Personalization is Killing Pedagogy

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I recently saw a CNN report that was inquiring whether personalized learning was the future of education. The idea was based on a $133 million school startup known as AltSchool. This inquiry was actually a legitimate concern identified by former Google executive, Max Ventilla. The ambition to make the learning experience more personal is a difficult one to argue against. However, as more and more schools adopt this philosophy, a multi-billion dollar industry is emerging. The question is that in its attempt to systemize this approach, is it ironically in danger of depersonalizing the learning experience of students more than ever?

Again, it seems harmless, but the reality of how it would be implemented in schools is questionable. For example, there are aspects of the AltSchool program that are impressive (flexible schedule, commitment to physical education and innovation), but the reported approach to learning sounds anything but personal.

It is becoming increasingly clear that the original concept of developing greater student agency — a complex task — is being lost in attempts by well-intentioned schools to provide this opportunity in a manageable manner which is, in turn, being capitalized upon by the “education reform” industry. These canned approaches move us further and further away from the objective of making learning personal.

Even so, some educational publishers are beginning to standardize personalization. The desire for technology integration and data analytics (two worthy things given the right context ) have combined to form a conveyor belt approach to learning. It works like this: the software indicates that you have “mastered” X; the student can move to Y. In this way, technology investment is justified and data is recorded in visually appealing ways. This is not learning and it is not personal.

In his new book, Eric Sheninger points out that “pedagogy always trumps technology.” There can be no argument with this perspective. “For digital learning to be implemented effectively,” Sheninger contends, “[we must] focus on pedagogy first.”

Therefore, our insistence that we are doing our best to provide “personal” learning stems from a conviction that the learner comes first, that the skilled teacher is more critical than ever, and that technology and data can amplify this philosophy when approached in the correct context.

If personalized learning means that students are required to move through a series of data points in some software program, then I hope schools will avoid this movement at all costs. Learning should be personal. The best learning has always been personal. It requires relationships and collaboration, individuality and personal rapport.

The Technology that Will Make 2016 a Transformative Year

The technology of 2015 went beyond larger screens and app updates. There has been a broad range of technologies invented from cool science projects to objects that can transform peoples lives. Some are saying that we haven’t seen anything of this since the invention of the printing press in the 1400s. Let’s take a look at the three new technologies that will transform our lives as we know it.

A technology that became mainstream this year was the CRISPR gene modification. These are elements of an ancient system that protect bacteria and other single-celled organisms from viruses, acquiring immunity to them by incorporating genetic elements from the virus invaders. With them, DNA can be edited. That means that we can remove unwanted sequences or insert payload sequences, costing as little as $100. CRISPR modification can correct DNA that is responsible for genetic diseases like cystic fibrosis, sickle-cell anemia and Alzheimer’s.

imagesSince the cost of drone dropped to $100, the drone age has officially begun. It was estimated that Americans would purchase almost half a million of these flying machines over the holiday season this year. We will see them everywhere; and as the technology advances, they will be able to carry heavier weights and travel greater distances. Who knows, by next year Amazon and Walmart could be delivering your groceries or Starbucks to your home via drone. Not only making our lives easier, but they will monitor traffic and crime, perform building inspects and provide emergency assistance in disasters.

Bitcoin, the unregulated and uncontrolled digital currency has caused a lot of controversy. It gained notoriety by criminals and hackers, then falling from its peak of $1100 to $250. Now it is gaining acceptance by retailers like Overstock.com. Aside from this, the technology that underlies it – blockchain has become the basis of hundreds of technology-development efforts. You see, blockchain isn’t just for finance. It can digitize anything like birth and death certificates, marriage licenses, deeds and titles of ownership, medical records, votes, etc. It could transform the lives of billions of people who lack bank accounts and access to legal infrastructure that we take for download (5)granted.

There has most definitely been great progress in data of the Internet and connecting doctors to patients as well. What else do you see disrupting our world in 2016?

The Tech Correction is Coming

The NASDAQ index is up to 5,000 points right now, the culmination of a fantastic seven-year run – during which it has tripled in value. The only other time that it reached this level was before the dot.com crash in 2000.

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What has fueled it? Venture Capital funding. In the past four years, global VC funding has gone from just under $50 billion to $100 billion. It is not just the amount that is increasing, but the sizes of the deals are getting larger as well.

The number of unicorns, private firms with valuations greater than $1 billion has exploded during this time frame as well. There were only 4 unicorns in 2009 and by this year, there were 124 with a total valuation of $468 billion.

The only problem is that most of the unicorns are losing money. A taxi-hailing app, Didi Kuaidi that dominates the Chinese market raised $3 billion in VC funding this year. Cheng Wei, the company’s CEO proudly stated that the company has no profit plan within three to five years. He calls his own company, “the internet start-up that has burnt the most money.”

CNN Money has stated that the e-commerce site Fab.com, an ex-unicorn has mass layoffs before it was acquired earlier this year. The same happened with Evernote, who even closed three of its global offices. Even Mark Cuban has said, “There is no liquidity for these investments.”

By the end of 2016, a correction will occur. Tech stocks will tank and the broader market will suffer. Venture capital funding will disappear and hundreds of thousands of people will lose their jobs. No, it will not be good – but there will be some good outcomes.

First, it will level the playing field. No more VC funding and high valuations for unsustainable businesses who are rewarded for unproven strategies and questionable decision-making. In the mean time, rational markets are being distorted and traditional companies make poor business decisions to compete. We need to reduce this inequity.

Valuations will fall back into line. It doesn’t matter what the valuation is if there is no way to turn a profit. I’m pointing to companies like Snapchat that are valued at $12 billion with 100 million users and barely make any revenue.

The number of tech startups will trickle. Legacy companies with fundamentals and sensible strategies will have an opportunity to attract younger generations of tech savvy managers and executives.

Smart companies are building a foundation of digital business agility so that they can quickly adapt to this upcoming market turbulence. Prepare by digitizing processes, building digital platforms, up skilling workforces and incorporating digital transformation into your strategy.

 

5 Tech Skills that You Need for Your Career

Take a moment to think about how different your job or industry was in the 1980s or 90s. You job may not have even existed then. In the past 3- years, things have changed very rapidly. In the early 90s, being able to use Microsoft Word and Excel meant that you had advanced computer skills. Now, people don’t even list those skills on their resume because they are too basic.

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Every single career field is changing – if it isn’t, it is going to become obsolete. You can expect your career to be affected so take a look around now at what technologies are creeping up on you.

I believe that these 5 key skills are what you need to succeed in the near future and not become outdated.

 

  1. Understand Data

You don’t have to be a data scientist, but every field benefits from big data and analytics so get familiar with the concept and how it works. Research what kinds of data your field is collecting as well as what is being used and applied. Learn enough to understand better and how to ask the right questions.

  1. Cyber Security

This can make or break a company. No matter what your position is within a company, being aware of cyber security protects you, your company and your customers. This includes everything from keeping track of your ID badge to follow IT’s recommendations when choosing a password, but it could also keep you from being a weak link in the security chain.

  1. Social Media

Every company has social media and more and more, they want employees on all levels to be brand ambassadors online. Even if you aren’t asked to, companies are not afraid to fire individuals who post embarrassing or illegal things to social media. Know what your company’s privacy policies are; the more you know, the more of an asset you are to the company.

  1. Understanddownload the Cloud

If you haven’t yet, you will soon enter the cloud. More and more often, businesses are storing their data as well as internal and external apps in the cloud. Learn about how cloud computing works and where your company data is stored to help keep it secure.

  1. Video Communications

Video conferencing is here to stay. Job interviews, webinars, training etc are all placed over video such as Skype more and more frequently. While in these high pressure situations, you don’t want to be the one who can’t get their microphone to work. Make sure that you know how to use your video communications program so that you feel comfortable using them when it really counts.

Is the Tech Bubble Going to Burst?

For the past few months, there has been a debate about whether the tech bubble is about to burst. There are two men that are making strong claims on each side, but we are going to take a deeper look into the situation ourselves as well.

mark-cuban-reveals-what-happens-behind-the-scenes-of-shark-tankMark Cuban, the “Shark” investor on the show Shark Tank and owner of the Dallas Mavericks earned his money during the 2000 tech bubble. His prescience identified the bubble and he sold his company, Broadcast.com for $6 billion to Yahoo. Now, Cuban is claiming it is happening again.

“So why is this bubble far worse than the tech bubble of 2000?  Because the only thing worse than a market with collapsing valuations is a market with no valuations and no liquidity.  If stock in a company is worth what somebody will pay for it, what is the stock of a company worth when there is no place to sell it?”

However, Mark Andreessen, co-founder of Netscape, which sold to AOL for more than $4 billion before the tech bubble popped, disagrees. Andreesen even has a 53-page PowerPoint presentation to tell you why the current situation is very different. So whom should we believe? Lets take a look at what is actually happening in Silicon Valley and what the data shows.

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Well, venture capitalists are pouring money into “top performing” startups like Uber (received $8.2 billion) and Snapchat (received $1.2 billion). Over the past year, total capital investments are up by 38%, but the total number of deals is down by 40% – interesting. It looks like venture capitalists are having their cake and eating it too. These venture capitalists are investing say, $100 million in a later stage startup that is valued at $1 billion and receive protections. So, unless the valuation of the company decreases by 80% or more, then they will still get their money back. They can most likely walk away with at least their original investment, but reap huge rewards before that happens.

This data would make it seem like venture capitalists believe that the tech bubble is stretched thin. Fear is starting to take over instead of greed. As we reflect back on our first investment lesson of, “Buy low, sell high” we need to apply it to the current situation and it seems that right now, it is hard to buy low – that is what is important.

Want to Enter the Indian Market? Create an App

To me, mobile apps are the best and easiest platforms to create and particularly for a country like India where mobile phones are everywhere with a huge customer base – why wouldn’t this be the perfect opportunity? Let me explain some of my reasons first. I have narrowed it down to 5 simple ways that mobile apps are the way to enter the Indian market and be successful.

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Minimal Cost of Infrastructure

By adopting an app only strategies and making your customers trust in their experience, you have the advantage of getting rid of managing multiple digital properties. You can cut the cost of maintaining, upgrading and optimizing website and mobile channels.

Individual Experience

Interacting with an app is much more personalized with features such as saved preferences and customer’s preferences. You can even get updates according to your best interests. These design thinking apps that add to the user experience are the real game changers.

Learn Your Customers

Indian customers are known for not being very loyal and extremely price sensitive. Thus, with a large competition pool, it is very important to be the first choice of the customers. By using an app only strategy, you can reduce the options to click for customers and you become a choice rather than an option.

Fill the Holes

There is a huge customer base that is accessing your app from offices, homes and restricted network areas. By having the faster, more simple and mobile solution, you help your customers complete the purchase journey whenimagesever they want, from wherever they want. Netflix is understands and is making their move on India, too.

Easy Payment

Building off of making purchases on the go, the actual payment process is such an advancement. By storing credit card information, apps are a major facilitator for smart purchasing. The ‘Buy Now’ button is now imperative for any app.

I did write this thinking about the Indian market, but it should not be limited to just one country. The entire continent of Africa is dotted with areas that are exploding in business. With this, phones and service are becoming more available for everyone. With this, these same five principles can serve for this entire customer base as well. Apps are fast and simple, all you need is the right idea and an understanding of your customers to be able to affectively market and advertise.

How To Connect More Users

Even though mobile phones are almost global, only about 12 percent of people in emerging economies have data connection. What is even more surprising is that 4.3 billion people still do not have access to the Internet.

These unconnected people are living in countries that have underdeveloped economies with digital infrastructure that is lacking as well. However, there is huge growth potential if there could only be connectivity. I believe that with the right ICT and strong policies that are in support of innovation and fair competition, these countries can connect their people to the rest of the word and narrow the digital divide.

download (2)Most importantly, a broadband infrastructure with wider coverage and faster speeds must be developed. These countries need to see that broadband is the critical foundation of national infrastructure that will only increase economic growth and raise the standard of living.

One way that the infrastructure could be built is by Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs). Malaysia has already done this – regulators created a framework that ensured competition with equal access. The result? The cost of digital entry for citizens was decreased, fostering innovation and competition among service providers – very successful, in my opinion.

While these networks are being launched, telecom operators need to keep costs low. They could do this by sharing optical fiber and infrastructure with power and utility companies. When you take a look at the deployment cost, burying the fiber optic cables and conduits underground is usually 40 percent, but can be up to 70 percent of the total cost. These high costs make the Internet access more expensive to its end users.

There should also be new mechanisms for allocating radio spectrum that can increase supply while also reducing the cost. This is actually a very important issue because most of these countries will have to increase their available spectrum (the basis for high-speed mobile broadband) from 50 to 100 percent over the next five years.

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Something else that would help are the development of more applications to aid their lifestyle. Apps are what drive the demand for connectivity and create new business models. M-KOPA for example, allows Kenyan households with no electricity to purchase their very own solar power system and make daily micro-payments. If the government can create a level playing field that lets entrepreneurs to devise new solutions without having to worry about monopolistic competitors or too much regulation, there could be great benefits to local users.

It will take governments, operators, technology providers and application developers, but we can connect everyone in the world and we will.

What Industries are Ready for Disruption?

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A successful entrepreneur tackles problems in industries before they are even realized by the consumers. It is the world’s biggest problems that are the biggest business opportunities. All it takes is innovative thought and determination. So entrepreneurs, this is my helpful list for where I think we need your expertise very soon.

Retail Shopping

I think that the entire retail shopping experience is due for a makeover. With total sales in the United States reaching $2.5 trillion and worldwide, $20 trillion – there is opportunity and money. This is how I see the future of retail shopping: We won’t need to drive to a store, ever. I think that physical stores will go away. Amazon has already done this to bookstores – that is just the beginning. I think that body scanners will develop and you will have a data file of your measurements – you can even have your exact measurements the day that you order. Envisioning this with a sort of virtual goggles, we will have our own private stores that consist of every brand, every designer in the world. You can invite your friends in on your shopping experience. You just say what you want and racks of what you want instantly appear. You want to try something on? A virtual avatar of yourself will appear with it on so that you never have to bother getting undressed or re-dressed again. When you have what you want and pay, a local robot manufacturer will deliver your items the same day. Since there are now no retailer stores, the cost at least half of what they do today.

Education

Doesn’t the teacher in front of a classroom seem old and antique to you? Let’s take a further look at the current school system. Primary education systems force kids to memorize information for standardized tests. University costs have skyrocketed – equal to buying a house. Education in general is trying to teach to a median, which leaves half of the students, bored and the other half, lost. If a virtual environment was created that allowed students to see a dinosaur up close, build structures, stand next to Benjamin Franklin as he discovered electricity, don’t you think students could obtain more? There are a handful of start ups that are working on artificial intelligence and virtual reality so that a teacher can deliver a personalized lesson for a student based on their pace and even language. I think that as software becomes more freely available in our world, children in rural Ghana will have access to the same resources as students at MIT or Harvard.

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Consumer Electronics

Nowadays, screens are everywhere. We look at TVs, watches, tablets, and phones all day long. However, displays are fragile and really expensive. The display market, dominated by Apple, LG, Sumsung and Sony is projected togo over $155 billion by 2020. Magic Leap and other companies are starting to produce reality platforms that render screens useless. That’s right, my above ideas on education and retail will become true. Soon, you will put on a pair of fashionable glasses that paint with light an image onto the back of your retina. This concept, mixing reality with computer generated is called Augmented Reality. With this, everything becomes a screen – you can even check your email on the palm of your hand. Imagine what else you could do.

These are just some ideas that I have developed upon seeing different innovations lately. I am, as I’m sure that you are as well, eager to see where not only this new technology takes us, but where other sectors will go.

BlackBerry Will Rise Again

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BlackBerry has announced that it agreed to acquire Good Technology, a mobile security company for $425 million

Good Technology will be the perfect addition to BlackBerry’s Enterprise Server product. It is a tool for managing corporate devices like BlackBerry handsets, Android and iOS gadget and encrypting email and messages. BlackBerry started supporting Android and iOS back in 2011 after acquiring ubitexx, a device management company. However, even today it still provides more security features of its own devices than for third party platforms. Now, with Good Technology, BlackBerry will be able to change that.

This acquisition shows a shift back towards BlackBerry’s core value – to secure mobile communications for large organizations. BlackBerry Enterprise Server or BES has been the main reason to stick with the company’s devices over iPhones or Android devices. This acquisition proves that even if BlackBerry never gets back into the smart phone market, they will still be able to help customers by keeping their data secure.

Now, a little history on BlackBerry. Before the launch of the iPhone, BlackBerry was kind of corporate smartphones and starting to reach out into the consumer market. As Android and iOD find their way into large organizations with corporate purchases or “bring your own device” programs that let employees use their personal phones for work, BlackBerry has struggled. Third-party software vendors started building applications for iOS and Android, abandoning BlackBerry’s app store.

By the time that BlackBerry began to offer BlackBerry Messenger in 2013, it was basically ignored. The only thing that BlackBerry could do to rally up their loyal customers again was to launch their BlackBerry Classic to relive the glory days. Statistics show that it did not actually bring any salvation to its declining market share. They have already cut costs through layoffs and outsources the manufacturing of headsets. So, the acquisition of Good Technology might be BlackBerry’s last hope.

Good Technology has a bit of a complicated history. It was originally founded in 2000 as SpringThings. It was acquired six years later by Motorola – then three years later, in 2009, sold to Visto, an email provider and was renamed Good Technology. Good Technology’s relationship with BlackBerry hasn’t been all sunshine and flowers either. In 2004, Good Technology settled a patent lawsuit with BlackBerry Limited by agreeing to license technology from it.

If BlackBerry handles the transition well, they can probably bring corporate customers in, even if they are user other company devices. Congratulations to BlackBerry and good luck!

The Future Is Here – Ultra Pods

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In a small-scale experiment, 21 passenger pods have carried more than 1,000 passengers every day between the terminal and Business Car Park at Heathrow Airport. The five-minute ride entails crossing over seven roads and two rivers. Commissioned by the Heathrow Airport Holding Limited and built by the UK-based Ultra Global PRT, the pods have logged over one million miles and demonstrated cost savings, environmental impact and user-friendliness.

There is no type of railway needed. The ultra pods are actual cars with rubber tires, batteries and all. They are 12ft long, 5ft wide and 6ft tall with enough space for six people and their luggage. At 1,870lbs with a 141lb battery pack, the ultra pod can reach 25mphr while only drawing 2kW of electricity. The pods have a self-monitored battery level and when it needs to, it will excuse itself at station stops for charging.

Environmentally, the ultra pods are very impressive. The system already meets the new Kyoto Protocol 2050 projections. The pods have a 50% reduction in per-passenger carbon emissions compared with diesel-powered buses and 70% when compared with cars. Heathrow claims that the ultra pods have replaced 70,000 bus journeys each year. Another major plus is that 80% of passengers do not need to wait for a pod – the maximum wait time is 10 seconds.

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Inside the pod, touch screens let riders select their destination – of which at Heathrow, only offers two options right now. As the doors open, a recorded voice welcomes the rider. Once the passenger presses “Close doors” and “Start” then the pod backs out of its parking spot and glides away from the station.

Obviously, this closed-course vehicle was much easier to build rather than one for the open road such as the Google self-driving car. Sure, it can’t navigate roadway interchanges, pedestrians and non-autonomous vehicles, but there are a lot of advantages. The pods are made of mostly easy to find hardware parts, are reliable and the lightweight of the infrastructure makes it almost 10 times more resource efficient than usual road or railway systems.

Ultra has ambitious plans for the future of the pods. Right now, they are working with Indian investors to build a 4.8-mile circuit in the city of Amritsar, north of New Delhi. The network will have seven stations and more than 200 pods to transport up to 50,000 passengers per day.

It’s not hard to think of all of the different ways that these pods can be used – here comes the future of private autonomous transportation.