Daily Archives: December 1, 2013

Testing Companies are Hijacking the Internet


Online testing is hurting education by occupying one of our most valuable resources.

I walked into the computer lab and saw second graders in rows staring at their screens. Other than the sound of little sporadic mouse clicks, the room was silent. Between each kid was a large cardboard insert separating the students and preventing them from looking over onto their neighbor’s screen. They were totally isolated from one another. I asked the teacher, “What are these students working on?” I was hoping something engaging in spite of the isolative atmosphere. Then she replied almost shamefully, “They are learning how to take standardized tests. We have to get them ready for testing season.”

Yes, testing has it’s own season and it hits in late February and goes until June. During that time students will be shuffled into computer labs and given online reading and math tests.

A good, solid Wi-Fi connection is imperative throughout testing season because it is on that connection students will be taking their standardized tests. In fact, on big testing days we usually have major network problems because the amount of students online at once can be anywhere from 20 to 60 thousand. At 15 dollars per test, that is fantastic news for testing companies.

In addition, online assessments and this paperless approach to testing means huge savings for companies like Pearson who are only concerned about their bottom line.

Subsequently, during most months in the school year, mobile computer labs, traditional computer labs and the media center are closed and off limits to students and teachers. Last year our media center was closed daily from the month of February until the end of school due to the testing calendar.

read more -> https://medium.com/i-m-h-o/f438b5cf46cd

 

The Unfolding of Happiness


Can it be searched for, or only accidentally found?

the unfolding of our happiness, how and where might it begin?

it’s a quest that has consumed man since the dawn of time, a question that has been eternally asked. but its pursuit may be empty. happiness instead, a surprise which can only be stumbled upon, not found through endless, frantic searching.

in zen, when speaking of an enlightened awakening, this is called satori. if you look for it, it will never be found. happiness is similar. you must first assert yourself with right intention and mindful attention. only then, when the soil of the mind has been properly tilled, is it ready for seeds of happiness to be planted.

you see, you can only be happy. looking for it will do you no good. happiness is elusive. just when you think you’ve found it, and right where you think it might be, it escapes you. it slips through your grasp. it’s something that can never be held, even though it’s here right now.

happiness cannot be had through clinging.

this is why its search is so exhausting. it’s an exasperating quest, leaving you frustrated and fruitless, empty-handed and sad. we cannot attach ourselves to it, nor attach it to someone or something else.

happiness must be attachment free.

but i have a secret to share. unfolding the mystery of happiness can being within a few short words, if voiced with a statement of pure and honest intent.

read more -> https://medium.com/architecting-a-life/138dc6e6a5b2

The 55 Year-Old Selfie


English: An Entennmann's cake donut, bought fr...

English: An Entennmann’s cake donut, bought from a grocery store four-variety pack. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Will Millennials age gracefully or will we suffer from serious tech wrinkles?

 

My mom still groups “like items” together at the grocery store. When we get to the cashier she immediately gets to work herding the yogurt tubs together and dutifully piling carrots and apples with their own kind. If, God forbid, an errant item like a can of pinto beans found its way into the produce, my mother will sincerely apologize to the cashier and quickly deposit the beans to their rightful place in the queue.

 

“Why do you do that?” I finally had to ask.

 

“Because it’s easier for the cashier to add up similar items. They can multiply one item’s price by 2 or 3 depending on what I have.”

 

Ah. It finally made sense. When my mom started grocery shopping, cashiers were actually adding items up manually on a calculator or cash register. It would actually save them time to group items together. Now though with the advent of the scanner in every grocery store, manually typing in each price is no longer common. Order is irrelevant. Yet, my mom’s habit still remains.

 

With technology changing every day, what archaic habits are Millennials going to have when we are 55? I can think of a few possibilities:

 

  1. Hitting a button to take photos: With the integration of wearable technologies like GoogleGlass the next generations will be snapping shots with voice activated ear cameras. Granny and Grampa Millennial will be the last ones to hit a button to take pics.
  2. Using a variety of payment methods: Whether using cash,credit or a checkbook, we have a myriad of ways to pay but that will probably become streamlined. Bill payment and commerce are moving steadily online already diminishing the need for checks. Also, with the slow but steady crossover to all-in-one payment methods like Coin and Google Wallet a single payment method could be in our future. Old-school Millennials might not trust having everything in one and we’ll still squirrel away a few ancient credit cards “just in case”.

 

read more -> https://medium.com/we-live-in-the-future/168948b5b08f

 

 

 

On blogless writing, and the willingness to blog


I often used to ask myself some questions about the willingness to blog about something. Much people, hearing about maintaining a blog, told me: “How can I do this? I could not write for a long time, I don’t know what to write about. And people will not read me, because there are so many skilled writers around”. Well, they are right, as we can see from an external point of view, because no one can think to write, and being regularly read at the same time, starting from a zero score of attention.

 

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...

Image via CrunchBase

 

This comes out, in my opinion, from an age where TV was the mainstream media, and being “published” was so difficult for many reasons: you had to be famous, and you had to be “friend of a friend of a friend”. Accessing that media from the writer/singer/content productor’s side was complicated, and many people was discouraged to go that way.

 

In many senses, Twitter and Facebook broke this barrier between people and peer to peer (self-made) content distribution, because from a small amount of attention you could grow your audience and receive a feedback immediately (sorta of). Positive feedbacks of other people conducted so many users to distribute their content more and more through these media, in a way that didn’t require to do that as a “job”: no particular workflows, no requests, no composition or writing deadlines. So microblogging conducted people to be self-confident, and this is beautiful because from this we received a large landscape of amazing indipendent content and indipendent contexts.

 

No requests, no deadlines and no particular methods drove this mass of “casual publishers” to a blogless approach: from their generic social profile they shared what they thought “nice” for others, and they were not shy, because they had their friends, and they intended their activity as an occasionally-did thing, without any obligation. Blogless writing can be a worth point for casual writers, because as you want to speak, you publish something, and you do not have so many chains as a blogger has. Yes, you can open a blog, but you need to write regularly or no one will read you, and your reputation will be smashed in a second from giants of the net.

 

read more -> https://medium.com/writers-on-writing/ee9380fc4c74

 

 

Social Networks are getting scary: Part I


unfortunately, that freedom is leading to incrimination and discrimination of the people.

Social networks was supposedly built to give people freedom to build connections, speak their minds and express their opinions to the world . It certainly did what it was built for. However, unfortunately, that freedom is leading to incrimination and discrimination of the people. Freedom has come at a massive cost.

One of my friends shared her paranoia about social networks when I asked why she was not in any social network. ” I am not active in social network. I don’t think I should share my personal things in any platform so that a company earns money because of my personal matter. I don’t even know who looks into what I post and who is watching me. There is no privacy and no control at all”. I thought she was paranoid about her privacy. What worst could happen? Apparently, unimaginably worse could happen.

Many of the things we say in social networks we say it at the heat of moment. We denounce the unfair government regulations, we criticize people, we like the photos our friends and we sometimes leave rude comments in our friends statuses. The heat of the moment pass, but it’s impact remains forever in the digital history like something inscribed in the stone. The worst part is that anybody can retrieve everything and use it against you anytime.

read more -> https://medium.com/i-m-h-o/548f865590b5

 

In Memory of Peter Kaplan


Shortly after I got the editor-in-chief job at The New York Observer in 2011, I had drinks with Peter Kaplan, the longest running editor of the paper, to beg for advice. Peter had been the editor of the Observer for 15 years and I had been the editor for about three weeks.

We met at Naples 45, a so-so Italian place on the backside of Grand Central filled with people who looked like stockbrokers, but convenient to Peter’s office at Fairchild. I had met Peter a few times before but most of what I knew about him came from friends who had worked for him: he was brilliant and charming and demanding and idolized by his staff. The New York Observer during his tenure was fearless and smart and its influence far exceeded its size. And you could see Peter’s fingerprints all over New York media. Peter’s people were on the masthead of pretty much every major publication and his style and sensibility were often reflected in their work.

So needless to say, I was intimidated. I had been reading Peter’s Observer since I moved to New York in 1999, and when Nick Denton and I launched Gawker in late 2002, I thought of the Observer as its only real competitor. That said, it was a completely asymmetrical competition—there was no way I could come close to the kind of work the Observer was producing.

read more -> https://medium.com/extraordinary-lives/b32c43055fa7

 

5 reasons why many businesses are still not customer-led


mostly, it’s a leadership choice

You hear a lot today about customer-led businesses. But of course you’ve always heard that if you’ve been listening. The customer is the boss. The customer is always right. The customer pays our wages. Despite the ancient nature of this particular wisdom, I still see plenty of businesses that aren’t led by their customers. At the end of the day, customers won’t part with their cash unless you solve a problem they have — even if it’s a problem they don’t know they have. I can think of 5 common reasons for this:

  1. too much money
  2. visionary-led for too long
  3. distrust of the customer
  4. desire to sell existing assets
  5. no customer advocate

1. Too much money

‘Necessity is the mother of invention.’ Well funded efforts just don’t need to hustle as much as businesses that are bootstrapped. This is a bigger problem in large companies funding new initiatives, but can also be a startup problem in certain circumstances. If you have enough money, you can remain infatuated with your own idea rather than working on the much harder problem of acquiring and delighting a paying customer. It’s not practical to turn down money, but if you have a lot of it, set milestones and real consequences that will force hard decisions as though you were running out of money.

read more -> https://medium.com/p/6f0477f4acc7

 

Being a Writer is Hard


It is easy to forget about the process.

Being a writer is a lonely profession. Unlike more common career paths, there are no patterns to study, no collaborators for discussion, and no users to ask for feedback. Sure, there are editors and the reader. But how can a draft show potential? A writer is so so alone with the words.

The worst part of writing is the feeling of a block. You see a white canvas in front of you. A taunting blinking cursor. There is possibility, you think. You have dreams of what the words can be. You study the books and articles that you love, but you don’t want to quite emulate it. And you wonder with the shiny laptop and the blank word processor, how can you put what you want to say into a honed paragraph?

Then you wonder what you got yourself into. Although you have the whole outline waiting in front of you. This is the outline that you prepared for your agent, carefully describing every single section. But the words don’t tumble out as easily when you don’t have an audience.

Your voice is so lost. You want to say “there was a silver tricycle with a freezer attached”. But it sounds so awkward. You try again rephrasing the words again: “a silver tricycle carefully rests behind the kitchen”. But that still does not sound right—the tricycle isn’t in the building. Then maybe you just say “a silver tricycle is behind the kitchen”. Should you add the words “motionless”? How about the fact that a freezer is attached to the tricycle and that the owners ride it out to local farmers markets every week? You say it in six sentences, and you hate it, because it feels like a broken nail. You can feel the words clumsily staggering down the street, bumping nosily into garbage cans and street lamps with their too many adjectives, too many adverbs, and too many run-on sentences. And where was that oxford comma supposed to go? So you try again and again until you throw your hands in the air.

Instead, you play Candy Crush Saga. The crushing candies soothes your nerves for a moment. Soon you lose a life, reminding you that you are procrastinating.

read more -> https://medium.com/writers-on-writing/af137d1f4369

 

Education’s greatest pitfall should be its greatest strength


When I was young, I never found school interesting enough, so I read other books that I (actually) found interesting. The linear education model is broken.

 

Image representing Al Gore as depicted in Crun...

Image via CrunchBase

 

Rising

 

In late 2006, I was an unassuming young sixth grader. At the time, everyone on the news was stressing over Al Gore’s documentary “An Inconvenient Truth.” You might know a little bit about it.

 

We did not often talk about this climate crisis in school. In fact, I do not believe that the climate crisis came up in any conversations. I had History, Math, English, Science, and Religion classes. In none of them did we talk about renewable energy or the climate crisis.

 

I said to myself, “What is this climate stuff everyone is talking about? Why would a guy make a documentary about it? If this is a problem, why is no one trying to solve it?”

 

Because none of my teachers engaged us in climate change discussion and it was not taught in schools, I did some research on my own.

 

This climate change stuff was a clear and straight forward problem.

 

read more -> https://medium.com/lessons-learned-1/82c86796c61b