers to educators, which just might include their job security, if they do not increase the pace of change.

I joined #CmgrHangout live for the first time in quite a while as the topic was on 
How to Scale Trust and Relationships. I know that educators have lost trust with policy makers, so wanted to check the session out.

I was welcomed to the session with the above message from 
David de Wald, who is an extremely experienced Community Manager that I've learnt so much from! 

His comment made my day! When I first met the Cmgr community via Community Manager Appreciation Day, I knew very little about managing online communities.

I include Davids comment in this post, not because it praises any of my work. I mention it because I want to highlight that everything I learned, and which led to the work David is commenting on, is from what I learned online from Community Managers over the last 2 years.

Not only that, but just about everything I've learned from these fantastic people can be found in these collections.
And it isn't just a kind word on social media from experienced Community Managers who I respect either. I had a phone interview with one of the largest Education PLCs for the role of Digital Community Manager last week.

I don't know if my application will progress beyond a 30 minute phone interview but, given who the company was and my lack of formal qualifications in this field, if I was an educator... I might be a little worried. There has not been an educator or physical building in sight. 

Although, it's just as well I found these people online. Inbound marketers will tell you that traditional sales is dying (If you were an educator at the Scottish Learning Festival think about how many stands you visited).

Through listening to and collaborating with educators on line I could see that my sales skills were on the way out a few years ago. If I wanted to go to my local college to re-train I'd have been disappointed... There's nothing on Community Management there.

Chris spoke of the value gaming has to the Scottish economy. A gaming community called Twitch started out just like Stampy Cat did, as a hobby but went on to be bought by Amazon for £1 billion... How did they achieve this? 

As well as finding it easier to re-train online Vs finding a local college course, I have found my more recent experience with Hootsuite and Intercom to be convenient, user friendly and personal: over all a great learning experience!

In fact, you might be forgiven for being more optimistic about online learning achieving product-market fit than with UK educators changing in the way that Chris recommends in his talk. 

Check out the Hootsuite Social Media course experience yourself here: Podium 

I've found that asking uncomfortable questions and stating facts can be construed as being controversial. With no intention of being controversial it might be worth asking;  

  • How long has FELTAG been working on getting FE courses online? Would tools like Podium, Intercom and Declara help achieve this group's aims quicker, cheaper and easier than current progress?
  • I noticed that a Scottish awarding body have some Social Media material. With 2,600 schools and 48,000 teachers... but only 545 Twitter accounts posting on the SLF15 hashtag (Of which around 24 appear to be Schools and 71 educators who have a collective following of 50,000 people), are there some issues that need to be addressed?

Whether it's selling educators on the value of Social Media, the way training is delivered, addressing educators fears with students being abusive or disciplinary action from their school or the course material... it looks like more needs to be done with this. 

If Twitter has been around for 9 years, is free and has many examples of success... but can't be adopted, what chance have newer, less tried and tested and/or more expensive initiatives got?

Something I find curious is that 578 MPs who were elected in May are on Twitter and, collectively, had 6,900,000 followers when I did some research at the end of April. 

It kind of makes you wonder how much commitment politicians have with education and digital literacy. They develop their own digital skills for their precious elections, but do not appear to do as much for educators or students? But then it's "Woe is me" if our popularity hunger politicians get any abuse.
Then there's the fact that I've been discussing the same things that Chris describes for the last 5 years in UK Further Education and eventually found that I was in a "bad market," (Which as I highlighted in last weeks' Spark Social Learning post, it appears that this remains the case) 
I've had even less engagement with Scottish educators or policy makers than I did with FE. However, I continue to do what I can where I can.

Over the last 18 months I've got enough community experience for major education companies to be interested in my skills, I've got some good results with projects in the US... And I'm happy to help if, where and when I can. I wonder if any Scottish Educators or policy makers will get in touch?

As much as I love education and educators the frustrations and challenges are very real. Although it is important to note that I DO NOT see any lack of innovation as being down to our educators, but the culture that policy makers create. Respect and trust must be there for a culture of innovation. 

When I stopped focusing on FE 12 months ago, this policy maker/educator relationship was not a good one! In his keynote Chris said that technology will never replace a good teacher, and he's right. But what does a bad culture do to a great teacher? 

Unfortunately, I can tell you the answer to that... it kills innovation and sees the educator leave the profession. The number of innovative educators I wrote to and the number of messages I received to say the emails were undeliverable just before I left FE was astounding.. When I asked what was going on with the educators who left their post but was connected with on LinkedIn... The answer was "I got sick of the culture"

Regardless of the issues with policy makers and educators, there are people in the world of business who were probably at the same stage that Chris van der Kuyl was in their region, they were concerned about the lack of talent, the skills/edu gap and tried to suggest some changes... but found the pace of change frustrating.

So they're now doing education on their own whether it's physical schools (Kipp, Alt School, Adidas University or online with Starbucks & MOOCs. If you take a moment to explore these links you'll see that these startups and companies are getting good results.

If educators won't change others will fill the void... More posts in reply to Chris' fantastic SLF15 keynote to follow. 

For the moment my offer of assistance is there.

Now I'm off to speak to Elena and get more work done with my Hootsuite Social Media course advisor. 

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Developing the Young Workforce & Circle the Schools

The Developing Young Workforce report was launched at the Scottish Learning Festival this week. This post looks at what Scotland could learn from California's "Circle the Schools" employer/education collaboration and the areas growing, vibrant and extremely experienced Community Managers.

Employer Learning and Development
I'll get the contentious aspect of this post out of the way first...While policy makers are patting themselves on the back regarding their shiny new document, you have to ask... how come one of "Can Do Scotland's" biggest startup success stories is hiring a Learning and Development Consultant for their staff? 

  • Is it because they don't know about the young workforce initiative
  • Or is it because, like most new ideas, it needs to be sold to the various stakeholders? 
  • Maybe the programme needs a good community manager to get the necessary buy in? 
  • Are there more fundamental issues that no-one in education wants to discuss?
Surely we need to ask why a company like this is taking learning and development in-house. 

The answer of course may be an uncomfortable one for educators, but this example is by no means isolated.Workplaces seem to be taking education and training in-house at a rapid rate today. Some are even building their own universities (See All Hail the Launch of the Corporate University)

Surely this is a worry for educators... Especially given the launch of this shiny new report and 7 year plan.
LearnUp from Startups
The reason for developing my Business Development Ideas for FE report in 2011 was to see if the ideas might get more employers engaging with FE, while generating additional revenue for the sector.

The basis for these ideas were, as always, looking more to the Western US seaboard rather than to Westminster. I looked for examples of startups who were thriving in the recession.

I also looked at what Fredrick Terman did with Stanford during The Great Depression when his students were struggling to get work. It may be 4 years on but my views have not changed, I look to California for solutions way before I'd consider anything the political classes came up with.

As I'm reading this new document, I'm thinking "There are a handful of Silicon Valley startups who could nail this agenda!" For example, earlier in the week I read about the amazing results of LearnUp, a start up that's closing the gap for entry level job seekers;
"The company says it's able to triple the ability of a job applicant to get hired and that employer partners see 30% less turnover along with more efficiencies in their hiring process and speed. Old Navy is using the platform to train 200,000 workers"
Now, entry level jobs may not be ideal or what the report is looking to achieve for our young people but, given the extent of the youth unemployment... surely asking LearnUp to come to Scotland might not be a bad move.

#Cmgr a Growth Area... But Not in Scotland
I continue reading this latest big idea in education, but get distracted by an email notification, the subject line is more exciting and appealing to me "The 41 Most Exciting Jobs We've Seen in the Community Profession" so I check it out. The email details how Community Management is; 
"Growing in a serious and measurable way. This time last year, we were only hosting 10 job postings on CMX Hub. That number has now quadrupled"
If you check the 41 #Cmgr jobs you'll see that, not only is the profession growing, but the opportunities are with some seriously exciting companies! Check this Twitter list to see some of the other companies who employ Community Managers: #Cmgr Twitter List

However, a lot of these jobs are in the US, almost half of the 41 exciting community jobs in the post above are based in California (only one is UK based). How many jobs or training courses are there in this field in Scotland? Few jobs and no training courses.
Given all the buzz on social media with the independence referendum, it's not even as if these policy makers who created this young workforce report don't know the kind of results that good community management can deliver.
Just to make sure, I wrote to MP/MSPs and other GE candidates earlier in the week to detail some ideas regarding how the practices of Community Managers could help with constituent enquiries and during election time.
One Scotland... One City: Circle the Schools
I've written a number of times about San Francisco's Circle the schools project and wonder if anyone involved with the Developing the Young Workforce program looked at this project where;

"Partner employees participate in volunteer activities designed to advance student skill in literacy at the elementary school level, STEM in middle schools, and college and career readiness in high schools. The goal is to 'circle' all 117 public schools and use this initiative to support the School District's Vision 2025"
Circle the Schools Partner Map
Also during the Salesforce's Dreamforce conference they announced they hit 1 million volunteer hours and donated 1 million books to schools and libraries. 

Community Culture?
I wonder to myself to what extent the spin doctors of the Blair era have influenced this document as any mention of "the regionalisation of colleges" is in a positive light.

I don't know enough to comment whether this regionalisation is a positive development or not... but what I do know is that culture matters, a lot! And the merger process has done nothing to help the culture within these institutions.
The sentiment on the ground may well be "I've just lost lots of my colleagues, I am being asked to do more with less and now I'm being expected to get behind this latest 7 year plan... Which will probably just get replaced after the 2016 election"

Is there evidence to back this feeling up? When the Education Minister is in a room full of education stakeholders and invites questions from the audience and only 3 hands go up, you've got to wonder... has trust been broken?

This makes me think of CMX for a number of reasons. First of all in a recent post CMX talked about How to Scale Trust and Relationships, as it includes a section on rebuilding trust.
the CMX Summit is coming up and AirBnB's Head of Community, Jenna Meister, will be speaking at the event. Here's how important their CEO Brian Chesky and the companies investors view culture: Don't Mess Up the Culture.

Staying with a hospitality and tourism theme, there are a lot of FE courses on the subject and it's important to Scotland's economy, £12 Billion according to the governments statistics. In February 2014 (ie the height of FE merger disruption) #Cmgrhangout had a session on Travel and Hospitality Communities.

I emailed my FE contacts so they knew about the session (Which was really informative!). I wonder how many people watched this? If it wasn't many I wonder if this was due to the culture being disrupted?

The topic for #Cmgrhangout this week is on Building and Scaling Trust... there's those Community Managers again.

Even within the report, I note the number of references to and/or the need for community with implementing the recommendations from the report:
San Frans' Online Community
Tribe has almost 2,000 members 
"Throughout this plan it is clear that success relies on meaningful engagement with Scotland's education and employment communities"
"How to achieve better connectivity and co-operation between education and the world of work to ensure young people at all levels of education understand the expectations of employers, and that employers are properly engaged"
"How to achieve a culture of real partnership between employers and education, where employers view themselves as co-investors and co-designers rather than simply customers"
A genuine, long-term partnership approach between schools, colleges, training providers, employers, parents and young people themselves is central to the success of this agenda.
We need to increase the opportunities for employers to contribute to the broad general education phase - the period of education from pre-school to the end of S3. Employers and schools need to develop strong two way partnerships
Young people, parents, carers, teachers and practitioners, careers professionals and employers are all key to this effort, and success will depend on ensuring that they are central to what is offered, and how it is delivered and promoted. 
Personally, I find it ironic that there are no training courses in My World of Work or jobs for community managers, or that there is no reference to Circle the Schools in the report...ie Two groups of people who have the experience to make the things in this report work.

Maybe some of the community managers at California's partner companies and innovative EdTech Companies can expand their circle the school initiative to help implement Scotland's Young Workforce.

...I'm off to see how many exhibitors at the Scottish Learning Festival have their head office (or any offices) in Scotland.

A quick scan of the 200 exhibitors 60% are government and 3rd sector (60 Associations, charities and 3rd sector organisations and 46 government bodies) and 40% are companies.

Of the 87 commercial suppliers 29 have Scottish addresses.Like community management, EdTech is a growing sector as education technology companies attracted VC investment of $1.2 billion in the US in 2014... But only 30% of the commercial exhibitors include a Scottish address. The Healthier Scotland Cooking Bus address in the Scottish Learning Festival programme 170 miles South of the Scottish border.

I also noted that none of the Scottish companies who made the trip to the International Society of Education Technology in Philadelphia in June were exhibiting at the event... An indication that, like me, these companies have found US educators easier to engage than UK educators?

Either way commuting to England looking for work or flying out to the US to do business sure isn't cheap. Mhairi Black was in the news complaining about having to travel to London for her work... at least she can claim the travel back on her lavish expense account.

Regardless of where these businesses are based, maybe next year the stands will all be manned by students as education suppliers will be keen to give students some experience of working at a trade event?

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Spark Social Learning

"Someone once said progress occurs funeral by funeral and I think there's some truth in that... I put a great deal of faith in young people, they don't have as much trouble accepting new ideas" Jane Jacobs, The Nature of Economies Interview

I think that it would be fair to say that this quote typifies my experiences over the last few days. This week my reading has included
I discovered Jane Jacobs through the Open University, her classic book "The Life and Death of Great American Cities" was recommended reading for The OU's DD304's "Understanding Cities" course.

When you consider Simon's research with The OU from five years ago with James' vision and/or compare it with the needs of FE (and the level of uptake by colleges to date) you sure do get a sense of Jacobs' comment above... Even if we do struggle with the sanity of it all:

"Colleges and universities all over the world are buying back the innovation that their ideals, mission and people made possible" Reclaiming Innovation

It's the latter point above that gets to me the most. I caught up with someone who is one of the world's genuine good guys who works in EdTech in the UK. He told me he's left because "EdTech is tough" this is despite the fact that he is a nice guy who, worked on a great product and had an ethical approach with engaging educators.

Given the obvious fit with FE's needs and Declara's solution with young people, my friends announcement that he's left the sector and the general procrastination of the sector I Tweeted in frustration:

"I don't understand FE sometimes what an opportunity: Reverse brief "

I don't think this has done my job prospects for an interesting FE role that I applied to any favours.

On the one hand this is disappointing... On the other hand, this role involved some selling to FE, so what chance would there have been at excelling in the role if a great guy with a great product has just left in frustration?

When we consider that not only have academics been discussing these issues since 2010 but, given the insights of Simon's research we have to ask... what happened to these ideas in academia?

Declara was formed two years after this report was published and today, from what I can see, is working on many of these ideas. The reasons that I am a big fan of Declara can be found in Simon's research;

"Postmodernity: people value autonomy and diversity over  authority, hierarchy, and conformity."

"Hegel, et al. (2010) have argued that social learning is really the only way that we can cope in today’s fast  changing world"

"...As I engage in conversations with different people that my understanding of what I see outside my window increases"  

As we highlight in Figure 2, this then forces us to ask whether our educational and training regimes are fit for purpose in equipping our children, students and workforce with the dispositions and skills needed under conditions of growing uncertainty 

A significant feature of the Web 2.0 paradigm is the degree of personalisation that end‐ users now expect.  This manifests in the user interface as a means for filtering the complexity of the internet to show just  those  resources  being  tracked, but also as the model for engaging with loosely coupled services tuned to one’s  interests. Figure 4 indicates how this manifests from a learner’s perspective. 

I was asked by Sophie Blue, Founder of Blue Planet PR, if I would like to provide a comment about Declara for an Education Services Australia article that she is working on for Connected Educator Month. Sophie works with both Simon at the University of Technology, Sydney and consults with James Stanbridge at Declara.

What do I say? I like Declara because they develop stuff that education should have, but didn't?

If we look at why this was all I can do is highlight my friends experiences... even the nicest guys working on great products struggle. So Silicon Valley startups see an opportunity, speak direct to young people because they are open to new ideas, and these startups disrupt the incumbents?

As honest as that may be, I played it safe and sent four reasons that I can see potential with Declara in education;

1) The ease of use.
If you look at any product that gets good traction in education these days, it's products that are intuitive... you don't need a training manual or a days PD to make it work in the classroom.

Products in the "Needs a days PD" category are a barrier to adoption, it is a challenge for educators who are the less technically proficient to make it work.

With Declara it "just works," if you can copy and past a link and use a highlighter pen... you can use Declara

2) Diversity of Material
In "Where Ideas come from"Steve Johnston highlights the importance of "Slow Hunches." The diversity of material makes Declara a hot bed for slow hunches and good ideas

3) Diversity of People & Knowledge Transfer
Not only do I agree with Simon's comment that "Social learning is really the only way that we can cope in today’s fast  changing world" I have experienced this. Through following EdTechchat I realised that my skills would be outdated soon.

So I re-skilled by learning from others online via blog posts, slideshares, Google Hangouts etc. Much of this learning is in two Declara collections. If you take the time to look through them you'd know as much as I do on the topic.

4) Responsiveness of Staff
Culture matters... A Lot! How else would you explain how ideas that educators have been discussing for 5 years+, is being implemented by technology startups?

My experiences with dealing with Declara staff has been that they are extremely responsive to any ideas or suggestions... even the dumb ones.

How much does the culture of an organisation matter? I read an article called "Is Education Technology Losing it's Humanity?" While I agreed with a lot of this article two thoughts went through my head;
  • That the arguments against technology in education in this article could just as easily be made as some kids march through the education system unnoticed. How else do you explain the unacceptably high levels of adult illiteracy?
  • Who commissions and rolls out this technology? Who's buying this "Inhuman Tech" and putting it in our schools? If this is entirely down to the tech companies, then that's a lot of founders who are pulling the wool over admins eyes and persuasive sales people.
I have just finished my first session with Hootsuite's social media education course and, along with Intercom, the experience was anything but impersonal.

I opened the post with a quote from Jane Jacobs who I discovered because of the OU, I'll close with this one... which was my initial reaction to Declara when their CEO sent me an email asking me if I had any initial thoughts:

“I LOVE IT! This mixing of people in different sectors and areas of business is where I get a lot of my ideas. I have had a number of insights from taking my interest in education, culture, startups, technology etc and just mashing them all up… If your expert algorithms work well this really could look like “The Jane Jacobs” of knowledge by creating order out of the chaos of all the information produced and consumed today." 

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Strange Results with Core Values

I've been finalising the information on my website and have been thinking about Tech Stories core values

This post looks at what the combination of being led by values such as empathy, honest relationships, collaboration, always show your friendship first & 5 minute favours might look like in practice.

My last post detailed how the momentum of the VoteYes campaign hasn't lived up to it's promise, and how I feel there has been a return to traditional politics... which I have zero interest in.

I wrote to GE2015 candidates (with the exception of Tory and UKIP candidates) and a few MPs/MSPs, I then deliberated on whether or not to send my last post to SNP MPs/MSPs. I decided that I would and went through 5 or 6 drafts before hitting the send button. 

The result? I received quite a few replies and the discussions have been extremely constructive. 

In any continued correspondence I highlighted that, just because I would be reverting to old voting preferences of "None of the above" (Go Monty Brewster!) this does not mean that I am not or would not be willing to help if and where I can.

Equally, some of the replies from SNP MPs provided information that was food for thought. For example, I was reminded that there is a difference between VoteYes and the SNP.

I said previously that the leadership of the SNP was missing with #The45Plus, but the organisers may have been as surprised to see there was life after the election for "Yes Scotland" as I was to see the kind of conditions Silicon Valley startups create at work within the world of politics.

The Vote Yes campaign managers will have been working flat out for months and will have booked their holiday for midnight on the 18th September 2014.

Equally, I was reminded that angrier elements of the VoteYes camp on social media was not the SNP's doing. However, the actions of this group do reflect on the SNPs brand more than any other group.

I am not sure how confusing my correspondence may have been to the recipients... Why offer input to an organisation that I may not support in the future? 

Just because I may not be voting for a political party, doesn't mean I am not willing to provide the benefit of my experiences.

This is the first example of living these core values... and even by my own 
unorthodox standards, this throws up a curious combination of critical feedback and the offer of assistance.

Honest relationships
I highlighted that, as things stand, I won't be voting for SNP in the future.

5 Minute Favours
I detailed why this is the case, including the fact that if this is a single dissatisfied voter, it's no great loss... But if it represents the mood of others, 2016 may not be the same result as 2015.

Always show your friendship first
I provided further details about my experiences in technology, how companies with millions of members manage these relationships effectively with a relatively small team.

I also detailed how others deal with trolls and how and why the fun elements of the pre-referendum #VoteYes could return with a couple of minor tweaks.

I realise that people's expectations may be higher than ever before - whether regarding instant replies to constituent correspondence or quicker and better solutions to the issues constituents write to MPs about.

However, these increased expectations may come at a time when MPs workload may be higher than ever. The VoteYes campaign and increase in the SNPs popularity may see people who may never have contacted their MP/MSP now do so, whether it's with complaints or people trying to be helpful by providing some ideas (Apologies for being in this category and for adding to the workload). 

It must be extremely difficult to manage these expectations, if not impossible under political standards... but perhaps not if new methods were employed.

I'd be happy to collaborate and/to help anyone with an interest to explore these issues, especially in education.

This SNP/Politics example isn't going to be the only one where this combination of core values will throw up some "funnies."

When I collaborated with Dr John McAlaney with the University and College Social Norms project (details of which will be published soon), we found that some colleges had 2,000 responses from the initial baseline survey, while others had less than 100. 

The resources and level of support we provided was the same for each college. 

"Maybe you didn't do as much to promote the initiative as the other colleges" is what we found ourselves saying when some colleges asked about the difference in results... That sure isn't the easiest conversation to have with a client.

There have not been many cases, but there have been a few times I have had to question the time investment that educators were putting into projects if/when they were questioning the value of the technology or projects that I was working on.

We were able to ask this as the results in 99% of other colleges were positive with good case studies.

More recently I hope that I have not shied away from issues like highlighting how and where educators can be a challenge to engage with and/or suggesting how important sales is in the EdTech ecosystem... or how pushy sales practices may be more down to the CEO rather than rogue, commission hungry, maverick sales people. 

Some of these comments may either appear to be, or actually be, critical of educators and current practices... Whether people agree or disagree (And I've no problem with agreeing to disagree), I hope this honest approach leads to developing solid relationships with critical friends. 

Some of the ways that these core values might feature with stratups/suppliers might be;

I know that education can be tough. It could be months before the results from a sales team's efforts come through for an organisation that's new to education. Alternatively, it may be that after months of effort but sales remain slow. This may be because;

1) There is no demand for the product/service... Or
2) It could be that the product is great, but just that... well, erm... "Education is tough!"

I don't think that CrowdControlHQ, CrowdMark or myself did anything wrong with our attempts to engage UK Further Education Colleges, but we still failed... But at least we Failed Fast & Failed Cheap.

5 Minute Favours
Sending a quick email to critical friends or sending a Tweet or two out may help a startup determine if education is a viable sector for their product/service or not.

Honest relationships
I would hope that my education critical friends would be brutally honest about new ideas, and that they would tell me if they felt there was something better than the proposed solution, or if it was solution to a problem that doesn't exist Vs a solution that fulfilled a genuine need.

Taking a message like this back to the supplier may not be the easiest conversation in the world, but it would be an honest one.

Or maybe it's having an honest relationship with the supplier about my abilities, and that I wouldn't be the ideal person to help to get traction with this particular product/solution.

Regardless of how educators view the initial idea, I'd be open to collaborating with the supplier (and any competitors who wanted to get involved) to refine the idea and then try to find some early adopters to test any revised concept/value proposition.

Always show your friendship first
Most of this would not take a great deal of time to organise and if all the feedback was positive, it may lead to some long and mutually beneficial relationships... if it wasn't then we'd have saved the supplier and educators a little bit of time and money.   

I'm a Fan... But a Critically Honest One
There are other areas where my ideas may be contradictory. For example I am a big fan of EdTech incubrators and their alumni startups. However, their approach is very different to the way other companies have to operate, so I am critical when it comes to making like for like comparisons with companies who do not have the support of incubators... These comparisions are not always fair or entirely helpful.

How will it all End?
Whether looking to create a great EdTech company, a school which gets outstanding results, a political party wanting to make a difference or any other great organisation... it's tough.

No one sets out to do bad work, but doing great work is like working in EdTech... It's tough!

Writing to MPs in a critical way felt like a big risk for someone who's involved with Education, but I've had some of the best engagement that I've ever had with politicians (from any party) as a result of sending this critical feedback... Go figure!

So how will it all end up? I've no idea! All I can do is follow the example of those I admire who do good work.

Adam Grant and Adam Rifkin had a big impact on me, Adam Rifkins observations when he was identified as the most connected person in the world was that;

"I want to improve the world and, I want to smell good doing it"

I doubt I'll make any great improvements in the world but, whatever I do, I want the methods to be ways that I feel comfortable with... regardless of how many "funnies" like the ones above this might throw up.

I'll leave you with the sage advice of Adam Rifkin and experienced Community Manager David De Wald (@Historian);

"My network developed little by little, in fact a little every day through small acts of kindness, over the course of many years, with the desire to make better the lives of the people I'm connected to... When you have nothing, what's the first thing you try to do? You try to make a connection and have a relationship that gives you an opportunity to do something for someone else" Adam Rifkin via Give and Take.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Labouring on with #Team56? How to Rebuild Trust When It Is Broken

This post looks at how and why I've gone from SNP proponent to detractor within the space of a year. I also include some suggestions regarding how the results of the #VoteYes campaign might be replicated.

Twelve months ago today I started to write about the Independence Referendum. I was blogging in support of the SNP/VoteYes and the first post detailed why I was Getting Political About Education. During September and October 2014 I wrote over 30 posts in support of the SNP.

Using principles from the adoption of technology, I made a few predictions and assessments that proved to be accurate. Here are a few examples:
Two days after the general election I saw a tell tale sign that suggested to me that the SNP was heading for the first of Jim Collins 5 stages of decline: Hubris.

“When you are at the top of the world, the most powerful nation on Earth, the most successful company in your industry, the best player in your game, your very power and success might cover up the fact that you’re already on the path to decline. So, how would you know?” Jim Collins, How the Mighty fall

If the referendum was repeated I wonder if I would vote the same way today, I certainly would not be as supportive of a party that has squandered some fantastic opportunities because they chose to focus on playing party politics.

Now they are failing our students in education and don't appear to be supporting our educators, so I'm going to get political about education 12 months on from writing my first post in support of #VoteYes.

FELTAG and National Testing
Around the same time I started to write in support of the SNP I was questioning where Further Education Technology Action Group (FELTAG) was focusing their attention (See The Problem with FELTAG).

Today I feel that the SNP's decision to test primary school children will end up with similar challenges, and for the same reasons.

The idea of primary assessments does not appear to be very popular with educators... educators who perhaps supported the SNP and who, like me, feel that the party has not lived up to expectations.

When it comes to issues like reducing the attainment gap, getting the culture right is vital... and may not include a culture of MPs/MSPs saying "This is what we are doing... now get on with it," especially not when educators are saying "What?!... this is rubbish! We won't support this!"

There are rumblings of Scottish educators boycotting this program, meanwhile back at Westminster David Cameron is rolling out academies when the results to date are questionable (Although not in all cases as I detail in Academies... It's all about the Culture).

NB The reason I got excited about #VoteYes was because of the potential there was to improve attainment and reducing the gap, ironic or what!

All this is going on after there have been similar concerns raised with the roll out of "The Curriculum for Excellence," not to mention all the recriminations regarding the drop in literacy rates.

Something I find quite interesting is the difference in approach between the kind of collaboration with the grass roots efforts of the "Yes" campaign, compared with the top-down "This is what we are doing" dictate from Holyrood.
Image result for malcolm tucker shouting
Post Election Customer Relations? Blame me I voted Yes...
There were plenty of hearts and minds won over 12 months ago in education (and other sectors) with #VoteYes... but there appears to be little effort to get buy-in with this initiative. I highlighted this issue at the end of my Why SNP Domination was Inevitable post.

"This process could be used in many areas of Scottish society. The SNP benefited from the kind of process that major technology companies utilise, so they know it works. When I'll be impressed with the SNP, or any other party, is when they decide to use these principles in other areas, not just politics.

If any politician (from any party) wants to know how to continue to take advantage of this process in politics or, ideally, apply to other areas, especially in education, you know where to find me if you have any questions."

Impressed? Needless to say I am not! From advocate to disillusioned in 12 months, or within 4 months since the General Election.

Dickensian Deprivation
If we look at the worthy aim of "Raising Attainment and Improving the Gap," and consider Andrew Mawson's observation that:

"The real tragedy is that, broadly speaking, the areas of deprivation in the UK have not shifted a great deal since Dickens Day, and any talk of a new approach of the kind I fervently believe would work has led to nothing but lots of strategizing, meetings, papers, conferences, seminars, websites...and when the money runs out, there is nothing left to show, no tangible results and so, of course, the show moves on." Andrew Mawson, The Social Entrepreneur 

It's reasonable to assume that this initiative is unlikely to succeed. In my opinion, part of the reason for this is because the initiative will be ripped up and tossed aside just as it's starting to show promise...Why would this happen? Because the latest MP/MSP looking to climb the greasy pole will land the education portfolio and will want to "stamp their authority" on the department, so may replace this with something else.

This changing of the guard might be due to the existing education minister being incompetent/caught up in a scandal/does something the "leader" or whip doesn't like, so gets "shuffled" to the back bench. Politics! The only job in the world where "sacked/resignation" means that you get to keep your £75,000 wage + lavish expenses.

Need some examples? The Healthy Schools agenda took some 15 years+ to develop and had 85% of schools signed up, but was swept aside overnight... as was Every Child Matters and National Indicators and was replaced by "The Big Society," where is this Big Society today?

Need a Scottish SNP example? Merging FE Colleges as a cost saving exercise? College Merger Fails to Deliver Savings or Boost Education, based on the conversations I've had it with my FE contacts, it's certainly succeeded in disrupting the culture!

In the 1980s old style apprenticeships were scrapped in favour of Youth Training Schemes (YTS) only for "Modern Apprenticeships" to be back in vogue... but not before the valuable network and system of companies and mentors had been tossed aside and lost.

Imagine the difference that the old style apprenticeships would have with "Unslumming" deprived areas, resolving issues with NEETs, Youth Unemployment and the attainment gap?

Hands up if you think that assisted places could help play a role with improving the attainment gap? What genius decided to put our kids education in the hands of the political classes?

These politicians clearly know what kind of job they do in education, how else would you explain why they enroll their own children at independent schools... which might be the equivalent of members of Apple's senior management team using Microsoft or Google PCs.

Culture! Culture! Culture!
I've read a number of times recently about Scottish educators threatening industrial action for various reasons, mostly relating to pay.

When relationships get so bad that it leads to strike action, it impacts on the dynamics around social norms and market forces... and it takes a long time for trust to be built up again.

Dan Airley looks at the long term effects a lack of respect can have in these 2 worlds that we live in "social norms" Vs "market forces."

If we follow Dan Airley's argument, it might even be argued that the loss of trust between teachers and policy makers from the 1987 strike action has had a lasting impact.

During these strikes teachers worked to their job description and lots of extra-curricular activities that were organised via social norms were affected ie "I'm not staying behind to take XYZ club because I don't get paid for it and/or it's not in my contract."

In September 2015 we find educator-political relations on the verge industrial action.

Seriously! How successful is forcing a poorly thought out idea going to be if employees who are not feeling valued or if they feel their views are not respected?

This course of action might be permissible for any of the other political parties, but it's pretty inexcusable from a group who have demonstrated they know how to manage a fantastic grass roots campaign.

What's the difference between "Yes Scotland" and "Yes Educators"? Well one might fuel the egos and line the pockets of self interested politicians... and the other would show that educators were valued and their views respected. So where's the incentive for MPs with the latter? Maybe there isn't one.

How to Rebuild Trust When It Is Broken
Two days after the election we saw #The45Plus, a hashtag that represented the 1.6 million people who voted Yes in the referendum was replaced with #Team56... the 56 MPs who were headed down to Westminster to fight over where they sat and picking up their £75,000 + expenses.

There was also some changes with photos on MPs Twitter profiles, from candidates in their constituency with supporters... to member of #Team56 replacing them with pictures with their leader under the Forth Rail Bridge. How significant is this? Read Adam Grant's book "Give and Take" and you'll find it's quite telling.

Never mind the 1.6 million who got us here, we're #Team56 Now
In my opinion these are all signs of the first stage of an organisation in decline: Hubris. Need more examples? Go check the Twitter feed of this list of GE2015 MPs and see how many times any reference for "Constituent" or "Constituency" appears (That is where it does not involve a photo opp for our humble "I'm in politics to make a difference" MPs).

Any time I scroll down this list there can be a distinct lack of constituency issues on MPs Twitter feeds, but plenty of "Look at me, look at me" stuff and/or petty Westminster playground "He said, she said" antics going on. People don't have jobs and need food banks, but politicians are arguing about where they sit and the importance of Westminster's tradition of no clapping? Get a grip!

I'm not sure if I will vote SNP in the future, they appear to be on a mission to fit in at Westminster by being the same as the rest of the political classes.

With the exception of the odd rant when the news is on, I don't get involved with any political discussions on social media. The SNP, along with the rest of the political classes have lost my trust.

Rebuilding trust is something that other parties are needing to focus on. I've mentioned a number of times that the practices of community managers would help with this;

Trust, when broken, is nearly impossible to re-build. That's why you must delicately handle the re-building of trust, doing everything you can to recover and create new patterns of engagement. via How to Scale Trust and Relationships

It is with regard to these "new patterns of engagement" I'd like to focus some attention.

How can I Help?
I have been invited to meet with five senior MPs a over the last few years to discuss various projects that I have been involved with. These have been pretty senior people too... including a visit to Number 10.

Each and every one was a complete waste of time! I have found that there is a tendency to be told one thing in these meetings regarding how we can progress ideas and time scales for following up on our meeting but then hear... Nothing at all.

I wouldn't mind if I was told "This idea is rubbish" and heard nothing, but to have discussions like;

"Any suggestions you have, including those from your experience in the US in this regard, would be warmly welcomed." 

Then spend an entire weekend on a document with ideas but then hear nothing back... Well you kind of find that any trust will be broken pretty quickly.

Some random politician visited my son's school recently and during a Q&A session one plucky student asked "Why do politicians lie?"

The reply from this MSP? Let's bear in mind that his job is to debate for a living (a very good living indeed!) "Do you always tell the truth?"

What a reply! What a response to a group of school kids! It's OK to lie because everyone does it! What a role model!

"Why do politicians lie?" Because everyone does it! I wonder if one MP was taking liberties with their expense account if other politicians would do it too, then come up with the excuse that "Well, everyone else was doing it" if they were ever questioned about it. Oh wait a minute... Didn't that kind of happen already?

I wonder if this MSP ever chopped down any cherry trees when he was young "What? Who chopped down the cherry tree? What Cherry tree? There was never any cherry tree in the garden"

Something that we tell our kids is that "You don't treat bad manners with more bad manners," just because the political classes have been pretty ineffective in a professional and personal context in my work and life (so much so that I have given up even trying to engage with them), this does not mean that I won't help if and where I can.

Ideas for 2016 & 2019
My assessments for the SNPs success on the 7th May 2015 in my Why SNP Domination was Inevitable post was based on observations I spotted from September 2014.

When listening to all the commentators regarding the general Election result 4 months ago, who were saying "It will take 10 years for the Labour party to recover in Scotland" I was thinking "No it wouldn't!" It could be turned around by 2016... if they did things differently to the political classes usual methods, employing community management methods and "creating new patterns of engagement"

On 7th May I worked on a document with ideas for candidates for 2016, which was drafted in a coffee shop and I was sitting next to two people discussing the future of Labour, who were clearly senior members of the Labour campaign.

I mentioned to them "I'm working on a document that might help," the look of disdain that my comment was met with along with their dismissive remark was enough to make you wonder... "Will the attainment gap and the class system in the UK ever be addressed?" ...Not if there are any MPs involved, I thought to myself.

Anyway, here's some thoughts on what other parties could do between now and 2016 and/or things the SNP could stop doing to prevent hubris from setting in further: Ideas for 2016 & 2019 Candidates

(NB This was drafted between 7-8th May with the intention to tidy it up and add more info and analysis. This has not been done for the reasons detailed in this post. Any reference to days ie Yesterday/today are from these dates, and were prior to Labour's Corbin/Blarite split... or whatever people call the current in-fighting).

Obviously people are welcome to disagree with these observations and ideas, but if anyone feels they have merit... there are more where these came from.

Can the attainment gap be addressed? It is my belief that it can... but any solution is unlikely to involve the Eaton/Fettes old boys who roam the halls of Westminster/Holyrood.

Through sheer necessity MPs/MSPs don't feature with any potential solutions that I'm exploring. That's not to say I wouldn't welcome their input or involvement, but won't be holding my breath.

I'd be happy to discuss my plans and would be keen to collaborate with anyone... even politicians who I don't trust too much at the moment.

10/9/15 Postscript 
When opening the paper today two articles caught my eye:

1) Nicola Sturgeon Trolled for Welcoming the Queen...But don't blame me, I saw it coming a mile off and tried to suggest that leadership was needed to influence the post #VoteYes culture.
This article raises a host of questions whether we consider EdTech/educator relations or politics
  • Criticisms by educators that EdTech companies are profit driven and money obsessed
  • To what extent did being disgruntled and demoralised employees who felt undervalued with the merger play with this action? If lots, what was the cause of this? Politicians?
  • Staff appear to have worked within the rules regarding severance... Wasn't this the justification with MP expenses when the scandal broke? Indeed, 
  • Were staff taking the lead from MPs with their use of public funds? Whether with expenses, setting their own wages or the "We're in it together" 10% MP "entitled" wage rises Vs 1% for educators. These action don't exactly give the impression of "We're in it Together" austerity.
  • Given the expenses, cash for questions, correlation between party donations and peerages and employing family members... are MPs really in any position to condemn this action? 
All these guys did was set their own wages, which MPs do and their action seems to be within the criteria of the guidance provided.

Surely if anyone should be criticised it's the people who were responsible for putting these mergers together... But maybe that would prove to be a little embarrassing for politicians given that the cost saving exercise has not panned out and that this example doesn't help matters... So MPs do what they do best: Blame it on someone or something else.