Posts in Category: 100 Conversations

Make your IT Dept. a Creative Dept.

cio v cmo

 

It occurred to me in this session at the a16z Tech Summit last year that there is a parallel between CIO (Chief Information Officer) and CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) relationship in business and the IT manager and teacher relationship in schools. Historically, the two roles, CIO/IT managing tech and data on one side and CMO/teacher facing the “customer” on the other, have been at odds.

Business is redefining the relationship, recognizing that the the CIO and CMO have more in common than not. It was this session that convinced me education needs to rethink the relationship, too. At Mulgrave School, where I work, that means transforming the IT department from a maintenance team to a creative team of coders and developers working directly with teachers to come up with creative technical solutions for classroom problems. I see IT writing code to connect, say Twitter and SIS APIs, or writing script for a Google sheet crunching data gathered from students in different cities, or developing mobile apps for particular courses. Ultimately, my role of Director of Educational Technology should be replaced–and expanded–by the IT team.

Education is not a business. Except when it is.

Jordan Shapiro’s piece in Forbes, You Are Asking the Wrong Questions About Education Technology, is a great reminder to me that education is much more nuanced that we commonly acknowledge. We too often speak too broadly, forgetting or ignoring that K3 students are very different creatures from PSE students and that the immediate educational needs of the developing world are different from the developed world, for example.

We forget, too, that there is a difference between what teachers do and what schools do. Teachers teach persons and schools teach individuals. The gap between those is very difficult to cross and is an example of a well-known problem in the social sciences, namely that we are very good at understanding and predicting the behaviour of a group of individuals and very bad at understanding and predicting the behaviour of a single person. Misunderstanding that problem, as Shaprio points out, leads to the “plague” of high stakes testing or, I will add, to taking the value-added movement too far.

small v large scale behaviour

 

But we shouldn’t take that to mean education does not have some business-like aspects. In my new series of posts on my time at the ah16z Tech Summit that I am asking what can education learn from the business world. Because I think there is something to learn, especially on the operations side.

The trick, as Shapiro reminds us, is to keep that gap clear in our minds and know when we are talking about persons or individuals.

Posts on the ah16z Tech Summit:

Software is eating the (education) world. #100convos

Software s eating the world, says a16z’s Ben Horowitz, yet you can’t get the innovation you need for your business from tier one software vendors. The reason, he explains, is that the VC/startup environment has fragmented the industry creating problems of proliferation, scale, viability and incompleteness.

I see the same thing in education. We’re searching for a new student information system and so far we’ve found no fewer than 17 offerings. Yet, despite the proliferation, they lack localization. Generally, education software from big vendors is too generic and the companies that make them assume all schools work the same, or at least they’re having to pitch to the widest possible market. This creates two problems:

  1. Schools have to make administrative work arounds and these have knock on effects that create inefficiencies. Our SIS for example, doesn’t handle our complex bell schedule so teachers sometimes have to take attendance manually.
  2. More importantly, when schools buy an off-the-shelf program they are also buying into a pedagogy, one that may not align with their actual practice

On the other hand, software from smaller vendors, which tend to be more flexible, aren’t scaling. The education market is huge. Canadian school boards spend $53-billion and the US–get this–spends a staggering $1.3-trillion. Yet, there is no focussed allocation for the development of software that might improve business. Instead, education seems to wait to be handed software developed by someone else. If Horowitz is right and software is eating the world, this is a significant problem. It’s a bit head-n-the-sand.

Horowitz’s solution is to create a business that curates solutions for you. I wonder if a group of similar-thinking schools, which incidentally could be geographically widely distributed, couldn’t form a curator/brokerage of sorts–the International Baccalaureate schools come to mind as they are a large body of like minded schools with common pedagogy and curricula. Alas, budgets are held to high and need to be pushed down closer to the users–schools–before this can happen.

I don’t know how we get the money out of existing budgets to do this. I do know that the big change in education won’t come from the classroom use of technology. It will come from the administrative use of technology.

 

buying innovation

Best pro-d of the past 12 months: a16z Tech Summit #100convos #pd

Last fall I was fortunate to attend a Andreessen Horowitz’s TechSummit 2013, a gathering of some very forward thinking people and companies, in Sausalito, California. I mean no slight to the excellent education conferences I’ve attended, but it was refreshing get outside my field and see what other professions are doing with technology.

I get that in education our “product” is different and we are not manufacturing or selling like the companies that came to the a16z Tech Summit. Nevertheless, I came away thinking that education is five to ten years behind in using technology strategically. We have so far spent our time and money on developing a pretty rich conversation around the classroom, or tactical, use of technology. But, however innovative that is, it hasn’t called on us to make any substantive change to the way we conduct our business. The big structures of education remain largely untouched whereas business is creating new models.

I am not suggesting education blindly adopt everything I saw at the Tech Summit. I do, however, find myself asking questions like, Could the GitHub model form a pedagogy? Tests give us the equivalent of transactional data–what would gain from having the same volume behavioural data that Facebook or Amazon have? What might a cloud-based continuous user experience look like in education? What does a mobile eco-system look like in education?

I’ll be posting my sketchnotes and questions over the next week or so. All the sketchnotes are also archived on my Pinterest board, Sketch Notes. Feedback is very welcome.

First up, some opening remarks from Ari Emanuel. The writer is king again, he says, and the channels for distributing his content are changing dramatically. My questions:

  1. Where do we get to if we substitute “student” for writer? Or “teacher” for writer? (I’m oversimplifying to make a point here, but teachers deliver curricula, they don’t write it.)  Alexis O’Hanian’s Without Their Permission touches the same discussion.
  2. Are distribution channels dramatically changing in education, too? Distance ed models and MOOCs etc. are interesting but haven’t penetrated that far yet. What does a new delivery model look like?

Ari Emanuel at ah16z Tech Summit

Wrapping up my reading of Kleon’s #showyourwork

My todo list, after reading @austinkleon #showyourwork 57 #100xconvos

p. 216

 

I am reading @austinkleon‘s new book, Show Your Work, and in the spirit of the title, I’ve decided to show that reading. Over the next few weeks I’ll be posting shots of my marginalia–my conversation with Austin Kleon. It’s not page by page, but by every page where I’ve scribbled a few words or doodled a picture. It’s my half of a conversation with Kleon. For the other half, you’ll have to buy his book and read along. (It is well worth it and so far one of the best books on education I’ve read in the past 12 months.)

Treat beginnings like endings. Reading @austinkleon #showyourwork 56 #100xconvos cc @dianakimball

p. 199

Diana Kimball, who works at Soundcloud, on No More Forever Projects.

I am reading @austinkleon‘s new book, Show Your Work, and in the spirit of the title, I’ve decided to show that reading. Over the next few weeks I’ll be posting shots of my marginalia–my conversation with Austin Kleon. It’s not page by page, but by every page where I’ve scribbled a few words or doodled a picture. It’s my half of a conversation with Kleon. For the other half, you’ll have to buy his book and read along. (It is well worth it and so far one of the best books on education I’ve read in the past 12 months.)

On to the next (happy) pipe dream. Reading @austinkleon #showyourwork 55 #100xconvos

p. 198

I am reading @austinkleon‘s new book, Show Your Work, and in the spirit of the title, I’ve decided to show that reading. Over the next few weeks I’ll be posting shots of my marginalia–my conversation with Austin Kleon. It’s not page by page, but by every page where I’ve scribbled a few words or doodled a picture. It’s my half of a conversation with Kleon. For the other half, you’ll have to buy his book and read along. (It is well worth it and so far one of the best books on education I’ve read in the past 12 months.)

Become a student again. Reading @austinkleon #showyourwork 54 #100xconvos

p. 197

 

That means you have to shut up and listen.

I am reading @austinkleon‘s new book, Show Your Work, and in the spirit of the title, I’ve decided to show that reading. Over the next few weeks I’ll be posting shots of my marginalia–my conversation with Austin Kleon. It’s not page by page, but by every page where I’ve scribbled a few words or doodled a picture. It’s my half of a conversation with Kleon. For the other half, you’ll have to buy his book and read along. (It is well worth it and so far one of the best books on education I’ve read in the past 12 months.)

If you never go to work, you never get to leave work. Reading @austinkleon #showyourwork 53 #100xconvos

p. 194

I am reading @austinkleon‘s new book, Show Your Work, and in the spirit of the title, I’ve decided to show that reading. Over the next few weeks I’ll be posting shots of my marginalia–my conversation with Austin Kleon. It’s not page by page, but by every page where I’ve scribbled a few words or doodled a picture. It’s my half of a conversation with Kleon. For the other half, you’ll have to buy his book and read along. (It is well worth it and so far one of the best books on education I’ve read in the past 12 months.)