A New Education Model

"Manage learning environments by teams of teachers. Since various separate classrooms have been combined in this model, teachers too can combine and help one another in a physical classroom and via the web around the world. This takes advantage of various strengths to address this multifaceted job. Further, they would act more like coaches helping them win (rather than a gatekeeper)."


A New Education Model

Corporate Education Needs to Change

Salman Khan of Khan Academy on HBR:

How much of what you’ve learned about effective education applies to the business world?

"The idea that you do K–12, four years of college, maybe some grad school, and then stop learning is a myth. The book applies to lifelong learning: Go at your own pace, master content before moving on, and do it without disrupting your current work and productivity. A lot of corporations, when they do training, mimic the classroom. They create corporate universities; people have to take time off and listen to lectures. But the information and credentials you get coming out of those classes aren’t as useful as other things. At Khan Academy, when we hire, it’s nice if you have a high GPA and an academically rigorous major. But what we really care about is what you’ve made. For engineers, show us software you’ve designed. We also want evidence of how you work with other people, the leadership you exhibit, and what your peers think of you."



I often think that I am learning, truly learning for the first time in my life. Why? Because the trauma of my childhood took up so much of my cognitive processes - in childhood, my twenties and frankly most of my thirties. A stressed brain is not completely available to take in information and focus on the task at hand. A stressed brain is just trying to survive. “What the science tells us about how stressed brains react to change, loss or threat is that children will often violate rules because they feel profoundly out of control. It’s a survival reaction and it may actually be intended to control the situation.” Chris Blodgett, a clinical psychologist who directs the CLEAR Trauma Center at Washington State University, in the NYTimes

Even when I was in the midst of my stressful childhood, I knew it affected my ability to show up but I didn’t know what to do about it nor did my teachers. Today I see so many kids and adults who are still dealing with the trauma in some way, shape or form. Understanding that trauma is not just being in a violent community but a violent home – physical and/or verbal, is a big deal. And it doesn’t even have to be abuse – it can be a chronic chaotic environment or one of neglect.

I’ve talked about ACE here before. Where are you on the list? How is trauma still showing up in your life? What are you doing to overcome it?

I can tell you from my own experience, you can overcome it. But it’s work. And the first step is getting in touch with your emotions. They are okay to have – all of them. The goal is not to suppress them or over-identify with them, but to regulate them. How do you regulate your emotions? You first label them. “Oh, I’m angry” is a good start. Then you let them rise and then go away. You don’t dwell on them. Then you explore the thoughts that gave rise to them. What triggered the emotion?

Then you question/challenge the thought.

Then you choose how you want to be in the moment.

Don’t let these steps fool you – this isn’t easy, but practice makes it easier.

Then you find that you're calmer, your more at peace.  Form there the world opens up, and you're ready to learn.


Who Benefits?

I wasn't surprised to hear that Udacity pivoted. I am one of those folks who signed up for the first artificial intelligence class taught by Professor Thrun. I didn't finish. But I knew as soon as I logged in what the fate of that course and offerings like it would be - not good. Why? Because there is no true innovation. A video is just a lecture. And I know from first-hand experience that Ivy league university professors are usually NOT good teachers. They are gifted intellects with impressive research backgrounds, but they often don't have the first clue how to formulate a lesson so that everyone in the room gets it.

Which brings me to the hubris of Silicon Valley technologists - of which I am one. To think we as technologists know how to educate is highly arrogant and frankly, plain ignorant.

But what's worse is that properly smacked in the face with this realization that we don't know what we're doing, what do we do? We create something for those who don't need it. We fail to help the people that could truly benefit from innovation.



Higher Education?

“It’s like higher education has discovered the megachurch”  

It's fascinating to watch higher education go through some of the same dilemmas that content publishers (of all sorts of content - from the written word to music) have endured.

A great article on the topic.

Will the Amhersts of the education world be like the indie magazines? What will all this do to higher education marketing? Will the drop out rates for MOOCs turn into pressure to be entertaining? Will this affect the content conveyed? Will teachers then become the next rockstars (ala Korea)? And if so, how will the effective be distinguished from the entertaining?

And what is education anyway? Does education imply learning? Or rather a facility with learned skills?

Age 7

From the Business News Daily: "A study by researchers at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland discovered that math and reading ability at age 7 are linked with socioeconomic status several decades later. The researchers found that such childhood abilities predict socioeconomic status in adulthood over and above associations with intelligence, education and socioeconomic status in childhood."


Learning to Code

Or how to code. Where you start depends on what you want to do with your skill.

For basic websites, here's a good guide for beginners learning html (the content) and css (the appearance). After you read the first page of the guide, hop on over to the website of the creator Shay Howe and go through his slides on the same subject. I thought the slides made the concepts easier to grasp. Or am I just too used to PowerPoint? Plus, I think some visuals on how code relates to output (I'm thinking literally a picture and arrows pointing from code to parts of the picture) would really help, too.

As you get more advanced, more resources for you:


1. JS Fiddle 

2. Class on Javascript by Code Academy


1. Rails for Zombies

2. Ruby Monk

3. A 15 minute tutorial

4. A very accessible guidebook - great on basics

For overall programming resources or how to program/code, there are a number of online courses and programs, like Treehouse.

What would you build if you could program? What are you building?

What I See

Pulling some of my thoughts together. What I see:

1. The 18 to 25 year-old set. These folks have to either know immediately that they want to be nurses (good economic choice, btw) or auto mechanics (ditto) OR they have to have the grades, focus and resources to go the Stanfords/Dartmouths/Yales of the world. There is a huge gap in the middle that is filled mainly with state schools, online universities (univ of phoenix) or community colleges. All are more and more expensive and often quite directionless.

2. The lack of high school counselors and good ones at that

3. The boom in career/life coaches

4. Reality TV and interactive TV (see Bravo Channel) as a distribution model; it’s still super hard to get anything to scale in the online world

5. The more and more entrepreneurial world – meaning because there are no IBMs anymore, people, in order to survive, have to become entrepreneurs – approach their lives like running a business

6. Self-awareness or lack thereof and the lack of these skills in young people – you seem to learn only if you’re lucky; no educational focus or system around it: Who am I? What am I good at? What can I do with that?

7. Life long learning – how education or taking a class can be viewed as a way into self-awareness and personal growth (even if the class isn’t about self-development)

8. Good teachers – there’s a trend online where more are being highlighted – see MIT Open Courseware Initiative

9. What we say about ourselves implicitly and explicitly – the beauty of online is mostly in the data; a way to use that data in a valuable way to the provider of the data, the consumer

10. Learning on the job – there are teaching hospitals, why not teaching businesses? Educational co-ops

This all amounts to something. I'm working through what.

The Lesson in Struggle

The Universe is trying to teach me something. Why else have I been struggling so much these past two years? What started out as a leap of faith into the unknown has been one lesson after the other - on dealing with uncertainty, facing fear and managing struggle. It's been so difficult that a friend recently said: "I see you feeling really uncomfortable and then thinking that’s wrong because other people around you don’t experience that. But the difference is you are willing to go through that phase of learning. Others are not."

His words helped and so did this article on learning:

"In Eastern cultures, Stigler says, it's just assumed that struggle is a predictable part of the learning process. Everyone is expected to struggle in the process of learning, and so struggling becomes a chance to show that you, the student, have what it takes emotionally to resolve the problem by persisting through that struggle....

All of this matters because the way you conceptualize the act of struggling with something profoundly affects your actual behavior.

Obviously if struggle indicates weakness — a lack of intelligence — it makes you feel bad, and so you're less likely to put up with it. But if struggle indicates strength — an ability to face down the challenges that inevitably occur when you are trying to learn something — you're more willing to accept it."



Confusion is good for you. According to one recent study students who experienced confusion when studying actually did better on the test. In fact, it seems an "impasse" of some sort is required for successful learning.

"Confusion, D’Mello explains, is a state of 'cognitive disequilbrium'; we are mentally thrown off balance when we encounter information that doesn’t make sense. This uneasy feeling motivates us to restore our equilibrium through thought, reflection, and problem solving, and deeper learning is the result." Put another way:

"Don’t be afraid to be confused. Try to remain permanently confused. Anything is possible."

~ George Saunders

Shelter From the Storm

"When you think of Harvard and Yale and all those great universities, they need to have the person already made to go there." Ms. Reifler

I have a complicated relationship with school. It was the only constant in my life growing up in east Los Angeles, but it wasn't always a safe haven. It definitely shaped the beliefs I had about myself and not necessarily in a good way. When I started Stanford I was not prepared - emotionally. In short, I wasn't capable of taking full advantage of a fine institution.

Interestingly, I've come to learn that I was not alone. Many college students lack important soft skills, but no one seems to want to teach these to adults. We're expected to figure it out on our own - often the hard way.

It's something that saddens me to this day. Because it's only now, after years of working on myself, that I finally feel capable of learning.


How to Learn

We've always been responsible for our own learning, but these days it seems we're doing more of it on our own. Here are some tips for learning.

1. Get out of your comfort zone; the harder we have to work to learn something, the less likely we are to forget it

2. Don't just write notes when listening to a lecture or reading; recall the information and comment or paraphrase

3. Test yourself; by testing yourself you not only test what you learn but make the information easier to remember

4. If you study something twice, the longer you wait between study sessions the better your recall

5. Switch up where you study

6. Study across concepts - go back and forth between concepts you are trying to learning as opposed to one at a time


Floundering can be good for you. Anne Murphy Paul in her article for Time summarizes: "Call it the 'learning paradox': the more you struggle and even fail while you’re trying to master new information, the better you’re likely to recall and apply that information later."

The work of researcher Manu Kapur is behind this insight. But he warns teachers they want to challenge their students, not frustrate them when encouraging students to spend time trying to figure out a problem on their own first.

99 Problems

An awesome legal analysis of Jay-Z's hit song, "99 Problems" by associate professor of law at Southwestern University, Caleb Mason. Lyrics: In my rearview mirror is the motherfucking law/I got two choices y'all, pull over the car or/Bounce on the double put the pedal to the floor

"The calculation Jay-Z has to make is whether, knowing that the car contains concealed contraband, he's better off trying to flee or hoping that the police won't find the drugs during the stop. This may be the hardest choice perps face (until they have to decide whether or not to cooperate), but there's only one answer: you are always better off having drugs found on you in a potentially illegal search than you are fleeing from a potentially illegal search and getting caught. The flight will provide an independent basis for chasing and arresting you, and the inadequacy of the quantum of suspicion supporting the initial attempted seizure will not taint the contraband discovered if there is an intervening flight. Law students: practice explaining the preceding sentence to a layperson. Smugglers, repeat after me: you have to eat the bust, and fight it in court."

How Will I Do It?

Will I? or I will? The interrogative versus the declarative. It turns out the difference is in the distinction. A study by Ibrahim Senay, a psychologist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign shows how.

His study asked a group of people to prepare to solve anagrams by thinking either, “Will I work on anagrams?,” or “I will work on anagrams.” Those that asked the question solved more anagrams than participants who repeated the statement.

Why? Apparently when we pose a question of ourselves we give ourselves the ability to choose - we are empowered. Senay notes, “people are more likely to engage in a behavior when they have intrinsic motivation” or “when they feel personally responsible for their action.”

Further, Senay's findings have applicability to how we engage and teach children. From the report:

"Instead of encouraging kids to say to themselves, 'I can do it!', this research suggests that we should be telling young people to ask, 'Will I do it?' or 'Can I do it?' Better still, we can teach children to inquire of themselves, 'How will I do it?' The difference is subtle but powerful: The first is a potentially empty affirmation, while the second gets kids started on what they really need to make it happen: a plan."

Are Teachers the New Video Stars?

Many companies are using video to disrupt education. But as I learned when I took the first Stanford AI course, video transmission doesn't necessarily mean great teaching!

Some interesting stats from that Stanford AI course:

160,000 signed up from all over the world except North Korea and 23,000 finished the course. That's a 14% completion rate. The top 410 students in the class were online students (not Stanford students). The highest Stanford student came in at 411.

There's been a lot of buzz around the course, but I don't think the outcome of the course demonstrates that teaching via online is an improvement. If anything, it proves that there are smart folks in other parts of the world who want access to credible information.

But as for solving the education problem in the U.S.? I'm not so sure.