Monthly Archives: April 2013

Credit Union Enterprise Project wins Scottish Money for Life Challenge Final⤴

from @ Kenneth's Education Journal


WE WON!!!!

As part of our curriculum plan for this academic year, we entered a national competition supporting students to challenge issues of financial capability and literacy in their local community. Details can be found at: https://www.moneyforlifechallenge.org.uk//

I blogged about the aforementioned project at the beginning of this academic year and provided an insight into how we'd attempted to incorporate the Senior Phase of CfE into our curriculum planning. I hoped that through partnership working, coupled with the promotion of collaborative working, we would see some positive results. It's been challenging at times and some students find it diffcult to engage with this sort of approach. We have, however, taken real strides and we will build on what we have achieved next year; reflecting on our successes and continuing to offer an experience of real value to our learners.

Listed below, as a reminder, are the teaching and learning strategies that we aimed to embed within the course structure. There are obvious links to the SfLLW Framework

  • Literacy
  • Numeracy
  • Health and wellbeing
  • Employability, enterprise and citizenship
  • Thinking

Successful learners
 

  • The bespoke course includes the use of http://rbsmoneysense.co.uk/schools/students , a Royal Bank of Scotland scheme designed to improve financial literacy and promote independent living.
  • The following SQA Unit is integrated into the design and delivery of the project: Financial Services: Personal Finance Awareness DM7X 11 (Intermediate 2)
  • Learners are charged with the organisation, management, marketing and operation of the Credit Union with support from tutors and Credit Union Staff.
Confident Individuals
  • Learners are encouraged through activities, research and exposition to fully understand the implications of financial exclusion, the relationship between the lack of financial literacy and social deprivation.
  • The Credit Union ethos is built on community cohesion and civic responsibility
  • The co-operative spirit of the Credit Union is emulated by the independence of the student cohort in developing appropriate strategies for success.
Responsible citizens
  • Ethical issues are explored through the examination of the cause of the 2008 financial crisis.
  • Learners are encouraged, through research and activities, to examine the financial, social and ethical issues that relate to financial products made available to the citizens of Scotland.
Effective Contributors
  • Learners work independently on all aspects of the Social Enterprise activity.
  • An oversight committee monitors all activities of the project. Membership includes four learners, two JWC staff and a representative of 1st Alliance.
  • Learners work on sub-projects, including the use of social media in marketing and promotion.
Finally, a big thank you to all my students-enjoy your success!

Credit Union Enterprise Project wins Scottish Money for Life Challenge Final⤴

from @ Kenneth's Education Journal


WE WON!!!!

As part of our curriculum plan for this academic year, we entered a national competition supporting students to challenge issues of financial capability and literacy in their local community. Details can be found at: https://www.moneyforlifechallenge.org.uk//

I blogged about the aforementioned project at the beginning of this academic year and provided an insight into how we'd attempted to incorporate the Senior Phase of CfE into our curriculum planning. I hoped that through partnership working, coupled with the promotion of collaborative working, we would see some positive results. It's been challenging at times and some students find it diffcult to engage with this sort of approach. We have, however, taken real strides and we will build on what we have achieved next year; reflecting on our successes and continuing to offer an experience of real value to our learners.

Listed below, as a reminder, are the teaching and learning strategies that we aimed to embed within the course structure. There are obvious links to the SfLLW Framework

  • Literacy
  • Numeracy
  • Health and wellbeing
  • Employability, enterprise and citizenship
  • Thinking

Successful learners
 

  • The bespoke course includes the use of http://rbsmoneysense.co.uk/schools/students , a Royal Bank of Scotland scheme designed to improve financial literacy and promote independent living.
  • The following SQA Unit is integrated into the design and delivery of the project: Financial Services: Personal Finance Awareness DM7X 11 (Intermediate 2)
  • Learners are charged with the organisation, management, marketing and operation of the Credit Union with support from tutors and Credit Union Staff.
Confident Individuals
  • Learners are encouraged through activities, research and exposition to fully understand the implications of financial exclusion, the relationship between the lack of financial literacy and social deprivation.
  • The Credit Union ethos is built on community cohesion and civic responsibility
  • The co-operative spirit of the Credit Union is emulated by the independence of the student cohort in developing appropriate strategies for success.
Responsible citizens
  • Ethical issues are explored through the examination of the cause of the 2008 financial crisis.
  • Learners are encouraged, through research and activities, to examine the financial, social and ethical issues that relate to financial products made available to the citizens of Scotland.
Effective Contributors
  • Learners work independently on all aspects of the Social Enterprise activity.
  • An oversight committee monitors all activities of the project. Membership includes four learners, two JWC staff and a representative of 1st Alliance.
  • Learners work on sub-projects, including the use of social media in marketing and promotion.
Finally, a big thank you to all my students-enjoy your success!

How computer games can help us learn why kids don’t fail⤴

from @ @derekrobertson's...

Minecraft
Minecraft mania! Dressed as a Creeper for Halloween.

During the middle of last week I found myself in a Twitter discussion about the word failure. When speaking about the development and evolution of the use of tablet devices by teachers in his school one of my Twitter contacts commented that he thought that teachers should get hands on devices and fail first. You can follow the thread of that discussion to see how the conversation developed but the nub of my argument was that the word failure is imbued with negative connotations and is a term that can be oppressive, constricting and an enemy to creative thought and action.  It belongs to a culture of externally imposed values and expectations, a culture that I believe is one that we as learners are socialised into as we engage with and progress through the formal world of schooling.

Tbe main factor that underpins this belief is based on the observations that I have made over the years when watching children learn - independent of adult intervention - when playing computer games. As the failure discussion ensued on Twitter last week I couldn't help thinking of the world that my two daughters had been making in Minecraft on their Xbox360 that evening. Now, my girls are 9 and 10 and I have never really shown them how to play any of the computer games that they've had over the years and from Nintendogs, to Lord of the Rings, to Little Big Planet they have worked things out for themselves with no intervention from the more skilled and knowledgeable (I think) adult in the house! The same is true of Minecraft and the world they had created with its Redstone roller-coaster, the creeper traps and the flushing toilets in every room of their glass and gold Minecraft palace were testament to that. I have left them to it very much over the past months of Minecraft mania in my house...

How have they managed to learn so much? Where did they learn all this stuff?! They are learning from the support materials built in to games, from their peers and most definitley from YouTube -that's where. I have seen my girls collaborate and work as a team with one of them watching Minecraft Tutorials and giving the instructions to the other who is in world. Their friends have been round and YouTube is on. They learn in this flattened world of collegiate creativity and never think of failure, never! This is a joyous experience and one that appears to me to show the learner in its most beautiful form: free, open, responsive, conversational, successful and confident.

A couple of years ago I gave a talk at the E-Assessment Conference at Dundee University (go to 12:15 for killer Guitar Hero solo) and the themes of intrinsic motivation, peer support, flattened hierarchies and built in support mechansims in games were explored then. I featured some videos I had made of my neighbour's son Jack who was rather handy at playing FIFA. He regularly thumped his dad and me at the game and so I asked him what he had done to get so good at it. It turned out that it was not just about practise but that he was also using the self-assessment tools that are built in to the game to identify what he was good at it but more importantly what he needed to improve on and then once this was identified he used the tools to self-improve. He was in control of his own learning - no requirement for dad to teach him.

Here is the first of two videos with Jack. What you'll see in this video is a example of how young learners/players are able to use the assessment and reporting mechanism within games to help identify and then address their development needs.

Assessment in Games: Promoting Learner Engagement from Derek Robertson on Vimeo.

Accompanying this first video is this one focusing on 'Progress and Achievement. Here we see a learner who is taking charge of his own progress by using the tools within a game environment -independent of the intervention of a qualified adult- to identify his development needs and to plot a path will that enable him to have the best chance of success.

Assessment in Games: Progress and achievement from Derek Robertson on Vimeo.

So where does failure fit, if it all, in the world of learning that young people situate themselves in? Is it a word that they use? Is failure a concept that they fear in the world of the computer game? My experience makes me question whether any of these questions can be answered with a yes...

Is it possibly the case that the concept of failure is one that has been socialised in to our young people by the formal settings that they are obliged to play a part in? By the systems they find themselves attached to and by the values of this system that are externally imposed by the qualified adults who know how to teach. By systems that require YouTube to be blocked...

Maybe Ivan Illich had a point in Deschooling Society when he argued concepts such as fear of failure helped create the conditions for an institutionalised value system to take hold and allow learnes to lose what they appear to possess naturally?

“Most learning is not the result of instruction. It is rather the result of unhampered participation in a meaningful setting. Most people learn best by being "with it," yet school makes them identify their personal, cognitive growth with elaborate planning and manipulation.”

Maybe we as educators have lessons to learn from the way 'with it' young people learn so effectively in the meaningful, culturally relevant and hugely challenging worlds that computer games can offer. Maybe we need to take a step back from the established norm of thinking that learners need taught. Maybe, just maybe we can learn from them...they might even introduce some us to YouTube.

How computer games can help us learn why kids don’t fail⤴

from @ @derekrobertson's...

Minecraft
Minecraft mania! Dressed as a Creeper for Halloween.

During the middle of last week I found myself in a Twitter discussion about the word failure. When speaking about the development and evolution of the use of tablet devices by teachers in his school one of my Twitter contacts commented that he thought that teachers should get hands on devices and fail first. You can follow the thread of that discussion to see how the conversation developed but the nub of my argument was that the word failure is imbued with negative connotations and is a term that can be oppressive, constricting and an enemy to creative thought and action.  It belongs to a culture of externally imposed values and expectations, a culture that I believe is one that we as learners are socialised into as we engage with and progress through the formal world of schooling.

Tbe main factor that underpins this belief is based on the observations that I have made over the years when watching children learn - independent of adult intervention - when playing computer games. As the failure discussion ensued on Twitter last week I couldn't help thinking of the world that my two daughters had been making in Minecraft on their Xbox360 that evening. Now, my girls are 9 and 10 and I have never really shown them how to play any of the computer games that they've had over the years and from Nintendogs, to Lord of the Rings, to Little Big Planet they have worked things out for themselves with no intervention from the more skilled and knowledgeable (I think) adult in the house! The same is true of Minecraft and the world they had created with its Redstone roller-coaster, the creeper traps and the flushing toilets in every room of their glass and gold Minecraft palace were testament to that. I have left them to it very much over the past months of Minecraft mania in my house...

How have they managed to learn so much? Where did they learn all this stuff?! They are learning from the support materials built in to games, from their peers and most definitley from YouTube -that's where. I have seen my girls collaborate and work as a team with one of them watching Minecraft Tutorials and giving the instructions to the other who is in world. Their friends have been round and YouTube is on. They learn in this flattened world of collegiate creativity and never think of failure, never! This is a joyous experience and one that appears to me to show the learner in its most beautiful form: free, open, responsive, conversational, successful and confident.

A couple of years ago I gave a talk at the E-Assessment Conference at Dundee University (go to 12:15 for killer Guitar Hero solo) and the themes of intrinsic motivation, peer support, flattened hierarchies and built in support mechansims in games were explored then. I featured some videos I had made of my neighbour's son Jack who was rather handy at playing FIFA. He regularly thumped his dad and me at the game and so I asked him what he had done to get so good at it. It turned out that it was not just about practise but that he was also using the self-assessment tools that are built in to the game to identify what he was good at it but more importantly what he needed to improve on and then once this was identified he used the tools to self-improve. He was in control of his own learning - no requirement for dad to teach him.

Here is the first of two videos with Jack. What you'll see in this video is a example of how young learners/players are able to use the assessment and reporting mechanism within games to help identify and then address their development needs.

Assessment in Games: Promoting Learner Engagement from Derek Robertson on Vimeo.

Accompanying this first video is this one focusing on 'Progress and Achievement. Here we see a learner who is taking charge of his own progress by using the tools within a game environment -independent of the intervention of a qualified adult- to identify his development needs and to plot a path will that enable him to have the best chance of success.

Assessment in Games: Progress and achievement from Derek Robertson on Vimeo.

So where does failure fit, if it all, in the world of learning that young people situate themselves in? Is it a word that they use? Is failure a concept that they fear in the world of the computer game? My experience makes me question whether any of these questions can be answered with a yes...

Is it possibly the case that the concept of failure is one that has been socialised in to our young people by the formal settings that they are obliged to play a part in? By the systems they find themselves attached to and by the values of this system that are externally imposed by the qualified adults who know how to teach. By systems that require YouTube to be blocked...

Maybe Ivan Illich had a point in Deschooling Society when he argued concepts such as fear of failure helped create the conditions for an institutionalised value system to take hold and allow learnes to lose what they appear to possess naturally?

“Most learning is not the result of instruction. It is rather the result of unhampered participation in a meaningful setting. Most people learn best by being "with it," yet school makes them identify their personal, cognitive growth with elaborate planning and manipulation.”

Maybe we as educators have lessons to learn from the way 'with it' young people learn so effectively in the meaningful, culturally relevant and hugely challenging worlds that computer games can offer. Maybe we need to take a step back from the established norm of thinking that learners need taught. Maybe, just maybe we can learn from them...they might even introduce some us to YouTube.

Adobe Forms Central and other worlds.⤴

from @ Adobe Education Leaders

For some time now I’ve been looking for ways to reduce the hard copy side of my administrative workload. Whilst the obvious solution had been staring me in the face for some time, oddly enough it was only on a whim some eight weeks ago that I stopped into Form Central and began to investigate how I might streamline attendance and truancy compliance, which in our school is a nightmarish entanglement of checks and crosschecks amongst databases that don’t often talk to each other all that well, followed by a paperchase involving hardcopy handling by at least four people with no means of monitoring who had done what with what and leaving no long term record of actions taken for myself.

I have to say that I could not believe how simple it was to put an extensive form together from scratch. Reformatting our current truancy form, testing, debugging it, and sending off the first form to the respective recipients took less than fifteen minutes. There were some initial glitches but these were ironed out quickly.

So fast forward several weeks and it’s everything from student surveys to gauge the effectiveness of programs to individualized data collection for students requiring Special Provisions for Preliminary and HSC exams. Next stop, trying to show those higher up the food chain just what it is they are missing out on.

In other news………

Today also marks the official launch of ALIEN, the Adobe Leaders Information Exchange Network. It is envisaged that this network will enable Adobe Education Leaders in both K-12 and Higher Ed to connect and share ideas, information, resources, post event notices, moderate discussion forums, create networks and groups, post and link to content, create individualized pages and blogs, stream WordPress, post appropriate photographic and video content, share thoughts on rainy afternoons in a secure environment and more. Given the wealth and diversity of experience amongst the AEL community it felt like the time was right to step up and get this happening and contribute to growing the connectivity in the community at no cost to the users.

So step on board, it should be a good journey.

To submit a request for membership simply sign up and provide a link to your AEL profile.

alien

 

“Education Inc”⤴

from @ Edu Tech Stories

Ever wonder what would happen if Education was a start up looking for investment from venture capitalists?

Last week I tuned in to the InnoTech summit which is billed as “The only event designed to accelerate the UK Tech Economy by bringing together policy makers, business leaders and investors”

As I highlight in my last post "Start Up Education," I have a lot of time for start ups. I find the energy, passion, fortitude, enthusiasm and overall culture they establish can create a really great work environment... I also find that educators share many of these attributes and qualities.

However, I did find myself wondering at how keen the government seems to be associated with (and listens to!), the ideas, innovations and needs of the various stakeholders that make up the exciting "start up scene."   

The government being so attentive to startups may be somewhat ironic to educators, as this same organisation all but stifles any new ideas & innovations that the experts within the education sector come up with.

Policy makers certainly don't seem to be listening to education in the same way they do with the "in vogue" entrepreneurs - and educators are their colleagues/employees! Talk about familiarity breeding contempt! Then I thought, if you can’t beat ‘em... 

I slipped into a daydream* about what would happen if "Education Inc" was formed and went looking for Venture Capital Investment at a startup event like InnoTech**.

* A throw back to my own school days I'm afraid! In the event that any educators like this particular day dream, do me a favour and go easy on your current class daydreamers... One day they just might be one of your biggest fans!

** This Edu-Day-Dream-Blog-Post is completely fictional. Names, characters, incidents and locations (Particularly relating to "Education Inc" & "Kids Futures" VCs) are the product of this bloggers bizarre imagination. Any resemblance to actual people or events are completely coincidental... as coincidental as a Dr Seuss allegory (specifically thinking of Yertle the Turtle here).


Kids Futures  
An investment prospectus arrives at the offices of Kids Futures (Keep Investments Decidedly Simple Futures), Venture Capitalists who invest in businesses with really, really simple business models. This prospectus is for “Education Inc” and looks quite impressive;

"Education Inc Provides extensive personal and professional development for millions of customers at over 30,000 training centres. Our business is instrumental in assisting our customers to find their ideal role within the many professions and organisations within "UK PLC" 


The VC’s at Kids Futures decide to take a closer look. They arrange a visit to Education Inc's HQ to check the health of the company, to consider any risks of investing and assess what the return of investment might be. 

“Education Inc”

Kids Futures meet a number of people and departments at the company, and it soon becomes apparent that the model is not as simple as the prospectus suggested. In fact, it appears that Education Inc is in some disarray.

One of Education Inc’s associate companies, Off the Mark, who is responsible for quality control, is discussing how their role is to liaise between HQ and each of the local training centres. 

The discussion turns to how the company treats their customers. Off the Mark details how their customers are at the heart of what they do. Every branch has strict procedures to ensure that the views of their customers are heard... and they have a plethora of evidence to prove it! It seems like the most trivial details have to be documented to demonstrate that every process and procedure is being adhered to. 

During this meeting a disgruntled customer, Suli Breaks, is at reception and asks to speak to someone about his poor customer experience. It turns out that he’s not had the best training or advice, he gets an "unsatisfactory" response from the company's representatives and leaves without any answers. He is undeterred and leaves with resolve and that  “he will not let an exam result decide his fate” 

Off the Mark tries to pass this user experience as a “one off,” but Suli Breaks has detailed his complaint on You Tube and has over 800,000 views within a few weeks. Concerned "Kids Futures" asks to see the Customer Service Centre... and find that the department is in chaos!

Phones are ringing off the hook, millions of customers are calling to complain that they have been misled, the training they received has not helped them to find their ideal role within “UK PLC”. There are lots of great opportunities, but the training did not cover the skills required to allow customers to benefit from them. This obviously affects UK PLC's growth plans too.

Many unhappy customers hang up without speaking to anyone, despite their call “being important to the company” being caller number 1 million is quite a long queue, and people run out of credit before they get through... after all they only have £54 a week to live on. 

With over 1 million employees at Education Inc and revenues of £56 billion, albiet through a somewhat unpopular subscription model, how can this be the current state of the training provision? 

Understandably the experience at the Customer Service Centre raises some alarm for Kids Future regarding the quality and relevance of Education Inc's training. They continue to research the history, management, employees, culture & communications of the organisation.


History – An Out Dated Business Model?
Given Suli Break’s comments and the fact that over 2.5 million young people have had training which hasn't helped them, Kid’s Futures wonders how this company ever managed to get to thousands of branches with millions of customers.

When researching Education Inc’s history market analysts like Sir Ken Robinson, Sugata Mitra & Seth Godin highlight that this was, until recently, a reasonably efficient provider. The problem is that they have not seen and/or managed to keep up with the changes. The training methods used were designed for an economy that is all but gone, so is becoming more and more out dated.

This is not an uncommon scenario to the venture capitalists, they know that incumbent market leaders can be slow to see the changes - Board Members at large established companies can become set in their ways, and see any new industry ideas as “just a fad.” Their hubris means that the company starts to become obsolete... new ideas and business models emerge and take advantage of any inefficiencies or gaps in the market. 

Customers!
While Education Inc's Head Office ignore the changes, other stakeholders are painfully aware of how out of touch the Directors are. The out dated nature of Education Inc’s business practices is having a detrimental impact on its customers, employees and the many UK PLC companies who employ Education Inc’s customers.

Off the Mark assured Kids Future that their customers are at the core of what they do, but Kids Futures findings suggest that while this may be the intention… it is not always the case, other preoccupations and distractions appear to get in the way.

Management

Board of Directors
The Board do not use their own services, they elect to use a more expensive competitor PrivateEd. Never in the history of the company have Kids Futures ever invested in a company where the owners used a competitors’ services?! 

Chairman of the Board
The Chairman is on a number of boards, so only checks in on Education Inc once in a while, but the Operation Director keeps him up to date with day to day operations and strategic decisions.

Director of Operations 
The Operations Director does not appear to have a good working relationship with his branch managers, he seems to implement ideas with little consultation and/or does not appear to listen to any of his employees ideas or concerns.

Kids Futures are shocked to see the negativity between Education Inc HQ and the local branches. Branch staff tend to use Social Media, and HQ use other methods. 


Off the Mark
Off the Mark claims to work with each of the branches to ensure that quality control is high, but the relationship appears to be a fraught one. There seems to be a lot of animosity, which is a result of too much criticism and not much praise. It is interesting to note that the rival PrivateEd companies have high quality training, but do not have the same preoccupation with generating so much paperwork.

UK PLC 
The companies that employ Education Inc's customers highlight that it really can be "a bit of a mixed bag” some of the people & training they provide is great… others not so good. UK PLC agreed that "Education Inc" really hadn’t changed with the times, One company put it very well;

“We fully appreciate how difficult it is to keep up with the pace of change, and understand that it must be difficult to train people for jobs that haven't even been invented yet! We have the same problem. In order for our business to keep up with these unknown changes it’s creativity and attitude/values that really seem to make the difference in the people they send us, but there doesn't seem to be too much emphasis on this.

It's hard to anticipate how business might change in the next 3-4 years and we’re not asking anyone to predict the future... But if Education Inc could just let the people who know their customers best - the people on the shop floor - and let them instill a sense of curiosity, a love of learning then I think we’d all be better off”


Employees

Branch Managers 
The Branch Managers showed genuine concern for the quality of training they provided, as well as for the culture they established for their customers and colleagues. However, many did feel that the red tape, out dated procedures, lack of budget and little trust was having a negative influence. The decisions of head office seemed to be having a detrimental impact in almost every area of the Branch Managers work... including their ability to make the much needed changes that could update & improve the training provision.

Customer Service & Trainers

The one group that demonstrated how important the customer was, and what their needs were, were the local Customer Service staff and Trainers.

They were able to demonstrate the most detailed knowledge of each and every user - their strengths & weaknesses, their hopes & aspirations, as well as their training needs & learning styles. The kind of comments we got when we asked “What can you tell us about your customers” were along the lines of; 


“How long have you got… I’ve been working with our customers for 30 years and have taught 3,600 students, I have cared a great deal about each and every customer... so this could take a while.”

When this group was asked about the culture of the organisation, they confirmed the VCs observations - employees at the local centres are doing great work under very tough conditions, but the support from Education Inc HQ "could be better," the lack of respect and trust was disappointing and frustrating.

When asked why they have stayed with the company, the VC's found the kind of resolve, passion, vision and enthusiasm for "creative disruption" that they expect to see in the companies they invest in;

“This is what I was born to do, I’m an educator. The feeling you get when you’re working with a customer who's struggling to understand a concept and then, suddenly, it clicks! They get that 'Ah Ha” moment!'... Or when a customer comes into your class with no confidence, but during the training starts to come out of their shell... Or hearing that the customer who had never been given a chance, who 'didn't think they were "very bright" is heading off to university"... This makes all the negative aspects of the job bearable!” 

When the out dated systems are mentioned the trainers agree that they are obsolete, but their response was "we find ways to work around the system, its not always easy but we care about our customers... Some of these kids face huge challenges and disadvantages, and if we don’t care and try to make a difference to these people's lives… who will?"

It was obvious that the Customer Service Managers and Trainers were intelligent, capable and care a great deal about their customers. They were clearly trying to do great work… but were having to operate from some rigid company policies, which is outdated and/or no longer fit for purpose. 

Culture & Communications 

Just like all the other processes and procedures, the culture and communications at Education Inc was more like what you’d find in the industrial age factory - A top-down, one-way, prescriptive communication method, countless memos to company employees on how they should behave in almost any setting. Every branch and every employee had to behave in a uniform manner regardless of any differences there may be regarding the branch location, individual customer needs or what each staff members' strengths or personality type was.

As with many companies Education Inc say all the right things in their mission statements and annual reports but, the reality is that there are shortcomings with;

1) The relevance of training they provide their customers 

2) Their ability to keep up to date with industires needs 
3) How their employees feel about the way they are treated

Significant improvements would be needed before Education Inc would be of interest to Kids Futures. The recommendations that would need to be implemented before any  Kids Futures investment was made are included below.


Kids Futures... A Reasonable Investment?
When the prospectus for Education Inc arrived it looked like a great investment opportunity, but it’s just too fragmented and bureaucratic. Like other incumbent market leaders since the digital revolution, Education Inc have resisted change and have lost touch with their customer base. 

The music industry made things difficult for the innovative companies like Apple by refusing to allow their music on iTunes. They also threatened users who wanted a digital alternative to CDs with legal action, which alienated their customer base and expedited their demise.     

This is not to say that Education Inc can’t be a great experience for each and every one of its users, it just needs a re-boot and an upgrade.

Complex System – But User Friendly
Any business with over 1 million employees and thousands of branches, which serves an extremely diverse customer base is going to have a lot of complex operational issues.

However, regardless of how complex the business is, in order to be a truly great company, it must be an intuitive, bespoke and enjoyable experience for the user... and, of course, be relevant to their needs.


Google have an army of coders, a city of servers and the most complex algorithms working behind the scenes, but the customer never has any indication of this complexity. All the user needs to do is type their search query into the text box… anyone who can use a keyboard can use Google. The search is relevant, bespoke, easy to use and meets the users needs.

The reason that Apple have great products is because they understand this, and always think of the user experience;


Mac User Manual -   Should be written in a way that a 3rd Grader can understand it.
Ipod -                           You should be able to find any song you are looking for within 3 clicks

Iphone -                        Steve Jobs insisted on the iPhone having a single button. His engineers said for 6 months it was "Impossible" but Jobs, always thinking of the user experience, insisted they found a way to achieve this.

People 
As individuals the people at Head Office were knowledgeable and intelligent, but seemed extremely preoccupied with how popular they were. This has led to the Directors spending vast amounts of time looking for ways to blame others regarding any company shortcomings. This creates something of a toxic organsational culture, where accepting responsibility is perceived as being detrimental to career progression and/or as a sign of weakness. 

While this negative culture could seep into the local branches, the Branch Managers were aware of its disruptive influence and, wherever possible, try to limit its impact. 

We found some of the best people we have ever met at the local branches! These are the kind of people that are needed if Kids Futures are to get a good ROI from Education Inc, not to mention providing better training for their customers, or to help UK PLC to achieve their strategic goals and meet it's forecasts and growth projections.  

Millions trust these people with their children every day (although not the company’s Directors!), indeed Education Inc employs some of the most trusted people, but the Board do not seem to realise this.

Passion
Something that any investor will look for is how passionate are the people about what they do? Do they “love what they do; and do what they love.”

Many at Head Office appeared to be jaded, unenthusiastic, closed minded & uninspiring... even though many had only been in post for 2-3 years. However, there was plenty of passion within each branch.

Not only did many employees tell us that teaching is what they always wanted to do but, when customers were asked about any positive experiences they had with Education Inc, each and every one included comments about Education Inc employees who;

“Clearly loved what they did! And it showed! They made learning engaging and fun… They brought the subject to life... In fact I work in the field I do today because of Mr/Mrs X's passion for the subject. He/she was so enthusiastic about the subject that is was infectious… it was contagious... and I guess I caught the bug!”

Culture
The dichotomy of practices between Head Office and the Local Branches was evident in the culture.

Kid’s Futures was delighted to hear that there were regular board meetings at Education Inc HQ every Wednesday, but to sit in on the meeting was really something of an experience... the potential investors were quite shocked!

The meeting was chaos from start to finish, the entire time was spent arguing about why one department was doing a “less worse job” than all the other departments. From what the VC's observed nothing productive was achieved from the meeting… the scene was more like one of the rowdiest playgrounds they visited rather than a board meeting.

It was obvious that this group was in charge of commissioning Off the Mark with the company’s quality control, their idea of improvement was not dissimilar to these board meetings - to constantly criticise and humiliate – as well as threatening Branch Managers with redundancy and closure if productivity was not improved upon.

While there were complaints about Head Office practices and culture at each branch, the Branch Managers worked around this to make the most of what they had. Sure there were some disillusioned employees, a result of living with yeas of criticism about their ability and productivity but, in the main, everyone just got on with it and made the best of the situation... and endeavoured to make the customer experience as positive as possible.

This confusing relationship between Head Office and Branch Employees seemed to cause something of an ambivalent relationship with all Education Inc’s stakeholders - their customers, employees and UK PLC companies. 


In order for Kids Futures make any investment this would 
need to be addressed, with a lot less criticism and a lot more collaboration! Kids Futures' recommendations would be to look at the oganisational culture of companies like Google, Apple, Zappos and other successful companies, as Frances Cairneross observes;

"The common characteristic of success is the deliberate creation of a positive culture"

Education Inc & Kids Futures - Making an Investment
How might Education Inc achieve this kind of culture with thousands of centres, a million employees and millions of customers? 

Trust the people on the ground! They are doing a great job! But they are constrained, give them more autonomy! Tell them to get creative, collaborate with any and all stakeholders who want to help - whether at a local, regional or national level.

Will this mean Education Inc is standardised? No! But is PrivateEd Standardised?
Will giving up control be counter intuitive and scary? Absolutely!
Will mistakes be made? Almost certainly!
Lisa Endersby highlights that it might even be a bit of a messy process
Would the "people on the ground" make any worse of a job than the current system?
 

A Wake Up Call

...Unfortunately at this point I was abruptly awoken from my day dream (but at least it wasn't due to a flying duster! For the benefit of younger students - and teachers - a duster is a block of wood which was an old fashioned delete button. The flying part is because there was once a time when it was the teachers who threw stuff about if they were in a strop... Oh, how the times have changed).

But I did wonder if we might ever get to the stage where we took a bite out of Apple's model and have an Education System where the government provides the central platform (iTunes Store) but we have a million developers creating their own apps (Educators) that their users (Learners) love because there is more choice, the learning material is more suited to their needs... and more fun.

Is there a precedent for this?

Obviously there is the Finnish Education System which has no standardized tests, teachers are trained to assess children using independent tests they create themselves; or Private Education where there is minimal intervention...


But these examples don't really help to suggest how you might go from a centralised system to a local model. Are there other precedents where a once very centralised system has been changed to one where more decisions are made by the individual? 

I remember reading a article about how the US Army was moving from their rigid system of giving orders to each unit to a more efficient method of communication. What did they come up with? By telling the troops what the overall objective was.


So, if the mission was "to protect this hill" then each unit would obviously utilise their training and experience, but were also empowered to use their initiative to achieve the goal. It's fitting that this featured in an article about how great leaders beak the rules!

What's the worst that could happen if policy makers said

"Go Educate our young people? Find out what their goals are... then find whoever you need to (within or outside the school/college), whoever might be able help give each student the skills, encouragement, motivation or whatever else to help them achieve their goals"


Don't know the Answer? Get into groups and discuss it... Collaborate!
It's perhaps worth asking how does the success rate of any top-down education initiatives compare with any projects that are established because someone is passionate about their idea?


If any "top-down" ideas are unpopular with educators, how passionate will they be about the initiative? If there is little enthusiasm for it, how successful is it likely to be?

When we see programmes like "Jamie's Dream Schools," or Bank of Daves "PopUp Talent Shop" etc these are neither uniform or standardised... they aren't even conventional! But one thing that they all share is that the people involved are passionate about making it work. They share their vision and get "buy in" from whoever they need to achieve their goal... which usually involves changing the status quo and making a difference.

At the InnoTech Conference I found out about one of these fantastic and "unique relationships" between Ogilvy and Ravensbourne... I wonder if Kid Futures would be more likely to invest in this particular branch of "Education Inc"?  

A similar initiative that could help compliment and assist educators in paving the way, and help set students on the right path is - Pave (who needs to hurry up with their roll out across the USA and get over here).

Initiatives like these look like ones that just might set Suli Breaks and his friends down a different road... and that will have made all the difference!

Educators want to make a difference and will tell you the status quo is not working for far too many students... so if the Government has the time and enthusiasm for InnoTech and are willing to listen to the start up scene; then why not have InnoEdu "An event designed to accelerate innovation and reform in UK Education by bringing together educators, policy makers, business leaders and investors”

... If this doesn't happen you can't help get the feeling that the "exciting startup scene" won't be all that exciting for very long. If these start ups can't find people with the skills, attitudes, values or whatever abilities are required to allow students to take advantage of the opportunities that will help these emerging start ups to develop and grow.

...Here's the Pitch
Maybe the answer to when would Kids Futures invest in Education Inc would be when the model is simplified enough for a 3rd grade user to understand 


"At Education Inc we have passionate and highly skilled educators who we trust and empower to inspire our young people. We encourage them to be passionate and creative, to find and collaborate with anyone who can help our customers to find their place within UK PLC" 


NB I've no money to invest... but I am happy to invest all the time in the world for anyone with this kind of business model!

Maybe the answer to such a simple business model has a simple solution. Let educators take the lead more... then sit back and enjoy the ride! 

It might just be the upgrade "Education Inc" and "UK PLC" is looking for... It's got to be a better business plan than one that involves living in the past with an out dated system.

If you liked this post you may like "Are you Smart Enough to Work at Google" by William Poundstone; "Linchpin" by Seth Godin and "Confessions of an Ad Man" by David Ogilvy.

PS Suli Breaks If you read this... Great video! You may also be interested to know that I failed O-Grade English three times... (sat it 3 times because I was told it was important) got 3 "D" Grades but I did alright without it... Like you, I decided not to let my (rather poor) exam results decide my fate...

Weeping and alleluias⤴

from @ blethers

Today I attended the funeral of someone I've known since I was twelve - when I started secondary school, even though we were at different schools, I inherited her copy of Paterson & MacNaughton's Approach to Latin Book 1. Her parents lived two doors from mine, and as I sat listening to the minister talking about the early life that been contiguous on mine I thought of how little she had changed, really, from the girl in the regulation school hat passing our gate of a morning. The west of Scotland can be a small place, really, so it was only mildly surprising that for several years we should be colleagues in Dunoon Grammar school or that Mr B should even more recently have met her every week at the fish van.

There were several things that struck me this morning. The first was the relief that the organ was being played by a decent organist - for this was not the case the last time I was in that church. The second was that it was warm, and the third to notice what a terrific photo was on the front of the service sheet. So far, so good. But it couldn't last. The last funeral I was at took place in the same church, and the same minister did what she did again today. She announced that we were going to pray. She began all right and I thought 'Maybe someone's told her ...' - but no. Suddenly God was being told where the deceased had lived as a child, what school she had attended, what qualifications she had gained. There was the odd attempt to redeem the situation by thanking God for this and that, but then we were back to the life story. It was so far from what was needed - for me anyway - that I gave up any pretence that I might be praying, and instead thought of the person I had known, the laughs over some absurdity in school, the cleverness, the passion we shared about accuracy in language. I don't know how CofS ministers are trained these days, and I'd love someone to tell me why they should think it's all right to tell all this stuff to a God who knows us from our mother's womb and I'd love to know how they can justify inflicting this on people at a funeral - people who might have no church connection other than funerals must get a very odd picture of God indeed.

We sat there, solidly, in rows. No-one said "Amen" to anything. Oh - I did. There was a strange hiatus at the end of the service. Would we still be sitting there as they processed out? Oh good - a man, on his own on the other side of the church leapt to his feet and we all followed. I whispered the Nunc Dimittis to myself as the coffin was carried out. We all peeled out after it.

And outside, in the sun, it felt suddenly like being back at work. We stood there, surrounded by former colleagues, only one of whom is still teaching. We were all dressed more or less as we did for work - I actually wore the black shoes I used to wear for a day on my feet in school. The woman who was always putting her foot in things at staff meetings was doing it again. We all looked older - we are older, dammit, but not old enough to die, not yet. Maybe that's it. Maybe we're never really old enough to die, to miss the sunshine of the long-awaited Spring, to leave the others and go on this last journey alone.

I've just had a conversation on Facebook about this business of eulogies. Apparently in Nova Scotia (Anglican?) churches Canon Law forbids eulogies at funerals. They are seen as focussing on loss and grief and negating Easter hope. I can't help wondering if disguising the eulogy as a prayer would slip past the net, but take the point. However, I have attended funerals that did indeed celebrate both the person and the hope of resurrection, funerals that made no compromises in the face of a largely faithless society, funerals that had mystery and joy and were in no way an ordeal. If anyone's listening, that's what I want.

But I do want one thing, and it's not necessarily a eulogy. I want the Kontakion for the departed, in English, well sung. I doubt there will be live singers around to sing it for me, but get a decent recording and play it at a decent volume. Don't be timid. It says it all - the weeping and the Alleluias. And that's what it's all about, for me. Weeping and alleluias.