promethean-logoMulti-touch interactive display creates opportunities for students to engage and solve problems together

Promethean, a leading global provider of educational technology solutions, continues to foster collaborative learning in K-12 classrooms with the expansion of its ActivPanel line. With peer collaboration recognized as an important skill for high-performing students, the ActivPanel transforms front-of-the-classroom instructional displays into interactive, digital spaces for both whole-class instruction and small team engagement.

“Studies show that collaboration is one of the most important skills graduates need to succeed in today’s workforce,” said Promethean Chief Marketing and Products Officer Scott Cary. “As we prepare students for their future, encouraging collaboration with peers is crucial for building skills in critical thinking, verbal and written communication, and group problem solving. One of the ways we can enhance and facilitate opportunities to build these skills is by designing technologies to convert traditional classroom spaces into digital, interactive centers for group collaboration.”

Optimized for educational settings, the ActivPanel simultaneously enables up to 10 unique touches for whole-class, individual, one-to-one, and small-team learning. Fast, precise interaction supports the flow of a lesson without interruption, and with functionality similar to today’s mobile tablets, operation is simple and intuitive for learners and teachers. With the growing use of multimedia content in the classroom, the ActivPanel includes built-in stereo speakers to enhance the delivery of lessons and group activities that include video and audio.

Promethean’s award-winning ActivInspire Professional software is included with the ActivPanel, providing teachers with the tools they need to create interactive lessons. ClassFlow, Promethean’s all-in-one teaching platform, presents another option for teachers to create interactive lessons and also synchronize the material across their front-of-the-class display and students’ devices. Teachers can access cloud-based ClassFlow through their Internet-connected ActivPanel. Additionally, educators can access more than 90,000 lesson resources for their interactive flat-panel displays on the Promethean Planet community.

The ActivPanel is available in four sizes to suit the needs of each classroom, including 55-inch, 65-inch and 70-inch high-definition displays as well as an ultra-high-definition 84-inch model. The ActivPanel line supports Windows 7, Windows 8, Mac OS X, Linux and Chromebook OS for plug-and-play operation in almost any school’s technology environment.

“The learner has been, and always will be, the most critical figure in our efforts to significantly improve the quality and level of education. We believe that technology such as the ActivPanel can have a transformative effect in the classroom and help create a dynamic environment that motivates students to learn,” said Cary.

For more information on the ActivPanel, visit

About Promethean
Promethean (LSE: PRW) is a global education company that improves learning productivity by developing, integrating and implementing innovative 21st century learning environments that help make everyone more engaged, empowered and successful. Headquartered in the UK, with a US office in Atlanta, Georgia, Promethean World Plc is listed on the main market of the London Stock Exchange. More information about Promethean is available at

myON logoSource: School Library Journal

In early December, myON, creator of personalized literacy environments for pre-K–grade 12, announced that nominations are now open for the Second Annual Legends in Literacy Awards. The awards will recognize one individual and one team for their work and commitment to literacy, demonstrating leadership in reading improvement and best practices involving the community, and encouraging widespread reading within their school and community. Nominations are due February 1, 2015 with winners announced March 31. Awards will be presented during the International Reading Association’s 60th Annual Conference in St. Louis, MO, from July 17–20, 2015. More information is provided here.


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greyedlogo2Source: edSurge

For the past year, Omaha Public Schools (OPS) has instituted change through the adoption of a new Strategic Plan and by passing the largest bond issue in Nebraska history. New leadership has been working diligently to create comprehensive initiatives that utilize technology as a component of a larger systemic shift directed toward collaborative learning and workspace environments.

To adopt new, meaningful technology at its lowest level, OPS has been asking the fundamental question: “Will this make a positive difference in our students’ learning?” The route of technology that a district decides upon can bring major benefits beyond this question. Technology has the ability to level the playing field for all students, by extending learning beyond the confines of a school building.

But what about educators?

Professional development is fundamental for successful implementation of new technology to ensure students will ultimately receive the most benefit. Many teachers do not have the technical knowledge or skills to recognize the potential for technology in teaching and learning. To remedy, OPS is dedicated to offering PD that will help teachers see technology as an asset in their teaching arsenal and build confidence in how to integrate it effectively.

A major technology initiative for OPS this year was the movement toMicrosoft’s Office 365 platform. After some initial introductions, it was very clear that both Microsoft and OPS wanted to see how both could generate some real success around this solution. Microsoft was clear that their focus in K-12 was changing and they would like OPS to be an example of the change.

Why Microsoft?

The timing for OPS to move to Office 365 could not have been better. Microsoft is rolling out more features than ever before, including theStudent Advantage Program that allows full versions of Office for Desktop and mobile devices to both student and staff personal machines.

A new OneNote Classroom notebook app helps teachers quickly set up a personal workspace for every student, a content library for handouts and a collaboration space for lessons and creative activities, all within one notebook.

Office 365 Video Portal has been introduced to allow each teacher the ability to create a video channel for classroom communication built into SharePoint Online, which is where our collaboration workspaces have moved to. This means teachers and students alike are provided with more accessibility than ever before, providing them with quintessential benefits of collaboration, communication and timely feedback.

Supporting Teachers and the Rollout

In this implementation, OPS district officials have endeavored to develop a relationship with Microsoft of which Microsoft reps were happy to accommodate. Microsoft came on board with the implementation, making OPS one of the first to be a part of their Fasttrack program back in September. Fastrack allows organizations and districts to onboard Office 365 with scenarios, communication resources, and best practices to speed up the adoption.

In addition to the program, key OPS technology leaders and Microsoft identified a new approach that helped with professional development of the system. The Microsoft Innovative Educator Program is aimed at empowering educators to effectively use technology to develop students’ 21st century skills within the Microsoft Office 365 ecosystem. One hundred educators in Omaha Public Schools were selected to be a member of the program–essentially one per building–and Microsoft brought in trainers for sessions to work within the MIE program. The recipients of this training will serve as the first level of support for training at the building level and serve as a role model for best practices in technology integration. This is more than just teaching tools–it will include modeling best practices for integration of technology with students, as well.

Supporting District Officials and Communication Efforts

This collaborative relationship with Microsoft allowed for streamlined implementation plans. Microsoft was instrumental in the development of a communication plan to outline how to communicate to all stakeholders involved, as well as indicate the risks and issues surrounding the methods we would put in place.

Due to the district’s current state of devices and a need for a planned obsolescence strategy, it was decided to roll out Office 365 web only. This accelerated implementation allowed end users to see the numerous services Office 365 offers. This decision also allowed for some relief to the OPS technology support team in not having to push out the latest office software district wide. The timeline of the implementation allowed for services to move over and teachers to work in Office 365 before the state testing window started. As a result, teachers should be able to become accustomed to the new platform before the end of the school year.

Looking to the Future

We are in the beginning stages of districts embracing the cloud for two big picture reasons: cost and learning potential. One of the biggest advantages of moving to the cloud is that districts won’t need to invest in implementation, integration, and ongoing maintenance associated with traditional software. The benefits for where it is most important, the student, allows classrooms to transform learning outside the reaches of the traditional classroom.

In big districts, organizational change is complex, and there are many issues underlying what helps or hinders success. OPS is focused on managing goals, strategies, action plans and project plans. OPS is also committed to leading people through transition, especially involving rapid change through technology.

Omaha Public Schools is laying the foundation for advancing technology through initiatives like Office 365, as well as other key integrations, that will allow for increased collaboration and communication to expand the classroom beyond the typical classroom walls. That foundation is hoped to provide an ecosystem of embracing change in technology that will drive future adoptions of mobile technologies, digital curriculum adoptions, and multi-delivery of professional development.

NOTE: This article is part of EdSurge’s Fifty States Initiative (representing the state of Nebraska).

o4s logoSource: SmartBlog on Education

After school — as well as many in-school support programs — often face a critical challenge early on in their development: How can schools expand their services to meet student and school demand while still keeping the “back-office” as small as possible?

We faced this dilemma when expanding our Export program in Chicago, launched in partnership with the University of Chicago. The students served in this program doubled from 550 students with 50 tutors in 2013-2014 to 1,100 students with 85 tutors in 2014-2015. The key populations, from full-time staff to students, were nearly doubling overnight, and yet we wanted to keep the primary focus, and our funds, in the schools we were serving.

How did we accomplish this and remain data-driven without adding additional data analysts and operations managers? If you’re in the same expansion position, or looking to start a new program, here are some things to keep in mind.

  1. Research

In this instance, advance planning really helped our program to succeed. We knew that the program would likely grow substantially during year two, so we started internal conversations early on to work on these key steps. When planning to change or launch information management systems:

  • Identify the strengths and weaknesses in your current information management systems.
  • Determine what you can and can’t live without. For example, do you need just student metrics? Or do you also need staff performance metrics? In both of these areas, what will be the main deliverables?
  • Reach out to similar programs and search the Internet to get preliminary ideas of new systems and software programs.


  1. Experiment

Once we identified new information management systems that we were interested in exploring, we set up several pilot programs. This worked well for us because we already had an existing program and were able to ask several key staff members to try it on the ground. We were then able to see how the data came through to our small central team to get a sense of whether it truly made us more efficient. Lessons we learned from this stage include:

  • Pick the right people on the ground for the pilots. Their honest feedback on the proposed new systems should be an important part of your decision-making process.
  • Find software vendors who can understand the unique elements of the program and can make specific accommodations for your metrics.
  • Run the pilots for at least two to three months, and preferably for an entire semester, to have time to test out various metrics and data reports. This stretch can also allow you to more accurately assess the capacity of the central team to support these systems remotely.


  1. Moving forward

We picked two information management systems for year two in Chicago — Kickboard for student metrics and observe4success for tutor metrics — that are serving us quite well after successful pilots.

Upon reflection of the up scaling of our tutor program and adding more partners, we are happy with outcomes from the transition. One of our full-time, in-school staff members shared the following: “Overall, I think our data management systems have drastically changed for the better from year one to year two. They are easier to use, more accessible, and provide a wider range of opportunities for data analysis that didn’t really exist (at least with this much ease) in year one.”

While there will always be some limits with information management systems, this process can help you achieve your goal of growing or launching student-focused services without changing the size of your “back-office” team. With a deliberate planning process, priorities can remain focused on providing the students and in-school staff with great tools to ensure they have the data they need on a daily basis to drive instruction.

Madeline King is the Director of Operations for Match Tutors at Match Education. Match Education has worked closely with the University of Chicago’s Crime Lab and Chicago Public Schools to provide an in-school math tutorial called “Math Lab,” an elective for-credit class as a targeted intervention for ninth- to 11th-grade students. In addition to the program in Chicago, Madeline oversees similar programs in other communities across the country.

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MactoSchool2015webCalifornia-based EdTech company supports family literacy learning

For more information about this news release, contact Audra Nissen Boyer, Mankato Area Public Schools’ director of community education, at 507-387-5501 or; or Jacob Hanson, Mac to School, at 

To support adult family literacy and student learning in the district, Mac to School has donated 15 certified MacBooks to Mankato Area Public Schools.

Mac to School’s generous donation – estimated at $10,000 – increases the ability for students to have technology to learn at home.

Mac to School, a leading provider of K-12 certified Apple technology, selected Mankato Area Public Schools for the donation through its national Give Mac program. The company evaluates candidates for donations based on their financial need and their intended purpose for the technology.  

“When we heard Mac to School had selected Mankato Area Public Schools, we were pleased because access to technology enables parents to help their children learn,” said Audra Nissen Boyer, the district’s director of community education. “It’s rare to receive such a generous vendor donation and we’re grateful because it helps families who otherwise could not afford a computer of their own.”

Families who receive the computers will support their learning in family literacy.  Specifically, they will learn how to utilize the district’s web-based book series—supported through a local partnership with Capstone Publishing.  Parents will ultimately meet a goal of being able to read books to their children.

“In a 21st-century learning environment, we know how important it is for students to have access to technology,” said Robert Baker, the co-founder and chief marketing officer of Mac to School. “It’s truly an honor to partner with Mankato Area Public Schools to put MacBooks in the hands of their new arrivals.”

For more information about Mac to School and the Give Mac program, visit

About Mac to School

Mac to School buys, sells and certifies all types of Apple computers and equipment. We serve the public and private education market, working with small schools up to large districts throughout all 50 states. Our mission is to deliver the best value to our customers while providing the highest level of customer service. Our team of Apple Certified Technicians employs customized tools to generate detailed audits and provide quality refurbishment.

myON logoDistrict is Transforming Learning through Personalized Approach to Literacy 

Florida’s Miami-Dade County Public Schools, the fourth largest school district in the United States, is implementing myON in all 250 of the district’s K-8 schools for the 2014-2015 school year. Over 259,000 students will benefit from access to the personalized literacy program, which supports the district’s vision of improving literacy outcomes for all students through effective integration of technology into the curriculum.   

District leaders pointed to outcomes from a successful 20-day summer school pilot in 2013 as the rationale for their selection of myON to help meet their goals for transforming teaching and learning. During the pilot over 3,800 participating students in grades 2 and 3 at the time experienced an average Lexile® reading growth of 11% as measured by embedded Lexile® assessments. Equally important, according to the district, students browsed over 320,000 digital books and read an additional 180,000 to completion. 

With the pilot exceeding expectations, the district chose to incorporate myON into their Jumpstart CONNECT@HOME program, which provides a computer device and free Internet access for all students in grades 3-5 at 11 targeted elementary schools. Early data is showing positive results. During the first four-weeks of the rollout 140,000 students read over 48,000 books. After five short weeks, third graders across the district saw an average Lexile® growth of 9%.

“Providing our students with access to thousands of books to support their reading growth and overall learning is paramount for our district,” said Marie Izquierdo, chief academic officer for Miami-Dade County Public Schools. “And the real-time, actionable data on student reading activity and growth makes it possible for our teachers and administrators to collaborate with each other, helping ensure success for every student.”

Through this district-wide K-8 implementation, students have unlimited access to myON, which includes more than 5,000 enhanced digital books with multi-media supports. Embedded Lexile® assessments measure and predict student reading growth. 

The system provides students with their choice of books within guidelines managed by the school or district. Each student also receives, on their personalized myON dashboard, a recommended list of books that meet their unique interests and which are written at the target Lexile® reading level to support reading growth.

“It has been extremely exciting for our team to support the transformational programs underway in Miami-Dade Public Schools,” said Todd Brekhus, myON president. “Their forward-thinking leadership has put students first with a host of innovative approaches that truly leverage technology to support access for all students. We are delighted that they have chosen to partner with myON and we look forward to helping them meet their literacy goals for all students.”

For more information on myON’s award-winning digital literacy platform, please visit them online at

About Miami-Dade County Public School District

Miami-Dade County Public Schools is the fourth largest school district in the United States, comprised of 392 schools, 345,000 students and over 40,000 employees. Located at the southern end of the Florida peninsula, the school district stretches over 2,000 square miles of diverse and vibrant communities ranging from rural and suburban to urban cities and municipalities. A truly global community, district students speak 56 different languages and represent 160 countries. For more information, please visit

About myON

myON, a business unit of Capstone is a personalized digital literacy platform that creates collaborative learning opportunities. myON expands the classroom for teachers and students by providing unlimited access to the largest collection of more than 7,000 enhanced digital books with multimedia supports, real-time assessments and close reading tools. myON empowers students and teachers with real-time, actionable data—number and type of books opened and read, time spent reading, results of regular benchmark assessments, and more—based on embedded Lexile assessments that measure student reading growth. With myON, every student experiences the benefits of personalized literacy instruction.


Source: EdTechTimes

EdTech Times spoke with Joel Jacobson, co-founder of Defined Learning – a startup that’s developing application, Defined STEM, enabling students to make connections between STEM classroom content and career pathways. The application is also useful for the teachers to discover and reuse resources to design performance tasks.

ETT: Who are your core customers and how did you come across the problem you’re addressing and how did you define it – what was your process in identifying it?   

JJ: Our core customers are regional entities, school districts and schools.   As Defined STEM began, we wanted to hone in on the idea of relating the foundational knowledge gained in the classroom to what is happening in the real world.  We took on the question, “when am I going to use this,” as a challenge, and applied to all subjects across all grade levels.

Our goal is to demonstrate relevance through the use of performance tasks and challenge students to transfer and apply the knowledge through real world projects.    We present these challenges through performance tasks as well as literacy tasks, which focus on non-fictional reading and writing. 

ETT:  And how did you develop a solution to this particular problem and what was your process of arriving at it? 

JJ: Our process was predicated on the needs of the districts, teachers and students.   Schools are looking at innovative ways to relate what is happening in the classroom to the real world.  Many school districts are attempting to incorporate performance tasks as a means to accomplish this goal.

Teachers today have so much on their plate and creating performance tasks is time consuming.  Defined STEM has a library of performance tasks around a central theme which is demonstrated through the use of career-based video.

ETT: What is it that you’re doing differently than your competitors? And do you expect to develop other differentiators in the future?

JJ: This is an exciting time for schools and school districts.  There are fantastic resources available, which can aide districts in achieving their specific goals and initiatives.   In terms of Defined STEM, when a district or school is interested in relating real world concepts and challenging students’ critical thinking skills through performance tasks, we really do not see competition. 

ETT: How are you building the library of STEM content?

JJ: Defined Learning adds content to our library on a monthly basis.   There are many factors that go into the addition of content.  Here are a couple:

First we listen to the needs of our customers.   We listen to our customers across the country and evaluate areas they think would be beneficial to our current library.   As part of this process, we evaluate usage patterns and general trends year over year.  Once we identify content either through the trend analysis or customer feedback, we take our findings to our customer base, a select group of ardent Defined STEM users to further assess the need.  If our findings are validated we make additions to our library.

We are also continually monitoring our library by analyzing the state and national standards.  We continually look for opportunities to further enhance our connection with all the standards. When we identify standards that need to be addressed, we create the necessary video, performance and literacy task to address the standard.

ETT: What is your algorithm or method of matching students, STEM content, and their future career aspirations? In other words, how does your platform work?        

JJ: The teacher drives defined STEM. The teacher has the flexibility to edit and assign every aspect of Defined STEM.  This allows for the teacher to differentiate based on ability and also on career interest. The Defined STEM library offers a tremendous amount of flexibility; both inter task and intra task, for teachers to provide each student with the appropriate tasks.

ETT: Could you tell us about other startups or product builds that you have been a part of and what your role was? 

JJ: This is the first true start-up we have been involved with.   Our background is in delivering dynamic, on-demand content to the classroom.   We have built services within companies we worked for as well as built and delivered content on behalf of companies we have consulted with. 

ETT: Where is education technology market going in the next few years, especially as related to STEM? What are the potential risks to this market niche? 

JJ: Over the next few years we feel strongly that the STEM space will be looked synonymously with good teaching… more of a “STEM for All” approach. All students need proficiency in these areas for future success. 

ETT: What advice, if any, do you have for someone thinking about launching a company in the education technology market?

JJ: It is important to have a thorough understanding of the space a company is considering launching into.  Assuming a company has that understanding ,they will be able to adjust to obstacles they are faced with.

EdTech Times thanks Joel for speaking with us, and we encourage you to learn more about Defined Learning at:



OW logo

Source: EdNET Insight

Beth Te Grotenhuis, President of Odysseyware and CEO of Glynlyon — Friday, December 12, 2014

“A rolling stone can gather no moss.”  – Publilius Syrus

Nearly three decades working in education have shown me that our industry can be both cyclical and reactive and that change is inevitable. These waves are often driven by local or national policy, leading thinkers in our industry and the ever-changing needs of current and future educators and students alike.  The same seems to be true in districts, schools, and classrooms, where every few years a new initiative based on the latest research, pedagogy, or legal necessity is introduced and positioned as the ultimate solution.

Ongoing conversations with education leaders and teachers speak to the challenge our educators constantly face in adjusting to these shifts and changes, be it adopting new curriculum and standards or ensuring teachers receive the necessary professional development and planning to ensure these adoptions are successful.

As an education, technology, and curriculum company, it is a constant juggling act anticipating and responding to the changing needs of our schools and educators while remaining steadfast enough to block out the day-to-day static and noise and continue to trust in our internal vision and development plan. As a leader, there are a few principles I have followed to navigate these dynamics.

  1. Know who you are.

Every day it seems we receive a request for a new feature or course.  If we based our development plans on this alone, we’d churn out features but not necessarily a great product. Whatever we do, we do so based on the overarching goal of empowering both students and teachers. Since Odysseyware’s inception, we have focused on both personalized learning and providing the option and flexibility to customize our curriculum. As more and more schools implement blended, flexed, and virtual instructional models, we believe that this ability to customize will become a “need to have” instead of a “nice to have” capability.

  1. Stay true to who you are but accept that who you are will change.

This summer marked the largest new product launch in our company history. We published new virtual labs, a blended learning library, a suite of high school test prep courses, and new CTE courses, among other releases. The CTE courses reflected our continued significant investment in Career and Technical Education, which we committed to before many of our competitors and when it was still unclear how much emphasis the industry would place on it.  This was an example of anticipating a trend instead of reacting.

At the other end of the spectrum, we launched brand new high school equivalency test prep courses this autumn, which was necessitated by the need to match the form and standards of the new GED, HiSET, and TASC tests. These two examples speak to striking the balance between responding to new trends while remaining true to who you are and what you do best.  Part of our corporate mission is empowerment and flexibility. Expanding CTE offerings encourage and empower students to prepare for career and college readiness. High school test prep and equivalency courses can help other students do the same.

  1. Focus on kids.       

When in doubt, go back to basics. At the end of the day, let the fundamental question be whether your choices will benefit teachers and students. Will learning improve? Will access to high quality and flexible educational opportunities increase?

  1. Invest in people and embrace change.

The pace of technological change and the proliferation of mobile devices in our schools are not slowing down.  If anything, we’re just witnessing the first wave. While this will hopefully usher in a new renaissance in teaching and learning, it will also shorten the time we have to make product decisions, as the demand to adapt to this new environment will be unrelenting. Surround yourself with good people.  Invest even more in developing your employees and support them as our workplaces become far more open and collaborative. If your company requires an infusion of new skills, don’t be afraid to invest in the personnel it will take to remain relevant or approach management in new ways.

Much is being asked of our administrators, teachers, and students as they adapt to these changes. The very concept of a classroom is shifting. We should expect no less of ourselves.

Beth Te Grotenhuis recently led the development and execution of the largest new product release in Odysseyware’s history and was instrumental in the development of Odysseyware’s industry-leading online Career Technical Education courses. Since joining Glynlyon(Odysseyware’s parent company), she has shared the company’s mission to improve educational opportunities and outcomes for children and to be the best education partner in the industry. Today, as the president of Odysseyware and CEO of Glynlyon, she is more committed than ever to that vision. Beth has nearly three decades of successful leadership experience in the education and software industries. Under her leadership, Odysseyware has become one of the K-12 education industry’s most comprehensive online and blended learning curriculums. She may be reached at

MTSLogo2015Source: IdeaMensch

Robert Baker is the co-founder of Mac to School. He has worked in the Apple industry for 15+ years. With a broad base of experience as a hardware technician, software consultant and sales manager, he helps customers and others navigate the Apple ecosystem.

Born and raised in Silicon Valley, Robert has been tearing apart and re-building Apple computers since childhood. A serial entrepreneur, Robert’s first business was selling mix-tapes in middle school. His next ventures included selling custom PCs in high school and a web design firm in college.

Robert’s passion for customer service, Apple equipment and design led him to co-found MacService is 2003. MacService helped pioneer the model for mail-in computer repair and is one of the largest independent Apple service providers in the United States.

Building upon the success of MacService, Robert co-founded Mac to School in 2012 to focus on the education market. Mac to School has since become the leading seller of recertified Apple equipment to the U.S. education market.

In 2014, Robert co-founded the Give Mac foundation to help provide free Apple equipment to schools and students in need. Robert spends his spare time traveling, CrossFitting and helping others achieve their business goals.

Where did the idea for Mac to School come from?

We had been repairing Apple computers for schools through our repair company, MacService. We identified that our current education customers were looking for ways to stretch their IT budget while still getting quality devices for their students. We took a look at the entire lifecycle of Apple devices in K12. We knew that while Apple devices are initially expensive, they do outlast their PC/Chrome counterparts and deliver great long-term value. We found that we could use our expertise in Apple service to recertify devices and deliver Apple equipment that could give educators more access to the Apple ecosystem at a fraction of the price.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

The early morning is my most productive/creative time. I like to jump right into my laptop over a cup of coffee and knock out any creative action items I have. My next stop is to check in with my team. I’m either providing new tasks and directions or checking in with them to see what they’re working on and how I can help. The afternoons are when I let my mind wander and come up with some new ideas to work on. In the evenings I work out and reset myself for the next day.

How do you bring ideas to life?

When I started, it was long hours and lots of caffeine that helped bring my ideas to life. Now, I look at who on my team is best suited to get a project done. My job is to define a project’s success and help create a guide for getting there.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

Geo aware apps. Technology that works in the background and changes depending on where I am.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I analyze the businesses around me and learn from what they are doing right and wrong. For example, when I go out to eat, I examine everything from the lighting to the font on the menu. I try to incorporate things I like into my business and make sure to avoid the things I don’t like.

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

I worked at Fry’s Electronics for two weeks when I was desperate for a job right after high school. The entire organization is run the exact opposite of my personal values and tastes. I learned that your work environment is vital to your success and you should always strive to create and work in the best environment possible.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

Hire sooner. Getting the right people on board is a constant challenge, but the payoff in increased output makes all the difference in the world. Learning to let go and develop others has helped me improve my own work output.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Clean my work area. Staying organized and focused requires an inner discipline. It’s very easy to accumulate tons of paperwork and other miscellaneous bits into your workspace. Having a clean and clear workspace sets me up for success and lets others know that I have self-respect and that I pay attention to the details.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.

Never give up. When the financial crisis hit, we lost half of our team and had to really batten down the hatches. I took comfort in knowing that – no matter what – we would never give up. We were able to retain key people because they knew we wouldn’t abandon the ship and came out of the storm leaner and stronger.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

We started a PC repair arm called “PC Service.” We spent a lot of time and money trying to expand our business into a vertical that was outside of our expertise and values. The margins, passion and service expectations just weren’t there. We learned to stay in our lane and when expanding into new ventures to keep to our passions and strengths.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

I love geo aware apps. I’d like to see an app that recommends restaurants in new cities based upon the kind of food I eat at home – all happening in the background, of course.

Tell us something about you that very few people know?

I love to drive. Cars, motorcycles, skateboards, anything that I can steer and make go fast.

What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?

Dropbox for sharing docs with the team, Adobe apps for designing and Spotify for listening to music while I work.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Hug Your Customers” by Jack Mitchell – one of the first business books I read when starting the business. Customer service is the #1 foundation for any business we start. It’s not enough to say your business cares about customer service; you have to live it and work on it every day.

What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?

Jack Welch, Richard Branson, Jeff Bezos and Steve Jobs all have/had traits I really like along with some I don’t. I try to incorporate the good while avoiding the bad. Of course, that’s easier said than done.

Mac to School on Twitter: @mactoschool
Robert Backer on LinkedIn:
Mac to School on Facebook:


Source: Tech & Learning

GTG logoGirls Thinking Global (GTG) announces its formal launch and première in New York on December 8, 2014. The non-profit aims to create a global network serving women and girls, to leverage resources – monetary, in-kind, and communicative – to ensure that every possible resource is used to improve the quality of life for adolescent girls worldwide. The launch event also premières their first International Documentary highlighting the work of the Jungle Mamas, an exemplary program which is part of The Pachamama Alliance. Jungle Mamas trains indigenous Achuar women and adolescents in the Ecuadorian Amazon to become birthing attendants, reducing maternal and neonatal mortality across the region. Girls Thinking Global was founded by Kathy Hurley, a Harvard Advanced Leadership Initiative Fellow, Deb deVries, a former Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Executive, Cassandra Walker and Elizabeth Texeira, recent Harvard Graduate School of Education alumnae in the International Education Policy program. GTG has been working out of Harvard Business School Innovation Laboratory since June 2014, and became incorporated in August of 2014. To learn more about Girls Thinking Global, visit