Thursday, 24 November 2016

#CeduAD - Skype an Educator

This time last year I borrowed from Community Manager Appreciation Day and applied it to Connected Educators using the hashtag #CEduAD. The idea was to have this to coincide with with Black Friday in the hope that EdTech developers and startups might have another excuse to thank connected educators for all that they do... for all the invaluable feedback and advocacy work that they do for their favourite Tech tools.

I have no idea if this is something that will take off or if it's worth doing something for this year... But this post looks to build on this idea and encourages educators and developers to connect over the next few days.

Last year we were looking for support for the UK Digital Citizenship Summit... an event that was facilitated by Skype. Given the interest in the event from people overseas we tried to get companies to cover the costs of their advocates to attend the event in exchange for these educator putting some hustle in at BETT and at the Summit.

There was some success with this through Kyte Learning and Rosetta Stone... and am truly grateful to them for this support. I've seen a lot more of this kind of thing since last year, including ISTE including this as a method of getting to their annual conference.

It's never easy to say what impact this action or that had. Did Kyte Learning and Rosetta Stone's sponsorship with this have an impact with this? Who knows, but one thing is for sure.


Whether supporting EdTechBridge, putting hustle into ideas like #Get2ISTE or questioning the need for sales calls, I've been trying to nudge the idea of closer collaboration between educators and developers for a while... the limited success of some of these ideas testify to how important getting others to buy into your ideas are.

Getting the support of those first followers sure ain't easy! But when you get them, and when the culture is right... WOW! Oh The Places you Go!!

Image result for oh the place you go kid you can move a mountain

MIE Experts... At Community!

Establishing an ambassador program is something that's kept me up at night for a while now. As always I look for the "bright spots" and, as usual, these bright spots are almost always in the world of major tech companies.

It was suggested that I take a look at the Microsoft Educator Community two months ago. I did... and so impressed with what I saw that I still am!

Whether you look at the way the MIE Network was established in 2009, the success of the community in Scotland or the 3 million miles that educators clocked up at last year's Skypeathon... it all started somewhere.

It started with those first followers and will, no doubt, have involved treating them as valued members of the team.

I hope to go into more details about what I've noticed with looking in the MIE network in future posts. For the moment I'd like to suggest something that I think will help educators and developers for #CEduAD in a number of ways.

Arrange a Skype Call with a Developer

When you call what might be interesting is that you don't talk about the "What" you do... but why you do it.

Both education and startups are tough and I bet most stakeholder in the sector have a pretty compelling "Why"

What might happen after you connect? I've no idea. When I connected with an educator we established an international event in two months on a zero budget and a few months later major tech companies were supporting the next event.

In addition to this, if you're anything like companies like Night Zookeeper, who have logged loads of miles according to their Microsoft Educator Community pages, it won't do you any harm.

Indeed, I'd go so far as to say you'd be future proofing your business... because cold calls are dead! Seriously.

It might even lead to opening up new markets for you. Few exhibitors appear to attend both UK and US based education events, so this could be a good way to reach educators in other regions.

Not convinced? Take a look at the Skypeathon map below to see how many educators across the world were making connections via Skype during last year's Skypeathon. (NB The map has links to the educators MEC page and other social media accounts).

Black Friday for Edu?
As it's Black Friday EdTech companies might look to offer any savings that were made from not having to travel to meet the people you connect with over the next few days. If the educators need approval before signing off on the service provide a voucher that can be redeemed at a later date.

Why not call that company that you've put off since connecting at ISTE... or maybe there's a free tool that you'd be lost without, why not put a call in to say thank you.

If you are considering joining the Skypeathon on Tuesday and Wednesday and are relatively new to Skype this could be great practice and to make sure that everything is set up and working OK.

Obviously all the better if developers and educators continue the conversation into the Skypeathon ...and beyond. Here's a map Education Conference Exhibitors with links to their Social Media accounts:

Need Another Reason to Connect on #CEduAD?
I've been following the practices of Microsoft and Google etc for a few years and two things they do differently to a lot of other tech companies include 

1) They test to ensure that they've achieved "Product Market Fit" before honing in on the services that are ready to scale

2) In order to do this you need to collaborate and co-create with your users

I'll leave you with some extracts about Skype in 2007... if you think that it's an accident that people didn't know quite what to do with Skype and how Microsoft have used it to build strong relationships with the educator community, I'd say your dead wrong!

I'd like to see more companies with products and relationships like this... why not start this tomorrow, or today even ;)

"The history of successful companies is often rewritten to make it look like they tried one thing and the idea worked from the start. Most companies tried multiple ideas and products before they hit the right one. They failed repeatedly until they succeeded. They conserved capital and stayed small until they found product-market fit. Apple, Microsoft, Google et al consistently come up with great new innovations, but they also cycle through new ideas until they latch onto the right one, then they become ultra-focused. These companies build products all the time, but ship selectively". Why Startups Fail

Extracts about Skype from Peter Sheahan's book "Flip"
In the current business climate a 5 year plan could be just as dysfunctional as a 50 year plan.

Meg Whitman of eBay could not have said it better when she observed "Forget about 5 year plans, we're working on 5 day plans here." It's not that Whitman doesn't look 5 years into the future. She didn't pay $2.6 billion for Skype without thinking long term. But she and her colleagues are not following a detailed master plan, they're working out the plan as they go.

After eBay bought Skype for $2.6 billion, the two-cents-a-minute charge to call a normal phone was waived in North America for several months in order to build usage.

Instant, excellent, free: what kind of business model is that? But if you wonder why Skype will ever make enough profit for eBay to justify paying $2.6 billion for it, you're missing something. Sooner or later the technology that Skype used to create it's service was bound to be exploited in a similar way by someone. Once that technology existed, the genie was out the bottle. Not only that, but as with Google'spurchase of YouTube and NewsCorp of MySpace, the value was in the network and the relationship the brands have built with their customer base.

Skypes Founders were willing to act first and strategize how to exploit the technology as they proceeded. The enthusiastic response of custoemrs all over the world made Skype the gold standard of internet calling and created several revenue streams.

No-one can be certain yet if this is going to pay off at a level that justifies a $2.6 billion purchase price...When eBay released its first quarter numbers for 2007, first quarter net revenues for the entire company rose 27% to a record $1.77 billion, and net income rose 52% to $377 million. First-quarter net revenues for Skype rose 123% to $79 million. Meg Whitman said of Skype "This is a very young business growing very fast"

The picture looked less rosy on 1st October 2007, when eBay announced a $900 million one time write down on the $2.6 billion purchase of Skype... Two weeks later MySpace and Skype formed an alliance that enables MySpace users to make phone calls and send instant messages via Skype.

There are inevitably stumbles in any new venture, but on balance it looks as though eBay has reason to feel good about Skypes long term prospects.

Culture! Culture! Culture!
There is a business model in just owning the relationship, and not actually selling anything. In the example of Skype... Might I be so bold as to suggest that what made Skype so valuable was in fact their relationships, not their business model, which could easily be duplicated. Although Skype did not yet have profits, it did have a large and growing base of loyal users and eBay was making significant progress in monetizing the value of that customer base within a year after buying the company.

Product review sites are another increasingly popular form of middlemen... becoming trusted partners in customer purchases... As people look for advice from people they feel they can trust, rather than people they think are simply trying to sell them something. People want to do business with and take advice from people they know, like and trust. Peter Sheahan, Flip (And also author of the fantastic "Talent Magnets - Attracting and Retaining Young Teachers through Courageous Leadership).

Monday, 14 November 2016

#Skypeathon, #MsftEduChat & The Three Nations Challenge

This time last year I was involved with organising the UK Digital Citizenship Summit. This was facilitated by having a Skype call with someone who had been a member of my PLN for a while.

This year I'm doing what I can to assist Skype Master Teacher Andrew Minshall (@A_Minshall) with the "Three Nations Skypeathon Challenge" to see who can rack up the most Skype miles between Scotland, England and Wales... and where there has been a little bit of friendly banter regarding who'll have the bragging rights on the 1st December ;).

The reason for getting involved with the UK Digital Citizenship Summit and the Skypeathon are the same... to do what I can to help educators to connect and share their experiences.

Not only has Skype allowed me to connect and collaborate with people and in ways that would have been really difficult (Have you seen the cost of international calls Vs Skype?!), but I also have an appreciation of the importance of being able collaborate effectively remotely... and this is definitely a skill that needs to be taught.

Gaming was dismissed as a waste of time when I was growing up, this is not a view that we take in our house. I hear my oldest son chatting with his friends on his XBox and appreciate how valuable a skill he is developing by communicating so naturally with people online.

My own personal experience is one thing, and might see one or two educators check it out... but nothing beats word of mouth and peer recommendations. Check out what the data has to say:

Microsoft Education Community Stats
I've been checking in on the various education ambassador programmes from time to time over the last few years and over the past few weeks I've been exploring the world of Microsoft Innovative Educators (MIEs) and the stats on the Microsoft Education Community (MEC) pages.

Each MIE profile includes a map with the number of Skype calls, miles traveled and countries visited. I found that 139 MIEs had racked up 26,066,155 miles after having 9,816 skype calls.

I'm sure that this number would not be quite as big if these educators didn't get value out of these calls for themselves and their students.

Scotland, England and Wales
While my focus in other countries has been with MIEs, I took a bit of a deeper dive into the MEC community in the UK and looked at the profiles of people who were either looking to have Mystery Skype Sessions and/or included their Skype username on their profile.

There appeared to be 22 UK based MIEs who had 424 Skype calls and traveled 577,622 miles.

Almost 100 other educators on the MEC forum have chalked up 2,400 Skype calls and 6,448,387 miles.

Making that First Call
I know from experience that sending that first Tweet, publishing that first blog post and making that first Skype call can be a nerve wracking experience (Esp that first job interview via Skype... That was horrendously nerve wracking!)

Based on the number of people who have requests for Mystery Skypes on their profile pages, but have no miles on the board... I don't think I'm alone.

I've created a Twitter list of Skype Master Teachers, who I'm sure would be happy to address any queries that people may have. We've also created this Skypeathon MEC Contacts spreadsheet which includes the same information as this map:

...And I would Skype 26 Million Miles for the Three Nations Challange and 26 Million More. Lol
Please Note: If you are wanting your miles to be credited with the Three Nations Skypeathon you need to be a member of the Microsoft Education Community. Please sign up before the event as the miles will not be counted or credited after the Skypeathon. 

For people who would like to find out more #MsftEduChat will take place tomorrow (15th Nov) at 10am and 4pm PST (6pm & 12am GMT) and will be discussing the Skypeathon, why not join the chat?

PLN Request... Three Nations Challenge & Team Scotland
On the map above I have included Scottish educators who are part of the MEC community and includes a few who are still to rack up some miles.

It would be great if people in my PLN could drop them a note, Tweet out to them, send an email, dispatch a courier pigeon or send a message in a bottle to see if they'd like to connect via Skype... ideally on the 29th or 30th November for the Three Nations Challenge... but the most important thing is to connect, share and collaborate, so schedule a call for another time if that doesn't suit.

...You never know where that call might take you! Check what happened with one of my Skype calls

Monday, 7 November 2016

Microsoft, Ambassador Programs... And MIE

It's a year since I had a Skype call with Digital Citizenship Summit organisers. The result of this call was that we decided to hold a UK based event within a few weeks.

This event demonstrates what innovative educators can achieve in a short period of time... and on a zero budget. Many of the people who were involved with this were amazed at what was achieved in a short period of time. This event took 2 months to organise... but, from my perspective, was 3 years in planning.

During this time I've collaborated with a number of people and groups on some really interesting projects. Some worked out straight away, others have taken a little longer to develop.

The latest project has been to explore Microsoft's Innovative Educator (MIE) network, where I notice that I have collaborated with a number of MIEs.

This post looks at my experiences with innovative educators in relation to this exploration of Microsoft Innovative Educators.

For the past 4 years I've not only looked to the practices of major tech companies for ideas about "Where the puck is going to land" with Edtech sales... this research has highlighted the extent to which I have been collaborating with educators that these tech companies have recognised as innovative educators.

Words simply cannot convey the gratitude that I have for the educators and education based professionals mentioned in this post!

(NB There are lots of other educators who have supported me, but this post focuses on MIEs)

As someone looking to make the transition from sales to community management, and with an active interest in alternative ways of ideas getting traction in education, I have kept an eye on the various ambassador programs over the last few years... and includes checking how many ambassadors of education products are in Scotland/UK.

The last time I checked there were only a handful of MIEs, Google Certified Teachers and Apple Distinguished Educators.

Today there are now hundreds educators in the UK on Microsoft's Community pages who are ambassadors of their products and services in one way or the other (Microsoft Innovative Educator Experts, Trainers and Skype Master Teachers) and thousands more across the world.

The rest of this post considers how big a role Microsoft has played in my career, is a huge THANK YOU to those innovators... as well as a recommendation to check out some of these ambassador programs.

Microsoft and Me - Getting Connected
First or all I would be lost without my Excel and Word applications... and I mean totally lost! I was once asked by a colleague if I dream in excel. Lol

At the end of 2010 I found myself along with some 20 colleagues redundant due to my then employer downsizing as a result of government cuts.

As part of my job search, as I had taken a project from an idea to working with 50% of FE Colleges (with 100% repeat business) within 3 years, I wondered if my experiences are good enough to secure an interview with one of the big 3 tech companies (Microsoft, Google and Apple).

I manage to get through to a Microsoft Edu exec and one of the pieces of advice I am given is

"You're not on social media? Get connected... it comes with the job today if you want to be in EdTech"

I had no digital footprint at all up until this point. Everything I did to engage with educators was via email and phone calls. Based on this advice I open a Linkedin and Twitter account and tentatively explore the joys of being connected.

I was very lucky that my first Tweet led to collaboration as I sent a Tweet of appreciation to Social Nation Author, Barry Libert... this led to us developing a "Twitter in FE Report."

Without Barry's time and patience I'm not sure that my other reports would have followed. The difference between the first draft that I sent him and the last with all his advice was significant.

Discovering Inbound Marketing
In early 2011 I have what can only be described as two "career changing" experiences.

1) Attending an Inbound Marketing workshop by MIT's Bill Aulet.
2) Working on two projects that became overnight successes:

               i) An idea was developed and co-created with prospective users.
              ii) A year long  pilot at three FE colleges

We got enquiries from 230 colleges within 3 weeks with the first project. With the second project, 5 Local Authorities committed £15,000 each almost overnight due to the positive results from the pilot.

My experiences prior to this was that we'd find the relevant person/department to have a phone conversation with, arrange an initial meeting and then have a follow up meeting. It might then be a few weeks/months before securing the order.

Think about that for a moment, if it takes two meetings and anywhere from 3-6 months to secure an order for a £1-3,000 product... how much of a "Must Have" tech tool can what you are selling be?

Securing £75,000 from 5 Local Authorities and having 230 request more information on an idea within 3 weeks after sending one email before all other activity thereafter being "Inbound" was a real eye opener. This confirmed to me that cold calling was dead but it also raised questions about how products were developed. 

It was at Aulet's workshop that I wondered if instead of focusing on any particular product, if it is the way that ideas are developed and rolled out that needed to change in Edtech.

As always I asked who's going things well? Where are the bright spots?

In the C4LPT Top Tools for Learning 2012 survey I noticed that some 40 out of the top tools were free tech tools that were developed by major tech companies. So spent some time researching this.

I didn't realise when I highlighted Microsoft's collaboration with PA's School of the Future or Reading UTC in a report that I wrote in 2012 that I was mentioning a network that would be part of a network of 1,000 schools and almost 5,000 Microsoft Innovative Educators a few years later.

The advice from Community Management experts is "Listen! Listen! Listen!" to the community before doing anything (Must read posts regarding this are David Spinks "CMX Guide to Getting Started in Community Management" and Kelly Hungerford's "Community First").

I wasn't aware of "Community Management" as a career or of phrases like "Social Selling" when I joined EdTechChat at 1am local time each week for over a year. But what stood out to me immediately was that some 40 tech tools and services mentioned some 400 times in the first 5 weeks... without a sales rep in sight! I had a front row seat to the "Cold Calling is Dead" show.

Conversations with MIE Susan Bearden have been particularly useful and insightful... as well as her collaboration with Mad Learn was a shining beacon at ISTE two years later (See below).

In December 2012 there were some frustrations with one aspect of being a participant in the EdTechChat conversations... there was all this love for tech tools that "Got it right" (Mostly from companies who had a geographic advantage and/or EdTech incubator companies who were able to stay as small as possible for as long as possible while enjoying better access to educators for feedback and input).

I floated the idea of #StartupEduChat where suppliers could share ideas and resources. This was seen as over-utopian from some EdTech companies that I suggested the idea to.

When I saw that MIE Steve Isaacs had an SXSWEdu Session on the same topic, I spent a few months supporting the EdTechBridge Twitter chat.

Another idea that was the result of "Listening and Learning" from EdTechChat was the idea of tech companies supporting educators to get to ISTE after hearing that one of the reasons educators were not able to attend was due to costs.

This is a project that I have tested a few times to see if the timing was right. I was delighted to see a Get2ISTE recipient on the big screen during the closing keynote in 2015 and the idea being included in ISTE "5 ways to get to ISTE" post.

There is one thing that is absolutely 100% VITAL to getting an idea to this stage, and it's those crucial first followers. MIE Brian Romero Smith was one of the first (If not the first) to open a #Get2ISTE account on PledgeCents.

While this project may look like it had questionable results, it has highlighted to me how slow it can be for ideas to get traction... they need time to develop and sometimes the timing just isn't right.

If there is one thing that I've learnt over the course of the last few years it's this: Learn about momentum. As entrepreneur Joe Kraus puts it

"Being early is the same as being wrong."


The concept of #Get2ISTE came about through EdTechChat and pulling together some information about EdChat Moderators and one of my first attempts at community building with an EdChat Modertor forum that I established and an EdChat Resource plan that I worked on with Nurph.

As well as Susan Bearden and Steve Isaacs who give up their time to moderate chats each week I notice that there are other MIEs who are moderators like Andre Sprang and Skype Master Teacher, Beverley Ladd.

Madlearning from Co-creating with Educators
Since those first 5 weeks of following EdTechChat I've been intrigued by which companies get more love from the education community on social media compared with others. Since 2013 I have tried to curate conference data to look for various trends including the level of EdTech company positive and negative comments.

Apart from the big tech companies it wasn't easy to find any outlier and exemplar companies, until 2014 and Susan Beardon's Tweachme App. An educator and EdTech company co-creating a tool and then the educator going to the event to discuss the product.

What's this got to do with anything? Go take a look at some of the Microsoft Edu staff's LinkedIn profiles and see how many of them have classroom experience. If there is one thing that educators value, its recommendations from their peers. I'm seeing more and more brand ambassador roles being filled by educators.

The ideas from my Job Interview: Where do you see yourself in a Year post felt a little bit "out there" when I wrote them but seems very relevant today... as does the idea that cold calling is dead in EdTech.

SXSWEdu Digital Diversity
In 2015 I was aware that Sarah Thomas and others submitted a Digital Diversity session called "Minority Women in Tech" for the SXSWEdu Conference, which included MIE Rafranz Davis... Now this is a big deal as it lead to a chance introduction which was has proved significant.

Declara CEO, Ramona Pierson, was being interviewed for International Women's Day and was discussing being a woman in Silicon Valley (And winning) as well as how difficult it was to find female coders.

I jumped up from my desk to get this formidable startup lady's name to pass onto the SXSWEdu team and invited her to connect on LinkedIn. She accepted the invite and suggested that I speak to her VP James Stanbridge to discuss some collaborative projects

Mr Microsoft
I check out James' profile on Linkedin and I have a worrying kind of de ja vu feeling of "Oh no!" James is a former Microsoft VP. Why the "Oh No?" Well, any time I've tried to engage with people who work/worked for "The Big 3" regarding my experiences and the chances of being hired, the results have been the same. If it was a Little Britain sketch it would be a case of "The computer says No"

But not this time, James sees value in some of my projects and we agree to keep in contact. James has been supportive of my work since that very first call and I am extremely grateful to him for that.

After doing a little consultancy work with James, he provided me with a recommendation that makes me smile every time I read it!

Chris van der Kuyl & Malcolm Wilson
During the Scottish Learning Festival last year. Chris van der Kuyl gave a keynote presentation which I 100% agreed with and thought "I know what's needed here" and spent the next few weeks listening and seeing what the data told me about Scottish Education.

The more I looked at the data, the more the data screamed that there is something special happening in Falkirk. This lead me to MIE Expert and trainer Malcolm Wilson.

...This in turn led to where this post began and An Amazing Skype call with a Connected Educator and hosting the UK Digital Citizenship Summit within a couple of months.

The one condition that I had with regard to assisting with this was that the event that took place in Scotland to support the DigiLearnScot agenda... as with so many new ideas things didn't quite go to plan (In more ways than one... The joys of startupland.) and we had to move the event to England so that international speakers and delegates could attend the BETT Show and the summit.

I have been extremely fortunate to be able to be able to call on Malcolm and one of the Digital Citizenship Summit Co-Founders for advice and have collaborated with them on the Pokemon Go report over the course of July and August.

Pokemon Go and Michelle Zimmerman
When exploring the MIE data I noticed that Michelle Zimmerman's name came up in a few articles and from early on in the programme. Given that the establishment of a "super user" program is one of the things that are keeping me up at night at the moment, I thought to myself

"I need to try to get an introduction to Michelle when I'm finished all the number crunching with this"

Some of the ISTE DigCit PLN people that I collaborated with on the Pokemon Go report presented details of this Pokemon Go report a couple of weeks ago and, as luck would have it, Michelle was there and asked to be introduced to me... I cannot wait to find out about Michelle's involvement with the MIE program, as well as her other projects.

SLF2015 & 2016
Depending on how you look at some of the projects that I've explored through listening to educators and collaborating with them... there have been some failures as well as successes.

In many cases the "failed" projects are not failures, it's just that their time has not come yet and we've not been forcing the issue.

I've been trying to "Iterate my way to product market fit" for a while now before scaling. It felt like my original business plan was something that wouldn't work out, so I set it aside, but it seems more relevant than ever.

The ideas that I had this time last year after listening to the SLF15 presentations didn't work out because the ideas had no merit, they didn't work because the timing and, to some extent the execution (Which I take responsibility for) wasn't quite right.

Through exploring the MIE network I can see how the timing might be a little better to explore these same ideas.

Core Values and Brand Voice
This time last year #Cmgrhangout discussed the importance of "Brand Voice" and using core values as a way to establish this voice. I've been using this for the last year now and, all in all, it seems to be working out quite well. It's an exercise that was well worth while and that I would recommend.

Paying It Forward
  • The fact that Excel and Word are my "Must have tools"
  • The Microsoft Exec who took a moment to advise me to "Get Soicial," 
  • The authors who kindly gave me permission to reference their work in my EdTech report
  • The MIE and Twitter Chat moderator who helped me to see that cold calling was dead
  •  Those vital "First Followers" with ideas like EdTechBridge and Get2ISTE
  • The SXSWEdu DigiDiversity presenters who led me to "Mr Microsoft" AKA James Stanbridge
  • An amazing Skype call with a connected educator
  • The invaluable advice from people like Malcolm Wilson 
  • Recognising trends in a program that went from one school in 2012 to almost 1,000 with 5,000 MIEs
There is no way of knowing if one of these things didn't happen if it would have lead to the next.

There is also no way of repaying in kind what the MIEs above have done to help me. Whether it was a 30sec DM, a 3 min conversation or collaboration project over the course of a few months.

Words cannot convey the gratitude that I have for the people who have assisted me in my personal and professional development.

The fact that there are a number of MIEs who have played a role in this confirms one of two things to me:

1) Tech companies and innovative educators can (and are!) playing a significant role with ed reform
2) What other interesting projects and ideas are there to be had if I were to find out about and connect with other MIEs?

I gave my assurances to someone who did me an act of kindness a few years ago from someone I admire that I would "Pay it Forward" as and when I can.

This time last year the guys at Skype expressed an interest in supporting the UK Digital Citizenship Summit. People in my PLN may have noticed that I've been spending a bit of time sharing details of the Skypeathon and the three nations challenge. The reason for this? All of the reasons in this post.

I hope that it helps to get a classroom or two connected and leads to the kind of people that I have met and collaborated with since being online.

Friday, 4 November 2016

Exploring the Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert Network

In my last post I used Pokemon Go to argue how and why I felt that innovative educators and tech companies were achieving more than our policy makers.

In this post I explain how and why I am going to be spending a little time exploring the world of Microsoft Innovative Educators, and other ambassador programs in education.

Since 2012 I have wondered whether the focus should be more on the way that technology is developed and gains traction in education rather than on the actual product.

The impetus for this was surveys like C4LPT Top Tools for Learning. In the 2012 survey I noticed that the majority of tools were free tools that were developed by major tech companies.
  • Was this because they were free? 
  • Or because the major tech companies were doing things differently?
With the kind permission from the authors of a number of startup books I wrote a report on the topic about the importance of "Developing Relationships and Delivering Value". Every project that I've explored over the last few years has been in an attempt to do what I can to nudge these ideas forward.

In July I got a chance to review and update the ideas from this report by exploring how and why the overnight success of Pokemon Go was the result of 2 years of hustle (See the Tech Adoption Cycle section of the DigCitPLNs' Pokemon Go Back to School Advice report).

Last month I caught up with MIE Expert Malcolm Wilson, who highlighted that Microsoft was doing some interesting things in Scotland and recommended that I check it out.

So there's the first and most important reason for exploring something... I might have a bit of a rebellious streak, but if there is one thing that I'll listen to it's the recommendation of an educator (Especially one who knows how to explore tech tools like Malcolm does!).

The evidence is right there at the Scottish Learning Festival as the Education Secretary will be announcing the Digital Schools Awards later in the day. Another expensive government initiative that will get replaced by something else in a few years? No Sir! A collaborative effort between Intel, HP, Microsoft as well as the Scottish Government.

I decide to see if the data confirms what Malcolm tells me... and Boy does it! Here are some top line stats:

5,000 MIEs from across the globe
Just stop and think about that for a moment. In today's Brexit, "I'm gonna build a wall" Trumpism and all the conflict and tensions between this country or group and that... This tech company has a network of educators who are in the same space innovating and collaborating.

I'm not being snarky when I pose this question...But

How many policy makers would be able to achieve this in a few short years?

Recognizing Educators 
There are a number of ways that this appears to happen from the MIE points and badge system, flying educators from across the globe to connect and collaborate and even hiring people with classroom experience to be teacher ambassadors.

Personal experience
When looking at the data and lists of MIEs I was surprised at how many I had collaborated with in a meaningful was and/or who had greatly assisted with my personal and professional development

Scottish Education
I spent a few months focusing on Scottish Education and two of the connections that I made happened to also be MIEs.

As someone who has explored alternative roll out methods I have kept an eye on the various ambassador programs.

The last time I looked there were not all that many ambassadors of EdTech companies in Scotland... so was surprised to find that there are some 40 MIEs in Scotland today. Someone has put a bit of hustle in somewhere recently. This includes St Mungo's in Falkirk recently being recognised as a Microsoft Showcase School.

I'll be going into more detail in my blog about all things Microsoft and MIEs and for a number of reasons... Including helping educators who are part of my PLN, as well as to scratch my own itch.

Super User Programs
As a relatively new #Cmgr an area of extreme interest to me is the development of "Super User" programs. One that I have paid close attention to is the Salesforce MVPs as just about all of them include "Salesforce MVP" on their social media profiles.

A similar level of enthusiasm can be found with MIEs check it out: MIE Twitter List and Skype Master Teacher Twitter List.

There's on thing that's at the heart of all of this and it's the same as with Pokemon Go:

You have to start with a good product... and that involved close collaboration with your users and fans to ensure that the product/service is fit for purpose.

This time last year Malcolm's blog helped facilitate a Skype call that had some interesting results.

Why not check out what the educators who are already part of this network know by joining the Skype-a-thon at the end of the month:

We'll be encouraging people who assisted with the Pokemon Go report to get involved with this... and hope that they will help Scottish Educators with the friendly competition that they are having in the 3 Nations Challenge.