Archive for the ‘News’ Category

CNA: The PSLE Math problem that got everyone calculating – and asking

Sunday, October 3rd, 2021

In my CNA app today (Sunday October 3, 2021), I read an article about a math test problem that reportedly caused immense distress among test-takers and their parents…plus caused a wave of reactions on social media. The story “The PSLE Math problem that got everyone calculating – and asking Why do Helen and Ivan have so much change when everyone’s gone cashless?” was written by Khoo Bee Khim.

The test question as reported in the article was…

Helen and Ivan had the same number of coins. Helen had a number of 50-cent coins, and 64 20-cent coins. These coins had a mass of 1.134kg. Ivan had a number of 50-cent coins and 104 20-cent coins.

1) Who has more money in coins and by how much?

2) Given that each 50-cent coin is 2.7g more heavier than a 20-cent coin, what is the mass of Ivan’s coins in kilograms?

I gave a go at solving the problem. I initially started on a spreadsheet then moved to a pen and paper (and calculator). I scribbled an equality expression and after 10 minutes reached an answer for part 1 when I realized it wasn’t an equality problem. Then I contemplated an approach to part 2 and set up an equality expression for that and reached an answer. My answer for part 1 was correct, but I had done an addition when a subtraction was called for in part 2 and had the wrong answer initially. Switching the addition to a subtraction got the correct answer. I am an average C-student after all.

After this experience, I feel this was a fair question and showed which students had high organizational thinking skills. There are other factors in play as well though. These include:

(1) the ability to interpret story-based questions. We know that girls tend to do better in this area.

(2) the comfort with unknowns. Most students are conditioned to be able to manage two unknowns in a problem: x and y. This two-part question had three unknowns in part 2, but one of them was already expressed in part 1. There was sequential dependency. So the issue here was the perceived high uncertainty because the problem had two parts. In coding, we might call this nested logic.

(3) tracking units. Some students may have got the wrong answer in part 2 because weight information was given in kg and g. This is a classic “trick” in STEM problem solving.

(4) test context. If this question was considered part of the “hardest” part of the test, then perhaps we could assume most of the rest was…less hard? There is also strategy in where this and other “hardest” questions were placed in the test…beginning…middle…or end. This would be the stamina and change of pace factors. In the real world, if this problem was the only one that needed to be solved in day, how many people would be successful?

(5) test balance. Was this question building on a previous problem that tested a similar math skill but in a simpler context? Ever had a test where every single question was “hardest” and filled with booby-traps? I have…once.

In relation to what we discuss in YCISL, I wonder whether students will ever need this particular math solving skill? And after answering that, will the educational system ever help students to become masters at solving this type of problem?

Furthermore, this question is outright positioned on the reasoning side of thinking skills. The storyline set-up is a distraction and perhaps a creativity decoy. There are many ways to make this a creativity-testing question or even a real world type question. Maybe one day, our tests will advance to that more emotionally intelligent level.

Love the Instagrams really though…!

CNBC: “How Common Core Broke U.S. Schools”

Monday, August 9th, 2021

My YouTube feed today presented a video posted by CNBC titled “How Common Core Broke U.S. Schools.” The description for the video reads “First implemented in 2009, Common Core was an ambitious initiative to revolutionize the American education system. National leaders from Bill Gates to President Obama supported the idea and it cost an estimated $15.8 billion to implement. Years later, research showed the new curriculum had minimal impact on student performance. So why did Common Core fail? Can a common curriculum be successful for all students?”

Around 2010, my kids were in middle and high school. Race to Nowhere was making headlines with special screenings in communities and raised awareness about stress and anxiety in schools. I also recall two other programs with imagery-filled titles, “Race to the Top” and “No Child Left Behind,” that were adding fuel to an already burning problem. They were both huge funding efforts which by-passed Rory Sutherland’s fourth quadrant and the Ministry of Detail. Common Core apparently was also a product of this funding movement and, according to the CNBC report, failed to gain traction…ever.

The video reports on resistance to change (probably resulting from a poor elevator pitch) as well as crosswinds such as adoption of computers, e-textbooks, cultural shifts, and socioeconomic tides. This was the time when educators were discussing teaching framework alternatives that were working, but policymakers were fixated on testing, test scores and accountability. While Common Core didn’t really cause more damage to an already hurting K-12 educational program, it essentially helped the education industry grow at the expense of student learning…quasi-equilibrium so to speak. Entering college students were less well-prepared and colleges started having to offer more remedial catch-up courses (related to tuition increases?). Degree programs of study either got extended because instructors were stretched or terminated early because students couldn’t get past lower division courses. On top of this, government policy was driving increases in college enrollment and the value of an undergraduate degree declined (supply & demand, I guess).

The Common Core isn’t necessarily a bad idea. In fact, it’s a great idea. The issue may have been with the innovation & design thinking process. In YCISL-speak, the Common Core did not seem to possess emotional intelligence or intrinsic motivation. SAT/ACT, Subject tests and AP tests were the de-facto standards of achievement…and not interfaced with actual school learning. The knowledge gaps that Salman Khan had referred to were going to get worse.

Standards-based examination tied to school learning is in place almost everywhere in the world…except in the US. Standards-based education programs even have overseas influence (that is, outside the country where it is the national program). We also have the International Baccalaureate (IB) program which is standards-based and intentionally available by design for adoption internationally.

A greater disappointment lies in the poor outcome of the Common Core despite the sense and awareness that was sparked by Sir Ken Robinson’s TEDTalk “Schools Kill Creativity.” Maybe the next challenge should be Common Core 2.0 for 10% of the cost of the original Common Core. Some thriftiness might get some wiser moves.

 

SCMP: Chinese university professor complains ‘lower IQ’ daughter is ‘mediocre student’ due to poor primary school results in viral video

Thursday, June 3rd, 2021

 PRNT 101: Introduction to Parenting. Introduction to the parenting of children emphasizing modern soft-skill engineering principles: object-oriented design, decomposition, encapsulation, abstraction, and testing. Emphasis is on good parenting style and the built-in facilities of parenting languages. No prior parenting experience required. 

This is a YCISL analysis of the article “Chinese university professor complains ‘lower IQ’ daughter is ‘mediocre student’ due to poor primary school results in viral video” written by Alice Yan and published by the South China Morning Post on June 1, 2021. This article refers to a video showing a person, presumably Associate Professor Ding Yanqing, sharing his experience parenting his daughter and lamenting her school performance. A video of a news broadcast on this story is posted on Baidu.

I am relying on the translation into English that is reported as quotes in the SCMP article.

“I tutored her every day. But she still finds it difficult to study. There is a big gap between her scores and that of the second-last student.” This reminds me of Daniel Pink’s TED Talk “The Puzzle of Motivation” where he said “When I got to law school, I didn’t do very well. To put it mildly, I didn’t do very well. I, in fact, graduated in the part of my law school class that made the top 90% possible.” The question that should be asked is whether the student was (1) in a class that would allow her to succeed; was she placed correctly? (2) in a school that would allow her to succeed; was the teaching a good fit for her learning? (3) in a place that would allow her to succeed; are there any non-academic co-factors?

“I am at a loss: this is destiny. I can’t do anything about it.” So he might be at the bottom of the parenting class? If anything, this should raise empathy. The other possible thought is that he is actually responsible for this outcome. Was there any attempt at prototyping? – “fail early, fail fast” as I like to suggest during prototyping – to consider several promising candidates and invest energy and resources wisely. I would also suggest that he reflect on what successes he encountered in this experience. Finding the positivity in failures is crucial to avoid worse outcomes.

“…force her to study or do homework.” In the YCISL, we use the idea of oblique change forces as well as setting up for an exploratory time period (Gamestorming framework). Is his daughter in peak mental and physical health? Are there distractions? The parenting question is what can you integrate with the need to study and do homework that would have a better chance at better learning? A 15-minute nap? A nutritious snack? A caring “how was your day?” chat? More information is needed to analyze this properly…perhaps she has a love of learning for certain subjects, but not others? How much sleep does she get? Does she have active listening filters?

“My daughter is definitely not a wonder child. Her IQ is far lower than both of us.” Any idea about her EQ? And have they all really been tested for IQ? Is it possible that he has a parenting bias because he has a daughter, not a son? Reminds me of the story about Gillian Lynne told by Sir Ken Robinson in his “Do Schools Kill Creativity?” TED Talk.

“No matter how outstanding you are, your child may be just an ordinary person.” Hmmm…humility appears not to be one of his strong points. I wonder if cultural toxicity is unusually high in his worldview.

“Ding admitted it was 95 per cent likely that his daughter would not be able to achieve scores good enough to be admitted to PKU in the future.” Ummm…did you ask your daughter whether she wanted to go to PKU? You also never know. I am at Stanford now…but I am quite “ordinary” and happy.

“Parents should identify their kids’ unique qualities in different aspects other than academic studies. They should find a path suitable for the kids to develop and assist them in that direction.” Finally, some good advice. But let’s add some design thinking to this statement. Who? What? Where? When? Why? How? The Who? should be more than just the parents and kids…it needs at the core to also include the school community as well as social support network. The Where? needs to identify the places where the love of learning thrives. The When? should be addressed through optimized time management that promotes well-being. The What?, Why? and How? is up to each family to explore in their own worldview.

Here is a suggestion for parents in similar situations: Find a list of careers. Imagine your child in those careers. Are you able to accept that your child may be in that career? Can you imagine them being happy in that career? This is just a conditioning exercise. Whether the careers are feasible is not of concern for this purpose. Let’s try to picture a worldview with our children succeeding in each of the ways told to us by Richard St John in his TED Talk “8 Secrets of Success.” Another one of the YCISL “Simple, but not Easy” practical designs.

I will also share a thought that Assoc. Prof. Ding shared this story so publicly because of his academic interest in “reforms of Chinese compulsory education” (listed on his PKU web page) and was actually trying to stir and spin with connection to recent governmental reforms in education. This might explain the narrow thoughts early, and the final “good advice” thought.

Los Angeles Times: UC explains admissions decisions in a record application year of much heartbreak, some joy

Tuesday, April 13th, 2021

There is some soul-searching going on now that college admissions decisions have been made at most US universities for the next entering class of students. The LA Times article “UC explains admissions decisions in a record application year of much heartbreak, some joy” by Terese Watanabe published on April 12, 2021 explores reactions, emotions and explanations for the seemingly heightened competitive feel in this round in the University of California system, particularly in the time of Covid-19 and removal of standardized test scores from consideration (among other things, it’s worth making sure we understand).

First, let’s revisit UC’s Statewide Guarantee and Local Guarantee. The Local Guarantee focuses on the top 9 percent of students in a graduating class of participating California high schools based on GPA in UC-approved coursework completed in the 10th and 11th grade. The Statewide Guarantee relies on an admissions index which in the past considered GPA and standardized test scores. However, the Statewide Guarantee was not in effect for the current admissions cycle because of the stoppage of standardized test scores in admissions decisions (yay!). So numerically, admissions decisions were based on GPA, but at the same time, more weight was placed elsewhere – possibly on extracurricular activities or the personal story. The PERSONAL STORY. In the YCISL program, we have been offering workshops that include Your Personal Story assignments and connecting story components to emotional intelligence.

But let’s get back to the LA Times article. There are a few lines of thinking worth exploring for the YCISL platform.

“200,000 students were vying for about 46,000 spots”  First, there were probably fewer spots available for the next academic year because of a significant increase in deferments from the previous admissions year due to virus impact. Remember too that 200,000 students includes out-of-state and international students. This means that about 1 in 4 students potentially would find a spot in a UC. Twists include students who get two or more spots offered, and those who participate in the wait-list. And the factor that does not change is clusters of applicants interested in impacted majors (hence the undeclared strategy – if you just want to be at a UC regardless of major). So let’s say the competitive scale is that you have to position yourself in the top 20% if applicants (remember this is applicants, not all senior high school students). So your personal story has to have a similar uniqueness factor; that is, an admissions officer should not be able to recall another 5 applicants with similar stories. Which brings us to the next item…

“4.3 GPA, eight AP and honors courses and a host of extracurricular activities” How unique is this? Not very if there is not much else to tell. The 4.3 GPA would be competitive if it came with valedictorian or salutatorian status. What if the top student in the school had a 5.0 GPA? Remember to use the Freshman Admit Data as guidelines in deciding whether to apply and not as criteria that would ensure admission. Sure, students did get admitted with the published GPAs and standardized test scores, but the lower cut-offs probably had special circumstances such as athletic ability. AP and honors courses don’t necessarily correlate with college-readiness either. Extracurricular activities? Just how far did these interests grow and affect? Again, these are all details (think like a Chief Detail Officer) that need to be crafted into a personal story. It’s a communication exercise that most college applicants are not very aware about.

“Majors matter, they say.” This is old news in the UC system (and most other universities). Through your personal story, develop a narrative to tell how you will make an impact on society, the future, and the professional field. Design thinking comes in handy here so that you connect worldviews. Apply divergent-convergent thinking to major selection as well as outcome scenarios. Find the one that would make your story stand out.

Another dynamic is in the university rankings. UC Berkeley and UCLA are in their usual top 25 spots according to US News & World Report. But notice how UC Santa Barbara, UC Irvine, UC San Diego and UC Davis are now all ranked top 40…so these have become targets for top applicants. The safety choices of UC Riverside, UC Riverside and UC Merced are all now top 100 (UC Riverside and UC Merced were top 150 just a few years ago, so BIG moves). So the lesson here is that expectations need to change often. If a parent is an alumni from 20 years ago, the admissions demographics have surely changed. With the start of internet applications, the number of schools that a student applies to also has increased. As with good stories, think about adventure. Out-of-state and international students have a natural advantage as their adventure has a far, far away element already built in. For California students, it’s possible for some to tell a far, far away story, but for many, it’s a huge challenge. You’d have to do a lot of prototyping of your personal story.

Yes, Your Personal Story exercises and workshops have a lot of potential to make college applications more aware and accurate (as opposed to precise). Presently, there is no demand for such assistance because the “free” options of college counselors and parents focused on the grades/scores/extracurriculars data make the hard work to develop and tell a personal story only a nice-to-have. That said, there is an element of natural selection in play since many of the raw college applicants are in it for the promise and not the ask.

WSJ: Universities Abandon Reason for a False Idea of ‘Empowerment’

Thursday, August 27th, 2020

This is a commentary on “Universities Abandon Reason for a False Idea of ‘Empowerment’” by Aaron Alexander Zubla which appears as an opinion article in the Saturday/Sunday, August 15-16, 2020 print edition of the WSJ.

I empathize with the thought that the new requirement is inappropriate…albeit perhaps with a different worldview.

Looking at the CSU Press Release CSU Press Release “CSU Trustees Approve Ethnic Studies and Social Justice General Education Requirement” and California Assembly Bill No. 1460 which addresses this ethnic studies GE requirement at CSU, this appears to be a case of lipstick on a pig. The stated case for academic (scholarly) and social benefit is overly optimistic…it could have the opposite effect too. Why isn’t there instead a special task force that addresses the issue at all levels of society (and globally in-between)?

Let’s return to the WSJ article…

To answer my own question about why place this un-promising requirement in a university setting, it seems to be motivated by image-based appeasement. The WSJ article describes this as “another sign of the politicization of universities” and laments that “For decades the humanities have tilted progressive.” While this matches the motions in my worldview, my perceptions of the direction are slightly different and tend towards a comedy of errors as opposed to an evil plot.

CSU could have simply offered courses in the history or political science departments to add courses which relate to sociological race issues. GE already includes these courses. The idea that a dedicated 3-unit course will benefit student scholarship is like a car salesman’s sell (they try to go over every single feature hoping that one will click – instead of listening and responding in a precise manner). And even if 10% of any class cohort retains, how have they been empowered? Knowledge without EQ is not empowerment.

How else is my worldview different? I think the scope is not sufficiently global. What if the requirement included international relations and global studies courses? What if it went beyond social justice and the direction of political winds? The challenge is not so much to become aware of the strife, but more so one of looking for positive lessons. I predict that these courses will be negatively-toned which is the switch-flipper to off for most people…especially those already with many distractions. Which makes me think…should this also include courses from the psychology department.

One last comment on the idea in the article that non-humanities subject areas (eg, medicine, accountancy and engineering) are set in supported applicable fact alone (the author uses the word “truth”). Not so. Social justice has entered these programs as well. However, they may be better models than what is being instituted by CSU where students can apply critical thinking as to whether these social issues are important. There may be no choice but to align in a GE course. Even so, how many will have learned anything?

Japan Times: Coronavirus crisis offers chance to update Japanese schools

Monday, May 11th, 2020

I found the Japan Times article “Coronavirus crisis offers chance to update Japanese schools” written by Louise George Kittaka and published April 20, 2020 to be an interesting push for more educational technology especially in this time of school closures and online remote teaching.

From the article, I understand that there are schools in Japan which still largely utilize paper-based learning and that some view this as a disadvantage especially during this pivot to online. As a person who still prefers to read newspapers in print form, I believe a move to digital learning content is not the only solution as much of the article suggests.

I have made past comments on the issues with integrating educational technology and the lackluster value they present. As with technology in most cases, the quantity may be raised, but the quality is unlikely to improve. This lack of quality upside from edtech results in widespread frustration in chasing technologies, equipping teachers with something that works from end-to-end, and user experience. The use of iPads in US schools is an example of over-promise and under-deliver.

As a proponent of more EQ in teaching, YCISL feels there is instead now a significant opportunity to reflect on changing the educational process, not just its tools. Will we find that students who learned best in classroom settings remain equally achieving in an online setting? We already know that learning performance is dependent on a variety of factors such as learning styles, pace and group settings. It is the detection of these factors and ensuing customized teaching methodology that would offer the greatest benefits. We need to boost the awareness and management skills of teachers and students, and generally broaden the public appreciation for EQ in education.

For all the panic and fear that has spread through reactions to the virus, education has been severely impacted and we need to be caring for its resiliency, recovery and general good health.

BBC News: Coronavirus: The school of Mum and Dad

Sunday, March 22nd, 2020

An article on BBC News (Coronavirus: The school of Mum and Dad by Jane Wakefield) prompted the following thoughts in applying YCISL principles and methodology to the disrupted education of many children.

Many parents may currently be seeking ways to sustain learning for their children amid school closures. In the past, there have been lengthy school holidays which may be filled with youth camps and special care programs. Currently, those are less likely of an option, and parents find themselves in the role of teacher.

One model would be to emulate a teacher and open up the textbooks and work from there. There are also online resources which could be good solutions. And…using YCISL type thinking…there is another possible route which focuses more on continuing the development of thinking skills rather than knowledge acquisition. Here are a few opportunities:

  1. Asking Questions. Children are generally taught in school to provide answers. Help them build skill and confidence in asking questions and consequently become a better active listener for interactive dialog. For a basic exercise, have your child listen to something (anything really: a video, you reading a book, a television show, a song, a poem, etc) , then have them ask or write down questions to prompt a conversation with you. Notice facial and tonal expressions that show interest, understanding, confidence and curiosity.
  2. Divergent-Convergent Thinking. Most of formal education is directed towards convergent thinking (often logical deductive reasoning). Help your child develop innovative thinking skills by practicing divergent thinking coupled with convergent thinking. For a basic exercise, choose something that you need to do (eg, make a sandwich), and have your child describe several ways it could be done. This technique could be applied to writing and math as well.
  3. Filling and Crossing Gaps. Schools move students through grades with knowledge gaps and those gaps become handicaps later on. However, most real world problems that need to be solved involve knowledge gaps and children should be prepared to fill or cross those gaps. For a basic exercise, ask your child to answer the question “how long does it take for an ice cube to melt?” But you didn’t mention whether it was indoors, outdoors, in summer/fall/winter/spring, or in your refrigerator/freezer (that was the missing information).
  4. Fast Creative Thinking. The homework, tests and exams most students experience utilize active recall usually on the order of hours, days, weeks, and months. For leadership and innovation thinking, fast thinking especially for creative thought needs to be strong. Encourage sprint-like, no self-editing thought collection using this basic exercise: find something that you would like to name, and write down every name that comes to mind (use sticky notes, a piece of paper, or a whiteboard). Catalog the ideas. Try the exercise again with a different something and aim for greater fluidity, greater output and capture speed, less self-doubt and less self-editing.
  5. Positive Thinking. Children have a positivity mindset that should be nurtured and kept resilient. The best leaders are able to frame positively and design programs that make their team positive through emotional intelligence and intrinsic motivation. A basic exercise could involve the practice of gratefulness: a well-known exercise for attaining more restful sleep is to think of something to be grateful for just before falling asleep. With your child, tell each other what you are grateful for at bedtime. Keep a log.

The five skills described support academic as well as professional and life achievement. They are valuable life lessons that are not a core part of any formal educational curriculum. As a parent, you have an opportunity to be a teacher/coach of these lifelong skills. Feel free to customize the exercises to situations that your family enjoys – to accommodate attention spans, energy levels and other uniqueness.

WSJ: More Companies Teach Workers What Colleges Don’t

Thursday, March 22nd, 2018

Slide1There was an online WSJ article today (March, 22, 2018) titled “More Companies Teach Workers What Colleges Don’t” by Douglas Belkin (https://www.wsj.com/articles/more-companies-teach-workers-what-colleges-dont-1521727200) which told about several companies which have training programs for new employees. These training programs don’t seem like anything new and the complaints by employers that colleges are not preparing graduates as perfect fits for their companies reflects usual me-me-me thinking.

What is different now though is how employers are having to take their pick from more college graduates (because government is pushing more students into college programs) who have gone through the 4-year memorization mill (that’s what undergraduate education is about). There are several problems with this development.

  1. ISSUE OF MASS BALANCE. More college graduates means fewer pre-college candidates. There just are fewer prospective employees that have not been conditioned by colleges to memorize (of course, high schools seem to be picking up that slack). The pool of pre-college candidates that do not go to college contains many who struggled with the “memorization” challenges of secondary education and possess the critical “out-of-box” thinking that employers today desire.
  2. ISSUE OF GROWING NUMBER OF COLLEGE GRADUATES WHO ARE AVERAGE OR BELOW AVERAGE AMONG PEERS. More students in college inflates the quality bell curve of college graduates. The main benefit of putting more students into tertiary education is increasing the number seeking advanced studies and doctoral research. Competitive employers are usually interested in the top decile of graduates from the top few percentile of colleges, so there is a slight benefit there. However, there will be a more noticeable increase in the lower quartiles of the distribution; that is, more average and below average students for whom further higher education is not an option. This is the candidate pool that has grown for most employers to select from, and where we find a magnified mis-match.
  3. ISSUE OF NEED FOR REMEDIAL COURSEWORK IN EARLY COLLEGE. Pushing more students into college prep and extending education for many to an additional 4 years has lowered the quality of students entering college. This is because secondary education can now rely more on colleges providing remedial courses, especially in writing, as part of an undergraduate degree program. Further, college prep has led to high schools struggling to cope with being a high school (reality) yet simulating a college education (virtuality). So the quality shift is across the whole applicant pool and not just the tail end.

It is therefore not a surprise that employers will place less weight on a college degree (hopefully, where the college degree is from also does not matter as much) and focus on skills uncovered in interviews, initial hiring periods and other opportunities to observe performance. Employers could probably use a new kind of assessment: one which evaluates problem-solving and collaboration aptitude before college. This could be used to identify and select candidates for in-house training programs (as an alternative to college) as well as a progress measure of whether workplace aptitude grew stronger in college (you really can’t tell from a college transcript). There are some employers who apply such a tool during their hiring process and I’ve seen effective results. But the idea is to make such an assessment as universal as existing college entrance exams.

In the YCISL program, we emphasize skills as tools to leverage knowledge. Our task is to bring awareness and attention to these skills so that students can educate themselves in this framework. We also believe that problem-solving and collaboration aptitude should be assessed at the beginning and end of each year in secondary education. This is to give the teacher a clearer view of individual skill levels as well as progress patterns. Without such information, we have the one-size-fits-all that ails our systems of education today.

Amazon Prime Day: Case Study in Overpromise, Underdeliver

Wednesday, July 15th, 2015

amazonprimedayfail

Today, Wednesday July 15, 2015, is Amazon Prime Day. It was supposed to be a “Black Friday”-type special shopping day for those signed up for the Amazon Prime service.

Our household has been an Amazon Prime subscriber for a few years and so far it’s felt all right – mainly for the fast delivery. The excitement over Amazon Unlimited Prime Instant Video has long faded into irrelevance. My spouse and kids nibble on Netflix during the  holidays and I have found all I care to consume at DramaFever. Then again, fast delivery was the Amazon standard before they introduced Amazon Prime, so service took a step back first before taking a step forward – and they basically are coming out $99 richer every year without doing anything extra. Well believe it or not, there are worse deals out there where people have figured out how to get your money by providing you the same or less service than before their fees.

Let me also say though that there are a number of things I do like about Amazon and it is #3 only to my shopping at Costco and factory outlets. I do really like their no-fuss return process as well as the customer reviews service. Pricing is also seriously competitive most of the time (wish it was all of the time).

Anyway, back to Amazon Prime Day. This was a seriously bad day for customer experience. Where the expectation was to find compelling shopping deals (like on Black Friday), there was more disappointment than satisfaction to be had. Up front, let me say that I think deals disappearing quickly is not entirely Amazon’s fault. There has to be some stock limit and it really depends on demand and the quick shall have it. The problem probably was that the quick were people looking to re-sell items later at regular prices and make a quick profit (and hence the positive PR about sales on this day) – it probably wasn’t as much to end users as to prospective profiteers.

I take issue more with the plethora of different third-party Sellers engaged in Amazon Prime Day and the inability to tell if there was any real discount because of Amazon Prime Day. We know from services such as CamelCamelCamel that Amazon prices fluctuate regularly, but we could not really tell how good the sale price was unless we checked something like CamelCamelCamel. This was just a jumbled presentation and the air quickly left the balloon. Our household did not buy anything on Amazon Prime Day.

With this in mind, I judge Amazon Prime Day to have been a case of overpromise and undeliver. A pretty nasty blunder in mismanaging expectations and presentation. They lost our attention within about 2 minutes.

In YCISL, we coach using a grab and monitoring “eye contact” to ensure that attention is not lost. Amazon.com, once the premier example of user persuasion, failed badly this day. Let’s move on. Accidents happen.

 

Related News Stories:

Amazon Prime Day Recap: Sold-Out Kindles, Wait Lists, Facebook ‘Fail’

Amazon Gets Defensive As Customers Criticize Prime Day

 

WSJ: Does Technology Belong in Classroom Instruction?

Saturday, May 30th, 2015

In today’s (Monday March 11, 2015) edition of the WSJ, there is a Technology section with an article addressing the question “Does Technology Belong in Classroom Instruction?” with the Yes argument provided by Lisa Nielsen and the No argument provided by José Antonio Bowen.

Let’s reflect on this question in the YCISL context especially our problem (that schools stifle creativity) and our program emphasis areas.

The prime question is whether technology, as it is applied in schools, enhances creativity and provides opportunities to develop personal skills. Let’s focus on five electronics-enabled technologies that are in current adoption in schools:

1. Computers. Out of the five selected (electronic) technologies, computers have had the longest run in schools so far. Computers are major investments in terms of initial capital as well as ongoing maintenance. Early on, computer companies often donated computers to schools and parents volunteered to maintain them. Their impact on creativity is mixed. On one hand, they are big-pipe sources of knowledge and viewpoints; on the other, they have become tools on which we lay and express our thoughts and ideas as well as analyze data.

2. Tablets. Lighter backpacks are the main benefit of tablets. With respect to creativity, I think they are at a disadvantage to computers because of their smaller screen and higher difficulty in user input (much easier to swipe and tap, than to draw or type). Obviously so, they are handier for searching/researching big-pipe sources of knowledge and viewpoints; although not a particularly good solution as an alternative to printed textbooks because of their limited screen size.

3. Interactive Whiteboards. In concept, this technology certainly belongs in classrooms. However, their performance and ROI is so below potential. Remember “Under-promise and Over-deliver”? Compared to modern whiteboards which can be as long as the length of walls in a room, the limited screen size of interactive whiteboards is a disadvantage when it comes to promoting creative exploration in a classroom. Sure, interactive whiteboards are useful when putting up PowerPoint presentations and annotating them, but can they replace the analog alternative altogether? No, they can’t. So the result is an additional expense rather than an alternative expense, and a significantly higher maintenance cost – all with a limited lifetime and shorter replacement cycle. And there are the health issues.

4. Class Web Portals. As a parent of school children, I have used a few Class Web Portals before. I think they have gotten better in terms of learning curve. The early problem was that schools and teachers only half-committed to these portals so information was split and not replicated between paper and web. So students and parents had to check two sources of classroom information and collate on their own with no way of being certain of full-picture accuracy. So assignments were missed or students needed twice the time to get homework done. My guess is that the learning curve has gotten easier as more HCI technique is incorporated as well as teachers, parents and students becoming more accustomed to interacting with classroom web portals. I have also experienced Stanford’s Coursework portal which is quite good and useful; I especially like that students can upload assignments and the server clocks the time that an assignment was submitted. However, with regards to creativity, I have not yet detected any features that help educators or students interact creatively. Maybe in the future.

5. eBooks. There are eBook devices whose clarity and readability are great advantages. But these devices are not making headway into schools. Instead, tablets with eBook apps are common. eBooks as data downloads are also growing.  eBooks tied to publisher web portals are also an interesting concept and have potential to enhance creative and critical thinking. The barrier is the monetization: eBooks (especially textbooks) are not cost-effective and do not possess the advantages of printed books. Like tablets, their main advantage is lighter backpacks (and fixed space requirement) but they are not fully-competent replacements for printed textbooks. That is why I purchase the printed textbook (use at home) in addition to eBooks (use at school) for some school subjects such as history and biology.

In my view, technology will “belong” in the classroom – one day in the future when it is more mature. Presently, it has too many kinks and disadvantages and the expense is unjustifiable because product developers are in the early stages still. Remember when a 20 MB hard disk cost $1,000+? We can get a more reliable 120 GB solid state drive now for around $100.

Let’s gather educators to brainstorm ways to leverage creativity from classroom technology first then develop and reveal a true solution with the promise of replacing paper and pen, chalk and chalkboard, printed books and handouts. Let’s innovate.