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EdTech Update





Making technology unexceptional

When will we in education stop making special rules just for technology?

There is a good deal of anxiety on the part of staff about our immanent Chromebook roll-out in regard to who is responsible for loss and damage of these student devices when they travel around school and to and from home.

Do we really need "special" rules, insurance, warnings, etc. for these $272 pieces of plastic and silicon?

The average cost of a high school textbook in 2015 was $68.  This means a kid taking home textbooks for four classes, besides straining his/her back, is also hauling around $272 worth of cellulose and ink. Band instruments can run into the thousands of dollars. I am guessing sports equipment and uniforms aren't exactly cheap either. The fact is that we are already trusting our students and their families with school-owned property that is more costly to replace than these little computers. And we trustingly provide this stuff without demands for insurance, special signed agreements, separate policy statements.

So why are we singling technology out for special treatment?

We need to examine the special treatment of technology to a number of areas including policy, classroom rules, and access. Technology had been in schools long enough that paranoia born of novelty and newness should no longer be an excuse for special treatment.

I still dream of the day that the laptop is no more remarkable than a 3-ring binder; wi-fi signals no more remarkable than electric lights; the learning management system no more remarkable than a textbook.

Maybe this year. Right.




One-ringing dingy - revisited - dealing with telephone sales calls

After reading my little rant about filtering email and tuning our sales calls in yesterday's blog, my friend Dave Eisenmen tweeted that on his The Next Tech Thing blog was a letter to Ed-Tech Salespeople written by Patrick Larkin. While I appreciate Mr. Larkin's message, he is waaaay too nice about this.

Here is the Blue Skunk on the topic from 2008:

One ringy-dingy, two ringy-dingy - telephone sales calls (March 6, 2008)

My friend Tim Wilson over at the Savvy Technologist blog posted this little rant about vendor presentations. Go, Tim!

I've made similar observations as well about F2F sales presentations, but maybe it is time to educate those poor dolts who do telephone cold calling. I sincerely dislike sales calls. I am a very tough sell. I am tight with the district's money. I am a born skeptic. And I am unfailing polite. Being nice to someone I can't tolerate causes cognitive dissonance which annoys me even further. 

Sales callers (whom I imagine all looking like Ernestine - yes, even the guys), here are a few tips for selling to guys like me:

1. Talk to the right person. Believe me immediately when I say that I do not select textbooks, library books, or videos. Yes, my office orders them, but we do not select them. I make no decisions about things like photocopiers, firewalls, servers, and online database - I only act on the recommendations of those people in the district who have the appropriate expertise and whom I trust.  Sell to the right person.

2. Tell me why I should give you my time within the first 30 seconds. Our telephones, our network, our website, our Internet filter, and our e-mail all are working just fine. Thank you. If something was not working or I had a pressing need, I would be calling you. You've got 30 seconds to tell me how you are going to save me time, save me money, or improve learning opportunities for my students. Talk fast. Oh, and give your dumb company a name that actually means something. When you say you are calling from Matrix Optimization Apogees, you could be selling diet cola or hair restorer as far as I can tell. 

3. Don't ask me how I am doing. I will tell you how I am doing. I will tell you how every tech director and every tech department employee in the entire world is doing:

I am busy. 

Unless you really want to know about my aching knees, my district's tight budget, and a troublesome co-worker, come up with a better opener.  

4. Do a little basic research and keep notes. Don't try selling me telephone service when your company doesn't serve my area. Don't offer me Internet connectivity when I am in the third year of a five year contract. Don't even bother mentioning that Windows security system since our district is 90% Macintosh - just like it was the last time you called three months ago.

5. "Did you get the information I sent?" is a senseless question. I get even more junk mail* than I get junk phone calls. There is a convenient recycling container right by the mailboxes in our offices. Sweet.

6. Be ready to provide local references. I guarantee that my first question to you will be: "Can you give me the names of three schools in my area that use your product or service and the name of a contact in each?"  If you can't, I will have to consider myself a beta test site for your product and we should talk about how much you are willing to pay my district to do this work for you.

7. Understand the relationship public schools have with local vendors. It's the people in my town and in my state that pay the taxes that support my schools. Anytime I can buy from that taxpayer (and parent) across the street, I will - even it means paying a small price premium for the privilege. Sorry, that is just the way we do business. Oh, an added benefit of buying locally is that if you need to find a throat to choke, it ain't out in California or New Jersey.

8. Know that it is sort of fun to be passive-agressive with you people. I am always nice, but that doesn't prevent me from:

  • putting you on hold and going to get coffee
  • transferring you to somebody I know isn't in the office
  • asking you to call back at a more convenient time AKA when I am out of the office

Here's my best suggestion cold callers - find a job with honor, respect and a future. Say, convenience store stick-up artist, Internet spammer, or American Idol contestant. Something you can be proud of at your kids' career day.

Don't call us; we'll call you.



*A little bonus trivia for marketers from The Power of Intuition: And Why It’s the Biggest Myth in Business Today By Kevin J. Clancy and Peter C. Krieg (ChangeThis brief, February 2008)

One of the best kept secrets in American business today is that the average ROI of most marketing programs is zero or negative. Study after study, using different methodologies, approaches, and data, all come to this disappointing conclusion: 

  • Nielsen reports a 95% new product failure rate.
  • The University of Michigan discovered that the average cross-industry customer satisfaction score has fallen below 75%.
  • The Marketing Science Institute determined that a 100% increase in advertising expenditures yields just a 1% increase in sales.
  • ROI measurement firm Marketing Management Analytics found that major media advertising for consumer packaged goods brands returns 54 cents on the dollar and campaigns for non-consumer packaged goods brands, 87 cents on the dollar—two losing propositions.
  • A Deutsche Bank study of packaged goods brands found that just 18% of television ad campaigns generated a positive ROI in the short-term; less than half (45%) saw any ROI payoff over the long run.
  • Copernicus observed that brand equity is in decline in 48 of 51 categories where buyers perceive the leading brands as more similar than different, and make purchase decisions based on price rather than product and service attributes. 

With this kind of track record, is it any wonder that only two out of ten U.S. companies grow organically—through their marketing efforts and introduction of new products—by more than 2 or 3 percent per year?


Filter messages like this

I love this set of options in Gmail. I get more unsolicited email from publishers, vendors, and PR firms than, than ... well, more than hyperbole can describe. It's the rare morning I check either my school or personal accounts not to find a half-dozen or more messages about some product or service or information that my teachers, my readers, my family, even I, are sure to find interesting.


So it has become my mission to see how many of these solicitations I can only view just once. While some organizations provide "unsubscribe from the list" links, I am a little reluctant to respond to them. By replying, am I just letting someone know there is an actual human being at a particular email address? And that email address might have a monetary value to a marketer.

So instead, I use the filtering option in Gmail. I use it to move not the email address, but to move anything from that email domain directly to the trash. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200.

For example, a message this morning came from one Brandon Latino <>. So instead of creating a rule just for Brandon, I create the rule to move to trash anything from That way when Brandon moves to greener pastures, his successor will also be filtered.

Increasingly, I feel my life has become a battle between me and the world of marketing. I literally no longer answer my work phone unless there is a caller ID associated with call. 90% of my postal mail I recycle without even a glance. I use every ad blocker possible on social media sites. I no longer walk through the vendor areas of conferences. I no longer watch commercial TV.

And I still feel overwhelmed.

Any tips for keeping one's sanity in a marketing-saturated world?