Friday, 13 March 2020

Broken EdTech Treasure

Image result for roger hicks broken treasure
The last decade working in EdTech in Scotland has brought with it a lot of ups and downs... This post includes some of the 'Broken Treasures' from the last few years.

EdTech in Scotland sure ain't easy and it needn't be! There are a number of High Impact/Low Cost solutions that would be easy to implement.

The Psychological Price of Entrepreneurship looks at the stresses and strains of trying to make new ideas work... and how it can be a tough road even for the successful entrepreneurs!!

Cory Pein's expose of life in Silicon Valley in 'Live Work Work Work Die' highlights how for every successful Unicorn company there are lots of people who, like Las Vagas, are attracted by the bright lights and promises of riches... but end up leaving empty handed.

He tells of one tech entrepreneur who was the next big thing in tech, got venture capital funding etc, but the idea didn't take off... when he met up with this guy later he was a waiter at a mid-sized restaurant and was the happiest he had been in years.

People I have collaborated with over the last few years have had a problem with the level of transparency that I have demonstrated. Part of the reason for this transparency is because of:

1) Knowledge Transfer - I am keen to share my experiences of life in startup land, edtech and trying to make the transition from out dated sales methods to in-demand community building.

2) Story Telling - Having helped the authors of books like Spy Quest & New Power in education I'm looking to help Rough Diamond and Be More Pirate in a way that kids as young as 5-6 will be interested in and get excited about.

One area that I have been more and more transparent in the last 18 months is with regard to our personal situation which highlights just how tough EdTech/start up land in Scotland can be. The blurring of sharing personal information professionally has not been easy.

November 2018 I used this blog to ask for help with a desperate crowd funder.

Last April the stress of it all caught up with me, which is when I read 'Roger Hicks Considers' article and his take on Broken Treasure II in Amateur Photographer

"We all have 'treasures' which we cannot bear to throw away; which are of little or no objectionable use; and which may not even be reparable. Could you bear to throw away a 400 year old book? Or a china colt you bought when you were seven, even now his leg is broken? Or the silver watch your mother bought you for your 21st birthday? Even the 'sepia' lightning is nostalgic. 

It doesn't matter what your personal treasures may be; but I would be very sorry for you if you had none. An old teddy bear? A propelling pencil with your name engraved on it, which doesn't actually propel any more? 

This will be my last ever Final Analysis. I am dying: cancer of the liver and pancreas. I may even be dead by the time you read this. Or I may not; the doctors are understandably cagey. For me, now, life itself is a broken treasure." Roger Hicks April 2019

I'm proud of what I've achieved in the education space over the last 20 years, but things can't continue as they are, so I thought it would be timely to pull together just a few of the 'Broken Treasures' I've collected in EdTech on the high seas of startup land in #GoDo #ScotlandCan Glasgow.

Here are 13 'Broken Treasures' from my time in EdTech in the last few years.

As Ev William's Blogger and Twitter have been instrumental in giving me a voice and with these projects... I've split these memories between the two.

Here's the Twitter Thread:

June 2009 - Flying High
A job that I entered at £16,000 a year in 2001 I managed to turn into £60,000 through being both versatile and excelled at every role I held.

November 2012 - Startup on a Refurbished Shoestring
When this company hit financial difficulty, despite being established in Glasgow and the majority of staff being based in Scotland, everything was relocated to the London Office.

The relocation package offered was £25,000. From £60,000 in Glasgow to £25,000 for London life? Erm... I said No Thanks!! At the time. If I knew then what I know now I wonder what I'd have done.

However, while I was extremely proud of what I'd done from 2003-2009 - including taking an idea from concept to working with 50% of UK Further Education Colleges with 100% repeat business within three years - not much of this work appears to have lasted.

I want my working life to both make a difference and to last... I decided to start up on my own.

With a limited budget I got a refurbished laptop in late 2012 for £149

October 2013 - Content Marketing
Outside of email I had no personal digital presence until 2011 but was advised by the then head of UK Education for Microsoft

'If you want to be in EdTech today, you need to have an online presence'

In 2011 & 2012 I wrote a number of reports for FE, which were well received.

In 2013 I wrote my EdTech Report 'Developing Relationships and Delivering Value' which OCR expressed an interest in.

This report led to an interview with OCR for a senior post, but no luck.

July 2014 - Leaving FE
As all of my connections were in UK Further Education, it made sense for my business plan to focus on this area.

Unfortunately I didn't see that the effects of 2008 'Austerity' (while giving the banks billions) had froze innovation in the sector.

In July 2014 I achieved more in six weeks with US connected educators than I did in two years in FE when I helped EdShelf Founder, Mike Lee, to successfully crowdfund $30,000 to save his company.

December 2015 - Building Something Together?
Sharing a blog post about a shared interest - digital citizenship - led to a Skype call and, two months later a global event had taken place.

Given my experiences with not having much to show for almost 10 years at the startup above, the first thing I now do is to check out an organisations core values.

The core values of this organisation spoke to me... but turned out to be nothing more than a cat poster.

As were the promises of payment, job offers and equity in an enterprise I was constantly told 'we were building together'

However, before all the drama there was a payment made in December 2015 in recognition of the time and effort put in between Nov-Dec 2015. So it's one of those 'Broken Treasures'

April-July 2016 - Hot Shot Silicon Valley Start Up
When I was told of the redundancy in my previous role the first thing I did was to write down my new goals...

1) Work for a Hot Shot Silicon Valley Start-Up and/or
2) Work for one of 'The Big Three' (Microsoft, Google or Apple)

The reason? Because those guys both take culture seriously and know how to scale ideas so they last!

In 2016, thanks to a connection made via Sarah Thomas and the friendship of James Stanbridge... I achieved this goal... YAY!

Unfortunately the first attempt at remote working proved challenging and non-payment (After James left the organisation) meant this experience also became a 'Broken Treasure' (Careful what you wish for folks!)

December 2017 - The Christmas Gift Times were tough and someone who's become a very dear friend sent presents from the US for our kids... Unfortunately there were customs charges that we didn't have the money to pay for... so they were returned.

This 'broken treasure' is dogeared as it serves as a bookmark in one of my favourite books I read often, to remind me there are kind people in the world.

July 2018 - Rebooting The Well's #YOYOW... Adding some JOIAs a result of my involvement with 'Connected Educator Appreciation Day' #CEduAD, which I had worked on since 2015 I connected with an organisation who told me about their 'JOI Compass' which, as you can see from the scribblings, I quickly pirated!

I seem to do and say lots that benefits others but the actions have not always benefited me, hopefully this will help ;)

With the help of Scottish Government funding, this organisation was looking to hire me but there was an issue with the funding criteria. Yet another broken treasure.

NB A tidier version of the JOI Compass can be found at 'An EdTech Stories Legend' and on the #YOYOWJOI hashtag.

September 2018 - Repossessed (Again!)
Start-ups are tough and I knew what I hoped to achieve in 2011/12 would be more than a bit of a challenge.

By August 2018 due to the various non-payments - It's startup land, it happens! - the only home our kids had ever known was repossessed.

By September 2018 we had a family member who was terminally ill, we then find all our possessions that were in storage were now at risk.

Two months later, the day after my Mother-in-Laws funeral, I would put a desperate crowd fund together.

The 23 people who contributed to this are constantly in our thoughts.

November 2018 - There Will Be Storms Child
By now professionally and personally running on empty, I volunteer to go onto the 'Fair Start Scotland' program and in February during one of their Job Club sessions I switch from being the client to teacher for a day as I shared everything that I had done over the last few years.

The staff listening to my story were beyond amazed with it all.

Being someone that wanted to see a return to 'The Well' since 2015, as well as seeing where the experiment of big social media of the 2010-2014/5 was headed as a direct result of what people like Howard Rheingold did after that space became predictable 30 years ago - I should not have been surprised at the results.

The founders of The Well founded a space that punched above it's weight, but struggled to make any money... When it did get investment and became more corporate, the space wasn't the same.

"Capitalism wants to keep you in your cubicle and have you spend as much as possible... What happens if we dismember the tribe" Well Founder Stewart Brand via Katie Hefnar's book.

March 2019 - Tedx Presentation
In March it was suggested that I submit a proposal at TedxGlasgow where the theme was 'Connecting and Empowering,' which I did.

The proposal was not accepted but, as someone that has struggled financially in Scotland's non-existent EdTech startup scene, it was a fantastic exercise for me.

June 2019 - ISTE #MIEBoom
Playing truant and taking my youngest son to a school to make a Skype call with his favourite author, SpyQuest's David Goutcher, was a real highlight of my professional career.

Having Andrea Tolley (@TolleyA) present on this at ISTE last year and helping my son to create a movement of his own has been a joy.

The fact that this may be an unfinished project is another 'Broken Treasure'

Tuesday, 25 February 2020

Six Degrees of Separation: #SkypeMS Book Challenge

As Scotland trended on social media when an MP arranged for Drag Queen 'Flow Job' to visit a school to read to primary school children... This post explores an idea where connected educators and school children could empower their class to have more appropriate role models visit their school.

Around this time last year I was reading Marc Smith's 1992 College Thesis 'Voices from the Well' and 'Analyzing Social Networks using NODEXL' where I found out about the documentary

Over the last two years I've been supporting efforts to make an unconference/Edcamp and a related 'Skype Master Student' idea work.

Over the last 5 years I've been involved with efforts to make Tweets, class teddies as well as people connect virtually and 'F2F/IRL'

The early online community 'The Well' and how this space punched above its weight has never been far from my mind, as well as how Stewart Brand changed the world, twice by connecting people from different groups or 'tribes' which I've also found can have interesting and productive results.

Related to this is the fact that I have a dream skype call I'd like my 9 year old's school to make with people like Stewart and Ben Novak... Inspirational people who truly have changed the world.

However, getting a controversial speaker with some questionable tweets to accompany Mahri Black to a school in Paisley appears easier than to have these game changing influencers skype into my sons school???

Some critical friends tell me that getting change in Scottish education takes 10 years... well my 9 year old will be 19 when this change comes, or correspondence from Education Scotland suggests that

'We hope our 2030 STEM 'vision' is reassures you that we are on top of things'

A 2030 'Vision'? Too little too late for a 9 year old in 2020 and his class mates, I'm afraid.

I've seen some amazing collaboration result from the 'Shallow Engagement' of that first Skype call developing into meaningful collaboration and 'Deep Engagement' a few months after making an introduction.

In 2017 my son skipped school to help his favourite author to recruit Westquarter Primary School's class teddy Ellie the Elephant.

Last year Andrea Tolley presented this project at the Microsoft Innovaive Educator Boom event at ISTE

I re-watched the Connected film last week and wondered if we could replicate the 40 packages that were sent to MIT and came up with the

The Connected - Six Degrees of Separation Book Challenge

We are going to be sending the 11 books below - among others - to people we know on a first name basis and will follow the model of the social experiment from the film and see if they can make it to the intended destination within six connections (or less).

Among the books we'll be sending include:

For Kids

Wonkey Donkey
The Alchemist
The Little Prince
Spy Quest Polybius
Spy Quest Cursed Diamond
Wagon Train Adventure

For Kids & Adults
The Well
Buzzing Communities
Virtual Communities
Analyzing Social Networks Using NodeXL
Give and Take
Things a Little Bird Told Me
New Power
Rough Diamond
Be More Pirate
World Gone Social

Adult PD
Atlas Shrugged
Inside Out The Microsoft Story
The Third Policeman

This is a project that started in October 2015 as, when I visited Larbert High School's PD Day, I left my copies of Katie Hafner's 'The Well' and Richard Millington's 'Buzzing Communities' with a member of the English Staff.

In January 2016 The Alchemist made it's way from Glasgow to Boston within on connection.

In November 2017 my son gave his copy of both Spy Quest books to a kind kid he met at The Reception of Westquarter Primary School.

In April 2019 he handed Wonkey Donkey into the team at Be Yonder, by June it had virtually made it's way to ISTE via Greeneville Middle School

Others are about to be sent.

The hope here is that 'Connected Educators' will get more connected and the book challenge will see them collaborate in the not too distant future... I wonder how big this will grow between now and World Book Day 2021

The rationale here regarding the classes that are 'unconnected,' like my 9 year old kids' school is that there are two common traits with most educators:

1) "For the sake of the kids" is a true statement
2) "A love of reading and life long learning" usually applies

In today's paper alone there is news of 11,000 jobs going along with the 150,000 retail jobs in 2018 to go with the 175,000 in 2019 as some 40,000 retail outlets closed their doors due to online shopping.

Community and movement building is and will continue to be an in-demand skill, but it's not being taught at any of my kids' schools... so we're teaching it - as best we are able to - at home.

A 9 year old student encouraging his school class to agree to getting their faviourite author to visit and them facilitating a dream skype call with others may be a bit of a stretch...

But he sure can arrange for a book with a letter where they 'Show their Friendship First' as Dave Kerpen puts it and/or a '5 minute favour' and sharing their faviourite book IS something they can achieve.

Maybe this will lead to the author of the book visiting their school and skyping with the class that they sent their books to?

Only time will tell... Hopefully we won't be waiting til any 2030 STEM Vision to see the results.

...And perhaps some MP/MSPs will be as enthusiastic as this as they are about giving Flow Jobs access to schools in their constituencies?