Three years seems to be a familiar cadence in my life: three years of junior high, three years of high school, three years of university, and so on.
This last year was the best and most difficult year I’ve had. But it’s also been incredibly rewarding. Today marks the end to another three-year period which began when I joined Umoya at the end of 2008.
In that time I’ve got to:
build staffroom and provide services to 30 local schools,
design uniti and have it used in the 2012 Soccer World Cup,
deliver FireWeb to fire stations and wild-fire agencies throughout the country,
speak at Microsoft TechEd Africa and various other events,
start EdTechConf with my co-founders and appear on radio and in the media,
and share Cyber-safety workshops with kids, parents and teachers at schools around South Africa.
All this while getting married, buying a house, and fulfilling my role as a shareholder and development manager at Umoya. It’s been a period of giving love and attention to a range of projects and activities. I’ve learned a lot.
But, as you can probably imagine by reading the above, it’s lead to me attention-switching between four or five significant projects each day. Enough. I think I’d rather be great at one or two things, and not simply good at many. It’s time for some changes.
Earlier this month I wrote down three bullet points on a scrap of paper:
Reduce the diversity of my projects,
increase the depth at which I engaged in each of them, and
focus on projects that are aligned to my passion.
Finding my passion
My entire family are teachers. Literally. Grand-mother, father, mother, brother, wife, mother-in-law, and aunt. I’m surrounded by them. Ironically, I made a concerted effort not to go into teaching. I guess you can’t go against your genes.
Starting EdTechConf this year has been nothing short of life changing. I’ve been privileged to work with several schools - from private schools in Grahamstown to under-resourced schools on the Cape Flats. Across the board the cry is clear: “We seem to be losing learners to the realities of the 21st century.”
Poor schools are unable to provide teachers, classrooms and textbooks to learners while wealthy schools can’t pique the interest of digital-native-kids who expect a learning experience that is aligned with their multimedia lifestyles.
Thankfully there are solutions. And some of them involve the marriage of my expertise and passion - namely, technology and education.
I think the future of learning is the intersection of technology and education with the creative arts. I hope to dedicate the next three years to figuring out what this looks like, and how we deliver it to those who need it most.
So, we’re doubling down on staffroom. We think its brilliant, and our users say that its a massive time and stress reducer. This year we’ll ship staffroom v4 - a beautiful redesign of the staffroom interface with several new and hotly requested features.
Then it’s time to move beyond school admin and assessment. We’ve been quietly working since June 2011 on something new, which I can not wait to show you. It’s called Umoya Funda and is already being rolled out at two pilot schools in Cape Town. A lot more on this soon.
I’ll be writing in greater quantity on a smaller range of topics. Given my purpose statement above, expect posts about Tech, Education and Learning. Some posts will simply be links, others will be short commentary on something topical, and others will be long form (like this tome). I’ll provide independent RSS feeds for when you want to skip the links and just get the long stuff, or vice-versa.
I’ve set a goal of 52 posts in 2012 and I fully intend to meet that. Hold me to this.
I love sharing ideas. This year we’ll run more EdTechConf events - hopefully in many more cities. We already have four local events confirmed and expect to add several more through the first quarter. We’ll also be announcing EdTechConf ThinkShops - one day workshops on particular topics for school leaders, teachers, and parents.
I’ve also embarked upon a personal project to produce a podcast. It’s going to be casual, informal, and hopefully useful to people. Think of it as a spoken version of what I’ll be writing about, along with interviews of friends and interesting people in the education and technology industry. I’ve acquired most of the neccesary studio equipment, hired a producer, and began lining up guests. I hope to begin broadcasting in mid-January.
So in short, I’m making the change from “Software Guy” to “Education guy that makes software”. I’ll still be advising the Uniti and FireWeb development teams at Umoya, but my primary focus for the next little while is going to be on staffroom, UmoyaFunda, EdTechConf and education in general.
Here’s to an exciting new chapter, 2012. Happy New Year.