After mostly frustrating results in recent months in trying to reach either districts or teachers directly (as reported here: Bureaucracy), I’ve had little bit of positive progress in the last few weeks. We’re still far from being significantly revenue-generating, but after all the failures in finding anybody to work with to pilot Mootup, a little bit of positive news helps to restore a little bit of my faith. I’ll call these events “baby steps” because they are tiny, incremental steps forward that will hopefully build into stronger momentum that continues in the direction I hope.
Baby Step #1
On a couple of occasions I had tried to reach a certain teacher by phone, with no luck. The teacher was listed as the debate teacher/coach at a high school only about five minutes from my house. Eventually she responded to an email, and after playing some phone tag we managed to have a good 30 minute conversation one evening. I explained Mootup, and that I’d love to show it to her or even better, let her use it to provide feedback. She was happy to accept, and we quickly arranged me coming into a class to demo Mootup for her whole debate group. The group was excited about Mootup and being able to do assignments within it – exciting to hear, considering most students dislike writing assignments.
Baby Step #2
Directly following Baby Step #1, I had a meeting with the top curriculum administrator in the large urban school district that the high school I had just been at was a part of. I demoed Mootup, and brought up my wish to partner with this district to pilot Mootup on a larger scale than its been used thusfar. The administrator was very excited about the potential for Mootup, and how well it aligns with Common Core (see here for some of the reasons she bought in: Reasons). Her only hesitation was in doing the pilot at a huge scale initially because the product is so new, and because their district is so huge. She wanted to work together, starting with individual programs within the district that could help pilot it. The initial group she had in mind was the debate program, which they are trying to grow. She doesn’t seem to have the power to force them to participate, but she could strongly encourage them to. I was happy to report that only the day before I had met with one of her own debate teachers, who was already willing to participate. This encouraged the administrator to more aggressively endorse the pilot and connect me with the director of the debate program, whom I am scheduled to meet with shortly.
Baby Step #3
I decided recently that as part of this more aggressive push to find more districts to freely pilot Mootup (dropping altogether any push to try to sell it to them), I’d reach out to some districts that I had had discussions of various types with, back in Arizona. One district in particular was very open to the pilot idea. The administrator and I worked on a form that would be emailed out to all middle and high school teachers in the district. The form included specific qualifications and expectations on the part of the teacher if they wanted to participate. I wanted to avoid teachers flaking out, not realizing what they were signing up for. I wanted a commitment that they would do at least a couple of assignments with actual students. The link to this form was emailed to the teachers by the administrator, with strong encouragement/endorsement from the district office to participate. In only a few days, we already have almost 30 teachers signed up, many of whom are already playing with Mootup and emailing me with excitement about getting to participate.
Conclusion: As stated before, these are only baby steps, and the momentum has to continue for the baby steps to be meaningful. But these baby steps are encouraging to me, while also posing a question: what is in the water that so many teachers in this one Arizona district are excited to participate in piloting something new, when the vast majority of other people I reach out to are unresponsive to the idea in the first place (without even hearing about what they’d be piloting)?