Thursday, November 28, 2013

Black Friday

We visited our local Apple Store to buy a new iMac.  Our old iMac served us well but it eventually became time for an upgrade.  Were not much for holiday shopping so we figured the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving would be a good time go.

We ended up getting an iMac.  While we were waiting to receive our iMac from the back of the store I asked the Apple rep about Black Friday.  The Apple rep shared that last year this particular store did just south of one million dollars in sales on Black Friday.  There are 200 Apple reps on the floor all day and for the most part, customers are walking out of the store with whatever they purchased.

I was stunned by the amount of business generated on Black Friday.  I started to ponder a couple lines of inquiry.

  1. How much Apple has come to dominate the hardware market.  This suburban store is always crowded but what transpires on Black Friday is hard to fathom.
  2. The extent that we live in a connected world.  One million in sales reflects the demand for connected devices such as iPhones, iPads and Macs
Curious to see what others think.  What does one million in sales on Black Friday alone mean to you.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Improving Learning With Mobile Technology

From Tony Vincent's Learning In Hand Blog:

Studio B Productions asked 35 top education experts the same simple question:  “What are the most effective uses of technology in online and mobile education?” Each of the 35 responses were put into a slideshow. The introduction to this project spells out the common theme that emerged from the short essays: advances in mobile and online tools, social networks, and content are putting students at the center of learning.

Sharing a few screenshots of some of the responses.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Worth Reading

Sharing a few goodies I came across over the past couple of weeks.

1. Making Education More Like Real Life Through Design Thinking (Gray)-the application of design thinking principles at the Mount Vernon Presbyterian School (MVPS) in Atlanta GA.  Mary Cantwell, the school's Design Thinking Coordinator, forwards the DEEP process for tackling problems.

Cantwell's DEEP method of DT has four modes. The modes are Discover, Empathize, Experiment, and Produce. Active learning is a part of the Discover phase where students immerse themselves in observing and asking questions. In Cantwell's Empathize mode of DT, students begin trying to understand the user by gaining insight into their situation and needs. They collect their feelings, gain insight and a point of view about the areas being explored. The actual task of study is identified at end of the Empathize mode. They consider the user or beneficiary of their solution, and what would work best for them. 

2. This Impeccably Designed House (Fast Company)- Auburn University program where students design rural houses.  Example of how to link students to their community and also position students to make a difference in communities through designing sustaining products.

3. Oregon Students Create Digital Game-Based Lessons for Peers (Davis)- program at the Raleigh Hills K-8 school in the 40,000-student Beaverton, Ore., district in which students are creating online, game-based lessons for their peers.

"This started out as an idea from an adult," he said. "But it didn't turn into anything great without that collaboration from the students...This opened a lot of eyes to the capacities that our students have."
Students can play a larger role in their own education and that of their peers, and educators and parents should recognize that, said Jonathan Rosales, an 8th grade student at Raleigh Hills who also spoke at the SETDA event. "We don't get much opportunity to show what we can do," he said. "You're teaching your kid and your kid is teaching you."

4.  Six Thoughts About Curriculum (Reilly)-  pushed views about what is curriculum and about the process of developing curriculum.
Curriculum is iterative, not like addition, but like collage.

5. The Biggest Lie Students Tell Me (and How to Turn It Around) (Vilson)- how to respond to when students say I can't do this.  Forcing a different mindset for students and also for teachers.
This statement is perhaps the worst possible offender, and we have layers to this that we ought to unravel. If students say it often enough, they can prevent themselves from giving an honest effort toward learning the material. The student gets to fall back while the teacher explains and re-explains the material, which might have gone from a more implicit, constructivist explanation to a straight-up "This is what you do!"

6. Business and Philosophy (Alain de Botton)- shares commentary about the intersections between business and philosophy.  Reminder to all of us about the possible intersections between disparate content areas and the need to have students not compartmentalize school.

At first sight, philosophy and business seem worlds apart. Business is concerned with hard practical decisions, made under competitive pressure, with imperfect knowledge and always with an eye to the bottom line.
Philosophy on the other hand seems to be preoccupied by fascinating, but non-urgent questions about the meaning of life and the nature of values, ruminating on the human condition with no particular end in sight.
However, I think there are some critical areas of intersection and that business can become stronger (which means not only more ethical, but also more fruitful and meaningful) by absorbing some of the lessons of philosophy. There doesn't have to be a divide between profit and value.

Friday, November 8, 2013

The Lean Startup

Sharing a few favorites from The Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses by Eric Ries.  Even though I am not starting my own business any time soon or even ever, I do see clear connections between entrepreneurship and reshaping the way schools are structured.  Often Startup and Schools are rarely mentioned in the same breath unless it is in reference to a charter school.  However, the entrepreneurial spirit needs to be applied to more traditional public academic institutions.  Building unique pathways within a public school is an area worth investigating.  The mindset and process disseminated in The Lean Startup serves as a guide to reflect on established structures and begin the process of thinking of new paradigms, programs, and academic pathways.

A startup is a human institution designed to create a new product or service under conditions of extreme uncertainty.

Lean thinking is radically altering the way supply chains and production systems are run. Among its tenets are drawing on the knowledge and creativity of individual workers, the shrinking of batch sizes, just-in-time production and inventory control, and an acceleration of cycle times

The goal of a startup is to figure out the right thing to build—the thing customers want and will pay for—as quickly as possible. In other words, the Lean Startup is a new way of looking at the development of innovative new products that emphasizes fast iteration and customer insight, a huge vision, and great ambition, all at the same time.

Instead of making complex plans that are based on a lot of assumptions, you can make constant adjustments with a steering wheel called the Build-Measure-Learn feedback loop. Through this process of steering, we can learn when and if it’s time to make a sharp turn called a pivot or whether we should persevere along our current path

Leadership requires creating conditions that enable employees to do the kinds of experimentation that entrepreneurship requires

the fundamental goal of entrepreneurship is to engage in organization building under conditions of extreme uncertainty, its most vital function is learning. We must learn the truth about which elements of our strategy are working to realize our vision and which are just crazy. We must learn what customers really want, not what they say they want or what we think they should want. We must discover whether we are on a path that will lead to growing a sustainable business

The question is not “Can this product be built?” In the modern economy, almost any product that can be imagined can be built. The more pertinent questions are “Should this product be built?” and “Can we build a sustainable business around this set of products and services?

At Toyota, this goes by the Japanese term genchi gembutsu, which is one of the most important phrases in the lean manufacturing vocabulary. In English, it is usually translated as a directive to “go and see for yourself” so that business decisions can be based on deep firsthand knowledge

Numbers tell a compelling story, but I always remind entrepreneurs that metrics are people, too. No matter how many intermediaries lie between a company and its customers, at the end of the day, customers are breathing, thinking, buying individuals.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Having A Conversation About Digital Citizenship

I listened to the following media segment on the way in to work this week.  All week long NPR has been exploring kids and technology with a focus on raising digital natives.  This piece, For The Tablet Generation, A Lesson In Digital Citizenship, examined the use of iPads in schools and the omnipresent concerns about providing secure search parameters for students.  The issue of students circumventing profiles as part of the LA School District iPad initiative has raised very public concerns over the use of iPads or even tech in school and has caused the LA School District to slow down the planned roll-out.  

I think the best part of the NPR piece is a conversation between a student and his grandmother.  The grandson and grandmother talk about Facebook.  The grandmother is skeptical about the use of Facebook mostly as a result of what she has heard.  In contrast, the grandson shares why Facebook is a valuable resource for learning.  What resonated with me is that a conversation transpired.  Individuals were allowed to have conversation about social networking.  As opposed to banning technology or as most commonly seen restricting the use of social networking platforms, an open exchange developed.  

If there are concerns about what students could / can access I'm not sure what is gained from restricting access.  This simple but important exchange between family members represents the types of conversations we hope students have with teachers.  Where better to mentor students on ethical uses than in our classrooms.  This can only occur in an open system where authentic and spontaneous issues regarding digital citizenship rise to the surface.