Author: Howard Chan

Bridging edtech with IT to build next generation K12 schools and programs.

FutureNOW! Conference Registration is LIVE!


3rd Annual FutureNOW! Conference @Design39Campus, San Diego, CA

Full 3-Day Package (4/27-4/29):

Saturday, April 29th FutureNOW! Conference:

Pre-Conference Workshops
Thursday, April 27th Tour39:
Friday, April 28th Experience39:

The FutureNOW! Conference brings together educators and school partners who are reimagining learning experiences in their classrooms, schools, and districts. The goal of the conference is to experience these innovations first-hand with active practitioners. Participants engage in a variety of professional learning and collaborative networking opportunities and we encourage every participant to share, connect, and collaborate with attendees and presenters.

The Third Annual FutureNOW! Conference has expanded this year into a multi-day experience. The Conference is on Saturday, April 29th, 2017.  Pre-Conference Workshop learning opportunities are offered Thursday, April 27th – Friday, April 28th.

Pre-Conference Workshop Descriptions:

Tour39: Thursday, April 27th, 2017 @Design39Campus 8:00am – 2:00pm

Tour39 allows you to engage in a fully immersive regular school day with staff and students at Design39Campus. Tour39 kicks off with Principal Joe Erpelding and Learning Experience Designers (LED’s) sharing about the development of the school, instructional model, and roadmap to the future. Participants will then select Design39Campus classrooms focused on the following lesson designs:

  • Human-Centered Design Thinking
  • STEAM-Based Experiences in the Makery
  • Proof of Learning Beyond the Test
  • Strength-Based Personalization

Experience39: Friday, April 28th, 2017 @Design39Campus 8:00am – 2:00pm

Experience39 builds from and expands on the Tour39 experience.  The goal of Experience39 is for you to experience first-hand from the educators who designed the lessons observed on Tour39.  LED’s will be facilitating deep dive workshops based on the classroom visits centered around Human-Centered Design Thinking, STEAM-Based Experiences, Proof of Learning, and Strength-Based Personalization. You will have an opportunity to select two deep dive sessions and come away with lessons to bring to their classrooms and schools.


The TAO Of K12 Technology Implementations


by Howard Chan @socratech 

Over the past decade, the explosion of technology initiatives in K12 has seen some amazing successes and colossal failures. Everything from the wildly popular use of Google Apps for Education, to the infamous LA school district doomed 1 billion dollar iPad rollout, K12 technology implementations have run the full spectrum of progression and frustration. And as we continue to roll out 1:1 and other technology initiatives, the discussion must evolve from “what to purchase” to a much broader set of questions that encompass a wide variety of stakeholders.

In order for technology implementations to be successful in schools, there needs to be a healthy communication loop, plan, and support with three groups of stakeholders. I call them the TAO: Teachers, Administration and Operations. The diagram above provides a guide of different items many of these groups deal with in successful technology implementations, but not always bounded in their domains. It is where you typically would see items being discussed, planned and supported. Feel free to use this diagram to help guide your technology implementations. As you can see, there are many variables at play when bringing technology into your school districts. But with building a strong team that includes all members of the TAO, technology implementations will continue to see successes in K12 school environments. I encourage you to add to this growing list as technology implementations continue to evolve by leaving a comment below.

*I already know this list will evolve to include parents, students, and community, but I view this list from the staff running the schools.

This stems from a past blog post I wrote below on the Evolving Role of the K12 Technology Department

There was a time when K12 technology departments were just seen as technical support, district compliance (also known as “control”) and managers of data information. It was the office filled with “geeks” who knew very little about teaching and preferred to speak in bits and bytes. It was often treated as a separate entity responsible for making sure equipment was working properly and data was protected from security breaches. The thought of the technology department making decisions on any academic programs was as far fetch as teachers making decisions on technology infrastructure. How times have changed…

In recent years, those ideas above have quickly merged into what I call Education Information Technology, the concept of blending technology with education to support next generation schools and classrooms. The thought of separate entities are quickly becoming the old model, where nowadays, decisions have to be collaboratively made between academics and technologists. Technology decision makers have a crucial role in evolving the educational model for our schools and districts. With the proliferation of online tools, makerspaces, data dashboards and interactive technologies in the classroom, technology decision makers are dealing with far more implications than firewalls and routers. Not only are network infrastructure considerations critical to support the classrooms, but the instructional tools that teachers are using are leaning towards the technology pendulum at exponential rates.

The tech architecture now has multiple layers to design and evaluate, and requires a more comprehensive systems perspective from our technologists. Technologists are now asked to understand how instructional technologies such as learning management systems, social media sites, 3D printers, and video cameras are integrating with information data systems and network infrastructure. Technologists are now asked to balance a fair acceptable use policy to answer security and safety concerns, while providing teachers and students open access to the Internet and social networks. Technologists are now asked to filter student data points and design integrated systems to provide teachers dashboards of information. Technologists are now asked to evaluate digital tools and online curriculum to make decisions on blended learning models. Technologists are now asked to understand parent, student and teacher needs for end-user devices to support 21st century learning. Technologists are now asked to facilitate professional development and develop a culture around 21st century learning. It almost naturally brings up the question…

Do our technology decision makers need an education background to support the next generation school? From my experience, I have seen some amazing teachers handle all services in the technology department, and I have also seen amazing IT folks with compassion and understanding of educator needs. No matter what spectrum the tech decision makers come from, the head of technology need a new set of skills and framework to tackle the rapidly evolving 21st century learning environment.

Sales Strategies Translated Into Educator Language

First and foremost, let’s block the image of a sleazy used car sales person from our media temporal lobes as you read this post…

I was one of those educators who came from a different career before being in the classroom. While I spent most of my time as an engineer, a vast majority of it was customer facing as either a systems engineer or sales engineer. My bottom line was to make sure the customer understood the solution and they were successful implementing it. Sound familiar?

As teachers, we are obviously not selling products, but we sure are trying to get our students to do things on an everyday basis. And yes, we definitely don’t want an army of salespeople as teachers (we can call agree to that), but there are some nuggets that have a translation into educator language.

5 Sales Strategies Translated Into Educator Language

Define Your Target Market

Sales 101 – It is important to understand who are the targeted customers and understand what problems you are trying to solve.

Classroom Translation – Know your students and what motivates them.

Determine Your Outreach

Sales 101 – To close the deal, you need to get in front of customers to sell. A savvy salesperson uses a variety of outreach strategies like cold calling, emails, marketing, networking, mixers and even just showing up on customer’s doorstep.

Classroom Translation – Differentiate the way you get your students to into what you are trying to make them do. From sage on the stage to guide on the side, a “withit” teacher will use different approaches to reach their diverse student population.

Know Your Questions

Sales 101 – Sales people look at this as a time to get to know your customer’s needs better. Have a list of questions to get to know your customers and their business needs. Conversely, a savvy salesperson will prepare for potential questions the customer will be asking during the sales call.

Classroom Translation – Two thoughts here. 1. This builds upon defining your target market and focuses in on specific customer needs. Take the time to know students individually, what are interests, motivations, skills, and learning modalities. 2. Visualize your lesson plan and anticipate what questions students will be asked from students. Be prepared.

Deliver and Build

Sales 101 – Returning customers and sustainable business is built from delivering on your products and nurturing lasting relationships. The sales process doesn’t end with customer signing the dotted line.

Classroom Translation – Relationships matter. Teachers who show empathy and love for students typically win at the game of engaging students. One my favorite sayings in education is that “Change Happens At The Speed of Trust.”


Sales 101 – The bottom line in sales is did you make your quota. Typically, companies will have a customer relationships management system (CRM) to track clients, progress, growth, and dollars. Peter Drucker said it best, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.”

Classroom Translation – Whatever we teach in the classroom, we need a way to measure growth, improvement on failures (Fail Forward), and celebration of success. It is also important to monitor your students not just academically, but check-in on other important social, emotional, and life matters.


The Eduneer: From Silicon Valley Engineer To K12 Educator

by Howard Chan @socratech

InnovationsOver the last few years in education, I have seen an explosion of branded “innovative” ideas that have many of its guiding principles rooted from engineering. Selfishly, it has been a validating feeling that my so-called “rebel” ways of teaching in the past, is seen as now necessary for the future of education. “Innovations” such as Design Thinking, PBL, Deeper Learning, STEM to STEAM, Makerspaces, NGSS Engineering Practices, Blended Learning, FutureReady, and most recently from the White House pushing Computer Science for All, the shift is finally happening.

I grew up in the heart of the Silicon Valley during the roller coaster period of the .com bubble of the late 90’s. Despite my family’s heavy education-career focused background (it was in my blood), I geographically gravitated to the “cool”, fast-paced and high-paying career of engineering. While there were plenty of rewards being an engineer, there were just as many difficult times living the “high-tech” lifestyle…but I will leave that for another post.

I spent a good decade applying my engineering practices as a network engineer, systems engineer and ultimately sales engineer. While the job titles rotated, it fundamentally was based on a key engineering principle: designing solutions for customers. It typically focused on how we can design, sell, train and support customers in their particular business…pretty simple conceptually. But we all know very few do it well, and I quickly learned to embrace failing forward as a key motivating principle to survive in this field. In short, I have failed many times…

Fast forward a decade, I made the leap of faith and became a 6th-grade classroom teacher. I was one of the few engineers that received grant money from the city to become a teacher. The city made a considerable effort to entice engineers to become teachers and paid for credentialing/graduate programs to make it happen. Fortunately for me, I was already soul searching, and it couldn’t have been more timely. I made the teaching leap but never let go of my engineering fundamentals.

The Silicon Valley days continue to stick with me, and it is inspiring to see education embrace many of those principles in modern day pedagogy and curriculum. Below are my guiding reflections in what defines the beautiful marriage between Engineering + Education into what I call the hybrid “Eduneer.” I look forward to seeing how these Eduneering principles continue to manifest in our classrooms and schools all over the world.

7 Guiding Principles: From Silicon Valley Engineer To K12 Educator = Eduneer

  • Asks the Right QuestionsEduneering
  • Continuous Improvement Cycle
  • Relationships Matter
  • Systems Thinker
  • Seeks Technical Expertise
  • Outcomes Driven
  • Humility

Asks the Right Questions

  • What problem am I trying to solve?
  • Who are my users? audience, customers, stakeholders?
  • Did my original question get answered? Or did it evolve to another question?
  • Who provided input on the question? Intentions?
  • What is the better question?
“If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask, for once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than five minutes.” -Albert Einstein

Continuous Improvement Cycle

  • Constant reflection
  • Risk taking while working in vaguery
  • Failing is just fine as we learned something from it
  • Fail forward
  • Quick iterations
  • Design Thinking
  • Engineering Design Process
“People who fail forward are able to see errors or negative experiences as a regular part of life, learn from them, and then move on.” -John Maxwell

Relationships Matter

  • Show love and demonstrate integrity
  • Socially Intelligent
  • Building a network – Who do you know?
  • “You can’t sell anything if you can’t sell yourself”
“Change happens at the speed of trust” -Covey
When I was in sales engineering, I was often partnered with a regional sales rep whose quarterly sales report meant life and death. They were typically driven by the bottom line and were not so concerned about solutions, but product sales. It was that two-team dynamic where I found customers naturally gravitating towards the sales engineer, whose role was to support the solution, not the product sales. These relationships were driven by two things; Can I trust this guy, and is he competent? When trust is built in the relationship, things tend to get accomplished.

Systems Thinker

  • Understand connections
  • Things don’t happen in isolation
  • Systems influence one another within a larger system.
  • Understand the bigger picture
“A bad system will beat a good person every time. Every system is perfectly designed to get the results it gets.” -W. Edwards Deming

Seeks Technical Expertise

  • Know your stuff 
  • Surround yourself with people who know their stuff
  • Constant learning
  • Build a personal learning network
“You must continue to gain expertise, but avoid thinking like an expert.” -Waitley

Outcomes Driven

  • Project management mindset
  • GSD – Get “Stuff” Done
  • Measuring success, improvement and growth
  • Celebrate and reflect

“Vision without execution is hallucination.” -Thomas Edison


  • Work in progress mindset
  • Be gracious
  • Quiet confidence
“Humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less.” -C.S. Lewis


SAVE THE DATE: 4/30 FutureNOW! Conference @Design39Campus

SaveDateFutureNOW2016We are excited to be partnering with NCPDF, STEAM Insight, and Design39Campus for the 2nd annual FutureNOW! Conference. Last year, we brought together over 250+ educators, administrators, and technologists for a full day of professional learning and collaborative networking. Sessions covered topics in Design Thinking, Creative Confidence, and Project-Based Learning. This year, we are excited to continue the momentum with more exciting learning opportunities from innovative educators from around the county and state. Please SAVE THE DATE for Saturday, April 30th for the 2nd Annual FutureNOW! Conference @Design39Campus. Details and registration to come in early February. 

Here is a glimpse of last year’s conference via Storify:

Thoughts On K12 Education Information Technology

Screen Shot 2016-01-08 at 9.21.59 AMby Howard Chan @socratech

Below is a compilation of my random #EduIT thoughts from years working in K12 education and information technology. The role of the technology department is continuing to evolve, and with the rapid growth of edtech in K12 schools, it is important to understand everyone’s role (teachers, operations, admins) in the success of technology implementations. This post will continue to evolve and I welcome other technologists, administrators and teachers to participate in this ongoing discussion about Education Information Technology.

  • Change happens at the speed of trust.
  • Healthy relationships and customer service are foundational to the success of any technology implementations. There are just too many diverse stakeholders involved now.
  • K12 information technology is NOT enterprise information technology.
  • Successful technology departments are not just troubleshooting day-to-day tech support requests, but rather empowering users and providing structured professional development.
  • Create “real” strategic tech plans, not compliance tech plans.
  • The more technology proficient our K12 users are, the less tech support requests are submitted.
  • When the team is focused more on educational technology, then information technology is doing its job.
  • Putting technology in the classroom without proper professional development = money squandered.
  • Just paying for tech support = adding more cost down the road. Tech support must combine with professional development, technology vision and strategic technology planning for successful integration.
  • EdTech specialists should evolve to learn and experience aspects of information technology.
  • IT administrators should observe classrooms and understand the needs of our teachers.
  • Tech decision makers should participate in academic meetings.
  • “Geeked-Out” teachers + “Education-Minded” IT admins = Happy Medium!
  • Content filtering is a must when dealing with federal dollars…but that doesn’t mean IT shouldn’t listen to their teachers about what you block. Both sides should be knowledgeable about CIPA.
  • Student data privacy is ever more at the forefront as we move towards more online content.
  • Responsible management of equipment by our teachers will go a long way to preserving the technology while lending a hand to the IT department.
  • When purchasing technology, don’t forget their is a total cost of ownership which adds maintenance, warranty, training, and support costs.
  • Cloud computing will save costs down the road while providing teachers content for engaging educational technology.
  • Technology departments should model 21st century learning. We need to empower our users to be constant learners, collaborators, and innovators.
  • The more we open our technology infrastructure to our users, the more important digital citizenship becomes a key component.
  • When offering technology professional development, remember The Boiling Frog Syndrome metaphor.
  • It is possible for a teacher to run the technology infrastructure of a school. I know many teachers who take on this role.
  • Provide technology tools and avenues to empower users to share information and collaborate.
  • The skill of patience is a necessity when supporting diverse groups of users. Don’t make assumptions about technology use, there are diverse experiences and attitudes towards technology.
  • Take the time to understand user workflow, it will help inform support and solutions.
  • Implementing changes in technology requires thorough planning and strategy when dealing with such a diverse user base.
  • Even when you are confident that change in technology is better in the long the run, there tends to be a resistance to change that dampers the process. One needs to be build a thick skin when making school-wide technology changes. Keep pushing forward and try to win the few resistors over.
  • “Find the Found” when working with end users on new tech solutions.
  • Not all users will read your first email or update, differentiate how you disseminate technology changes to the staff.
  • When users are not hollering, is it safe to assume there are no tech support issues? “All Quiet in the Western Front” or should tech support be worried that it is too quiet.
  • Tech support is a thankless job.

K12 Education Information Technology [Graphic] #EduIT

photo (10)

by Howard Chan @socratech 

There was a time when K12 technology departments were just seen as technical support, district compliance (also known as “control”) and managers of data information. It was the office filled with “geeks” who knew very little about teaching and preferred to speak in bits and bytes. It was often treated as a separate entity responsible for making sure equipment was working properly and data was protected from security breaches. The thought of the technology department making decisions on any academic programs was as far fetch as teachers making decisions on technology infrastructure. How times have changed…

Full Blog Post: Evolving Role of the K12 Technology Department 

When I meet with the wide variety of stakeholders in education, I have always used a version of the following graphic to explain the evolution of technology in education. The team no longer consists of just IT anymore, it includes stakeholders in leadership (academic), teachers, and operations staff. In our world, we translate that to the TAO (Teachers, Admin, Operations).

Google Scripting Resources

Here are some links to resources we use to inform our Google Scripting…check them out!

Google Developers –

Digital Inspiration –

New Visions Cloud Lab –

Apps Script Tutorial – Shot 2015-12-10 at 12.15.20 PM


The Rise of the “Edupreneur”


by Howard Chan @socratech 

If you ever have a moment to watch Yong Zhao speak, this is a worthwhile ISTE keynote he delivered back in 2012 and still very relevant today: After reflecting on Dr. Yong Zhao’s message, it reinvigorated a concept I hold dearly in this 21st century innovation economy: taking ownership of your own professional career. To quote Dr. Zhao from his keynote, “you don’t wait for someone to create a job for you, you go out there to create a job for yourself.”

Over the past few years, I have met many innovative teachers who are expanding their own horizons and venturing beyond the classroom. Most recently, I have observed teachers who have written books, produced educational videos, created hashtags used by many, launched #edcamps, designed apps for iPads, garnered thousands of Twitter followers, developed global online conferences and continue to facilitate professional development around the world. Some teachers are considered “Rockstars” and have become professional icons to many; in fact, I bet some are making more money on the speaking circuit than they probably made as a teacher back at their school district. I certainly know a few teachers who completely left the classroom and branched into independent consulting. It has become an entrepreneurial endeavor based from their classroom experiences and I couldn’t be more happier for them. 

It is important to note that many are not driven by the money (being an entrepreneur doesn’t always equate to monetary gain), although I am sure a little side money doesn’t hurt. As an educator, I am excited, encouraged and support how these teachers have branded themselves and evolved their career to something bigger than they have probably imagined going into this field. As Dr. Yong Zhao highlighted in his keynote, it is the rise of the creative class and people with unique specialized skills. The talented educators I have met are as creative and business savvy as anyone, and have pragmatic skills of authentic practitioners with the entrepreneurial spirit of sharing in “branded” ways (whether driven by $ or not). It has been more than three years since this keynote, I can safely say the spirit of Zhao’s message is embodied in the rise of what many are calling the “Edupreneur.” How’s that for creating a job for yourself?