My TEDx talk on overcoming poverty. The solution to social problems is to empower the individuals.
On November 13 I will be teaching 3rd graders at a school in Hialeah. I will be teaching the Marshmallow Challenge, an international design challenge where children typically outperform adults. As part of this event I am trying to raise $1000 in donations, of which 50% will go to my class in Hialeah and the remainder goes to other classes.
To donate please go to this page.
This event is part of the annual Teach-A-Thon program of the Education Fund.
We have been experimenting with IT technology in schools since the 1990s. There is limited evidence that it improves learning outcomes. As many have pointed out, including Papert and Christensen, if we use the technology to teach the same way as before, do not expect different outcomes. For example, computer-based flash cards are no more effective than paper flash cards.
This story from Official Google for Work Blog about using a new chrome extension in the classroom brought the point home again. The writer talks about how now a teacher can project on every student screen the same page instantaneously. Such a feature makes it easier for a fourth grade teacher to get every child to the desired website faster.
This extension just reinforces the long standing hierarchical style of teaching where the student is given the information to learn. Overlooked was the opportunity for the child to search, learn to search and more importantly share their web page face-to-face with other children.
Note: As long as Google focuses on making teaching easier for the teacher, don't expect any change in learning outcomes. Link for Share to Classroom extension.
Today marks the start of my tenth year at FIU. I taught one semester in the business school, then moved on to the highly rated hospitality school for five years, found a home at the Engineering School three years ago and got to teach what is now my specialty--social entrepreneurship--at the Honors College two years ago. Teaching is now the most enjoyable thing I do and I also teach at MIT Sloan, University of Miami and for the Goldman Sachs 10KSB program in Miami and at Babson College.
What have I learned from ten years of teaching:
In my classes this semester about 25 percent of the students will have taken a course with me before, but in Engineering it will be closer to 70%. I appreciate their confidence in me.
Special thanks to CC and JC for all their support over the last few years and to the TAs in the Honors College who do a great job.
This video on Big Think describes corporate learning at IBM. Corporate learning is the company-wide method to provide lifelong learning to IBM employees. The program covers mostly current topics in IT but, of course, that is IBM's domain. Format appears to be a MOOC.
Most interesting part of the story is that the CEO established the program and teaches a course once a month. Leadership from the top makes the commitment and objective obvious.
I think that more formalized, high value corporate training will become a big business opportunity. The business environment is becoming more complicated as AI and Big Data are more integrated into day-to-day business. Companies are increasingly narrowing the range of their business expertise partly by relying on third party providers, which will require companies to be extremely vigilant in their area of expertise. Lastly, knowledge is doubling every 13 months, which means there is 8 times more knowledge every three years. Such a scale of growth in knowledge puts pressure on companies to help their employees to stay current.
"No doubt about it, Marshall McLuhan was a cryptic thinker and a bit of an odd duck. Earlier this week, Colin Marshall brought you an Introduction to Marshall McLuhan, presented by Tom Wolfe (best known for The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test and The Bonfire of the Vanities). In putting together that post, we stumbled upon another gem of a video, a testament to McLuhan’s quirkiness — and we mean that in the best possible way. Above McLuhan, kicking back on a couch, reveals his “peculiar reading habit,” admitting: “If it’s a frivolous, relaxing book, I read every word. But serious books I read on the right-hand side only because I’ve discovered enormous redundancy in any well-written book, and I find that by reading only the right-hand page this keeps me very wide awake, filling in the other page out of my own noodle.” There’s a bit of hubris in that approach, but also a certain amount of creativity too. Perhaps you’ll want to give it a try."
I have always told my students to only red assigned books until they start to repeat. I share McLuhan's view that serious (academic) books tend to be very repetitive. I love the idea of having the students only read the right hand pages and figure out the missing arguments from the left hand pages. That would be a spectacular exercise in critical thinking.
By: Candya Pradipta
Everyone recognizes the importance of globalization, in part brought about by the growth of Internet users. Finding new suppliers and lower cost suppliers for everything has become markedly easier in the last 10-20 years. The range of products and services has expanded from merchandise to parts to software development and tax preparation. Quality is still an issue as standards vary around the world but much progress has been made.
One area where standards have improved internationally is in design. Design quality around the world has risen markedly in the last ten years as sites such as ISSUU and Behance demonstrate. For example, in the 1990s nobody in Indonesia produced the quality of design work that Candya Pradipta regularly delivers. When I shared Ms. Pradipta's portfolio with my oldest friend in Indonesia (who attended Fashion Institute of Technology in NYC), she made an interesting comment:
"She's really Good!! The quality of design education in Jakrta and Bandung especially has grown by leaps and bounds! The internet is the great leveller!"
I like that phrase, "The internet is the great leveller". The force that is leveling the field is the informal education one can gather from the Internet in the "creative arts", such as design, art, music and film. A good example is all the high quality content on design thinking. We all tend to focus on MOOCs and EDx and Khan Academy, but the much more powerful tool is just Google search in the hands of a motivated learner.
I just completed my fifth year teaching an IAP course at MIT Sloan on social entrepreneurship. The first two years the course focused on telling the One Laptop per Child story, the third year focused on better defining social entrepreneurship and year four and this year (5) focused on "scaling" social entrepreneurship. To some degree these courses have documented the evolution of my thinking on social entrepreneurship.
The approach to social entrepreneurship that I prefer is to ignore all of the normative hype and merely focus on solving the "social" problems. My cocktail party definition of social entrepreneurship is now:
"A commercially sustainable, scalable solution to a social problem"
In this definition, the selection of the problem the entrepreneur addresses will define them as a social entrepreneur or a traditional entrepreneur. I define sustainability simply in terms of cashflow and not in the alternative usage that includes social, economic and environmental benefits. I am not against a wider range of benefits, but I believe many social ventures fail because they define their mission too broadly to achieve all three types of benefits. Such a broader mission is more difficult to manage, more expensive to execute and more expensive to the disadvantaged person one is trying to help.
In one economist's definition, social entrepreneurship can be defined using the value creation-value capture model of resource-based theory. In this model social entrepreneurship "maximizes value creation and satisfices for value capture" (sufficient to stay in business). Value is defined as "utility". Originally I thought of this transfer of value as exclusively between the provider of product/service and the customer or user of a product or service. This limited definition of "value creation" has bothered me for awhile now because I think it ruled out organizations that are social entrepreneurs. The issue came up in class at MIT and a vigorous debate ensued.
I now believe that the social entrepreneur could transfer value to other stakeholders in addition to the customer. For example, selecting to work with new indigenous people to become suppliers would be a value transfer to the indigenous farmers. Paying above market wages would be value creation for local workers. Providing stock ownership to employees might be creating value for employees. Effectively, value creation can benefit any stakeholder of an organization provided enough value is transferred to the customer or end user to have an exchange (purchase). The exchange is required to meet the requirement for entrepreneurship.
Two additional themes were stressed for the last two years:
My lecture slides from MIT 2015 are available through this link. Download SCALING SE MIT 2015. I very much like the Scaler Model for scaling social entrepreneurship, which is explained in the slides.
Note: The original definition of social entrepreneurship using value creation and value capture was developed by Felipe Santos in an INSEAD Working Paper. He did not consider value transfer to all possible stakeholders in the article, "A Positive Theory of Social Entrepreneurship".
HBS Working Knowledge has an interesting new working paper by Gerald Carlino and William R. Kerr, "Agglomeration and Innovation". The paper discusses the academic literature and the authors' views on the factors that explain the geographic concentration of innovation. Not surprisingly, innovation concentrates in metropolitan areas. Innovation is defined in a classic way as "invention that is commercialized", which in the vernacular would be described as entrepreneurship. Other findings from the article are quoted below:
Setting aside the academic speak, innovation and entrepreneurship benefit from:
The article should be required reading for politicians. Most government support for entrepreneurship appears to be mis-directed or wasted.
Note: While Miami has made progress in developing the entrepreneurial community, certain theoretical requirements still need to be further addressed.
A friend is a curator at a museum. One exhibition is of the journals of soldiers from a particular war. Interesting research material, but not available anywhere on the web in digital form. As time passes this material will be largely forgotten because it has almost no digital signature.
If teachers asked their students to read this material and transcribe it to a digital form, the students might be more engaged with history and this material would be available to the world online.
Obviously there is much handwritten material of historical significance beyond war journals that we should transcribe to digital. Might even be a way to teach foreign languages based on the material selected.
The Logic + Emotion blog had an excellent article, "Five Things I Learned in Five Years", where the writer talked about:
Well worth reading in detail, especially if you are approaching forty. Of course the article got me thinking about the big takeaways for me from the last five years. My findings:
In the next five years I would like to learn:
Ever the optimist.
The ever alert Russell Otway posted this article on FB, "7 Life-changing Lessons I've learned living on a Caribbean Island". The article is Huffington Post's most recent take on life lessons.
Recently I met some "do gooders" who advocate for "social entrepreneurship" to solve social problems. In their minds the term looks like this.
They believe that social entrepreneurship is the solution to the lack of morality in capitalism. I prefer to think about the shortcomings of capitalism, whatever they might be, as an education problem. If we train the next generation of capitalists and business owners to be more socially concerned in their business decisionmaking, the supposed shortcomings of capitalism may not be so onerous. If we merely taught a framework wherein the bottom of the pyramid was just considered a high growth market where returns needed to match risks, many social problems would be quickly addressed by those capitalist "dogs". Such a framework would probably mobilize a much larger group of problem solvers than the small current group of social entrepreneurs and the new entrants would bring their own capital and access to capital markets.
Just one more observation. In the 1960s the best business school graduates went into manufacturing and the economic growth in the U.S. was spectacular. In the 1980s the best business school graduates went into banking, investment banking and hedge funds and they nearly wrecked the world financial system in 2008. The good news is that the best B school grads today are starting new technology companies, which hopefully means that the dummies will become the bankers as it was in the prosperous period starting in 1960. Many B school grads are interested in social entrepreneurship, which is a great temporary soloution until we educate enough people to realize that capitalism and social responsibility are not mutually exclusive.
One of the most effective ways for children to learn is by doing, by doing something they enjoy and are passionate about. Some subjects like math and writing are easy to teach in a hands on fashion. For example all of introductory math can be taught through fishing and texting or blogging easily develops writing skills. However, how do you get a student interested in learning a foreign language? Show travelogues?
Professor Ann Abbot at the University of Illinois teaches Spanish to children through lessons in entrepreneurship. "Video Lessons about Entrepreneurship that Spanish Students Will Love". Native speakers who are reportedly entrepreneurs present a short explanation of a key point in entrepreneurship, which is followed by a lesson the students complete. This may not be at the standard of HBS but it definitely would engage a child's interest. The videos are here on Medium.
Thanks to @Mariana_lud for the reference to this article. Mariana is a voracious reader and social media enthusiast on children, learning and home schooling. She is also emerging as a leading bi-lingual health and nutrition coach.
Karen R. Lawrence, the President of Sarah Lawrence College, recently wrote an article for Forbes, "The Six Critical Abilities Students Need for Success After College". The six abilities are:
These abilities look very similar to the way I was educated at Hamilton College and to the educational objectives there since its founding in 1814. I can think of another twenty excellent, small liberal arts colleges where the objectives are the same as Sarah Lawrence and Hamilton and have been for 200 years (plus or minus). One can conclude that the objectives for the well educated graduate have not changed in the last 200 years.
If we look at how Ms. Lawrence framed the question, we see she had three questions:
If I were asked to frame the question in order to guide the education of future college students, I would ask these questions
I am reasonably certain that we need for our children to have a different set of skills than in 1800, 1900 or Ms Lawrence's analysis. Computer automation, AI and IOT combined is a technology tipping point probably more dramatic than the automobile.
One skill I am certain that is required, but absent from Ms. lawrence's list, is collaboration. Globalization, networking, understanding not knowledge, design thinking, customer experience, all of these require collaboration much more so than individual efforts.
I am also reasonably certain we need a concept of "economic self-sustainability" wherein the individual rather than the employer is expected to provide for a "family's" well being. Probably everybody needs a course(s) in 21st century "marketing", which includes, story telling, branding, video communications, etc. Perhaps we teach writing in the branding seminar and oral communications in story telling. We could analyze Aristotle and then brand him and develop his business model. I vote for "father of artificial intelligence".
I think every university and college should undertake an analysis similar to Sarah Lawrence. If the answer looks the same as 200 years ago, I respectfully suggest the paper be redone.
Thanks to @John_Menenzes for the link to Forbes.
Social entrepreneurship, using commercial business models to solve social problems, emerged about ten years ago and became very popular in the last 2-3 years. Reasons for the emergence of social entrepreneurship might include:
While all of these reasons sound logical and perhaps admirable, maybe they were all just a coincidence.
Maybe social entrepreneurship emerged because of robots. No, robots are not yet managing society. I would have heard at MIT if that were true. Rather, as robots, automation and AI increasingly take over routine low value-added jobs there will still be work to be done by many. many humans both in the U.S. and abroad. Humans will still be required to solve complex problems such as social issues. Complex social problems do not lend themselves to resolution through computational approaches, even assuming the data were available and correct.
Social problems lend themselves to the types of approaches that are being tried in social entrepreneurship. By the time we refine our understanding of effective social entrepreneurship, there should be a large workforce displaced by robots ready to work on social problems. Social entrepreneurship may have emerged because humans need a new model to work from. So the bad news is that you are most likely going to lose your job to a robot. The good news is that you are going to be paid to save the world.
This post was inspired by an article at RobotEnomics, "Robots may take your job but it could lead to a more humane society". I love the blog tagline, "Tracking the march of the robot economy". I recommend you subscribe to the blog. Until the robots start blogging, this is the next best read on the subject.
Learning and creativity are both best achieved in a model which is self-directed, with a director or teacher at best in the role of mentor. Computer technology has fostered a return to this concept since the 1960s and recent advances have accelerated the trend. MOOCs might be an example.
The better thinkers exploring new ways for students to learn ask the question "what society will these children live in?" This question opens up an exploration of personal relationships in the future and the nature of work, to name just two key considerations. Gradually and grudgingly the world is coming to realize that an education system designed in the early 19th century is in need of overhaul. Soon perhaps more people will come to realize that democratic government is in need of an overhaul or perhaps a return to its original concepts.
One group exploring these issues is Exobase. They describe themselves:
"A place to figure out life, to learn, to build life-long friendships and partnerships, to do extraordinary things with your unique talents, and to learn how to make an independent income."
Exobase is part of a trend that I plan to follow and write about more. Exobase is an "alternative education" provider, an alternative to traditional degree granting universities. These alternative providers potentially could also serve the mid-life student who needs to learn new subjects that did not exist when they went to school (AI comes to mind).
Thank you to @Mariana_Lud for the heads up on Exobase.
On Friday I taught in the program I cannot talk about. After almost every event within a day, whether it be a panel, lecture, case, etc., we have a period of reflection and sharing. First students consider alone the theme and content of the event and then they share their thoughts with each other in a moderated discussion. A few observations on reflection and sharing:
If you would like to try this in a learning setting, this article by two professors at HBS provides some research and findings to support the use of reflection and sharing. An abstract of the paper referenced is below.
"Research on learning has primarily focused on the role of doing (experience) in fostering progress over time. In this paper, we propose that one of the critical components of learning is reflection, or the intentional attempt to synthesize, abstract, and articulate the key lessons taught by experience. Drawing on dual-process theory, we focus on the reflective dimension of the learning process and propose that learning can be augmented by deliberately focusing on thinking about what one has been doing. We test the resulting dual-process learning model experimentally, using a mixed-method design that combines two laboratory experiments with a field experiment conducted in a large business process outsourcing company in India. We find a performance differential when comparing learning-by-doing alone to learning-by-doing coupled with reflection. Further, we hypothesize and find that the effect of reflection on learning is mediated by greater perceived self-efficacy. Together, our results shed light on the role of reflection as a powerful mechanism behind learning."
I plan to continue to use reflection and sharing in my traditional classrooms starting in the fall.
You may recall last week's post, "An Observation on Thinking", in which I speculated on the way thinking evolves. My hypothesis was mathematics--computer science--artificial intelligence--cognitive learning, based on examining the lives of several great thinkers.
Today I came across this story, "What is Computational Creativity?" The author defines "computational creativity" using a definition from the Computational Creativity Conference Steering Committee :
"Computational creativity is a multidisciplinary endeavour that is located at the intersection of the fields of artificial intelligence, cognitive psychology, philosophy and the arts....The goal of computational creativity is to model, simulate or replicate creativity using a computer, to achieve one of several ends.."
Not surprising, the computers are being programmed to think in ways very similar to the founders of AI, Minsky and Simon.
Fast Company has an interesting post on Flannery O'Connor's cartoons. Ms O'Connor was also a very accomplished author, which provides additional data for the thesis that creative people frequently master a second art.
This quote from O'connor I found particularly interesting.
“For the writer of fiction,” she said, “everything has its testing point in the eye, and the eye is an organ that eventually involves the whole personality, and as much of the world as can be got into it.”
"This way of seeing she described as part of the “habit of art,”. She used the expression [habit of art] to explain the way of seeing that the artist must cultivate, one that does not separate meaning from experience. And like any other habit, it has to be developed over time and through practice."
The notion of seeing is a central theme in creativity, both literally and figuratively. Many geniuses say that they saw their solutions in their mind before they tried to articulate them. This suggests that creativity involves a more basic process such as seeing rather than language or writing.
The notion of not separating meaning from experience is also a powerful tool. If one takes pictures of dolphin swimming in the ocean, the experience is the photography. If one merely observes the dolphins there are opportunities to derive many "meanings". I think this is part of the reason I do not like videos. In the video the experience of the story is choreographed to make the writer's point. If I am just observing life real time I create the meaning.