martes, 26 de marzo de 2013

Misc: Disrupting education

Rethinking Education: Why Our Education System Is Ripe For Disruption
Our education system is not broken, it has just become obsolete
When I think of all the tremendous, seemingly impossible feats made possible by entrepreneurs, I am amazed that more has not been done to reinvent our education system. I want all entrepreneurs to take notice that this is a multi-hundred billion dollar opportunity that’s ripe for disruption.
Our collective belief is that our education system is broken so we spend tremendous energy in trying to fix it. We conveniently place the blame on problems that stem from budget cuts, teacher layoffs, inadequate technology in our schools and our education policies. We need to recognize the fact that our education system is NOT BROKEN but has simply become OBSOLETE. It no longer meets the needs of the present and future generation.
Our education system was developed for an industrial era where we could teach certain skills to our children and they were able to use these skills for the rest of their lives working productively in an industry. We are now living in a fast paced technological era where every skill that we teach our children becomes obsolete in the 10 to 15 years due to exponentially growing technological advances. Meanwhile, new categories of jobs are being created because of these technological advances. It’s hard to imagine that half of the jobs that exist today didn’t exist 25 years ago.
Our education system today uses the mass production style manufacturing process of standardization. This process requires raw material that is grouped together based on a specific criteria. Those raw materials are then moved from one station to another station where an expert makes a small modification given the small amount of time given to complete their task. At the end of the assembly line, these assembled goods are standardized tested to see if they meet certain criteria before they are moved to the next advanced assembly line.
We are using the same process to teach our kids today, grouping them by their date of manufacturing (age). We put them on an education assembly line every day, starting with one station that teaches them a certain subject before automatically moving them to the next class after a certain period of time. Once a year we use standardized testing to see if they are ready to move to the next grade of an education advanced assembly line.
Rethinking education starts with embracing our individuality. Our life experiences are very different from one and other, and yet we seem to think every one of us can learn the same way. Some of us learn experientially, while others are more attracted to logical or conceptual learning. Why are we limiting ourselves to one format or curriculum when we know that each individual is going to learn differently? Further, why are we advancing children to the next level, or grade, on an annual basis, as opposed to when each is ready?
Just think of the opportunities we can unlock by making education as addictive as a video game. This type of experiential, addictive learning improves decision-making skills and increases the processing speed and spatial skills of the brain. When was the last time your child asked for help with a video game? Probably never, but so many kids are struggling with basic algebra and chemistry every day. Why is it that our young kids all across America can solve the most complex problems in a video game involving executive decision making and analytical thinking, yet we accept the fact that they can’t add or read?
No one can possibly argue against the need for new ways of educating our children.We can’t fix what’s not broken but need to reinvent it. We need to allow children to learn to be creative, learn to reason, and to solve real world problems using collaborative and interdisciplinary approaches.
As we continue to pour billions of dollars into a failing education system that seeks to advance teaching methodologies, it is time we flipped the model on its head and used technology to focus on our learners. To reinvent education or solve any of the problems facing our society today, we need to think innovatively, see the promise of education outside the box and recognize that failure is not an option.
Let’s not just focus all of our energy on leaving a better country for our children but focus on leaving better children for our country.

Misc: YouTube studios

Why Howard Hughes would have loved YouTube
YouTube recently opened a brand new state-of-the-art studio in Los Angeles, where they invite people to come and tell their stories on YouTube. Anyone, well almost anyone, can come in and use all the top-notch facilities in the studio for free to produce content on YouTube. I recently had the chance to visit the place, and it is awesome.

In the hallway of the YouTube Space studios stand two vintage Video Arcade games where visitors and employees can play Pac Man or Asteroids. Wonderful to play, but vintage they are. Relics of a past where videogames were custom built expensive machines to be found in arcade halls, only to be replaced by waves of Xboxes and PlayStations a few years later, and giving rise to a whole generation playing Angry Birds on their smartphones. Mass consumerization of the gaming industry, the collapse of pioneers such as Atari, and the rise of a whole new legion of game developers.
Perhaps the TV industry will see a similar turn of events, and YouTube could be the catalyst. YouTube couldn't have picked a better attribute than the Video Arcade games to display in their brand new studios. They couldn't have picked a better place either. The new YouTube Space studios are housed in the old Howard Hughes Helicopter factory, and one of the proud Howard Hughes helicopter models is still parked right out in front of the building.
I had the chance to visit the facilities last week, and it blew my mind. Not just the facilities, which are top notch, but more than that the implications of how we will consume television and media in the future.
I have two kids, aged 10 and 14. Safe to say, in the New Normal where digital has become a normality, I learn more from them on all-things-digital than they will learn from me. I had noticed that my fourteen-year-old daughter had been spending less and less time watching daytime TV. There were still the occasional moments that she would slouch in front of the television set, and take in the episodes of iCarly or SpongeBob Square Pants, more often than not constantly engaged with her mobile phone.
But she started spending more and more time watching content on YouTube, where her laptop clearly started to become her Primary Screen for viewing video. At first she was searching for the stuff she knew from television on YouTube. But then something flipped, and she quickly latched onto channels and series that exist on YouTube only. 'Original Content', as they call it.
Today, my daughter is hooked on Smosh. I personally can't stand it. Probably I have the same look on my face when I watch Smosh as my old folks had when I was watching the episodes of Dr. Who on the BBC when I was her age. My father never really got the Daleks. And I don't get Smosh.
If you don't have a teenager in the house, Smosh is quite the phenomenon. Today, Smosh has more than 8 million subscribers to their YouTube channels, and their content has had more than 2 billion views. Billion, that's right. Smosh was started in 2003 by two guys, Ian and Anthony, who have become the rock stars of the online video world, and have built their videos into the most subscribed channel on YouTube. Their core 'Smosh' channel has new videos uploaded weekly, featuring skits by Ian and Anthony, but another popular channel under their brand is 'SmoshGames' where you will see them playing videogames and commenting on them. My son is hooked. Anthony and Ian have become household names in our house, like Michael Jackson and Prince were to my generation, and John, Paul, George and Ringo were to my parents.
Smosh is on YouTube only. They don't want to be on TV, because as the creators say: "We are where our audience is. And our audience is on YouTube, not on plain old TV anymore." In other words, they think regular TV is dead as a doorknob. And they may be right.
Smosh is not a unique phenomenon. There are thousands of successful channels on YouTube. Some are incredibly prosperous, and very lucrative. Take freddiew, the channel of Freddy Wong, who has more than 5 million subscribers. He was also the creative force behind Video Game High School, an intensely popular internet action comedy webseries, which was released on Netflix, AFTER it had been aired on YouTube.
YouTube is now producing stars by the dozen. Take Michelle Phan, a Vietnamese-American make-up instructor who has a YouTube channel where she shows make-up tips, talks about beauty products, and has a healthy 3,3 million subscribers. Or Ryan Higa, who has a channel called Nigahiga, which mostly features himself, that has more than 7 million subscribers. These new YouTube stars all have one thing in common: they're twenty-something digital natives who have ALWAYS known things to be digital. They wouldn't want to be on TV. This generation of talent have been taking to YouTube like a duck takes to water.
YouTube has become an enormous magnet for content, and the numbers are scary. Every second more than 70 hours of video is uploaded. YouTube is one fifth of all internet traffic, and has more than 4 billion views per day. True, not all of the content is of the highest quality, and much can be put under the ‘Cats on skateboards’ category, but the next generation is pretty clear: YouTube is where the action is.
Next Gen Oprah
It's pretty clear that the next generation Oprah or Jay Leno won't be coming from TV anymore, they'll come straight from YouTube. That's why YouTube has built a studio in LA. And one in London. And one in Tokyo. But the Los Angeles facility is their flagship studio. Where Howard Hughes once built helicopters, the next generation of talent is producing the next YouTube hit, the next monster YouTube channel, the next generation of content.
If you're rushing of to LA to record your stuff, hold your horses. Although the use of the studio is free, you have to have at least 500,000 subscribers to be taken seriously. That threshold is pretty steep, but it's the YouTube equivalent of 'you have to be this tall to ride this attraction'. Once you're in though, you have all the cameras, studios, lighting equipment and editing facilities to create the most perfect content, and put it straight on YouTube.
We're witnessing the end of an era. Television won't go black soon. But watching linear television as we know it, could become the passtime of the 'old-timers', the favorite way to spend the evening for the old digital immigrants who will sit in front of their television sets, watching reruns of Dr. Who, after they've read their old analog paper newspapers.
But the next generation won't be caught dead in front of a TV. They will surf the channels of YouTube, that could be streamed directly from the fabulous new studio in LA. Howard Hughes would have been proud at such daring disruptors using his old factory.

jueves, 7 de marzo de 2013

Misc: The power of gratitude

A while ago came across this interesting post about gratitude and made me remember how much I do hate people not being thankful. When you help someone out you should never expect anything back, as you are supposed to help that person genuinely and not because you can get something back. In fact a few years ago I saw a movie called "Pay it forward" and although it was a pretty bad film I really liked the premise of the movie. Every time someone helps you out or do you a favor you should help out three other people. I don´t need anything back but I would love seeing the people that I helped, helping out someone else as exchange.  Can you imagine how cool this would be?

Though, something that I do expect is just a THANKS. I really, really appreciate when someone takes some of their time to help me out with something and I always make sure that those people know that I appreciate their effort and the time they spend because of me. This might sound obvious and you could think that everyone does that but you are far from right. Thankfully most of the people appreciate when someone helps them out but unfortunately there are some selfish people out there that don´t care whatsoever and it really pisses me off. Along those lines I recently came across this post, from the same guy that the previous one that does a very good analysis of this point too.

A few months ago a good friend of mind asked me if he could come with a friend of his to visit the company where I work as he was studying computer graphics and it was his dream to visit one of the main companies in the business. The company (as most companies) is closed to regular visits but the employees are allowed to let friends and family in and tour them in through the facilities. Obviously I told my friend that there was no problem so they came, I spent a couple of hours with them and everything was just fine. So far so good. A few months later I got an email from that person (my friend´s friend) telling me that he had finished his studies and if I could take a look to his demo reel. One more time I didn´t hesitate and took a couple of hours reviewing his work and sending him a pretty long email with my advice. I tried to be quite up front with him, specifying which parts of the reel were working and which not, what kind of work to expect when you are a recent graduate and which were the steps that I would do if I was in his situation. Have you ever heard about that guy right after I sent him the email? 
I am wondering if all this guy wanted was me to get him a job at the company I work or what, as I never heard back from him. I am also wondering if he got upset because I was honest or if he just thought that saying thanks wasn´t necessary. The funny part of the story is that a few months later, when I had completely forgotten about this guy he wrote back to me asking for more favors WTF??? Can you believe it? The guy  didn't have the decency of saying thanks but he did had the nerve to write back asking for more help. If that person would have responded in the first place I wounld't had hesitated to help him again but obviously, this time I ignored him.

Then some months later something similar happened to me again. That time it was a student that contacted me asking for advice and one more time, I took my time to advise her the best I could and it took her more than two months to get back to me to say thanks. Are you kidding me? Weirdly enough the previous story repeated itself again. When I thought I would never hear from that person again, she reached me out again a few month later, asking for a recommendation letter. Honestly I am still in shock. How can people be so little appreciative and on top of that having the nerve to ask for a recommendation letter to someone that they don't know?

Unfortunately this has been happening to me more often that I would like so unfortunately  , from now on, whenever anyone asks me for help or for advice, specially if it is someone that I don´t know, I will ask myself if I am going to be wasting my time again or not. I really hate being in a situation where I may decide not to help out nice people that would have really appreciated it because of those others asses.

This two guys are looking forward to get a job in the computer graphics industry and although it may seem a pretty big industry with lots of people working on it, we are not that many and it is quite likely that we will cross paths either directly or indirectly in the future. Unfortunately for them if by any chance, anyone asks me know this people I am never going to be able to give any good feedback about them and all because they decided not to write back with just one text line saying thanks.

Unfortunately this kind of behavior is more extended than it seems. I don't think people do it consciously and it is probably due to too many things in everyone's head but I think those little details are very important. I have found the same issue with closer people and friends as well where I have spent my time writing them for their birthday or congratulating them for something and never hearing from them back with just a "thank you note" moreover when I don't have facebook and its birthday alarms. 

Like Ellen DeGeneres says, "Be kind to each other" and be thankful every time someone takes some of his time to help you out. Not only because it is what you have to do but because you never know if you will bump into that person again one day in the future.


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