Saturday, 18 April 2015

How2 Make Sure Every Teacher Matters


This is the fourth out of five posts detailing “How I met your Awesomeness.” (Previous companies being PledgeCents, #EdTechChat/ClassDojo and Declara). However, I could not pass up the opportunity of changing the title of the post.

In 2003 the UK the Labour Government had an initiative that focused on the outcomes based on “Every Child Matters,” in the US there is policy and initiatives around “No Child Left Behind.” 

I think there has been a mis-judgement with the focus on these titles and initiatives. I think the focus should have been on Teachers ie “Every Teacher Matters” and “No Teacher Left Behind”

This sentiment is one that 100% encapsulates the main focus and priority of the How2 Founders.

The Customer is Not Priority #1! 
The reason I think the focus should have been on educators is, as usual, based on the practices of those crazy Silicon Valley startups. Those crazy people do not take the approach that “The Customer is their number 1 priority” They believe that their staff should be, and is, their primary focus.

I believe this rationale to be sound because... how on earth can you expect to have happy customers if your staff are not taken care of?

If staff are not properly trained, or not given the resources they need, are not trusted, respected or just generally not looked after very well, how can you expect a demoralised work force create a great customer experience?

These are all areas that companies like Zappos obsess about… The level of support that the How2 founders had for both their staff and educators was obvious when I met the team.

I had a post that was all ready to go with the title of “How I met your Awesomeness: How2” and was double checking some facts with Co-Founder Ian Harris, then he said:

“We have a strategy meeting coming up… why not join us so you can find out more about us”

“I’m already going to say nice things about you” Says I “There’s no need to try to win me over… and besides, I’m writing about the culture more than anything”

“Well, why not come down and write about whatever you like… whether about the culture or our Professional Development (PD) solutions for educators” Ian replies.

I am glad that I did take Ian up on the offer, he might be glad too… because I have enough material for 3-4 posts instead of one.  

The Dreaded Team Building Ice-Breaker
After the introductions on the first day ex-Head Teacher and Co-Founder, Oliver Caviglioli, kicks the proceedings off.

He says that he wants to interview members of the team who are responsible for... while I’m tempted to say “Selling” How2s, this is such a consultative approach that the word “sell” really doesn’t quite fit.

And... I hasten to add this isn't the kind of “We’re not-Selling, but we actually are” tactics that I have read about. This isn't “solution selling,” it’s not “Spin Selling” or anything else.

This is more a case of “We think we have a really great product” and we hate sales and selling, an attitude that might be another indicator regarding the organisations history. This is a company that is one of my faviourite types: The founders are “edupreneurs” 

This is a product that was conceived out of two educators frustrations at the lack of good provision for PD (More on that in the next post “How2 The Kipp for Professional Development”)  

As busy educators Ian and Oliver know all too well how annoying those sales calls were when they were on the other end of the phone.

Level 5 Leaders
This interview ice breaker also highlights the company’s desire to question everything and, unsurprisingly, provide relevant PD for their staff.

Oliver explains the reason for this exercise. He explains how the company has evolved, and wondered;
  • What aspects of the service are the same? 
  • What has changed?
  • Does the message we take to educators still match the service we provide?
  • Is the message and presentation consistent across all members of the team?

This could SO easily have been an EXTREMELY uncomfortable exercise! I cringe at the thought of having to do this with some of my previous managers… it would have been nothing more than an excuse to belittle and ridicule members of staff. 

But there is no sense of the kind of panic you might expect. If I did not know that Ian and Oliver were educators who were obsessive about PD and organisational culture, I believe that I would have guessed it in the first 10 minutes of this session.

This exercise seemed to have little to do with any shortcomings of members of staff… but for the founders to take a long hard look in the mirror to ask: 
  • How are we doing in our job of supporting you?
  • Are we giving you all the tools that you need in order to succeed with your projects?
  • Do you need any help with any aspect of your professional development?
The How2 Founders are Definitely operating at Level 5 Leadership Level 

Co-Founder Ian Harris is first to be “Interviewed” and the things that jump out at me include:

"We have established a community of practice… one that is designed for teachers, we want to facilitate the exchange of skills"

There is an undertone that this is a service designed squarely with educators in mind;

"Our aim is to help teachers...we want to help managers too, but only in so far as the part of their role supporting teachers" 

Given my experience with EdChats, where educators say Twitter is the best form of PD, this all makes perfect sense. This is not a policy maker ->Teacher exchange; it’s not a Senior Manager (who has never taught) -> teacher exchange. This is peer-to-peer support, a skills exchange from one teacher to another.
Just a handful of the hundreds of Twitter Best PD Tweets
“We want to do what we can to support teachers and help them improve”

Ian goes on to highlight how and why he feels How2 fulfills a need, how he feels that educators have had a “raw deal” with CPD/PD, a result of which is that there is now a negative perception about it.

Ian’s comments reminds me of the impact that Studio 360/Hyperakt's “RebrandTeachers” campaign had, I wonder if How2 could have the same impact on PD.

Could How2 re-brand PD in the way this re-branded Edu
Not that you would have thought it possible but, the passion in Ian’s voice raises a notch when he details that;

“We facilitate educators to resource their own PD, they can access the teaching technique they need when they need it… And in bitesized chunks that suits the lifestyle and schedule of busy educators”

All that I know about educators PD is what I read about in the Twittershpere but, when I compare Ian’s comments with what’s said on Twitter, the assessment is very similar.

Organised PD has questionable value, and connected educators find peer-to-peer sharing in bitesized 140 characters more useful than many other forms of professional development. As I listen, a thought pops into my head:

Why are lesson plans made up the night before, and yet… PD is a once a term inset day occurrence?

Would it not make sense to have PD done for 10 minutes the night before the lesson too? Oliver picks up on this a little later in the day;

"Identify the learning you want students to achieve, then access the How2 you need to teach it"

I have written about PledgeCents and ClassDojo recently. After listening to Ian’s interview I feel there are comparisons with both here:

PledgeCents Just like PledgeCents gives educators autonomy over something that they had no control over before (ie classroom finance/budgets), How2s could provide the same autonomy to educators with PD.

ClassDojoThere’s lot’s of research on classroom behavior, but ClassDojo made behavior “Classroom Ready”

Fix the Man… Fix the World
Paul Main is the next to be interviewed.The message and passion from Paul’s interview is consistent with Ian’s, but there is something different in the focus of his presentation.

Ian’s interview is industry wide, he wants to change the way every educator views and receives PD.

This is understandable —  as part of his journey from the relatively comfortable lifestyle of a Deputy Head for the uncertain world of startup land Ian has worked with individual teachers and groups of teachers in more than 1500 schools. 

Paul brings this global view down to the individual. His presentation is the “Ying” to Ian’s “Yang,” they are two sides of the same coin.

I am reminded of the busy professor who wants to concentrate on his work while looking after his young son. To keep the youngster busy he takes a map of the world out of a newspaper and cuts it up and says 

“Let’s see how long it takes for you to put the world back together”

After a short while the child comes into the professors’ study and says “I’ve finished dad”

Surprised at the speed at which the task was done he asks “How did you do this so quickly?”

“There was a picture of a man on the other side… When I fixed the man, I fixed the world”

The picture that Paul painted was like something right out of Geoffry Moore’s “What is” Vs “What Could Be”

He describes the current practices, the shortcoming and challenges these practices have, not in theory, but when it comes down to the practical implementation, making the techniques “Classroom Ready”

He highlights that there is all this research on teaching techniques in the volumes of books, policy documents and white papers, which is one thing… but applying it in the classroom is another matter entirely.

Again, this makes sense... despite 3-4 years of teacher training, a new teacher stepping into the classroom for the first time is still a daunting prospect.

Paul highlights the importance of mentors, and encapsulating what good practice of the academic techniques and research looks like in the classroom.

“We need to break this huge body of work down into ‘digestable’ content that everyone understands and make it actionable”

I laugh as a thought jumps into my head, this interrupts proceedings with Paul’s “interview.”

“Did I say something funny?” Paul asks, looking a little confused.

“No!”  I say “I was laughing because you can tell that you sell an image-based solution... the image that I have in my head of How2’s through your explanation is:

Infographics for Educators Professional Development

The guys seem to like this description, and briefly discuss whether to use this as some sort of How2 “strapline” (Will that mean that I get to add 'Marketing guru' to my CV?)

The Brand Advocate-Turned-Employee
When I write about products like this I make a special effort NOT to look at the actual product. This may seem extremely counter-intuitive, but there is method in the madness.

I am not selling any products in these posts, I am not recommending any product here. Furthermore, what I think of any product does not matter one jot! Who am I to recommend any product to educators? Who am I that anyone should listen to what I think should or should not go into the classroom?

So what criteria do I use in order for me to write about an organization like this? In the case of How2? Here’s one very big reason for this: The next How2 employee to be interviewed: Carole Kane, educator, How2 users and their #1 fan.

Before she knew about How2 Carole Kane was busying away with her PD strategy... happily working her way through her 10th year at an FE College. Carole had worked in various departments and roles, and was leading on professional learning.

Two weeks prior to inviting Ian in to discuss the benefits of How2, Carole had just signed off on a significant sum on a series of PD training sessions.

She bought How2s on the spot and two weeks later called Ian and said;

“I’m so impressed with this, that I’d like to work for you”

Apple customers are brand evangalists... So are How2s! 
Talk about a brand advocate and evangelist!  

Costs are always an issue for startups and educators are not renowned for their sales skills (Well maybe not before Nikki Robertson showed us how well teachers can sell. Lol)… But employing Carole soon became a “no brainer,” just like PD Ian found that educators preferred subscribing to services through peer-to-peer referals.

Carole got new clients signed up as a user and brand advocate while working at the college. She recommended How2s at FE networking events. She also won various PD awards… all as a direct result of using HOW2s and the peer-to-peer mentoring to support educators with the practical application of their resources and teaching techniques

I was to find out over the course of the weekend that this is typical. The company has a number of customers who they work so closely with that the relationship is more a case of collaborator and co-creators Vs a supplier/customer relationship.

Carole’s interview is again consistent with Ian and Paul's, but adds her extensive knowledge of the UK Further Education sector to the mix.

Frustrating and Confusing Policy
I worked in UK Further Education for 9 years, and it is a sector that can have a language all of it's own. Carole spoke of various initiatives that seemed to be new, and which seemed to have been given "priority status" since I left the sector, which was only a year ago. It's also one of the reasons I left FE... In frustration!

The constant change in policy and priorities was the reason I left...the culture that our politicians create in education (Especially in FE) is, in my opinion, not necessarily a positive one.

For example, from 2003-2010 Every Child Matters, Healthy Schools, National Indicators were frameworks that Colleges and Local Authorities used, and were starting to take hold and show some promise. However, any good work was swept away as the Conservative Party introduced “The Big Society,” a concept that was extremely vague and led to a great deal of confusion.

"It was similar frustrations that led to Mike Feinberg and Dave Levin to leave state education to create KIPP" I think to myself. Then there's a spooky twighlight moment... Carole says something that provides a direct comparison to KIPP;

"HOW2s give teachers the private space to learn new techniques any time, any place"

For me, this translates as a product that passes the test in one of my all time faviourite education based presentations. KIPP Co-Founder Mike Feinberg presented at the 2013 GSVSummit, where his definition of what great EdTech looks like is;

“Great Teaching… and More of It”

The best technology either frees up educators time with admin to let teachers spend more time in the classroom; or it facilitates learning that take place outside of school/class time.

How2's sure do appear to pass this "Great Teaching... and More of It" test! Indeed, over the course of the next 2 days I would find myself comparing How2’s founders experience and story with KIPP and found myself wondering;

Is How2 The Kipp for Professional Development?  

But I'll leave that story for another day.

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Connected Educator Day: Suppliers

I've been exploring some ways to help the educators who have signed up to Pledgecents #Get2ISTE cause. This research has led to some ideas that might be useful for Scott Rocco and #SatChat's "Connect an EducatorDay."

I hope that the findings below might also be of interest to the wider connected educator community, EdTech suppliers, ISTE exhibitors and education conference organisers.

After spending a week or so consulting with educators on the merits of Pledgecents Get2ISTE, a few educators have now signed up to the idea.

However, after successfully addressing the various objections with educators, the concept and idea has stalled a little.

This time the issue is due to the level of contributions made: only $268 has been contributed against a total target of the $6,400 needed to get Brian Smith (@1to1Brian), Leslie Kinard (@LMKinard) and Cassie Dahl (@FunkyinFourth) to ISTE.

Oh! My apologies, it was $6,400, but... thanks to PledgeCents generous offer of sending someone to ISTE if they signed up to #Get2ISTE by 5th April, I am delighted to report that Nikki will now be going to ISTE!

Embedded image permalink

But more support is needed. So, where to look for people to support the idea? Let me think? How about a group of people who want to engage educators?

What about a group that are so keen to do so that, collectively, they have no problem spending $2 million dollars on exhibition space? But how to engage the various stakeholder? The same as always...

"Take the raw information [and hope] that a substantial number of group members can be convinced... by arranging group conditions to allow the principle of 'social proof' to work maximally in their favour"

It's taken almost a full week to gather this "raw information," so I sure hope it helps!

Lead Generation
So I spent the week sourcing the contact details for suppliers from ISTE's exhibitor page, the company's webpage, LinkedIn and Twitter. These leads can be found on the following links;

ISTE Exhibitors 2015
ISTE Exhibitors 2015: Social Media Links
ISTE Exhibitors 2015: Twitter Stats

Selling Change
Various groups may be resistant to this idea;

Educators: Despite ISTE being a great source of PD and/or a sure way to guard against burnout, some educators may not be entirely behind the idea. That's fine, with a pilot of 4-8 people we can explore this and see what lessons we learn along the way.

Event organisers: A diversion of any marketing spend could be seen as a loss of revenue to the organisers, when in actual fact it needn't be, and isn't, the case...

This is a new opportunity, it's a "Blue Ocean Strategy," at best it's an additional revenue stream; at worst it's an alternative way of retaining existing levels of spend.

This idea could also lead to more repeat bookings year on year from suppliers. For more information on how and why this could be beneficial to event organisers please see:

#Get2ISTE Advantages for Event Organisers

Suppliers: May see this as an additional expense, and a cheeky one at that!

"Why should we pay for someone else's travel to ISTE, it's expensive enough to send our own guys, never mind covering the costs of teachers too"

At the ASU & GSV Summit this week I saw Tweets along the lines of "Private education spends 5 times more on Professional Development than state education," so I would argue that this is one partner in the EdTech ecosystem supporting another.

Some suppliers may prefer to see this as a marketing or PR opportunity. In which case they may want to wonder how many more people will visit an exhibitors stand, and/or how much more attentive the audience would be if there were 8 teachers who would not be at the event if it wasn't for the suppliers' contributions? You know what... I have no idea either!

However, for the sake of $20-40 from each exhibitor, the costs Vs benefits sure seems worth it to find out! How happy do you think Nikki Robertson will be to see PledgeCents, who helped #GetNikki2ISTE and vice versa? If they didn't work together or collaborate in the past, I'm sure this will be far more likely now... and boy! Can Nikki sell!

Shrink the Change & Be the Change
In their fantastic book "Switch: Change when change is hard" Dan and Chip Heath recommend that you "Shrink the change" break whatever you are trying to do down into bite sized chunks... (Maybe into something like a 5 minute favour).

A group of 500 suppliers who will commit $4,000 for a 10x10 foot space... That's before we get into the costs of travel, signage, brochures etc.

So highlighting that if every ISTE exhibitor was contribute $13 we would get these #Get2ISTE early adopters to the event, it seems like some small change indeed. Small change, but big difference to Brian Smith (@1to1Brian), Leslie Kinard (@LMKinard) and Cassie Dahl (@FunkyinFourth)

If educators want to see any change here, you have the contact details of this years exhibitors (All of which was publicly available). If you would like to see something like #Get2ISTE to be tested, why not get in touch with them. Through the information above you can email, connect on LinkedIn or send out a Tweet.

If enough educators get in touch and express a desire for change then maybe exhibitors will listen and respond accordingly.

If people don't respond then clearly the demand isn't there and the idea hasn't really cost too much, the concept has "Failed Fast and Failed Cheap."

However, I hope that I'll be forgiven if I present this post during #ISTE2015 if and when anyone feels compelled to complain about vendor sales practices. Lol ;)

Connected Educator Day: Suppliers
When sourcing the information above, I noticed that some 63 ISTE exhibitors did not appear to be on Twitter, I also noticed a few accounts that were relatively inactive. So I explored this further. Of the 501 exhibitors on ISTE's website, I found that;

406 Companies had Social Media icons on their website
419 are on LinkedIn
434 Are on Twitter
368 have a link to Facebook on their website
190 have links to YouTube on their website

Please see this spreadsheet for more information: ISTE Exhibitors 2015: Social Media Links

This got me thinking about "Connect an Educator Day" on 2nd May, as well as conference Tweets. So I explored this further. I looked at the number of tweets and followers that this years' ISTE exhibitors had.

What was I looking for here? There is perhaps the assumption that there are whole teams of social media experts and training provided for sales and marketing staff.

But what if the reality was a little different? What if there wasn't much support for the people who are Tweeting on behalf of the company? The stats suggest that there might be something to this;
  • 73 Accounts which have posted less than 200 Tweets 
  • Almost 100 ISTE bound suppliers have less than 200 followers
  • Add this to the 63 suppliers with no Twitter presence at all
Please find the data on this spreadsheet: ISTE Exhibitors 2015: Twitter Stats

Could as many as 30% of education suppliers use some assistance with getting to grips with social media? There are all these EdChats to help educators to get comfortable with and make sense of microblogging, but what assistance is there for #EdTech suppliers?

This also ties in with some of the analysis others have done with education conference Tweets, where some 30% of conference Tweets are "a bit salesy,"

Maybe any assumptions that companies provide staff with social media training is a wrong one. What if the extent of the social media training is a Managing Director saying;

"Get on social media... I read an article that it can generate sales. Get on social media and start selling!"

Could and should "Connect an Educator Day" include supporting suppliers?

EdChats: Suppliers Welcome
This weeks' EdTechBridge chat was all about where suppliers can go to get feedback. A great deal of the chat and recommendations depended on geography. I Tweeted something like "I wonder if people in the US were aware how lucky they are with the infrastructure that they have" with all the EdTech events: Hack Edu events, startup weekends, EdCamps, unconferences etc.

For various reasons my main and only source of getting feedback from educators is online and, in particular, via Twitter and EdChats. I would also have thought that there was a argument to be made around the statement that;

"Suppliers who are proficient with Twitter and who join EdChats and/or know where to go to get feedback, develop better products"

I could provide plenty of anecdotal evidence of this. Speaking from experience, getting feedback on ideas through Twitter has been invaluable... whether as the source of new ideas or to see if current plans and projects are on the right track..So, given that;
  • We have Connect an Educator Day almost upon us 
  • ISTE is not too far away, and 
  • There are 8 educators who are looking to #Get2ISTE
How about "Connect an Educator Day" events that includes something like

Connect with Suppliers Week
As part of "Connect an Educator Day" would it be an idea for chats like #SatChat, #DigCit, #NT2T, #EdTechChat and #EdTechBridge (As well as any others that want to take part... I have specifically mentioned those due relevance), to have topics designed for suppliers? What might be some of the outcomes here? Maybe that;

1) It can help moderators grow their Twitter chats

2) That suppliers get an idea of the kind of engagement that educators would like to see, which could lead to

3) Less of the "salesy" Tweets and unwelcome practices that educators have complained about regarding suppliers tactics to get attention conferences

4) As online engagement leads to offline collaboration... Could we see new ideas and improvements made with EdTech?

I've no idea... But as my good friends at FELTAG would say "What have we got to lose?"

Maybe we'll see instant online engagement with offline collaboration and 8 educators who are trying to get to ISTE will make it there.

Anyway I'll leave you with this supplier data and these ideas, but hope that provides some food for thought for #Get2ISTE, for connect an educator day to include suppliers and general edu/EdTech relations.

If any ISTE2015 exhibitors have found the stats compiled useful and/or feel this post has helped in any way please do feel free to contribute to these Pledgecents #Get2ISTE causes

Friday, 10 April 2015

A Declara-tion of Interdependence

This post details how and why the much raved about startup Declara looks set to revolutionise the development of EdTech... Something that, based on the success of EdTech accelerators and the rhetoric from many experts, is in much need of some upheaval and "creative disruption".

Setting up the Demo
OK, so much like the day I met the awesomeness that is Declara, there is some random pointless politicians on the TV again, but am paying no attention because "I'm in the zone," I'm close to completing some mundane admin that's taken more than a week to pull together.

I don't mind as this mundane task just might help get some educators to ISTE... In which case it will be time well spent!

A yellow Skype alert is bouncing impatiently on the corner of the screen begging to be clicked, it's the "formidable start up lady" who was the subject of this recent post, we've had a few direct message conversations since writing the post.

"Would you be free to chat with members of my team?" She asks "I want to give you a demo of what we're working on"

"Sure, I'd love to" says I... but without really thinking things through. We agree to catch up later in the day. Ever heard the phrase "s
ay in haste, repent at leisure"...That certainly applied here! 

Why? Because I decide I better take a closer look at this company before the skype discussion. So I spend the next 30 mins looking into the company. My research starts and ends with LinkedIn.

103 people on LinkedIn, that's a big team for an alpha stage startup. but WOW! The caliber of this team beggars belief! Obviously I knew about James "Mr Microsoft" Stanbridge already, but there are 10 pages of people on LinkedIn who have left companies like Google, Microsoft, Lucas Film, Zynga to join this startup lady who, if she was a character in Wreck it Ralph, the following might be said of her

She's been programmed with the most tragic back story ever
I've asked Ramona if she had any statistics on the collective time her team have spent at top innovative tech companies who have a strong fan base and at universities like Stanford, Harvard and Oxford etc. From what I see on LinkedIn it's decades and decades of experience.

I sure wouldn't want to bet against a team like this one achieving whatever they set out to do!

Declara Insights: Live on Air
But what new insights or ideas could I possibly have that could come any where near rivaling the kind of suggestions a team like this might have? A couple of Skype direct message conversations and the odd email is one thing, but offering any input to a team like this live on air? Let's just say it was a worrisome wait for a few hours. 

Right. Time to speak to people at this formidable startup. But the technology fails initially, yes! A reprieve! But we're soon connected... but I needn't have worried, the conversation was informative, fun and friendly. I even felt that I added to the conversation in some way. 

As for my on-going assessment of this Declara startup? Ani 
Chaudhuri started the demo off, and I interrupted his presentation at the end of the first slide... 

A glimpse of the future
Ani's demo had me at the first slide. Pre-register for Declara here
"I GET IT!" I cheer excitedly "THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT'S NEEDED IN EDUCATION" 
(NB These are caps of joy and excitement, not the angry, frustrated caps I use to shout at politicians).

Ani goes through the rest of the presentation, and I can see very clearly that this startup looks set to disrupt 3-4 different sectors, not just the way students learn, and how educators will be able to connect and collaborate with other educators and industry experts in real time around the world. 


Here's how I can see Declara affecting EdTech companies. 

Disrupting EdTech Startups
I joined this weeks' EdTechBridge where the topic was inspired by the Office of Educational Technology's new EdTech Developers Guide

It's because of reports like this that I have so much more respect for US policy makers compared to their UK counterparts. I have not read all this report yet, but I did read chapter 3 and joined the chat... during which there was quite a bit of focus on areas that a lot of developers simply don't have access to, and are not able to affect to any great extent. 

A lot of the early discussion in the chat was around being based in certain cities or being accepted into EdTech accelerators. I think that EdTech accelerators are fantastic. But, at the same time, they are able to play by a different set of rules (Which I detail in this "ROI Vs ROR: A Tough Sell for Suppliers" post).

Accelerators have to deal with issues of supply and demand, they only have the space and resources for so many startups. So, naturally, they pioritise based on merit and accept the "cream of the crop," which is fine... I certainly don't have any issues with accepting ideas based on meritocracy!

But this can tend to become a question along the lines of  "What function does boot camp play for the military?" Does it get soldiers fit? Or is it more of a case of it weeds out those who are not soldier material? 

These factors set EdTech incubators up in a certain light, which again is great! Obviously, the more fantastic products in education... the better! However, an unhelpful by-product of this is that it makes it all too easy to criticise the practices of others. There is a tendency to weigh in on other suppliers with laments of;

"Why can't you be more like your EdTech accelerator brother"

In my opinion, this comparison is extremely unfair! Indeed, I would argue the comparison is about as fair as Michael Gove telling head teachers not to moan, or to ask inner city schools in a deprived areas,

"Why can you not be more like the selective, exclusive and very expensive private school down the road?"

A Declara-tion of Interdependence

That's my take on the situation today, but I don't think this will be my assessment in 1-2 years time... or less. Declara has the potential to change this and to bring the much praised EdTech accelerator model to the masses.

As any regulars of my blog will know, I have explored and tested a number of ideas around the roll out process of products in education, and am working on ways to improve some of the challenges I've noticed... despite the fact that I don't live in an EdTech hub, or have the luxury of being able to "Go Slow" because of the support of an accelerator.

I have however, looked at their model and try to replicate certain aspects. For example, I am careful not to do a thing with an idea without getting input from educators, even though getting this input can and has been a HUGE challenge in the past.

Two other major challenges with a potential founders' idea include;

1) There is a good chance that the hypothesis will be wrong. That the real idea and basis for the startup is adjacent to the original vision. However,

2) If the team is built around the original idea and the founder realises the company is heading in the wrong direction, it can be psychologically (and maybe even physically) a lot more difficult to shift focus.

So staying as small as possible, for as long as possible is a big priority during this "Product Market Fit discovery process." This is something EdTech startups in accelerators are able to do.

This is something that Decara will help EdTech startups do too... Their insights page might even set some 9 year old students up as EdTech Co-Founders and CEO's.

Founding a Company: A Big Risk

Something a lot of startups obsess about is the day they become an IPO, so they can get to "cash in" on all their hard work. 

Ever wonder what the first company to offer shares was? Or why it undertook the practice in the first place? The East India Company was the first IPO and the model was designed to reduce the risks of ships being lost at sea.
17th Century shares Vs Sharing Economy
Collaboration can reduce the risk to EdTech startups today 
I can't imagine a bigger risk today than actually forming an EdTech company until AFTER;  
  • The due diligence is complete 
  • Early adopters have experimented with the product/service 
  • Evidence that the solution genuinely fulfills a need and solves a problem 
  • An assessment of demand for the solution has established ie are there enough potential customers?
Sound crazy? Not to me it doesn't. There are probably as many educators with great solutions but don't get developed, as there are alpha male CEOs who develop poor products because they have a fundamental inability to listen or take feedback on board.

Unfortunately, these educators with great ideas lack the time, knowledge, resources to take a product to market. There is some support for "edupreneurs" and mainstream services like ODesk and Assembly can help here too.

However, I can't help get the feeling that Declara's "Insights" page will do for EdTech what Jane Jacobs' ideas on the diversity did with the city. Jacobs observed how order was created out of the city's chaos, how the clashes of culture brings new ideas and opportunities to the city.

The mixing of diverse groups of students, educators, suppliers, investors all coming together and sharing ideas, testing hypothesis, surveying people within their respective communities for input will be a significant development.

Through Declara's "Insights" page and functionality, I think that there is the potential for companies to spring up within as little as 3 months, but will be better researched than companies that have been going for 3-5 years+.

Connected Educators
At the end of the demo I was asked if I knew anyone who would be interested in seeing Ani's demo of Declara. I said that I think that "Connected Educators" would love to see the demo.


Through my discussions to get Craig Kemp to ISTE, Declara have been aware of my desire to recognise the time and effort that EdChat moderators put into their chats... so Ani was one step ahead of me.

Declara are as keen to recognise the time that moderators put in to collaborating and supporting their colleagues as I am. They are also very keen to get their feedback on their beta version when it goes live next week.

Ani told me that he will be arranging a webinar for moderators, and any who attend the demo to find out more about Declara's solution for educators will be eligible for other sneak previews. I was also assured that "lots of other nice surprises and goodies" would be made available to any moderators who attend this webinar, as the service is developed, finalised and rolled out.

To register to attend this webinar on Thursday 16th April at 9.30am PT (12.30pm ET), please visit Ani Chaudhuri's invitation for

"Connected Educators to Connect with Declara"

This will be a 20 min demonstration followed by a 40 min Q & A session.

Declara is all about organising the phenomenal amount of content that is now produced on a daily basis, so is a much needed resource.

However... we all have those faviourite books, Ted Talks, articles and posts that don't need to be organised with aid of technology, because they leave such a big impression on our thinking and help guide our strategic plans.

For me, one of these articles is Sharon LePage Plante's "What if #SatChat started a school"

I'm going to play about with this title a little to ask

"What if #Satchat (+other connected Educators) and Declara were to collaborate... Would this school be a possibility in the not too distant future?"

I hope that EdChat Moderators will accept Ani's invitation to connect on Thursday 16th April at 9.30am PT (12.30pm ET, 5.30pm GMT) to explore the answer to this question.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

EdChats... Getting Competitive?

I truly believe that a key area for EdReform are educators who manage and attend Twitter Chats. This post highlights where Education-based Twitter Chats are in the "Technology Adoption Cycle," and considers 6 ideas that could help encourage more educators to get connected, as well as some suggestions to help moderators to grow their chat.

I watched part of the Dimbleby Lecture where Martha Lane Fox was talking about the need for deeper understanding of the internet. While I agreed with what was said and the rhetoric on Twitter, I couldn't help but think:

"You're barking up the wrong tree! All our politicians care about is their own self importance and self interest, this makes for the kind of change that's required 'a bit of a challenge'" 

I have some theories about who the reformers are, and so far, testing the hypothesis thrown up some interesting and positive results. So anyone who is in with the UK "political classes," hope you have fun... I'll be hangin' with some US educators and a few startups.

So EdChats is where it's at. I am convinced of this! I am also keen to assist these change agents in any way I possibly can. So, when I put my sales and community manager hat on and think about the world of EdChats, I wonder if there are some areas that could be improved upon.

TalkMath: 400 Education Twitter Chat/A 168 Hour Week 
I first started exploring US EdChats so I would have people to talk to on social media about education, while I waited for UK educators to catch up with the idea of Twitter as a great source of PD. Since abandoning my current plans with UK education I have focused a little more time on EdChats.

When I first started exploring the world of Twitter chats there were 150 regualr education based chats that I was able to find. There are now almost 400 active EdChats, with another 50-60+ that appear to have been abandoned.

When there are only 168 hours in a week and people have to factor in 40 hours of work and 8 hours of sleep (Erm... In an ideal world that is!). Then there's time needed for all the shopping, cooking, cleaning, gardening... It can leave little time for chatting, whether with friends in real life... Or online. I attended 10 chats in a week for a while, and it sure was a challenge to keep up at times!

All of which means that EdChats are getting competitive... There just isn't enough time in the week and there are more EdChats than ever to choose from. To give just one example, there are 30 EdChats on between 8-10pm (ET) on Wednesdays.

Add the fact that a relatively small number of teachers are on Twitter... there could be a strong argument made that it's time for some significant outreach, as this fantastic Connect an Educator Day post by Scott Rocco (@ScottRRocco; EdChat: #SatChat) demonstrates. The information below is in support of this event next month.

Connect_an_Educator_Day_2015_002

EdChats: Crossing the Chasm
The Institute of Education Sciences indicates that there are 3.7 million elementary and secondary school teachers in the US. In Adam Bellow's 2013 ISTE Keynote he highlighted that Tom Whitby's research indicated that there are 200,000 educators who are active on Twitter.

If we were to consider EdChats as a startup that needed to be rolled out to other educators, some of the following things would be considered with Senior Managers regarding a sales strategy;

Home or Target Market: The area that you would focus most of your efforts on. In the case of EdChats, the home market would be the US as this is where it was founded and is the most developed market.

Attainable Market: Is the the number of potential users. The Institute of Education Science gives us a figure of 3.7 million educators and potential users that we could get chatting on Twitter. "Secondary markets" could include other countries or involve expanding existing chats to include more users ie students, parents and employers etc in the home market

Market Share: How many educators currently use EdChats in comparison to the overall attainable market.

So, to answer a question that Scott Rocco poses in his Connect and Educator post: If we take the 200,000 active educators and compare this with the 3.7 million US educators = 5% of US educators are on Twitter.

Obviously there are issues with these stats as the 200,000 figure is from 2 years ago, and the total includes educators from other countries as well..

If we try to adjust for any flaws in this data/approach, even if we were to double the number of active educators, at 4-500,000 we are looking at 14% of the "US attainable market."

All of which translates to: EdChats are still in the "Early adopter" phase, but they are also at a very exciting and key stage... EdChats could be set to become a mainstream form of PD.


However, in order to "Cross the Chasm" into the mainstream, a bit of salesmanship might not go amiss (I am determined to demonstrate to educators that sales people have their uses... And show EdTech sales people they can still engage with educators without cold calling our busy teachers).

I have been having similar thoughts to Scott, and have been thinking of ways of doing more outreach with the "unconnected." But any attempts to engage this group might be more effective if done through a number of initiatives that have online and offline components.

1) Net Promoter Score
The first and best sales strategy is to make sure that your current customers are happy.

If I am supporting an Twitter Chat in any way (which is usually when the chat is just starting out), something I like to do is to compile some stats and monitor the frequency of participants visits.In doing this I am looking for two things in particular;

1) For people who attend once and don't return.
2) For people who used to attend regularly, but then visit with less frequency and/or don't return at all

In sales these stats provide one of the best indicators to demonstrate that you had a great product: A High Net Promoter Score"

"Net Promoter Score is based on the fundamental perspective that every company’s customers can be divided into three categories: Promoters, Passives, and Detractors.

By asking one simple question — How likely is it that you would recommend XYZ Chat to a friend or colleague? — you can track these groups and get a clear measure of your company’s performance through your customers’ eyes. Customers respond on a 0-to-10 point rating scale and are categorized as follows:
  • Promoters are loyal enthusiasts who will keep buying and refer others, fueling growth.
  • Passives are satisfied but unenthusiastic customers who are vulnerable to competitive offerings.
  • Detractors are unhappy customers who can damage your brand and impede growth through negative word-of-mouth.
If the net promoter score is high, I would encourge moderators to check out this Community Manager video: Scaling Personal Connections, empowering community members like this can help the chat grow, and ensure that there is plenty of assistance when it is super busy.

Indigestion Vs Starvation
A lot of companies can suffer because they grow too fast and can't fill positions with the right staff quick enough, so the product suffers... and customers who were one time fans and proponents, leave.

The startup can end up going bust as a result of this. They got too many customers too quickly, and were not able to reply to users or keep the product quality to the same high standard.

In a Twitter Chat context, many who join a number of Chats regularly may find themselves in the same situation as Goldilocks would, if she were a connected educator: some chats are too fast, some are quite slow... while others are just right ;). Lol.

Moderators may find that one reason for people who used to attend regularly drop out, if the chat gets too fast for them. I've joined some really busy Twitter Chat's live a few times but find them really manic! I tend to catch up with really fast chats via the chat archives.

Obviously a high NPS will be especially important for chats where the "market is crowded" ie If there are 10+ chats on at the same time.

2) Help to Clean Up online Abuse: #DigCit Vs Trolls
During a recent visit to #DigCit chat where the topic as "Trolls and Cyberbullying" I found that there was an element of 'preaching to the choir' (as can be the case in EdChats), and that the advice of educators differed quite a bit from experienced Community Managers.

I suggested that we needed more "evanalising to the sinners" and Marialice Curran (@mbfxc) liked some of my suggestions so elaborated on the idea via this post.
This could raise the profile of chats like #DigCit and #NT2T, with a little bit of PR and press coverage to help ensure that "unconnected" teachers and students were aware of the anti-Trolling initiatives.

This form of outreach could also help to get more educators connected and help admins/teachers who are social media novices and simply don't know how to deal with issues like this:
Articles like this are neither the best advert for or the best introduction to encourage educators to spend more time on Social Media. But if a "Connected Educator" initiative like this was successful it could;
  • See more educators "get connected" 
  • Be another example to take to policy makers regarding the value of the work they do.
  • Develop relationships with the business community, especially Social Media and Cmgr's.
3) EdChatMod Appreciation Day
Just over a year ago I suggested that an "EdChat-A-Thon" might be an interesting idea but the suggestion didn't get a huge amount of feedback, one way or the other. Jena Ball  (@JenaiaMorane; Chat: #Gueri11aEd )mentioned this when we were discussion #Get2ISTE, and imagining what a giant EdChatMod Tweetup might look like.


I suggested this Chat-A-Thon before I knew about Community Manager Hangout (#Cmgrhangout), which the "My Community Manager" team organises.... They also organise the annual Community Manager Appreciation Day.

This is a 24 hour event with 1 hour GHO sessions with different hosts discussing various aspects of managing communities... wouldn't replicating this with an EdChatMod Appreciation Day be a fantastic way to;
  • Show appreciation for the time and effort that Moderators put into this form of PD
  • To share what each chat has learned in the last 12 months... to discuss how random ideas from a chat became a viable project etc
  • To showcase to people who are not on Twitter that this isn't just about pointless chatter... it's about change. It's Professional Development. It's EdReform... By, with and for educators!
A Day Dedicated to EdChatMod to Thank Them for all they Do
4) Offline Tweetups
If one person is a regular of an EdChat then there is a god chance they have encouraged a few other people to join in. Why not arrange regular mini-Tweetups... Even if this is just 2-3 people to start with (It's how the EdChat started), to discuss what you have learned over the last week/month and consider ways to share what you have learned online with colleagues in the staff room etc.

Creating a "Tweetup Counter-Culture" at the school will slowly, but surely, attract a following. For more information to see how and why this would have an impact (It worked for Apple!), please see;

5) Re-Arrange & Co-ordinate Edchat Time Slots?
Could the time slots for chats be organised in a different way? Could chats that are geographical and/or those that are subject specific and those aimed at certain age groups be on at the same time?

For example,  An 11th Grade English teacher from Florida might be unlikely to attend a California based EdChat for 1st graders who are math enthusiasts.

Therefore could sessions be grouped so that Geographic chats take place on XYZ days/time slots, Subject specific ones on ABC days/times and age specific chats on DEF days/times.

This way, if there are 10 chats on at the same time there may be less chances of encountering any conflicts in the schedule by having multiple chats that would appeal to the same audience.

I realise there might be challenges with this given that people will have discussed the best time with their community members, but it might be worth considering and discussing some options?

6) Some Friendly Competition? EdChat Leader Board and ISTE
I really like the Student Advisor's Top 100 Social Media Colleges leader board. It takes some of the traditional university rivalries, and fuels the growth of the institutions' online community.

Texas A&M and the University of Texas traditional rivalry saw them try to outdo each other with the most followers.

What would happen if there was some friendly competition amongst edchats? Would a leader board that curated things like;

# of regulars
# of newbies
# of Tweets
# of Favs
# of RTs

Would this help to get unconnected educators online?
Would some friendly competition see educators put in a little more sales hustle in the staff room? Educators have already shown me some formidable sales skills, what could they do if they really got onto selling EdChats?

#Get2ISTE
Or what about some competition to see which EdChat could help the most regulars #Get2ISTE?
What if moderators opened a #Get2ISTE Pledgecents account, not for themselves but for their chat community, to see how many regulars could be sent to ISTE... and then have the biggest EdChat Tweetup ever!

A collective account opened under the name of the EdChat could also help solve some recurring issues... which may impact on the success of this for ISTE2015, and 2016.
  • Selfless Givers - I'm not sure how the registrations for PledgeCents is going but I can't shake this feeling that educators are reluctant to open accounts for themselves, because of this "selfless giver" trait, personality type/nature.

    The idea of "How many people can XYZ EdChat send to ISTE, could solve this issue. Selfless givers won't ask for help themselves, but BOY! will they pitch in when they are pulling for other people!

    The more people there, the more that students and the EdChat will learn through the workshops and making new connections.
  • Potential Sponsors - By not opening a #Get2ISTE account are educators sending a message to vendors that they are happy with the status quo? Are educators saying they prefer to see marketing spend used for flashy leaflets and brochures instead of something like #Get2ISTE?

    The more accounts that are opened the stronger the message that is sent to suppliers for the appetite for change.

    This will not just impact on ISTE but could see some changes as suppliers may decide to allocate XYZ% of their marketing budget to educators Pledgecents causes and campaigns throughout the year.
Open a #Get2ISTE acct for your EdChat
If a few people were able to go into their school and say "I will #Get2ISTE because I've spent time chatting on Twitter" do you think that would help "Connect an Educator" and assist with the growth of Moderators EdChat?

7) Mystery Idea...
Did I say I had 6 ideas for helping with the outreach of EdChats?

I have one more idea which should help with #Get2ISTE as well as #SatChat's "Connect an Educator Day" ...I am doing all I can to have this ready by 2nd May.

I hope that any EdChat moderators or regulars have found these ideas useful and would be happy to address any questions anyone may have.