Tuesday, 17 April 2018


Image result for edcamp logo
This post explores the possibility of hosting an Edcamp in the UK.

This is an idea that I think could:

1) Help nudge the needle forward a little regarding the content of Chris van der Kuyl's 2015 Scottish Learning Festival keynote

2) Empower educators as John Swinney suggested he wanted at the 2017 Scottish Learning Festival.

3) Develop a number of projects I've been involved with over the last few years that didn't quite achieve the desired objectives when I first explored them


In 2014 I achieved more in 4 weeks through working with US connected educators than I did trying to make the same ideas work in the UK Further Education Sector.

Since then I have developed ideas where the culture has looked good... but moved on when the culture has become a little less conductive to doing good work that has value. Sometimes I shelve ideas and return to them.

Exploring the idea of a UK Edcamp could develop ideas like #EdChatMod, #Get2ISTE, StartupEduChat and ideas I shared with Gazelle and FELTAG... as well as ideas I've explored in Scottish Education from time to time over the last 3 years.

Dec 2012Helped establish UKFEChat by attending each week and doing a lot of outreach via social media and email... and suggested that the first #UKFEChat meetup could be an Edcamp.

April 2014
I curated data on Twitter Edchats and produced an Edchat Resource Plan and created an EdChatMod Google+ Community page for Edchat moderators to share ideas and promote their chats.

Community cover photo

March 2015
I had my first conversation with James Stanbridge, the first Microsoft and hot shot Silicon Valley VP to "get" my ideas... and that has made all the difference! The ideas we discussed during this call are a lot closer to being realised (Slow progress I know!) and the comment James left on my SpyQuest Mission post is a real highlight of my time in education

Sept 2015
Listened to Chris van der Kuyl's Scottish Learning Festival keynote - twice - where he was advocating for Scottish Educators to collaborate more.

I agreed with everything he said and got to work. I mapped all Scottish Schools on Twitter, the data highlighted where the innovators were and led to me organising UK Digital Citizenship Summit

Aug 2016
Worked on a Pokemon Go in Education Report to try to draw out ideas from the Edtech report that I'd written to highlight the way that ideas should roll out if and when they have achieved "Product Market Fit"

Pokemon Go... an overnight success (After two years of serious hustle!)
DigCit PLN Logo

Sept 2016 
Was told about the progress that had been made with Scottish educators signing up to ambassador programs like MIE Experts etc so worked on some visual data in the run up to the Skypeathon.

Dec 2016
Shared visual data that I pulled together for the 2015 Skypeathon with some Scottish Educators and encouraged them to get involved with the 2016 event

April 2017 
Read a CMX article about Edcamps and a comment that caught my eye was the fact that there was no master mailing list when they started out, but estimated that 1,500 Edcamps had taken place... I sourced 1,900 and asked the question: Who Sells Edcamps?

When you look at the way that Edcamps have grown in the US, just like looking at the Scottish Schools who are on twitter and how the number of accounts they have has grown in the last 2 years, you've got to consider.

"There must be something to this form of professional development"

Nov & Dec 2017
In a professional capacity I have seen the value of Twitter and Skype.

As a parent, I saw the value of this when:

1) My youngest son visited Westquarter Primary School on a SpyQuest Mission and
2) When someone from the Skype for Good team at Microsoft took a moment to speak to my oldest son.

These events, as well as Michael Wu's presentation at the Scottish #Cmgr meetup, highlighted that the cultural conditions are good for a few ideas to develop and (hopefully) scale.

Edcamp UK 2015
When mapping the Edcamps I found that people had tried to organise one in 2015 but understand that

1) A lack of interest and
2) The organisers time

Were factors why this didn't happen. It was also disappointing when I realised there were 3 Edcamp organisers here during BETT 2016 for the  UK Digital Citizenship Summit (something I realised after the event?!)

Edcamp UK 2017
So with over 50% of Scottish Schools on Twitter, a growing number of MIE Experts, Microsoft roadshows and a post BETT "Capes and Kilts" visit by Microsoft developers

...I wondered if it might be worth exploring the idea of an Edcamp in a way that could bring a few earlier projects together a develop them too in a way that would help the connected educator agenda.

Plan for the Best... Prepare for the Worst
Over the last few weeks I've been exploring the idea of an Edcamp in the UK and among the concerns before doing too much with this have been:

1) Will there be enough interest for people to attend?

2) Will people new to the Edcamp format be interested in submitting and/or leading a topic for the session board?

3) Would an Edcamp be surplus to requirement given that Teachmeets, Pedagoo events, Microsoft roadshows as well as other local and national events that are on.

After discussing these points with people:

1) There are almost 400 people who have got back to me - from both sides of the pond - either offering advice and support for the event... including 3 potential venues to host the event

2) After speaking to a few Edcamp organisers I wondered if we could Skype in to another event... this way if the session board was a little light for the UK event (Which I don't think would happen... but just in case)

3) Edcamps have grown from 8 being held in the US in 2011 to over 2,000 around the world today.

                i) What could Teachmeets and other forms of PD learn from Edcamps and vice versa?
                ii) If organised in the run up to the Scottish Learning Festival then some post-event activities could lead into and complement the 2018 Skypeathon.

This idea is very much at the discussion stage and we are keeping people at Skype/Microsoft and Edcamp updated with our ideas, plans and progress.

Level of Interest So Far...
I reached out to Edcamp organisers, Edchat Moderators and MIE Experts that I am connected with and
within a couple of weeks got a massive response to this as almost 400 people have come back with advice, input and offers of support and includes 95 Edcamp organisers; 80 Edchat Moderators and 32 MIE Experts

Here's a visual example of the number of people who have offered input, advice and/or are looking to get involved with this in some way.

This idea is in the planning stages at the moment but we are looking at a date in Sept/Oct and are working on a plan that will have some pre and post event activities that would lead in to the Skypeathon in November.

If you are interested in finding out more and/or looking to get involved (Attending, helping organise or Skyping in on the day) please feel free to complete this survey:

More about this proposed event to follow in future posts. Thanks to everyone who have offered advice and support so far.

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

My Books & My Work

Tonight's #MSFTEduChat is all about literacy and some Skype Master Teachers will be moderating the chat... so I thought I'd write about how some recent books I've read have influenced my work.

My youngest son's first Classroom Skype call also happens to have come about when he met his favourite author, David Goutcher, after asking for some help with a special Spy Quest mission... Talk about bringing books to life!

I have read four books recently: Peter Thiel's "Zero to One", Biz Stone's "Things a Little Bird Told Me", Adam Grant's "Originals" and Ashlee Vances, Elon Musk biography.

These books, my preferred communication tools and the projects that I've been involved with appear to have converged... Including a particularly relevant extract from Adam Grant about the power of story telling when a new Skype feature was being discussed in 2008.

I have read each of the books mentioned above within a day or two, and cannot recall a time when books that have provided quite so much value, a dash of "Just in time PD" and insights regarding how, where and why "I could do better" (Wonder where I've heard that one before... Hmm let me think! Lol) with the implementation, communication and reaction to some of the projects I've been involved with.

The main purpose of this post? To assess if and how it might be possible to build on previous projects (Which include Skype) in a way that could develop some compelling stories that encourage educators to connect.

I've pitched in and helped out with some of my favourite tools and compiled some data - like mapping Scottish Schools on Twitter and mapping some of the connections made during the Skypeathon.

No one at any of these companies or in Scottish education asked me to... but I've seen the value that the tools and the connections I've made. And I want my kids to make connections like this too.

Where to look for tools that might encourage more educators to get connected?

How about considering tried and tested tools like Twitter, Skype as well as promising tools, resources and ideas like Spyquest, Bloodhound, Mad Learn, Flipgrid who provide great content and/or reasons for classrooms to connect and collaborate.

In terms of Scottish education, with 50% of Scottish Schools on Twitter... what a great time to tell, find or create some compelling stories for educators to connect. After all, this appeared to have worked quite well for Skype when their CEO was looking to create a video feature (See the extract from Originals later in this post).

First Blog Post & First Classroom Skype
I started this blog 6 years ago because I was told that social media comes with the job today. Hitting "publish" on the first opinion piece I wrote, about the importance of culture and collaboration, making it public was terrifying. I hit publish because I felt I had something of value to say.

A few months ago I had my first Classroom Skype call, it was even more terrifying! But, with the help of the Little Engine that Could, I did it. Once again I did it because I felt I had a story or two to share.

My preferred tools for communicating with the outside world are Twitter, Blogger and Skype (Prefer 1:1 Skype Vs group or recorded sessions etc though).

Sales... Or Telling Stories?
I have excelled in every sales position that I have ever held, hitting annual targets without fail and often being the top sales person.This includes results like taking projects from conception to working with 50% of FE colleges within 3 years and with 100% repeat business.

Through joining Edchats and conversations with people in my PLN I realised that cold calling was dead and that story telling would be an in demand skill:

You can judge for yourself how myself and my son are getting on with this transition via these two posts:
I wonder how my story telling skills are developing and if they are improving at all...Although people appear to prefer the writing of my 7 year old kid to my ramblings?! (*Sigh*). Lol

I also wonder if the story that was told at Westquarter Primary School and the SpyQuest Skypeathon missions will compare to any of the stories that Josh Silverman told his employees?

...Who'd have thought that Skype having a video feature would be something that met resistance?

"When Josh Silverman took the reins of Skype in February 2008, the company was facing significant challenges. Employee morale was plummeting as the company was failing to maintain the explosive growth that Skype had experienced after pioneering free computer-to-computer calls and cheap long-distance calls between phones and computers. Silverman decided to make a big bet on an original feature: full screen video calls. In April, he announced a moon-shot goal to release Skype 4.0 with the video feature by the end of the year. "The emotion among many employees was passionately negative. A lot of people thought it was too big a change, and we were going to kill the company," Silverman recalls. They worried that the timeline was too short, video quality would be poor, and users would hate a full-screen format.

Instead of trying to calm them down, Silverman decided to psych them up by developing a Skype vision that would get them inspired about video. At a series of all hands meetings, he emphasised the impact of the product on people's lives, articulating a vision that he later formalised during a conversation with actor and technology investor Ashton Kutcher. "It's not about making cheap phone calls. It's about being together when you're not in the same room."

When originals come up with a vision for transforming anxiety into excitement, they actually take it upon themselves to communicate it. But just because it's your idea doesn't mean you're the best person to activate the [what Susan Cain describes as the] "go system". In a series of experiments, Dave Hofmann and I found that the most inspiring way to convey a vision is to outsource it to the people who are actually affected by it.

Consider university fund-raisers, who are often extremely nervous about calling alumni, interrupting their dinners, and asking them about how the money they were being asked to solicit would make a difference, the callers didn't become any more effective.

The amount of money the average caller raised more than tripled, however, when leaders outsourced inspiration to a scholorship student, who described how the callers efforts had enabled him to afford university tuition and study abroad in China. On average, callers went from raising under $2,500 in the two weeks before the student spoke to over $9,700 in the two weeks after. They were suspicious of the leaders, who clearly had the ulterior motive of convincing them to work harder. When the same message came from a scholarship student, they found it more authentic, honest and trustful. The empathised with the student, and instead of being anxious about asking for money, they were excited to solicit donations to help more students like him.

This doesn't mean, though, that leaders need to step out of the picture altogether. In later studies, I found that people are inspired to achieve the highest performance when leaders describe a vision and they invite a customer to bring it to life with a personal story. The leaders message provides an overarching vision to start the car, and the users story offers an emotional appeal that steps on the accelerator.

At Skype, Josh Silverman knew the best way to activate the go system wasn't through his words alone. After talking about how Skype enabled his own children to have a deep personal relationship with their Grandparents despite living eight time zones apart, he breathed life into the vision by giving the floor to Skype users as a regular feature of his all hands meetings. A married couple shared how they survived a yearlong separation during their engagement "Only thanks to daily talks on Skype." A serviceman spoke about how Skype had allowed him to maintain a close relationship with his children while serving in Iraq; they even opened Christmas presents together. "Bringing the customer into the room connected them to the mission, and reached their hearts and minds" Silverman says, "It helped employees see what a difference we could make in the world"

As they grasped the idea that Skype was about connecting people, the team's anxiety gave way to excitement. Inspired to build a video feature that would enable more meaningful conversations, they shipped Skype 4.0 on schedule with high quality, full screen video calls. Soon, Skype was adding about 380,000 users per day; by the end of the last quarter of the year, more than a third of the 36.1 billion computer-to-computer minutes spent on Skype were video calls. Less than 3 years after Silverman shared his vision and brought in users to inspire the team, Microsoft bought Skype for $8.5 billion, a 300% climb in value" Adam Grant, Originals P 220

Things a Little Bird Told Me... Biz Stone & Taking Risks
In 2010 I had a choice, stick with the status quo by making cold calls at companies who were either producing mediocre products and/or didn't realise the value of culture... or take some risks in the hope of working in teams that were hard to get into. I chose the latter. I knew the risks and chances of success.

It's about to become a "Boom or bust" moment on those risks and, as I reflect on the decisions made, Biz Stones "Things a Little Bird Told Me" proved to be just the tonic!

Whether Ev Williams being the creator of Blogger and Twitter... or Biz Stone with his hilarious description of getting hired at Google without fitting the mold and, of particular relevance, taking risks and betting big on his future self.

"Here's to my future self, who will pay for all this" 

Throw in his contribution to Circle the Schools & "My Book" video and Twitter = much gratitude!

When reading this book I saw that Biz had made a return to Twitter and on his blog he says his top focus will be:
"To guide the company culture, that energy, that feeling"

Some posts I read were hyper-critical of Biz Stone and his contribution to Twitter like Twitter Co-Founder Biz Stone to Return to Twitter but, when you read his book, you can't help wonder if some of the challenges Twitter faces today would be here at all if he had not left. For example, I wonder if processes and questions like this endured.

"When new employees joined Twitter, Evan and I met with them. We took time to tell the story of how the company got started, and we shared and discussed the following six assumptions.

Assumptions for Twitter Employees

1) We don't always know what's going to happen.
2) There are more smart people out there than in here
3) We will win if we do the right thing for our users
4) The only deal worth doing is a win-win deal
5) Our co-workers are smart and they have good intentions
6) We can build a business, change the world, and have fun

For anyone reading this and saw that Twitter is now in profit but user growth is slow...May want to check out the extract about Skype + 50% of Scottish School on Twitter + Scottish Schools on Twitter Some Suggestions + Edcamps = I have an idea or two ;) 

Large Bureaucracy & Nimble Startups
The reason I got involved with the Digital Citizenship Summit in 2016 was because one of the core values at the time I got involved was that "All Voices Matter," which appealed to me A LOT!

For a few years I felt that I had insights that had value. I tried to be heard before, during and after the impending doom with initiatives like Gazelle, Feltag and the changes in the culture on social media in the post-vote Scottish Independence Referendum.

How did I react when my voice was not heard but the insights were accurate? Let's just say that having a core value of "having honest relationships," insights that are accurate and your voice not being heard is not a great combination.

I'd express my exasperation. Not realising that the outcome was inevitable. So what changed? Zero to One and Originals.

"Unless you have perfectly conventional beliefs, it's rarely a good idea to tell everybody everything that you know. So who do you tell? Whoever you need to, and no more. In practice, there's always a golden mean between telling nobody and everybody - every great business is built around a secret that's hidden from the outside. A great company is a conspiracy to change the world; when you share your secret, the recipient becomes a fellow conspirator" Peter Thiel, Zero to One

Peter Thiel details the difference between startups and large organisations and why the latter is more likely to succeed. Need an education example of this?

Go check out the goals and progress of the original FELTAG, the progress on those goals today... and then go see how Udacity is getting on.

Pokemon Go & SpyQuest
Tech companies collaborating with innovative educators is where I feel reform is going to come from. The best example I can think of is with the work that Microsoft is doing.

When Pokemon Go came out I curated lots of articles about the AR phenomenon to see what educators made of it all.

Why did I undertake this project? Because I went out with my kids, found it to be a fantastic experience. Came home to check the "Why" of Pokemon Go, what were John Hanke's aims with the game? The aims not only reflected our experience to highlight that Product Market Fit had been achieved, but the goals went all the way back to Hanke's college dissertation.

I started working on a follow up report 12 months later to detail what the data highlighted and why there was lots of buzz for 6 weeks with educators blogging, Tweeting and having google hangout discussions... then not much chatter after that.

As a result of this follow up (And thanks to MSP Linda Fabiani), I discovered Spy Quest author and creator, David Goutcher, who brought reading to life for my youngest son in a way that no other book has done...And one I wish was around when my oldest son was younger too

My Books & A Skype Story
I started this post with the questions that we ask our kids and our preferred answers (That books are the most powerful weapons in the world).

Through reading the books that I have as well as getting connected via Twitter and Skype there are stories that I am able to tell my kids about finding their place in the world.... As I've connected to tell stories (As best I can) with educators.

The stories from last years Digital Citizenship Summit and Skypeathon took some planning to tell, but if anyone has any questions about the potential then I can tell some stories about role models, mentors and product market fit.

Agent Isaac has talked about his mission a great deal since he went  on it.

I can see a lot of potential in some of the work that's been carried out to date. If anyone wants to see if some of this work can be developed and built upon with some kind of New Teachers to Twitter, Digital Citizenship, Skype Edcamp (Whether online or IRL; in the near or distant future)... you know where to find me ;)

I'll close with some extracts from Biz Stone, Elon Musk and Adam Grant.

"All the money we raised went to Room to Read, which buys books for kids in developing nations. If you think about it, it's symbiotic. If you can't read, you can't Tweet. The more readers there are in the world, the bigger Twitters potential reach... Maybe you  are part of the Twitter community and you can use it as a tool for giving or to enact change. Maybe there's another community - your place of worship, your childrne's school, your town - where a shift in values could inspire alignment with a cause" Biz Stone, Things a Little Bird Told Me

The most striking part of Elon's character as a young boy was his compulsion to read. From a very early age, he seemed to have a book in his hands at all times. "It was not unusual for him to read ten hours a day" said Kimbal [his brother]. "If it was the weekend, he could go through two books in a day." The family went on numerous shopping excursions in which they realised mid-trip that Elon had gone missing. His mum would pop into the nearest book store and find Elon somewhere near the back sitting on the floor and reading in one of his trancelike states.

As Elon got older, he would take himself to the bookstore when school ended at 2pm and stay there until about 6pm, when his parents returned home from work. He plowed through fiction books and then comics and then nonfiction titles. "Sometimes they kicked me out of the store, but usually not" Elon said. He listed The Lord of the Rings, Isaac Asimov's Foundation series, and Robert Heinelin's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress as some of his faviourites, alongside The Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy. "At one point, I ran out of books to read at the school library and the neighbourhood library" Musk said. "I tried to convince the librarian to order more books for me"
Ashlee Vance, Elon Musk

Finding the right mentor is not always easy. But we can locate role models in a more accessible place: The stories of great "Originals" throughout history. Human rights advocate Malala Yousafzai was moved by reading biographies of Meena, an activist for equality in Afghanistan, and of Martin Luther King Jr, King was inspired by Gandhi, as was Nelson Mandela.

In some cases, fictional characters may be even better role models. Growing up, many originals find their first heroes in their most beloved novels, where protagonists exercise their creativity in pursuit of unique accomplishments. When asked to name their favorite books, Elon Musk and Peter Thiel each chose Lord of the Rings. Sheryl Sandberg and Jeff Bezos both pointed to A Wrinkle in Time. Mark Zuckerberg was partial to Ender's Game. Jack Ma named his favourite children's book as Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves.

It's likely that they were all highly original children, which accounts for why they were drawn to these tales in the first place. But it's also possible that these stories helped elevate their aspirations. Remarkably, there are studies showing that when children's stories emphasize original achievements, the next generation innovates more. In one study, psychologists tracked unique accomplishments in American children's stories from 1800 to 1950. After original achievement themes in American children's books rose by 66% from 1810 to 1850, the patent rate shot up sevenfold from 1850 to 1890. Children's books reflected the values popular at the time, but also helped to nurture those values: When stories emphasised original achievement, patent rates typically soared 20-40 years later. As Dean Simonton summarizes, "It took time for the children exposed to the achievement imagery in school to grow up and contribute to the creation of new inventions"

Unlike biographies, in fictional stories characters can perform actions that have never been accomplished before, making the impossible seem possible. The inventors of the modern submarine and helicopter were transfixed by Jules Verne's visions in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea and The Clipper in the Clouds. One of the earliest rockets was built by a scientist who drew his motivation from an HG Wells novel. Some of the earliest mobile phones, tablets, GPS navigators, portable digital storage disks, and multimedia players were designed by people who watched Star Trek characters using similar devices. As we encounter these images of originality in history and fiction, the logic of consequence fades away. We no longer worry as much about what will happen if we fail.

Undoubtedly, the next generation of originals will draw inspiration from the Harry Potter series, which is brimming with references to original accomplishment" Adam Grant, Originals P172

As I mention above, based on my own kids experiences...I'd add to this SpyQuest too!

Based on the conversations that I've had with Agent Isaac since reading Spy Quest, I can see that Agent Jones is well on the way with inspiring a generation.

...That young SpyQuest fan has a few ideas about spy gadgets.

Friday, 2 February 2018

Oh the Places You'll Go... Scottish Edu Projects

The Spy Quest mission in November was a real highlight of some of the recent projects I've been involved with. It was a joy to include my son in my world of work.

I've no idea the extent (if any) that the projects I've been involved with has helped in any way... but here's a summary of some of the Scottish education projects I've pitched in and helped out with.

Instead of simply telling my kids that they can do anything they set their mind to (IF they prepare and do their best), I've done my best to show them.

I wanted to collaborate with people who were doing interesting things with technology in education. Here's the story so far.

December 2010 
Set some new goals either to work at 1) A major tech company or 2) A Silicon Valley start up

The reason? I worked at a company and on a project that I loved for almost ten years, where I did work that I was proud of. I didn't see the subtle changes in culture and today there is little to show for my time due to the company sliding sideways. 

Tech companies and Silicon Valley startups seemed to me to know how to create products that last and where passion, culture, having fun, getting stuff done and giving back are important. But I knew both the risks and chances of success.

March 2015
Because of Sarah Thomas' SXSW Edu presentation on "Minority Women in Tech" I found out about Ramona Pierson and her work with Declara, which was being dubbed as  "The Google of Learning" at the time. This led to an amazing conversation with James Stanbridge, who saw the value in my ideas.

September 2015
Chris van der Kuyl gives a keynote at the Scottish Learning Festival with the call to action for educators to collaborate more. 

I've accurately identified both the chances of success with initiatives like Gazelle and FELTAG, and the reasons why they'd fail but my voice wasn't heard when highlighting the potential barriers.

So, instead of trying to tell anyone what was needed only to be dismissed and/or misunderstood, I simply started on my own. I curated Scottish Schools on Twitter and shared the details.

November 2015
The number of Schools in Falkirk on Twitter was a real bright spot and I shared some posts about Digital Citizenship with others in my PLN

I had a call with the organisers of an event that was promoting Digital Citizenship and said that I'd help with a UK event on one condition... that the event take place in Scotland, ideally in Falkirk.

When planning this event we went looking for funding, the process included asking educators which suppliers they would actively want to see at the event. Twitter and Skype were amongst the unanimous choices.

December 2015 
I established the idea of "Connected Educator Appreciation Day" (Inspired by CMAD) with the idea that it could be a connected educator "Black Friday" where companies who benefit from the advocacy of connected educators could provide a discount etc.

January 2016 
There was also a #DigCitathon, inspired by the inaugural Skypeathon and organised with the support of Edcamp Global organisers.

January 2016 
A UK event took place but was moved so it was closer to London so people could also attend the BETT Show.

July 2016
In collaboration with a number of ISTE PLNs and Declara, I explore Pokemon Go in education by writing a report that is well received by the education community.

September 2016
At the Scottish Learning Festival I was advised to check out what Microsoft is doing in Scotland... I don't need to be told that twice! The data I pulled together confirmed the accuracy of this advice... I found that a lot of hustle had clearly gone into the MIE Expert program.

The last time I checked in on UK ambassadors (maybe 2 years ago), I can't remember how many MIE Experts there were but vaguely recall that there were not too many, and there were definitely only a handful of Google Certified Educators/Trainers.

October 2016
The 2nd US Digital Citizenship event took place and was at Twitter HQ with Microsoft as one of the sponsors. While I was not too involved with this movement as it was off and running, but I do wonder to what extent the Thunderclap I set up a year earlier had regarding this support? May have been no effect, but I can wonder all the same ;)

December 2016
By the time I finished exploring MIE Experts it was coming up for the 2nd Skypeathon and I could only find 2 Scottish educators who took part the previous year... so pulled some more data together from the 2015 event and tried to connect some Scottish Educators with Connected Educators in my PLN to see if I could help get a few more educators Skyping.

Some of the Skype Classroom Connections made during the 2015 Skypeathon

June 2017
I do some research to follow up with my Pokemon Go in Education Report. In the first report I simply curated educator comments and had very little editorial.

This follow up would include lots of opinions about how and where the edtech ecosystem has it's challenges and what to do about it.

Through this follow up I found out about Spy Quest and had a few meetings with "The Next John Hanke" and his "Ingress for Kids" books and AR game

September 2017
I updated the stats for Scottish Schools on Twitter and found that around 50% of Scottish Schools were on Twitter and offered a few resources and suggestions.

September 2017
Spy Quest Founder, David Goutcher, tells me that he's going to be taking part in the Falkirk Sotry Telling Festival and will be touring schools before the event.

An innovative game that's achieved "Product Market Fit" + A tour of one of the most connected Local Authorities in Scotland + A book signing and game after the tour = Bring the local shopping centre to a standstill.
Image result for spy quest falkirk story telling festival video

November 2017
Microsoft host a number of roadshows in Scotland. While I had zero involvement with this, I mention it here because while am not sure if these roadshows have taken place previously... but, if this is the first time, you've got to wonder if the cultural conditions are looking pretty good ;)

November 2017
The 3rd Digital Citizenship event takes place at Utah and I find out that Westquarter Primary School will be Skyping in to the event and that David Goutcher will be surprising the Digital Citizenship Summit organisers.

The aims of this event when I first spoke to them was to get students to: "Act Locally but Connect Globally" so Spy Quest's Agent Jones asks my son if he would help out with a real live mission to model this message.

December 2017
The collaboration with Westquarter Primary, Spy Quest and the Digital Citizenship Summit organisers continues and develops further during the Skypeathon as eight Falkirk schools take part in a Spy Quest Mission live via Skype

January 2018
BETT 2018 walking around the impressive Microsoft stand was a masterclass in how to put social proof to work. Again I have zero involvement with this except to notice the things that they do differently.

I've learnt such a lot from exploring what Microsoft do differently to other education/EdTech suppliers.

Excel, Word, Twitter, Skype, Blogger and Zeemaps are the main tools that I use with the ideas and projects above and my youngest has been uber-inspired by Spy Quest.

...I wonder what projects and ideas await in 2018. I hope there are a few compelling stories waiting to be told ;)

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Spy Quest: "Ingress for Kids"... It's Gonna be Big

There's a man out there... walks up Scotland's Streets, 
Been working on the "Ingress for Kids" 
Has been for 7 years. 
And he takes no lip of nobody because he's a bona fide Spy Guy 
And inspires kids to read
And he packs schools and shopping centres
And Children call him Agent Jones
But really he's David Goutcher
He never lets on 
I know because my kid thinks it's real
He let me know a secret and how big his AR game is gonna be
No idea what he's gonna  buy
Gonna deserve every penny 

The third last line of that little ditty isn't exactly true. Because I have explored the way that ideas roll out in 2013 and used Pokemon Go to draw these ideas out in practice... I saw from a mile off that when people say that "Spy Quest is an overnight success" in the not-too-distant future it's because of the hustle that's going on at the moment.

No one is more aware than I am that I've advocated for a few products and ideas that have not always panned out as I thought. With this in mind, the assessment in this post and others in this blog about SpyQuest are not made lightly.

Regarding some of these projects where they promised much (and where I invested as much as ten years of my time), it might be worth highlighting - whether an EdTech startup, educator-led movement or government led initiative like FELTAG - getting everything right is no easy feat.

In my last two posts I wonder about

  • The failure education reform initiatives like FELTAG, compare them with Udacity's success and the impact failed/"evolved" projects like FELTAG will have on young people's job prospects. 
  • How much I've learned from being involved in these projects when they have not worked out so well (and/or failed to live up to their early promise). Reading Zero to One helped assessing the lessons learnt.

I detail my experiences with Spy Quest and reference Peter Thiel's book "Zero to One" to highlight how and why:
Spy Quest... It's gonna be big!

Some EdTech Startup Lessons
So... an update from Angel List highlighted that Peter Thiel and Blake Masters book was at the top of a few must read book lists – so I got it. After reading it I found:

1)      How, why and where my ideas have value
2)      I have a better understanding of why things have been so tough
3)      How some of the projects and collaborations that “failed” were not uncommon
4)      How close I am to “Product Market Fit” with some of my ideas and
5)      Reading this awesome book has helped me figure out what I need to do next.

Thank you Peter and Blake!

“How much of what you know about business is shaped by mistaken reaction to past mistakes?”

Is one of the questions that is asked. I’m not sure that I’ve had that many mistaken reactions to past mistakes, but I sure have learnt from each and every mistake. I know that
  • I worked on an innovative project that had value, but the opportunity was wasted, because the Managing Director decided to take a slide down Jim Collins "5 Stages of Decline"
  •  I have given my time freely to a number of projects but that the culture wasn’t quite right.
  • Organizations that can clearly articulate their core values are in a far better place than most organizations... But I also know that a lot of people’s idea of core values = A cat poster
I value educators (and my!) time! I also know that my reputation is all I have. If I recommend a project that doesn’t pan out, then people may be less likely to look at any others.

However, getting this mix right is very difficult. How difficult? Well there seems to be 2 Unicorn Companies (A valuation of over $1 billion) in Scotland at the moment... But the seven companies that the "PayPal Mafia" went on to create at all worth $1 billion!

In the past I've written about tools that looked pretty useful. Today I am a lot more careful when it comes to the product AND the culture and team before recommending any product or ideas on this blog.

Some Personal Lessons and Experiences
When Tony Blair was banging on about “Things can Only Get Better” and David Cameron was championing “Aspirational Families” and the banks were giving 125% mortgages things were going quite well for us… I had taken some risks and chances that saw us going from minimum wage to "doing OK".

After working with what might be seen as the Del Boy of Scottish EdTech, I set my sights on collaborating with people who create great products – Major Tech companies and/or Silicon Valley Start ups - No easy task for a random EdTech sales guy!

Trying to achieve this has led to an alternative lifestyle – one that has led to plenty of scarcity and stress.

The choices made and the psychological price of entrepreneurship has led to asking some difficult questions as provider and parent.

What’s all this got to do with anything about Spy Quest? Well, EVERYTHING!

Product Market Fit... And Zombie Loyalists
Last June I met David Goutcher for the first time. I got The first Spy Quest book, Polybius, after we met and my youngest son soon became a fan - I soon followed - as I saw how the book and game brought reading to life and had a positive impact on his confidence.

Since last June David and I have kept in touch and I've pitched in as and when I could to assist with some of the projects he's been working on. I've written 3-4 posts in support of David's work, here are three reasons why I'm a fan:

1)     I’ve sat at my laptop trying to make ideas work with nothing more than an outdated laptop and my kids have seen no outward signs of any progress being made – Nor have I at times! 

However, I have been edging towards “Product Market Fit” (Slowly… but surely) and David has helped me to demonstrate the value of some of these ideas.

)      I have seen how David treats his fans. I’ve not read about any core values... I’ve seen him live the values that are important to him!

When a founders actions towards his fans remind you of Peter Shankman's Zombie Loyalists... you sure do sit up and take note!

3)     Last but by no means least, David has not only inspired my kids with his work... he has also helped me to demonstrate the value of what I’ve been working on to them too. Thank You David!

The mission that Agent Isaac went on in November is a day that Joy from Inside Out would call a “Core Memory”… I certainly won’t forget it in a hurry!!

The story that I told on this mission was one that’s told regularly in our house... but telling it on a mission with other children and someone my son looks up to sure did seem to make a difference!

Last month my oldest son came with me to a Scottish Community Manager Meetup where I presented on my experiences making the transition from sales to community management, which David also attended.

We traveled back with David and he re-iterated the importance of what I had been working on to him.
I’m sure we are not the only family that’s seen better times but find ourselves under a bit of stress. 

If David’s work can bring books and reading to life and inspire the children in one household, why can’t he do it for a lot more? The answer isn't only none... There is no reason he can't, it's also... That he does!

In Zero To One Peter Thiel highlights how hard it is to pick a winning investment... he also provides some fantastic insights and advice about the culture he established at PayPal.

Whether looking at the technology used, the impact on literacy, questioning is Spy Quest has achieved “product market fit,” looking at the organizational culture or just generally looking at the way he inspires kids because of the way he treats his young fans.

From what I’ve seen from David’s work over the last 6 months... Spy Quest looks like the real deal!

Spy Quest... It's Gonna be big! 

Monday, 8 January 2018

Start Up Graduation

Image result for zero to one
When and wherever possible I have explored what Silicon Valley and major tech companies do differently to the rest of the world. 

This post looks and how, after reading Peter Thiel’s Zero ToOne book, it feels like either a new chapter of my startup journey... but personal issues just might mean it's the end of the road.

When I wrote my EdTech report “Developing Relationships andDelivering Value” a big missing piece of these ideas was the concept of “Social Proof”

"No leader can hope to persuade, regularly and single handedly, all the members of the group. A forceful leader can reasonably expect, however, to persuade some sizable portion of group members. Then the raw information that a substantial number of group members has been convinced can, by itself, convince the rest. Thus the most influential leaders are those who know how to arrange group conditions to allow the principle of social proof to work maximally in their favour" Robert Cialdini

The report above was written in 2013 and was the result of some advice that I was given at one of Bill Aulet’s workshops and an unconventional career journey which started in 2010. 

Seven years later, and after reading Zero to One, (A book that stems from Blake Masters notes on a Stanford course about Startups) it feels like something of a graduation.

What did I know about Peter Thiel before reading this book? From the top of my head... I could tell you three things about him:

1)  That he takes culture seriously as I recalled reading about his advice to the AirBnB founders “Don’t F**K Up the Culture

2)   That he was involved with Silicon Valley Venture Capital

3)  That he was a slightly controversial figure in the media and social media these days as he was one of the few Silicon Valley types who publicly supported Donald Trump.

If I thought hard then I might have been able to recall that he founded PayPal.

Like Bill Aulet, Thiel appears to be another Silicon Valley guru who feels that Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast.

You don't ignore advice like this! So, for the last few years, I have just pitched in and helped out with any project where the culture looked promising.

This has included assisting EdShelf with their Kickstarter, supporting various EdChats, being an advocate of the Scottish Independence Referendum (Based 100% on the culture and 0% on the politics that wrecked the potential of change because of the cultural conditions), organizing one of the Digital Citizenship Summits, being an active volunteer of a Silicon Valley for a social enterprise network and a number of research and data curation projects.

Reading Richie Norton’s “Resumes are Dead… and what to do about it” helped to demonstrate that my ideas around “Job Hunting” Vs “Job Fishing” and the advice of

"Do the job you want to have before you get it" 

Helped me to see that I was not entirely insane because of my approach to work.

Reading Chapter 8) Secrets 9) Foundations 10) The Mechanics of Mafia 11) If You Built It, Will They Come? of Zero to One has helped to validate my ideas and methods further… and help me see that I’m most definitely on the right track.

Previously I’ve felt that the struggle - attempts to be understood and/or the unfairness of being vilified when trying to good work extremely difficult and frustrating.(especially when you compare it with the good and the greats’ questionable attempts....Pick a number! Gazelle, FELTAG, the fantastic culture of #IndyRef, Developing the Youth Workforce, Addressing the Attainment Gap).

Today, as well as seeing enough similarities in Zero To One in the advice that other successful entrepreneurs, just like discovering the value of "Social Proof" after writing my EdTech report, there are a few other pieces of the jigsaw that I have been able to add to the startup the puzzle.

I can also see that the mistakes made were not "mistakes" but were simply typical learning experiences that many a (more experienced) entrepreneur has fallen foul of as well.

For example, I’ve seen first hand how 'Thiel’s Law' of 

“A startup messed up at its foundation cannot be fixed” 

By working on a project where the two founders 

“Developed irreconcilable differences, where the company was the victim”  

In addition to this the core values were nothing more than a cat poster!

Image result for cat poster believe

How did these founders meet? Pretty much the way that Peter Thiel and Blake Masters describe when detailing a cautionary tale about how one of Thiel's partners found a co-founder:

"Met at a networking event, talked for a while, and decided to start a company together. That's no better than marrying the first person you meet at the slot machines in Vegas: You might hit the jackpot, but it probably won't work"

I have also experienced the kind of workplace that Thiel describes regarding his work at a law firm

“The relationships between [the partners at The law firm Thiel worked at] were oddly thin. They spent all day together, but few of them seemed to have much to say to each other outside the office. Why work with a group of people who don’t even like each other? Many seem to think it’s a sacrifice necessary for making money. But taking a merely professional view of the workplace, in which free agents check in and out on a transactional basis, is worse than cold: it’s not even rational" 

Just walk around Glasgow at clocking off time and/or listen to how much people moan about their work on the way home from work or in the coffee shop at lunch time to hear how many people are not investing their time well. Based on my own experience I could not agree more with the following statements:

"Since time is your most valuable asset, it’s odd to spend it working with people who don’t envision any long term future together" 

"If you can’t count durable relationships among the fruits of your time at work, you haven’t invested your time well"

"Promise what no others can: The opportunity to do irreplaceable work on a unique problem alongside great people"

Thiel and Masters book also touch on themes from the fantastic Tribal Leadership...There are simply too many successful people with similar experiences for this stuff not to matter if you want to participate in meaningful work!

Tribal Leadership

I’ve no idea what the short term future holds, perhaps it will be checking in and out on a worse than cold transactional basis doing a bit of cold calling, in a cold environment with people who don’t have much to say to one another.

But I feel I know the mechanics of what’s needed and have developed the tools to build a solid foundation and/or know what to look for in new opportunities in work that might make a difference to young people and have the potential to be a game changing stage 5 tribe and be a part of a great team doing great work.

So even if the best short term options are to join the 4% of the Scottish workforce in call centres before these jobs are replaced by AI and chatbots.

I can either keep an eye out for the company that's achieved "Product Market Fit" and has the culture to match...or startup on my own.

Regardless I now know that I've successfully re-skilled in the way that I had hoped.

The start of the post on the following link details what I set out to do when I chose to gave up my most valuable asset, my time, for free: How I Met Your Awesomeness, but like the way Thiel puts it

"Promise members of your team what no others can: The opportunity to do irreplaceable work on a unique problem alongside great people"

To quote Rands hero/anti-hero: "Offer me this and you can have anything I've got to give"

A Quick Word on Thiel and Trump
Thiel talks about how good companies have some secret sauce and, after reading Zero to One, I can’t help but wonder why others who have read the book and the views expressed can’t see how this Silicon Valley VC’s support of Trump isn’t 100% inspired!

At the end of Zero To One there is a chapter called “The Founders Paradox” which talks about how founders can fluctuate from the villains of the peace to hero worship (And back again).

I just don’t understand how others can’t see how, where, why and when Thiel and his support of Trump will be seen as a stroke of genius… and how one day we’ll be celebrating and thanking him for the 0 to 1 master stroke.

Friday, 5 January 2018

DYW... Digital Consumers?... Or Digital Creators? #AppsThatMatter

My attempts to get noticed and collaborate with the kind of tech companies who make a difference has meant that I've had a worrisome and stressful Christmas.

As I reflect on the personal risks and opportunities that lie ahead for me and my kids, I have also had a wider (and deep!) concern about whether or not Scotland is developing a disposable, commoditised workforce and nation of digital consumers.

Fortunately in the New Year, through projects like #AppsThatMatter, I wonder if projects like this could go a long way to Developing the Youth Workforce to be Digital Creators

I'm sure some readers will point to some of the fantastic work that the political classes and their cronies do.

All I can say to this is that in 2014 the then FE Minister launched the FELTAG agenda with fine and inspiring oratory like "It's FELTAG Friday... Rocket Boosters on!" and how 50% of all FE College course work would be available online by 2017, with all course material by 2020. As I highlighted at the time Huston We Have a Problem

As these worthy goals should be achieved by now, I checked in on the initiative. Where is this agenda today? No mention of how many colleges have 50% of their course material online but plenty about how "FELTAG has Evolved" and the documents I read are all about "The Spirit of FELTAG" What is this? Some kind of modern day Dickensian novel!

Even if I was a fan of "The Evolved Spirit of FELTAG" when you look at the tools that are mentioned about #FELTAG on social media, they are predominantly tools that were created in other countries, typically Silicon Valley... As well as a potential disrupter in this space in the not too distant future: Udacity*.

If you care to take a look at my Creatively Disrupt post from 2014 and then check out Udacity* progress since 2014 you will see that ALL of their Nanodegree course material is online. What I suggested would happen at the start of the project has happened.

*Work in FE? Curious about why Udacity achieved what FELTAG did not within the same time frame? See extract at the end of this post.

As usual, I find myself asking at what point are these comments welcome?
At the start when they are accused of dampening the mood... and are ignored?
In the middle when they are dismissed out of hand... and seen as being meddlesome?
Highlighting this now when the observation prove to be right... it comes across as smug and "I told you so?"

I've never been able to figure this one out! I just wish I had a voice... Not to mention the wage that some of these incompetent experts get for doing ineffective work!!

I might not know much, but one thing I'm certain of is that reform ain't gonna come from Holyrood or Westminster... they simply don't care about anything except themselves and/or they are a pretty incompetent bunch. Disagree? I have one word for you: Brexit.

In 2015 I heard about the Developing the Youth Workforce a shiny new plan by the Scottish Government as well as the calls for more collaboration amongst Scottish Educators at the 2015 Scottish learning Festival...I highlighted the same kind of concerns as I did with Gazelle and FELTAG.

The rest of this post considers the Scottish Government's "Developing the Youth Workforce" and "Addressing the Attainment Gap" with my own experiences and how, why, where and when this has been playing on my mind over the Christmas break.

3rd November 2017
Two months ago I asked a group of 5 year old School Children who wanted to make XBox Games or Ipad Apps when they were older, almost all the hands in the room went up.

1st December 2017

A month ago I had Skype calls with Microsoft's "Skype for Good" lead. The next day I presented my experiences going from sales to community management at Microsoft's offices.

My oldest son, who is considering a career in Tech, was involved with both the Skype call and the #Cmgr meetup.

At the meetup Lithium's Chief Data Scientist told us about the advantages of differentiating your product and the dangers of commoditisation

"As the market becomes more competitive, many products and services are being commoditized, where they become indistinguishable in the consumers’ eyes except their price. Therefore, companies engage in price wars constantly to stay competitive. This squeezes the profit margin of brands and threatens their business. Consequently, brands are struggling to differentiate in order to avert the commoditization of their products/services"

I could not help but see large sections of the Scottish Workforce in this commoditisation perspective... all you need to do is check any job board to see how uninspiring the opportunities are. Alternatively look at the fact that 4% of the Scottish workforce are in call centers... about to be replaced by chat bots? Or jobs under threat from cheaper offers from call centres in India?

13th December 2017
At Christmas I was (and still am!) looking for work.On the 13th December I succeeded with this... Erm kind of!

I had the most bizarre recruitment process by an agency for a job - complete with drugs test?! That was a first! Nothing says "We have a great culture and we trust our employees" than the introductory drugs test the minute you get in the door - Their client was a well known Silicon Valley based online retailer.

After some rather questionable practices I was all signed up and was told to get on a bus that leaves City Chambers at 6:30pm and will be dropped off at Bathgate.

I would then do a job that bots will do in 12 months time ... put some boxes in delivery vans from 8pm to 4am (Or for a shorter/longer duration with no say in the matter)

However... when myself and 5 others get there we were told that they had all the people they needed for Christmas, so we sat around until travel could be arranged. I got home at 1 am and felt very much like a commodity!

21st December 2017
Whether standing in a long queue for the games my kids wanted for Christmas, or waiting for packages from the retailer that I had thought had hired me but hadn't... I could not get some of these recent events out of my head.

1) The number of hands that went up when I asked a group of 5 year olds "Who wants to make XBox Games?"

2) Michael Wu's presentation and how things just become commoditised when there is no differentiation

3) My fruitless years of either trying to make a difference and/or finding meaningful work in Scotland with very little support.

4) How great politicians are with their fine speeches... but how useless they are with implementing the ideas and, most importantly

5) Wondering how many consumers there are of these tech toys in Scotland (Whether games consoles, laptops, phones or the games and apps that people play on them) Vs how many Scots worked on creating any of these games and products?

A Nation of Digital Consumers?
I am genuinely interested in this last question. Who has the stats re: number of Scots consuming all these Silicon Valley based must have tech products Vs the number of Scots involved in creating them?

This is an important point because the consumption of tech is only going to go up in direct relation to the commoditised jobs going down... if we are not teaching creators, what are the job prospects going to look like for our young people?

An extremely important follow up to this line of enquiry is...Just like Artist Taxi Driver's video at Christmas

"Who is there that cares about this stuff any more?"

I've seen the kind of people involved in FELTAG at the start... all the "Look at me, look at me" stuff then they get their Klingon Cloaking devices on if/when you highlight that you tried to raise the alarm.

But no one seems to care when they fail to deliver... there's zero accountability and/or only one or two self interested individuals are the main beneficiaries of these grand initiatives...They've climbed the greasy pole to land their next gig.

It was not until 2016 that I had an appreciation about how and why this happens... and discovered that it happens to the most innovative companies who have most stringent recruitment practices

"One of the biggest lessons I've learned over the years is that the business world (and the world itself) is filled with poseurs. These people are quite clever at figuring out what you want them to say, and then saying it exactly the way you want to hear it. I first learned about the omnipresence of phonies during the early days of Atari. The custom chip business was very difficult and time consuming. and because it could take at least a year to get it working, a whole cadre of people posing as chip designers would always find ways to leave the company or get fired before the chip ever worked. Steve Jobs once told me that there were many employees at Apple who never got a single chip working. I told him it was the same at Atari. These people were able to go from job to job to job, doing something that seemed creative but yielding zero output"
Nolan Bushnall, Finding the Next Steve Jobs

The answer to the question: Who is there that cares? 

It is not with the people who stand up and give fine speeches but yeild zero output. It's with the people who have "Boots on the Ground" "Skin in the game" or however you want to phrase people with commitmentHow This Teacher Noticed A Problem In Her Classroom And Built A Company To Solve It

I thought that my challenges in looking for work in Community Management in Education Technology was because there were few opportunities in Scotland and/or because this was a bit of a niche market.

However... go take a look at how many Tech jobs there are in Scotland. It sure ain't setting the heather on fire! It's far from "Braw" at least from what I can see at the start of this year of young people.

Amazon is an amazingly innovative company but it would appear that the best Scotland can here is warehouse staff and delivery drivers... There's no differentiation so these people are commodities, that is until the bots replace them I guess?

IBM can get bought over and a Scottish manufacturing plant can be moved to China without any hesitation?

So what's going on here then? Who's at fault? The company for looking after shareholders interests? The government for not ensuring that the workforce was not creative enough so the site got expanded instead of closed? Educators for not being relevant to local employers needs?

"If you want to create and capture lasting value, don't build an undifferetiated commodity business" Zero to One

I don't know the answer to this, what I do know is that my kids have an interest in careers in technology but the opportunities don't look as good as they seem elsewhere... Who is it in Scotland that will fix this in the way that Fred Terman did in the 1930s?

Fred Terman was an educator and, as the article highlights, is the Father of Silicon Valley, educators are also more trusted than our politicians... so there's a rather serious precedent for Educators being the catalyst for changing the economic and job prospects of their students.

Here what a Stanford Professor, Sebastian Thrun, is doing today to help with some of these issues

Can Proactive Reskilling Today Prevent Job Loss in the Future

Outside of Tech and regardless of the metric you use the World of Work in Scotland is rather underwhelming... and I'm not sure I'd be too reliant on that #GoDo financial institution RBS given their "Too-big-too-fail... but can't-seem-to-run-at-a-profit-for-nine-years-and-counting-despite-money-being-their-core-business" record.

Unicorn companies 
Two that I could see - Skyscanner and Fanduel.

Angel List

Never more than a handful of startups hiring at any one time on this popular startup platform. What about some of the popular entrepreneurial initiatives in Scotland, I hear you cry? I agree with Andrew Mitchell Too much Kool Aid as he highlights:

"The average turnover (£23,129 per company pa) and investment (£22,279 per company pa) is not so good"

Organisational Culture

The majority of Scottish jobs on Glassdoor have ratings of 2-3 stars and the company Head Office is not in Scotland. Only one company, Shuh, featured as a Glassdoor top UK companies in 2017 who have their Head Office in Scotland.

And of the tech jobs that there are - or even if there was an abundance of them - who would get those jobs?

Let's just say, if the status quo continues, I look forward to seeing the attainment gap being addressed as kids from Easterhouse and Drumchapel vie for the same opportunities as the privileged St Andrew's University students.

You only need to compare the pathetic offering of the New Enterprise Allowance and the people who administer it with the support that the "Better Classes" get (Man! The story I could tell about the NEA "Workshop" I attended! It would be hilarious... if it wasn't such a serious issue!)

So my thoughts and experiences with these issues where as bright as the Scottish weather... That was until.

Happy New Year! #AppsThatMatter
As a fan of Adam Grant's work I do what I can to encourage a culture of giving.

This includes reaching out to people in the New Year to ask if I might be able to do them a quick "5 Minute Favor" this is an article that is also part of my core values.

The reaction when I ask people if I can help never ceases to amaze me! But as one very good friend tells me when we share our battle scars from all the "takers" and "fakers" that we've encounter when I ask why we keep plodding on like this in such a difficult space:

"Because there are good guys out there"

One of those good guys appears to be MAD Learn and they have a super exciting initiative which, just like Bloodhound's Education program, could go a long way in inspiring a young creator or two... and help their ideas get funded.

This is not the first time that MAD Learn has been a bright spot, nor am I surprised to be writing about their work again!!

The company staff have classroom experience and have co-created with educators ever since they started. Their engagement at ISTE stood out amongst all the exhibitors as a result of this kind of co-creation and collaboration:

I would encourage anyone in my network and anyone reading this to check out MAD Learn's Mad About Mattering initiative where students can collaborate with young people around the world to create #AppsThatMatter

Are you MAD About Mattering?
MAD Learns initiative could not have a better name as far as this project is concerned.
  • I'm MAD about what matters!
  • I'm MAD about what will matter to my kids! 
  • I'm MAD about the missed opportunity FE had with the 2014 version of FELTAG 
  • I'm MAD about what seems like the now inevitable job cuts to the FE sector as new models could see admissions decline
  • I'm MAD that any tech opportunities will go to the same cultural advantage (family background) that Professor Lewis Termin identified in children with high IQs in the 1920s... This will be perpetuated and built upon with any Tech opportunities, regardless of whatever the Attainment Gap (No progress from what I saw in the last update on the program) thinks it is going to achieve 
  • I've given up with being MAD at the political classes... I simply don't rate them! (If you read Will Blacks Psychopathic Cultures you might find yourself thinking, like I do and that they are the cause of a lot of the problems. They most 100% definitely do NOT appear to the source of many of the solutions!)
FELTAG Vs Udacity - Zero to One
The day after publishing this post I got Peter Theil and Blake Master book "Zero to One" which is a far better way of articulating my views three years ago (And is a far more credible source too) 

"New technology tends to come from new ventures - startups. From the Founding Fathers in politics to the Royal Society in science to Fairchild's "Traitorous eight" in business, small groups of people bound together by a sense of mission have changed the world for the better. The easiest explanation for this is negative: it's hard to develop new things in big organisations, and it's even harder to do by yourself. Bureacratic hierarchies move slowly, and entrenched interests shy away from risk. In the most dysfunctional organisations, signaling that work being done becomes a better strategy for career advancement than actually doing work (If this describes your company, you should quit now). At the other extreme, a lone genius might create a classic work of art or literature, but could never create an entire industry. Startups operate on the principle that you need to work with other people to get stuff done, but you also need to stay small enough so that you actually can.

Positively defined, a startup is the largest group of people you can convince of a plan to build a different future. A new company's most important strength is new thinking: even more important than nimbleness, small size affords space to think... That is what a startup has to do: question received ideas and rethink business from scratch"