On The Vendor Floor — My Podcast Plan


This is a continuation of my previous post, and to refresh your memory, I’m launching a podcast!  It is my own little passion project.  I’ve recently began listening to podcasts, and I’m extremely drawn to this medium.  I feel like I get to know the host through voice.  Trust is established.  Lessons are learned.OTF-EDU

In each of my podcasts, I will interview the founder of an EdTech Start-Up desperate to share how their product will positively impact student learning.  These founders will have an opportunity to tell the story of how the product came to be and where they envision it going.  I intend to push them about student data privacy, cost, and implementation.  Can they really identify how their product positively impacts student learning?  The podcast will be an extension of the conversations that begin “On The Vendor Floor”.

To be honest, I’m building this podcast with my friend “Minnie” in mind.  She’s a library media specialist, and she’s charged with curating classroom technologies for students, teachers, parents, and administration.  She is easily excitable and a quick study of new tools and even quicker to evaluate their value in the classroom.  She fears there is no way to know everything being created because she only gets to attend conferences once or twice a year and while she’s there, she’s learning from other teachers and does not have time to be chatting with vendors trying to sell her something.  She does spend time reading and learning in various social media spaces, and her list of things to research further is lengthy.  She is also trying to evaluate tools that seemingly do the same thing, so she can choose the best one for her school to adopt in a more systemic way.  Minnie’s enthusiasm only falters when she feels like her colleagues depend on her to teach them everything, and she knows they don’t always take advantage of the information she shares with them.  After discovering this podcast that was built just for her, she creates an innovation team, and they also listen to the podcast.  They debrief about each podcast at the beginning of every meeting.  Minnie recognizes that she and her colleagues really relate to the founders and their stories, and their stories are just the hook they need to get others to check out the tech tool.  Once everyone is checking out the new technology, Minnie’s principal begins to probe her about how she knows so much about the latest classroom technologies, and she responds, “I heard about them On The Vendor Floor.”

More info coming soon, but in the meantime, if you want to be sure to get updates about the podcast launch, click here.  Also, if you know the founder of an EdTech tool students, teachers, parents, or principals can’t live without, please ask them to fill out this form.  Recording begins soon!

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On The Vendor Floor — My Inspiration

ISTE 2015’s vendor floor was not like any I had seen before!  TISTE Vendorhere were over 500 vendors on the floor.  The vendor spaces varied in placement, size, and design, and I couldn’t help but take some notice of the status associated with those spaces.  Certainly the vendors  you saw first and the ones with the biggest spaces were the big names in education.  The further back you went the smaller the designs got.  However, there were tons of gems to be found in those small spaces.

One morning while my friends were in line to get breakfast at Panera, I sat at a table outside the restaurant eating the breakfast I had gotten in Reading Market.  As I picked at my breakfast, I was drawn into a conversation taking place between the two gentlemen (in polos with “important” logos) at the table next to me.  I didn’t get to participate in the conversation, but my eavesdropping taught me a lot.  I heard the men lamenting about the drain this conference has on their people and finances, and they were questioning if the return on investment was enough to keep participating.  Each year, they felt they needed to up the ante in order to keep up with the Jones’, and for what?  Were the stakeholders with the money really in attendance?  Were the conversations on the vendor floor really enough for district leaders to pull the trigger and purchase?

Across the street, a small startup set up shop on the sidewalk talking to every person that would give them two seconds.  They even gave out granola bars and coffee to encourage people to stop.  Why were they setting up shop across the street?  Because the vendor hall was too expensive for their startup.  They had a viable product still in its early stages, and they chose to save their money for product development instead of floor space.  I thought that was smart, but I noticed at one point they were no longer there.  I’m guessing someone did not like their strategy, and closed them down.

Near the bloggers cafe and PLN lounge, other conference attendees wearing the same t-shirts that named their brand connected with conference goers.  They promoted their small sales gatherings being hosted off site after that day’s events.  Why were these people not on the vendor floor?  Because they were at stage two (one step up or maybe two from the guys on the street), and they could afford to attend the conference, yet were not able to afford the vendor floor? Or maybe they thought the conversations with attendees off the vendor floor had a higher ROI?  To some extent, they likely couldn’t afford NOT to attend ISTE because of the potential sales opportunities lost.

Seeing this and hearing attendees repeatedly saying, “It is NOT about the tool; its about the learning!”, has inspired me to create a personal passion project.  Well, my ISTE vendor floor experience AND my infatuation with edtech startup culture have contributed to my personal Genius Hour project.  Ready for it?  Dying to know what I’m going to do?

I’m launching a podcast!  Details coming soon!  Want to be added to my list for updates on the release?  Click here!  Then confirm that you want the info by click the link in your email.  Its gonna be good; you don’t want to miss this!


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The Learning Divide

Pernille Ripp just posted a blog about the Teacher/Admin divide.  You can read the blog here.  I admire her for wanting to discuss such an important topic in education, but the divide is bigger than teacher/admin.  I’ve been a teacher and a principal, and now I work for a regional service agency where I serve 31 school districts.  I continue to work closely with teachers and principals; I also work closely with the Department of Public Instruction and people from other regional service agencies.  Working with consultants and vendors and trainers is not outside of my typical day either.  In my daily operations, I see lots of division, and I choose to focus my efforts on learning everything I can to support the learning of those I serve.  My mission has not shifted despite wearing different hats.

In fact last week at #ISTE2015, I attended a panel discussion titled “Is It Time To Give Up On Computers In School?” that featured Gary Stager, Will Richardson, Audrey Waters, and David Thornburg.  I chose this session knowing it would not be as warm and fuzzy as the bloggers cafe was.  It was definitely the outlier panel of the entire conference; one man even walked out in a purposely exaggerated huff.  Without a doubt, I would attend that session again because it pushed my thinking farther than it had ever been pushed in regards to edtech and more importantly in regards to LEARNING.  I could have taken many things said in that room personally because I had not considered personalization of the internet is actually discriminating.  I had not considered one of the biggest vendor sponsors likely spent more money on lobbying congress to uphold the testing expectations that disgust me.  I had not considered that the most most forward thinking educator in the area of EdTech (Seymour Papert) had never been invited to be the keynote speaker of the conference despite the many contributions he made to technology and learning.

You see, the divide evident in the field of education today exists because we need to be LEARNING at a faster rate than ever before!  Gary Stager said it so well at ISTE, “We can’t expect teachers [or admin] to teach 21st century skills if they haven’t LEARNED anything in the last 100 years!”

The challenge from my perspective is inspiring our educators (teachers and admin) to continue learning.  I’m not talking about getting training on the educator effectiveness software, or next generation assessments, or common core standards.  I’m talking about real, self-directed learning that has a direct impact on their classrooms, schools, and personal lives.  I’m talking about engaging in workshops and conversations that leave you with more questions than answers.  Our work is not solely teaching as in departing knowledge; our work is learning and inspiring others to learn.  When someone pushes your button, ask questions, seek understanding, assume positive intent, and aim to learn.

If learning is the focus, nothing is personal.  If learning is the focus, division is irrelevant.

I’m Missy, and I’ve been (and still am) a student, a teacher, a principal, a school improvement specialist, and through it all, I’m a learner!


My First Miracle Morning

Last week on the day I had a long drive ahead of me, my Sirius XM radio goes mute. I knew this was going to happen at some point because we have had my vehicle for one year, and it was one year free. The reminders had come in the mail several times stating that I needed to renew, but I had consciously decided not to do so. I could live with regular radio. However, the day that it shut off I was headed from Fort McCoy to Des Moines and then home the next day. That is about nine hours in the van.

I subscribed to Audible since I get to free credits to test it out. I went to McDonalds specifically for their Wi-Fi so I could download my book. I chose Hal Elrod’s Miracle Morning. Several principal friends have sang this book’s praises, and I had been reminded of it while listening to a different podcast, so I decided to give it a try. I did manage to get through the book during my long road trip last week, and I was convinced that I needed to start living the miracle morning.

I started today. Last night I told myself I would wake at 4AM rested and rejuvenated and ready for the miracle morning. I did manage to get up at 4:09. I had broken the first rule — put your alarm clock away from your bed, so you are not tempted to snooze. I brushed my teeth, drank a glass of water, and then proceeded to work through the routine as best I could from memory. Silence…this was not a problem. I love sitting in silence, and I used to sit for at least 20-30 minutes in silence, but somewhere along the line, I got too busy for that peaceful time. Affirmations…yeah, this part was sloppy. I hadn’t prepared the affirmations ahead of time, so I ended up spending most of my five minutes searching for some on the internet. Visualizing…yep, sloppy too. I intend to create this today. Exercise…okay, so this was amazing! I spent 20 minutes just stretching. I realize this may not be viewed as exercise to many, but seriously, stretching gets my blood flowing and my mind working.

Because my miracle morning routine was not entirely planned out and totally disjointed, I didn’t have time for reading or scribing. But, I’m writing now, so I guess that counts, and I intend to listen to my second Audible book on the way to class this morning.

I feel pretty good! Now, I just need an accountability partner. Anyone want to embark on this daily miracle morning routine with me?

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