2020 – What a year!

2020, who’d have thought it hey? Looking back, it’s been a pretty rough year for everyone. We lost loved ones, we’ve practically been forced to lock ourselves up at home and our mental health and wellbeing collectively have definitely taken a knock. 

It was especially hard for me. I lost a lot of friends and loved ones. I wasn’t able to meet with friends and family for the best part of the year. I’ve always thrived off in-person conferences and making real life connections that have gone on to blossom into some of my closest friendships. We lost all those opportunities in 2020. I also missed out on the opportunity to go to Anaheim and present at ISTE, which was a huge disappointment, especially after winning the People’s Choice ballot! And to top it all off, I spent the last quarter of the year battling a long term illness.

But COVID-19 aside, I look back at the year that’s been and I can’t help but celebrate some truly wonderful things that have happened that might not have if 2020 had just been another year we were used to. 

There’s a meme that I saw a few months ago that said, “Who’s been responsible for your organisation’s digital transformation?”

a) CTO
b) CEO
c) COVID-19

I think most organisations (especially schools) will agree that COVID-19 was the primary factor in forcing organisations to embrace digital (and sometimes much more productive and efficient) ways of working. For someone who has championed digital transformation for many years, it’s been great to see the leaps we have taken in embracing these digital tools. I think we’ll all agree that we just wish that it could have been under better circumstances. 

In my last post after I was awarded the title of EduFuturists Network Manager of the Year, I thanked just some of the connections that I made both in person and online, that helped me to achieve such accolades. That theme definitely continued through 2020 and I don’t know how I would have got through some of the rough moments without those connections and wonderful friendships. I have to thank every leader in Global GEG! What we have achieved this year since its inception in May has been nothing short of phenomenal! We reached and helped to inspire tens of thousands of educators worldwide. None of this would have been possible without the unbelievably hard work and support of the Global GEG Team. Every one of them has put in so much time and effort, for which I and the other founding members are truly grateful.

To the founding members, you guys are some of the most awesome human beings I know. Thanks to your amazing kindness, I now sit here writing this in my brand new “#ITjustworks Headquarters!”.

On the subject of #ITjustworks, my Google Certified Innovator project. I launched my project in July and was able to reach more than 2,000 people worldwide. Far more than I could have in person. So, that’s one example where the move to virtual events certainly benefited me! Once again, it was thanks to the team at Global GEG, as well as the kind sponsors, who made this amazing event possible! 

I also want to thank the amazing team at Google for Education and Canopy, especially Dan Stratford and Andy Caffrey for the opportunity to be a coach at the first ever virtual innovator academy, #VIA20. It was an honour to be the coach of my lovely team, #TeamCarnivals! You are all superstars and I am so excited to see your projects grow in 2021!

A special thank you to May Jue from the Google for Education team, for being a huge support with everything GEG related, for being a support behind the scenes and also taking the Google Certified Trainer program to the next level with some great benefits for trainers!

To Daren, Ben, Wendy and Toby, for supporting everything GEG UK related! You guys have done a great job with “Nice & Slow” and “Short and SUITE”.

And finally, of course, to my wonderful family, without whom, none of this would be possible!

I know there are tons more people to thank and I could go on forever, but know that I am immensely grateful to everyone who has supported me this year!

2020 certainly didn’t go the way we imagined this time last year. But, without 2020, some of the things and the connections and friendships that we now cherish the most might not have been made either!

Here’s hoping for a return to some of our fond normalities in 2021, but also to reaching new heights to make it the best year ever! Fingers crossed I’ll finally make it to the USA for #ISTE21 in San Antonio! 

2019 – A very brief review…

So, as we come to the end of the 2010 decade, I’ve been told by several very close and special friends that I really need to put my thoughts down in a blog! It is something that I’ve been meaning to do for quite a while, but I’ve never actually been able to commit to doing it. 

In fact, I’ve never looked at my past experiences and journey as something that could inspire anyone. If anything, I used to look at my journey with regret, that I had stayed in a place that I was so miserable for 10 years and that I hadn’t pushed myself to what I could be capable of. People around me have always told me that I need to get off my butt and push myself as I’m not gonna get anywhere being the IT geek in a school. No one cares about that. So, I felt embarrassed to tell anyone about my journey. I didn’t feel it was a story worth telling. If anything, it was a story of failures and sheer damn luck in most cases. Definitely a case of faking it and hoping to make it. But then events in 2019 taught me how failure was nothing to be ashamed of and to actually celebrate those failures. Seeing as 2019 has been the year that inspired all of this, it seems the right place to begin.

Looking back at the start of 2019, things were definitely looking up. For the first time in my career, I was in a good place. I was flying high at work. I’d just led my Multi Academy Trust, through a rigorous digital transformation programme centred around Google’s G Suite for Education. It had gone rather well. The continued opportunity I had working closely with the Google for Education team and their respective partners had given me an energy boost that I had been craving for a long time. I had made some very good friends and very useful connections in the EdTech industry. I was happy. That’s definitely not something I could have said earlier on in the decade. 

January has always been a very exciting month in EdTech. Most people are coming back to school refreshed and relaxed after a pleasant winter break with the family. New Year’s resolutions are set in and people are raring to go. The reason I find January so exciting, is because of the Bett Show. I’ve been going to the Bett Show for 14 years. 2020 will mark my 15th year at the show. It’s weird to think that that makes me a veteran of the show. Even most of the shows organisers haven’t been there for that long. It only feels like yesterday I was attending my first show at London’s Olympia. I’m immensely grateful for my experiences at the Bett Show. I have said time and time again that I am where I am because of the invaluable connections and networking opportunities I have had at the show. It’s those opportunities that have enabled me to be who I am today and where I am today. For that I am eternally grateful.

It was at 2019’s show that Dean Stokes (Google for Education’s Adoption Lead for EMEA) pushed me to apply for the Google Certified Innovator program. Considering I wasn’t even Google Certified in any way whatsoever, that was going to be a tall ask. But he gave me the push that I needed. I soon got myself in to gear, got over some very big examination nerves and got both Google Certified Educator level 1 and 2 out of the way by March, giving me just under a month to get my innovator application in. All this was happening whilst I got promoted to IT Director! You’d think that was the pinnacle for how awesome 2019 was going to be. But no, it was only April and the awesomeness hadn’t even started yet!

Just the process of actually doing the innovator application, was so huge for me. Getting over the imposter syndrome of whether I was actually good enough to apply in the first place. But apply I did. Successful I was. What proceeded over the months of May and June leading to the actual academy in July was the beginning of a truly life changing experience! From the outside, you think it’s just another three day professional development course. That is so far from the reality! Forget everything you actually learn. Just the connections and relationships you make becoming a part of the #GoogleEI family are life changing. 

The academy came and went like a blur in July, giving me three of my most amazing days of my personal and professional career. But it’s those 40 odd people you share the experience with who go on to become some of your closest and most cherished friends. And that’s all before you come back to reality and then connect with the wider #GoogleEI community and find just how awesome the rest of the 2200 innovators are!

Post academy, my outlook on life completely changed. It opened my eyes to the world and just how small and local my thinking really was. Prior to the academy, I only really connected with people from around London and sparsely from the rest of the UK. Now, I connect daily with some truly amazing people from around the world. The months of August to December have whizzed by like mere weeks. Every day that has gone by since has been truly amazing. I’ve never felt so energised in my career to go out into the big wide world and inspire people and make a real change that can impact children’s lives for the better. 

I’ve got so much more to say and so many people to thank for making 2019 my best year ever. I could list them all here, but that wouldn’t be doing them any justice at all. So, in my next post, I’ll definitely be going in to greater detail as to who these people are and why they are so awesome!