Monday, 15 May 2017

#GE2017 From #VoteYes to No Thanks - A Lesson in Culture & Loyalty

Image result
This post is a lesson in, as Peter Theil might put it, "Don't F**k up the Culture" as well as Peter Shankman's advice that "If you want people to be loyal, help them out of a jam" and details my experiences with supporting the SNP during the Independence Referendum and explains why I'll now be supporting Jeremy Corbyn during #GE2017.

Since 2012 I have focused on the way that ideas roll out in Education and explored what major tech companies do differently, and the culture the organisation sets appears to be a major factor.

Being involved in education you come into contact with politicians from time to time and it's amazing how little attention is paid to culture by the political classes.

In 2014 I became interested in the Independence Referendum, not because of politics or independence, but because of the culture that had been established. It felt as if Jane Jacobs ideas could burst to life and flourish in towns and cities across Scotland.

Remember when it was Labour who had all the close cropped pictures and The SNP with the panoramic shots with huge crowds?

At the time (As is the case now) I said I'd work with any political party to explore methods in other areas of Scottish life that the 56 newly elected SNP MPs benefited from.

"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." Why SNP Domination was Inevitable in 6 May 2015

With literacy rates falling, the Education Committee's survey findings where Headteachers are leaving the classroom to stack shelves in supermarkets because of pay and conditions, FE lecturers taking industrial action... I think it's safe to say the #IndyRef #VoteYes culture has disappeared.Or maybe it's that "Team56 and the Scottish Government was only interested in getting elected and/or only really interested in one topic: #IndyRef2?

This post looks at the culture of the Sottish Independence Referendum, the 2015 & 2017 General Elections and my own experiences with this groups lack of attention to their fans and the culture they created in September 2014.

Prior to September 2014 I had the misfortune of dealing with a number of politicians on various projects in a professional capacity (As well as a trying to get help and advice on some personal issues), each and every encounter was a complete and utter waste of time. That may come across as being snarky... but it's also a fact! Maybe that wouldn't be the case if I had been a member of the Bullingdon club, but I wasn't.

Up until the 9th September 2014 I had little interest in the Scottish Independence Referendum. That changed when the atmosphere and culture of the many rallies that were starting to build momentum.

I made it clear in this blog that I was not all that political, but what interested me was the culture. The opportunity for implementing some of Jane Jacobs ideas and/or reducing the Attainment gap was very real.

Those conditions are no longer there for the SNP, but do seem to be emerging in the Corbyn camp, which I am now supporting. I detail some of the reasons below.

Some Predictions
The day of the Independence Referendum result in September 2014 I asked "Was the best yet to come," the day before the 2015 General Election when the pundits were all saying "The polls can't be right... if they were that would lead to unheard of 40% swings to the SNP" but I detailed Why SNP Domination was Inevitable.

My views about global domination by the SNP and their cult popularity status changed drastically 2 days after the General Election. Yep, while everyone had the champagne out at the height of their success I was disagreeing with the pundits that "It would take 10 years for other parties to rebuild in Scotland"
Labouring on with Team56 how to Rebuild Trust.

Image result for jim collins 5 stages of decline

Where did these insights come from? I spent a year watching an organisation that I had invested 10 years of my time with slowly but surely slide down Jim Collins "5 Stages of Decline" and recognised them with an organisation that I'd supported for a couple of years.

I have seen nothing to suggest that the SNP have not moved from Stage 1: Hubris to Stage 2: The Undisciplined Pursuit for More (The announcement of #IndyRef2/#ScotRef in March) and Stage 3: Denial of Risk (The local election results on the 4th May 2017 and dismissing the result by other parties).

I went on to produce this If Tech Stories did Politics document to try to let others know what might work.

But just as I saw that there were opportunities in Sept 2014... I also saw that there were risks at the time. I offered to help in a number of ways and on a number of occasions. How was this assistance received? It was either ignored or dismissed. In one memorable instance I was asked to help... Only to be blocked on Social Media later.

But why bother acknowledging the efforts of one supporter when you have a record 100,000 registered voters. Where are they today? A party with such large numbers of supporters two years ago and only 65 people supporting Salmond's Crowdfunder... WOW austerity must REALLY be kicking in!

Today I am spending as as much time on pro-Labour hashtags as I did with #IndyRef/#VoteYes/SNP ones... for the same reason. In 2014 the VoteYes movement was fun and buzzing, today the Corbyn movement appears to have the better culture.

Sept 2014
Support for #VoteYes was established through a fantastic grassroots non-political positive message of "Vote Yes" and there "Yes for independence groups" everywhere "Asians for Yes" "Academics for Yes" "Women for Independence" etc.

There were also Yes Scotland Twitter accounts for various Scottish towns and cities. The weekend after the referendum result the "Yes" campaigners were taking a well earned rest. But the movement didn't. The post-IndyRef/Yes movement had a couple of days to set the culture following the election result.

As a fan of organisational culture and researching what successful companies and organisations do differently, I was confident I could offer some input at this point. I managed to engage a senior Yes Campaign Manager on Twitter. Here are some of my DMs on the 24th and 25th Sept 2014:

...And what happened with this fantastic movement and hashtag? Exactly what I said would happen (#The45Plus Where Did it All Go Wrong). Go check out #ScotRef and see if there is any humour there.

Like many (Including #VoteNo people) I spent hours each day checking out the fantastic humour 3 years ago... Today I'm spending about that amount of time on the Jremy Corbyn and Labour hasthags because the culture and opportunities are there more than they are with the SNP.

June 2015
In the run up to the 2015 General Election I was still supportive of the SNP and reached out to my local candidate Margaret Ferrier to offer some assistance with Social Media. The reply? Crickets. Didn't hear a thing. But why bother reaching out to one volunteer when you have 100,000 of them, right?

Ignoring me with the offer of helping out didn't make it QUITE so bad, when I made a constituency enquiry a few months later and had about the same result.

Sept 2015
After listening to Chris Van Der Kuyl's keynote presentation at the Scottish Learning Festival I thought "I know what's needed here" given my various attempts to engage the political classes (Of various colours of shiny badges) I just got to work without asking for permission or reaching out to anyone.

When implementing these ideas I started to make a little bit of noise so people sat up and took notice and the then Scottish Education Secretary followed me on Twitter. My opening comment? A gushing show of deference?

The reply?

I followed this up with an email offering support for her Digital Learning Scotland Consultation and strategy and received a reply asking for my assistance

And, despite me saying that I would not guarentee that I would not be snarky and being told it's my democratic right to be?

The reason? because I found it incredulous that someone who asked me to get my PLN involved could not being herself to thank the people I encouraged to rally round the consultation. If there is one thing that winds me up it's people not acknowledging the time and effort others put in, especially  when it's on my recommendation!!

(NB Knowing that there would be a good chance that the political classes would mess up a good opportunity I wrote this post "Using Core Values to Find a Brands Voice" one of the best exercises I've ever done!)

Before being blocked I asked if Education Scotland could pick up on a project that I started that was showing promise, but I had ran out of time to support. I got no reply so took the decision to continue to support the #DigCitSummitUK volunteers. The result? Here's an extract from my post in December 2015

December 2015
I am writing this when I should be at the Job Centre signing on so I receive my benefits this week. There is no point in attending because

  • I have not used jobsites to find and apply for work. 
  • I have not asked employers directly to ask about jobs.
  •  I have not check the completely pathetic universal job match website where "Recommended jobs" that they come up for me include female toilet attendant. 
Equally my job centre have told me regularly "A blog post is not a job search," even when my agreement says that I am looking for positions in social media and community management, or that I have presented this post to my "Job Coach" a number of times:

The irony that I will be sanctioned for trying to bring income and expertise to assist with the Developing the Youth Workforce AT THE REQUEST OF THE EDUCATION SECRETARY will not be lost on many...

Fortunately James Stanbridge and Declara rallied round where the people I had:
  • Written 30+ posts in support of
  • Tried to offer advice on what I felt would have a positive impact re: the Post IndyRef movement
  • Offered to canvass for my local candidate 
  • Pitched in and helped when I was asked to
Not only didn't offer any input or assistance but didn't even come back to me. I reached out to both the Education Secratary and my local MP regarding the sanctions. I heard nothing back from one and, out with an initial conversation with a case worker, heard nothing further after supplying information that was needed to follow up with their enquiries... heard nothing more for 2 years, despite sending 10 emails. Did those replies get snarkier and snarkier? Too right they did!

I've dealt with politicians from other parties on personal and professional matters but I've never done as much for those parties and been ignored after providing this level of support so I can absolutely see Iain Martin's argument in Why Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP are Unwravelling so Rapidly and his observation that voters had been taken for granted.

Attainment Gap, Striking Lecturers, Falling Literacy Rates
Any way you look at it the Scottish Government has failed our young people and students in education. They used a fantastic grassroots movement to get themselves elected but, for some reason, didn't see the value of using those same methods to improve other areas of  Scottish life.

Was the culture and conditions at one point ideal to wring in the changes? They Sure Were!!. Did they "F**k up the culture" as Theil might put it? They Sure Did!!

Psychopathic Cultures and Toxic Empires by [Black, Will]Are the same cultural conditions there with Corbyn in the run up to GE2017? They sure are. Will they remain so?

This is politics we're talking about... so the answer to that might be "unlikely". HOWEVER, a man of integrity who is sticking to views that he's had for 30+ years and is labeled as "Kind" in the press as some sort of character deficiency sure does seem a better choice on the ballot paper that my choices during 2014 & 15.

It might also be worth highlighting that Will Black author of Psychopathic Cultures and Toxic Empires is also supporting Corbyn... So I'm taking that as a good sign.

Three Weeks, Network Effects, Feedback Loops... and Corbyn
In my posts in 2014 I said I'd work with anyone who wants to put these same principles to work in education.

The SNP have opted not to do so and have gone out of their way to ignore me and/or block me after asking for my input... Despite my attempts to engage and reach out a number of times.

But is supporting Corbyn a waste of time and a wasted vote? Well... It wasn't until 2-3 weeks before the Independence Referendum that things took off for the "Yes" camp (Go check the polls in July 2014 the Yes polls were at 34%... The same as Labour are today).

The "network effects" from the 2014 referendum that made the unprecedented GE2015 SNP result possible are starting to fade... what does this mean for Labour?

Well old Labour supporters have not gone away... as the network effects for the SNP fade they *Just Might* develop rather quickly for Labour. The May Local Elections show that I'm not the only disaffected SNP supporter andinaction will lead to more Tory rule.

If the feedback loops that once worked in the SNP's favour three weeks before an election through buzzing and fun conversations on their hashtags remain in Labour's favour could enough people return to their old voting preferences before Independence and Brexit as a result of these inspired social media campaigns by Corbyn within 3-4 weeks? Well there isn't just the IndyRef precedent there's also the US election.

Indeed, has Corbyn studied what worked for #IndyRef and Trump with their respective grassroots movements and rallies with large crowds?

If so will Corbyn be able to do enough between now and June? Will there be enough of the 2014 Network Effects for the SNP? Will Labours Feedback Loops be fun enough to bring old Labour voters back?

Time will tell but I can sure see why there's been a close in the polls and an increase in bets for Corbyn.

If there is one thing thing that prevents me from voting Labour (Which I think will be a first for me... and is in spite of the Blair/Brown years!) it is the lack of unity and not knowing if his team will try to oust him in 6-12 months time... but I suspect that as public opinion changes and momentum builds that we'll see a lot more unity in the party, the promise of success has a rather immediate impact on political types.

And if the culture and momentum remains what is there to say that we won't be in the same place in 2-4 years time and I find that I'm writing about PM Corbyn sliding down the 5 stages of decline? Erm nothing, I'm afraid. But I hope that I've highlighted the importance of culture to any organisation or movement.

This is politics and the political classes don't seem to focus on culture the same as Silicon Valley Tech companies... and that makes  all the difference.

Image result for I came to see my time at IBM as culture is the game

The offer from 2014/5 remains. If anyone from any party is interested in creating these same conditions that they are using in there campaigns in education. Get in touch. 

17th May - Postscript SNP & Labour Outreach
I let two people at the SNP know about this post. One was the case worker who I'd written to a number of times looking for an update and heard nothing back each time. I found the timing and the reason for the follow up (ie in the middle of an election campaign) somewhat curious.

The second person was someone that I have come to admire and respect (This was most definitely NOT always the case!) That persons outreach had a significant impact. The reason?

1) Because he had taken the time to both come back to me during this busy time

2)  They were open enough to the feedback. Even if there was disagreement we were able to "agree to disagree"

3) This person had taken the time to engage with me in the past. Even though I was not a constituent and r
egardless of whether I was being snarky or if it was  to support some of the projects that I was working on.

The impact? My constituent case workers outreach had limited affect on me. The latter? *Just Might* see me give the party another chance... for whatever that one vote might matter.

On the other hand. I reached out to the Labour candidate in the same way that I did with the SNP candidate in 2015... with the same response. Once bitten, twice shy ;)

So I have a fair idea of what my constituent candidates think about this particular constituent so it will come down to other factors. As of 16th May = SNP 1 Labour 0.

Then there's the fact that, as I state above, I'm a fan of Corbyn and can't be sure that his party won't try to oust him in a matter of days... something that the lack of engagement with (Or about) Corbyn on their social media timeline testifies to.  

Because of one persons outreach it's all to play for. I will continue to watch and Tweet about the #ForTheMany movement because:

1) It's fun, it reminds me of the vibrant #IndyRef #VoteYes movement  
2) I agree with what's been said 
3) I've explored the way that ideas gain traction and roll out for the last few years and the "No Chance" Independence movement developed in the same way that the "Weak Leadership" Corbyn movement is developing. 

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Twitter Politics - Devos Tweets

Given that the world now seems to make major decisions based on 140 character Tweets... this post looks at the US Governments Education Nomination, Betsy Devos, by exploring what US Senators, Congressmen and Governors were saying about the nomination on Twitter.

Topline stats include:

  • 93 Democrats posted 747 Tweets which got 104,174 replies, 555,154 retweets and 1,556,233 likes
  • 2 Independent candidates posted 11 Tweets, which got 11,258 replies, 158,562 retweets and 456,878 likes
  • 49 Republicans sent 187 tweets which got 57,001 replies, 14,232 retweets and 50,845 likes
It's been a while since my last post, part of the reason for this is because there are now so many people wanting to be heard and such polarised views that I doubt a blog post would make much difference either way.

Ironically the reason for writing this post is the same reason that I started blogging... Which explored some similar issues in UK education where I wondered how much of a difference would be made in UK education with such divisive politics... Here's an extract from my first blog post: Culture in Education...A House Divided Against Itself Cannot Stand

Dream Make Over – The Big Clean Up

We’ve had the Big Sort, we’ve had the Big Society maybe we need someone to suggest that we need The Big Clean Up before we have any more plans. We also know that people will get behind this because they already have done during the London Riots.

Also when we watch programs like DIY SOS and Dream Makeover an army of volunteers always come from nowhere when a neighbour has fallen on hard times, and needs some help...all that is needed is for someone like Ty Pennington to act as the catalyst, to lead and co-ordinate the construction.

Our kids and their education is certainly a house that needs and deserves to be put in order, so I would be surprised if there was not the largest army of volunteers standing by to pitch in - whether young enthusiastic new recruits, battle weary veterans, or unskilled but well-meaning militia keen to help make a difference. And you never know, if the “good for nothing NEET” & lost generation see people turning the slum back into a village, they may even join in the clean up. I don’t think it would be long before the "lone nut" would be recognised as a visionary leader.

Devos Trending
So last week Devos was trending and some 2 million Tweets were posted on the topic. Whether we consider what was shared with all the fake news and fake accounts or with the kind of language that people used to express their views... how on earth are people supposed to find out what the real issues are? 

No easy task when even the most established of news outlets have been discredited (or vilified) in recent weeks. So I decide to look at what the politicians are saying. 

I went onto each Senator and Governor's Twitter account (And Congressmen in 11 states so far) and searched for "Devos" in their timeline between the 15th January - 9th Feb. 

The articles that were written and/or shared by these elected representatives can be found in this collection: US Politicians - DeVos Articles (There are 229 resources so may take a moment to load). 

I have also added articles that were Tweeted out with the same URL as as the politicians website and videos from their youtube accounts on this US Politicians Map

It's going to be a bad day for a politician if both their Twitter account and website were hacked on the same day, right? So I'm assuming that these are trusted and unbiased sources (Trusted as far as the media and politicians are... given that both are amongst the least trusted professions... It might come as no surprise that educators being amongst the most trusted). 

Democrat Bias?
If you take a moment to look at this map it may well appear to have bias towards Democrats. This is not the case. I have intentionally used Twitter as the only source of research here because... well, isn't that how we form opinions and make decisions today? 

The consequences of this lack of digital literacy and critical thinking can be profound as this article Governments Don't Set the Political Agenda Anymore Bots Do highlights.

There are all kinds of ways that people with this political view or that could explain away the reasons for these stats that I'm about to share, but that would miss the point... or at least the point I'm trying to make.

I for one am not interested in political point scoring and can see the dangers of people who are making big decisions and the way that some groups are using news outlets and technology... isn't it time to put a real investment into digital literacy and digital citizenship?

If anyone wants to make a case for Digital Citizenship and jobs then not only has social media played a big role in UK, US and European politics but the social media feeds on US politicians websites are prominent... the same can't be said for schools as some still are not using some of these tech tools.

In a post where I explained how and why I felt that SNP Domination was Inevitable the day before the UK 2015 General Election I ended the post with the following comment

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. Why SNP Domination was Inevitable

Whether UK education or in the US where many members of my PLN are based, this statement remains the same.

Here's the stats on how many Tweets Democrats and Republican politicians have shared between 15th Jan-9th Feb. For more details please see this US Politicians Devos Tweets spreadsheet

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 Co-Founder, Marialice Curran. 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"

Marialice 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.