Category Archives: insights

kvp is a lousy way to teach 

Recently on one of the podcasts I listen to, I heard an offhanded comment made about how history is taught not in patterns but as facts. For example, “On the 18th of April in ’75, hardly a man is now alive, who remembers that famous day and year”.

Rarely are the “whys” explained – understandably so at early ages, but not understandably as maturation happens.

“Teaching” in so many subjects has become memorization of what really amount to key-value pairs. Like, Columbus: 1492. Norman invasion: 1066. Etc.

Certainly, facts are important. And some things truly are best learned in a rote memorization form – for example, the multiplication table through 12, 15, or 25. But what about states and their capitals? Sure, they’re “pairs” – but are they more?

This is awesome if you’re a trivia nut. But if you’re not, or you truly want to learn the material – not merely pass a test or regurgitate facts – then you need to understand more than just the “facts”.

Outside history classes, it’s especially prevalent in math – very little (if any) time is taken to explain why the quadratic formula works (or even what it is), instead algebra students are expected to just learn and use it.

My late aunt, who did a lot of tutoring in her life, summed-up the problem with algebra (and other math subjects past elementary school) thusly: before algebra, we give a problem like “3 plus box is 9; what goes in the box?” but in algebra, we swap the box for a t or x or g, and we freak out. She would teach the facts, but [almost] never without the whys.

The whys are illustrated and analyzed very well in some books – like Why Nations Fail (review). But, sadly, they’re not given in more places.

We definitely need more good teachers who want their students to understand not merely enough to pass the class (or the test), but to cultivate the curiosity we’re all born with to become lifelong learners.

First step: stop “teaching” as key-value pairs.

apple tv – how apple can beat amazon and google

In e99 of Exponent, Ben Thompson makes a compelling case for his idea that Amazon Echo (Alexa) is an operating system – and that Amazon has beaten Apple (with Siri) and Google Home (with Assistant) at the very game they both try to play.

And I think he’s onto the start of something (he goes on to elaborate a bit in his note that Apple TV turned 10 this week (along with the little thing most people have never heard of, iPhone)).

But he’s only on the *start* of something. See, Apple TV is cheaper than Amazon Echo – by $30 for the entry model (it’s $20 more for the model with more storage). Echo Dot is cheaper, but also is less interesting (imo). And Alexa doesn’t have any local storage (that I know of).

And neither of them will stream video.

By Apple TV has something going for it – it *already* has Siri enabled. In other words, it has the home assistant features many people want, and does video and audio streaming to boot.

It handles live TV via apps like DIRECTV or Sling. And Netflix and other options for streaming (including, of course, iTunes).

Oh, and it handles AirPlay, so you can plop whatever’s on your iPhone, iMac, etc onto your TV (like a Chromecast).

But Apple doesn’t seem to focus on any of that. They have a device which, by all rights, ought to be at least equal (and probably superior to) with its competition – but they seem to think their competition is Roku or the Fire Stick. From a pricing perspective, those are the wrong folks to be considering your competition.

It’s Google and Amazon Apple should have in its sights – because Apple TV *ought* to beat the ever living pants of both Home and Echo.

If HomeKit exists on Apple TV, and you have Siri on Apple TV, why is it not the center of home automation?

vampires vs zombies

A few years ago I wrote about why I like good vampire and zombie stories.

I had an epiphany this week related to that, that I thought you’d all find interesting.

If vampires exist, zombies can not exist [long] in the same universe. Why? Because they’d be eliminating the only source of food for the vampires. And since vampires are, more or less, indestructible (at least to the wiles of marauding zombies), when they eliminated zombie outbreaks, they’d do it quickly and efficiently – and, most likely, quietly.

tesla’s solarcity bid isn’t about energy production

Ben Thompson* (temporary paywall) makes an excellent first-order analysis of Elon Musk's bid to acquimerge SolarCity with Tesla. But he, uncharacteristically, stops short of seeing the mid- and long-term reasons for the acquimerge.

It's about SpaceX.

It's about Mars.

It's about the Moon.

Musk knows that he needs an incredibly-solid pipeline of technology to get SpaceX past its initial "toy" phases of being a launch company to the ISS.

He wants to ensure that he's able to support the future on non-terrestrial bodies – lunar missions, Mars missions, long-term space exploration, high-altitude space stations, etc.

Sure, it happens to be good for Tesla (integrating solar tech at Tesla charging stations is a no-brainer). But that's not the end game.

The goal is space.


* Follow Ben on Twitter – @benthompson

on ads

My colleague Sheila wrote a great, short piece on LinkedIn about ads recently.

And this is what I commented:

I held off for years in installing ad blockers/reducers.

But I have finally had to cave – been running Flash in “ask-only” mode for months now, and just added a couple blocker/reducer extensions to Chrome recently (in addition to the ones on my iPhone for Safari).

I like supporting a site as much as the next guy (I even run a few highly unobtrusive ones on my sites) – but I agree: when I cann’t tell whether it’s your content or an ad, or even get through all the popovers, splashes, etc, I’m leaving and not coming back

I hate the idea of ad blockers/reducers. But it is coming to such a point where you can’t read much of what is on the web because of the inundation of ads.

And mailing list offers. Oh my goodness the mailing list offers. Sadly, the only way to block those seems to be to disable javascript … which then also breaks lots of sites I need it to work on – and whitelisting becomes problematic with something like javascript, since it’s usefully ubiquitous (in addition to being uselessly ubiquitous).

For Safari on iOS 9, I have three blocker/reducer apps installed (they’re free, too: AdBlock Pro, AdBlock Plus, & Refine (App Store links)). It’d be nice if they worked for Firefox, Opera Mini, and Chrome, too – but alas they do not (yet).

Also run two blocking/reducing extensions in Chrome (my primary web browser) on my desktop – Adblock Plus & AdBlock).

Shame the web has come to this. Schneier’s written about it recently. As has Brad Jones & Phil Barrett.

Wired and Forbes even go so far as to tell you you’re running an ad blocker and ask to be whitelisted or pay a subscription.

Forbes’ message:

Hi again. Looks like you’re still using an ad blocker. Please turn it off in order to continue into Forbes’ ad-light experience.

And from Wired:

Here’s The Thing With Ad Blockers
We get it: Ads aren’t what you’re here for. But ads help us keep the lights on.
So, add us to your ad blocker’s whitelist or pay $1 per week for an ad-free version of WIRED. Either way, you are supporting our journalism. We’d really appreciate it.

If you’re detecting my adblocker, maybe instead of telling me you won’t do anything until I whitelist you (or subscribe), you think about the problem with ads first.

Just a thought.

meetings

The author of a recent Medium post is so close to right, it’s scary. Gary says the best thing you can do is to cut your meeting length in half.

And that is a phenomenal step. One that needs to happen. But one that needs to happen in conjunction with an even more monumental shift.

Change the start time of meetings to something “weird”.

Don’t start on the hour or half hour. Don’t even start on the quarter hour.

Start at 10 past or 10 til, and go for 15, 30, or 45 minutes – with a hard cut off. Just like college classes. Oh – and just like class days when all you had was a test, as soon as your part of the meeting is over, leave. You may have to wait to leave until the end. But once your piece is done, just like when you finished your test, walk out and get on with your day.