Posted by: crudbasher | April 16, 2014

Why Higher Education Isn’t Tweeting Much

Apparently people in Higher Education don’t use Twitter much.

H/T Campus Technology

In a report published in the March 2014 issue of British Journal of Educational Technology, Christine Greenhow, an assistant professor in the College of Education, and Benjamin Gleason, a doctoral student of education, examined the use of popular social media services by academics and found their practices lacking. In a survey of 1,600 researchers, they reported that 15 percent of respondents use Twitter for professional purposes, 28 percent use YouTube and 39 percent use Facebook. The way those services are primarily used is to find collaborators and disseminate scholarly work or the work of others. It’s not to reach out to students for the purposes of instruction.

One study like this doesn’t completely convince me it is true but let’s think about if it makes sense. If we assume it’s true there are two possible reasons for this.

1. Some professors have been professors for many years and are very set in their ways. Why should they Tweet?

2. Twitter and other social media is a two way street. Quite frankly, a lot of professors aren’t used to being questioned by their students. Twitter is a non hierarchical system. Your Ph.D doesn’t amount to much online.

I think the numbers will gradually change as older faculty retire and their place is taken by people who grew up with social media. We will see.

The various Internet companies such as Google and Facebook need to get the rest of the world’s population on their services. Therefore, they are investing in ideas on how to do that. It used to require a lot of infrastructure such as phone cables to connect people with telecommunications but times have changed. The same technology that has been miniaturizing smart phones is also miniaturizing the nodes required to connect them to the Internet.

H/T Singularityhub

Facebook wants to be as cool as Google. Google wants to be the most innovative tech firm in history. Both are aiming to deliver internet access to the world’s offline billions—one with balloons, the other with drones. But what about dirigibles?


The maker of commercial satellites knows well the cost of putting hardware into orbit. So what about something a little lower and cheaper? Enter StratoBus, an autonomous dirigible designed to lug 200 kilogram payloads into the stratosphere.
At 20 kilometers, StratoBus would operate above commercial airliners and below space divers (see Felix Baumgartner). Sunlight would bathe the 70- to 100-meter dirigible’s solar panels all day, while its energy storage system would get it through the night—powering its instruments and twin propellers.

Here’s a video.

Two things make this nearly practical. First is the miniaturization and reliability of communications technology. Second is the explosion in drone technology. This is also in keeping with my observation that the Internet is going to empower creative people.

If these companies succeed in their plan to connect the rest of the world the implications for education will be profound. Billions more ideas will flood onto the net. With translation technologies these ideas will be accessible to everyone. This will increase the rate of innovation many times. It will also be put a mass of people online who will want to learn things. This is a vast market for any education provider who wants to enter it.


Posted by: crudbasher | April 14, 2014

Dropping Enrollments Emperil Small Universities

I’m going to get into some tech this week but I saw this story and it confirms one of my predictions.

From my predictions post this year:

3. I think we will see a few universities start to have public financial troubles because of lower enrollments. If the stock market crashes I think we will see a lot of them having troubles.

And here we go:

Small U.S. Colleges Battle Death Spiral as Enrollment Drops

Dozens of schools have seen drops of more than 10 percent in enrollment, according to Moody’s. As faculty and staff have been cut and programs closed, some students have faced a choice between transferring or finishing degrees that may have diminished value.


Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen has predicted that as many as half of the more than 4,000 universities and colleges in the U.S. may fail in the next 15 years. The growing acceptance of online learning means higher education is ripe for technological upheaval, he has said. “I’m not sure a lot of these institutions have the cushion to experiment with how to stay afloat,” said Michelle Weise, a senior research fellow at the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation, a think tank the Harvard professor helped establish in San Mateo, California.

What is going to happen here is some schools will be able to trim their fat and become more efficient. However, most won’t want to do without their Assistant Associate Dean Provost Of Diversity and Culture and will delete classes and teachers. That simply makes the school more administratively top heavy. It’s a death spiral.

Now keep in mind why this matters. Radical change never happens when things are ok. It is always born out of strife and massive disruption. In the previous 20 years universities have gotten fat on government loans and as long as students kept getting jobs, nobody really questioned the return on investment. Now they are and the trend is being accelerated at Internet speeds. Can universities change at Internet speeds too? Actually that’s the wrong question because it assumes schools actually know what is happening and know what to do about it. Most are so immersed in traditional thinking they will never see it coming. This is what Schumpeter termed Creative Destruction.

We are witnessing in realtime the transformation of society at a rate never before seen. Nobody is exempt. You can’t run and hide from the Stormfront of change.


Posted by: crudbasher | April 11, 2014

Fantastic Modular Robotic Toy

Oh I want this so much!

You can assemble them in different ways, and each block come with a default behavior. Then you can reprogram the block by just manipulating them. If you want to keep going, you can then use a computer to write some code and make them do complex behaviors. How perfect for kids to play with!

This sort of technology will rapidly get better and more advanced because the the components will get more powerful, smaller and cheaper. Add in the social effects of the Internet and the ecosystem of knowledge will rapidly spread. Kids will share ideas with each other and will learn.

To put the cherry on top, you can also use Lego with the blocks and I imagine you will be able to 3d print new block eventually.


PS. I bet you were expecting me to mention Disaggregation? Ok I will. :) These blocks are basically disaggregating a computer into separate physical pieces. Heh heh.

Posted by: crudbasher | April 10, 2014

Lost My Kitty and Friend

Hey folks,

I’ve had a bad week so I haven’t felt like blogging. I had to have my cat Lily put to sleep. She was deaf, had hyperthyroidism, chronic kidney failure and was down to 3.7 lbs. I have been doing a lot to keep her going over the last 3 years but last Thursday she stopped eating and began getting weaker. She was telling me it was time to let go. So I did. I was with her until the end.

Thank you sweet Lily for being a good friend to me these last 8 years. Sleep now.

I’ll start blogging again tomorrow.



Posted by: crudbasher | April 4, 2014

Falling Enrollments Are Only The Beginning

I’ve been predicting this for a while now.

H/T The American Interest

Even with tuition rates soaring, many colleges are still searching under the proverbial sofa cushions to paper over gaps in their operating budgets. As the Chronicle of Higher Education reports, some are downsizing staff, while others are slashing athletic programs and even selling off buildings. Over the past six months alone, ten schools have cut hundreds of positions, and it appears likely that more schools will follow their footsteps as the year progresses.

It’s going to get worse. Think about it. Enrollments have been dropping despite the following:

  1. an unprecedented building campaign to improve campuses
  2. unprecedented marketing tools
  3. Huge investments in technology
  4. Unprecedented sums of money available for federal student loans.

Against this is the following:

  1. The size of the college age population has begun to taper.
  2. The price of college has skyrocketed (+ 100% over the last 10 years.)
  3. Getting a degree is not a sure bet at a good career anymore.

So what is going to happen when colleges have to cut back on their facilities and technology improvements? The only thing that will get students back to college is to make it much cheaper and to unbundle it from degrees. Make it cheap and ala carte and people will come back. Students are not as willing to take the gamble to take on massive debt to have a better life.

Colleges and universities are governed by economics just like everything else. It’s about time they started to act like it.

See more: Are Universities Too Big To Fail?

Posted by: crudbasher | April 4, 2014

Implications of Amazon Fire TV has announced a new settop box that lets you put the Internet on your TV. This isn’t remarkable by itself as there are now quite a few ways to do this. No, what interest me is this shows how easy it is now to create a device to do this for a very low cost.

H/T Arstechnica

At a press event in New York Wednesday, Amazon unveiled a new device that allows users to stream content to a TV screen. The flat, black Fire TV has a quad-core processor, 2GB of RAM, and a dedicated GPU, hardware that will help address some of the usual concerns about streaming devices, according to Amazon, and support a push into gaming.

The device comes with a small remote, and its interface puts Amazon content front and center. Customers can access their watch list and scroll through organized sections of movies and TV shows. A separate section for apps is listed in the home interface, where users can access content from partners.

We tend to keep our TVs for much longer than our computers. This is why I never really liked “Smart TVs”. They tended to be slow, and rapidly became obsolete as new products came out. Instead, this method of disaggregating the Smart parts of the TV from the display makes more sense to me. I have had two Roku devices and the release of the Roku 3 was a big reason to get rid of our cable TV. (the birth of my son was the other big reason.) I don’t miss cable. I have an HD antenna, and Netflix and Amazon prime. Between those three I can watch nearly everything I want.

The cost of computers keep dropping rapidly. In a few more years a box like the Fire TV could be free with a subscription to Amazon Prime I bet. This is because the cost to make the box will be almost zero. These boxes are interesting to me from an educational point of view because they are a ready made delivery system for educational content. Couple them with a computer to provide feedback and you have an interesting capability.


Posted by: crudbasher | April 1, 2014

Using Augmented Reality To Sketch In 3D

Now this is a very cool idea!

H/T Gizmodo

Gravity is a pen and pad that allows to sketch in 3D space using augmented reality. The cool patent-pending system hardware and software system has gone through several working prototypes and now they are looking to start manufacturing.


Gravity’s creators—a group of four Innovation Design Engineering students of the Royal College of Art, London—think that it can really change the creative process for designing 3D objects.

Here’s the video.

Several things come to mind when I see this.

  1. Kids will love this.
  2. Notice it is created by university students? They want to start manufacturing already. In the old days you had to get a company to back you. This is producers and consumers hooking up directly. That is how disaggregation works.
  3. 3D printing will speed this process up even more.


Posted by: crudbasher | March 31, 2014

A Shift Away From Degrees?

As part of the disaggregation of higher education, the first thing to go might be the concept of a degree. It used to be widely believed that if you had a college degree, you had a job for life. Well, the last 5 years have put that idea out to pasture. Today the main difference between an unemployed high school graduate and an unemployed college graduate is a mountain of student loan debt. People will always find an alternative especially as technology makes more alternatives available.

Some of these alternatives are coming from the universities themselves I am happy to see.

H/T The American Interest

Schools are responding to these students by creating specialized programs, including short-term programs to help the unemployed return to the workforce with updated skills. Some colleges may even offer certificates, though the skills learned will probably be more valuable than the credential. Of course, some of these skill seekers already have a degree, and are either supplementing their skill set or trying to correct a poor decision to seek an esoteric degree as an undergraduate.


I wrote 18 months ago I listed 6 things universities needed to do to survive the next 10 years. Here’s number 4.

The 18-24 year old market won’t be big enough. In an ever changing world, the rest of the population is your new market. Cultivate relationships with life-long learners.

This will however start to cannibalize the existing degree seeking market, and also cut into other revenue such as housing and sports. Still, it’s a start. We’ll see how long it will take to change the market.

The inevitable result from this will be a push towards alternate credentialing and skill evaluations. If companies can’t rely on a degree anymore as a filter mechanism, another will have to be created.


Posted by: crudbasher | March 28, 2014

Do Rules Stifle Creativity?

My son Nicholas is nearly 14 months old now. Here’s a pic.

Nicholas, age 14 months

Nicholas, age 14 months

Each morning I get to spend a little time with him before I go to work. As a person who has been intensely interested in how people learn and why people are creative, I have been watching him develop with great interest. An observation occurred to me a few days ago that I wanted to relate.

What I have noticed is the way he plays with toys has changed over the last few months. It used to be that he would play with a toy and the pieces that go with it, then he would put it down and go to a different toy. Now he tends to use pieces of toys together. It’s like he’s trying to figure out what things can be used in combination.



As I watch him I have the urge sometimes to tell him that certain things won’t work together. For example, he has this ball popper thing where it uses a fan to propel a small ball up a tube and pop it into the air. It then gets caught by a bowl and returned back to the other end of the tube to be popped out again. You can get a cycle of about 5 balls going at once. It’s loud, plays music and he loves it. The other day he started dropping other things into the tube. Of course that didn’t work but I restrained myself from telling him that. I want him to figure out things for himself.

Being able to figure out other uses for things is called Divergent Thinking. I first heard the term from Sir Ken Robinson’s RSA talk. It starts at 7:40.

Nicholas is an expert at Divergent Thinking. (Ok, I’ll admit the first thing he does with a new toy is put it into his mouth, but after that he gets quite creative.) He literally has no limits on what he can imagine to do with something because he has no previous experience. As we develop as children we gain rules and experience and thus start ruling options out. Why is that? I think it may because as we get older we move into more structured rules sets. In school there are all sorts of rules aren’t there? Almost everything a student does is governed by rules. Some of them don’t even make sense but we tend to accept them anyway. There is a certain mindlessness to it and very little common sense.

More importantly though, in school a student knows that there is one right answer and if you are patient you will be told what it is. In that situation, why would you spend any time thinking about alternative solutions? This is why I believe schools produce people who have very little creativity at the end. In fact the ones who are the most creative often have the most trouble in school.

Well whatever the cause, I am going to make sure Nicholas gets to be as creative as he wants to be for as long as I can keep it going. There is no more important skill or ability he will enter adulthood with and I view it as my job to help him nurture it.


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