Friday, December 18, 2009

Can a Smart Phone Make You More Patient?

Pretty insightful stuff from Harvard Business Review's Conversation Starter:

Can a Smart Phone Make You More Patient?: "

On your way to meet a colleague, you get stuck in traffic. Radio traffic reports tell you it's a ten-minute backup. You can spend ten minutes inching forward, or you cut out and take a circuitous route that will add 15 minutes to your drive, but it'll be 15 minutes in which you're moving. Which do you you choose?

The logical answer, the rational economist's answer, is to spend ten minutes inching forward since it will take you less time to get where you're going. But if you're like me, you'd rather spend fifteen minutes actually driving than ten minutes staring at a bumper in front of you. It doesn't really make sense that I'd voluntarily choose to take longer to get where I'm going, but it's also proof of what I consider one of my personal failings: a severe lack of patience.

Lucky for me, then, that I have an iPhone, the impatient person's best friend. Just two years ago, I found myself tapping my foot or tugging at my hair during traffic jams or any of life's little waiting games. Bank queues. Lines for the bathroom. The wasted minutes at the start of meetings waiting for everyone to arrive.

Today, my iPhone (any smart phone will do; I happen to own the iPhone) rescues me from all these micro-delays. A traffic jam becomes time to listen to a podcast. I check Twitter during a bank line-up. I can check Facebook while waiting for the loo and I can do email at the beginning of meetings.

Delays that would formerly have driven me into a frenzy pass very happily now. And if you're looking at measurable outcomes — my willingness to wait for a delayed colleague, the courtesy with which I (finally!) greet the bank teller, the number of hairs left on my head when traffic finally starts moving — then Alex-with-iPhone looks a lot like Alex-with-patience.

But it's not, really. Patience isn't just about measurable outcomes. Patience is an internal state. It's the ability to be present with the thoughts, emotions and anxieties in a vacant moment. It connects us with the inner voice that gets drowned out by the constant background noise of phone calls, e-mail and TV. And it's important. Being truly patient helps us improve and solve problems. In patient moments, we suddenly see the solution to an engineering problem, or come up with that tag line for an ad campaign. We think about telling the boss what we really think — and find a constructive way to do just that. We may realize that we've gone off-track and think of ways to get back on track.

Some people find this patience through exercise, meditation, church or other spiritual practices. Others — especially those of us attached to our smart phones — do whatever we can to avoid these moments and prevent them from finding us.

In fact, far from fostering patience, my now-reflexive reach for the iPhone is an evasive action, a way to avoid reflection. On the rare occasion when my iPhone runs out of juice (I've got a backup battery. What, you don't?) or actually breaks (I've got a spare phone. What, you don't?) I quickly rediscover that I'm still that impatient person spending extra time driving around traffic. My intolerance for waiting, for quiet, for nothingness is still there and I'm forced to recognize that my iPhone isn't 16 gigabytes' worth of patience: it's 16 GB of distraction.

So I thought the phone was good for my personal failing, but now I think that it's exacerbating it. The serendipitous gaps that used to be part of even the most hectic modern life can now be reduced to near zero. The emotional muscles stretched by those moments of emptiness — the ability to tune into one's self, to tolerate the anxieties that swim up, to even experience a moment of absolutely nothing — are quickly atrophied. We lose the inspirations and innovations that come from quiet, but we also escape uncomfortable, necessary questions that come from there, too. Am I doing meaningful work? Am I living with integrity? Am I happy? We keep them at bay, along with the possibilities that might arise from searching for real answers.

I still use my phone in those moments. And to the outside observer, compulsive smart phone users like me may look like the very picture of calm. With screens to fill our every waking moment, our lack of patience won't be betrayed by tapping feet or chewed nails.

But let's not kid ourselves: filling your time checking your phone doesn't make you more patient on the inside. Patience is a virtue. There's not an app for that.


Alexandra Samuel is the Director of the Social + Interactive Media Centre at Emily Carr University, and the co-founder of Social Signal, a Vancouver-based social media agency. You can follow Alex on Twitter as awsamuel or her blog at


“Older workers don’t suffer from the deficiencies that a lot of people think they do.”

This seems like an obvious point, but the discrimination against veterans seems pretty widespread and is, in my view, entirely too stereotyped and dismissive.

“Older workers don’t suffer from the deficiencies that a lot of people think they do.”: "

clintA study in which “seniors” (those over 50)  were pitted against “juniors” (those under 30) in three different decision-making tasks – risk taking, competitiveness, and cooperation – found that seniors “hold their own.” They’re also more cooperative, contributing more during the cooperation test. The NY Times reports that researchers also found “groups with a mix of ages outperformed homogeneous groups.”

(There are many great ideas in the NY Times series so you should click the second link too.)

The Myth of the Deficient Older Employee | The 9th Annual Year in Ideas | The New York Times | 18 December, 2009

Via Neuroanthropology (where you’re sure to find a link you like in this list of research papers on culture, evolution, the mind, and anthropology.)


At Colleges, Humanities Job Outlook Gets Bleaker

The New York Times outlines another reason I'm kinda glad I left academia for the independent school world.

At Colleges, Humanities Job Outlook Gets Bleaker: "Graduate students in languages and literature may face a sharp decline in faculty positions as the recession forces cutbacks in university hiring."

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Don’t force your child to fit in at school. Find a school to fit your child.

Great post from The Innovative Educator

Don’t force your child to fit in at school. Find a school to fit your child.: "Anyone who has or works with children knows that we have a huge crises in education and it has nothing to do with test scores. Our students are literally bored to tears in disconnected schools that kill their creativity, force them to power down as soon as they pass through the school doors and are completely disconnected from their passions, talents, and interests. In many cases these are students who are bright and gifted but struggling in school in some cases to the point of being medicated (see highlighted portion of previous link) so that they can survive the day and fit into an environment they find boring and/or irrelevant. Sadly in many cases rather than fix the boring schools, we try to fix the bored child. This often leaves parents in deep despair and children and teachers frustrated and feeling stuck in their situation accepting this as “the way things are.”

But, it doesn’t have to be this way. There is help. There is a solution. And, it’s a little out of the box.

Get your child to a school that fits him or her…however you can. This is not as difficult as it may sound at first blush. There is a growing recognition that many schools are outdated relics from the past that sit awkwardly in a 21st century world. In response to this, there are pockets of educators, schools, even systems around the world that are rising up to the challenge of educating the 21st century child rather than the current industrial model of education that is pervasive in most schools. In fact a new batch of schools has just cropped up in New York City designed specifically for students who have zoned out in the traditional system.

The iZone schools have been specifically developed to challenge the following assumptions about current practice:
  • Schools are comprised of similarly-operated classroom units in which one adult delivers content to a room of between 12 and 34 students, for a set number of minutes per day and days per year
  • Adults dictate a course of study to children, who receive and process information for adults to evaluate
  • As part of one job, teachers manage classroom organizations; research and deliver content; differentiate the course of study according to student needs; assess performance; and deliver feedback
  • Special education students are best grouped and planned for according to class size requirements

These schools recognize the problem which they define as such.
  • Since 2002, the number of New York City students graduating from high school has increased every year, and more students than ever before are headed to college. The fact that a full third of our youth still do not graduate from high school, however, is a call to action. And that of those who enroll in college, only 50% graduate from four year colleges within six years and only 28% graduate from associate programs within the same time frame, is a call to change. (Statistics are from public school graduates who enroll in CUNY colleges)
  • Today’s schools are structured for an industrial model that is increasing obsolete to the 21st century knowledge economy where students will spend their working lives. The foundation of education has in many ways remained unchanged in that it assumes that information and skills must be provided only by adults who are physically in the same room as learners, performing jobs defined in the 19th century, on a notably rigid and brief daily schedule ]
  • In today’s schools, students are grouped in ways that do not maximize the potential of each and every student to personalize their learning.

The schools strive to address the problem with this powerful vision.
  • Transform our schools from a traditional, industrial model to one that reflects and embodies 21st century skills, tools, and experiences, so that our students graduate ready for success in college and in the workforce, regardless of race, language or socioeconomic background.
  • Personalize each student’s learning experience to meet their diverse and individual needs to the maximum feasible extent.

The Innovation Zone has adopted an approach of launching schools that embody a set of innovations that can be evaluated for scaling potential. The core innovations are:
  • Expand student learning time, stretching the school day and the school year without adding teacher work time
  • Optimize a match between individual student learning needs, learning modalities, content and instructional resources through an algorithmic engine
  • Blend distance and online coursework modules and personalized learning management systems into a brick and mortar environment in ways that allow students to differentiate their pace of learning
  • Apply gaming theory to standards-based content, creating challenge-based curriculum and an instant feedback and assessment loop
  • Create job embedded teacher teams as a vehicle for teacher organization and adult learning

If you're reading this and wondering how many thousands of dollars need to be dished out for parents to send their children to such schools, the answer is not a cent. In fact, schools like these have innovative leaders at the helm who believe that the fundamental right of children and responsibility of public education is to provide every child with the opportunity to attend the best schools. These leaders believe that in fact regardless of background or SES You Can Get a Dalton Education at a NYC Public School.

If you are curious What a 21st Century School Might Look Like here is a sampling of the iZone schools. You can see videos about each school here.

  • Quest to Learn - Design and innovation are at the heart of Quest to Learn (Q2L), a school committed to helping every student to achieve excellence in the skills and literacies necessary for college and career readiness. The school believe that students today can and do learn in different ways, often through interaction with digital media and games. Q2L builds on this belief to create a nurturing and vibrant 6th-12th grade school environment that supports all students in the pursuit of academic excellence, social responsibility, respect for others, and a passion for lifelong learning.
  • iSchool - The NYC iSchool has taken a problem-based learning approach to education. Teachers collaborate on thought provoking topics to integrate into the classroom while ensuring they still meet state mandated subjects and testing standards. Students learn in the context of real world problems, and just like the real world, they have access to a host of technology and information anytime, anywhere, and from anyplace. The NYC iSchool is leading the way in creating a culture in education that truly engages students with successful results.
  • The Cinema School - The Cinema School is an academic high school that prepares students for top level colleges through a liberal arts education grounded in creative activity. They emphasize filmmaking because it deepens students’ learning while building confidence, responsibility and leadership. Our curriculum helps students become stronger thinkers and develop the skills needed to accomplish great things. Admission to The Cinema School is competitive no film making experience necessary.
  • The School of One - The mission of School of One is to provide students with personalized, effective, and dynamic classroom instruction so that teachers have more time to focus on the quality of their instruction. To achieve this mission, School of One re-imagines the traditional classroom model. Instead of one teacher and 25-30 students in a classroom, each student participates in multiple instructional modalities, including a combination of teacher-led instruction, one-on-one tutoring, independent learning, and work with virtual tutors. To organize this type of learning, each student receives a unique daily schedule based on his or her academic strengths and needs. As a result, students within the same school or even the same classroom can receive profoundly different instruction as each student’s schedule is tailored to the skills they need and the ways they best learn. Teachers acquire data about student achievement each day and then adapt their live instructional lessons accordingly.

There are schools like these cropping up around the globe. Parents, students, and educators need to start voting with their feet, not as they are currently doing by leaving the school system with high school drop out rates above 50% in many cities, but by investigating what schools will suit the needs of their 21st century learning and teaching styles and then figuring out how to attend or work in such environments. The schools are hungry for innovative educators and students who will thrive in these new environments. Now parents, go find the right school for your child and teachers who are frustrated by their outdated employment situation, start connecting with these school leaders. They're looking for you.

Almost Everyone Is a Gamer Now

Almost Everyone Is a Gamer Now: "

Very interesting book review in the Wall Street Journal about the casual-game revolution.

The gist is that the original video games in the 1970s (like Pong) attracted people of all ages.

Then video games got complex and attracted mostly young males.

Then simple, intuitive games (like the Wii) came along and digital games attracted all ages again.

While the bulk of console gamers are still adolescent boys and young men, the Entertainment Software Association estimates that 40% of all gamers are women over the age of 18; and 25% of Americans over the age of 50 play videogames.


How Everybody Got Game | 15 December 2009


Monday, December 14, 2009

Strategic Thinking About Informal Learning

From Workplace Learning Today. A really interesting piece on setting up a strategic thinking process. Reminds me of what we are trying to do at Collegiate.

Strategic Thinking About Informal Learning: "

The Innovative Learning Group has a nice exercise to foster strategic thinking about informal learning.

They present two scenarios and ask you to identify informal-learning approaches that would work there.

They also list candidly some downsides of informal learning (difficult to track, difficult to control accuracy, and so forth).

(And they list all five items in their Strategic Thinking series here.) (TW)

Strategic Thinking #5: Informal Learning


Animating the News: How Videogame Technologies Can Alter Our Perceptions of Real Life Events

Animating the News: How Videogame Technologies Can Alter Our Perceptions of Real Life Events: "

Before photography caught on in newspapers, artists rendered their conceptions of newsworthy events through woodcuts. These pictures served as a basis for shaping perceptions among consumers of the news.

Now, a Chinese company called Next Media has pioneered videogame animations to offer its readers artists’ conceptions of events through online animations. Gordon Crovitz over at The Wall Street Journal notes that millions have seen Next Media’s conception of Tiger Wood’s car wreck.

Just as in the 19th Century, when there was no camera present an artist visualized what the scene must have looked like, and presented it to the audience through the dominant medium of the day (newspapers). Now, when there is an incident not recorded by video camera, artists again are imagining what the scene must have looked like, how things transpired, and presenting it to consumers through the dominant medium of the day (the web).

As before, Crovitz notes, those on the tail end of this technological and media revolution are protesting, and are being dragged kicking and screaming into the new way of things. But technology keeps steaming along. Here’s Crovitz’s key paragraph:

These animations are the latest brainstorm of Jimmy Lai, the founder of Next Media, which launched what are now the most popular Chinese-language newspapers in Hong Kong and Taiwan. Reflecting on how newspaper stories have more background about events than television news reports have, as he told me last week, “I thought, hey, why not make those missing images of the background into animated images?” He hired 160 software developers and engineers in Taiwan, who spent more than two years perfecting the technique. Reporters describe their interpretation of what happened to engineers and actors who serve as the models for the animation. Mr. Lai says that his team can create an animated video in 90 minutes, producing about 20 a day.

Are there issues with this technique? You bet. For one thing, what if the reporters’ and artists’ conception of events is entirely wrong? If their video is widespread enough, the wrong conception may be permanently etched into public memory. One could see how public opinion could be greatly manipulated were this powerful new media tool misused. Probably only a matter of time: Crovitz indicates that Lai is working on advancing the technology, making the animations more realistic as techniques and tools develop. He is also intent on sharing the technology with other media companies across the globe.


Crovitz, G. (2009, December 14). Tiger Woods and the animation of news. The Wall Street Journal, A23. [Online.] Retrieved December 14, 2009 from


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Behind The Awkwardness: I Ain’t Afraid Of No Ghosts

Behind The Awkwardness: I Ain’t Afraid Of No Ghosts: "

I’m the boy in the picture with my family. Apparently, the ghostbusters craze got the best of my mom and she made us walk through the mall in those stupid shirts to get our picture taken. From the look on my sister’s face, I don’t think she was too thrilled with the whole idea either.”

(Submitted by Trevor)


Thursday, December 3, 2009

Mnemonics Compilation Site Helps Stick Facts to Your Brain [Learning]

Mnemonics Compilation Site Helps Stick Facts to Your Brain [Learning]: "

Mnemonics are great memory-boosters when your learning requires rote memorization, like the bones of the skeletal system or edible berries. Next time you need a study aid, check out this compilation of mnemonics on topics that range from physics to religion.

You may already know a few mnemonics without really thinking of them as that. For instance, ' Righty, tighty, lefty loosey' is a common way to remember which way to remove or tighten a screw, and ROY G. BIV helps you recall the colors of the rainbow. This guide has plenty of familiar mnemonics, plus obscure ones that will help you tell camels apart or remind you what James Bond films starred Sean Connery.

What are your favorite mnemonics for remembering things? Share them in the comments.


Mnemonics Compilation Site Helps Stick Facts to Your Brain [Learning]

Mnemonics Compilation Site Helps Stick Facts to Your Brain [Learning]: "

Mnemonics are great memory-boosters when your learning requires rote memorization, like the bones of the skeletal system or edible berries. Next time you need a study aid, check out this compilation of mnemonics on topics that range from physics to religion.

You may already know a few mnemonics without really thinking of them as that. For instance, ' Righty, tighty, lefty loosey' is a common way to remember which way to remove or tighten a screw, and ROY G. BIV helps you recall the colors of the rainbow. This guide has plenty of familiar mnemonics, plus obscure ones that will help you tell camels apart or remind you what James Bond films starred Sean Connery.

What are your favorite mnemonics for remembering things? Share them in the comments.


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Should children be watching films at school?

From The Times Online:

Should children be watching films at school?: "


Joanne Jacobs asks this question, about School Time TV on her blog. She writes about how children in (American) schools seem to be watching an inordinate amount of videos during school hours and quotes one mother who discovered that her daughter had watched Enchanted in English class and Ratatouille, The Incredibles, Ice Age and Finding Nemo in German class. This mother asked her daughter:

“How many movies do you watch a week?”

She thought a bit, counting up on her fingers and trying to remember. “Oh — I don’t know — five or six, maybe more. We watch TV pretty much every day in at least one class and any time we have a sub they put in movies or something."

It's worth reading the post to see how many people have had similar experiences. And my feeling is that this happens here too, and not just at the end of term. I recently wrote about using Night at the Museum 2 for educational purposes, so I'm not anti "modern" aids in the classroom, but I do think they need to be relevant. I remember watching Franco Zeffirelli's Romeo and Juliet at school, but that's about it. My daughter has recently watched (and for no apparent educational reason) Oliver and Harry Potter (which I would quite like to have known about in advance, as it's not something I would necessarily have shown her in case she got too scared!), while my son has seen some of Ice Age 2. I've also heard stories of children who watch videos as a regular part of the school day. What happens during wet-play is another moot point.

What do you think? Are films useful in a classroom, or just as an occasional treat? And are they being used as babysitting tools when children should be learning...?

Read School Gate:

Three DVDS in one day. Shouldn't kids do something more useful at the end of term?

Film rentals go up in line with exam texts. Which is your favourite?

Would you send your child to Hogwarts?

How a hit film can make learning come alive


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Video-Game HR Recruiting a Near Reality

From Read Write Web:

Video-Game HR Recruiting a Near Reality: "

Aplus.netEditor's note: we offer our long-term sponsors the opportunity to write 'Sponsor Posts' and tell their story. These posts are clearly marked as written by sponsors, but we also want them to be useful and interesting to our readers. We hope you like the posts and we encourage you to support our sponsors by trying out their products.

Would your company recruit skilled employees using a video game?

That isn't a rhetorical question. Recruiting the right people is an unavoidable and costly challenge for many organizations.


Enter SkyTroller (iTunes link). This $1.99 iPhone app lets would-be air traffic controllers assign flight altitudes to aircraft entering their airspace. The game ends on the third 'critical separation loss.' And, if the stars align, high scorers might one day receive a call from an ATC recruiter.

SkyTroller could help address a pressing HR issue. The Federal Aviation Administration, on which Ronald Reagan hit the reset button early in his presidency, faces a huge loss of ATCs around 2016.

The FAA also suffers ongoing ATC shortages, at least according to the ATCs. The FAA insists that US control towers are not understaffed, but echoes of this 'disagreement' can be heard in places like Australia and Europe as well.

Could SkyTroller help match ATC organizations worldwide with people who show the raw talent to keep the skies collision-free? Maybe.

SkyTroller concept originator Dale Leier, a 20-year ATC vet (retired) with Nav Canada, now with iPhone app incubator HeavyLifters Network Ltd., says that the game contains about as much of the real thing as HeavyLifters could wedge into a phone screen.

And NavCan, Leier's old employer, has shown interest. (SkyTroller hasn't yet registered on the FAA's radar.)

Using technology to find promising staff is nothing new. There's even a B-movie precedent, The Last Starfighter, in which aliens recruit the protagonist, an American teen, using a video game based on the gunships used in a far-off intergalactic war. That game notified the recruiter when the teen recorded a high score.

To help aspiring ATCs get jobs, SkyTroller would need a similar alert mechanism, on top of buy-in from the FAA and its sister organizations.

While this recruiting scenario remains incomplete, it still seems promising:

  • One low-cost app that could be used to test budding ATCs.

  • Millions of iPhones and iPod Touches sold that run the app.

  • Perpetual worldwide demand for ATCs.

  • Extra time for newly unemployed owners of these Apple products to figure out if they can help meet that demand.

Do you know of other 'recruiting apps' made for handhelds? Would you develop such an app for your company? Let us know what you think.