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Friday, April 12, 2019

Ed + Tech = ???

Ed + Tech = ???
EdTech is as old as Ed and Tech.
For about hundred years, as soon as an invention was made, someone started promoting it as a tool for reshaping education.
That happened with radio, television, tape recorders, video tape recorders, computers, the Internet, tablets, smart phones, and now the latest fad is AI.
Of course, there are always some combinations, too.
Nowadays, a technical part (using specific devices, establishing physical connectivity) becomes less attractive as writing software (programs, apps).
What does Tech offer to Ed?
For decades, education had, has and will have the same set of functions: content preparation, management and delivery; class observations and management (student-content interactions, student-student interactions, student-teacher interactions), assessing student’s progress, assessing teacher’s efficacy; and then there are levels of a single institution, of a district, of a state, and then there are administrators, parents, politicians, hence there are great many processes that may be augmented by the use of a device or devices.
An EdTech entrepreneur approaches someone from the target audience and explains how his/her invention will change the life of students/teachers/parents/administrators.
"Hi, we have a solution! Do you happen to have a problem our solution solves? No? Thank you for your time."
Then eventually the sale is made.
Then things don’t change much.
Then a startup goes bankrupt.
Then another startup is born and the circle of life and death repeats itself.
Not all EdTech startups fail.
But almost all.
Why do so many EdTech startups fail?
I had a piece on this matter: Why Do Many EdTech Startups Fail? Really!
But in one sentence, the answer is: EdTech startups know a lot about Tech and do not know anything about Ed.
Well, anything important.
I saw a publication that stated that about 40 % of purchased apps are not being used afterwards.
Why would a professional paid money for something and not used it afterwards?
There are different reasons.
There are people who are naturally curious and just love trying new things.
They tried it; it did not do what they wanted, they dumped it.
There are people who want to do a career, and for that they need to look “innovative”.
Those people do not care about what they purchase, because they do not do it for making their work better; they do it for having a better look. If they don’t care about using it, they don’t use it.
There are people who have been forced in using some new “innovation”.
Since they did not want it in the first place, they will not use it; the best they will do is faking using it.
And those are just the major reasons.
But if there is no real demand for an innovation, that innovation will not ever make it into a breakthrough technology.
And eventually it will die.
And the startup that developed it will die, too.
But a new one will be born.
Who knows, this time it may be “the one”!

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Who will be the real President of the United States?

Who will be the real President of the United States?
This post was written in 2016 and originally posted on another web-site (there are more pages there from that time). However, the current discussion of the health of Donald Trump makes this post relevant again.

Donald Trump is a fighter, there is no doubt about that. I bet, when he started his campaign, even he did not expect the victory (what a shock he must have had on November 8th!). After being featured in nine movies, running a popular TV show, a run for the Presidency of the United State seemed like a natural and final step in his career as an entertainer. That would bring to his huge ego a new wave of attraction he would get from people, which would peak all the attraction he had had during his whole life.
If Trump starts a journey, he goes all the way. His goal is to win. There are no rules.
Fight. Hit. Adrenalin.
It is not Trump’s fault that he became the President.
It is not even the fault of people who voted for him.
The blame must go to the establishment of the Democratic party.
I have a large post on this matter and the rest of this piece is not about it.
I want to address an issue which none of the news outlets addresses.
Donald Trump will NOT be our President.
Well, formally he will.
But in actuality he will NOT.
Have you seen pictures of Obama eight years ago and now?
Do you see what to be the President does to a person?
The President has to do a hard actual work, which requires 24/7 a huge amount of physical and intellectual power.
Anyone who thinks that Donald Trump is capable of reading (forget about writing) long and complicated documents is just delusional.
I dare everyone who voted for Trump to take a piece of paper and write: “I voted for Trump because …” and add at least 5 specific reasons. On the back side of this page write “In four years my life will be better …” and write at least five specific improvements you expect to happen in your life. Save this paper and take it out in four years.
The best-case scenario, he will become America’s “Quinn Elizabeth”. Which, as we all know, was the actual plan of his team. When Trump became the nominee, the team was looking for people who would run internal and external political affairs, leaving Trump “making America Great Again”.
The worst-case scenario, Trump will become America’s Leonid Brezhnev, or Boris Yeltsin. Both of them during last years of their reign did not do any actual governing. Trump is already out of the governing – he cannot govern any more even his own Twitter account.
Why do you think the FBI became a “Trumpland”? BFI detail has been watching 24/7 both – Hillary and Trump. They saw who was easy to be manipulated and who not. Hence, FBI was not rooting for “an iron lady”.
When a silent voter casted his (mostly) or her vote for Donald Trump, it was an act of “screaming”: “I exist, you mother f*&%^#@rs! I hate you and I want you to go!”. They saw Trump as a “King Kong” who will destroy “those f#$%&*ing corrupt establishment pigs”.
Firstly, I doubt that the same people would vote for Trump if they saw him as a puppet incapable of actual governing. This image could have brought a real opportunity for Democrats to beat Trump – if they were smart enough to see it.
Secondly, there is only one way to fight corruption – it is making a society as open and transparent as possible. This is just a historical fact: the more decisions are getting brokered within a narrow circle behind closed doors, the higher and wider the level of corruption. When a government starts cracking down on media outlets criticizing it – this is it; it is corrupt; and the more cracking down is happening, the more corrupt the government is. People who for four years have been sitting on a couch waiting for crumbs of prosperity would trickle down to them, and when it did not happen channeled their anger and frustration by electing a “Big Gorilla”, have to look in a mirror and ask: “Hey, why didn’t you vote in any local elections, or primaries, or didn’t participate in town halls? What have you done on an everyday basis to make America greater than it is now?”
Anyway, let’s go back to the original question: who will be the actual President of the United States?
Who, despite the fact that NO American voted for him (I am absolutely positive – it will be HIM), will de facto govern the country?
Who will be America’s “Grigori Rasputin”, or possible “Vladimir Putin”?
This is what I would like to hear from the people on a TV screen.
Because, it is very probable, that that person will indeed become America’s “Vladimir Putin”.
I will not be surprised at all if in a year or two Donald Trump gets ill (President’s work is hard, too hard!). For a while Mike Pence will take over the White House. But then the real puppet master will emerge.
Would be nice to get to know him as soon as possible.

P.S. As we eventually learned, the real president of the United States of America is  Jerad Kushner.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

In Management Thinking Makes All The Difference

In Management Thinking Makes All The Difference

This post is a continuation of the previous post on the matter: A Case Of a Dumb Decision.

Instead of making the original post longer and longer by adding more and more examples of “management” I decided to start a new one.
There are also other posts on the matter of poor management:

Ignoring sloppiness: a sign of tolerance or mismanagement? 

Knowledge Is NOT Power. At Least In Politics. ___________________________

The pictures above are taken in some garage.
Every visitor of the garage has to take a ticket (picture on the left), and before leaving the garage has to validate the ticket in a machine (picture on the right).
Some people do not know about validating and proceeded directly to the bar gate without validating a ticket.
If that happens, the bar gate does not move, and a driver has to call the campus police. Then a security guard has to go to the car, talk to the driver, explain that the ticket needs to be validated, so, the driver needs to backup, find a spot to park a car, go to the machine, validate the ticket hoping the total time will not change (or a driver would have to pay extra), go back to a car and drive to the bar gate again.
Evidently, that has been happening enough time to force management place a sign – as shown in the next picture.
Seems reasonable, doesn’t it?
Well, the fact of the matter is that this sign is placed at the bar gate that needs to be opened to leave the garage!
So, a driver who did not validate a ticket but drove to the gate, realized that the ticket did no open the gate, had read the sign, backup the car, etc., etc.
This sign solved a problem – one specific problem.
Now a guard does not have to walk to a car to explain what to do.
The problem this sign has solved was the annoyance of the campus police.
However, naturally, this sign does not help anyone who is entering the garage and not familiar with the whole procedure.
Could THAT problem be addressed – the problem of helping people to avoid all the troubles in the FIRST place?
I’ll keep you in suspense.
No, I won’t.
Of course, the actual solution would be placing a warning sign at the entrance!
And such examples exist, for example - Logan Airport garage.
The difference between where to place a sign demonstrates the difference between management and “management”.
Every organization (a.k.a. a system) has its mission, goals, functions. A manager is like a conductor, responsible for finding right people and orchestrating the most efficient work on their part. If something goes "south", ultimately, that's a manager's fault. "Fish rots from the head down" - people say it for a reason (and Russians add "... but gets eaten from its tail").
A manager thinks about making life of clients/users better/easier.
A “manager” thinks about … well, this sentence may have many different endings.
It’s easier to say what a “manager” does not think about – he or she does not think about the mission of his/her organization, does not think about improving the efficiency of the functioning of the organization.
Or maybe this "manager" does care about his/her organization, maybe  he/she is a nice person, but just incompetent. It does not matter. The results mater, not the reasons.
That is why he/she cannot really be called a “manager”, but rather a clerk, someone who is busy to do all paperwork to make it look good, but does not really think about anything beyond that.
The signs of “management” of such “managers” are everywhere – in business, in public institutions, in governing, in politics.
And from my personal perspective, over the last 10 - 15 years we can see more and more “managers” like that.
My interpretation of this phenomenon is that we are observing a natural state in a history of any country when the ruling elite has entered a process of degradation.

BTW: in the opening picture "self confidence" is not a skill. There are many "management trainers" who don't really know what management is, they are often no different from a motivational speaker - "you have to believe in yourself, be on time, talk to people!" A good manager needs people skills, but having people skills does not make one a good manager. There are many logical conundrums like this one. Another one - "A good politician needs to have charisma, but having charisma does not make one a good politician".
This is what management is:
The mission (the reason for existence) of management is establishing healthy development of the governed system, preventing degradation of the system, and facilitating its progressive evolution.
The goal of management is optimizing exchanges between the governed system and the environment.
The function of management is making decisions.

In late 1980-early 1990s Russian economist, politician and administrator Gavriil Popov has developed "Administrative Theory". In part, he stated that a bureaucracy - any bureaucracy (governmental, political, administrative, scientific, financial, ...) - if not checked regularly via open-channel feedback always inevitably becomes a self-serving machine. The main goal of bureaucracy, i.e. of each and every bureaucrat, becomes (a) a the minimum - self preservation; (b) at the maximum - self-promotion. Bureaucracy assess every action, every step, every plan from those two points of view: does it represent a threat to personal surviving? does it help to get some personal gains? Personal goals of a bureaucrat override goals of the organization/system. 
Statements like "I am the state!" or "Let be a flood after us" capture the essence of such bureaucratic psychology.
A book "Backstabbing for Beginners" offers a great description of how a bureaucratic machine works (in this case the UN), how it eventually leads to corruption (and "losing" billions of dollars).
A manager is a bureaucrat. He or she also is at risk to place his/her own personal goals above the goals of the system he/she manages. That is why every effective managing always includes checks and balances, and must be as open as possible. A closed system eventually comes to a stagnation, degradation, and a decay. It it gets absorbed by another system. Or it gets blown up from an inside.

Example # next
When a car with no permit enters this garage, the attendant spend at least five minutes to talk to the driver, find out what's what, make the driver leave or issue a temporary permit. During peak ours a line of several cars may grow behind.
What needs to be done is very simple, an attendant need to tell the driver to move the car in a spot on the right.
And then do his thing.
But it is not the attendant's responsibility to come up with this step. The garage manager has to do that.
And if he/she doesn't that means that he/she is not a manager, but just a "manager".

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