Monday, 25 September 2017

Spy Quest Mission - Part III (JAM Busters)

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I've written two posts that detail the meetings I've had with Spy Quest (@SpyQuest) author David Goutcher (@GoutcherD) as well as my youngest child's experiences with his books.

Spy Quest Mission - Part I
Spy Quest Mission - Part II (This time it's Personal)

As a result of being one of Theresa May's "JAMs" (Or whatever you call people who are a rung - or two! - below this stage) we were not able to make it to our first ever Spy Quest training mission at Falkirk Story Festival (@FalkStoryFest)on Sunday.

As we missed this event I thought I'd spend the time we'd have spent there detailing how and why I feel Spy Quest is not only very well placed to assist the unfortunate "JAM" demographic but also highlight our experience to show why we feel David's work and AR game really is going to be "Ingress for Kids."

As a family we're not doing so great. We were, at one point, one of the "Young Aspirational" families that David Cameron was championing for when he was looking to be elected. Unfortunately, slowly (But very surely!) we've slide back down the socio-economic demographic.

I know that some people have felt that I've been a little critical in my blog any time good opportunities for change fade... It's perhaps worth noting that I can be just a critical of my own efforts.

For example, I'm painfully aware of how I've changed as a parent. We've gone from a household where using words like "Stupid" and "Bored" would see you being sent to thinking time... To, erm... well, let's just leave it at "there's a fair bit of stress!"

As always, we try to make these experiences work for us as best we can. It's by no means ideal but we are fortunate all the same to have examples from people like Stan Lee who highlights in his autobiography how stressed his dad was due to money worries, that "He would look in the paper every day for jobs that didn't exist" talking about his time growing up during the Great Depression.

Here's what I was Tweeting about when I should have been on the way to Falkirk
Stan Lee made this work for him by using his imagination (Oh and his Local Library... A place where Spy Quest clubs are ran!!)

We're obviously by no means unique in this situation. Just this week I read that kids born around 2000/01 are more prone to depression... Well I guess spending half your life under austerity is gonna have an impact, isn't it?!

Scottish Learning Festival
The Scottish Learning Festival was on last week and I switched Twitter onto that channel at the start of the first day. I quickly found that I had one of  two choices when John Swinney came on...

1) Get snarky or
2) Switch the channel off.

I stopped following the feed.

I simply didn't recognise the "Let's close the attainment gap" and "Scotland is a great place to grow up" that he was talking about... I can't say that Scotland was the greatest place for me when I was a kid (But obviously I acknowledge that there are A LOT worse places to live!) but I also can't say that my kids would be jumping out their seats in support and agreement if they were in the audience when this was said.

For example, as hard as we tried (And we went round ALL the Glasgow companies he thought he'd like to work at)... We couldn't find Work Experience for him. Not exactly what I'd call "Developing the Youth Workforce"

I'm sure it is indeed a different Scotland that Mr Swinney and his colleagues at Holyrood, including the #FortheMany-wannabe-Labour-Leaders-who-have-multiple-jobs/business-interests-and-lavish-expense-accounts and send their kids to private schools...But that's not our Scotland. We're in a JAM! And it's not much fun!!

Compare this with Apple where new hires are given an Apple PC to play around with for 3 months. If they were able to demonstrate that they had used it they got to keep it. If they couldn't their trial period was not continued... The argument being how can you work on and improve on a product if you don't use it yourself?

Terman Study - Family Background
As I highlight in my last post, we tell our kids that

"They can do anything they set their mind to" 

And I do believe that (As long as they prepare and do their best). We try to model this and I'll do all that I can to help them find their place in the world.

Even in amongst all our troubles our young Agent who missed the Spy Quest event just received a letter inviting him to join Equity because he's acted with people like Ewan McGregor, 7 years old and he's been in the same film as Obi Wan?!

Being a good Agent. Blending into the background and walking so he doesn't draw attention to himself. Lol
Nevertheless it can be a challenge when you have limited resources. It's painful to see all the extra-curricular activities drop off because of a lack of resources.

As with everything we "Hope for the best... but plan for the worst" In the hope for the best camp, everything will turn out OK. In the "Plan for the worst" category Lewis Terman's work has been playing on my mind.

Terman did a longitudinal study on children with high IQs in the 1920s, check out the results (And reason) between the group A and group C kids:

"What was the difference between the A’s and C’s? Terman ran through every conceivable the end, only one thing mattered: family background. The A’s overwhelmingly came from the middle and upper class. Their homes were filled with books. Half the fathers of the A group had a college degree or beyond, and this at a time when a university education was a rarity. The Cs on the other hand, were from the other side of the tracks. Almost a third of them had a parent who had dropped out of school before the eighth grade. 

 At one point, Terman had field workers go and visit everyone from the A and C groups and rate their personalities and manner. What they found is everything you would expect to find if you were comparing children raised in an atmosphere of concerted cultivation with children raised in an atmosphere of natural growth. The A’s were judged to be much more alert, poised, attractive, and well dressed. In fact, the scores on those four dimensions are so different as to make you think you are looking at two different species of humans. You aren’t of course. You’re simply seeing the difference between those schooled by their families to present their best face to the world, and those denied that experience. 

 The Terman results are deeply distressing. Let’s not forget how highly gifted the C group was. If you had met them at five or six year of age, you would have been overwhelmed by their curiosity and mental agility and sparkle. They were outliers. The plain truth of the Terman study, however, is that in the end almost none of the genius children from the lowest social and economic class ended up making a name for themselves".

This extract is from Malcom's Gladwell's book "Blink" where he argues that it doesn't matter what you try to do for your kids when they are born... it's who you are before they were born that makes the difference. Theodore Dalyrymple tells it like it is regarding the attainment gap if you are unfortunate enough to be "Lost in the Ghetto"

Little has changed since Dickensian times on this front so you'll need to forgive me for not jumping up and down with joy at a politician giving a speech telling me how great his plan is working out.
Tech Cos Vs Policy Makers
Pretty depressing stuff so far, right? Fortunately, we're also optimistic and we also read the writings of people like James Allen:

"Your circumstances may be uncongenial, but they shall not long remain so if you but perceive an Ideal and strive to reach it. You cannot travel within and stand still without. Here is a youth hard pressed by poverty and labor; confined long hours in an unhealthy workshop; unschooled, and lacking all the arts of refinement. But he dreams of better things; he thinks of intelligence, of refinement, of grace and beauty. He conceives of, mentally builds up, an ideal condition of life; the vision of a wider liberty and a larger scope takes possession of him; unrest urges him to action, and he utilizes all his spare time and means, small though they are, to the development of his latent powers and resources. Very soon so altered has his mind become that the workshop can no longer hold him. It has become so out of harmony with his mentality that it falls out of his life as a garment is cast aside, and, with the growth of opportunities, which fit the scope of his expanding powers, he passes out of it forever. Years later we see this youth as a full-grown man. We find him a master of certain forces of the mind, which he wields with worldwide influence and almost unequaled power. In his hands he holds the cords of gigantic responsibilities; he speaks, and lo, lives are changed; men and women hang upon his words and remold their characters, and, sun-like, he becomes the fixed and luminous center round which innumerable destinies revolve. He has realized the Vision of his youth. He has become one with his Ideal"

Regarding this more positive outlook it's both interesting and surprising the people I am in contact with discussing my ideas.

For a rather long time I've felt that the biggest change is not going to come from policy makers but from the change agents at tech companies collaborating with innovative educators... before it'll come from politicians.

This is something that I highlighted in my "Pokemon Go... Tech Vs Policy Maker Results" post last July

Need an example of this from a real life JAM? The rest of this post details how and why Spy Quest turned a mundane trip with a stressed out dad into a a Pokemon Go/Ingress-type, memorable, #attainmentgap busting (And fun!) mission.

Spy Quest - JAM Busters

It's Saturday, time for one of the few extra curricular activities that we can afford.

The Government has screwed up some of the money that we get... so it's an EVEN MORE challenging time than usual!!

Mum usually takes our child to the event on the bus. There's not enough electricity to put the tumble drier on and the train is cheaper with kids to free... so there's a break from the norm, Dad makes the trip on the train. It's an uneventful trip on the way into town, but this all changes on the way back.

We've read both Spy Quest books and we've had a Skype call with Agent Jones who has given us one mission that's under our belt. The young Agent's imagination is running wild at the idea that kids make the best spy guys.

I'm a little pre-occupied on the way back and go through the train barrier to the wrong platform (DOH!). The train guard calls our young Spy Quest fan over and gets him to punch in a code to over the gate.

On the train there is an advert for the TV channel DAVE. It's a word search and you've to find the word "Dave" I say "Maybe that's a code for you to start a mission? he presses the letters on the poster.

"Yeah says" he super animated "Maybe DAVE is for David Goutcher?"

Almost on cue two big burly military types get on the train, as does a kid with a black T-shit and white writing, we can't read the writing because his hoodie is zipped up.

With an active imagination facilitated by Goutcher, the train carriage has become a dangerous place... a mundane journey into an adventure.

Is the kid another agent? What does the writing on his T-shirt say?

Was the train guard an Agent? Was he supposed to give us something?

Is the penny on the floor, just a coin someone has dropped? Or is it a listening device or high tech gadget?
(I suppress a laugh when I look over and see him talking into the penny to see if anything happens)

I suggest that he walks up the carriage and use his observation skills and see what he can see.

One of the burly guys, a perfectly innocent passenger just enjoying his weekend, has been turned into a villain of the peace (Sorry about that dude!).

We never get to see the writing on the other kids T-shirt as we don't want to blow our cover. I would say that we'll never know if it was a fellow agent...Except that when the kid got off the train, for some reason, he had taken his T-shirt off and was swinging it above his head (Yeah I've no idea either! It wasn't even a sunny day)

Image result for aspy quest agent t shirt

Anyway, I say "He must have been an agent! but took his T-Shirt off when the mission was abandoned"

The villain in our story and adventure gets off at the same stop as us. We notice that he's got a fancy earpiece in his ear, clearly he's talking to Boris or Torrez.

With the other agent off the train and this guy getting off at the same stop as us... clearly we're in danger! We hurry off the train, get around the corner... and run! We take an alternative route home in case we're being followed.

A stressful, mundane journey turned into one of those all to rare core memories (For us JAMs) that Joy from Inside Out cherishes.

It's days like these that give you hope that Terman, Gladwell and Dalrymple are wrong... that our young people can do anything they set their mind to... Even if they don't come from the right family background and/or one that's in a bit of a JAM.

Agent Jones, THANK YOU for facilitating this JAM Buster of a mission!

People may have seen that I've started sharing a few Spy Quest resources online... and why I'll be doing what I can to help out as I go about exploring ideas that I had following the 2015 Scottish Learning Festival about Digital Citizenship before going on to finish my exploration of Pokemon Go a year on.

I hope both projects help with your inspiring work in some way.

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Scottish Learning Festival & The Power of Data

This post reflects on the big data projects that I've worked on as a result of The Scottish Learning Festival and the power of this data over the last 3 years.

A Little Bit of Background...
I tell my kids that they can do anything they set their mind to. I don't just tell them this... I try to show them!

In 2010 my employer closed their Glasgow office due to the recession and the government scrapping the Every Child Matters agenda.

Having been employee #5 and working there for 10 years I noticed a lot of changes, including signs that the company was in trouble 12 months before it downsized... But my warnings went ignored and suggestions unheeded.

Like many people do, I turned this adversity into a positive. This is where my fascination with organisational culture stems from.

It was painful to watch a company I cared a great deal about slide through Jim Collins "5 Stages of Decline" at the time but, with the benefit of hindsight, it was one of the best things that could have happened to me.

As a result of this negative experience and I have spotted the same tell tale signs of decline in other areas. For example, I spotted that the SNP were in trouble at the height of their success (Two days after GE2015... Culture, along with exploring the way ideas get traction, I have accurately predicted every election since the Scottish Independence Referendum - here's the GE 2017 prediction 3 weeks before the result AKA when everyone said that a "Labour revival" wasn't possible).

If anyone's interested it is my belief that the SNP IS able to get back to their GE2015 56 MPs and keep #Indyref2 on the agenda... IF they knew what they were doing and for the same reasons, because of the culture.

Culture! Culture! Culture!
What have these experiences got to do with the Scottish Learning Festival or anything else for that matter?


In 2010 I made a some new career goals which included:

1) Work with a hot shot Silicon Valley start up, or
2) Work with one of the "Big 3" Google, Apple, Microsoft (Or similar major tech company)

The reason? 10 years working with a company and not much to show for it doesn't make you feel too clever, especially when the thing that you value above almost anything in a professional capacity is the time that busy educators agree to spend with you.

I had established a working relationship with 50% of UK colleges (And 100% repeat business!). So to watch that work being eroded due to poor leadership and a poor culture and not influence the outcome was extremely difficult to watch.

Silicon Valley startups and major tech companies seem to me to pay a lot more attention to culture. When setting these new goals I managed to speak to a Microsoft exec and the advice provided was "Get social" comes with the job today in EdTech.

While I have got plugged in to social media since that call, I don't always tend to shout about any role I play with the projects I get involved with

I tried to make ideas work in UK FE for a couple of years as that's where my experience was but I realised that the ideas were sound, but the culture wasn't right.

I noticed this through my involvement with the #SaveEdshelf campaign in 2014... when I achieved more in 6 weeks with US educators than I had in 2 years in FE.

Scottish Learning Festival 2015
In 2015 I watched Chris van der Kuyl's (@ChrisVDK) keynote and his call for greater collaboration.I thought to myself,

"I know what's needed in order for much of this to happen" 

I curated a map and list of Scottish Schools on Twitter. This data sign posted to some impressive work at Falkirk as almost all schools in the Local Authority were on Twitter.

Malcolm's blog was also the catalyst that lead to the UK Digital Citizenship Summit.

While the approach to this event might have been a little better, the rationale for bringing some US Connected Educators to the UK to share experiences was spot on... I have more evidence than ever before to prove it!

A key moment/conversation regarding my data curation ideas was my initial Skype call with James Stanbridge (@Stanbridge), it was SO refreshing speak to someone who "got" the ideas and saw the merit to the approach.

James was also instrumental in helping me achieve one of the goals I'd set myself a few years earlier.

Scottish Learning Festival 2016
In April 2016 I secured some work with a hot shot Silicon Valley start up where I reported to James. 

In August 2016 I was asked to come up with a plan for the California Education Board's Collaboration in Common Open Education initiative. I included curating Pokemon Go in education resources and explore other Ambassador programs in this plan.

At the Scottish Learning Festival 2016 it was suggested that I check out what Microsoft is doing in Scottish Education.

I had been keeping an eye on various education ambassador programs, including the difference in upake in the US Vs the UK. Through exploring all things #MIEExpert in 2016 I noticed there were a lot more than the last time I checked. 

By the time I finished this data it was the run up to the 2016 Skypeathon. When I saw all the connections being made in other areas compared to Scotland, I decided to to put some "social proof" (Along with a little bit of hustle and a dash of community management) to work.

I have no idea what impact this data and my involvement had, but the people I connected with seemed to like my approach.

Furthermore, my CV has been on Microsoft's servers since 2010 and doesn't seem to have been noticed.
Therefore, you can perhaps imagine my delight when I got a message from someone at Microsoft that read:

"William if you ever do take a break from connecting the world, we would love to have a conversation on the MIEE program in Scotland... your passion, committment and skills are admirable"

I might not have been paid but in the "I-tell-my-kids-they-can-do-anything-they-set-their-mind-to stakes" I'm counting this particular project and goal as a "Win!!"

Scottish Learning Festival 2017
I had been pulling some data together to following up on Pokemon Go 12 months on from all the buzz in July 2016.

Last year I curated lots of resources to see what educators had to say with little by way of opinion/editorial... 12 months on after looking at the data, I have lots to say about the game, as well as being able to demonstrate how, why and where #EdTech can be tough!

I had hoped to publish a follow up to Pokemon Go by now, but in July I was tagged in a Tweet regarding Bloodhound Super Sonic car (@Bloodhound_SSC@Bloodhound_Edu) and checked it out. I wrote this brief post about the project.


I've been pulling some data together in the hope that it proves useful to James in his work and the Bloodhound team.

What does the data tell me? That the ideas I had after watching Chris Van Der Kuyl's key note in 2015 were 100% spot on!!

With the support of Education Scotland, the Bloodhound Team, Microsoft, The Army as well as Bloodhound Ambassadors how many Scottish Schools was I able to find? 79.

79 out of 2,700+ schools. There may well be more than this that got involved, but that's all I could find on social media.

If there are more then this perhaps means that there's something of a #DigCit issue (In which case this would validate the ideas and rationale around #DigCitSummitUK which I supported in 2015).

The observation regarding the number of Scottish schools getting involved is not meant as a criticism, how can it be? If the data curation is indeed the full picture, then it's simply stating what the data is telling me. If there is more to this and I've missed something then my apologies for any oversight..

In the event that this is all the Scottish schools who are involved to data, given the Developing the Youth Workforce agenda and Attainment Gap then surely a few questions need to be asked?

And is there an answer to those questions? In my opinion there are!

And the answers lie in the email that I sent to FE Minister Nick Boles three years ago regarding the challenges and potential solutions to FE... Solutions that a project like Bloodhound is addressing.

The Power of Data -Social Proof and Some Bloodhound Resources
As Susan Cain highlights introverts can struggle to be heard and I've found that few people are interested in what this random blogger has to say. Just like educators are not interested in the sales calls or emails that I used to send. What educators do care about and rate is what their colleagues have to say about a project and word of mouth referrals.

So instead of trying t be heard or taking time making random calls, I choose to spend my time curating information that people don't always have the time to do.

Please find on the following links various resources with what educators have to say about Bloodhound's Education program.

Bloodhound SSC Maps - Scotland
I've explored social media looking for Tweets and articles about Bloodhound and have added any resources that I've found (You tube clips, articles etc) in each schools entry as well as their twitter account.

NB This is by no means a definitive list. I'm a big fan of the ideas in Aggregate-then-Curate: how digital learning champions help communities nurture online content, this is just to get the ball rolling and I'd be more than happy to add any resources to any of the links below.

Bloodhound SSC Maps - UK

Bloodhound SSC Maps - Bloodhound Blast
When exploring this data I came across another Zeemap (Such a FANTASTIC resource!!), which I hope demonstrates the value of the ideas in the Aggregate then Curate article above.

Other curated resources are included in the following links

Twitter Lists
Bloodhound Ambassador Twitter List
Bloodhound Education Twitter List


Bloodhound HE & FE Storify
Bloodhound Scottish Education Storify 
Bloodhound UK Schools Storify (Currently Being curated)


Bloodhound UK Education Articles (Still being curated)

I will be writing about what this data tells me and how, where and why I feel that ideas that I've been working on for the last few years are valid.

In the mean time the projects I've explored because of the Scottish Learning Festival appear to have nudged the needle forward a little in the past, it would be fantastic if this post and these insights help my good friend James Stanbridge and his colleagues at Oracle and Bloodhound to connect with a few more schools and colleges.

If you take a look at Education Bloodhound's education page you should get a good idea of how central to the project their education outreach is. If you want to get a sense of Oracle's commitment to the education aspect of this I'd recommend you check out John Abel (@JAbel_Oracle) article on LinkedIn:

As I say I'm more convinced than ever that ideas formed over the last few years are valid and could help. Please don't hesitate to get in touch if you'd like to support me in developing these ideas.

Monday, 7 August 2017

Spy Quest Mission - Part II (This time it's Personal)

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This post follows up on my professional experience of meeting Spy Quest author David Goucher and details my experiences with my youngest son.

I got excited about Pokemon Go this time last year after downloading the game to "See what all the fuss was about" after a fantastic early experience which matched John Hankes aims I felt that the all elusive "Product Market fit" had been achieved (See Pokemon Go Tech Vs Policy Makers).

The exact same can be said of my Spy Quest experience with my son.

As the meeting was in a book shop I thought I'd pick up Spy Quests Polybius and get through the first couple of chapters.

Image result for polybius spy quest

Not sure if this was intentional or not but the opening chapter being set in the 1980s provides a bit of nostalgia for the grown ups reading to their kids in the way that Wreck it Ralph does (For more about this meeting please see Spy Quest Mission - Part I).

No Way Man! Too Cool!
The day after my first meeting with David and I take my son out for a walk specifically to talk about my meeting with David.

The reason? Because we tell our kids that they can do anything they set their mind to and Mr Goucher and Agent Jones exemplifies this!!

I tell him about everything from my previous post about Spy Quest. Books are very important to us so to be able to say that David became a police officer because of the books that he read helps demonstrate one of our mantras very well:

"That Books are the most powerful weapons in the world" 

(We tell our kids that their words are the most powerful things in the world and that books are the most powerful weapons).

Of course they will come up with all kinds of "Ah what about swords, guns and bombs etc, etc"

"Well what would you do if you wanted to make a sword or gun or bomb, how would you make one?" We'll ask.

"I'd get a book about it" Point made. Thank you very much! Lol.

We discuss how getting into the police took 6 years and that his growth mindset saw him become a real life spy guy... and now he's training kids to be spy guys.

I discuss how people loved playing Spy Quest when they were on holiday so much that they told Disney to check it out. I told him that he's worked with Stan Lee's right hand man, Andy Briggs.

I talk about the plot of the first book about the Polybuis urban legend and how the hero of the book wins a contest because he's good at computer games.


Is a phrase that's used a number of times on our walk... and that's before we've even read the book or try the game! He must have stopped 5 or 6 times to exclaim the statement above.

If I worked at a school I'd most definitely arrange for David to stop by to talk about his books, as well as to discuss his work as a police officer and to run a Spy Quest mission!!

We agree to stop by the book shop to get the book.

Chapter 1 - Hooked!
Having a house full of gamer boys the plot soon has his imagination, especially as he can identify with the frustrations of being interrupted with one of his games, as the young hero of Polybuis does by his sister.

The book and David's story sure has his imagination fired up as we read the first few chapters.

Chapter 2 - Family Fun
When we come across the first Spy Quest code in the book we get the whole family involved. When was the last time that the 16 and 14 year old willingly did something that their little brother was doing?

Now let me think? Oh yeah. This time last year with Pokemon Go.

Everyone gives the code a go with some interesting (And by 'Interesting' I mean in a "we'd-be-rubbish-spy-guy-kind-of-way") results.

Isaac is keen to know if his code was right and asks if I can send it to David.

Chapter 3 - Mysterious Call
The day that I send it a mysterious message appears on Skype. It simply says

"Agent Isaac, I need your help" Agent Jones.

Just like the book we wonder about how Agent Jones was able to get in touch with him? How did they know our Skype username? We also wonder why Isaac and not any one else in the house was contacted? "

"Maybe it's because kids make the best spy guys... Just like the book!" Isaac exclaims.

Isaac puts on the headset and takes the call there is an intense look of seriousness on his face, something that the one word answers and "Ah! Yeah! Yes!" comments don't convey.

Agent Jones then speaks to me and says in a very professional and matter of fact tone

"Agent Isaac has a mission at 10am tomorrow morning... Log onto the Spy Quest website then for further instructions"

Chapter 4 - I will Say this Only Once
At precisely 10:00 We log into the website. There are 4 missions all are related to the first Spy Quest book.

It's all very cloak and danger stuff as I'm the only one in the house that's allowed to know what's going on.

"Right what's your password?" I whisper

A blank face. Well that's not the best start to his "I will say this only once" Spy guy career. Lol! Dad offers a helping hand.

NB It's worth noting that the next day he blurts out the password when we're reading the book and he exclaims "It must have been because of a code/subliminal message in the book that made me remember it" Clever Agent Jones, he's thought of everything and knows his young proteges are just starting out so has a reminder coded into his books.

Chapter 5 - The Kindness Brief
When we log in we are met with a message that says he's been selected for his spy guy qualities and because he is
"Kind and thoughtful and never gives up"

There is more of a big deal about the second paragraph than the first in our house... So high fives all round.

Chapter 6 - Mission Disaster... Intense Reading!
We check out the first mission. We have one hour to answer a question about a chapter that we have not read yet so we check it out. We type in the answer but "The Computer says 'No'"

Eh? We think to ourselves?
Maybe it's a test. Maybe we need to answer the questions using one of the codes? Nope?
Maybe there's a hidden field? Not that we can see.

The time runs out for mission #1 and the same thing happens for mission #2.

My young Spy guy is crestfallen. Fortunately we had just read a part of Polybius where the young hero also had a bad start to his career as an undercover agent.

I highlight that both questions were parts of the book that we had not read yet, and suggest we read more of the book so we're ready for the next two missions.

What followed is what Joy from Inside Out might term a "Core Memory" we snuggled up and some of the most active reading and listening that I've ever had with my kids followed. Along with all kinds of questions and Spy guy ideas.

Image result for joy core memory

We read half the book in one sitting.

Chapter 7 - Initiative
After reading the book Isaac wonders if Torraz and Boris have hacked the SQA website and asks if he can Skype the answers to the first 2 missions to Agent Jones.

Mission 3 and 4 are completed on time, without drama and using the more conventional communication channel of the Spy Quest website.

Chapter 8 - Imitation Game
Related imageIt's always fantastic when we can use age appropriate books to introduce some grown up themes.

We used Yertle the Turtle to introduce the kids to Rose Parks and the Civil Rights movement.

When talking about cracking codes and the debt that we owe to the people who keep us safe where else would you start?

There was some active learning going on when we discussed Alan Turing's work.

(Not to trivalise Turing's work but there have also been links made in films like National Treasure too).

Chapter 9 - Active Learning: Comprehension
I hated comprehension at school. Today I understand that it's called "Close Reading." What didn't help was the text chosen. Sunset Song in education has a lot to answer for!

Through Spy Quest Isaac has had the best introduction possible to reading comprehension.

But let's be clear here. While this was a great book before Agent Jones' call... Agent Jones brought the whole thing to life.

How and why did he do this?

How: By treating kids like adults and believing they are capable of more than we give them credit for.

Why: I'll refer you to my "Pinned Tweet" and earlier post to let you know "The Why"

"David if I was to say something along the lines of: 

The reason I am doing this is because the books that I read as a child helped me to find my place in the world and I'd like to pay it forward to help others do the same?' 

Would that be an accurate statement? "Pretty much" 

Chapter 10 - Confidence
Now I'm not sure if this applies to me or Isaac but the result is the same.

I've definitely seen this young lads chest a little more puffed out and more of an "I can do that." Or is it that seeing him with more of an "I can do that" attitude, I'm letting him?

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In the Famous Five and other books our kids had a lot more freedom as the fear of risk was nowhere near it was today.

Richard Branson discussed how much being dropped off in a field close to his Grandmothers house at 4 was both scary and empowering as was cycling from London to Brighton (or was it Bournemouth) when he was 14.

"My mother was determined to make us independent. When I was four, she stopped the car a few miles from our house and made me find my own way home across the fields." Richard Branson Losing My Virginity

Today parents get criticised for letting their kids ride in the New York subway alone (Why I let my 9 Year Old Ride the Subway Alone).

Pokemon Go saw our streets being packed and strangers interacting with one another.

Will Spy Quest see our kids reclaim the streets?

Or would it be more appropriate to ask:

Will Spy Quest see parents allowing our kids to reclaim the streets?

Acknowledgement - User Experience
This post and the experiences of Polybius would not be possible if it was not for the way the author treats the user experience.

While he is building a business it is obvious that nothing gives him more pleasure than speaking to fans... whether meeting existing ones at book signings or winning over new ones through school visits.

I know that ours is by no means a unique experience. The books are great but the way the author treats his reads brings the books to life.

PS Regarding bringing the books to life if you download the Spy Quest app and scan the pictures in the book you'll get some cool messages. Why not make a bigger deal of this cutting edge aspect of the book?

1) I'm big on my old school physical books without all the gadgets and gizmos, and
2) The author does more to bring the books to life than any technology could

... But here's an ad with the AR aspect of the game anyway ;)

Friday, 4 August 2017

Spy Quest Mission - Part 1

Related image
I'm currently following up on some work that I did with Pokemon Go 12 months on from the global sensation. This follow up work has involved a couple of fantastic meetings with Polybius Games Managing Director and Spy Quest Author, David Goucher.

This post details my experience of meeting David in a professional capacity and will be followed up by a personal perspective detailing when my youngest son and I check to see if the "Proof is in the pudding" with this "Ingress for kids" spy guy adventure.

So I'm checking through my old emails regarding the Pokemon Go report that I collaborated with the ISTE DigCitPLN on this time last year. There is an email from East Kilbride MSP Linda Fabiani, asking if I'd heard of Spy Quest.

I recall quickly scanning details about the game but put it in the "Check out later" pile of the to-do list. I check in on this as part of this Pokemon Go follow up and notice an article that I hadn't seen previously:

Spy Quest – East Kilbride Based Polybius Games Sleuths into Hotels and Schools Worldwide

Wow! What an interesting story! I follow Spy Quest and David's Twitter account and we have a bit of a chat which results in us arrange to meet up a few days later.

Reading the article above was the extent of the research before I met David, the reason? Because I like to hear people tell me about their story. The rest of this post is about our meeting and how, where and why I feel this innovative work will have an impact.

We arrange to meet at Waterstones where David's opening comment to me is "I love being surrounded by books, this place is like a second home to me" Ah! A man after my own heart!

My opening question to David is

"If I were to say this was 'Ingress for kids' would that be an accurate description?"

"Absolutely!" comes the reply.

To this day I cannot believe that there was an unknown battle for city landmarks across the world that would soon become the global phenomenon that were (and are) Pokestops... So I'm delighted to be aware that kids will be on secret missions under the guidance of Agent Jones and his team before it becomes a global phenomenon.

As the article above highlights, David was an undercover policeman. What the article does not pick up on are the trials and tribulations that he went through to get into the police. This story is best described by my youngest son when out for a walk where he must have stopped dead about 5 or 6 times to exclaim


Early Struggles
Image result for polybius spy questAs anyone would be, I'm intrigued about the early career and I ask

"So why did you want to be a policeman?"

Looking around the book shelves David answers

"Because of the books I read when I was growing up, Nancy Drew, The Hardy Boys and my favourite, The Three Investigators"

This was not a profession that was encouraged as his parents came from the tradition of learning a trade and getting accepted into the academy was challenging at the time.

After going through Police training he was to find that few forces were hiring but, after 6 years David did something that I regularly tell my own kids... "They can do anything they set their mind to" but quickly follow this up with IF they prepare and do their best!

Once in the force David said that he was so pleased to be doing what he wanted that his growth mindset saw him saying yes to every opportunity that came his way and led to becoming a bona fide spy guy.

This is followed by the kind of questions that must have been asked a million times

"Has your life ever been in danger?"

"Yeah, lots!" comes the reply.

"Anything that you can tell me about?" 

A resolute "No! Afraid not."

David retired from the police force after lining work up with a company that looked promising but was a rather underwhelming experience (Been there, done that and got the T-shirt!).

He could rejoin the force but would lose a few benefits and his wife said

"You've always had this idea of writing a book and the game, why not do it now while we have some savings"

But this was 2008 when the recession was biting and people were not in the mood for innovation so some tough times followed.

Your Mission... If you Choose to Accept it!David starts talking about the game and the results to date.

Like Ingress, the Spy Quest team have quietly been iterating their way to "Product Market Fit" something that can be seen by:
  • Ollie Bray's whitepaper about the game
  • Visits by then Education Secretary, Mike Russell who went on a mission
  • The fact that they are working with 120 Scottish Schools 
  • They have a 100% retention rate with their school partners.
Then there's the fact that one of the first times the game was played at a hotel a Disney executive found it to be such a positive experience the game was that a relationship with Disney soon followed.

"We got lucky" David will tell you about his experiences in startup land.

Oh yeah? And the harder you work the luckier you get!! Thinks me. A lot of thought, planning, hustle and struggle has gone into this.

When researching Pokemon Go I was struck by the fact that John Hanke's vision was around the fact that he  “wanted to build applications that would deepen people’s involvement in their town or community, to encourage people to actually meet up in the real world.”

Can you imagine having a conversation with him about his vision at the point of inception? Can you imagine the strange looks that he got when discussing the idea?

As David is explaining Spy Quest and his vision I ask, "Has this plan changed much from day one when you came up with the idea? Has Ingress and Pokemon Go changed or influenced your plan in any way?"

"Nope! The only thing that's changed is being able to say to investors 'This is Ingress for kids' and they get the idea and concept a little quicker than they did before Ingress came out" Comes the reply.

"It feels like I'm sitting opposite the next John Hanke" I mention getting a sense of this plan and vision.

Culture! Culture! Culture!
Image result for culture eats strategy for breakfast
I've recommended a few ideas and projects in this blog. Some have been a passing "This looks promising" in a blog post, others have involved investing a considerable amount of time and heavy recommendation. Not all have been successful.

I look to the culture of these ideas more than ever before! Therefore I want to highlight a little about the things that I feel are important (but which may not matter all that much to others).

One of the best ways to do this is through a question that I asked in our second meeting:

"David if I was to say something along the lines of: 

The reason I am doing this is because the books that I read as a child helped me to find my place in the world and I'd like to pay it forward to help others do the same?' 

Would that be an accurate statement?

"Pretty much" comes the reply, followed by a smile from a kind and friendly face.

But there are all kinds of other things.

  • The passion that Ollie talks about in his post from 2012.
  • The look in his face when he talks about his school visits and book signings
  • The people David is taking with him are the ones that have always been there for him.
  • The fact that his son and his friend feature on the Spy Quest certificates
  • When my son signed into the Spy Quest website as an agent he had been told that he was chosen because of various skills but also because of his kindness

As someone who's been in life and death situations he knows the importance of ensuring that the culture in his team is right as he scales, so Spy Quest may be a little less likely to face many of the challenges that startups do as they scale.

...lastly but by no means least. David is focusing on education when there are all kids of other (easier) markets to scale and roll out in.

So what about the potential impact that Spy Quest could have?

I'm not an educator so I'm not going to say that this will do XYZ in the classroom, especially not when there are white papers about the potential of the game and endorsements by the Scottish Qualification Authority and Education Secretaries.

Have you spotted a theme with some of the projects that I've been involved with and/or supportive of?

Whether my first blog post or supporting the DigCitSummitUK, Pokemon Go, the Skypeathon, exploring Edcamps or talking about Spy Quest.

It's about shaking up the culture, it's about connecting and collaborating. As a society there is a lot of divisiveness as the politics on both sides of the Atlantic demonstrates (US Election, Indyref and Brexit).

There is also a lot of discord between the halves and halve nots. How does this translate on the ground? There can be suspicion towards people in authority and can sometimes include educators... but most definitely can include the police force.

What if... Steve Jobs is right and that

"I’m 100% sure that if it hadn’t been for Mrs Hill in 4th grade and a few others, I would absolutely have ended up in jail. I could see those tendencies in myself to have a certain energy to do something wrong. When you’re young, a little bit of correction goes a long way.”  

Would the impression of authority figures change if Agent Jones was giving our young people some cool spy guy missions? I think they might.

Thought leaders like Malcolm Gladwell highlight that advantages and disadvantages amongst different socio-economic groups are more to do with cultural advantages (Social skills, growth mindsets, confidence building and learning outside of school time).

Equally researchers like Steve Biddulph highlights in raising boys the importance of young boys having male role models in their lives (Something Magic Johnston reiterates in his ASU GSV Summit presentation).

As you will see in the next post, I've seen first hand the confidence and active learning that Spy Quest provided my son... what impact would a real life Spy Camp and Spy Quest competition have for our youngsters in the summer holidays?

We've seen what Pikachu can do to get our kids out and about. I'm noticing that colleges who embraced the game included Pokemon Go in their Kids College programmes.

What could Spy Quest do to exercise our kids minds and aspirations? How empowering would it be for young Spy Quest Agents if they were on missions with college students in the way that youngsters engaged with students on college campuses?

If David Goucher has anything to do with it... A LOT! And I wouldn't like to bet against Agent Jones when he's on a mission!!

How big is this gonna be? Well if this video is anything to go by... It's gonna be big ;)

Image result for Spy Quest cursed diamond

Monday, 10 July 2017

STEM, Education and The Bloodhound Project

Bloodhound Logo
This post details how I found out about The Bloodhound Project and, after a quick look at their website, looks at how deep their commitment to inspiring young people about science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) appears to be.

It's Friday evening and I am tagged in a Tweet from my good friend James Stanbridge (@Stanbridge) and it would appear he's been saying nice things about some of my previous projects to some of his colleagues.
This is followed by another Tweet mentioning a project that I have never heard of before.

STEM, industry, education and a recommendation from James to check it out... OK, says I. No problem!

First thing that catches my eye about this project who's aim is for a land based vehicle to reach 1,000 mph?! from an educational context is that their offices were moved in 2016 to UTC Oxfordshire.

I'm a big fan of UTC's precisely because of the kind of collaboration that they have established with industry. When I was working in FE when these institutions were established I felt the impact of UTCs, from a cultural perspective, could have a big impact across the sector.

I then check the projects Education page out and my first impression?

It might be tempting to say that this does not look like an "Added Extra"...something that's been done because it's part of the requirements for some funding grant or something, but add this looks like a deep commitment to inspiring young people to get engaged with STEM.

But when the opening sentence on the education page includes

"The main aim of the Bloodhound Project is to inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers"

It takes the guess work out of what the project is about and their commitment to education.

Bloodhound Project Education Page
There is something on this page for students of all ages and various ways to get involved from some maths questions and competitions to becoming a Bloodhound Ambassador and helping to arrange an event at your school.

As I explore the range and scope of the project further I wonder, "How have I not heard about this before now" and remember that a lot of my more recent projects have been focused more on US education.
56,000 Educators and 77,000 pupils involved... and Uni STEM admissions increasing
I'll be looking into this in more detail but, in the mean time, to all those innovators that I've spoken too over the last few years this certainly looks like it's bringing STEM subjects to life for many students... and there's still time to register for the 3rd Race for the Line Competition.

I'll be watching this project with interest.

Me and My ZeeMaps

Image result for zeemaps logo

I'm in the process of winding up my Education Experiences due to some personal issues that my decisions to stubbornly stay on task has caused.

I wanted one of my last posts to be about one of my favorite tools EVER! Zeemaps. Why is this one of my favorite tools? Because:

1) I feel that "social proof" is far more effective than the pointless sales calls that the "Education-needs-to-get-with-the-program-but-we-still-make-cold-calls" EdTech industry still employs.

2) I'll leave it with one of my favorite authors give the other reason why this is a favorite tool:
I think knowing that your work situation might be imperfect, option B then is saying, “OK, I can still find things on the market that are interesting and meaningful to me and build those into my job.” That’s called job crafting and we see people do this all the time. 
I know a teacher who always wanted to be a musician and he brings his guitar into the classroom and there’s a little bit more enthusiasm and joy as a result  students love having the teacher who plays music. Adam Grant on Job Search Resiliency
I have always had an interest in Geography even though, like many subjects at school, I didn't excel at it... But did read National Geographic cover to cover. In 1999 I did an Open University course in Human Geography and especially loved maps, cities and the impact that diaspora had on both the places people left and where they moved to.

If I had the money (There's an ironic statement!) one of the things I would collect is old maps. Since publishing the "Business Development Ideas for Further Education" in 2011, I have created a few education based Zee Maps.

So how did I find out about ZeeMaps? Well it was through a bit of a catastrophe.

How I met your Awesomeness... Through a Disaster

When working on my Business Development Ideas for FE report I noticed how FE Commercial services were sometimes labeled as "XYZ Towns Best Kept Secret" this is 2011... the impact of the global financial crisis was being felt across the public sector, this is no time for best kept secrets?!

I map these services out on Google Maps with lots of information that it's taken ages to source... then disaster?! Something changes somewhere, not entirely sure if it's human error (Don't think that it was) or some changes at Google HQ but the colleges are still on the map, but details that I added had gone?!

Whatever the reason was I annoyed about this? Had I spent AGES meticulously importing all the infromation? I sure was and sure had... But as always, I reminded myself that Google maps was a free to use service so what right do I have to get so annoyed?

Keen not to see the same thing happen again, I looked for an alternative. Mapping data seemed to be a hot topic when I explored this but ZeeMaps was my favourite

Welcome to ZeeMaps
I have created over 20 maps since discovering Zeemaps and includes sourcing and plotting information about over 40,000 schools/colleges, educators and education stakeholders. Below are details about a few of them.

Many of the resources below have been curated in my own time and based on ideas that few people seem to "get" but which I see as significant in the future of EdTech sales and the way that ideas gain traction.

If anyone would like to see any of the incomplete maps (Or the ideas generally developed further), please don't hesitate to get in touch.

FE Colleges Commercial Services

As I detail in my Business Development for FE report there were over 1,200 commercial services that UK Further Education Colleges offered. If marketed collectively this would be one of the largest retail chains in areas like Hair and Beauty.

Like most of the maps I've curated this one includes details about each services, logos, social media feeds and contact details.

 Scottish Learning Festival 2015 - Scottish Schools on Twitter
A number of projects that I am working on have their basis in Chris van der Kuyls' keynote speech at the Scottish Learning Festival in 2015 where Chris called for more collaboration within and across Scottish Education.

When I heard Chris' talk I thought "I know what is needed to implement some of these ideas" and got to work. In September and October 2015 this including finding out how many Scottish Schools were using social media.

Some interesting observations with this map was seeing how many Scottish Schools were active on social media compared with how many politicians are. There are lots of comments about online abuse targeted towards the political classes, who are responsible for education policy... are they doing enough to support our teachers and young people to become digital leaders and encourage positive digital citizenship?

Scottish Schools on Twitter research featured in TES Scotland
Digital Citizenship SummitUK
As a direct result of the project above I became involved with organising the second DigCitSummit and mapped people who spoke at the first summit and the one held at Bournemouth University on January 2016

Education Conference Exhibitors
For the last few years I have curated information about suppliers who attend major education conferences like ISTE, BETT and the ASU GSV Summit. 

Something that I found quite curious was the fact that exhibitors would attend one event but not the other. There may be a lot of reasons for this (Focusing on UK/US markets so not making the trip across the pond etc), but feel there is an argument to be made that this is an issue of costs.

We see this very clearly through the startups who attend the ASU GSV Summit but not ISTE and/or how it's mostly the big tech companies who attend multiple events each year.

I published this map when working with Declara on the 2016 ASU GSV Summit and started adding ISTE 2016 speakers when working on the ISTE data curation project.

Pokemon Go - Mapping US Community Colleges
When Pokemon Go came out there was a lot written about what this game would and would not do in education but there was a bit of a problem with some of these articles... they were written when school had finished for the summer so the only people who experienced the game when students were around when it came out was Further Education institutions.

We mapped out over 2,500 US College campuses and intended to do a lot more with this... with it being 12 months since the game came out maybe we'll pick up on this again soon.

Scottish Learning Festival 2016 - Scottish MIE Experts
When I attended the 2016 Scottish Learning Festival it was suggested that I check out what Microsoft is doing in Scottish Education.

I have kept an eye on ambassador and "super user" programs in the US and UK over the last few years and when I checked out the number of MIE experts in Scotland and the rest of the UK in September 2016 there was a bit of a jump.

In October and November I curated a number of UK and global MIE and Skypeathon resources.

Microsoft Innovative Educators UK

Microsoft Showcase Schools
2015 & 2016 Skypeathon
By the time I had explored all things MIE the 2016 Skypeathon was upon us and I noticed that only a couple of Scottish schools took part in the 2015 event... I wondered if putting "social proof" to work (And a little hustle) might get a few more people involved.

I mapped out the schools that took part, who they connected with and plotted the distance each school traveled in 2015. 

The aim here was to show how many schools were taking part in the hope that the popularity of the event would see others join in the 2016 event. 

In 2015 2 Scottish educators traveled 36,000 virtual miles, in 2016 15 Scottish educators went over 150,000 miles.

I started to curate a map of people taking part in the 2015 & 2016 event

NB Neither the 2015 or 2016 Skypeathon data is 100% complete... but have the data to finish it if/when we get the time and/or support needed.

January 2017 Fake News & DigCit - Mapping US Politicians 
In January 2017 "Fake News" became a thing and, working with the DigCitSummit Founders, we thought we could introduce some workshops aimed at critical thinking based around what we read and believe.

We curated all the offices and social media feeds for Senators, Congressmen and Mayors along with details of their regional and DC office addresses.
US Politicans

April 2017 - Edcamps
As I detailed in my recent post Who Sells Edcamps... And Eventbrite in Education? I detail the various resources that I've curated in the last few weeks around Edcamps.

Edcamp Map
I hope it is obvious by looking at some of this data that a great deal of time has gone into curating these resources and that, as CMX (And the Skypeathon data) highlights "social proof" can be very effective.

Instead of calling people about this product or that, I've explored the way that successful ideas have gained traction.

Instead of sourcing leads to make cold calls I've sourced information from social media to provide more complete data sets.

There's a lot more that can be done with this and am happy to discuss with anyone who is interested in finding out more and potentially, supporting some of this work.