Category education

Slayer University

The world shifted in 2005 when a few ex-PayPal employees launched YouTube. It accelerated a shift toward becoming a culture of video-based learning.

Of course, they weren’t the first with a video sharing service but the world seemed to understand YouTube instantly. It was simple: turn the video camera on ourselves, record and publish. DIY video was born.

And it’s not all inane cat videos, Kahn Academy launched a few years after YouTube and today has more than 100,000 practice problems and over 6,000 micro lectures online. 

A decade after YouTube’s launch our default for learning has become sites like YouTube. How do you install a deck with no fasters showing? Look for a video online. How do you repair a Patagonia jacket, ditto.

Which brings me to Slayer.

I’m not a Slayer fan and my point here isn’t about them. Videos like the following catch my attention. A ten-year old embraces a video-based learning tool (Rocksmith), masters a complex craft and then posts it for the world to see.

Oh… and her little sister comes along for the ride (sounds like she’ll be fronting a math-Metal band in the near future).

2014. Time stamp.

Running a canyon; the beauty of the irrational

Below is another little vignette that speaks to how we address the challenges and opportunities which cross our paths.

What I love about this film is that it speaks to the value of taking on a challenge that is optional. I also love how it addresses the potentially irrational element of doing something others don’t see as enticing.

Why travel across the globe to surf a specific wave? Why climb a mountain? We do these things because doing them defines who we are.

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference” – Frost

The Beauty of the Irrational from The African Attachment on Vimeo.

Surfing into another chapter of life

This video speaks to something that happens to all of us; it speaks to the distinctly different chapters in our lives and how we transition between them.

Sometimes those chapters transition smoothly and… sometimes they don’t. Whether it’s a new job or a new career, a first child or a passing loved one… the phrase Πάντα ῥεῖ (panta rhei) “everything flows” (attributed to Heraclitus) describes life well.

The video below also speaks the the manifesto of this blog (captured in the About section above)… Life comes at us and it seems to be doing so with an increasing velocity. We are defined by how we react to it, how we adapt to the changing landscape and what lines we draw through life.

OF SOULS + WATER: THE WARRIOR from NRS Films on Vimeo.

The acceleration of learning

It’s almost funny how some people keep waiting for things to slow down. For technology to become less pervasive… for things to go back to the “good ‘ol days.”

What’s so clear is that we not only aren’t going backward… the pace of change is accelerating.

We carry the equivalent of the Library of Alexandria, once considered the found of all knowledge known to man, in our pockets.

Here’s one more gem… for those visual learners.

Corny video. Clean, educational product.


John Adams, generational succession and globalization

“I must study politics and war that my sons may have the liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce, and agriculture in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain.”
– John Adams

I love this quote. It gives a hint to where our forefather’s heads were when they were alive but it goes further than that. This offers a brilliant blueprint for what they saw coming after them. Since they were the founders, the instigators, of a number of ideas they were hyper aware of the generational view of history. They were actively involved in planning their legacy, even within their own family tree.

Henry Adams, John Adams great-grandson understood this flow and followed it. He fell into that last layer and studied various forms of the arts.

As a father whose daughter is about to head to college I see this kind of thinking among many of my peers. Elements of what John Adams shared are present today and as is the case with everything… there are pros and cons.

My parents grew up as first generation Americans. In addition my parents were born after the Great Depression. Like all others shaped by that era they operate with a razor sharp focus on practicality. They chose careers that would deliver them from the challenges their parents lived through in the post stock market crash of the 1930s. The key phrase in that last sentence might be as simple as “they chose careers” (places they could work for 40 years, they didn’t look for a job).

They gave birth to the generation of baby boomers. This next generation, even though they were raised within the structure of practicality, has many characteristics that are quite different than their parents. In my opinion one overarching characteristic is being more self-centered. This generation is widely associated with a rejection or redefinition of traditional values, they think of themselves as being special. Further, one could argue that the very option to work at a single place for 40 years was killed by this generation.

The boomers created the generation coming up today. This group is much more informed due to instant access of massive amounts of information via the Internet. They are also much less pragmatic and practical. In the spirit of the Adams quote, this generation is much more likely to study (and potentially get a degree in) audio engineering or film. Part of the shift is due to a media landscape shifting dramatically (access to professional level media tools are in the hands of everyone) but part of the shift is related to what Henry Adams did as a great-grandson of John Adams. Henry Adams had more options than John Adams; our kids have more options than our parents.

Or do they?

The thread tracing this process through time doesn’t connect.

It doesn’t connect due to the fact that if you start with John Adams generation and successively move on to future generations you do NOT get a smooth line or even a unidirectional vector. If you did our parents would have studied something far less rigorous than what they did. Richard Florida’s Creative Class would have been invented well over a hundred years ago.

The reason the thread through time doesn’t connect is because of unplanned, large-scale disruptions.

Various forces caused re-starts. In the case of our parents generation it was the Great Depression and wars. In today’s case it’s globalization and technology.

Historically speaking, it’s quite hard to operate without being strongly influenced by the scale of disruptions we’re talking about here.

A person may have wanted to become an accountant or a painter as World War 2 kicked into gear but being drafted may have taken those opportunities away.

A journalism student may have written newsletters when they were seven, become Editor of the college newspaper but a job at a regional newspaper may simply no longer exist.

The inverse to fretting about globalization and technology is seeking to understand them deeply… even embracing them.

I believe that is the best strategy at this point in time. I believe this is even more valid for our offspring. If they are going to have anything even remotely close to an easier live or a life with more options we must prepare our kids to compete with kids from Bangalore. We should encourage them to study meaningful languages that they’ll use in the years to come because the job waiting for them might very well be in another country. We should push them to experience, even live, in places well outside the boundaries of this country.

John Adams was a first generation explorer of a new world.

So are we.

More :

John Adams by David McCullough

The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris by David McCullough

America, 16th in world re. college graduates

A generation ago we were 1st in the world regarding the number of college graduates and we’ve slipped to 16th.

What happened?

Two things happened. We became complacent and everyone else sprinted past us.

Kids in the United States go to school fewer days than the kids in the countries ahead of us. American children study to less rigorous standards, etc… And so we lost the leadership role.

I learned this lesson when I was a young teen. I joined a football team with had a coach that didn’t believe in conditioning. In the preseason we did fifteen jumping jacks and a few laps and then started practicing plays. I’m serious. That was it. That year we played about twelve games against other teams who, unlike us, took preseason conditioning seriously. We not only lost every single game that year… a few kids got injured.

That coach should have been fired.

The hard truth is that we, parents, are much like that coach. We, parents, need to embed it into our kids heads that they are not competing with the kid next to them at school… they are competing with kids in Bangalore and in cities they’ve never heard of… like Guǎngzhōu… which is 5x the size of Chicago.

We can and should take this on by understanding the stranglehold teachers unions have on our system but we, as parents, need to go further than that. We should seek out any and every educational option that we can afford or access for our kids, wherever that is in the world. We should encourage our kids to fully grasp that jobs will not be waiting for them upon graduation, the world is radically different than it was a few decades ago. All companies in the world seek to optimize their research, development and delivery systems with almost no acknowledgement to geographic or nationalistic restrictions. We should encourage our kids to embrace languages that are the drivers of the next century (such as Mandarin).

We, parents, must prepare our kids to compete in the world economy.

If you have kids, prepare them for the century ahead of us and not the one behind us.

Taking your hands off the wheel

I’ve been blessed with two great parents and to say they taught me a lot is a gross understatement. That said, I think what parents do more than teach is influence. In the category of influence, my dad does something that has captured my imagination for… decades.

To share some context, my dad spent a lot of time outside the United States with his job. When I was a kid I would be transfixed by his stories when he came back from far away lands such as Japan, Saudi Arabia or Russia. They were, literally, foreign worlds to me. So when I saw my dad do the following, knowing he started doing it in those regions, it had a profound impact on me.

When my dad is in a restaurant and given the menu, he’ll hand it back to the waiter. He says something like “tell the chef to make anything he wants, tell him to surprise me, tell him to make what he or she loves most.”

On the surface it sounds like no big deal. But after you think about it, as I do pretty much every time I sit down at a restaurant, it is profound.

It’s one thing to do this in a restaurant you frequent or in a familiar region. It’s an entirely different thing to do this in far flung regions of the globe. He’s shared that in rural China he’s been given… monkey brains.

The practice of not ordering from a menu works for me on a few levels.

First is the obvious, adventure. Our lives are too climate controlled, too routine, too planned. We request coffee at a specific heat, we seem to require our houses to be within a tight temperature range regardless of the season outside, etc. The truth is that we don’t experience adventure until something goes different than planned… until something goes wrong. Adventures are what we remember… we forget the things that went as planned. It’s for these reasons that I’ve started to copy this practice. It’s a bit harder for me as I’m allergic to gluten… so in some regions there is an extra layer of risk.

The second level is control. We not only seek to control as much as we can in our lives but we go further. We seek to control OTHER people’s lives (our kids, our friends, etc). My dad’s simple act is the anti-control. It acknowledges that he CAN control a situation and then he proactively does not. This is the piece that keeps me thinking. There are so many situations in life that we can control but the simple truth is that sometimes when we try to provide too much structure we hold others back. There is vulnerability in giving up control, there is potential failure in letting a little control go… and there is also potential for much larger upside.

Sometimes we need to stop seeking to control and (figuratively speaking) take our hands off the wheel.

The goofy photo is one I took of my dad wearing those disposable 3D movie glasses (with the lenses removed) against a garage wall in the house I grew up in. My dad, among other things, doesn’t take himself too seriously. Otherwise he wouldn’t have let me take that photo. I love this photo of him.

Ctl alt shift in education (via video)

The era behind us had teachers offering lectures to students live and had students master the concepts on their own (via homework). Sal Khan thinks it makes more sense to have students watch the lecture on their own (video) and master the concepts in class when they have access to the teacher. Worthy video here, lots of alternatives regarding how we look at learning.