Monthly Archives: September 2016

How Will it Shape Your Future

The world’s first public schools date all the way back to ancient times. And while trends, philosophies, policies and institutions have come and gone since then, a surprising amount stayed the same through the millennia. However, technological advancements — and digital technology, in particular — have ushered in an entirely new era for educational delivery. For the entrepreneurially-minded, meanwhile, this ongoing shift represents a wide-open field of opportunities. Just how important is education technology (AKA “edtech”) and what does it mean for everyone from investors to students? Here’s a closer look.

EdTech 101

EdTechReview defines edtech as “a study and ethical practice for facilitating learning and improving performance by creating, using and managing appropriate technological processes and resources.” In more specific term, this means using technology-based products and tools to enhance how students learn and how teachers teach. It’s not about superseding current approaches, but instead out determining how technology can improve and enhance the delivery of education.

Given the meteoric ascent of everything from computer-aided classrooms to online learning over the past two decades you may be thinking to yourself, “But wait — that’s nothing new.” And you’re right, edtech has already transformed the educational sector. But insiders argue that we’ve only seen an inkling of what’s still to come. Reports one Hot Topics article on edtech, “As we witnessed the digitization of the media industry via the profusion of new content, audience fragmentation, data centricity and the convergence between content and platform players, so will they impact the education market, leading to a raft of opportunities for innovators in edtech.”

Indeed, much of the conversation about edtech surrounds its tremendous potential for innovators and investors in this red-hot industry, and with good reason: Between the massive education market — between $4.5 and $5 trillion USD annually and predicted to reach up to $7 trillion within the next couple of years, according to data from Worlds of Education — and the comparatively minuscule amount of funds funneled into the sector in recent years, and the result is a perfect storm of potential. Concludes TechCrunch, “But now the cat is out of the bag. The rise of a new education and learning world has begun with investment in edtech set to reach $252 billion globally by 2020. Just as digitalization has transformed the financial services industry, it too will soon have its progressive grip wrapped around education.”

The Impact of Edtech

Despite the buzz over edtech’s abundant entrepreneurial opportunities, something else remains at the heart of the equation: the students themselves. In what specific ways can we expect to see edtech play out in the lives of its direct beneficiaries? Here’s a closer look:

1. Engagement will improve.

Smart learning software will offer lesson plans customized to each student’s specific needs. More engaging materials, meanwhile, promise to further improve outcomes. Says Hot Topics, “Indeed, user experience and engagement is fast becoming the main differentiator among the ever-growing field of education technology options. The integration of multi-media, gamification, mobile casual and informal learning apps and peer-to-peer learning platforms are all making content increasingly immersive; designed to not only attract students but also keep them engaged – all the way to the end.”

2. Progress will be more measurable.

A large part of supporting the growth of smart learning software? Big data and analytics techniques, which give teachers access to more specific and extensive insights into the achievements and progress of individual students. Not only can this help bridge any knowledge gaps, but this information can continue to be called upon throughout an individual’s academic and professional life.

Edtech is also being heralded for its potential to standardize — and ultimately democratize — the field of education. Reveals Hot Topics, “Now, a rundown, inner-city school can receive the same standard and level of content as a well-funded one in a wealthy area. And this is true not just on a school by school or country by country basis, but globally; offering developing nations access to developed educational institutions, both in an academic and professional learning setting.”

 

Balance and Work Life Integration

It’s about boundaries.  Most of us have heard the old maxims “All work and no play make Jack a dull boy” or “work hard-play hard.”  The new normal, whatever that is, encourages us not to strike a healthy balance between the two—leave work at work—but to integrate them.  Do what you love and love what you do—that sort of thing—but all the time.  Anytime.  Take that conference call on vacation.  Right?  Maybe not.

Why has the boundary between working and living blurred?  Simple: thanks to the 21st century digital age of “instant,” “fast,” and “now,” it’s easy to work just about anywhere, anytime.  You don’t purposely take work home with you; it’s tethered to your phone, your tablet, your computer, maybe even your Fitbit—and you probably use those things at home, on the train, on vacation, and maybe even at dinner (we hope not).

Let’s break down the two ideas and see what they mean—and what will ultimately work best for you.

1. Work-Life Balance

What is it, you wonder?  Achieve something at work.  Enjoy something at work.  Achieve something at home.  Enjoy something at home. For the mathematically inclined:

Aw + Ew + Ah + Eh = Work Life Balance.

What does this mean?  Working and living are never truly balanced—there are no coefficients or constants to guide you through the process.  Sometimes you’ll achieve and enjoy something more at work than you will at home.  What’s important is that all aspects of achievement and enjoyment in work and life happen throughout the day.  Some days—as you know—are harder than others.

Here’s an example: you might have a fantastic interaction with a persnickety coworker (achievement) and then laugh at a joke at a board meeting (enjoyment), followed by not tripping over a pile of laundry in the middle of the floor when you get home (achievement) and meeting a friend for dinner (enjoyment).  These achievements and enjoyments do not have the same weights.  That great conversation with that persnickety coworker might be the biggest achievement because you know he’ll probably invite you to work on that project you’ve been wanting to work on with him.  You probably enjoyed that dinner with your friend the most.

The big idea?  You unplug.  You achieve and enjoy something in both parts of your life—working and not working—and there’s a clear boundary between the two. Over time, achievement and enjoyment will balance each other out.  It’s the day-to-day that can be a bit tricky.

2. Work-Life Integration

This is way trendier.  Thanks to the gig economy that’s sprung up in the past decade, integrating what you do and how you live have become a necessity for some.  Even in bigger businesses, there’s this idea that living and working in the same place are desirable attributes for living.

Let’s look at a few examples.  Consider Silicon Valley—companies like Google have on-campus apartments, child care centers, organic gardens with staff cafeterias, and buses for those who don’t live where they work.  The idea is simple: integrate your work into your life.    For others, technology has allowed people to live their lives—exercise, take their kids to school, go food shopping—and work full-time. No one decided that all work needs to happen between 9:00 AM and 5:00 PM.  If you can meet your deadlines, show up for your meetings (even virtually), and live your daily life, then all is well.

What’s different here?  Discipline.  Strategy.  Knowing when to unplug.  And a stick-to-it attitude.  With work-life balance, the “unplug” is pre-set.  You’re done with work for the day, you leave.  With work-life integration, you plan on when you’re doing your work, meet all your job’s expectations, and still show up for touch football, or your volunteer work at that organization whose mission you love.

Will You Do the Same On Your Education

Did you know that February 11th is International Day of Women and Girls in Science? Whether you’re a woman working in this vital area or you have a sister/mother/daughter/aunt/friend/colleague who is, this annual observation is the perfect day to give yourself (or someone else) a pat on the back. It’s also an ideal opportunity to honor the many women whose contributions to science continue to improve our lives today.

We’re all familiar with the names Marie Curie and Maria Montessori, but they’re far from alone. Here’s a closer look at eight other pioneering women in science, along with why the contributions of women are more necessary than ever moving forward.

1. Virginia Apgar: Medicine

Determined to be a surgeon despite her gender and financial problems, Dr. Virginia Apgar persevered to become the first woman at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons to earn the distinction of full professor. In her work at Columbia, she designed and introduced the APGAR Score which is still used all over the world as a standardized method for evaluating newborn health. Apgar later earned a master’s degree in public health, and received many awards and honors for her work toward the prevention of birth defects.

2. Bertha Parker Pallan: Archeology

While Pallan followed in the footsteps of her archaeologist father, the inaugural president of the Society for American Archaeology, she earned recognition in her own right. According to Adafruit, “Bertha Parker Pallan Thurston Cody is notable in the field of archaeology for her role as a groundbreaker: she was one of the first (if not the first) Native American female archaeologists. She was certainly first in her ability to conduct this work at a high level of skill, yet without a university education, making discoveries and gaining insights that impressed the trained archaeologists around her.”

3. Annie Jump Cannon: Astronomy

For generations, the mnemonic phrase, “Oh, Be a Fine Girl — Kiss Me!” has been used by astronomers to remember the spectral classifications of stars. Its inventor? Annie Jump Cannon. Cannon was part of a group of “Pickering’s Women,” who worked with data and astronomical calculations at the Harvard College Observatory. She received many honors over the course of her 40-year career, including being the first recipient of an honorary degree from Oxford and the first woman officer of the American Astronomical Society.