Poke you’re it!

You know the story: Mark Zuckerburg quit college to form what would eventually become Facebook.com. But did you know the origin of the ‘poke’ feature? It’s a nonverbal communication device for Facebook friends to virtually poke someone else. That person gets notified of getting poked and has only two options: respond with a poke or ignore it. Simple, but users loved it. Some people have participated in year long ‘poke wars’ where 2 friends continuously poke each other over time until someone gets bored and stops. Things just for the sake of it may seem trivial, but if it helps keep your users engaged, are they necessarily a bad thing? Here’s Zuck’s explanation for why they added the Poke feature, many, many moons ago: “We thought it would fun to make a feature that has no specific purpose.  So, mess around with it, because you’re not getting an explanation from us.”

poke

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What I Learned from the 2018 University of the Sciences “e-Learning Conference 3.0”

It’s always hard to find time to attend a professional development event, with a busy work schedule. But the e-Learning Conference 3.0 in Philadelphia was a really interesting higher ed conference. Here’s a brief summary of what I learned from the various sessions and keynote presentations. Full disclosure: brief translates to about 3,000 words. Lots of innovative ideas were shared!

Session 1: Stop the Snoring! Make Class Less Boring – Gamify!

The problem with high-stakes assignments: It’s a bit like gambling: high risk, high reward. A grade doesn’t necessarily prove one has learned a subject and become competent enough to apply that knowledge to other non-theoretical settings. Regardless, some students will give unnecessary extra attention and effort on securing an A. Is it a bad thing to pursue an A? No, but it’s more important to actually learn something than worry about your GPA. Furthermore, the stakes tend to be high in college courses, for example, a final project that’s worth a whopping grand total of 40% of the student’s final grade. So just by performing poorly on a few key assignments, students may get a low final grade in the class.

Key take away:

Instead of emphasizing perfection on assignments, try the opposite: give students more opportunities to succeed.

This can be in the form of extra credit via supplemental assignments. By overloading the number of total points in one’s grade book, students may be more motivated to focus more on actually learning the subject matter, comprehending it, and synthesizing the concepts to real-world scenarios. It switches the student motivational paradigm away from Positive Punishment (Bad grade = bad student), in which someone is taught by presenting a negative consequence after an undesired behavior is exhibited, making the behavior less likely to happen in the future. More assignments may mean more grading for the instructor, but it lowers the stakes on each individual assignment; this in turn creates a learning environment that’s not solely focused on just getting good grades. Instead, it focuses on mastery of a subject, giving students multiple attempts to fix any significant issue in their submitted coursework. Alternatively, instead of giving students extra credit assignments, consider giving them a specified number of attempts to re-do an assignment that they perform poorly on. This is quite similar to how video games give players a set number of lives (such as 3 attempts) to perform a specific task, such as beat a level, or in an academia setting – make sure their essay covers the prompt properly and is in APA format!

Session 2: Temple University’s FOX School of Business: A Data-Driven Course Design Process

Key take away:

Great Course Design enables an environment for meaningful data analysis – BUT YOU NEED TO CONSISTENTLY USE METADATA!

Contacts: Laura.Gremmel@temple.edu and Keith.Gutierrez@temple.edu

Temple University’s Process & Methodology for Developing High Quality video content:

  • Start of design process – Blueprint document (Session/week, Learning objectives, videos, Readings/assets, Discussions, deliverables, assessments, Synchronous session via WebEx
  • Educational Theory Applied – Bloom’s Taxonomy
  • Instructional design – Backward design
  • Instructional Video Resources & Development – Videos are high quality in-house production (5 – 10 minute microlearning clips)
  • Quiz Development Strategy – Test questions must be linked to the concept or learning objective – you need consistency

Temple University’s strategy for paying SMEs for creating instructional videos:

  • Temple compensates faculty members for developing video content. The amount of the stipend was not discussed.
  • They have an in-house production team that works with subject matter experts (SMEs) to create original high quality video content (5 – 10 minute microlearning clips).
  • These videos are proprietary and they’re owned by Temple.

What is Education Data Mining?

It can be overwhelming to identify what’s important and not important to track. Consider the things you could track that are quantifiable and could be analyzed: Clicks in a course (total #), Page views, Time spent on a page, Time of day, and more. Ask yourself: What are we doing with the data? Don’t collect it just for the sake of it!

Question to consider: Does the order affecting how learners learn things?

  • The “Learning Path” is the flow of assignments and readings that a student takes to achieve mastery of a subject

Free ‘home-grown’ approach to data driven instruction:

  • Temple also pairs test questions with metadata that’s aligned with a specific learning objective, so faculty can generate micro and macro level analytics by exporting the students’ performance data and crunching it into Microsoft’s Power Business Intelligence software. https://powerbi.microsoft.com/en-us/.
  • Essentially, it’s a simple way of identifying what concepts most students aren’t comprehending, so the instructor can then cover that topic in greater detail in an upcoming class.
  • This is a free ‘homegrown’ solution that is separate from the data analytics built into their LMS. I adore the visualizations this data creates.
  • They did all this by linking together 3 data sets, like an Access database with 3 linked tables: test question, video URL, and key concepts (AKA Learning Objective).
  • The MS Power BI tool is free to use at this point
  • The downside to this homegrown solution is scalability: it’s not automated whatsoever, someone has to export the data and then import into the BI tool, and then still create individual reports.

Here’s a couple of photos of the visuals they created with the BI tool:

What software can create these visual dashboards?

  • Microsoft Power Business Intelligence: https://powerbi.microsoft.com/en-us/
  • You can extract LMS data locally into EXCEL. Spoof real student’s private contact info such as Name and Bb username. They used a VLOOKUP formula to swap out true student’s info with fake names.
  • Plug into the Excel tables into the Power BI tool to create a visualization for various courses
  • The visualization data live in the cloud, which isn’t a privacy issue since, since you can generate an unlisted link. There’s also no sensitive information shared, other than anonymized student performance data.

Ways to filter the visualization on the per course / assignment level: Slice and dice and deep dives!

  • Filter by week
  • Filter by learning objective and links to the video

Macro level:

  • Which learning objectives did most students perform the best on? You can identify what areas your students are comprehending, and then altering your instruction or the material.
  • Where are users viewing these videos? Shows a geographic heat map of viewer’s location by using their IP address.

Scalability & what a school would need to do to make this happen:

  • Metadata would NEED to be included on all assignments
  • This is a Temple University’s Fox School of Business homegrown solution they generate each and every dashboard (course level, per student, per learning objective, etc.)
  • It’s not fully automated yet. A true LMS integration would bypass the need to export/import data into the BI tool.
  • This solution took 1 person 7 months to create the visual dashboards from scratch. The time investment isn’t feasible to scale this for wide usage without a dedicated person to work on the project.

Data & financial considerations:

  • Take the emphasis off of the instructor. Since the data could be used to easily identify poorly performing faculty, instead try and focus on what areas students need the most help in. The videos are aligned with specific objectives, and this dashboard focuses on which concepts could be better understood with specific videos.
  • Videos are proprietary and they’re owned by Temple/Fox. SMEs receive a stipend for developing an instructional video.

What about other types of assessments with evidence/project-based assessments?

  • You could use an objective rubric to assess a subjective assignment.
  • But since an essay or project may cover multiple learning objectives, it’s more challenging to aggregate this data into this version of the BI tool. It’s probably easiest to start this kind of process with purely quantitative quiz question types.

What about built-in LMS data analytic tools?

  • LMS typically offers just question analysis – This approach lumps together larger trends.
  • The 3rd party publisher tools don’t have a consistent way to normalize the data, without extracting it to EXCEL and fixing up the data.

Keynote Panel consisted of leaders in higher ed:

  • Dr. Bobbe Baggio is currently Associate Provost of the School of Adult and Graduate Education (SAGE) at Cedar Crest College in Allentown, PA.
  • Dr. Kenneth E. Hartman is an educational entrepreneur, having served the past 30-years as a university president, professor, senior academic administrator, and consultant to companies and investors in the higher education sector. Most recently, Dr. Hartman served as president of Drexel University Online, a for-profit subsidiary of Drexel University.
  • Dr. Paul Katz is the 25th President of the University of the Sciences, home to the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy, the nation’s oldest pharmacy school opening in 1821.
  • Dr. Rodney B. Murray is the Executive Director of Academic Technology at the University of the Sciences.

Question 1: How will students differ in 2030?

Paul Katz:

  • Different demographics
  • Change from UG focus to Grad (the market for graduates with a Bachelor’s degree is becoming saturated as the scope of underemployment continues to grow)
  • Lifelong & experiential learning (sharpening the saw on a regular basis)
  • Students picking from an a set of courses at multiple schools and then showing their competency in a portfolio

Ken Hartman:

Quantum computing and Artificial Intelligence will soon grow to where an AI Advisor will help learners identify what courses to take and when to take them.

  • My reaction: Programming languages are nothing more than a set of instructions that computers can understand. Contrary to popular belief, robots are not yet sentient. In fact, a study from the University of Wisconsin-Madison stated that “Sentient machines may never exist, according to a variation on a leading mathematical model of how our brains create consciousness.” Regardless, computers are much more efficient than humans in performing certain calculations, for example the product of 1,312 and 55,000. Type that into any calculator and it’ll pop right up as 72160000. Most humans wouldn’t be able to read that number without the commas, let alone solve that problem in their head! The human brain is capable of creativity, but it can only hold about 7 pieces of information for less than 30 seconds. If you want to extend your short term memory beyond the 30 seconds it takes to forget something new, you will need to consistently re-expose yourself to the information. However, we are the ones who build the calculator. The late Steve Jobs was quoted saying, “What a computer is to me is it’s the most remarkable tool that we’ve ever come up with, and it’s the equivalent of a bicycle for our minds.” Meaning the computational tools we build make us perform certain tasks better than any person could do without the technology. Humans and technology, when used properly, have the potential to change the world in countless positive ways.

Bobbe Baggio:

  • Our challenge isn’t to fight the tech or try and turn back the clock, but acknowledge that humans that humans do certain things better than computers (empathy, creativity, and divergent thinking).

Get past rote memorization, instead move towards critical thinking, soft skills, and real-world application.

Question 2: Will students feel they are completing against the automation technology?

Paul Katz:

  • Colleges need to answer this question:  “What does the student need to attain their desired career goal?” Imagine a college of everywhere, students take different courses from different schools where the credits transfer seamlessly.
  • My Reaction: The Strayer/Capella partnership empowers current students to seamlessly transfer college credit between the two universities. Credit reciprocity between colleges is a wonderful strategy, regardless of which schools allow it. Nothing is more frustrating than having credits not transfer to a new college. After all, who wants to waste time and money?

Bobbe Baggio:

  •  The last few hundred years, it was a ‘Sage on the Stage’ paradigm. Now, where you go for expertise has changed. Technology will become part of everything we do in education.

Rodney B. Murray:

Educators, psychologists, nurses, and computer programmers will likely be the last jobs to be replaced by automation tech.

Bobbe Baggio:

  • Higher education is still heavily involved in creating new knowledge and innovation through empirical research.

Question 3. Where do you see educational entrepreneurship having the greatest impact?

Rodney B. Murray:

Data analytics will allow for higher learning at lower costs. This BIG DATA can be used for personalized AI academic advisors.

Question 4. Which ed tech trend keeps you up at night?

Bobbe Baggio:

Artificial Intelligence and student loan debt

Question 5. What’s the role of Computer Science technologies and academia?

Bobbe Baggio:

AI is here. It’s accessible. As educators, we need to get more involved. Empirical research on the positive and negative effects of AI.

  • We’re living in the age of convenience, but what about the negatives based on the data? Privacy issues, bias in facial recognition, etc.
  • How is culture being changed? WE NEED TO JUMP IN WITH BOTH FEET NOW.

My reaction to these statements:

Under President Obama’s leadership, the White House released a report titled: Preparing for the Future of Artificial Intelligence. I think there’s massive potential and risk and our society should weigh those stark options before moving forward. AI and automation technology is a bit like opening Pandora’s Box.

Rodney B. Murray:

Video games graphics and mechanics need to blend with higher ed.

Paul Katz:

Bipartisan politics are affecting laws and public opinion of the value of higher ed. Regardless of party affiliation, the general public is informed about the rising costs of college and the negative perception of the value of a degree. The public is sick of paying so much for college, getting expensive loans, and pursuing a degree where they can’t get a job.

Question 6: How would you contextualize the answers to these questions in the 2030 political and environmental context?

  • Rodney B. Murray: Online learning will become more important as storms prevent students from coming in on-campus
  • Ken Hartman: Being the son of a holocaust survivor, the nationalism we’re seeing in certain countries is scary.
  •  Bobbe Baggio: I think you’re going to see huge changes in consciousness that will lead to changes in regulatory policies. Most people agree that climate change is real, so in a decade, collectively we should be better educated to make better decisions for the global society.

Question 7: Is college going to change, because of AI/Automation, from career training to a more liberal arts education?

Bobbe Baggio:

  • We don’t know how much and how fast entire industries will change. Blockbuster movie rental stores were replaced by RedBox quite quickly.
  •  Because of self-driving cars, jobs like car insurance will go away and not come back. They’ll simply be displaced.
  • Maybe meaningful work may change from an hourly job to something more intrinsic (not necessarily work to leisure), but to how humans interact and help each other.

Ken Hartman:

Humans will still want to learn together in a physical room. The future is systems thinking and connecting solutions to problems between disciplines.

Wharton University of Pennsylvania SIMPL – The Open Source Simulation Platform

  • Presented by Joseph Lee
  • Session title: SIMPL – The Open Source Simulation Platform
  • Wharton’s Learning Lab: http://simulations.wharton.upenn.edu
  • Gist: Wharton’s Learning Lab built 33 simulations (AKA learning objects) by partnering with a faculty member that has an idea, such an contract negotiation in a virtual training environment
  • Harvard Business Simulations re-sells Wharton’s Learning Objects
  • Created a generic design framework to speed up the process of creating a new simulation

 How many staff are involved?

  • 1 full time specialized simulation developer
  • 1 project manager (what projects to work on)

How much time does it take to build a simulation?

A complex simulation / game takes a lot of time to develop. It took his team about 2 years to build 30+ simulations.

How do you speed up the process of building simulations?

Identify the commonalities, or the design patterns that all of the simulations tend to share. For example:

  • Users and their roles
  • # of players
  •  Rounds (if/then statements to navigate through a branching decision tree)
  • Scenarios, decisions, results based on certain conditions

Keep in mind that building simulations typically requires hiring a software developer/programmer. An alternative would be using a WYSIWYG simulation builder software, such as Articulate Storyline.

What technology and programming languages were used? They hired a software developer that used these:

  • React/Redux
  • Python/Django/Django REST Framework
  • Webhooks (Thorn)
  • WAMP (Crossbar.io/Autobahn)

What is Harvard Business Publishing’s Simulations? 

Simulations defined: “Simulations use real-world contexts to reinforce student learning. They are remarkably teachable, with simple but powerful administration tools.

How could this apply to your school?

It’s not feasible for most schools to replicate this type of software development because of the dedicated human resources required. Instead, it may be better to focus on how they share info about the simulations in a public facing repository and also look into licensing existing learning objects.

  • Other universities can purchase the simulations from Harvard Business Simulations for as little as $25
  • Create an interactive webpage that aggregates the Simulations and makes the filterable by categories. Provide a brief synopsis of its functionality and a preview of how it works.
  • Keep in the know on their newsletter at https://simpl.world.
  • Provide a non-technical video preview of the app (see example below)

Is it worth the time to build a high quality simulation?

“The simulation shouldn’t be used one time a year by 1 faculty member that would cost the ‘learning lab’ $50,000 to develop. Instead, we focus on projects that reach a larger audience. For example, we focus on building something that 10 faculty will use that will touch 10,000 students.”

Additional Conference details:

Did you attend?

What did you think? What’s the coolest new ideas you learned?

Interested in learning more about innovations in ed tech in higher ed? Consider attending Wilmington University’s 2018 Teaching and Learning with Technology Symposium on Monday, May 7.

The Death of Innovation & Birth of the Age of Convenience

Mergers and Mergers and Mergers

Natural selection is basically when a bigger, stronger fish eats the meeker, smaller fishes, and then grows bigger. It’s the natural law of survival of the fittest. Not surprising, corporations are evolving to follow this paradigm.

Here’s a few highlights of companies that have merged or been acquired over the years. Notice how it’s a blend of industries? Technology with food services; online education with retail; social media with photography.

  • In 2012, Facebook purchased Instagram for $1 billion. Facebook also tried to scoop up Snapchat, a direct competitor of Instagram. However, Snapchat didn’t sell out. So Facebook played dirty: they updated the Facebook and Instagram mobile apps to have nearly the same exact functionality of the Snapchat app. Specifically, Facebook/Instagram emulated the expiring stories and augmented reality photo filters. (Source: How Much Is Snap Hurting From Facebook’s Imitations?)
  • In 2014, Arizona State University partnered with Starbucks to offer free tuition for ASU’s 60+ online bachelor degree programs for all Starbucks employees that work more than 20 hours per week. Since its inception, over 8,000 Starbucks employees have enrolled in this program. Apparently this has greatly increase employee retention at Starbucks. It makes sense, Starbucks has a well known reputation of treating its employees well. (Source: Starbucks VP: ASU tuition program good for business).
  • In August 2017, Amazon acquired Whole Foods. With this acquisition, Amazon Prime members are able to buy significantly discounted groceries at Whole Foods. For example, a pound of bananas for about 50 cents. To sweeten the deal, all Whole Foods will have self-service kiosks similar to Redbox. But instead of renting a new DVD or video game, customers will conjure up anything using a magical device called an Amazon Locker. It’s a convenient way for Amazon customers to pick up their online orders in person, similar to a PO box at the post office. The benefit is simple: it’s even faster than home delivery. (Source: Amazon Prime members will get special discounts at Whole Foods)
  • In September 2017, Walmart joined forces with Google to sell its products on Google Express. Many believe this was a direct response to the Amazon/Whole Foods merger. Their new business model utilizes the Google Home voice controlled device to enable customers to order products from 40+ retailers like Target and Costco under its Google Express program. (Source: Walmart joins forces with Google on voice-activated shopping)
  • And now in October 2017, two of the largest for-profit schools, Strayer University and Capella University, are merging their companies together. The Strayer/Capella partnership empowers current students to seamlessly transfer college credit between the two universities. Credit reciprocity between colleges is a wonderful strategy, regardless of which schools allow it. Nothing is more frustrating than having credits not transfer to a new college. After all, who wants to waste time and money? (Source: The Strayer/Capella Merger and What it Means for For-Profits).

Whoopty Do, What does it all mean?

As mentioned, corporate team-ups seem to be the way of the future. For example, Disney now owns Marvel and Pixar. So there’s a lot of consolidated power in these huge corporations, which is scary because it limits the choices of consumers and creates a barrier to entry for new business owners looking to offer similar products/services.

Also, I think we’re seeing less new ideas. Instead, it’s a rebundling or new way of thinking about an old idea.

  •  The Convergence of Corporations – These days, it seems like the “mom and pop” companies, the little fish, are getting eaten up but these conglomerate giant sharks in their sector. There’s still plenty of fish in the sea, but the sharks are expanding their territory by redrawing territory lines.
  • Innovation is Dead. Welcome to the Age of Corporate Team-ups – Businesses are investing less in R&D to innovate new products; instead they’re strengthening their foothold in the market with exclusive deals and partnerships, such as discounted or more convenient services. Like ideas for new movies, it seems creativity is pretty much dead. Everything these days tends to be remakes, sequels, or direct-to-Netflix Adam Sandler films.
  • Consumers Value Convenience more than Privacy – No one cares about anything, except convenience anymore. Our personal data is captured, studied, and sold by marketing colossuses (ahem, Facebook). Walmart recently proposed a new service to deliver groceries straight into their customers’ refrigerators (Source). Although it may be initially creepy to have a stranger enter your house and stock your fridge, I think the idea will take off.  People are probably willing to sacrifice their privacy, just to have good food stocked up in their fridge at all times. Who has time to shop at a store anymore?

How can businesses stay relevant with all of this competition? Have a Heart and Use your Brain

  • Socially conscious companies will succeed in the long run – In a survey to millennials, 56% said they would refuse to work for a company that they found to be unfriendly to social and environmental causes. Furthermore, companies that offer corporate social responsibility programs are known for having increased employee retention.  Finally, it makes sense from a financial standpoint: there are many tax credits and deductions for businesses that “Go Green”. Firms need to be held accountable for pollution climate change.
  • Take Care of your Employees – Employees that feel valued perform better. It’s a fact: there’s been countless studies on how a positive work environment has a direct correlation on job performance. Business skills and industry knowledge are constantly in flux. So employees must continuously learn about new trends and dynamics in the market. That’s why organizations provide professional development to their employees. Treating employees well and helping them to adapt and grow professionally can result in gains in profit and productivity. A great example is Microsoft’s new CEO, Satya Nadella. He is credited with “saving the company” by stopping infighting, restoring employee morale, and creating more than $250 billion in market value. And he did this by changing the culture of Microsoft from one of “Dog Eat Dog” to a culture of synergistic collaboration. Southwest Airlines, Whole Foods, and Virgin Mobile are also recognized for having a wonderful work environment and culture.
  •  Innovate Faster – The issue with any large company is scalability. It’s hard to innovate with red tape and bureaucratic policies. Look at any large company and you’ll see hundreds of vacant job positions. This may give the advantage to leaner, smaller businesses that can pursue new opportunities.
  • Find Unique Ways to Delight your Customers – Think of products or services that simply delight you. I love that the DMV allows mail-in license plate registration for newer cars. I find it super convenient that my dentist sends me text message reminders of my upcoming appointments. It’s refreshing to walk into the local pizza shop and have a conversation with employees that remember your face. How can smaller businesses and entrepreneurs compete with giant companies that are practically monopolies? Simple, actually: care about and keep in touch with your customers. These days, everything is automatic instead of authentic.
  • Know Thy Customer – It’s amazing how people get entranced to the glow of their iPhone and the constant influx of text messages, Snapchats, and Facebook videos. Because people are getting so comfortable communicating online, it’s sometimes hard to interact with or trust other people. For example, I saw a billboard on the highway this weekend that said something like “Avoid Small Talk. Shop Online!” These days, everything is automated. Sure, it’s convenient. But it gets very impersonal. Now at certain Applebee’s and Olive Garden restaurants, you can pay your bill on a tablet. We live in weird times. Times where convenience is king. I think people may be losing something because of the fancy technology. We all need to slow down and have a conversations with others. Small talk isn’t that bad of a thing, is it? I like it when I walk into a restaurant or store and they know my name. In a way, engaging customers is a great way to generate brand loyalty.

Welcome to Age of Convenience

Questions to Consider:

  • In what ways do you think consumers forfeit their privacy for convenient services?
  • Do you think creativity and innovation are “Dead”?
  • How does company culture and employee morale affect a company’s revenue?
  • What can unestablished companies do to compete against monolithic conglomerates?

My Top 7 Favorite YouTube Musicians

 

I love music. It’s one of my greatest passions in life. Over the years, I’ve discovered many incredibly talented musicians on YouTube.  Some just do covers, some have created beautiful originals, and some have even made hilarious music videos. I find myself feeling down, from time to time, and when I put my headphones in, I turn on one of these artists and find myself feeling a little better. I tend to listen to upbeat positive music, as well as punk rock. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have!

1. Wayward Daughter

Why I like this band:

They’re adorable! Are they sisters? Best friends? I’m not sure. But she can play the hell out of the guitar. And the other one’s voice is nothing short of angelic. Plus, their original songs are so beautifully written, albeit, a bit heart breaking at times. At least 200 hits on their channel are from me.

wayward_daughter.jpg

Originals:

Lydia Evangeline original:

Covers:

2. Nikyee Heaton

Why I like this musician:

Just like Justin Bieber, this incredibly talented musician started out by covering songs and posting them on YouTube. Then her agent said to her, “What kind of music do you actually like? Cover those songs.” So she covered Trap Queen and got thousands of hits over night. Oh, she’s also strait gorgie.  She recently created her 1st official music video as part of a major label, the song is titled “Bad Intentions”.

Nikee_heaton.jpg

Originals:

Covers

3. Chad Neidt

Why I like this musician:

Besides his raw sex appeal, he’s brilliant, has a cool beard, funny, and does some of the best mash-ups out there on the Interwebs. His originals are great too.I love his commitment to perfecting each mash-up.

Chad_Neidt.jpg

Originals:

Mash-ups:

Covers

4. Jenn Fiorentino

Why I like this musician:

When I first saw her play, I thought to myself “I could marry this woman”.

She covers punk songs. Perfectly. Admittedly, I haven’t listened to too many of her originals yet, her covers are just so amazing.

Her ability to keep pace with the song while playing really complicated chords and notes is damn impressive.  I’ve listened to her YouTube playlists for hours strait while at work. Keeps me jamming and feeling positive.

Jenn_Fiorentino.jpg

Covers:

5. Emily Davis

Why I like this musician:

A super talented young woman. I don’t know many people that cover melancholy songs like Death Cab and super punk rocky songs like Eat the Meek by NOFX. She’s also an advocate for mental health care and vlogs to help spread awareness and explain what it’s like to live with a mental health disorder. Mad respect for this woman!

EmilyDavis.jpg

Covers:

6. Kelsey Kerrigan

Why I like this musician:

I’ve played along with her to songs a few time. She has such a beautiful voice and I like that she covers songs with very divisive lyrics.  I love her passion, vocals, guitar skills, and her bright cherry red guitar. And if she ever sees this, I apologize for the moment I took the screenshot. But it was too cute not to keep.

Kelsey_Kerrigan.jpg

Covers:

A more flattering photo:

Kelsey Kerrigan.jpg

7. Lindsey Stirling

Why I like this musician:

I only recently discovered this artist and become an instant addict. I listened to all of her covers in a few hours. Plus, the production quality of her music videos is fantastic! Such beautiful music and her dance moves just may be better than Ellen Degeneres. And yes, that’s her cosplaying as Link in a blue tunic, while dancing on one leg and playing violin. And she’s a “Master Bard” in her Skyrim Cosplay. I love it!

skyrimCosplay.jpg

Different takes on songs, and few originals:

Lindsey_Stirling.jpg

Final thoughts:

Thanks for reading! Feel free to share some of your favorite YouTube musicians in the comments below. Or if you’re on this list, please note I will marry you. Even you Chad 😉

I would love to see any of these perform live. Hopefully they all make it big! The world is crazy right now, but music is one thing that can help connect people. You go to a concert and sing with strangers, because you all love that same song.

 

A Millennial’s Perspective: Why go to College

I have three little sisters.

Right now, they’re ages 10, 16, and 19. At dinner a few months back, the 16 year old, Bri, mentioned that she didn’t want to go to college once she graduated high school. So we had a conversation about life after high school and some of the reasons she might want to reconsider going to college.

We started off talking about the most realistic reason for going to college: getting a good job.

Bri said she really wanted to join the Peace Corps. But did you know that most Peace Corps opportunities require a four-year degree? So for now, let’s add that idea to the bottom of the list.

Getting a degree opens you up to a lot of jobs.
Many professions require that you have a degree or a certificate that proves that you have been exposed to some level of study and achieved some level of proficiency in a particular subject. A degree is training for a career. Employer don’t want to pay for your training on the job, since you could take those skills and go get a better job! Colleges serve as the institution responsible for preparing people for the workforce.

The glory days of high pay, low skill jobs are going away. There’s always going to be a need for Sales Associates, but there aren’t great paying car manufacturing jobs readily available these days. The Great Late Johnny Cash said:
“So I simply don’t buy the concept of “Generation X” as the “lost generation.” I see too many good kids out there, kids who are ready and willing to do the right thing, just as Jack was. Their distractions are greater, though. There’s no more simple life with simple choices for the young.”

This is a knowledge-based economy. There aren’t many manufacturing jobs anymore. Sure there will always be a demand for cashiers, barbers, plumbers, mechanics, and trades people, but those jobs tend to be hourly. My family is from Claymont, Delaware. We grew up in a beautiful house, but our parents didn’t have the money to take us on fancy trips. The first time I went to Florida was when I could afford to take myself, which was sometime in my early 20’s. What I’m trying to say is I want my sisters to have an amazing life. I want them to have financial freedom. I want them to be able to travel, go on vacations, and understand our crazy that world we all live in. The fact of the matter is that kind of life style requires a well-paying job.

Further reading on this idea: http://diversifiedfinances.com/finding-a-job-that-suits-the-lifestyle-you-want/

I’m not saying that money buys happiness. I’m saying that not having financial freedom can be very frustrating.

Further, a college education provides a foundation of essential employment skills:

  • That degree instantly tells them that you can commit and follow through with important tasks – without someone looking over your shoulder telling you what to do.
  • It’s 2015. Almost all of human knowledge is readily available by Googling a few keyword around a subject. Course work in college isn’t like high school where students are required to memorize facts and data. College work requires student to learn how to think critically and analyze information. The Internet is a double edge sword. We live in a media saturated society with a lot of misinformation. Also, the facts are often repeated over and over again in different ways. A college education helps you to cut through the nonsense and actually see essential information. It teaches you to read something and afterwards be able to say what new knowledge, if any, you acquired from reading it.

Challenge yourself

My oldest sister Jill is in college right now. She has a brilliant mind. In high school, she was in the International Baccalaureate program at Mount Pleasant. She sometimes complains that college isn’t challenging her enough. She mentioned that in some classes, the professors give information and expect her to memorize it for a quiz. This goes back to the idea that we can Google almost anything. Knowledge is about the answers to questions that can’t be Googled.

I say to her, just because you’re not being challenged, doesn’t mean you can’t challenge yourself. Use college as practice for your career. Think of each paper you write as a statement of excellence. Imagine if all the papers you wrote would be read by a future employer. Once you start working full time at an organization, you’re probably going to want to get promoted. Some people expect upward career mobility after working somewhere for a few years. The thing is, no one tells you that the best way to get ahead at work is by being excellent. That means:

  • Sending emails that are professional
  • Presenting in front of your colleagues and making them think your ideas are brilliant
  • Building up a positive reputation. This means the people above you trust that when you work on a project, it will have a successful outcome.

In a nut shell, organizations want to promote the employees with the most talent. And you must work vigilantly to prove that you are promotable. So use your college course work as a chance to practice the skills which embody excellence.
I haven’t talked about my youngest sister yet, Brooke. I asked her what she wants to be when she grows up. She said a dancer. She’s already an incredible dancer. Do you remember what you wanted to be when you were a kid? I wanted to be a video game tester. The point is, even as adults, many of us still don’t know what we want to do when we grow up.

Many people choose a major which they aren’t really all that interested in. To me, that’s horrible considering the time and money you invest by attending college. But if you think about it, it’s a bit of a catch-22. How can you know what career you want if you’ve never actually experienced it? Get experience. You can’t just start following a doctor around a hospital, you’ll get kicked out by security.

I recommend doing your own research. Use the Internet and libraries to identify what you would feel passionate about. All the information you need is out there. If you want to learn about what it’s like to be a doctor or FBI agent, go to the library and borrow an autobiography of someone in that field.

Many people change their majors and some of their credits don’t transfer. So before spending thousands of dollars, predetermine your interest and dedication level.

Although some people get a degree and end up working in an entirely different career path from what they majored in. That’s okay. Frankly, only certain majors actually prepare you for a specific job. Most majors teach a variety of skill sets. What’s important is to graduate with the confidence that you can learn to perform any job, because you’ve enhanced your writing, presenting, thinking skills, and technology competency.

Am I saying you need to go to college to be successful? No.

I’m just saying having a college degree will make yourself more employable. 

It’s a bit of a societal norm to graduate high school, then go to college for the next 4 -5 years to figure out what to do with one’s life.

Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, and Richard Branson didn’t get degrees, and they’re doing pretty well. But they are an exception. 

So far, I’ve been talking college in terms of the logical reasons to attend. But what about the experience itself?

  • In college, you meet new people. You have the opportunity to form friendships. You do get exposure to new ideas and people. You learn a lot from people with different opinions and cultures than your own.
  • In college, you’re given the opportunity to do an Internship or Co-op. What a great way of getting real world experience, as well as your foot in the door of an organization!

I think we live in a society where people stop learning once they graduate high school. Many people don’t read much anymore, besides billboards and their Facebook newsfeed. But a college education reminds us of the importance of lifelong learning. College introduces students to a diverse group of people and ideas. Most importantly, college prepares you for a career and opens up invisible doorways. Is underemployment an issue? Of course. But that’s a population issue – there’s more people than good paying jobs.   Therefore, to rise to the top, someone must make their self as employable as possible.

Is the cost of education high? Certainly. But so is the  cost of gas!  Luckily,  financial aid is available for students that need help paying for college. College education is opportunity and is worth the investment. 

We live in a society where more and more jobs are being automated. Depending on the hour I go grocery shopping, I may or may not even have the option to have an actual person help me check out.

In the coming years, more and more jobs will go away as everything becomes automated (http://www.futuristspeaker.com/2012/02/2-billion-jobs-to-disappear-by-2030/). Especially low-level, low-skilled labor positions.

Bill Gates said in a recent Business Insider article titled “Bots Are Taking Away Job”:

“Software substitution, whether it’s for drivers or waiters or nurses … it’s progressing. …  Technology over time will reduce demand for jobs, particularly at the lower end of skill set. …  20 years from now, labor demand for lots of skill sets will be substantially lower. I don’t think people have that in their mental model.”

The Economist published an article on the Future of Jobs. You can see the jobs that are predicted to go away:

For better or worse, we’re going to see driverless cars. What does that do for FedEx and UPS delivery jobs? We saw what happened to the Print industry. Things are changing. Our society is transforming. This video, although long, really breaks down the scope of these upcoming changes: Humans Need Not Apply.

Some skills will remain valuable no matter what:

  • The ability to communicate effectively in written and spoken word
  • The abilities to learn, adapt, and innovate 
  • The ability to think critically and analyze information
  • The ability to manage one’s time

All skills that one can learn and practice while attending college.

I would do anything for my sisters. I’m their bigger brother, so of course I want them to live happy lives. So I say to Brooke, Bri, and Jill: think seriously about where you want to be in 10 or 15 years?

  • Where do you want to be living?
  • What kind of job do you want as a full-time career?
  • What will make you happy, in your personal and professional life?
  • What’s the best way to achieve your life goals?
  • What are you going to do to accomplish your goals?

I urge all of you to consider going to college as way to fulfill your potential. 

Find your passion and be a contributor to that subject, not just a passive consumer. 

Contribute to the collective knowledge of humanity. 

Go to college because it helps to create a more educated society.

Transform the world by unlocking your own greatness. 

Go to college because it will lead you on the path to an excellent life.
Questions to consider:

  • With all the free accessible information on the Internet, is a college education necessary to learn?
  • Would you prefer to find a job that you love or a job that pays well? Are these mutually exclusive or are both attainable?
  • What do you think is more important: a college degree or the abilities to critically think and effectively communicate?

Movie Review: Death Note on Netflix (2017) is Great, DESPITE THE HATERS! 

To the Death Note haters (Netflix movie), I say this (spoilers): It’s a Great movie. I’ve watched it twice and was entranced. There’s a lot of set-up, but the plot certainly picks up after the first 40 minutes. 

A few of my favorite parts:

  • The reimagined L really worked for me. A severely Different interpretation, but I loved his take as an antisocial genius. And Watari’s school explained as a way of molding orphans into the world’s best detectives was pretty damn cool and scary. 
  • The emotion from the characters was powerful, like when Light’s father threatened to kill L.
  •  The brilliant reveal of how Light survived the fall at the end was an appropriate replacement for the intellectual mind games in the show. Getting inside others minds and planning 10 steps ahead is the crux of the original manga. 
  • I like how they portrayed Ryuk as a Death god that loves killing: “dealer’s choice” and he decides death by machine gun. 


If it would have simply followed the source material, you’d know what to expect. It was transformative and it did a few things BETTER than the original:

  1. Showed in length how far that Kira followers would go to, to protect their God. On the show it’s implied there were many followers that supported his Dogma of a crime free world. In the show, a random person that believes does what’s necessary to protect his leader and saves Kira.
  2. Stretching the logistical capabilities of the Notebook. In the show, season 1 (pre L’s death) Light investigates the limits of the Book’s power. Yet in the movie, he writes something so detailed and Grandiose that he’s able to manipulate gravity, reality, and destiny itself!
  3. The car and on-foot chase scene of L & Light…great live action directing style that followed the design of the anime. 
  4. Misa Misa was comic relief in the anime, but was diabolical in the movie (was she Light’s girlfriend? I didn’t pay attention or care). In the movie, she betrayed Light and was manipulative, clever (stealing the book, eliminating the FBI pursuers, smuggling the page out of the house surrounded by cops, etc), and more grounded. The less aggressive Death Gods from the anime (Len and the timid doppelgänger of Anima {FFX references}) didn’t add *too* much to the series. I thought they were just brief cameos and plot advancement devices. 


In general, the movie was fun, fast-paced, and. exciting. 

Final thoughts: Remember it’s a movie, not a 30 hour manga. And the end I loved the Ambiguity.  

Light and L survived, but does L write his name? I always thought L deserved revenge! It’s implied by Ryuk’s laughter in the hospital room that he does finally kill Light, but it certainly leaves the possibility of a sequel. One which I will certainly watch! 


Plus, I loved this scene at the school dance. A subtle reminder that it’s just teenagers that decided to become mass murderers when given the opportunity 

“Absolute power corrupts absolutely”

The Pen Is Mightier Than the Keyboard

Can you type faster than you can write using pen and paper? If so, how do you take notes? Do you hand write or type notes during a meeting or lecture? I think that people retain knowledge better by writing things down. When you write your thoughts, you tend to write slower than you type. This make you hold the thoughts in your short term memory for longer, which in turn helps you retain the ideas in your long term memory. When I type notes, I find that I’m not really listening and comprehending the information. It seems it goes in one ear and out the other while transcribing what the speaker is saying.

What style to-do lists do you use? Do you prefer to write down your tasks or use some sort of software to track your activities? I like to write down my tasks for the day on a piece of paper. There’s not greater satisfaction in my opinion than crossing a task off a list by drawing a big line through it.

Do you think writing things down helps you learn the information better than typing notes?

Read more about the psychology behind this theory: http://chronicle.com/blogs/wiredcampus/taking-notes-by-hand-benefits-recall-researchers-find/51411

Work Audit in Highschool

IDEA: What if in high schools, nation wide, there was a mandatory class called “Work Audit”. In a nutshell, each day of the course, students would hear from one person in a certain field, such as lawn care, or doctor, or programmer, or teacher, or chef, or salesperson, or psychologists, or whatever and have them share about their job. To offer perspective. Get some actual ideas churning in young people’s head. Be blunt. Be honest! Have people ask questions like how much it pays and what are the worst frustrations/biggest joys of the job. How much more well rounded would we be with having that real experience hammered into our heads?

What did you want to do when you grew up? What’s your dream job? Would a class like this be useful to high school students?

Should the basic standard of writing proficiency change?

The article on page 11 of the November 2013 edition of Campus Technology expands on this idea.

http://online.qmags.com/CPT1113?sessionID=CC6B730ABEED948B57959CCB7&cid=2331368&eid=18476#pg1&mode1

MOOCs, SMOOCs, or is it all Moot?

​There seems to be a buzz in higher education these days about Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). Some people say it has changed education since they are free to the world and accessible to anyone. What happens if you ask a senior in high school what a MOOC is? Do they even know what a MOOC is? Probably not.

The premise that MOOCs are going to disrupt the entire education system is premature. According to Andrew Kelly, the director of the Center on Higher Education Reform at the American Enterprise Institute,  “The reality is that the vast majority of people who sign up for this type of class already have bachelor’s degrees.”

It’s certainly an admirable goal to target MOOCs to people in Africa, India, China, and elsewhere in the world, but aren’t people more comfortable with learning on the Internet through informal pathways, such as Wikipedia?

Compound this fact with the low number of students who actually complete a MOOC they sign up for – which is fewer than 10%.  I’ve signed up for a MOOC, reviewed the high quality content, but completely ingnored the assessments and discussion boards. It seems like the discussion boards lose their activity over time anyway.

I like the concept of a SMOOC, or a synconous-MOOC. I think people learn better together, so hold virtual online classes seems much more engaging. 

I ask you – are MOOCs the future of Higher Ed, or are they simply a moot fad?

Read this article if you want to learn more: http://www.fastcompany.com/3021473/udacity-sebastian-thrun-uphill-climb