This data set has involved taking a snap shot of Twitter #EdChats by downloading the Tweets from 150 Edchat sessions over an 8 week period (22nd Apr-10th June) to look for trends. This involves trying to make sense of over 230,000 Education Tweets from over 27,000 different users.
While there is a long way to go with analysing this data there are 2 topics that have stood out immediately;
- The relationship between vendors and educators on Twitter.
- That edtech suppliers and new teaching methods seem to face the same kind of development process and pitfalls.
On this course one of the attendees turned to me and said "I thought this course would be more focused on sales and marketing, but so far its all about the customer experience" I replied "I think that's the whole point... that sales and marketing today is about the customer experience"
Looking at this Twitter EdChat data is a great way to highlight the extent to which the sales process has become all about the customer experience...
The Customer Journey
A quick glance at Twitter and you will see educators giving A LOT of love for Google & Apple products as well as a number of other firm faviourites.
But where does this leave the role of "traditional, outbound" sales? If you check the Tweets from some Inbound Marketing experts, they predict that cold calling will be obsolete within the next 5 years.
One Foot Stuck in the Past... The Other Jammed in the Door
- Dear vendors thanks for your support of #ISTE13. We the people also pay &we actually ARE ISTE. PLease don't invade our spaces. #bloggercafe
- Not just awkward but kinda over the line. If I want a vendor pitch, I’ll go to the Vendor Floor. #iste13
- @BethStill: Vendors----the Newbie and Social Butterfly Lounge is NOT for pushing your product. It's for networking. Please back off! #ISTE13
- inbox brimming w/ emails from vendors thinking I am at #iste13 - no, they don't read my tweets. Anyone else find it annoying? #NotAtISTE
- Dear vendors - as soon as you start talking about how your product will help with testing, I'm out #justsayin #iste13
- Dear #iste13 vendors ... Please do some research on #samr and how your company helps students and teachers move beyond substitution!
Why are individual companies/products praised but the collective view of "vendors" can be quite negative? Is this because there are only a few really, really great products compared with a lot of over inflated claims of the latest "must have" tech and/or aggressive sales tactics.
Are there too many ed tech products that fail to live up to expectations and/or educators are put off by the wrong form of sales and company engagement? If there are too many bad products or aggressive sales people then its hardly surprising if educators end up being "under-whelmed" when discussing education suppliers collectively.
If the sector is being let down by too many suppliers then this make it more of a challenge for other suppliers to engage with educators (This is the subject of my next report "Technology in Edu - Algorithms & Relationships).
Walk a Mile in a Sales Persons Shoes
"Have you ever considered how hard it is to engage and sell new products to educators?" is a question I asked some critical friends in education when researching this edtech report .
The kind of responses I got were along the lines of "No I haven't, boy we must be very difficult to engage with"
This video is not dissimilar to my experiences, except funnier - Hubspot: You Oughta Know Inbound Marketing
It is not my intention to criticize suppliers or their sales approaches; neither am I defending bad products... (and I'm not sitting on the fence either ;).
What I hope I am doing is highlighting how difficult it is to get all the various ingredients right to develop great edtech. The book description on Amzaon for Dave Feinleib's "Why Start Ups Fail" puts the point I'm trying to make across very well;
"Nearly everyone has an idea for a product they could build or a company they could start. But 8 out of 10 new businesses fail within the first three years. Even only 1 in 10 venture-backed startups succeeds, and venture capitalists turn down some 99% of the business plans they see. The odds appear to be stacked against you!"
Based on this observation its perhaps no wonder that I have found differing fortunes on Twitter regarding different suppliers.
When perusing the Ed Chat Twitter data I found that new education methods can, suffer from the same issue... and possibly for the same reasons.
A Promising New Education Method... Or "Education Snake Oil"
Based on the Twitter stream it appeared that the experiences were not dissimilar to the experiences that an edtech supplier might also face.
Some learning methods seem to become popular after successful pilot, but end up being criticised and, eventually, dismissed when rolled out due to disappointing results.
- #Educationfest Tom Bennett on Why Educational research often fails in the classroom
- @tombennett71 lines up NLP, multiple intelligence and...more...for the snake oil firing squad. #educationfest
- #Educationfest vast majority of people working in Gardner's field don't accept multiple intelligences - but schools do!
- #Educationfest another failed theory - Multiple Intelligences. Caught on because sounds good. Not disputing we have different aptitudes
- @tombennett71 - can't measure multiple intelligences - no scientific basis for their existence #educationfest
- Teaching isn’t rocket science: why educational research often falls short of adding value to classroom @tombennett71 #EducationFest
- #Educationfest Tom Bennett Learning Styles don't exist either. This has been disputed since 1978. Most people learn exactly the same way
- #Educationfest Tom Bennett. Lots of educational research 'made of blancmange'. It wastes time and resources
- My blog used to be filled with references to Multiple Intelligences. #educationfest #embarrassing
- Rolling out too early and/or
- Because of poor execution.
Therefore is the issue the same problem that sees a lot of start ups fail - success because of some very specific conditions and/or poor execution? Some businesses can suffer from indigestion as much as starvation - periods of rapid growth as it scales up and rolls its product out to the mass market is a critical time.
Are policy makers rolling out some successful projects too soon?
The Long and Winding Path... of Trial and Error
Their enthusiasm sees them find solutions to any obstacles makes connections within and outside of their institution... Their passion and vision for making the project work carries the project forward.
I enjoy reading about people who inspire me and I focus on their strengths - not their weaknesses - When looking for inspiration on leadership I'm keen to learn from Earnest Shakleton's example and methods... But he's perhaps not someone I'd look to for marital or business advice.
Like most involved in education, I was inspired to read about the results that people who blazed a trail and got some great results.
However today these same people & organisations seem to be coming under fire when the initial results are not replicated elsewhere, confirming Sir Ken Robinson's suggestion that Education struggles to tolerate mistakes.
What does this do in education? Sugata Mitra's "Hole in the Wall" project encouraged thousands of educators to experiment with a new method of teaching - in some settings this worked very well; perhaps not so well in others.
If the results are not replicated in later projects there seems to be the tendency to dismiss the early results, what impact might this have?
Do educators who are developing this method in their classes with some good early results stop exploring the idea? Does this have a knock on effect that educators become a little more risk averse and conservative in their experimentation with their teaching and learning?
It appears to me that developing new teaching methods and new edtech have surprising similarities.
As I continue to assess new ideas in edtech and engaging with educators, I'm sure to make the odd mistake. But I'll be sure to collaborate with educators in my PLN and work with the early adopters & critical friends who understand that "getting it right" can be a messy process of "trial and error."
One thing is for sure... based on this data I'm assessing, I know that I'll ready to "rock'n'roll-out when these early adopters start shouting about the work on Twitter and do the selling for me... it sure does sound better than the alternative...
In the mean time I hope that this post might help other edtech suppliers who are trying to make great products; and that educators might be a little more understanding of how hard it can be even for people with some great edtech ideas to engage with education.