Thursday, 20 December 2012

Teaching satisfaction

When I quit teaching in class I was frustrated with pretty much every aspect of the job. I was fed up with the system of education, I was fed up with parents, I was fed up with pretty much everything. I quit and it was awesome. It was like a huge stone was lifted from my chest. I felt like it was the best decision of my life.

I flew into my hometown the other day to visit some family and friends. One of my friends is in a band and I attended. To my surprise one of my former students which I had taught many years ago was also playing in the band afterward. It was nice to see him get to a new level and to produce something awesome.

Since it has been so long since I have been teaching in class I forgot what it feels like when a student actually does something awesome. I only teach online now because it takes away pretty much every headache a teacher can have. If there was a problem with teaching in person, teaching online solves any problem. I even get the satisfaction of people making apps.

The best part about teaching is showing somebody they could do something when they thought they couldn't. Getting somebody from A to B is really the only thing that matters. I can't imagine ever going back to teaching in a classroom, the benefits are simply not there.

It's good to see people succeed.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Why self directed learning should be more ubiquitous

It seems that a few schools in the great white north aslo known as Canada have it bang on when it comes to education.

I think most of us know that high school and school is essentially daycare for older kids. However, a few kids actually want to do something more than just sit in class. Thanks to the Canadian council of self directed learning there is this wonderful program where kids can learn at their own pace. There are only 5 in the country and if some of you don't know the population of Canada is roughly the population of California. But 5 in the country is still pretty small.

Here you can read the wikipedia article on both of them


It isn't a new idea but it is one of the best. Frankly 30% of high schools should be like this. This is one of those times where the solution already exists but change won't happen. 

Imagine a world where kids go to a self directed school in their electric cars powered by wind turbines while they eat no processed food and have tons of safe sex, get good grades, start their own businesses, stimulate the economy and are generally happy.

One can only dream. 

Thursday, 6 December 2012

The real joy of teaching

I have taught for many years and in those years I have learned many things such as.
  1. My teaching style is different
  2. Most people don't want to do something new and exciting
  3. Most people don't want to do anything if it isn't for credit
Since I started teaching at a younger age and without getting a masters in education, I found these points a little hard to take in. Before I quit teaching in the classroom I tried very hard to get people to do amazing things that only a percentage of the population can do. A lot of times it isn't that hard as it sounds. 

But as usual, it fell on def ears and only a few people kind of produced something. Today I try and get people who have never coded or designed anything to go and do something amazing. The only barrier I have is people's own mental blocks. Most people think they can't do anything and therefore they won't.

It's kinda like Bilbo Baggins in the hobbit. Basically somebody forces him to do something few hobbits have ever done. And what happens at the end? Well Bilbo has this wonderful adventure few hobbits will ever have.

You should really do something that scares you. Eventually you will find yourself in a better place.

But back to the joy of teaching. Last year I made this course on how to make HTML 5 games. The best part of this course is that I show everybody everything. The goal of this was to get people who always liked games but didn't know how to make them actually make a game. Well somebody actually did. They put it up on the chrome store. You can see the link here.


AWESOME!

This is the best part of my day when I actually get somebody to do something amazing!

One of the biggest problems I had as a teacher is trying to convince people to do stuff like this. I would say:

"Hey, you're pretty awesome how about you try and release ____. You can totally do it and it looks great on your resume."

The answer I usually got was (especially from parents):

"[Id rather have my kid get 95% in math]"

Of course Im paraphrasing it. But essentially convincing people was the hardest part. The best part about Udemy is that the convincing doesn't happen people who love online education go there and they know what they are going to get. Im sure people see Udemy and say: 

"[No credit? No thank you]"

The best part is that I don't have that conversation, I don't waste my time on that conversation and I can just go back to working on something new. 

The funny thing is that the "Udemy" way of education is slowly getting more and more traction and it's about time. From a teaching point of view this is the best way to give your lectures. From the students point of view, it is the best way to learn something as fast as possible.

Really isn't that was teaching and education is about? You know, results. When did teaching become this war of attrition for marks and credit? This brings me to my final point. As a person who loves learning marks were never a priority. Activities and learning were always paramount. Maybe we can call it academic hedonism. But the real shock is that mostly everybody is not like this. Most people would rather get an 'A' and do nothing than get a 'C' and learn something. 

The 19th century education system in the 21st century

Sometimes it takes me a long time to figure out something and when I do I feel like an idiot because the answer is so simple.

I realized the other day that the 19th century education system was set up before major time saving devices such as the dishwasher, washing machine and dryer were built. These devices basically saved people time and people used this time to progress. There is a wonderful ted talk about this. 

http://www.ted.com/talks/hans_rosling_and_the_magic_washing_machine.html

This is where the "a ha" moment came in: this is why the education system is "stuck in it's ways", resistent to change and out of phase with concepts of progress.

If we were to compare the way most schools work to how people wash clothes, then most of us would still be washing clothes by hand just because of a philosophical ideology. This is the major problem, education is more about a teaching manifesto than results because it was set up in a time where philosophical manifiestos were the best way to achieve anything. 

If the school system was about learning they would ditch the manifesto and start to do things differently. I always pose a simple question: what if I could teach people better and faster but the only catch is that it is completely different than your current system? The answer is always a no because it breaks the manifesto. Most schoolboards won't even try something new. Why not take a portion of the population and try something new?

Im sure if schoolboards offered this there would not only be volunteers but there will be progress. 

The sad reality of the situation is that if I had a child today by the time they enter elementary school the school system will be exactly the same. There will be nothing new and no progress. It's time for schools to devote a portion of their time to research and development. 

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

The easiest way for a tech company to be tripple bottom line is...

We have all heard of tripple bottom line companies. These company put people, planet and profit all on the same page. To some people it is a refreshing to see companies really make a difference with what they do.

Traditionally you hear of tripple bottom line companies in the retail space. A coffee shop get's all of it's ingredients from locally grown farmers it pays its baristas 15 dollars an hour and the baristas get an awesome health plan. The shop advertises how progressive and awesome it is and people buy from the shop knowing that they are apart of the solution to a better world.

Tripple bottom line companies sprout up everywhere and the philosophy drives business. But what about tech companies how can they be tripple bottom line?

Well the company could be in an eco friendly building that only uses solar and wind power to power it's devices. The company can also give to charities and donate expertise and equipment to the community. But there is one thing that can easily be the number 1 item to make a tech company tripple bottom line. 
Pay your employees and treat them like people.

Most people would never shop at Wal-Mart for political reasons. These reasons include harsh work conditions and low wages. However, they will turn around and buy some software with hard working conditions and low wages. Personally, there needs to be some sort of qualifier stamp to make sure that the software you buy is "fair trade".

I have talked about unpaid internships before but I haven't talked about working conditions. Lot's of times software companies will get gullible people to work on their project for free and for nothing. As if the experience of working on this project outweighs the money and the time. Of course this is only if the project gets released. Lot's of projects fail, lose funding or have a multitude of other problems that cause it to fail. So if you project that you are working for free and for nothing fails then you have nothing, you have wasted your time.

I personally get really annoyed when I hear that people are taking up unpaid internships. It's so risky. In some ways you are better off getting a part time job and starting your own business. At least that way you can make more money.

Perhaps, I am too driven by money. I have bills I have to pay just like everybody else at the end of the month. Going into debt is the worst thing you can do. Im not about to go into debt to work on a project. Personally you can release your own project with your own company. It may not be as glamorous but at least you won't go into debt.

Getting back to the tripple bottom line, I see unpaid internships all over resumes submitted to MI. I really do feel bad for them. If I was a bigger company I would hire more people. 

People should be more aware of the fact that some software companies just abuse their employees as bad as Wal Mart does. We need a workplace standard to make sure this doesn't happen.

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