learning upgrade logo

Source eSchool News

Learning Upgrade offering full curriculum and support to help educators stop the summer slide through engaging lessons embedded with songs, video and games

Educators and administrators across the country are looking for innovative, effective ways to ensure their students do not become victims of the ‘summer slide’ as well as attain mastery of state and national standard benchmarks.

Learning Upgrade, provider of engaging song and game based curriculum for math and reading, is offering complimentary summer school access to its web-based, standards aligned curriculum to all qualifying U.S. schools and districts.

The company looks to support districts in their quest to halt the dreaded summer slide, without putting a burden on their budget. In addition to the lessons, Learning Upgrade will provide additional support to summer school teachers and administrators while enrolling students, integrating the curriculum and tracking progress to mastery.

“This is the fourth year Learning Upgrade will offer full and complimentary access to any qualifying school in the US. Results over the past 3 summers have been extremely positive. In just four weeks, students can complete a full year of curriculum with detailed, web-based reports for parents, teachers and students,” said  CEO Vinod Lobo.

Research from the National Summer Learning Association shows that, without refreshing their memories, students may lose up to two months of grade-level equivalency over the summer.

“Summer is a fantastic time to engage all learners, and prevent the dreaded summer slide, especially those that may need extra help catching up or keeping up with their classmates,” states Lobo.summer-school

Through the incorporation of songs, video, games and extensive educational research, Learning Upgrade has helped over 1 million students reach and exceed grade level requirements in both Math and English Language Arts. The complimentary summer licenses provide users full access to Learning Upgrade’s entire K-8 curriculum.

The intuitive platform provides students with immediate feedback as well as additional support and remediation when and where students need it. Once a student has demonstrated mastery of a given skill, they are automatically advanced to the next lesson.

To sign up, visit www.learningupgrade.com and click the Start Free Trial button, to sign up for a free school-wide license, simply mention “Summer School” in the information box, and include the number of student licenses you need.

Copy of NewPanache_Lgo-med (3)Minnesota-based PR firm, focused on the education marketplace, earns recognition for outstanding work in its field by leading online education magazine

PR With Panache! (PRP) has been honored as the best PR firm in education in the 2015 EdTech Digest Awards, which shine a spotlight on the best and brightest tools, leaders and trendsetters pushing forward today’s education revolution. EdTech Digest recognized bold leaders, such as PRP, with the goal of inspiring learners and leaders everywhere.

The Minnesota-based PR firm earned the recognition for its tenacity, creativity, and effectiveness in crafting stories that deliver business results for its clients, while elevating the conversation among stakeholders to improve education. PRP conducts the one-of-a-kind, industry-renowned “Thought Leadership Soiree” that annually highlights the difference leaders in education make today as well as the preeminent “Meeting of the Minds” program, in which its clients and industry influencers come together to share knowledge and insight on the hottest trends and innovative stories in the marketplace.

The agency’s forward-thinking, distinctive communications approach also led to the first Blended Learning Summit that PRP organized with education leaders, including Tom Vander Ark, Meriden Public Schools, and leading education companies. The event was aimed at bolstering best practices and transforming learning environments to meet the needs of students accustomed to the digital age.

“The people behind these methods, ideas, apps, platforms, products, services, and environments for learning — are getting workable technology solutions for education widely known about and well thought of,” wrote EdTech Digest editor-in-chief, Victor Rivero. “They are reshaping the education culture, and they are creating a new and better future for students everywhere. We are very excited to recognize them and we salute them for their achievements.”

Year after year, client after client, PRP listens to its clients and their needs and thoroughly researches and examines every possible angle to ensure their stories hit the news cycle with a bang. Whether start-ups or industry leaders, PRP provides strategic PR solutions for companies, helping clients get to the top of their game and keeping them there.

Its team of PR pros brings a wealth of experience in journalism, brand management, direct marketing, corporate and nonprofit communications and other fields. Their experience, passion and dedication have helped land clients media hits in top education publications.

“This award from EdTech Digest underscores the importance we place on creating personalized campaigns for our clients along with our investment in their success,” explained Sue Hanson, founder and managing partner of PRP. “We continuously look for new talent to bolster our work and for new ways to best position our clients as industry leaders. We work with fabulous people!”

PRP would like to thank each member of it’s client family and share this honor with them. It is their hard work and dedication to improving education that provides the PRP team with such wonderful, innovative stories to tell.

To learn more about PRP, visit www.prwithpanache.com

About PR with Panache!

PR with Panache! is a bold, fast-moving public relations and media marketing agency for the education marketplace with an international reputation for smart, entrepreneurial communications, content marketing, product publicity and brand awareness. Its success is built on the achievements of its clients. Its team consistently delivers explosive results. The firm speaks the right language as it expands client brands, supports PR and marketing or launches new products through long-established media relationships.

FieldProsLogo

Innovative EdTech Recruiting firm adds two industry veterans to support growth

Building the perfect team, the ‘dream’ team if you will, is an essential element to the success of any business.  FieldPros, a leading recruiting firm for education technology companies, understands this better than anyone.   Over the past 11 years, FieldPros has focused exclusively on the K-20 industry, partnering with leading EdTech companies to ensure they have the internal capacity needed to be successful in the innovative world of education.

FieldPros is pleased to announce the expansion of their own “dream team” with the addition of industry and recruitment veterans, Ashley Conaty and Scot Mall.  Both Conaty and Mall bring deep knowledge of education and a unique understanding of how important finding the right talent is to an organization, regardless of size or company life cycle.

Conaty brings more 15 years of recruiting expertise to the team at FieldPros, the last 7 being spent with Blackboard, where she managed global sales recruiting efforts for the LMS giant in both K12 and higher ed.  Named a circle of Excellence winner during her tenure at Blackboard, Conaty successfully partnered with sales management at all levels of the company to ensure they met headcount needs during periods of enormous growth.

“Trial and error is not an option when it comes to identifying and hiring the right candidates for any role in a company,” stated Conaty.  “I am extremely excited to join the dynamic team at FieldPros, they are a true partner in every sense of the word to each company they support.”

Entering the higher education market in 2000, Mall was named Campus Director for the University of Phoenix in 2007 and later moved on to become the President of Westwood Online.

“The past 15 years have allowed me to build a fantastic network and truly plug myself in to the world of higher education,” states Mall. “I am thrilled to join the team at FieldPros and look forward to sharing my experience and industry knowledge with our partners.”

Company Founder, John Meyer stated, “I couldn’t be more pleased with the addition of Ashley and Scot.  They both bring a unique skill set and credibility that will further enhance our ability to service our partners at the highest level. With these hires, FieldPros now has the capacity to move forward on providing additional services to our partners.

For more information about FieldPros, please visit them online at www.fieldpros.com

About FieldPros:

Finding the right fit for your company starts with an experienced partner. For over a decade, FieldPros has successfully provided recruitment services to the Education Technology market. Our clients range from progressive startups to multi-million dollar corporations providing innovative products, services and/or solutions to the K-12 and Higher Education markets. For more information visit www.fieldpros.com

Source EducationWeek squarelogo

School districts nationwide are making progress on personalized learning; student access to technology is improving, teacher leaders are being identified and cultivated, blended learning strategies are being phased in. A great example is Meriden Public Schools, which hosted a Blended Learning Summit (#MPSblended).

Over the last two centuries Meriden Connecticut has been home to factories that made trains, knives, and guns. The Quinnipiac River cuts through step bluffs in South Meriden. The town of about 60,000 people has a few 300 year old buildings and is an Amway stop between New Haven and Hartford.

The two high school district serves a diverse and high need population. As a result, it receives state grant funding that supports: Extended Learning Time, Early Literacy, Expansion of their Family Resource Center, and 21st Century Community Learning Center after school programming.

Mark Benigni was appointed superintendent in 2010 and had the chance to hire several cabinet members. He has assembled a talented team that includes Barbara Haeffner, Director of Curriculum and Instruction whose team organized the Summit.

The district’s roadmap to student-centered learning, which attracted the support of the Nellie Mae Education Foundation, includes:

*Increasing learning experiences for all students;

*Providing students with multiple opportunities to reach their potential by cultivating a mindset the values effort;

*Helping students succeed: engaging students and encouraging completion of quality work (i.e., a no zero policy);

*Greater access to all classes (i.e., prerequisites are not a barrier);

*Integrating technology into all content areas: district devices plus BYOD;

*Anytime, anywhere learning;

*Personalized learning experiences for credit;

*High schools of tomorrow;

*Competency-based learning: standards-based grading with performance -based options; and

*Board policy revisions to support student-centered learning.

One of the practical implications of the agenda was to collapsed five high school tracks into two, academic and accelerated. All programs lead to college and career readiness.

The goal is to put students at the center and provide rich learning experiences inside and outside of school.

No snow days. Despite crazy winter weather, Meriden students stayed on track with the use of online learning. The district uses the open source Moodle learning management system. The city and businesses have helped improve home access to wifi.

Sue Moore, Blended Learning Supervisor, described how both high schools made the conversion to 1:1 access and how Chromebooks carts were deployed to the middle and elementary schools. Textbook funds have largely been reallocated to digital content.

Summit sponsors and widely used vendors include Discovery Education, MyOn, Imagine Learning, Odysseyware and MIND Research Institute.

Particularly popular in Meriden high schools is Jon Bergmann’s training on flipped classroom.

Increasingly, Meriden teachers benefit from same formula as students with engaging, personalized, and differentiated professional development. Haeffner sees quality professional learning as key to deeper student learning.

The superintendent told the regional audience that the teacher’s union has been a partner in progress in Meriden. Benigni said the tiered system of support for staff starts with an environment of trust. Haeffner said adopting and modeling the growth mindset was key. “Our teachers are willing to try new approaches,” said Haeffner.

Performance & Evaluation Specialist Miguel Cardona described the goal congruence from board to teacher. For example:

*Board goal: expanded PL experiences

*Administrator goal: HS will offer devices to all students and support teachers with BL instruction;

*Departments: use PLC/Data Team time to explore the Flipped Classroom strategies and other blended learning strategies; and

*Individual educator: improve student engagement through the application of blended learning strategies applied in projects and in and out of class.

Cardona said the district track engagement goals including the percentage of students with improved technology access, the percentage participating in personalized learning experiences, feedback from blended learning surveys.

Benigni noted that the student-centered agenda had also resulted in reduced suspensions, expulsions and arrests. The team is confident that higher engagement leads to higher achievement.

Students can apply for personalized learning experiences by describing what they will learn and how they will demonstrate it. Moore said there has been a, “Fantastic response from students.” Some experiences are paid internships. One young lady served as green tech coach for the Four Points Sheraton where she led recycling efforts.

Meriden isn’t going it alone. Superintendents from nearby Cheshire, Wallingford, and Cromwell Public Schools spoke at the Summit about similar digital conversion strategies. They all recounted infrastructure and budget challenges, efforts to support teachers, and early steps towards competency-based learning.

For the central Connecticut crowd I provided a quick virtual tour to a third of 100 Schools Worth Visiting. We also discussed Smart Cities: 7 Keys to Education and Employment.

The Summit was a good example of how a focused team with a couple small grants can help a region make a lot of progress in a short amount of time.

Source SmartBrieflearning upgrade logo

Free licenses for math, reading curriculum for summer school

Educators teaching reading and math this summer can access free online curriculum from Learning Upgrade. The curriculum uses songs, videos and games to teach math and reading. The 20-student license is open to teachers in U.S. schools with a minimum of 300 students. To apply, visit Learning Upgrade’s site and register for the free schoolwide license. Enter “summer school” and the number of licenses needed in the information field.

Please click here to view the full SmartBrief on EdTech – Product Showcase for Monday, March 23rd 2015 

 

TeacherMatchLogo_4color

 

Source District Administration

Programs designed to gauge impact teacher candidates will have on student test scores

Big data and analytics now offer districts some clues about which teacher candidates will be the most effective in the classroom.

These programs are designed to accurately gauge the impact teacher candidates will have on student test scores. Analytics companies such as TeacherMatch and Hanover Research are working with hundreds of districts nationwide to aid in the hiring process.

Though still a relatively new practice, predictive analytics is becoming more common in both public- and private-sector hiring, says Jonah Rockoff, a Columbia University associate professor of finance and economics who studies teacher hiring systems.

“People have realized that subjective opinions from personal interviews and other common hiring practices tend to lead to less accurate judgments of who is going to be effective on the job,” Rockoff says. “With the resurgence on the focus on teacher effectiveness and evaluation, hiring is a really important lever that school principals have for improving the quality of the staff.”

Research needed

There is not yet much independent research on the effectiveness of analytics programs, Rockoff says.

But many districts report anecdotal success. San Marcos Consolidated ISD, a suburban district of 7,800 students located between Austin and San Antonio, usually receives 200 to 400 applicants for every one teaching position posted, says Lolly Guerra, assistant superintendent of human resources.

Administrators began using TeacherMatch in March 2014. A 100-question survey that candidates must complete with their job application generates the analytics. The questions cover broad areas that impact teacher effectiveness, including:

Qualifications, such as the selectivity of the candidate’s teacher prep program • Attitude, such as how the candidate handles challenges • Basic subject knowledgeTeaching strategies, and how the candidate would respond to specific classroom situations

The analytics tools then devise a score that estimates how effective the teacher will be.

Applicants who do not have the adequate skills can be quickly eliminated. As for new hires, administrators are pleased with what they are seeing on evaluations and in walk-throughs, Guerra says. The new teachers are succeeding in the district’s push for project-based learning, and students seem engaged, she adds.

The service is priced per student, and San Marcos pays about $24,000 per year.

“It’s another tool to make hiring decisions,” Guerra says. “An interview is important to make sure they are going to be a fit for your district. But this is quantitative data that is predictive of a teacher’s ability to teach.”

Improving hiring

In the end, teacher hiring should be based on a combination of factors, including analytics, an interview and a mock-lesson, Rockoff says. Most principals do not require that candidates teach a lesson in the hiring process, but it is a good way to tell how the candidate will perform in the classroom, he adds.

“It’s much easier to improve the quality of the teaching staff on the hiring side than it is once you already have somebody in the building,” Rockoff says. “The worst mistake a principal can make is hiring an ineffective teacher and exposing a classroom of students to someone who does a bad job.”

Copy of NewPanache_Lgo-med (2)

Thank you EdTech Digest for honoring our storytelling and passion by naming us the Best PR firm in Education, you have made us smile!

We are honored and humbled to say the least, but we truly believe this award goes to our fabEdTech Digest awardulous clients! Thanks to their outstanding work in and dedication to improving education we have the best stories to share with the media and our entire industry!

We happily share the spotlight you have shined on us with our talented team…. we really have quite the troupe at PR with Panache! We are the behind the scenes people and our clients are the stars. It is always about their story, always!

mactoschool2Source Public School Review

With technology advancing and changing faster than ever, how can educators and schools keep up? The answer: refurbished ed tech.

The Emergence of Refurbished Ed Tech

Teachers and administrators are turning to refurbished educational technology for better learning experiences on a reduced budget. Refurbished machines save time and money, and gives instructors a wider range of teaching options for students. We paneled some of the top minds in education to learn about the impact refurbished tech is making on education.

The Benefits of Refurbished Ed Tech: Savings

School systems across the nation run on tight budgets. While per-student spending remains at an adequate level in select districts, it can hardly cover the cost of new devices for every child, especially with rapid advances in digital media.

“Refurbished technology is a great way to get more devices into the hands of students at significant cost savings,” says Robert Baker, CEO and Co-Founder of certified ed tech provider Mac to School. Teachers need the proper tools to interact with their students in a technology-driven society.

Bob Nelson, Superintendent of the Chawanakee School District in California, notes the benefits of saving time as well as money. “What are the benefits of refurbished ed tech… identical machines, thus simplifying the 1:1 environment for purposes of training and support.”

His own experience of working with identical devices at the district level over the past six years has given him keen insights into the savings refurbished equipment provide.

How Ed Tech Has Changed: Access and Efficiency

In an age when year-old devices are ancient, how does refurbished technology keep up with advancing standards? Surprisingly well it seems. Companies have seen the need for refurbished ed tech rising and have quickly moved to fill in the gap.

Matthew Lynch, Dean of the Syphax School of Education, Psychology, and Interdisciplinary Studies, says EdTech is one of the fastest growing sectors of the entire technology industry. “Investments in education technology companies nationwide tripled in the last decade, ballooning to $429 million in 2011 from $146 million in 2002, according to the National Venture Capital Association.”

Providers are looking for new ways to improve the learning process through mobile apps and classroom management software. Waves of students will soon see the benefits as learning seamlessly flows between school and home. As messaging capabilities become more usable and universal, teachers and parents have better communication options.

Robert Baker says a tech-agnostic classroom that embraces all systems and devices benefits everyone. “Educators are becoming more creative on how they purchase and implement technology for their classrooms. 1 to 1, BYOD, flipped learning and mixed platform environments have all created unique demands for devices to make these programs work. By having a mixed platform environment of Apple, Chrome, Windows, new and certified devices, educators are able to pick the right tool for the right job.”

Rayfil Wong, CEO of Professorsavings.com, says the changing landscape of media consumption has spilled into the education sector. “Edtech has changed since 60% of Internet consumption in the USA is mobile and in video format.”

Can Schools Integrate New Technology?

Despite these significant advances, administrators across the country know the enemy of progress is pain. Like any implementation of new technology, the transition process requires a learning curve. Many see this as a reason to stick with the old, but proponents of refurbished tech are steadfast, maintaining that this technology is a means to upgrade learning platforms without prohibitive costs compounding the problem of training time.

Robert Baker is one of those proponents. “Looking at ways to save on [technology] (like using certified pre-owned hardware) can free up much needed funds that can go directly towards implementing and training on the new technology.”

Bob Nelson stresses how important it is to not become short-sighted after hitting initial challenges with new tech. “Every aspect of integrating new technology balances excitement and new opportunity with inherent gaps in implementation. Invariably, even the best roll outs have a hard time managing ALL of the hardware, software, network, training, and personnel elements. These setbacks, if big enough, can cause naysayers both within the school setting or out in the community at large, to work on derailing an integration project.”

To offset this upfront investment, refurbished tech allows schools to be flexible in their decision-making, and change course if needed. If one hardware-software platform is not having the desired effect, they can simply go in a new direction without an exorbitant price tag. “The key, I believe, is to design the best implementation plan that a team can must, and then just move through the implementation process in small steps—evaluating and re-adjusting as you go.”

Concerns with Refurbished Tech

Aside from the installing of new learning platforms, the obvious concern is over the durability of the devices. Budgeters do not want to shell out hundreds of dollars on technology that does not hold up to the constant wear and tear a school year brings. Matthew Lynch insists there are plenty of reputable companies out there in refurbished tech. He urges schools to rely on safety nets, like warranties and customer service, to ensure no money is wasted on a sub-par product.

Robert Baker insists upon going with the right vendor. “Using a quality vendor with a great service warranty is the best way to get the most value out of refurbished technology. It’s not just about who has the lowest cost, but how will these devices be supported going forward.”

Conclusion

The end goal is to refurbish education as a whole. Being stuck with outdated devices provides the easy excuse of sticking with outdated practices. New technology can reinvigorate the learning environment, imbue teachers with a renewed ability to interact with their students, and keep students engaged.

Source EdNET Insightgreyedlogo2

Implementations: A Recipe for Success

Dr. Julie Carter, Co-Founder and CEO, and Rob Dickson, Co-Founder and President, GreyEd Solutions — Friday, March 20, 2015

The quality of implementation is one of the most critical components to the success of any rollout. With the increase of personalized learning initiatives often involving device rollouts around the country, it has become increasingly apparent that the quality of the implementation is a predictor of success.

The implementation process can be cumbersome to navigate because it involves a variety of stakeholders and no longer is led by a single person or department. Oftentimes the process is less than linear with multiple points of execution happening simultaneously. This can lead to frustration or a drawn-out implementation taking too long to get off the ground, especially if you try and execute only one piece at a time.

Having experienced implementations firsthand from both the school side and the vendor side, there are clear commonalities as we review successful rollouts. The components most evident in these successful implementations include:

*Establishing a vision embedded in teaching and learning

*Starting small and going slow to go fast

*Building your supports—expanding your kitchen

*Leveraging your connections—not reinventing the wheel

*Telling your story

Establish your vision

Creating a vision embedded in teaching and learning is the grounding activity for any implementation. It is the reason you are creating an implementation plan in the first place and should be the catalyst for all points of discussion and processes in your rollout. What is it that you are trying to accomplish? What student skills, abilities, and outcomes are you aiming for with your implementation? Being clear about your vision defines both your starting point and your target destination.

There are two obstacles we often see districts struggle with at this point:

1. Putting the cart before the horse

2. Being paralyzed by perfection

Putting the cart before the horse is the unfortunate situation some districts find themselves in when under pressure to implement devices for all students. When the technology comes first rather than the teaching and learning, the implementation has little momentum and is difficult to get off the ground. Leading with the focus on students and the desire for what skills and abilities we are looking to enhance and strengthen in our students allows the teaching and learning to drive the initiative. At this point, it can be the “horse” that pulls the cart, where the cart is merely the technology coming behind as a vehicle of support.

Being paralyzed by perfection is a stopping point for some districts that cannot move beyond the wordsmithing of the perfect vision statement for their implementation. Identifying your vision can be as simple as brainstorming your goals, bulleting your specific outcomes, or diagramming your thoughts. Identifying your direction and destination does not have to be in a perfect newspaper headline just yet; define your work but don’t let it stifle your momentum as you begin moving forward.

Start small and go slow to go fast

We love to think of this part as a sampling or a taste test for the larger rollout. Think about making a new recipe for a very large and well-publicized event. Would you dream of serving something new without first trying a few batches in your own kitchen to make any needed recipe adjustments with feedback from some taste testers?

Granted, the stakes are much smaller in this case, but the idea resonates. Trying a smaller group or a portion of the population with your new implementation can give you not only feedback on needed corrections or modification to your plan but also confirmation and validation to components as well.

Going slow to go fast really speaks to the ability to make corrections and modifications on a smaller scale much easier and quicker than on a larger scale. Steering the smaller ship is always easier and more responsive than the larger one and can get you moving faster toward your destination with less lag time in between.

Build your supports—expand your kitchen

This part of the process is where we look to multiple departments and stakeholders to work together, often simultaneously, to support the end result. This requires districts to expand their kitchen and bring in multiple cooks—we need to build supports not in isolation but intertwined with one another. The days of a single leader spearheading these large initiatives are behind us, not as a lack of ownership or responsibility for these projects but in recognition that it takes a village, or in this case a lot of cooks, to do it right.

This includes your professional development, your infrastructure, your curriculum, your leadership teams, and the myriad number of other places in the organization touched by these implementations. This is not to slight the aforementioned areas, as the professional development and infrastructure are absolutely critical components to the scaffolding of your project, which will fold without these supports properly in place.

Leverage your connections; don’t reinvent the wheel

There is great power in observing and learning from what others have done before you. It is not stealing or cheating to look at the playbooks of other districts; it is wise and responsible to do your homework and learn from others. However, this does not mean that replication is advised. Learn from what others have tried and their experience and apply it to your own situation. Just as we ask students to apply their knowledge in new ways, we must do the same. Apply what you learn from conversations with colleagues, visits to other schools, and reading and research on the brave districts who have told their stories and published their findings. Interpret this information through the lens of your district, not reinventing the wheel but refining it to adapt to the culture of your environment.

Don’t forget that vendors can be a major connection for you to leverage. The days of “sale and bail” approaches to ed tech products should be forced behind us. The success of your implementation should be just as important to any vendors involved in your initiatives as it is for you. Ask for support, ask for best practices, and ask for a case study on your district implementation to measure the effectiveness. Leverage vendors’ interest in your success for a mutual win.

Tell your story

We believe the most exciting part of any initiative is telling your story. This is your moment to share how you are impacting the teaching and learning experiences of your students. If you measure what you treasure along the way and embed the human aspect of anecdotes and qualitative reflections along with the data, you will have a story worth telling. Don’t underestimate the power of telling your story. This communicates not only to your stakeholders but also to the ed tech community at-large the power of sharing our experiences toward the common goal of improving the student learning experience.

Julie Carter, Ed.D., Co-Founder and CEO, GreyEd Solutions

Julie has a passion for impacting the classroom through effective implementations of technology. Her background in education began as a classroom teacher and media specialist before becoming the Executive Director of Technology for Minnetonka Public Schools. There she oversaw one of the best 1:1 computing efforts in the country, being recognized by the Apple Distinguished Educator Program and the National School Boards Association. She was named as Tech & Learning’s Leader of the Year in 2010 for her innovative use of technology and as one of “20 to Watch” by the National School Boards Association in 2010. Dr. Carter brings several years of successful consulting in both K-12 and the ed tech industry to GreyEd Solutions. julie@greyedsolutions.com

Rob Dickson, Co-Founder and President, GreyEd Solutions

Rob Dickson’s technical understanding of how technology should support student learning contributed to his previous district’s ranking among the “top ten” digital districts in the nation four of the past five years. Among Dickson’s accomplishments are leading the first VBlock cloud data center installation in K-12 education and advising many schools across the country with their technology planning and integration. Dickson was recently named 2014’s “20 to Watch” from NSBA for innovation and technology integration work. Dickson currently directs the instructional technology program and all of the technology infrastructure work for Omaha Public Schools as the Executive Director of Information Management Systems. rob@greyedsolutions.com

Source SmartBlog on Education3rd_quote_logo_RGB (2)

“The next Bill Gates will not build an operating system.” — Peter Thiel, Zero to One

“Sorry, that money is no longer available,” said the grant guru in our district office. Say what?! I had just lost anticipated and much-needed grant money at the last minute for the K-8 urban public school where I worked as a computer literacy teacher and building-technology coordinator. For those of you who have been in this boat, you understand my frustration and disappointment.

There were numerous attempts to contact vendors, emails and calls for proposals. Some were nice and friendly and others were straight to the point. No luck. The result: Goodbye grant money to wherever grant money goes. Poof! Score: Antiquated procurement system: 1 and beneficial programs for my students and sanity: 0. Maybe I should have tried flowers?

If there ever was a straw, this was it. I needed to be the change I wanted to see. That’s when 3rd Quote — a marketplace that democratizes educational technology purchasing for schools and providers — was born.

Currently in the U.S., educational technology procurement is likened to someone living in New York securing the most wonderful, cutting-edge job via LinkedIn and a Skype interview that starts tomorrow in San Francisco, but they have to take a steam train to get there. Huh? How can that be? We are asking students to do 21st century thinking and giving them 21st century technology but that path is steeped in 20th century processes. This is the change I wanted to see. It’s time to bring educational technology procurement out of the Stone Ages.

Maybe you have had similar experiences? You see something in your classroom, school, district or the education profession/industry that could be fixed or made better. An optimistic voice yells, “Yes!”, but your logical voice opines, “Whoa, hipster, not so fast! Can I actually findwhat I need and make this happen?” There is good news on a few fronts.

Investing in educational technology topped $2B in 2014. The costs of starting a business have never been lower. And perhaps the most important advantage is — grab your selfie stick — you! You already have a huge advantage: You are an educator with first-hand academic and practical knowledge.

Here are few reasons why I believe educators make great entrepreneurs. They:

  • Make abstract content relevant everyday.
  • Reflect on our approaches, learning, instruction and goals.
  • Understand schools, students and our fellow colleagues.
  • Know how to collect, analyze and make changes based on data.
  • Know how to deal with failure and quickly devise a Plan B.
  • Have been most likely exposed to design thinking.
  • Have one heck of an established network.
  • Already want to change the world.

So how can educators turn an idea into reality?

  • Educate yourself. Read everything you can find about the problem you look to solve.
  • Network and collaborate. Talk to everyone that will listen, help improve and validate your idea.
  • Listen to the feedback you get and be agile (and humble!) enough to make adjustments.
  • Learn to code. Or find someone who can!
  • Plan.
  • Establish relationships with great mentors.
  • Find the right people to help, they are all integral parts of your success. I worked with designers, coders, web folks and educators.
  • Create a minimally viable product (MVP), then get more feedback.
  • Name your company insightfully: We chose 3rd Quote because it is always listed first and as a tech director, I always requested three quotes.
  • Identify and engage with meaningful partners: I worked (and work) with an amazing PR team (sorry Mark Cuban!).
  • Seek out like-minded organizations within the industry. Consider joining organizations like the Software and Information Industry Association (SIIA), networking is important.
  • Find solid legal counsel to help navigate the business formation process.
  • Don’t give up, if it were easy, everyone would be doing it. Be the change you want to see.

What did I learn along the way that I wish I had known at the start?

  • Patience is imperative in many areas (traction, visibility and messaging/marketing).
  • Forget the Hollywood rendition of start-ups.
  • Harmonize the balance between the inevitable highs and lows of start-up life.
  • Understanding investing basics (seed rounds, convertible notes and one-pagers.)
  • Many start-ups have the same trials and tribulations, trust me when I say this, you will not be alone!

 

I feel compelled to take a moment to address the idea-to-reality conundrum. Since getting involved in start-up life, people routinely ask me for advice on their idea. The simplest advice I can offer is this: Make it happen! Put it on paper — even with crude sketches — to bring it to life. It is here where the magic of a start-up happens. You realize what works and what doesn’t.

Yes Principal Little, you taught me well from your many observations. I offer this closure like good teachers do: Every day I feel humbled, honored and extremely fortunate to be the change I wanted to see. Yes, there is risk, little sleep and my Starbucks card is always being refilled. But the rewards of helping educators solve a real-world problem of purchasing education technology mutes those challenges. And drawing on what I learned as a teacher helps immensely. I miss teaching, but knowing 3rd Quote is making a real-world difference makes me feel like I never left the classroom.

Edwin Wargo co-founded 3rd Quote with partner Alpesh Patel. He is also a former school technology coordinator. Reach out to him at edwin@the3rdquote.com or on Twitter at @edwinjwargo with any comments or questions.