Thursday, 21 September 2017

Scottish Learning Festival & The Power of Data

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bloodhound SSC Maps - UK

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

Other curated resources are included in the following links

Twitter Lists
Bloodhound Ambassador Twitter List
Bloodhound Education Twitter List


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


Bloodhound UK Education Articles (Still being curated)

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

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

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

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

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