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4 Posts authored by: jhilton

This is it. Enjoy and farewell!


I’ll admit it…I resisted some aspects of technology in the classroom. But before you tear into me, hear me out. I was in North Carolina for 5 years and worked with 4 different systems, 2 just revolved around our gradebook, one was me building my own website so I could host content, AND we started playing around with Schoology (sorry Blackboard, not my call). “Deep adoption” wasn’t something I saw as important. My goal was to learn the bare minimum to be able to do my job, because “the next big thing” would replace whatever system we were on pretty darn fast.


Now that I’m on the other side I can see how frustrating my position was to the tech world too. There are A LOT of useful applications in Blackboard (and other LMSs), but driving deep adoption is a challenge. Once again, big props to the Community Site for making adoption a priority. As K-12 districts across the country continue to outfit their schools with Wi-Fi and devices I’m confident that the trend of “the next big thing” will die down and adoption will be less frustrating. It’s an exciting time to be in K-12, I’ve compared it to the wild west on more than one occasion. Districts upgrade at different times and usually individual schools have different needs when upgrading.


giddy up you LMS doggies

The only thing I know for certain is that there is a lot of awesome tech out there that integrates well into the classroom. The coolest examples for myself, and my students, were apps that used augmented reality to bring some pop into my lessons (I swear I tried not to be boring). Students got to use their own devices (what, you WANT me to use my phone?!?!) and I saw engagement shoot through the roof.


I'm glad that Blackboard has taken student engagement so seriously, because at the end of the day teachers and students both need to enjoy using whatever medium they adopt. The ultimate goal is more than the transference of knowledge from teacher to student, critical thinking is one of the great success stories in US education and I'm glad Blackboard is keeping this in mind.

I said I'd give you all, and Blackboard, a proper send off and I've been struggling with what to say. This has been an amazing experience. My internship gave me new work experience and has made my resume look awesome...but what I've really gained is a family. I'm not one for long goodbyes so I'll just leave this here.


Perhaps when the sun sets you always wish you'd done more with your day.

(showing my true colors here, adios)

Post #3. Get ready for action!


I am not alone!! There are former teachers here with me.    SHAMELESS WORK ENVIRONMENT PLUG: It was refreshing to see that Blackboard saw the value in hiring educators to help steer their product development and communications. Also, everyone here is super positive (I mean for the most part, humans do work here after all). Best internship ever.

Anyways, back to the matter at hand. Working for an edtech company after having been in the classroom gave me the opportunity to talk to my former self from a product marketing perspective. What message would Jake the Teacher relate to? What kind of engagement would I have found most useful? This was really cool! I went into marketing not to create an industry (looking at you De Beers), but to connect quality products with consumers. #nosnakeoil


At Blackboard I was given the opportunity to do just that! I came in bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, nervous and excited. This was my first internship (student teaching hardly counts), and really my first experience in “business”; sadly, Flight of the Concord videos were little help. I was expecting a big project with an end deliverable. What I got was much more valuable. I was thrust into a team with Susan Patton, Francesca Monaco, and Vivek Ramgopal where I was expected to contribute as if I was a new hire, not an intern. I updated our user personas, involved myself in focus groups at BbWorld, and interviewed customers for testimonials. Oh, and in case you missed it the first time…I attended BbWorld16 in Vegas    (The fanciest trip I was on in NC was a shared motel room for a conference in Raleigh #lesigh).

I was also prompted to involve myself in the Community Site (yes, I’ve been lurking in the shadows for quite some time now). I found that the Community Site was a wonderfully organic way to drive deeper adoption through peer to peer interactions, and I applaud the groundswell effort tremendously.


When I left my school, we had begun a similar endeavor to drive deeper technological adoption in the classroom with the creation of a technology team named iInnovate (we were a mac based system, so yeah, that’s how cool we were). This small group was tasked with learning new technologies and putting them to work in our lessons. We would report back on successes and failures to the team, and then hold training workshops for the rest of the staff based on our recommendations. I have seen the BUGs in the Community Site operate in much the same way. Convincing teachers to change what they’ve been doing is HARD work and I can’t wait to elaborate on this point in my next post. I can only imagine how much more effective our team would have been if we had access to a larger network like a BUG site; kudos to Marissa Dimino for managing a great site.


I have spent a significant amount of my time at Blackboard getting to know a side of education I didn’t know was so robust. I’m touched at the level of thought that goes into supporting educators and am glad to have been part of it. Like I said in my first post, I won’t be here forever, so I’ll also take some time to give you all a proper send off in my next (last) post, which will focus on the role of technology in the classroom.

Post #2 as promised Community!


Leaving a stable career to pursue an advanced degree, in a new field, in an ever-increasingly shaky economy…what could go wrong?!?! I did not make this decision lightly; however, I was confident that the skills I had gained in the classroom were transferable (confidence from an MBA, shocking I know). But in all honesty, no one works harder than a teacher who is invested in their school; you can work AS hard to be fair, but not harder (right kids?).

These are the skills I honed teaching that were relevant to my MBA program. I’m sure I’ve missed something (attention to detail?):


  • Communication: In person, over the phone, through email, notes home, I communicated in a variety of formats. Verbal and written communication skills cannot be understated in an MBA program. First-year teams are formed at random, and most programs include many international students (my class was split about 50/50). This makes effective communication a little tricky, but honestly, the trick is to over communicate effectively.
  • Cultural Sensitivity: Like communication, having worked with many different cultures, teachers have a “below the iceberg” understanding of how important flexibility is, and more importantly, when it is important (sometimes your teammates need tough love). This played a big factor into declaring one of my concentrations, Global Management.

When in Croatia you wear a Cravat and post with Drazen

  • Presentations Skills: Being comfortable in front of an audience comes (almost) naturally after 6 years in front of a classroom, not to mention coaching speeches on awards night. Prep is still needed to really nail it, and nerves do happen, but all my previous exposure was a huge asset in this ever-important MBA category.
  • Organization & Time Management: Lesson planning FTW!!! Using these skills to breakdown projects and assignments, all while keeping track of due dates, basically made me a rockstar. Planning unit after unit really gives “big picture” views that become second nature when looking at the scope of work in a course syllabus.
  • Work Ethic: Working hours as an educator are long. Because of this I had the confidence to jump into a program that involved working with vastly more quantitative objectives than I had ever been exposed to. I’ve treated my time in the MBA like a job and I owe the work ethic I gained in education some big thanks for this ability.

After 6 years in the Education Industry I surely have my 10,000 hours to qualify me as an expert in some things; and to all you “Outlier” naysayers, let me assure you that these were quality hours. I was lucky enough to have the support of my friends, family, and mentors throughout my application process, along with an understanding Principal who gave me his blessing. Telling my students I was leaving was one of the more challenging moments in my career and I appreciate their understanding (my Facebook has since been flooded with friend requests).


Next up I’d like to make a similar post about transitioning from teaching in the classroom to working at Blackboard. Of course there will be some parallels, but I promise to keep it as Bb specific as possible.

Community!!! My name is Jake and I’m the Product Marketing Intern at the DC office who was tough to get rid of. I spent the summer of 2016 working diligently, and Vivek Ramgopal just couldn’t let me leave. I will be leaving (grad school doesn’t last forever), but I’m getting ahead of myself. In this first post I’d like to give you a little background as to who the heck has decided to start a blog, and why!


Right away let me detail some goals of this blog:

  • Relate how 6 years in education has shaped me as an MBA and Blackboard Intern
  • Explain how being on the support side of education has altered my view on the role of technology in education
  • I’d like to highlight the importance System Administrators play in promoting technology adoption within an institution
  • Also, fewer pics from Brokeback Mountain - I'll be monitoring comments too for further direction/inspiration

(I don’t always take pictures, but when I do I make the best faces)

I was born and raised in Chapel Hill, NC and am a proud graduate of UNC Charlotte. I earned my Bachelors in History and have certification to teach at the high school level. No Teach for America, just an old-fashioned education grad (yes for the millionth time, I planned to become a teacher). I graduated in the cold month of December 2008. Why cold you ask? How bad could it possibly be in NC? A fair question. The cold I refer to was the job market in education. With the onset of the “Great Recession” there was a hiring freeze throughout the North Carolina education system. Teaching someone else’s lesson just wasn’t my thing, so instead of subbing it out until the thaw, I hopped a plane to South Korea where I taught ESL (it was a bit more complicated than that but I’ll keep the intro short).


When I returned home after my year abroad I found a lovely high school in Rowan County. The principal liked my resume and I eventually ended up teaching both ESOL and American History. Oh, and coaching boys and girl’s tennis, cross country, and track & field. I also sponsored three different clubs and was a member of our school’s technology team (that last one is going to be important later). Clearly, I had a very light schedule…as in, my social calendar was light. Every teacher knows how busy this all is, but believe me I was loving it.

Suddenly, my school’s administration team began pulling me in their direction. Administration was not something I was interested in, but it did force me to think about my future. Where did I want to be in five years? I had always assumed that grad school was in my future, but grad school for what? I thought maybe another degree (or two) in History would serve me well; also, my undergrad degree screams law school! However, I needed something that afforded me more engagement with personal relationships at work; I’m a people person, and building relationships with those I work with is fun for me.


Well, my genius brother suggested I get an MBA. That resonated with me, so began the diligent process of GMAT prep and profiling schools. When I found the perfect school, I applied. It was the only school I applied to (I figured I didn’t have to go to grad school, and if the school I wanted didn’t want me, then so be it). I happily accepted when The George Washington University admitted me. It was harder telling my students the news than saying goodbye to my parents when I left for Korea. But then I was in DC. I had made the jump from the classroom…yet after one year in the program I found myself back in education with an internship at Blackboard. I guess some things you just can’t quit.