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


The Research Tool

by Joe Kemery: @Mr_Kemery

Google Docs will forever be my favorite tool.  It was the first thing that really opened my eyes to cloud-based applications. The ability to collaborate, comment on and share documents was a game changer for me as a student, and now as a teacher.  As I continue to work with students on improving their writing, the ability to research without having to leave the document is such a great feature (This post will be written using those features from the research tool). Not only does the research feature save you time, but allows you to easily compile a bibliography of sites that you have visited and used.  With the shift to common core, this is perfect for students as they evaluate a variety of resources, both online and in print.

reasearch tool

In my class, this has been a great tool for introducing how to cite sources and keeping track of those sources for future reference. Any research project in my class needs to start with a brainstorm session, focused on organizing our thoughts about what we know on a topic and areas that we need to further explore. I’ve found that a graphic organizer is a great way to have them start.  Especially when students are trying to make connections to different ideas, being able to quickly add and draw those connections is invaluable. I generally leave this to the students to choose, but the Popplet app is the current favorite with students.  This organizer is really a living document. Students are not only trying to organize what they need to research, bresearchut adding to it as more information becomes available. As resources are gathered, initially in a research document and eventually into a final product,  students can reference relevant information which will allows them to understand the topic in more depth.



The easiest way is to access the research feature is from the ‘Tools’ menu. This will pull up a tab to the right of the screen. From there, you can enter your word or phrase that you would like to research.  You can refine your search by clicking on the icon to the left of the search bar.  By clicking on the google image you can refine your search to Images, Scholar, Quotes or Dictionary. Once you’ve started a search, there are a number of great features that are built into the tool. It immediately sorts a search into personal results and web results.  If you hover over the search result you will see a box pop up with three options. The Preview Box shows you a preview of the website in the search results.  This is a great way to quickly evaluate a source, or to look for something that you’ve seen before.  Working with 4th grade students, they often can tell me everything on a website, without remembering the site’s name or URL. The Insert Link box inserts the words in the search box into your doc and converts them into a hyperlink. Finally, the Cite Box creates a footnote to the website as part of the document.  If the citation format is important to you, you can click the little arrow just under the the search query and then choose MLA, APA or Chicago.


And finally, what elementary essay would be complete without some images?  Again, using the research tool you can search for relevant images. I like that I can continue to teach my students about image usage rights, filtering for free-to-use images easily.  And like the other resources, the dragged image will automatically be cited in the selected citation format.


by Joe Kemery: @Mr_Kemery

As with most things in my class, I love using Google Drive to store student work.  It is so easy to share between students and teachers. More and more websites are allowing you to connect an app to Drive, which enables students to have access directly from their Drive while also saving it for them!  Eliminating those added steps (no matter how easy) is such a convenient feature. One of those apps that can be connected to Drive is Powtoon. is a presentation tool that allows you to create animated presentations by simply dragging and dropping designed elements to your slides. Plus, slides can be turned into video presentation by clicking a button – literally.

Presentations can be created from scratch or by customizing a ‘Ready Made Powtoon’.

powtooncreatetemplateIn my class, I generally like to have students use those templates for quick and easy presentations, while allowing for the start from scratch option on larger projects. This helps to add some versatility in how and how often you can use Powtoons. The styles you can choose from all have their own library of characters in different poses. Although certain features are locked in the free version, this also helps when asking students to focus on the content.   It has enough features and pizazz to keep students engaged, though it may not be as customizable as Slides . Even with these restrictions, students have ample opportunities to express themselves creatively.

drag and dropMost everything within Powtoons is adjustable.  From text styles to objects, you can quickly click, drag and drop to modify a presentation.  They also have a Simple and Customized mode which can help with the learning curve of Powtoon. The text options are pretty awesome too, with some very cool animations attached to them. You also have plenty of ticks, crosses, arrows and circles to choose from, and the props go into the hundreds.  Even in a pre-created powtoon, you can always add features to a slide and voiceover recording is another great feature.

I love that tutorials are available to show how it all works. The training videos are 1 to 3 minutes and do a great job of highlighting the features in an easy-to-follow directions. Especially when students are watching, they are just enough to get them moving on a project without taking too much out of their work time.

The free account includes the ability to create your own Powtoons that last up to 5 minutes long, plus cool presentations that can include up to 5 minutes of animations.


You can make an unlimited number of presentations and animated clips and easily share them online on YouTube or through social media. The free account does show the PowToon watermark, which isn’t too much of a deal for me. If you want to export your PowToon without the PowToon watermark, Export in HD, or download to your computer, you can buy a subscription or buy credits for export.

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:

Using Lucid Press

lucidpress template

by Joe Kemery: @Mr_Kemery

One of the main reasons that I used to keep getting Microsoft Office software was so that I would have access to Publisher.  I loved that they had so many layouts available to make posters, pamphlets and other visually appealing presentations quickly and easily. But the cost alone, not to mention the endless updates necessary to keep it up-to-date seemed never ending, and only managed to bog down my computer.  That is, until I found Lucidpress!

Lucidpress is a free (with the option of a premium subscription) web-based alternative to many of those creative assignments with a variety of templates for creating both print and digital newsletters, brochures, flyers, pamphlets, photo and video books, invitations, and more. I found Lucidpress to be the lucid chats commentperfect tool for the needs of both myself as well as my students. With only a free account, I have been thrilled with the products that students and I can create. It is a perfect application for meeting several English-Language Arts (ELA) Common Core standards while infusing both technology and creativity to the project.  Templates are easily modified, allowing students to personalize projects while simultaneously providing them with a format that can be simply made with a click. Templates include brochures, newsletters, magazines, reports, posters, presentations and flyers: all visually attractive and easily sharable through print and digital publishing.  The best part for me is that all of these projects are easily stored in your Google Drive.

lucid shareTo create a projects, simply drag and drop to create your content. I generally start with students using templates, but also allow them to start with a blank canvas as they become comfortable with the program. They can easily add images, video, and text from Google Drive, YouTube, Dropbox, Flickr or their computer.  The collaboration feature is another nice feature of Lucidpress. Students and teachers can collaborate in real time on projects as long as they have also added the add-on through Google. Just like many of the Google Apps, this allows you to comment and chat without leaving the project or making changes to it.  You can also track and reverse edit through the revision history.

lucid download
Once a project is finished, you can publish digitally via a customized link or download to PNG, JPG, or PDF (for printing).  This makes sharing projects a breeze for both displaying student work as well as grading.

Using Thinglink For Students to Demonstrate Mastery

by Joe Kemery: @Mr_Kemery

When asking a group of kids about their research, the overwhelming response is always ‘Google’ as the main source.  No matter what sort of notes the students took, it is always the same. It’s a constant reminder that with such a vast array of material we need to explicitly teach research. Chrome is such a valuable tool for students, but teaching kids how to use Google to enhance their learning takes time. In my class, I needed something that students could use as a link their resources, the products of their work, and a way to share it all in a neat little package. It wasn’t until I was reviewing with a group about how to publish their slideshow to the web (from a previous blog post), that it started to click for me.

Thinglink, students are now able to store all of their research in one neat spot. Students begin by gathering othinglink overviewnline resources. The next step of this is finding an appropriate image to represent the project. Since I am a 1:1 iPad classroom, I will often have them either take the picture themselves or create an image. We also had great conversations about advance image searches in Google.These websites and videos need to be labeled in a manner that make the resource easily identifiable. I have started having students use different colored icons to indicate whether the resource is a website, online article/document, or video in order to be sure that they are using a variety of sources to help shape their learning.  Although Thinglink is not collaborative in itself, using the Google Apps with a hyperlink allows everyone to use those same resources, and can collaborate on an aspect of the project that is linked into the image.

Once they have finished with the research, they move on to the publishing of their own work.  I’ve found that having students start with a Google Doc that summarizes each resource is a great way to have them start to paraphrase sources and deepen their own understanding of the material.  Much like publishing Google Slides, they will publish to the web and include that into their Thinglink. Working with nine and ten year olds, I find that this step is helpful in teaching them how to share ideas in their own words, while citing the sources within the summary. Also, since Thinglink is not itself collaborative, this work around makes many aspects of the tagged image collaborative.  Students can work on multiple aspects of a project simultaneously, storing their resources in one project that a small group will have access to.

Of course, their final product is also included.  I like to give my students choice in their final products, but this is often a Slideshow published to the web. Student created videos are also popular, posting the unlisted YouTube link to their image. Regardless of how they choose to demonstrate their learning, the link is included into the Thinglink. As a teacher, I love having all of their work in one click.  I can see what students used to guide their learning, and can check back within their resources to help them improve. Although not a Google tool, the ability to quickly tag an image works so well with all the Google apps.

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.

Field Trips With Google

by Joe Kemery: @Mr_Kemery


Over the winter break, I decided that it would be best to take a week away from the class and just explore town. It was nothing exciting or eventful, Screenshot_2016-01-05-09-02-11[1] (1)just wandering around while taking in all that San Diego has to offer. I’m the type of person who likes to find those hidden gems, places with a rich history or cultural significance that won’t show up in your typical travel guide. I came across a great app that let me take that passion for meandering around and learning: Field Trip. It’s made by Niantic Labs, a division of Google, and is designed to send you short blurbs, ‘cards of information’ about locations as you pass them. You can personalize Field Trip notifications, and turn on an audio option that will speak the title and description of a spot (although I didn’t do this myself, this would be a great option for when you’re driving).

Field Trip depends on location data from Google Maps to display location and ‘cards’, those short blurbs of information, around you. Information from  these cards come from a variety of sites: Arcadia, Thrillist, Food Network, Zagat, and Songkick to nScreenshot_2016-01-04-14-02-56[1] (1)ame a few. These cards are organized by color if you are seeing everything, but I was impressed by how deeply you can customize Field Trip. You can select the individual feeds, which are organized by interest, that seed the app; give individual updates a thumbs-up or thumbs-down; and tell the app to show you more or fewer things from any single data source (much the same way you customize your music in sites like Pandora). You’re also able to flag locations to your saved places, a nice bonus feature when something catches your eye.


I consider myself to be a well-traveled person, enjoying the history and culture around me regardless of where I am.  Strolling the streets of my hometown, I wasn’t sure what to expect.  After setting my interests to everything, I was blown away with the cool, hidden, and unique perspectives from around town!  Obviously, this app works best in larger cities, but I was able to find all sorts of new information. Historical sites and events, arts, food and drinks and lifestyle are just of few of the categories that help to customize your Field Trip experience.


Although I’ve used this to explore the town on my own, I can’t help but bring it back to how it may look in the classroom.  As students research and explore their communities, states, nation, or world, they are instantly brought into that location. A self-guided virtual field trip is at their fingertips, providing them with not only information from that location. That information provides so many initial points for research without dictating what the students will research. I also think to our field trips to Old Town San Diego and Balboa Park.  How great would it be to have this app to help inform students of not only the history of these places, but help to explain the culture and architecture of the time?!