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Dept of Near Future. #3 #cong16

By Tom Murphy.

There are so many possible levers to effect change; finance, education, communication, technical innovation and so on, that planning for the future is now a major challenge. It is not always obvious what the next step is. However, we can narrow the field of options by eliminating the avoidable threats to our welfare.

Not doing stupid things is a strategy that can work surprisingly well for an individual on a day to day basis. On a collective level, climate change is beyond the point of being reversed or even slowed down. So it would not make any sense to make medium to long term plans without taking the possible environmental effects into account.

The consequences of increasing worldwide access to the internet are still ramifying. Although, it may now be more of a utility than a novelty, it would be foolish to think that how things are now on the web will be how things will be later on. By later on, I mean a year or two from now.

Millions of clever people are making smart adjustments and incremental improvements to what the web can do and how it can be made to work better. Goodness knows what they will come up with. But it will be different. And that means change. Change is good - it has to be since it is inevitable. By the same token it has to be acknowledged and managed.

Stability is vital for a business to operate and grow. However, to entrench oneself in one platform or one service delivery method would be tantamount to commercial suicide.

I could go on listing the big events that we all face but it is clear that even with avoiding the obviously stupid stuff there still exists a vast field of possible events with indeterminable outcomes.

This unpredictable future we face can be characterized as chaos. The way we handle chaos is by maintaining balance.

We do that by being sure of who we are and what we are about. Then we can push gently into the chaos. With the capacity provided by our strengths and energy we can assimilate new information and incorporate new knowledge and data into ourselves or our enterprises.

As we keep pushing out (if we don't have some fear and trepidation we are not dealing with chaos) our increased ability and knowledge builds a stronger base to operate from. And so on, until we start pushing up the daisies.

Balance is essential. Too much stability and we risk being overwhelmed by all the challenges we face. Too much chaos and we use up our resources too quickly in an unprofitable manner. All that is required is just enough apprehension to keep you alert - no more.

I don't know what the future will hold but being sensible and brave is probably a good start.

On a personal note: I think the most useful survival tool (we have to survive before we can thrive) is the ability to pay attention. More specifically we have to be more aware of what is effective and what isn't. This is not synonym for efficiency, organisation, or managing deliverables. It means being aware of what works.

The first thing that has to be established is what is it that has to be done. Then we can be as efficient and organised as we like about it. Pay attention, have some courage, and do not do dumb things, (use your cop on, as they say around here.)

Paying attention may or not save us but it will make the ride interesting while it lasts.


The future of education in a world of white-collar automation. #2 #cong16

By Victor del Rosal.

Future of Education in a world of whote collar automation by Victor del Resol


Up until the industrial revolution muscle power was limited to what animals and humans could provide. With the advent of the steam engine, the availability of physical power grew exponentially, marking an era of tremendous progress. This is referred to as the first machine age by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew Mcafee in their Second Machine Age book. 

If muscle power was essential to that age, brain power is the key for the second machine age. However this is not the natural brain power of humans, but that afforded by computers. It is the era we live in, where plentiful computing power—which continues to grow exponentially—multiplies the availability of cognitive power. Today computers are doing the jobs that were reserved for humans not long ago. This is powering the era of automation.

Brynjolfsson and McAfee point out that it is the “exponential, digital, and combinatorial” nature of technology that underpins the powerful nature of the second machine age. Processes which were limited to human labor are now being performed by computer code. Automation will continue to especially impact work that is predictable and repetitive.

The implications are profound and far-reaching. Within two decades the equivalent of billions of new brains will be added to the global economy. But these will not be human brains but artificial intelligence agents performing all sorts of knowledge tasks. 

Not so special after all

As the global supply in intelligence—human or artificial—increases, human cognition loses its value; it is no longer unique, especially as AI systems get more sophisticated. This is because the supply of computing power is steadily increasing, and it will do so until it becomes ubiquitous. Overall the price of a floating operation per second is dropping. All of this powers a cocktail of technologies that make us humans increasingly replaceable. Humans may not be so special after all. Computer code is replacing basic human cognitive functions across a variety of functions and industries.

One of the consequences of the technological progress is precisely our availability to replace human cognition with machine cognition.

Automation is not a new thing

However, automation is not a new thing. In a Pew Research Center study, Jim Warren, the founder and chair of the First Conference on Computers, Freedom & Privacy, wrote that “Automation has been replacing human labor—and demolishing jobs—for decades, and will continue to do so. It creates far fewer jobs than it destroys, and the jobs it does create often—probably usually—require far more education, knowledge, understanding and skills than the jobs it destroys.”

Rex Troumbley, researcher at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, wrote, “We can expect robots, artificial intelligences, and other artilects to increasingly displace human labor, especially in wealthy parts of the world. We may see the emergence of a new economy not based upon wage labor and could be realizing the benefits of full unemployment (getting rid of the need to work in order to survive)”.

The reason why this will start in wealthier parts of the world is simple: a worker in the developed world is more expensive than her peer in a developing country. There is simply more incentive for a corporation to start an automation process where wages are higher. In the developing world, where labor intensity is still affordable it will take longer, but it will also come of age.

AI and robotics will continue to displace low level worker skills

A top digital media strategist at a U.S. national public news organization responded, “Our continuing failure to re-train under-skilled workers will continue to create a glut of un- and underemployed as advances in AI and robotics require workers that are more educated than ever before. Those who attain those education levels will find new opportunities while under-skilled workers are left on the curb.”

Rebecca Lieb, an industry analyst for the Altimeter Group and author, responded, “Enterprises will require a highly educated, digital and data literate workforce, which does not bode well for blue-collar workers, or softer skill white-collar workers. Given trends in U.S. education, this could lead to high demand for engineers from foreign countries (as we've seen in the past) with advanced degrees in engineering, mathematics, etc., as institutions of higher learning in this country fail to produce enough graduates with the requisite skill sets.”

Education for the new wave of knowledge workers

If we accept that the new knowledge worker is an augmented human capable of leveraging knowledge and emerging technologies to achieve what a small army of non-augmented humans could do a few years ago, then we have to seriously ponder: how do you teach a learner like that?

No more carbon copies

In an Industrial economy, education was designed to replicate workers, so that they were interchangeable pieces of well-oiled machinery. However, exact copies of worker are no longer as useful or relevant, because, by virtue of automation we see that eventually most predictable patterns will be ultimately replaced. Emerging education must recognize that learners in the new economy are moving towards an era of specialization, where workers and entrepreneurs will be highly rewarded for coming up with unique solutions.

Education will then move away from the mass-production of graduates towards highly customized educational programs. Instead of following a cookie-cutter approach to teaching and learning we will realize that it makes more sense to follow highly personalized teaching-learning methodologies which are adapted to each learner. While technology will serve as a key enabler of this, the biggest challenge will not be technological or even methodological, but cultural. We need to reconsider the role of education for the era we have entered.

Realization of the student-worker-preneur

One of the questionable assumptions relates to how the educational system sees the learner: is she an employee? Is she an entrepreneur? Is she a perennial student?

John Baker, founder of Desire2Learn, asserts that “life in the industrial economy was typically viewed as a series of discrete segments: school, work and retirement. But this thinking is no longer viable as we have entered the era of lifelong learning.”

Are we then teaching students to be employees and not entrepreneurs? While we may be tempted to answer that everyone must be trained as an entrepreneur, it does not mean that everyone wants to be exclusively one or the other. The reality might lie somewhere in between: we need for learners to become proactive lifelong learners, who will likely work for a company as a full-time employee at some stage, and will more-than-likely start their own company, or be a freelancer. Hence a more balanced term which reconciles reality and work trends might be summarized in the realization of the student-worker-preneur, a term I have coined to represent that each of us is a student who is a worker and an entrepreneur in different degrees throughout our careers.

Memory augmentation: commoditized knowledge

If, for all practical purposes, knowledge is a Google search away, memorizing things will become irrelevant. The idea of regurgitating dates and names for the sake of it will be seen as a waste of time. Access to information will become increasingly commoditized and it will also be enhanced and sophisticated: from voice commands, to augmented reality displays, to automatic face recognition—the trend in memory augmentation is clear: we will need to memorize less and less. This implies that as educators the emphasis should not be placed on getting students to remember and regurgitate data. The case is strengthened by the increasing volume and speed at which information is generated; the body of knowledge in any given profession can change not in a matter of years but months or weeks. Hence, knowing is not enough. The actual competence, doing, achieving something, is the real test.

Questioning the purpose of education

How can education keep up in times of exponential change?

Whereas in an Industrial age the quantity of graduates was the key variable to optimize, in the new economy, it will be the quality of graduates. Thus, instead of graduating professionals with the same (commoditized) skills, the most valuable education will be that which is able to cultivate the uniqueness of each learner, including an optimal mix of hard and soft skills, that is, technical and interpersonal competencies.

Learning to learn

Decades ago it used to be enough to learn a trade in a four or five-year university program. However today, by some estimates, half of the technical information that you learn in a university program might be outdated by the time you finish.

In an era where new industries and business models are born overnight, it is clear that being able to learn at a record speed will not only give the learner a competitive advantage but it will become an essential skill for life.

However, as explored, the limitation for this is no longer access to information. Nowadays anyone can learn virtually any trade online, thanks to Massively Open Online Courses (MOOC), or through full university courses made available by Universities including Harvard, Stanford, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. While certification is still closely held by universities, the actual knowledge to be learned has increasingly become commoditized. As the new currency is being able to do, and not just knowing, the ability to proactively engage in self-taught education that helps develop real world competencies will become paramount.

Raison d'être: the motivation to learn

Underlying the ability to learn is the motivation to learn. In an article by the Center for Teaching and Learning at Stanford University, author Barbara McCombs, director of the Human Motivation, Learning, and Development Center at the University of Denver, is quoted on seven qualities of students who are optimally motivated to learn. McCombs points out that optimally motivated students see schooling and education as personally relevant to their interests and goals; they believe that they possess the skills and competencies to successfully accomplish these learning goals; they see themselves as responsible agents in the definition and accomplishment of personal goals; they understand the higher level thinking and self-regulation skills that lead to goal attainment; they call into play processes for effectively and efficiently encoding, processing, and recalling information; they control emotions and moods that can facilitate or interfere with learning and motivation, and; they produce the performance outcomes that signal successful goal attainment.

From my own experience working with students and business clients over the years, I see a clear correlation between the motivation for learning and the ability to learn. I would argue that it is more important to have a reason for learning, a powerful why that inspires the learner to pursue education.

This can be tied back to the importance of solving problems. To paraphrase McCombs, learning can be enhanced when the learner sees that what they learn can serve as a tool to impact the world in area that is relevant to their own interests.

This is perhaps one of the greatest opportunities we have today: helping learners discover a reason and purpose for learning.

Passion, Curiosity, Imagination, Critical Thinking, and Grit

Peter Diamandis often gets asked a question about raising children in times of exponential change. “So, Peter, what will you teach your kids given this explosion of exponential technologies?”

“In the near term (this next decade) the lingua franca is coding and machine learning. Any kid graduating college with these skills today can get a job. But this too, will be disrupted in the near future by AI. Long-term, it is passion, curiosity, imagination, critical thinking, and grit.”

Passion

“You’d be amazed at how many people don’t have a mission in life. A calling, something to jolt them out of bed every morning,” writes Diamandis.

Developing a passion is a key. It can be understood as the driving force, the true motivation behind work or any other endeavor.

“The best moments in our lives are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times,” says Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, author of Flow, “the best moments usually occur if a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.”

In this state of flow, a student-worker-preneur can be completely absorbed in an activity, especially one involving creativity. During this “optimal experience” you feel strong, alert, in effortless control, unselfconscious, and at the peak of your abilities, according to the author. The key to this is setting challenges that are neither too demanding nor too simple for a person’s abilities.

In a talk at Singularity University, Ray Kurzweil, Google Director of Engineering, was asked "When robots are everywhere, what will humans be good for?" His answer was that, if under the logic that automation will take away a big chunk of the drudgery, the work humans don’t enjoy doing, it will leave us with more time to explore what we want to explore. Part of his advice then was to “develop a passion.”

American astrophysicist, cosmologist, author, and science communicator Neil deGrasse Tyson says that “what you need, above all else, is a love for your subject, whatever it is. You've got to be so deeply in love with your subject that when curve balls are thrown, when hurdles are put in place, you've got the energy to overcome them.”

Developing a passion is closely linked with other three ingredients: curiosity, imagination, and critical thinking.

Curiosity

Jeff Bezos said this about success and innovation: “If you want to invent, if you want to do any innovation, anything new, you’re going to have failures because you need to experiment. I think the amount of useful invention you do is directly proportional to the number of experiments you can run per week per month per year.”

At an award’s acceptance speech in London, Google co-founder Larry Page, said “we tried a lot of things, most of which failed.” He elaborated that when they set out to create the world’s biggest search engine, they were just pursuing their interests, hopefully arriving at something that would be useful. The key takeaway comes in the form of direct advice from Page: “You should pick areas that you think are interesting, that could be valuable, or where there’s a lot of activity. I was interested at links because I knew no one else was interested in them, and I figured you could probably do something with them.” We can infer from this that curiosity is key to arriving at what actually interests you.

The author of Silicon Guild, Peter Sims, points out the work of INSEAD business school professors who surveyed over 3,000 executives and interviewed 500 people who had either started innovative companies or invented new products. They concluded that a number of the innovative entrepreneurs learned to follow their curiosity. Without curiosity it would be impossible to expand the frontiers of what is possible.

Videogame inventor Will Wright, co-founder of Maxis (which became part of Electronic Arts) points out the importance of the joy of discovery: “It’s all about learning on your terms, rather than a teacher explaining stuff to you.” SimCity, one of Wright’s creations, is an example of this.

Curiosity and the joy of discovery are closely linked to imagination, another quality identified by Diamandis.

Imagination

“Entrepreneurs and visionaries imagine the world (and the future) they want to live in, and then they create it. Kids happen to be some of the most imaginative humans around… it is critical that they know how important and liberating imagination can be,” says Diamandis.

“Imagination is one of humanity’s greatest qualities,” says Richard Branson, founder of Virgin, “without it, there would be no innovation, advancement or technology, and the world would be a very dull place.”

Critical thinking

“Critical thinking is probably the hardest lesson to teach kids. It takes time and experience, and you have to reinforce habits like investigation, curiosity, skepticism, and so on”, says Diamandis.

A movement called Philosophy for Children, also known as P4C and under the auspices of Stanford University, began with the late philosopher Matthew Lipman’s 1969 novel Harry Stottlemeier’s Discovery. The novel and accompanying teacher manual were designed to help children in K-12 learn how to think for themselves.

Dr. Peter Facione, who spearheaded the American Philosophical Association’s international study to define critical thinking elaborates on the meaning and importance of critical thinking: “We understand critical thinking to be purposeful, self-regulatory judgment which results in interpretation, analysis, evaluation, and inference, as well as explanation of the evidential, conceptual, methodological, criteriological, or contextual considerations upon which that judgment is based…. The ideal critical thinking is habitually inquisitive, well-informed, trustful of reason, open-minded, flexible, fair-minded in evaluation, honest in facing personal biases, prudent in making judgments, willing to reconsider, clear about issues, orderly in complex matters, diligent in seeking relevant information, reasonable in the selection of criteria, focused in inquiry, and persistent in seeking results which are the subject and the circumstances of inquiry”.

Ad Astra school: “to the stars”

Speaking of education for disruptors, it makes sense to examine how disruptors are teaching their own kids. Elon Musk’s disruptive endeavors span finance (PayPal), solar energy (Solar City), cars (Tesla), space exploration (SpaceX) and now, education. He didn’t like his kids’ school, so he started his own. It is called Ad Astra which means “to the stars”. For now the school is also serving kids of SpaceX employees. One of its features is a focus on problem solving. “Let’s say you’re trying to teach people about how engines work,” said Musk to a media outlet. “A more traditional approach would be saying ‘We’re going to teach all about screwdrivers and wrenches’. This is a very difficult way to do it. A much better way would be, like, ‘Here’s the engine. Now let’s take it apart. How are we going to take it apart? Oh, you need a screwdriver’.” This is clear approach to ignite motivation and critical thinking. “It makes more sense to cater the education to match their aptitude and abilities,” also remarked Musk. Interestingly, Musk reports that his kids “really love going to school” so much that “they actually think vacations are too long; they want to go back to school.” 

The Montessori approach

In a Wall Street Journal article, Peter Sims points out that “the Montessori educational approach might be the surest route to joining the creative elite.” He cites that it is so overrepresented by the school’s alumni that one might suspect a Montessori Mafia. Graduates include Google’s founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, and Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales.

In an interview with Barbara Walters, Larry Page said: “we both went to Montessori school, and I think it was part of that training, of not following rules and orders and being self-motivated, questioning what’s going on in the world, doing things a little bit differently.”

The Montessori learning method was founded by Maria Montessori and it features a collaborative environment without grades or tests, multi-aged classrooms, as well as self-directed learning and discovery for long blocks of time, primarily for young children between the ages of two and a half and seven.

The approach nurtures creativity, taking after the work of inventors who typically improvise, experiment, fail, and retest. Sims points out that inventors such as Henry Ford and Thomas Edison were voracious inquisitive learners.

In a world flooded with often-conflicting ideas, baseless claims, misleading headlines, negative news and misinformation, you have to think critically to find the signal in the noise, explains Diamandis.

Grit

Finally, grit is seen as “passion and perseverance in pursuit of long-term goals,” and it has recently been widely acknowledged as one of the most important predictors of and contributors to success.

Pinterest was launched in 2010. The story of co-founder Ben Silbermann is a great testament of perseverance. In 2008, Silbermann decided to quit a job he hated. However, he didn’t know what he wanted to build, so built an app called Tote… and it flopped. He then decided to try a new idea, a site for collecting things, and it was rejected by many investors. He made fifty different versions of the site, launched it and got 200 initial users. Silbermann personally wrote welcome emails to his first 7,000 users, and in this process he discovered that his early adopters were “moms”. The rest, as they say, is history. Today Pinterest is home to over 500 employees. The company recently doubled its valuation to over $11 billion.

Education and life as process of self-directed learning

Sergey Brin said “there are many important things to life aside from financial or career success, and in fact, it’s not necessarily the ultimate success that motivates you, it’s the process of getting there; the technology, the products that you build. I am not too concerned about finding something to do, though I do think it will be based on doing things that I really enjoy, and not have some end goal in mind.”

Being exposed to new people and ideas

Speaking of predictors of career success, according to Ron Burt, one of the world’s top network scientists, being in an open network instead of a closed one is the best predictor of career success, a discovery based on multiple, peer-reviewed studies.

Burt explained that if you are a member of a “large, open network where you are the link between people from different clusters”, as opposed to being a member of a “small, closed network where you are connected to people who already know each other” you have a much higher chance of overall career success

“The more you repeatedly hear the same ideas, which reaffirm what you already believe. The further you go toward an open network, the more you’re exposed to new ideas.” Simmons concludes, based on network science, that people who are members of open networks, and hence open to all sorts of new information, are significantly more successful than members of small, closed networks.

The relevance of Science, Technology, Engineering, Math (STEM) education

The other key distinction in terms of education directly correlates with the first part of the book: emerging technologies.

The fact that a number of highly disruptive technologies are coming of age in a relatively short time frame presents an opportunity for student-worker-preneurs focused on Science, Technology, Engineering, Math (STEM). This is due to the competitive advantage that comes from being the first movers in those particular technologies.

Software guru, Jesse Stay, comments that, “there will be a much stronger, and greater need for engineering, and STEM-related jobs.”  

Overall employment trends by the US Labor Market Statistics, point out that graduates of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) majors are and will be the most demanded areas. In the United States, STEM employment grew three times more than non-STEM employment over the last twelve years, and is expected to grow twice as fast by 2018.

Emerging technology companies will demand specialists in the areas we have reviewed, including 3D printing, advanced robotics, big data, biotech, nanotech, etc. presenting an economic opportunity of close to $20 trillion in the next 10 years. This will require specialized graduates in a wide array of industries, according to McKinsey & Co. However, as reported by Manpower and various studies, even at present, tech companies are struggling to find qualified candidates, resulting in unfilled positions and reduced growth.

Importance of the Soft skills: the 4 C’s

Perhaps some of the hardest skills to teach, the so called soft skills, may be the most important ones in a new economy. While we have already referenced creativity and critical thinking, communication and collaboration will also be essential enablers for the modern student-worker-preneur. Referred to by some educators as the 4 C’s, these soft skills are already instrumental in the workplace.

Leaders and Entrepreneurs

At the intersection of the technical and interpersonal competencies we can appreciate that two traits emerge: leadership and entrepreneurship. Arguably this is the intended result of the educational system. Moreover, I conclude that a focus on developing leaders and entrepreneurs might be the right educational aim, as this in consonance with the workplace shifts occurring over the next two decades, where less repetitive and predictable tasks are performed and where higher order tasks, in terms of cognitive complexity, will be the norm.

One of the projects we have started at Emtechub is precisely to identify young talented individuals from around the world who are doing impressive work with emerging technologies. They are emerging as leaders in their fields, addressing real world problems. We call it the Emerging Technology Leaders Global Initiative. Emtechleaders (for short) is a non-profit initiative that will help inspire young students around the world to pursue STEM careers, with a focus on emerging technologies.

Inspiring the young and young at heart

Neil deGrasse Tyson affirms that “Once you have an innovation culture, even those who are not scientists or engineers, poets, actors, journalists, they, as communities, embrace the meaning of what it is to be scientifically literate. They embrace the concept of an innovation culture. They vote in ways that promote it. They don't fight science and they don't fight technology.”

Putting it all together

The Berkeley Alumni magazine points out that the inventor of the CRISP-cas9 DNA editing method, Jennifer Doudna “came to UC Berkeley from Yale in 2002 with a reputation for working side-by-side with Nobel laureates and having a knack for building alliances with other creative thinkers. She was also known for her brilliance at teasing out the purpose of biomolecules and for an uncanny ability to glean the shapes of the virtually invisible: the remarkable molecular machinery that spins within living cells”.

This is a very telling statement. It not only reveals the importance of the hard technical skills, but how important it is to be able to collaborate, and to think creatively.

It strengthens the idea that the way forward in education has to do with a mix of hard and soft skills.

High tech companies are not only looking for proficiency in the hard, technical side of technology, but on the soft skills. In a Forbes article, Rich Milgram, CEO of career network Beyond, is quoted saying, “And more about how you think systems through and work within the context of the team. Learning a technology is the easy part. Having the mindset to apply it, having the mindset and logic to process it, being thorough and detail-oriented while doing so, these are the critical skills.”

Teaching with automation in mind

If we accept that machines will progressively take over predictable and repetitive labor, it makes more sense to teach with a focus on the tasks that cannot be performed by AI systems. This will become more evident as automation advances in the coming years. Hence, it makes more sense to focus on nurturing a skillset of both hard and soft abilities aimed at solving complex problems, out of the reach of automated systems, at least for now.

 


The future is working (remotely) #1 #cong16

Simon Cocking #1 The future is working (remotely)

Firstly future technology will continue to make remote working better.

This will not be a techno-solutionist paean to how everything will be rosy in the future. However the unintended byproduct of massive improvements in personal computing means it is more and more possible to work from remote locations. It is highly likely that commuting to sit in front of one keyboard in an office rather than another one where you live will be something we look back on as a curiosity. Already many people come home in the evening to use tablets, smartphones and other devices to access data / digital content / entertainment. It will become more possible for us to be rated on the quality of our work and the timeliness of its delivery, rather than how we interacted with our boss or work colleagues.

Better versions of skype, slack, trello and other workflow tools will all increase the importance of creativity and reduce the necessity for middle management. 

Our digital footprint will be our brand and our reputation

This need not be too Orwellian a concept. It’s true there will need to be deeper thought given to thinking before we tweet / text / IM, but that might be no harm. For coders, Github, Stackoverflow and other online user groups are already clear demonstrations of the value of digital reputations. This concept will just expand into wider areas, especially for the creative industries. 

Dull repetitive jobs will be offloaded to machines, creativity will increase  

While Ray Kurzweil’s predictions of the Singularity by 2030 (machines achieving consciousness and massively superior intelligence to humans) can lead to Skynet concerns (the dystopia of the Terminator movies). However before we get too negative we are also looking at a possible golden epoch where the drudgery work is done by machines and humans have more time, resources and energy to spend on creative endeavours. This offers great potential for an increased quality of life, for those willing to embrace the challenge of working differently. 

Driverless cars illustrate this possibility

Yes many of us love driving. But just consider what it would be like if we had a device that could move us from A to B in a hands free way. Statistically driverless cars are already much less likely to crash than humans. Imagine if that travel-pod carrying you also had great wifi. Well would you rather tick off the service stations between Cork and Dublin, or watch that movie / read that book / write that article? Already we could be looking at a massive gain in our free time in a 3rd place - not home, not work, but the spaces travelling in between those places. The hyperloop is also currently being prototyped, to rapidly, cheaply and effectively ping us across the planet at speeds faster than flying. This offers the potential for more time to be spent doing great things, or squander it, the choice is ours though.

What would the social impacts be? 

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This is something exciting to consider. Drawing on the small rural island community we have moved to, with around 100 to 120 people in the winter, and several hundred more in the summer, there are some exciting possibilities. People come together and help each other out. The broadband, ethernet and wifi all ensure that we’re not isolated (and yes it would be good if it were faster) but stepping outside the house, with areas of no coverage on the island you also rely on human contact too. In the first 10 days here we spoke to more people than we had met in our Dublin suburb in eight years. When you’re outside, rounding up runaway ponies, dropping someone’s dog back home, giving a neighbour’s kids a lift home, these are all things that help to build the fabric of rural communities. There is massive potential for technology to enable the repopulation of the Irish islands, and their Irish speaking communities too. The work we have, and the growing clients and contracts coming in could all spin over into more work for others here too.

There is a massive potential, by connecting and upgrading the rural areas to re-balance the onslaught of massive urbanisation that has been the prevailing trend of the last 70 years, post world war two if not more. 

Will we see bigger companies follow this trend?

I think the rational answer is no, but there are inspirational remotely distributed companies like Basecamp who are breaking the mould and being hugely successful too. Therefore I think it’s ok to appeal to the visionaries and big goal achievers first. Generally a few inspirational people then impact on many many more. Big companies won’t follow this trend. However small dynamic, mobile, agile companies will lead the way. These path blazers will map out an exciting alternate future for those willing to take the plunge. They will use technology to empower and enrich their work and quality of life for those that chose to follow this path.   








Communications Needs a Culture to Match #84

By Eoin Kennedy.


I recently had a meeting with a technology company who wanted to improve their profile and particularly interested in inbound/content marketing.  As I listened to their CEO in the glass walled meeting room telling me about how dynamic and exciting he wanted to position the company, I could not help but notice the rows of glum faced employees, the bare walls and overall lack of personality.   The words all made sense, they were on a journey and wanted dynamic people but some how it felt vacant.

The conversation quickly moved to what channels and approaches could be used and predictably Inbound and Content Marketing featured high.  The company wanted to be like Dublin based Intercom and required training and content creation/editing to help them get there.  

In the consulting world it is hard to resist taking the money but this had all the hallmarks of a doomed strategy.  Content is expensive and hard to produce – even bad content.  It can also be an agonising process if a company has not thought through the process (like tone of voice) and is trying to be something its clearly not.

For me the process works best when you begin further upstream with some thinking on the culture and possibly some change management.  You can intellectually understand how the platforms work and word-smyth articles but it can be very short lived if the ethos of the company does not match as the force of culture will eventually win. 

Culture can be a very subtle and hard to grasp concept.  In the services arena Leonard Berry talks about culture being  “Shared perceptions of what is important in an organization, and shared values and beliefs of why those things are important”.  

Staff knowing why they are producing content and sharing insights and how it can be positive for them and the company in a way that reflects their internal values is a very powerful catalyst in uniting people in a common culture.  Considering the effort it takes to create good engaging content and that most companies/individuals tend to hoard information it takes strong leadership to re-orientate people especially when results might not be instant.

Equally important is how employees internalise a culture.  Christopher Love in Service Marketing advocated that 

Employees rely heavily on their perceptions of what is important by noting what the company and their leaders do, not so much what they say. Employees gain their understanding of what is important through the daily experiences they have with the firm’s human resource, operations, and marketing practices and procedures.

In short senior management need to write, share, motivate, be open, evangalise and lead (in this instance in creating great content) if they want to inspire the rest of the company to follow suit.  This is time consuming task and requires specific skillsets, energy and belief but those that do it with conviction can harness lost water cooler conversations in to powerful marketing tools.

A content led culture also relies on customer centric view and those who intimately understand their target markets find this transition easier as they create content that resonates.

Once this culture is in place and nourished great content marketing is easier and more sustainable.

The choice of Intercom as the company they aspired to be like was interesting, one that many people admire and who produce great content.  It helps when they have one of the country’s leading technology writers on staff (demonstrating their commitment) but their journey began much earlier.

Intercom have a open culture where the most senior staff are happy to share insights, opinions and things they have learnt – some of it being at best tangential to their core business.  Posts from senior management that sit along side new recruits are genuinely useful and shareable.  The engrained culture of sharing is led from the top and I am pretty sure reflects internal activities and an atmosphere of openness.  Faking culture even appears on topics they publicly discussed in a post on You Cannot Fake Culture.

As I left the technology company mentioned at the start, amid errie silence, my gut feeling was a pattern I had seen before.  Sheer will and resourcing would propel this content journey so far but would always feel forced and eventually swimming against the tide would take it toll.  Fostering some internal sessions on finding champions and management leading by sharing insights and company vision would not alone gain buy in but slowly create a new culture.  

Knowing who you are is a better starting point than trying to convince others that you are something you are not.

Smart Cities Will Be Driven By Open Data. #83

By Darrell Crowe.

Smart Cities Will Be Driven By Open Data by Darrell Crowe

Smart Cities will be driven by Open Data access – but how do we access disparate data sets. 

There is great talk of intelligent sensors and IOT in helping deliver smart cities. The commonly used description of a smart city is one that uses digital technologies or information and communication technologies (ICT) to enhance quality and performance of urban services, to reduce costs, resource consumption and to engage more effectively and actively with its citizens.

But what does this mean in reality for us citizens. The talk is of things like smart sensors on road and traffic lights that can be responsive to real traffic situations. That apparently instead of lights being set on traditional timed sequences they could be responsive to large traffic volumes and change the sequencing to improve traffic flow. 

Street lights that would be dimmed if the streets are empty or the intensity increased if there are large volumes of people on the streets. A road with sensors that recognise the road temperature and communicate to your car to slow down. 

These are wonderfully aspirational concepts. But how real and close are we to the delivery of such. I would argue like the self-ordering fridge these are aspirations that catch our imaginations but not the reality of where IOT and smart cities will deliver real visible change to us citzens. 

Firstly, how much more will these ideas touch us personally and directly enhance the quality of our lives? These will become intangible and invisible to most of us in their impact. As we will normalise their outcomes. However significant the quantifiable benefits, they could and will potentially improve traffic flows marginally, improve safety but maybe frustrate us users as the ultimate gains are eroded by increasing road usage. But who will pay for the investment in these technologies to commercialise them?  

The reality in my view is that the first phase of smart cities will be the collection and dissemination of information in an open source basis. As per open sources like android and IOS it will be the tech industry driven by commercial opportunities that will develop the real innovative solutions and not the municipalities. Just as Apple opened its eco systems to developers, which allowed the development of apps and brought usability to smartphones so will the opening up of data on our cities to developers allow for the creation of user based applications? 

Let me expand upon this idea. Imagine a city where all of the travel data is available in open source data for any user FOC. Then imagine when stepping out of your front door in the morning you are told the actual travels times to your place of work by Car, Bicycle, Foot, Luas/Dart or Local bus, based on my location and real time information. Now instead of having to listen to the radio or Traffic reports, identifying traffic exceptions and maybe gestimating your travel times based on weather (i.e rain) you can make a real time choices or decisions on mode of travel based on real time geo located information. How interesting would this be for you or me, the municipality or other users if for example 50% of commuters discovered it was actually quicker to travel by bike or foot to their destination than by car or bus. Would this change behaviour? absolutely. If city cycle paths were designed using information from the city bikes showing routes actually travelled across and through or cities rather than designed by engineers to fit into our urban spaces and left unused. Local Hospitals planned staffed and resourced according to usage data geographical location of users rather than arbitrary geographical defined borders and budgets/resourcing based on historical practices. 

Would this transform our cities to enhance quality and performance of urban services? yes, reduce costs and resource consumption, yes, engage us citizens more effectively and actively with our municipality’s infrastructure, very definitely yes. 

But how do you collect information from disparate and often legacy systems such as water infrastructure, roads, buses, pedestrians or commuter trains etc. Firstly we will need thousands of sensors and data gathering points. Secondly we need to make this available in a common format in one source location or Do we? We have some this information already but in different formats take traffic info it is in video, traffic flow and densities speed etc, but is this gathered for bike and pedestrians I argue no? But the reality is we can’t gather all this data in one common format from legacy systems never designed to communicate in a common language or common format into one one large single searchable database. This task is too large and too cumbersome. 

Alternatively we need to look at the internet and how Google and Yahoo manage data and information on the WEB. They don’t store all websites and information in one large database in a common format. Instead they make the web “Indexable” allowing searches in multiple ways defined not by the host Google but by us the user. This is how municipalities will and should be progressing with smart cities. Information is power. Once we have data in common searchable indexable formats we can use it to inform how we manage and control our cities. Technology companies will also develop innovative user based solutions. 



The Voice Inside My Head #82 #cong15

By Paul Killoran.

Being a CEO is tough. And no, I’m not talking about cashflow, customers, employees, product or any of the other rational things that I have to deal with on a day-to-day basis. No, I’m talking about the one irrational thing that I can never escape from; the voice inside my head.

The same voice that questions and analyses every single thing that I do. A voice that debilitates me at times. A voice that don’t seem to have an “off” switch.

And so, I started to ask myself where did this voice come from? Why do I have it? And how in the name of God, can I turn it off?

A couple of weeks ago, I attended the Web Summit in Dublin. I walked around the RDS looking at early stage start-ups pitching for their lives all trying to disrupt something. Everybody was so busy disrupting, that if you weren’t disrupting you were clearly wasting your time.

After an hour of being disrupted, I finally found a coffee shop. I sat down and ordered a hot chocolate. It was divine. It was probably the most disruptive thing that had happened to me all day.

On the train home, I read an article by David Heinemeier Hansson (Founder of Basecamp/37Signals) called “Reconsider”. In this article, David questions the modern day obsession with unicorns and the idea that we need to disrupt everything. We’re no longer interested in building simple products, for simple customers, for simple money. 

Nobody wants to sell a simple mug of hot chocolate anymore. 

Why? Because we want to feel special.

We want to prove that we’re better than everyone else. We want to believe that we’re the main character of a very special story called “Life” and that everything in the world revolves around us. Creating a unicorn would prove this.

But deep inside my head, I have a constant fear about being found out. A fear that I’m just regular normal person and that I’m not special at all. A fear that I’m just plain deluded.

Feeding one’s ego is probably the easiest short-term way of suppressing these fears. Essentially, if I can collect enough social trophies I can convince myself that I’m successful and that my perceived reality is not in fact a delusion.

But will this work in the long term? Do I need to ground it in something more tangible? Am I special? Am I normal? Am I deluded? Does it matter? Who cares?


Social Media – What’s your Strategy? #81 #cong15

By Greg Fry.

I thought I would be all fancy and create a Video for my post, but that was never going to work for an e-book. So here is a blog post.

One of the biggest challenges when helping a client with their Social Media efforts is that they want to jump in and make a bunch of noise with no clear plan.  They are so obsessed copying their competition’s poor social media tactics that they forget to attach any meaningful Business KPIs to their Social Media efforts.  And whilst great social media tactics are a key ingredient of a successful Social Media Strategy………….Tactics do not equal a Strategy.  Time for a thought provoking quote:

Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat." - Sun Tzu

According to Smart Insights 2015 survey 50% of business where using Digital Marketing tactics, but had no clear strategy in place to support their efforts.

In many ways having no social media strategy is as “bonkers”as setting up a buisness with no business plan. So what exactly is a Social Media Strategy and how can you develop one that will deliver results for your or your client’s business?

A social media strategy is a working plan that maps out the actions needed in order to achieve your business goals. Rather than “high five” yourself for getting a shed load of “likes” on your Facebook page assign real business KPIs to your Social Media efforts. A clear plan will also help employees and key stakeholders “buy” into your strategy, increase effectiveness and make it easier to measure your Social Media ROI.

So what should be in a Social Media Strategy? 

In a nutshell clear objectives, a defined target audience, a structured content plan, agreed social media channels, an approach and budget for social advertising and detailed costings for all Social Media activities. Smart Insights have some brilliant resources for a company or consultant looking to develop and implement a Social Media Strategy. Check out their RACE model -   Reach, Act, Convert, Engage

Enough about Smart Insights……here are my 10 steps to developing  a Social Media Strategy that develops real business ROI:

1. Align with existing business goals – Look at your existing business goals and even your offline marketing and business efforts and make sure all Social Media efforts are complementing existing efforts and working towards achieving the same business goals. Like a good football team – social media working together with all your other business efforts will out perform independent efforts.

2. Set Objectives – What is the job of your Social Media efforts? What do you need to achieve from your efforts? Clear objectives will make everything you do measureable. Don’t be afraid of attaching ambitious “Sales” and “Lead Generation” objectives to your Social Media efforts. Make sure your Objectives are SMART ones. (They need to “Specific”, “Measureable”, “ Attainable”, “Realistic” and have a “Time” frame that they need to be completed by.)

3. Identify Ideal customers, Advocates and Influencers – Be clear who your audience is and take some serious time out to understand what interests them. Make sure your content and advertising efforts focuses around their “needs and wants” rather than targeting them with a “self serving” sales pitch.  You should also look at where your target audience are “hanging” out online and what conversations they are having and what content they are engaging with. This will help decide on what social platforms to use and what content to create. Many companies will create “Buyer Personas” to try to get a better understanding of their existing and prospective customers interests.In fact Salesforce Pardot have life sized cardboard cut outs of their customers throught their office so staff are always thinking about their clients needs and wants. Check out Hubspot’s free persona tempate here

 Savvy Marketers will not stop at listening to and identifying prospective and existing customers online, but will also spend time looking for influencers and brand advocates. Develop a plan to enagage and collaborate with these advoactes and influencers. With 90% of people trusting an endoresement from a friend or influencers over a brand message….Imagine the ROI you can get influencers and advocates share your content and champion our brand. 

Some cool tools to identify influencers online include – buzzsumo.com, followerwonk and Klout.

4. Research Competition -  Rather than follow the competition’s poor Social Media tactics…….analyze what they are doing. Look at what platforms they are on, what the they are posting, how big their online communities are, who is engaging with them, what influencers are talking about them etc. Look at what they are doing badly as well as what they are doing well. Now develop a plan that trumps their efforts. Hootsuite have a nice competitor analysis spreadsheet which you can download here 

Some free tools to help you benchmark your Social Media activity against your competition include:  Agorapulse’s Facebook Barometer - and Simply Measured social media tools.

5. Select channels and develop tactics – Remember it may be better to be on less social media channels and build a meaningful community rather than taking a “supermarket sweep” approach and try to be everywhere. Pick the right channels to achieve your Social Media goals and “implement like hell”. Most successful social media strategies will have a variety of content. Eg. Short videos, Images, text updates, website links etc.  Some tactics that you may curently want to consider - Use images and GIFs on Facebook and Twitter, add links near the beginning of your updates, Use relevant trending hashtags in your updates (check out ritetag.com), create 15-30 second videos, post content when your fans/followers are most likely to see them, tag and mention influencers and advocates in updates, involve your target audience and encourage user generated content. 

6. Create a Content Marketing Plan - Once you know what you are trying to achieve, who you are targeting and where you are going to “hang out” online, it is vital that you engage you’re your audience through great content. The content you create should be “valuable” and “useful” to them. So don’t fall into the trap of creating boring, self serving and too “salesly” content. Consistency is a vital part of a company’s content plan: Companies should know where they are posting to, how often they are posting and what type of content they are going to create. This is vital as a sporadic approach to social media does not yield results. A well-thought out Content Calendar is the framework that helps many companies succeed in the social world. So open excel and start putting together a Social Media structure in place. 

A few tools that may help craft your content include: Buffer’s new content calendar - https://blog.bufferapp.com/social-media-calendar (NB. Only works if you use Buffer to schedule or post content), Canva – to add text and even logos to your images, Pixabay – for quality non copyright imagery (of course - where possible use your own images for your social media updates),  Feedly.com to find great third party content for inspiration or even to repost, Pocket for bookmarking great content, Grammarly – to ensure one’s posts are spellchecked and well structured and finally Coschedule’s Headline Analyzer to craft the right titles for your blog posts.

7. Have a plan for Social Ads – In 2016 creating great content is not enough you will need to invest in advertising to ensure your content reaches your desired target audience.  

Social ads have become so advanced; you can now be “super” targeted and serve up the right ad, to the right person, at the right time on the right platform. What is also great here is that social ads are relatively inexpensive if done right.  

Create three types of ads to generate ROI:

  1. Ads to generate awareness
  2. Ads to build a relationship
  3. Ads to convert

Remember you need to build awareness and a rapport with your target audience before they are likely to convert into sales.

Ads that are proving very successful right now include Re-Marketing Ads on Facebook and Twitter, Video Ads on Facebook (check out the new Slideshow Ads),  Facebook Unpublished/Dark Posts, Instragram Ads, Slideshare.net lead capture ads and Facebook and Twitter Lead Generation Ads.  

If you are creating multiple ads on Facebook you may want to look at AdEspresso a tool to help you manage and optimise the ROI of your Facebook ads. 

8. Set a Budget  - Social Media is not free. So you need to set a clear budget for it.   Some of the costs you should factor in include:

  • Salaries (A staff member spending 40% of their day on Social Media should be factored in. So 40% of their salary needs to included in your Social Media costings).
  • Social Ads – How much money are we going to factor in for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram ads etc?
  • Tools – What 3rd party tools are we going to use in your social media marketing that require investment? e.g. Listening tools, scheduling tools, video production tools etc.
  • Equipment – Do you need to invest money software or hardware for your Social Media efforts? e.g. a tablet or video recorder.
  • Images – Do you need to buy copyright imagery?
  • Outsourcing costs – Do you need to hire a digital agency or even a graphic designer from time to time for your social media activity?
  • Crisis Management Fund - Do you need to have money in the kitty in case of a crisis? It is a good idea to have some spend available should a social media crisis break out.

9. Assign Roles and Take Action – Decide who in the company needs to be using Social Media and make sure everyone has a clearly defined job description and relevant training. Remember Social Media stretches well beyond the marketing department.  Looks at the Sales team, the Customer service team, the HR & Recruiting team, the IT team etc. Develop a process for all communications relating to social media across different departments. Eg. If a customer service query comes in via the marketing twitter account how is that message passed on and tracked to the Social Customer Service team. 

10. Measure and Refine - Be brave enough to listen to the data and ditch what does not work. A Social Media strategy will constantly evolve. There is no end point. Review your activity regularly. Set and stick to schedule.  Use Google Analytics, Facebook Insights, Twitter Analytics etc to measure your Social Media ROI. That said if your Social Media Goal is sales don’t forget to focus on the money in the till;) If using Facebook ads make sure you use conversion tracking pixels to calculate the exact ROI of your ad campaigns.

Finally – the Social Media world is constantly changing and what works today may not work in the future. A Social Media strategy will require regular reviews and constant change.  Today’s inovative strategy will become tomorrow’s dinosaur if you do not tweak and iterate.


AR and Education, and some Implications for Digital Marketers #80 #cong15

By Alex Meehan.

Augmented Reality is now firmly on the agenda for anyone interested in the digital world. Together with Virtual Reality, there is excitement at the opportunities the technologies offer in a whole variety of spheres – something that is reflected in this year’s Congregation. The purpose of this paper is to look at the technology from a personal perspective – that of an educator in the tourism discipine – and hopefully allow readers to draw wider parallels in the digital world.

Certainly AR has in recent years been a tool that has garnered increased attention at Education Technology conferences. Particularly in the US we can find examples of where it has achieved a degree of acceptance among educator innovators. DAQRI - a major player in the AR space in industrial contexts -  have also a keen interest in its application to education. In recent years they recruited the team at Two Guys and some Ipads – and the authors have had the chance to meet and discuss issues with Drew Minnock who is constantly in demand to speak at education conferences, particularly education technology shows. One of the most common access points for students to AR technology is in AR flash cards: these are being more widely used for primary and secondary school going children and the development by companies such as DAQRI or Octagon with their 4D Anatomy and Animals 4D apps for example.

But to date, there has been limited evidence of use of AR being integrated into the curriculum and pedagogy in post-primary or third level curricula – and it’s to this latter group which is the focus of discussion in this paper, with specific reference to the curricula in tourism courses. In the paper the authors address three issues.

  1. What are the curriculum and pedagogical issues facing educators in general? 
  2. What possibilities are there for AR in tourism curricula?
  3. How to get started?

What are the curriculum and pedagogical issues facing educators in general?

A good starting point before examining any technology’s application in an education context should be what does it seek to achieve – if we are to be true to the mantra that technology should be an enabler, then first principles demand we look at what we are trying to achieve. Here, it is important to make a distinction between curriculum and pedagogy. Very often the two are conflated, but there is a difference between the two. Curriculum is all about what we teach. Pedagogy is about how we teach it. Both are very important and, in this paper,  we try to address both dimensions.

A good starting point is to understand the holistic view of what we are trying to achieve as educators in the university context. In 2011, the Higher Education Authority in Ireland commissioned a major review of the third level sector, assessing among other things the process of curriculum development and pedagogical formats (Hunt 2011). Citing the OECD AHELO (2010)  project on higher education learning outcomes, the report outlined current international thinking on the key generic skills that all students need to acquire as part of their undergraduate education. These include analytic reasoning, critical thinking, the ability to generate fresh ideas, and the practical application of theory. The project organisers also suggest that ease in written communication, leadership ability, and the ability to work in a group should also be included in the list.  It is against this context that Augmented Reality as a technological aid should be assessed.  An admittedly brief trawl of the literature yields few examples of empirical testing of AR in an undergraduate context. One area where there has been a degree of adoption to date is the medical field, where AR offers great opportunity to allow 3D models to replace heretofore expensive real models of anatomy. In one study of medical students they were taught the basic functioning and anatomy of the heart, using either an AR model or a fiberglass model (Patzer, B., Smith D., & Keebler J. 2014 ). Learning and technology acceptance were measured. Results indicated that the AR learning tool was as effective for participant learning when compared to the conventional fiberglass model learning tool. Furthermore, the AR learning tool was rated more enjoyable, curiosity inducing, and easier-to-use than the fiberglass model. 

What possibilities are there for tourism curricula?

This short speaking slot does not allow a full discussion of AR for each of the desired learning outcomes on undergraduate programmes, but we can perhaps glean an insight from a few examples.

Consider the ability to create fresh ideas. Can there be any more creative tool than AR in this respect – to be able to merge the physical with the digital world offers endless possibilities – especially when students are given the tools to allow this. 

In terms of where AR sits on an undergraduate curriculum, an obvious starting point would be the IT / ICT curriculum, but it is not clear that even here the diffusion of AR knowledge is  happening at the pace it needs to.  As research capability in AR increases, we are seeing the development of courses in AR but these currently sit almost exclusively on computer studies type courses, and are dedicated to those who will pursue a career in software development. Certainly there is a massive shortage globally of graduates in computer visioning specialisms, and addressing this is a top priority. 

But what about the curriculum in undergraduate tourism courses? Typically students on these courses get exposure to tools such as business simulation tools, presentation and analytics software and travel software systems; the authors would argue that given the transformative nature of AR, they should be aware both on a theoretical and practical level of the range of AR technologies, and sister VR technologies, as they impact on the tourism sector. In this context I note that IFITT have been progressive in funding this conference and building awareness of the topic – it has certainly been a growing topic on the academic paper roster in recent years – and I would like to acknowledge the key role that Dr. Timothy Jung and his team at Creative Augmented Realities Hub have played in this. But of course if AR is to fully play its role in the curriculum, it’s essential that it not get siloed as a tech subject or module. 

AR’s potential as a pedagogical tool is one that offers very exciting prospects in tourism education. Take the typical tourism studies course which often has tourism geography as a building block. AR can be used to allow students to be more immersed in the task of understanding key knowledge sets. Using simple tracker based AR, maps can be brought to life for students – no longer do they have to rote learn the location of key mountain ranges – now they can discover them in an immersive, 3D way. The use of apps such as Augment allow this type of lower level learning to be done in a way that aids retention.

But as students progress through their course the emphasis on higher order learning typically increases. And here AR offers great potential. Indeed,  AR is a technology that can help students to effectively create their own curriculum. Take a typical assessment connected with a field-trip – students are often given a discovery type sheet to complete a series of questions based on their navigation of the field trip location. How much more involving it would be for them to create their own trail – one that can be access subsequently by other groups, their friends, or the general public. Apps such as iTagged are excellent at offering this type of collective social sharing dimension – indeed this aspect is one that can connect the learning experience with the students’ own lives. It can even be used on a marketing curriculum as a practical challenge for them to promote their own tours on social, digital and traditional channels.

Again, taking the ability to work in a group as a key generic skill, the authors  think AR offers huge possibilities. WYSIWYG Augmented Reality tools such as Aurasma Studio are easy to use, allow collaborative cloud-based working. Students could be set the task of taking an existing heritage attraction and creating their own AR layers of information for it – alternative languages, demographic user groups, navigation points, and historic information can all be required of student groups. A local art gallery might be selected in addition to building generic skills of creativity, story-telling, languages, leadership and project management skills are ones that would certainly be facilitated. And as a by-product the students would certainly have developed more competencies in digital creation, including graphic design and video skill-sets.

How to get started? 

The final part of this paper discusses how educators can operationalise AR in the classroom. A starting point is to have the right resources. Typically for AR to be integrated into the classroom there is a need for devices – at present this means tablets in practice. The costs of these are reducing hugely and the issue of whether the institution or the student pays looms large. In the absence of ubiquitous use of tablets by students, it seems to the authors that institutions will have to put these devices in their budget line – or of course we may see some of the larger ICT companies get involved in sponsorship type activity.  In relation to the software side, as mentioned earlier there has been huge progress in the past couple of years in terms of easy to create AR tools. Among the companies that have a particular focus on educational AR apps with ease of use, or freemium models are Aurasma, DAQRI and AugmentedClass  - the latter is a Spanish company with whom  the authors have been working on a project for the Natural History Museum in Dublin. The collaborative, cloud-based, nature of these tools is particularly attractive in helping build the crucial soft skills of teamwork and project management. The final resource needed is of course educator’s commitment – this is a more general challenge in connecting with today’s digital natives. In this context, there is a need for us to explore the development of more ‘train the trainer’ type initiatives.

And the wider implications for digital media and marketing?

Much of that which we know about how people process information is essentially borrowed from the world of psychology and learning. For marketers looking to enhance their audiences with their brands, a really good starting point is to understand how a technology such as Augmented Reality can be integrated with brand experience - indeed in some instances has the potential to be the brand experience. All the evidence points to the a deeper and more meaningful engagement with brands where the user is immersed in the learning process – especially where they are engaged the process of creation or co-creation with brands. To conclude, we need more research to assess the impact of AR on learning outcomes; the technology is set to become a key enabler in the armoury of the tourism educator offering positive impacts at both curriculum design and pedagogy levels.


References:

Hunt C., (2012), ‘Report of the Steering Group of the National Strategy for Higher Education to 2030’ available from: http://www.hea.ie/sites/default/files/national_strategy_for_higher_education_2030.pdf [Accessed November 19 2015].

OECD AHELO project ( 2010) ‘Learning Our Lesson – Review of Quality Teaching in Higher Education’, available from: http://www.oecd.org/edu/imhe/learningourlessonreviewofqualityteachinginhighereducation.htm [Accessed November 19 2015].

Patzer, B., Smith D., and Keebler J. (2014) ‘Novelty and Retention for Two Augmented Reality Learning Systems’, Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society Annual Meeting, September, Vol. 58 no. 1 1164-1168.


Who’s Laying Down Your Life Story. #79

By Alec Taylor.

Alec Taylor #79

Recording your life story - your feelings and philosophy, your dreams and your lessons learnt, your personal contribution to life on this planet – requires a dedicated act of ‘journalling’….by you.

Why Leave it to Others?

There are many persons and entities recording our lives, online and offline. We are a statistic if nothing else.  We have an educational record, a medical record, a CV.  But, without us taking action on our own behalf, this is what will remain of us.  This is what – in advanced age with a less reliable memory – we will turn to, to piece our earlier life together.

A Diary is Not Enough

A calendar of meetings attended, both professional and private, is useful.  It represents the bare bones of a lived life, but no more than that.  Your experience of life is not a chronology of events alone.

You had feelings when you celebrated a birthday or buried a family member or friend.  Your thinking and planning were influenced by these happenings.

In Vision, On Audio, In Words, We Exist.

From the day we were born, others took endless pictures of us, ‘shot’ us on video.  We were written about before we wrote words ourselves and started to describe our reactions and feelings, to tell stories.  Our ‘media’ self has become a reality whether we like it or not.  All that before we got started on Social Media.

Too Late, Too Late

Life’s uncertainty means we need to get on with it, to becoming the producer/director/scriptwriter of our own life story.  And not just the bit that’s gone by, but the bit that’s up ahead as well.  ‘Journalling’ is just as much about planning as reminiscing.  It’s about aspirations as much as memoirs.

How to Get Started.

My personal journal is still a handwritten one.  It will probably stay that way.  It’s a bit of a scrapbook, too.  I stick or staple drawings on restaurant serviettes, or an opera ticket, or family photos into it.  

So, choose the medium that suits you.  You can also type it, or dictate it (audio or video) on your phone.  The main thing is to catch your thoughts and feelings, your plans and visions, starting NOW.

‘Private and Confidential'

Until you decide otherwise, everything you ‘lay down’ is your private property.  So, separating this material from the rest of your files is no easy matter.  You would be wise to store it with the utmost care in a special file, with its own cyber security. In my case, the notebooks are placed when they’re full in an old briefcase which has a coded locking-system. 

Storing the Stories.

This is the difficult bit.  Where to store the computer files, the notebooks?  In the cellar, in the attic, with a parent or a friend?  Probably the latter, meaning ‘offsite’.  This is a personal decision.

Triggering Each Entry, Including the Very First One.

Personally, I use an interlocutor I simply call ‘Friend’.  He/she asks me a question and I answer it.   A simple example would be: “How did this last week go?” or “How are you going to deal with the current crisis?”  or “What are your goals for the rest of this year?”

Deep Emotional Stuff.

Some people say it helps to write a letter to your parents, or a valued friend/ mentor….and then reply to it on their behalf, talking back to yourself, so to speak.  I hold the view that it’s best to be as frank as possible, but to bear in mind that those near and dear to you may one day read the entry.  This is a fine decision, and it’s worth giving it thought.

Business and Family Plans.

For me there is no restriction on what areas of life we include in our ‘journal’.  Maybe I’d draw the line personally at spreadsheets, but a bit of ‘back-of-the-envelope’ business planning could be included.  The key is to plan forwards as well as to record backwards.

You Owe it to Yourself…and Future Generations

Whatever way you look at it, we’re talking about social history.  About adding to the record.  Does anyone really care?  Yes, they do.  The extraordinary lives of ordinary people is what we’re talking about.  Do your bit: for family and friends first and foremost….but for posterity, too.


Behavioural Debt #78

By Denis O’Hora.

Denis O'Hora #78 Behavioural Debt.

I’d like you to introduce an idea I have about the costs of short-term decision-making.  I conceptualise this as Behavioural Debt and it’s based on an IT industry concept called Technical Debt.

Have you heard of Technical Debt?  No? Well I hadn’t either.  A buddy of mine who's a software engineer told me about it.  The idea behind Technical Debt is that as you produce software code, you do so under time and business pressures, with incomplete knowledge and a set of expectations that are particular to that time.  As a result, there are short-term solutions and unknown bugs in the code that will need to be resolved in the future.  Fixing these problems costs time and money, so it makes sense to set aside some time and money to deal with this “debt” in the future.

Ward Cunningham, who came up with the concept, knew that a certain amount of technical debt was required in order to get the job done.  Perfect code, like perfecting any work process, is usually too expensive. However, the cost of dealing with such issues increases as time progresses, like interest on a debt.  Unless we spend time and money reducing this debt, we end up risking a point at which the software code is unusable.

When I heard of Technical Debt, it struck a chord with me.  At work, we often generate Behavioural Debt for many of the same reasons that Technical Debt is generated.  We develop policies and procedures that are the best we can do in the time available and those policies and procedures often have to change with the changing business environment.  We are therefore always banking Behavioural Debt. 

Like Technical Debt, if we do this knowingly, then it allows to develop and test our policies and procedures.  Why spend too long developing perfect procedures that are utterly unsuitable for the people in the organization?  Instead, we need to develop agreed practices quickly and get feedback early, so that we can adjust them to work for the people who will need to work to them.  However, when Behavioural Debt builds and we don't know about it, it can bring the company to a standstill.  Everyone knows that the processes don’t work, but we feel compelled to stick with them. We are stuck paying down the interest on our Behavioural Debt.

If we think of Behavioural Debt beyond the workplace, it is a product of the commitments we make to ourselves and others.  A commitment is made when we have something to do, but we will not, cannot or should not do it right right now - we commit to doing it later.  This may sound like procrastination, but, just as in the company situation i described before, postponing tasks though such commitments is often necessary and efficient.  However, we need to commit with open eyes.

Each task we commit to generates a little behavioural debt, and we will have to work it off.  When we agree to complete tasks without considering how much time and effort it will take to complete them, we run the risk of living beyond our behavioral means.  We can only do so much, and we need to be kind to our future selves who will have to pick up the tab for our decisions in the moment.  Otherwise, we will end up missing payments on our Behavioural Debt; we end up breaking commitments to others and becoming unreliable in their eyes, because we do not have the behaviour available to fulfil our commitments.

So, next time you make a commitment, think of what you are really committing to and whether you have the behavioural resources to back it up.  And be kind to your future self - check out Dan Gilbert on your future self here: 

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© Eoin Kennedy 2013 eoin at congregation dot ie