What does a former Apple and Dell employee think about education, eLearning, startups and innovation? In today’s podcast Kevin Gerrior shares his insights and experiences. I’ve known Kevin for several years and he’s one of the best at creating innovative strategies to teach using technology. He’s on the front edge of mobile learning, online learning, gamification, and other innovations that improve the learning process. While he’s an educator at heart, it’s his love for technology, innovation and entrepreneurship that drives him. Kevin Gerrior specializes in empowering people to innovate, get things done, and make work fun via technology
- Kevin is a former Apple and Dell employee
- He has extensive background in the education and startup sectors
- He uses technology to help teach and train
- Kevin is a family man with good integrity
Find Kevin Here: @kevingerrior
Have a question for the podcast?
Jeff: In this episode, I talk with Kevin Gerrior, a form Apple employee, about the education sector, startups, and innovation in eLearning.
Jeff: Welcome back to another episode of the online course coach podcast. And today, I’m going to be talking with one of my personal friends, Kevin Gerrior. And we go way back. We’ve been in the same group together for several years. We both live here locally in Ohio, although he’ll tell a little bit about where he comes from in Canada. And it’s kind of funny, he always makes jokes about him being Canadian, him loving Tim Horton’s and hockey and all that good stuff, which he does. He kind of lives up to his own stereotype that he’s created and perpetuated.
But this is a great interview, because Kevin has a very vast experience, and he’ll talk about that. He was a from Dell employee, a former Apple employee, and he is one of the people that I consider on the frontlines, the cutting edge of the intersection of the education sector. He has a broad background of K-12 schools, so he knows that side. He also knows startups and entrepreneurships, and as an entrepreneur himself, he’s always looking at how he can use education and eLearning to help companies, startups, and people teach and train a lot better. So he talks about a lot of innovative things and cutting edge ways of using eLearning.
So Kevin and I have had countless conversations kind of off the record or not recorded, so I thought it would be fun to record a conversation with Kevin and just pick his brain a little bit. So I’ll probably have him back on the show in the future, but I know that he gives a lot of good information. And a lot of times, it’s almost like drinking with a firehose. He’ll just pelt you with information, with facts and stats, and ideas, so sometimes it’s a little hard to catch up. In this interview, he did a great job of taking it slow and making sure we all understand what he’s talking about.
So here’s the interview with Kevin Gerrior.
Jeff: Alright, so I’m here with my friend Kevin Gerrior. Kevin, thanks for being on the show here today.
Kevin: Thanks a lot, Jeff.
Jeff: Yeah, no problem. Kevin and I are great friends and you’ll probably find out it’s like drinking from a firehose with Kevin. He knows so much. He’s out on the forefronts, he’s innovative. So I wanted to bring him on here today to talk about what he sees is coming down the pike and how we can benefit from our eLearning and online training. So, Kevin, give me a little bit of background about where you come from—what have you done?
Kevin: Thanks, Jeff. Well, I’m just a good ol’ boy from Nova Scotia, Canada, and had the opportunity to work with some startups. Worked at Apple and Dell and multiple startups. So I just love to hang out with people ahead of the curve and learn from them. So then I’m just passing on to people what I learn.
Jeff: So what are some of the problems that you see in the education market? Because I know a lot of your background is in the education sector. What are some issues and problems you see currently?
Kevin: What I see—and I work with a lot of higher ed, mostly K-12 recently, consulting. What I see is basically we live in VUCA—and maybe that’s a military term, since we live near the air force base here in Ohio—volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. So everything is happening so fast with technology that people kinda go into analyses paralyses and they don’t do anything, and sometimes in K-12, which I love the people there, status quo wins. And that’s tough because we live in just a fast moving society that no one has the answers, and I don’t, so we’re just trying to figure it out. But like you said earlier, eLearning and those types of things have changed how the classroom will be in the future that way.
Jeff: Can you give me an example of some innovative eLearning or teaching things that you’ve seen, primarily in the education sector? And then we’ll talk about in the business sector as well. But what have you seen that’s just kinda blowing your mind right now?
Kevin: Well, there’s a huge trend—and I also call them the 1%-ers. There’s a lot of smart guys and girls out there that do a lot of blended flipped learning. And blended flipped learning is like flipping the classroom, delivering the lesson the day before, then you have a conversation about hat lesson and then do like—we call education short cycle assessments, and really they’re just interim tests. So that can transfer over to business and back the other way that way.
Jeff: Cool. So what have you seen in the business sector specifically? What are some examples, maybe, of business or startups using kinda some cool or innovative teaching or training models?
Kevin: Well, having to be able to work at Apple, we were doing eLearning probably fifteen years ago, and we were ahead of the curve a bit. And Dell, when I got on at Dell for some work, we were doing eLearning, and we learned a lot. But now with the merger of technologies, everything’s accelerated, so I can talk about some startups where we’re using social, mobile, and gamified models in eLearning and using a lot of visuals because we’re starting to be more visual. You and I were just in a training today talking about how you use visuals in eLearning to help that way. So there’s some trends. It’s almost like the perfect storm of social, mobile, and gamified learning happening that way.
Jeff: That’s cool. That’s cool. Now I know you’ve been at Carnegie Melon and done some things there. What are seen—where’s the next generation going or how are they kind of going further and faster than maybe you even anticipated?
Kevin: Well, you and I, we’re getting up there in age. I don’t want to say our age, but we’re all dumbed down because of our education. Now our kids are gonna go a lot further than us because of the merger of this technology and what’s happening around us. And I think we all love games. Here a trend—I’m doing a project there at Carnegie Melon with a company, [Sulam?], it’s a startup out of Pittsburgh. And I got some of my Apple friends there too. And we’re gamifying the classroom. So when kids get involved with this gamified learning model, or gamification you can call it, they’re engaged. When you have engagement, then god things happen. Just like you and I—we’re all gamers in a sense. Sports, tennis is a game—I’m a hockey guy. But we all take that and we learn. And when we’re engaged, what do you know, learning happens. And that’s cool.
Jeff: That’s good. So let’s jump back. You mentioned when you were at Apple and Dell, you were doing eLearning and what was ten/fifteen or so years ago. So where do you think we are in this—I mean, you can call it eLearning or online courses or whatever the terminology is, because there’s different terminologies to almost say the same thing. Where do you think we are? Are we at the beginning of this? In the middle? Or have we run our course?
Kevin: I promise not to use any more sports analogies, so I’ll say we’re in the first inning of a nine inning ballgame. I have no idea where it’s going, but I do know that it’s just starting. And it’s gonna be a fun ride. And I think, really, a learning company is a leading company. A learning team is a leading team. And if see just down the road here what Urban Meyer’s doing with flipped learning, all the kids on the football team. He’s probably the most innovative professor out there and it’s nice to have a little bit more money and a good staff to do the multimedia. And people want to go there and learn from the master, like Urban, for football.
So there’s probably—some kids are going there for free internships just to learn how her rolls. And I think there’s some lessons from sports that can go to business and education because there’s no boundaries now and we all want to learn. And, as I said, a leading organization is a learning organization.
Jeff: That’s good. Yeah, so you were talking about Coach Urban Meyer, coach of the Ohio State University team—Go Buckeyes—so can you talk about how he’s using this blended learning for his team with iPads and different things?
Kevin: Well, I’m not privy too much internally, but I watch the toys or tools they have. So they use a solution where the players have iPads. You even look at the Ohio State band, they’re doing some pretty innovative stuff just with their band. So he went out and did some fundraising and we’re all—a lot of us in Ohio, we’re part of the Buckeye tribe—Go Bucks—that way. But he’s leveraging technology to deliver, just in time, information and in cooperation with the university. So the CIO there had a press release, and a lot of time in sports you don’t want to share your secrets, so he might just say “I’m just grinding like everybody else,” but there—and just recently, you saw that Braxton Miller had an augmented reality camera on his head.
So that’s one of the trends. There’s gamification, there’s social, mobile, there’s aug reality—all these types of innovative technologies and it’s all gonna be pressed down to that four inches of real estate. And Apple just came out with six inches of real estate. I haven’t checked to see if you have the new toy, but you probably do.
Jeff: Not yet, not yet.
Kevin: But you will.
Jeff: So you mentioned the social, the mobile, the gamification, and things like that. Explain how important mobile phones and mobile learning is. How are classrooms doing this or businesses and where do you see that going?
Kevin: Well, I think about fifteen years ago, when I was at Apple, we did a one to one with a whole county in Virginia—and you look at that was fifteen years ago. But there was a lot of challenges and you don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater, but this is fifteen years later. Now everybody has that four inches of real estate. I went to bible study the other night and I looked around, and it was all demographics, and everybody either had an iPad out, they were taking notes with their iPhone or Android, and it was pretty cool because people would get just in time information. So I think that everybody’s gonna have this globally.
So when you think of some of these emerging countries that—I was down in Puerto Rico, and they had great cellphone coverage but the landlines weren’t that good. And the Virgin Islands down in that area, because they leapfrog. So you’re thinking now it’s gonna leapfrog learning into those emerging markets, and everybody—like I said, talent has no boundaries—everybody’s gonna have access to that, so we’re al gonna be smart learners that way.
Jeff: That’s good, yeah. So a lot of people listening have an idea. Maybe they are an industry expert and they want to take their—maybe their in person classes they want to put online, or they want to teach something online. What are some things you want to recommend for them as far as should they think about mobile learning? Should—what are some things they should consider as they’re thinking through this process of teaching online? And I know teaching online can take so many looks or angles, but what are some things they should consider?
Kevin: Here’s the number one, I think, is find your passion. And if you have a passion and then if you can simplify and scale it. So if you have a passion—I just started doing Uber Your Life. The reason I started doing Uber, I was hanging out with people at Startup weekend in Phoenix and some guys from Google were there that I know, and we just got talking. And they had invested a lot of money in Uber. So I did mobile training learning online from Ohio. Got certified—and I was just curious about Uber’s go to market strategy, because after four years, they’re like a fourteen billion dollar company. So I got certified through online. Learned about service, took some quizzes, and they were almost doing blended learning because they delivered me lessons, I had to respond. And some of the tests were pretty challenging.
And I met—just recently, yesterday, I picked up a cellist, I can’t even pronounce the word, in Dayton, and she was trying out for a gig there at the Schuster Center. Real passionate, and I said that’s a real discreet skillset to have. And then I said “Tell me the five best cellists, if you could put them in a row and teach and do a little video.” And I said “That’s what you can do. And you’re a professor at Rutgers –too bad about Rutgers, we’re gonna beat them next week at football.” But the thing is, I think, for her, she has a passion, and she could round up all her five friends and do that.
Now you could to the same thing with hockey. I’m from Nova Scotia, Canada, and we don’t produce the most international players in the world, but people I know in Nova Scotia help produce two of the best in the world, off at number one. Wouldn’t you like to know what they’re cooking back there? Back in Nova Scotia, we export knowledge through mobile learning. I come from a small little place in Nova Scotia and I get opportunities because I had to leave Nova Scotia. Wouldn’t it be cool to have our kids learn and make money at home and not be working in the coal mines or farming or in the industrial economy that way? Because we’re going from an agrarian economy to an industrial economy into an informational economy. Now we’re in the creative economy and this is where the eLearning and mobile and gamification is in the creative economy. We’re just creative problem solvers. You saw from the woman we are talking to earlier.
Jeff: Yeah, no, that’s great. I think you bring up a good point about the cellist. A lot of people think they have to have all the tools—meaning they have to know their industry as well as build the platform and the website and all that. And—I mean, there are companies like mine that help with that. But it could just be you bringing together the industry experts, the five best cellists in the world, and you create a video training product. And so, to the listener, don’t feel like you have to put it all on your shoulders, you have to think of everything by yourself, but there are ways to maximize everybody’s skillset.
So talk a little bit more about gamification. Because I know, Kevin, this is kind of what would love to talk about, love to think about, and we’ve even spoken a conference together on eLearning and you spoke about gamification, especially. Give me a little bit more background about what gamification is and then how you’re seeing it implemented.
Kevin: Yeah, so you have the mobile learning, and that’s kind of your wheelhouse, Jeff. And I kinda say the frosting on the cake is the gamification. So let’s say if we’re working with a company or a school district—so you get the mobile leaning in place and then you would add gamification to make it stick. Because we all are gamers and we love to play games. And I’m not a true gamer where I go shoot ‘em up and play Call of Duty. So with gamification, it’s using instructional design to have people learn and they’re having fun and they learn more and they’re more engaged.
So if you add gamification on top of your mobile learning, you’re gonna get more engagement and then you’re gonna learn more. And people, by nature, we’re social creatures, so we’re gonna probably compete more against each other. And when you do anything in sports—and I’m a big sports guy—but you can actually bring that connectiveness and social learning into a group, a group learning dynamic, and that’s fun. And if you can push out the learning in pulses like every third day, let’s say a bible study or a hockey team or a football team. So I’m doing stuff with the football team in Cleveland, I’m not even there. I went to their camp and I was their technology guy. So football team’s gonna have a mobile, gamified coach. Detroit Redwings just picked up one last week where this young guy—I’m getting dated in my age—who’s twenty-eight and now he’s gonna be the concierge coach to deliver mobile learning to all the coaches. That’s a fun gig I would bet.
Jeff: Yeah, that’s awesome. Do you know what his roles and responsibilities are?
Kevin: He’s a—they called it the Director of Coaching. So Mike Babcock, he’s one of the world’s best coaches, he has a coached Olympic team, and he had this guy come in because all the coaches were busy. So he wanted to save their time. So what he did was he brought in this young gun from New Brunswick, Canada, down over from Nova Scotia, and he’s, I think, twenty-six or twenty-eight. And so what he does, he takes all the video clips and puts it in a nice little tutorial area and gives it to the coaches, because they’re flying around traveling. So he’s actually needing information, and because that guy has a background in hockey and with the mobile learning and video, he’s putting it all together and delivering it to the team. So really, he’s buying them time and then he’s putting that expertise in.
So that’s where mobile learning—and they’re not really doing a lot of gamification, there, the real game is hockey. So that’s what’s happening. There’s thirty NHL teams and a few more expansions coming—every team’s gonna have a mobile learning coach in the next five to ten years. But they all have the data analytics, which is rearview coaching. But if you put it in mobile learning, which is front view, and that’s where we want to get people is to—not perfection—towards excellence that way.
So in talk about sports a lot because that can—business is really a sport, just a different type of sport. Education is launching kids in their passions, that’s what I believe. And I believe when kids are engaged—what’s a definition of a successful school? If they run to the school and not from it. So that is cool when you see kids running—I’ve gotta a principal down the road outside of Columbus that, last year, we was chasing kids down to suspend them, this year, he’s doing game-based learning, he’s got a Batman belt on, the kids are running to his class. That is cool.
Jeff: Yeah. What is that school or those teachers doing to make those kids run to school?
Kevin: I’d think, like with Jim Collins and Good Degree, if you get the right teachers on the bus and they look at the emerging markets and they sort of VUCA—the volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity—they looked across the horizon, I looked across their path, and said “There’s the future, here’s what you need to get there.” They’re probably a lot smarter than me as a group, but I said “Here’s some tools. You got you passion. Here’s the future for our kids.” They figured it out. And now when I see a principal jacked up and decided he was a principal and he moved over to run the steam academy.
Because we’re all hot into STEM—science, technology, engineering, and math. I just drove by a high school last year that didn’t have this branding on it, now it’s a STEM school. Now, I believe in a STEAM school. Science, technology, entertainment, arts, and math is in the creative economy.
So I set a lot of them on Tim Horton’s and they sponsor Jeff and me so we take care of them.
Jeff: No they don’t. We have no sponsorship.
Kevin: Well, they sponsor us at the other meeting.
Jeff: Kevin probably drink Tim Horton’s out of an IV in the morning. Just has it in his veins.
Jeff: So I think that’s interesting, that this eLearning and gamification can actually help especially schools. And that’s one of the most underserved and the most needy part of any sector, is our kids. Because that’s our future.
Keep talking about the sports aspect. Because I know you’ve worked with some football teams to so some of this mobile learning and mobile training. Dive into that a little bit more. How did you work with one of these football teams and what were some things they did with mobile learning?
Kevin: Well, a colleague of mine I did some work with, Rich Chapman, he wrote a book, All Pro Wisdom, and his vision with Matt Burke was to mobilize mentor and equip young kids. And so we just did a pilot up there in the Cleveland area with the football teams. So I went and found some innovative coaches that were smart, and I just gave them—their passion for what they do and I just gave them mobile learning, a little bit of gamification, and we had an entire football team read a chapter of All Pro Wisdom for fifty-six days—I think it was eight weeks. I can’t do the math, I’m not a math major, so… I think it was fifty-six days.
They had to do a chapter a week, and then they had a gamified quiz on Saturday. And we did that over eight weeks and then we did—on the quizzes, we could tell if they were actually learning. I always say, if you can measure it, you can’ manage it, and you can’t celebrate it. So that’s data analytics in a sense. So we did that, and then we ended up having, with the kids—I think there was fifty-three on the team—we had the parents on a separate channel. So they could get information, reinforce what they’re doing. So I let the football coaches do the parent channel, I made sure just on the students reading the books. How cool it is when you get a public school football team outside of Cleveland reading a book over eight weeks. At least we know that they read the book and did some tests. So they’re engaged and they’re having fun that way.
Jeff: That’s awesome. Have you heard any success stories with that as far as how that helped them not necessarily just win football games, but build their character or take them to that next level?
Kevin: Yeah, I think like it’s a first inning in a nine inning game in baseball. We’re talking football—I think if you look at any football team, if they have fifty three players, there’s a pews study where 29% are engaged, and that’s even for company. And then the next 40-50% are somewhat engaged, but then there’s 15-20% not engaged at all. But if you—you just gotta pray for the bottom end. But if you can move engagement in the middle areas up until your top players and have more engagement and more learning—like I said, a learning team is a leaning team—then you have success.
This is just too early in this project to see where they’re going, but if they’re communicating with them every day and they’re staying in their grill, and I believe—it doesn’t equate to more wins, but I think if you do the process better, it will come out at the other end. And they’re building kids. They’re building young adults to be better that way.
Jeff: Yeah, that’s’ good. That’s good. What would you say to people—and I know you’re gonna laugh, but what would you say to the people that respond to eLearning and say “ELearning isn’t effective, always has to be only in person.” What is your thoughts on that?
Kevin: I’m not a totally online, like a MOOC guy—massive online open courses—and I’m not throwing the baby out with the bathwater. I talked to Sebastian Throne there up at, I think it’s Stanford, doing some Google. He was behind that driverless car, too. But I think there’s a high dropout rate of massive open online courses. But sometimes I go back—how did Jesus teach? He sat around the table, broke bread, and it was a group of probably twelve disciples and now my bible study’s fourteen, a nice group. So I really think that eLearning has a place and it shouldn’t be totally online. You get together, you have energy, you talk to people, but you have the master teaching you.
It could be the best—I’d love to sit and listen to Urban Meyer and do little videos. He can’t be there, but he might come in a video snapshot. Who I like to listen to, maybe Greg Laurie, he’s an evangelist in California and he does a lot on the eLearning. And Rick Warren. Or any coach, like hockey, I’d love to be in a video of how Babcock evaluates talent or Bowman. So that’s eLearning. You just gotta find it where you’re at and you need to jump on, because it’s gonna move forward and we’re just early on with it that way.
Jeff: Man, that’s good. That’s good. And then, last question, with gamification—it’s a similar question. I get a lot of people that hear about gamification, and they think “Why would we want to make our corporate training gamified?” Or our whatever courses, why would we want to have badges or silly little things that don’t matter? What’s your response to that?
Kevin: I think if we can get more engagement, and that can be done—because gamification can be done wrong or right. So you need to reinforce what you want done and make sure it has alignment. So I think if you have more engagement—and I saw another, I think it was a Pews study. I was at a meeting the other night and someone referenced me to this. If this is true or not, I think 85% would love to do some other type of job. So if you have that high, if you can get them more passionate about doing things—and there’s some studies and we can probably—I can send them do you—different companies have done some type of gamification and productivity increased and they measured it.
So that’s basically—people lie with stats, but statistics don’t lie. So you need to look at that and say “In my industry or what I do, is there a way to put in eLearning? Is there a way to add gamification to it? And is there a way to have the right online and offline type of training?” and then see where you’re at in your industry. And I think there’s a way to make it work.
And I’m biased, I’m a believer in this. I’m sold out.
Jeff: no, that’s good. That’s good. Because I run across people, and sometimes it’s age or a generational thing where they don’t understand how eLearning could be effective and they thing gamification is just silliness and whatnot. But there are a lot of people across generations who have those views and I always like to ask that question of people in the eLearning space because I think they give valuable insights just like you did.
Kevin: Yeah. I think you don’t have to do staff development with a fifteen year old with a smartphone. So I always say, if you can’t figure it out, had it to a twelve year old standing around with you and they’ll figure it out for you. But I really think that you just have to find out where you’re at and then jump in and go as fast as you can, as slow as you must with eLearning and I think you’re just gonna—you have to go there if you’re gonna be in the competitive business environment. And shame on us if we don’t help our kids and launch our kids, because we’re competing in a global market. So if our kids aren’t going it, other kids are doing it and they’re gonna get ahead of us and we don’t want them to fall behind that way.
And we want all our kids to be independent. I see too many of our kids going through school K to 12, and some of them go to nice universities and they come out and they don’t have a career. They might have a job in the service industry. But I think all of us want all of our kids to have a great opportunity to be independent and not live in our basement.
Jeff: Right. [Laugh] That is correct. So what are some tools that you have seen to help with either eLearning or mobile learning or even gamification? Are there a couple tools that pop to your mind?
Kevin: Uh… Well, any type of smartphone—I’m not gonna get all religious on you—but if you have a smartphone, that’s one tool. And you can get an iPhone, Android, or even the tablets now—and you pretty well have access to Wi-Fi anywhere. I go down the road, there’s Tim Hortons and McDonald’s now, so that’s free that way. But then, I think, you just gotta find somebody that does eLearning and then just have them coach you up. That’s kind of—we come to these meetings here, the New Medium meetings, and we just learn about new tools that people are one day ahead of us. So I don’t have all the tools, but if you just start simple with some tools and then build from there.
Jeff: Well, Kevin, thanks so much for being on the show here today. I know—we go way back and we always have these conversations, so I thought it would be just fun to record one of these conversations. And we’ll probably have you back on because there’s new stuff we chat about. So thanks so much for being on the show here.
Kevin: Thank you so much, Jeff.
Jeff: Well, there you go. I knew you would love that interview with Kevin. We covered a lot of topics, and maybe we’ll have him back on the show to talk about some of the projects we’re working on together once that gets to a point where we have some really exciting news. Because we’re starting a really cool project together doing some cool things. And once that gets off the ground, I’ll share a bit more details of how we’re using eLearning courses, video content, and online training to help a certain sector or certain market improve their training, improve their teaching, and let them train more efficiently.
If we can get everybody one the same training course, then they all have the same information rather than just having the owner or the boss give training to this person on one day or maybe a couple months later he gives a different version to another person on that day. And when a new hire comes in, he gives a completely different take on the training. So having the same training be online where it can be access through mobile, like Kevin talked about, as well as tablet and other computers.
And so—anyway, I could go on and on with that. I’ll spare you the details for now. But we’ll have Kevin back on the show to chat about some of the projects he’s working on, a project we are currently working on, and we’ll go from there.
So let me know what you think, send me a question. If you have a question on eLearning or what Kevin talked about, shoot be a question at jeff (at) truefocusmedia (dot) com, and I’ll respond as quickly as I can. And keep coming back to the show. You can go to onlinecoursescoach.com to go directly to those podcast, which is on my company website of truefocusmedia.com. But we’ll have more shows. I have a long laundry list of episode topics and guests, but please let me know if there’s a specific topic you want me to talk about, or if there’s a specific guest that you think I should interview. I’ll add them to my list. Maybe I’ll bump them higher than my list of forty or fifty people that I currently have there, and we’ll get them on the show.
So keep creating content, keep educating yourself so you can teach other people more effectively.