Entrepreneruial Productivity

I was reading an interesting article the other day on how to be more productive. The focus was more on being more productive in a 9-to-5 job as opposed to as an entreprenuer. The typical prolem seems to be that people feel they have so much to do in so little time that they feel te urgency to work literally non-stop. In order to do this, there are things you mostly don’t do as opposed to doing:

(1) don’t take a break
(2) don’t take a lunch break, eat while you work
(3) Theres no time for working out, so don’t go to the gym

The one do would be: multi-task!

Funny enough, all the people who discuss how to be more productive suggest that all of these are a no-no, especially multi-tasking. John Medina, author of “Brain Rules” even goes as far as saying that multi-tasking is a myth and physically not possible.

I love topics like these because they challenge the conventional wisdom of the society as a whole. It’s also quiet funny that whatever society says is accepted without any issues but ideas and concepts that go against conventional wisdom is challenged ferocoisly.

It’s even more interesting because all around me, I see people doing the things that we are told we should not do and yet they still claim do be very productive.

It also contemplate (maybe too often) how I might put these suggestions and activities to use in my own life and experience. I always feel like I have a lot of tasks to take care of but not much time to coomplete them. It almost seems like that the producitivty tips for an entreprenuer is slightly different that for those in the corporate world. Ash Mayura has a post on how to achieve flow in a startup where producitivy is defined as the amount of learning you can do in a given time; wheras productivity in the corportate world is how much you can get done.

Either way you look at it, at the end of the day, what really matters is time allocation. If you spend enough time on the “important’ tasks, you can get those done and leave the tasks that can be taken care of later to be done for..later.

What about you? Whay are your thoughts on being more productive? How do you achieve it?


21st Century Education

April 18, 2012 Leave a comment

A few years ago, as I was thinking about my educational experiences, I became frustrated and upset with what I had gone thru. Here I was, almost a year of job hunting and going to interviews. Every single interview preparation consisted of brushing up on the technical knowledge and skills I had obtained during my four year college career that might be pertinent to the potential job. More often than not, that required me to study across 4 maybe 5 set of class notes. It felt like a a mega final exam: content from 5 classes in one test!

During these excruiating excercies, I found myself very frustrated with the quality of my class notes. I did not remember much from these classes and the notes did not do much to jog my memory. I had to resort to reading the textbook, if I was lucky enough to have kept it. The textbook made things even more overwhelming and time consuming. To top it off, I spent 4 years of my life and a ton of money for the knowledge I seemed to have lost. It was then that it became clear to me: there has to be a better way to learn, there must be a better way to teach. There has to be a way where I could retain all the information I learned in my head for longer than the 3 months it was needed to pass the final exam. There must be a cheaper way to. Right?

At the time, the answer was no, but now; we have Course Hero.

Before I became aware of Course Hero, I really dove deep into how the brain learns and how it works to get an understanding of how to take advantage of the natural ways the brain forms connections, in the hopes that it would lead to a more natural and less mentally taxing learning experience. One of the main take aways was that the brain does not pay attention to boring things (Brain Rules #?). In his book, John Medina argues and gives great examples of how the brain begins to stop paying attention after 10 mins at which point you need to re-engange. Based on this finding, he suggested that material be broken down into smaller chunks: no longer than 10 mins. Also, using a mixture of pictures and words get the knowledge transferred better than words alone or pictures alone.

Sometimes in class, we are shown interesting videos/movies or real world articles  or we find something in a textbook that explains a concept really well. Usually we have to read or watch the entire thing ourselves to gain anything from it or recall it. It’s hard to pinpoint the most important topics to give us a basic exposure and get the gist of the information, which just happens to be another Brain Rule (the brain processes meaning before detail). Having a tool which not only discovers extra material but highlights the most important aspect of it to give us the meaning would be incredibly time saving and completely natural to how the brain functions. Instead of spending time looking for materal, we end up focussing on the eating up the knowledge.

From there, you can build on connections: how these pieces of information all relate and how they fit into the big picture. This helps with recall and hopefully provide better quality notes and thus faster recall.

Course Hero provides some of this functionality: with the courses they offer they bring information that is freely availble to all on the internet and focus on only the important parts. They also make sure the amount of information you need to consume in a single lesson is not more than 10 mins.

Another really interesting startup in the edtech space is Boundless Learning. They are on a mission to disrupt the publithshing/textbook industry; given that they are being sued by 3 of the top textbook publishers suggest they are on the right path. I really like what they are doing, they are quite possiblly the only textbook startup really focussing on the students as the customer/user and making the experience more engaging and effective. I’d like to see how they handle the question on bringing intrinsic motivation into the picture, that might make for a more complete solution.

Categories: Uncategorized

Technology as a silver bullet

April 12, 2012 3 comments

I remember the days in the late 80’s and early 90’s when computers were starting to make their way into every aspect of our lives. I was only a little one at the time, so most of my time was in school where computers were still trying to get a hold. As the personal computer started making their way (mostly iMACs), special labs just for computers were being made. Once a week, we young students would visit the computer lab to work on our typing skills, learn to word processing and occasionally break the rules and play a little Oregon Trail.

Fast forward to today: mobile devices, which is basically a hand held version of the PC, are starting to penetrate every aspect of our lives and in some cases even completely replacing the need for a PC. No need for special mobile labs because these devices fit in our pockets. Kids these days are already around mobile devices constantly that by the age of 2 or 3, they use these devices in ways never realized. And instead of Oregon Trail, they play Angry Birds. However, just like in the early 80’s and 90’s, many are saying that not using or allowing mobile devices in the classroom would be a grave injustice. It would in fact make class more interesting, make the classroom more exploration oriented, etc (http://voxy.com/blog/2011/02/are-we-wired-for-mobile-learning/).

There are many differences between todays technology revolution and that of the late to early 90’s, but what clearly has not changed is how the material is distributed; and while the reasons for technology in the classroom is well intended, I think it would be a grave mistake to assume technology alone transforms the classroom experience mentioned above.

The question is: do these technologies revolutionize education as we know it or is it simply reinforcing an old, clearly broken model of how education is distributed? Most often, technology is meant for making things easier, cheaper, and more available. Education has a much bigger problem that technology alone cannot address: motivation.

eTextbooks for example, are a great idea, but how are they going to change education? It looks like eTextbooks is simply the electronic version of what you can do with the physical thing: take notes, highlight, etc. It just makes it more fancy. Sure, eTextbooks could make it easier to share with other students, but students already do that now with physical books. It’s already pretty easy to do as it is. Some of them are tablet based and are more interactive, which is very exciting. The question that is not yet being addressed is, if you are not motivated enough to learn the subject, who cares?

I talked with a few students about taking notes and having them be more visual/interarctive. The message was clear:  the only students that do that now, without technology, are the ones that love the subject matter, and guess what? That’s a very small number. It takes effort and energy to put those together. Technology might be able to make it easier, but the effort that goes into thinking about it, the effort to focus on the material of the class is where the problem is. What’s to stop a student from playing Words with Friends over watching a visually pleasing, interactive video on OChem in their eTextbook?

Technology needs to be mixed with something to address this problem, but what? Perhaps a new teaching pedagogy (i.e. using project based learning)?

I think it is important to stop over emphasizing technology and start looking at the real problem in education: where is the motivation? Why is it extrinsic and not intrinsic? What role does technology play in making motivation intrinsic, if any?

Let’s look at how technology so far has affected education. In the 1980’s, when computers were being pushed to every corner of society, it was heralded as a tool to revolutionize the world. Many were predicting the great changes it would bring and that not having computer in schools was considered a crime [Disrupting Class Expanded edition, pp.2]. In 1995, public schools had 72 computers; and in 2003, that number increased to 136. In 1998, there were 12 students for every computer, compared to 2003, that number was down to 4 [Disrupting Class Expanded Edition, pp. 2]. Have test scores budged? Has anything changed in the way we teach? It seems the real result in the last 30 years has been that the tech company cubicles have been filled with Israelis, Indian and Chinese workers as opposed to American born and educated workers [Disrupting Class Expanded edition, pp. 6].

So why then all the noise about mobile devices in the classroom making a big difference? It sounds just like the stories of the 1980s.

Categories: EdTech, Education

Kids can teach themselves

June 30, 2010 Leave a comment

Yes, this video is a bit long (~20 mins) but an amazing one. It just goes to show how powerful the human learning capabilites are. Really brings into question of do we really need schools? Check it out and let me know your thoughts. As always, I have lots, but I want to hear others first!

Kids teaching independently

The effect of emotions and EQ

June 30, 2010 1 comment

Today I was thinking about emotions and it’s affect on the learning process. I think emotions play a big role. If you are passionate about a subject or a class, you will tend to listen more. You will try harder and spend as much time as needed learning the material. If you are having trouble comprehending, chances are you might try different ways to look it (i.e. draw a picture, find a video/animation, etc). But if you find a subject to be boring or something you really dislike, it will feel like a chore. It will be painful to learn the material and you will most likely not try as hard. That’s just my guess, I mean, it sounds like common sense right?

I was reading the posts on this facebook group, named The Learning Revolution (there’s a surprise), and someone commented about measuring emotional intelligence, or EQ. I was not completely clear on what emotional intelligence was, so I looked it up. Turns out it is the ability to identify, assess, manage, and control your own emotions, others, or a group. Now that is realllyy crazy!

It got me thinking though, if emotions do play a big role, and someone were to have a high EQ, that would be a powerful combination. I mean, even in classes you hate, if you can find out WHY, and address it, then you have a chance at succeeding in that class and doing ALOT better. Good and bad teachers good be identified by EQ. Question is, how would you even measure emotional intelligence? Does it make sense? If it became a standard, how do we ensure that it truly measures someones EQ (unlike most standardized tests)? Should there be a standard; since like intelligence people can be smart in different ways, maybe the way best way to assess emotion for one person may not work for another?

Open source Learning

June 25, 2010 Leave a comment

Let’s turn our attention to an interesting website: Connexions

This learning resource can be considered the facebook of learning. It is basically a portal where people can share learning material with each other. You can take some of the material, and change it in different ways and repost it as something new. The great thing about this learning resource is that they strive to present and retain material that is explained in a modular format, meaning one concept at a time. These concepts can then be used to link to other concepts, which helps us to better see the connections (Woah. I just realized that one).

I still need to do some exploring, because it is not clear to me yet how it how the linking occurs and what tools are available within Connexions for that. Some of the great stuff about this is that UC Merced is apparently using this tool for their curriculum, which is a sign that at least some major universities realize the need for change in the way we are taught and the way we learn. Let’s see if anyone else finds this useful and how would they use it? I’ll explore more and see how I might use it myself and post something…

Newtech Network

June 24, 2010 Leave a comment

With all the talk we will be doing on this blog about learning styles, I wanted to try to bring some attention to a new type of school: New Technology High School:

New Tech Napa

Check out the link above, it’s pretty amazing.

I had the great pleasure of attending a lecture at Cal Day in Berkeley a few months ago about how technology is changing the way we teach and learn. This new type of high school is a Project Based Learning environment where students are free to explore to their hearts content. Teachers are still present, but they are there as a guide and not really to lecture (which is probably what they were meant for in the first place, right?)

I was very intrigued because the Director of Innovation and Design at New Tech in Napa, Chris Walsh, gave an amazing lecture about how the way we teach and learn will not cut it for the future. With the world becoming so advanced technologically and at such a rapid pace, the education of the future needs to keep pace. Current education system is not able to because these days, if you want something in the technical field, you will need a Masters. Or if you manage to get a job with a BS, you will eventually need to get an MS later on down the line.

I will probably talk more about this in a another post, but one thing I must mention is Chris Walsh mentions that we as a society need to make F the new A. There is nothing wrong with failing, because that is when you learn the most.