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The Uber Effect. Has it disrupted your business?

Have you noticed what Uber is doing? And I don’t mean shutting people to destinations.

The company that began as a ‘ride hailing’ company in San Francisco, has become the metaphor of how almost any service-based business could be tweaked to provide a richer service. Tethered to a network, of course.

The first ‘network’ to consider is the people network. We-the-people constitute a powerful connective tissue to other networks. In this instance, it is the road network. Taxis monopolized this human-transit network, but there was space for a different type of taxi, and Uber unlocked the genie.

There are lots of other businesses that could be Uber-ized. It will annoy the status quo (note how Taxi operators make a case for how ‘dangerous’ such ride-sharing/ ride-hailing companies are); But it will eventually create some interesting offshoots.

My column in this month’s LMD Magazine looks at what this business model is all about.

 

How bankrupt is our media? The ‘Caitlyn’ story proves it

You know the media has been suckered into a story when the entertainment media and the ‘quality’ news outlets begin quoting one another. Fawning over one another, really.

If you haven’t noticed, watch how the ‘Bruce-Caitlyn’ story in Vanity Fair is being echoed by outlets sch as The New York Times (The Woman Behind Caitlyn Jenner’s Vanity Fair Cover),TMZ (reporting on the Diane Sawyer interview about “the biggest reveal of 2015 for sure…”), to Us Magazine, and the Perez Hilton’s of this world.

Consider too, the ‘reporting’ being done, and the attempt to give the story gravitas based on the tweets. You know something is seriously wrong with journalism, when the headline such as “Caitlyn Jenner Crushes Record for Fastest Time to Reach 1 Million Twitter Followers” becomes a basis for a story.

Think about it. Would a reporter have written a story of ‘courage’ had half a million people ‘followed’ someone with no publicist or celebrity photographer in tow? The mad rush to cover this event –and it seems like a media event, when you think about how carefully orchestrated it is, with photo-shoots, and Kardashian-ized comments going back and forth– even had Us Weekly retracting a story.

There are so much more important things the media could be occupied with, but all we get is a story validated by the number of tweets, followers, viewers and  ‘unique authors.’

To be fair, one media outlet, asked the tough question. Melissa Block of NPR asked this of Buzz Bissinger:

I didn’t know until I read your story, Buzz, that Caitlyn Jenner has a deal with the E! television network for a docuseries about her life. It’s the same team that does “Keeping Up With The Kardashians.” Why is she doing this? Is it the money? Is she at all worried about exploitation?

His answer?

“I think part of it is money. As she says in the piece, you know, I’m a businesswoman. I have a right to make a living…”

And we have a right to tune out this nonsense.

Click!

 
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Posted by on June 3, 2015 in Hype, Media, Social Media

 

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Why the fuss about the @POTUS handle?

Hasn’t the White House cheering squad got the memo that the number of ‘Followers’ one has on Twitter is not a big deal anymore?

In the early days of micro-blogging, when so many so-called social media experts were bragging about hitting some magic number in Followers, this was excusable – although pathetic.

So it befuddles me why so many stories are showing up about president Obama’s Followers on his @POTUS handle.

It is a fun acronym, I know. But it’s just a stand-in for a real person. Caitlyn Dewey put it best, when she said (in a Washington Post column) that “On the modern Internet, impressions of anonymity and ephemerality are, well … usually fake.”

Translated: POTUS is just that – a handle. By handlers.

 

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Technology in schools. Love it or hate it?

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Touch screens and Robotics. My classroom this yea

In my upcoming July technology column I analyze the pros and the cons of Technology in Education. A few in my network have asked me about my thoughts on this ever-changing topic. (In Oct 2014 I did cover it – “Disrupting Education)

Here’s a summary of what’s to come. As you and I witness the discomforting transition from text books to tablets, from hand-outs to videos-as-homework, from sequential ‘lectures’ to disruptive (noisy) small group activity, it’s easy to fold our hands across our chests and fight it. But there are some compelling arguments on both sides. The Wall Street Journal, and the International Association of Technology in Education almost in the same week ran Pro and Con arguments about Ed-Tech. I get both sides! In my classes I argue against the inane use of social media for the sake of ‘publicity’, but I encourage thought use of digital media with real, and real-time audience participation.

‘Hall and Stevens’ Vs Khan Academy. In my younger days, I had to thumb through Hall and Stevens, the geometry ‘bible.’ Today’s kids are learning geometry from a guy called Salman Khan, founder the free online learning portal for mathematics and science. (Fun sidebar: ‘Hall and Stevens’ is available as an eBook; flip the pages as if it was a real book, here: https://archive.org/details/schoolgeometry00hall

Screen Time vs Think Time. I am a big proponent of virtual and augmented reality, especially if it could bring in ‘distant’ experiences (Civil War, 3D models of engineering, space science etc), but I also aggressively advocate limited screen time. Odd isn’t it? That’s the dilemma we educators and parents face. Augmented Reality

Your son or daughter probably goes to school with a device in her backpack with more processing power than the rocket that took men to the moon, and this child wants to be… an astronaut? You’ve forgotten how to log into your son’s school website to download his missed homework, but… he’s found a way to ‘jailbreak’ your cell phone? There are ‘teaching moments’ in all of these.

Sal Khan speaks of the “fundamentally dehumanizing experience” in education. And he was not talking about teenagers and even pre-teens staring at their phones and not talking to one another. A real, ‘digital citizenship’ crisis, right now! He was referring to children packed in a classroom! Hmm!

Love it or hate it, technology is gate crashing our class rooms, just like ball-point pens or calculators once did. Are you ready for it?

 

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When science works, machines break, and coffee cups burn

In teaching technology we like to say that it’s OK mess up the first time. This is counter to how we like things to run smoothly – neat transitions, good closures etc. A formula, in other words. Even when doing a demo, you probably want your audience to see the end result.

earthquake-simulatorBut I’ve realized that in many lessons – life lessons, not class lessons– the worst thing you could do is to have something perform flawlessly.

Take this ‘Earthquake ‘simulator’ we built here. The plan was to simulate tectonic plate movement that brings down buildings. This was for our STEM Night, which happened on 21st April. A rickety contraption that would shake-rattle-and-roll using a power drill. We quickly ran into a few issues. The wheel you see here was cracking.With two hours to go to the ‘earthquake challenge’ we implemented Plan D – Duct tape. Which looked messy, but it worked. In a sense, I loved that uncertainty; an opportunity to tell students that this ‘problem-solving’ stuff we go on about, is real, even for us.

The next day, FOX 10 News showed up. More issues, with the weather guy and a camera pointing at our ‘machine’.

  • Problem #1: The drill that drove the wheel, had been taken home!
  • Problem #2: Reporter Cory McClousky wanted to repeat the ‘quake’ and of course, it failed. On camera. Nice!
  • Unrelated issue. Behind the earthquake simulator was the solar oven we used the previous day. I had left my coffee cup inside while we were waiting. A solar oven, in case you haven’t heard can reach up to 250 degrees in 30 minutes. So does the plastic cap, as you can see here, which warped out of shape.

You cannot plan these things. What looks bad, actually informs the story. McClusky’s parting line about the solar oven was: “We’re burning coffee cups in here…” Indeed. You can’t touch this.
STEM Night 2nd Red Camera (12) Solar baking After

FOX 10 News | fox10phoenix.com

 Cory Goes Back to School

 

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Messy Learning Labs. Just what our screen-obsessed kids need

If you’ve ever complained about classrooms being stuck in the industrial age, here’s a glimpse of a different kind of class. It’s Hi-Tech space with a factory-floor setting. Perfect for digital natives, huh?

I took my robotics students here last Tuesday, to a place called HeatSync Labs in Mesa, Arizona. Not the kind of ‘lab’ they had in mind – but in a shocking way! It is what’s known as aMaker Space’ where kids come to ‘learn by doing’. They didn’t want to leave!

You see, a Maker Space like this is more like a mad scientist’s garage, than a classroom, with a variety of machines, tools and material just begging to be used. If you recall how HP began in a humble garage, you’ll see why a tinkerer’s tool-shed like this is what classrooms ought to be like if we are to motivate the next generation of inventors, astronomers and mad scientists like Bill Hewlett, Dave Packard. Or the next Thomas Edison (who barely went to school, please note).

Having worked with 6-12 year olds for four years now, I know how hungry they are for science. Especially science that comes to them in unexpected packages. OK, so in one corner of the lab there was a 3-D printer, an artifact from our all-too-digital present. But someone had used it to produce intriguing pieces such as this plastic cube (right), with gears!

In 75 minutes my students probably got more about science that any slick PowerPoint presentation. This was about experimenting, making mistakes, and asking ‘what-if’ questions. This was about rummaging through bins, and peering through scopes, working with laser-cut stamps they mounted on blocks of wood. And not a tablet in site!

Shelves

Machine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At one point, Eric Ose who works there took me aside and told me, awkwardly, “I am not used to young people here asking permission to do things.” Meaning, this was a space that people came and just tried things out, used material lying around, and worked on their own pace. Of course there are guidelines – especially safety guidelines, as when watching laser cutting, or operating the 3-D printer.

But the real house rules are this: Try something out. Make things. Break things. Revise. Start from scratch. Discover. Build something impossible!

Note: If your students have never been to one I urge you to make it your next field trip. Many cities have these community run spaces. (Map)

HeatSync

 

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From ‘FLOTUS’ to ‘POTUS.’ Waiting for the Clinton Reset button

Hillary Clinton will be in our news feed, whether we like it or not. She is under scrutiny by conservative newspapers such as the Wall Street Journal, and more liberal writers. That’s par for the course, of course, when one announces an application for the top job in the country – an application tendered this early in the race.

I know it’s not quite a race yet. It’s a photo-op here, a downplayed event there, and lots of conspiracy theories running behind her.

So scrutiny she gets, in my latest editorial column for LMD this month, titled From FLOTUS to POTUS :

Hillary has important credentials. As the then secretary of state, she did a long ‘internship’ in world affairs, but needs to learn the simpler arts, in domestic affairs, for instance. We also want to see her being more accessible, more forthright and transparent. She once presented Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov an unusual gift – a ‘reset button.’ As the race heats up, she may need to borrow that button, since citizens need to know what the former first lady (FLOTUS, in White House speak) might do for them should she become POTUS.

Read From FLOTUS to POTUS here. (pdf)

 

 

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