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My Life as an Innovation Consultant: What Will 2016 Bring?

It's the start of a new year, and I'm re-organizing my professional life, setting goals and reflecting on nearly six years as an independent innovation consultant.

People often ask what I do and the answer is complicated. I have many professional interests revolving around innovation, educational technology,  social media, and global education. Perhaps the best title to give me is non-traditional educator.  I am an advocate for students and teachers, yet I am not employed in a traditional school setting. Instead, I partner with a variety of people, schools, organizations, and companies to lend my expertise and to promote educational change. Often educators are considered out of touch and less relevant if they leave school settings for consultancies. I would argue that my knowledge base has been greatly expanded because of my experiences.  I love what I do. 

Here's what's going on for me this spring and this may give you an idea of my current projects:

  • I attended FETC last week, gave a presentation on global project-based learning, and participated on a panel moderated by the US DoE's Zac Chase on closing the access gap.
  • Check out my blog post  on Participate Learning (formerly Appolearning) that highlights their unique Participate Chats feature. I've worked with this group off and on over the last years. 
  • The Waukegan Public Schools is hosting their annual Google N'More conference. I'll be there Saturday to talk about global project-based learning.
  • I began working with Edmodo to help guide their thought leadership around connecting to teachers. Stay tuned for more artifacts from this work. 
  • The annual Student Technology Conference run by Marymount of New York students takes place on January 30th. Proposals are still being accepted from students in grades 6-12. All are welcome to attend to learn from a great group of young technology leaders. 
  • Project Tomorrow runs a career exploration program for high school students in California and I'll be designing flipped modules for these students to learn about technology integration this winter. 
  • The Illinois Computing Educators conference takes place at the end of February and I'll be there as a conference committee member and as a presenter. Join us! It's really a fun and engaging professional development event. Note that there is a pre-conference free EdCamp After Dark event on Wednesday evening of the conference week among other special activities.
  • In March, I'll be attending the SxSWedu conference in Austin, Texas to learn and network. This conference has proven invaluable during the last few years.
  • The CUE National Conference takes place in mid-March and I'll be reprising my role as the official #notatcue ambassador. This means that I strategize with CUE and virtually monitor social media for this event. I've done this for their past two conferences, and it's really fun. I learn a lot and get to help out with an incredible conference. 
  • Don Buckley, Brandon Wiley, and I will be conducting a workshop for NYSAIS at Rye Country Day School in New York on April 16. Entitled Developing Global Connections in Your School, this experience will help participants apply the design thinking process to coming up with a plan for globalizing their school. We are also doing a mini-version of this workshop at the CoSN annual conference earlier in April. 
  • Finally, Steve Hargadon and I are gearing up for another round of  Globaled Events, pushing the global education agenda beyond our annual Global Education Conference. We are starting a publication on Medium and a webinar series in February. Soon we will announce Global Leadership Week which will take place at the end of April with a face-to-face event in Silicon Valley and a virtual mini-conference focused on inspiring action in the global education field. We also will be reprising our Global Education Day at ISTE meetup in June. All of these events are free for teachers; if you're interested in connecting to highly motivated, tech-savvy educators through our work, consider getting involved as a sponsor. Contact Steve Hargadon at for more details.

The aforementioned list of activities shows the range of workin which I engage. I really enjoy this variety as well as getting to know people through these projects. During the last few years, I've had the opportunity to serve as an innovation coach in several schools including Mercy High School in Michigan, D230 in Illinois, Falconer School in Chicago, and the Dwight School in New York and I've conducted several customized technology audits at schools for Educational Collaborators (EC, by the way, is a great community of ed tech leaders who can be deployed for any project). I really love helping schools strategize around innovation and this work has been immensely professionally satisfying. It's exciting to see schools move forward and tackle pressing issues, and I can help with providing resources, connections, and ideas for infusing innovation into their culture.

During my last innovation gig, I partnered with Don Buckley, formerly of the School at Columbia and now with Tools at School, to tag team the innovation process. Don turned out toe be a great thought partner; he worked with faculty using the design thinking process and advised the school's leadership team while I focused on professional development and overall management of the year-long project. This school is now positioned to take on this work themselves, and it's exciting to see new growth within this school. 

A new experience for me in 2015 was working with the startup Remind conducting teacher outreach. I love this tool, learned a great deal how it can be used in classrooms with surprising creativity, and had time to think about what teachers really need. Partly because of my work with Remind, I've also started to network more and I've particularly enjoyed a Chicago Hive meeting and two dinners with the Chicago DOLS group. I'm looking forward to continuing those activities.  And, perhaps the most out of my comfort zone experience I had in 2015 was attending an IBM data analytics conference as a social influencer and representative of the education field. This event was so different for me and expanded my interest on how data is used and perceived in the education world. I'm hoping to explore this further during 2016 and become a more active and aware data citizen. 

At any rate, I'm grateful for 2015 and am looking forward to what 2016 brings to my professional life! As always, I hope to continue to learn from and by inspired others around me, applying this knowledge to new projects. Professional generosity makes the world go around, and I look forward to working with people who share this vision on initiatives that matter. What's on your plate for 2016? 

Heads Up If You're Looking to Book PD Near NYC...

Just wanted to throw this out there in casa anyone in the NYC metro area is looking for professional development providers for June or August. I have regular appointments with a NYC school to work with them on June 10-11, August 19-21 and August 27-28. I haven't booked my flights yet, so I could arrive earlier or stay later if others would like to book me for work. I can do a variety of workshops or provide coaching/advising services around ed tech or customize if needed. Contact me at if you would like more information! 




Shame on Slideshare and Lessons Learned

MAY 13, 2014 UPDATE: My account has been restored and upgraded. Yay! Thank you, Slideshare, for making the impossible happen!

If you take a look at my blog and particularly at posts under the Conferences category, you'll notice many gaping holes to embedded content.  These holes are where my slides posted in Slideshare and embedded on my blog appeared until recently. Without warning, Slideshare didn't just suspend my account, but deleted the entire account and its contents because I've violated their Terms of Service agreement. From what I understand from their twitter evangelist, this account is now irretrievable.  I have not received any written warning about this nor has anyone from Slideshare responded to my queries about what I did exactly. 

If you're not familiar with Slideshare, it's similar to YouTube... only for slidedecks. You can upload PowerPoint files and PDFs, and Slideshare provides an embed code that you can use to show your slides front facing style in a blog, wiki or similar web site. It's also a social network that allows users to follow other member's posts and to favorite slideshows. 

I've been using Slideshare regularly since at least 2009 under the username elemenous. I've uploaded hundreds of presentations, favorited many others for future reference, and followed others in order to learn from their design and content. I've received numerous emails from them congratulating on my content and lauding the "popularity" of my content. See some of the screenshots I am posting. 

Typically, when I present at a conference, I created slidedecks in Keynote, convert the slides to a PDF and  then upload the file to Slideshare. I then embed this in my blog and give that link to attendees. This way they can follow along with my slides or download my slides for future reference. My content is usually made up of a template that I've used from Keynote or purchased here, photos that I've taken, photos I've purchased from iStockPhoto,  original ideas, and a lot of screenshots of web sites. I use Instantshot mostly to take screenshots of sites that I am demonstrating in my presentations. Using Preview, I sometimes annotate these screenshots to point out particular features. I generally link to the site that I am demo'ing so that attendees can go directly to a site and explore whatever I've mentioned.

One of my last presentations to be uploaded on Slideshare about using YouTube in the classroom. In order to quickly and efficiently go through a lot of material about this great educational resource, I've had to use screenshots to demonstrate my points.  I show what my YouTube channel looks like, how to add a video to a playlist, and how to search YouTube effectively through screenshots among other things. Attendees at conferences need visuals during presentations and afterwards in order to retain and use the information I provide. I could give this information to them in a paper handout, but in order to save trees, all of this is posted online. 

My work as an ed tech advocate focuses on helping teachers become more connected and tech savvy. My main intent is to help and inspire people and part of that is making materials accessible to them. This all doesn't really matter if I'm violating copyright, though. 

That said, here's what happened regarding my account:

1. I lasted posted material on slideshare probably in conjunction with a conference in the Waukegan school district or SxSWedu in February/March. These were standard presentations that I've given before and tweaked for these events. Earlier versions of these presentations were on Slideshare.

2. I did not touch my Slideshare account for about a month. As I was listening to Jackie Gerstein last week during the online Learning Revolution conference, I went to Slideshare to favorite her fabulous slidedeck. Not going to link to it here in case Slideshare wants to delete HER account. I noticed that I had trouble logging in... normally, I'm automatically signed in there. I tried logging in with LinkedIn and Facebook and my stuff wasn't coming up. I didn't have time to figure out what was going on and assumed that I just hadn't linked Slideshare to my FB or LinkedIn accounts.

3. I returned to Slideshare a few days ago to see what was wrong with my account, and realized that when I had tried to log in (see step 2), I had created new accounts. I looked all over and tried logging in with my known user name and password, and realized that I couldn't. My account was completely gone. I looked at my blog and at my LinkedIn profile that had presentations linked there. None of the content was appearing.

4. I submitted a help ticket asking for help and noticed that I had submitted a help ticket for a similar problem 7 months ago. While uploading presentations, I was inexplicably locked out as opposed to my account just being deleted.  I was not given a TOS warning. Upon investigation, Slideshare reinstated my account, so I thought it was a glitch.

5. I then tried to reach out to Slideshare via Twitter. No one from @Slideshare responded. A follower, however, did provide me with the email address of an editor at Slideshare and I held off from contacting her at first.

6. I wait and wait and nearly 48 hours later, I checked the status of my help ticket. My ticket was completely deleted ... there was a message in the help center saying that it was either deleted or resolved.  So no record exists of my two contacts with customer service. I have some screenshots, though. I submitted another ticket using a newly created account. 

7. During this time, I also searched the internet for other users who were reporting problems. I found this post and this post. In the former blog entry, I found the name of a Slideshare evangelist, Guarav Shukla, who did respond to a tweet and said he'd look into it. Later, he said my account was deleted due to TOS and it was not possible to retreive it.  Note that I had not received any notifications from Slideshare nor a response to my first or second help ticket.

8. Meanwhile, I happened to look at my LinkedIn account, and if you don't know this, there is a section where you can see who's looked at your profile. Lo and behold, someone from Slideshare named Christopher Schaff had been checking me out. He's a customer service rep for Slideshare! I decided to connect with him on LinkedIn...and of course, he hasn't responded to that request. :) 

9. I then decide it is time to contact the editor from Slideshare to see if she can help. She responds fairly quickly and says she'll forward my issues on to customer service. Lo and behold, she's also checked out my LinkedIn profile. Note to the less social media savvy: Turn off the ability for people to see that you've looked at their profiles in your LinkedIn privacy settings. 

10. This morning, I heard from the Twitter contact about my TOS violation. No official word followed, other than a LinkedIn communication from Christopher saying that they would refund my account. I'm not sure if I paid for a pro account this year or not...actually.

11. I've since tweeted Guarav asking for further explanation and submitted more comments on my second help ticket asking for clarification. I've also looked through their community guidelines and I can't figure out what I did wrong other than use screenshots of web sites. If they had warned me, I would have taken things down and altered the way I did future presentations. It also states here that if your account has been banned, you are forbidden from creating accounts in the future. How was able to create 2 new accounts inadvertently then when I was trying to log in through FB and LinkedIn at the begining of this saga? 

How ridiculous is the following given this situation? Again from their community guidelines: 

"We trust you to be responsible and respect each other. SlideShare is a large community of people. In order for all of us to live happily on this service together, it implies a certain level of trust. Trust and respect each other!"

"SlideShare does not actively screen content being uploaded because we trust you to self-moderate. But we do have a system where users flag accounts or slideshows for violations/abuse and we will step in when we think it's necessary."

I wish Slideshare would respect me enough to give me an explanation for what happened here so that I can learn from any mistakes I made. 

And from their Help Center:

"We suspend and disable SlideShare accounts that violate our ToS. This includes:

  • Continued prohibited behavior after receiving a warning or multiple warnings from SlideShare
  • Unsolicited contact with others for the purpose of harassment, advertisement, selling, dating, or any other inappropriate conduct
  • Providing false credentials for the purpose of creating an account
  • Impersonation of any individual, entity, or other misrepresentation of identity
  • Posting content that violates our terms

Please review SlideShare's community guidelines to learn more about our policies. If you think your account was disabled by mistake, you can send us a ticket by clicking on the link below. We will gladly review your account and fix it if we made a mistake. "

 So to wrap this up and put this situation to bed.... here is how it stands for me.

  • See related screenshots documenting my experience here. I would be happy to take these down if I received a decent response from Slideshare. 
  • I wish Slideshare had better customer service and had the courtesy to explain any wrong doings to me.
  • If I did anything in violation of anything, I'd be happy to correct it. I would have appreciated the chance to learn from this. 
  • I am cancelling my LinkedIn premium subscription as they apparently own Slideshare. I wish I could live without LinkedIn altogether, but it's requiste in today's work environment.
  • This is not about backing up for me. I have copies of my presenations. I am not pleased that there now gaps in my blog posts and that teachers can no longer benefit from my work. 
  • This is a warning about the future of content and how a company can eliminate your stuff without any due process. I really have no power to rectify this situation, other than to write about it and post to my social media channels. Fortunately, I do have some reach, so hopefully this will influence other educators on how they should protect their materials and help them decide about which companies that they want to do business with.





An Update: I'm One of Them Now

I used to love to blog; I'd have sudden bursts of ideas that produced fairly thoughtful posts, particularly about education and technology. During the past two years, though, I've felt like I've had a major case of writer's block and that most of what I did produce was fairly superficial. It's not for a lack of experiences during my previous position as I traveled quite a bit, worked with a variety of students and teachers, and became reacquainted with the world of urban education. I guess I felt stymied in just about every way professionally and it manifested itself in my inability to articulate myself. 

Hopefully, that will all change now. Two weeks ago, I began a new position at the University of Chicago at the Center for Elementary Mathematics and Science Education. This group is responsible for the development of the well regarded Everyday Math curriculum published by McGraw Hill. My new colleagues also have developed a science curriculum, conduct research related to math and science education, and provide professional development to schools. 

My new role will entail helping CEMSE to think about how technology can be incorporated into their existing endeavors. I also will be consulting on a couple of budding research projects that are in the proposal development stage and serving as a tech coach to schools through an Illinois Board of Higher Education grant in Area 14 of Chicago Public Schools. Area 14 is basically the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago. Also, CEMSE will be working closely with the Everyday Math publisher to develop technology-related materials, and I'll be a part of that team as well. We are also piloting a science curriculum infused with technology in Arlington Heights School District 25, one of my favorite school districts in Illinois.

 It really is an exciting move for me because I'll learn a bit about how the publishing industry works and about how large scale research projects are produced. I'll also continue to work with teachers, and will learn more about math and science education in general. The downside is that I will definitely work much less directly with students; I am going to miss the enthusiasm of the kids at my previous school. At any rate, my move generally is a really great opportunity and will make me a more well-rounded educator. I'm profoundly grateful to have a job given the nature of our economy!

Outside of CEMSE, I am not sure how much outside work I'll be able to take on, although I do hope to incorporate some consulting into my workflow at some point. Right now, I need to learn the ropes of my new workplace and if the first two weeks are any indication, I have a lot to learn!

This summer looks to be busy with this new job and with a few other events that are fast approaching. At NECC at the end of June, I'll be presenting on podcasting with Larry Anderson, Julene Reed and others. Then, in July, I'm off to iSummit, a conference for 1 to 1 laptop schools, in Memphis and then directly on to Winter Park, Florida, where I'll be participating in the Apple Distinguished Educator Institute at Full Sail University. I'm particularly excited about visiting Full Sail, as I'm seriously considering getting a second master's degree through their online program. 

So.. I guess I am one of them now... one of the people I've occasionally accused of being out of touch with classroom teachers as they no longer work directly in a school. I'm in a new and different world now, still very much thinking about best practices in education, but not directly impacting kids. Will this lessen or add to my credibility as an educator? Only time will tell, but I'm banking on my new experiences to help me gain further perspective! Stay tuned for more updates... I plan on getting back in the swing of writing here more often.