Some Work of Noble Note

May Yet Be Done


1 Comment

Reflections on the Revolution in EdTech…

Some graduate programs take over your life in that they are so demanding of your time, all you find yourself doing is working on classes, papers, and research pertaining to said degree. Then there are MBA programs. MBA programs take over your life in that they simply erase everything that you had going on and give you brand new, MBA-centric replacements. New friends, new hobbies, new routines, and, obviously, new responsibilities inside and outside the classroom.

To write the Great American MBA Novel is no mean feat and would require (irony of ironies) more free time than one could ever possibly get while actually in an MBA program. Instead, I want to focus on the specific changes I’ve seen in returning back to school. I’ve done the math. I’ve been in school from 1989 – 2009 and now again in 2014. The comparison points that are especially useful are 2005 (my last year of high school), 2009 (my last year of college), and now obviously 2014. Those are admittedly convenient benchmark years in my own life, but it turns out, they actually characterize stages of technological advancement fairly well, too.

Continue reading

Advertisements


1 Comment

The New Textbook Revolution

The recent Amazon / Brazilian Department of Education announcement raises some larger questions about the future of (digital) textbooks.  It’s not enough to accept that textbooks will be read over devices like the iPad rather than in hardcopy.  Instead, the paradigm of digital has the potential to change the entire business model of the textbook market altogether.

But first, a preamble.

I remember reading a prominent author recently discuss the crisis of self he felt knowing that his ebook was to be a fundamentally different product of labor than his regular print books.  There is no “final draft” of an ebook; he can go back and change the digital text infinitely many times.  He will never be held accountable for any piece of writing in the same way that he would have been with hardcopy.  With that realization came flux.  What does it mean to put one’s thoughts down anymore?  Imagine the mandates of authors like Nabokov and Kafka who wanted all their unfinished fiction burnt upon their death.  In the care of opportunistic or merely generous relatives, those directives were ignored and the works shared with the world, giving us invaluable literary benchmarks like The Castle and The Original of Laura.

Textbook authors are similarly less beholden to history with the new digital textbook world.  It may not mean similarly existential crises of self-understanding as fiction authors face (as comical as that would be), but it does lead to a large disconnect around the current textbook model.

Continue reading


1 Comment

“Amazon to the Amazon”: Digital Textbooks in Brazil

As EdSurge reports, Amazon and Brazil’s Department of Education have come to terms on an agreement allowing Amazon to deliver digital textbooks to teachers throughout the country.  The delivery would be done exclusively via Whispercast, the mobile device management system Amazon uses for Kindles deployed within an organization.  In addition to stating that Amazon has already delivered more than 40 million textbooks, the announcement also dropped an almost innocuous note that Amazon and the Brazilian DoE have jointly started converting over 200 textbooks to digital for delivery to public high schools as well.

There are three elements to this announcement, two concerning Amazon specifically, and one broader implication.

Continue reading


1 Comment

Business Megacycles & the New Labor Economy

There exists a vast literature exploring the concept of business cycles.  The four basic phases are Expansion, Boom, Recession, Depression, and the economy, or even specific industries, exists in one of those four phases at all times.  In a much broader sense, I wonder about a Societal or Civilization Cycles, characterized by two phases, Fragmentation and Consolidation.  Is society at any given point either self dividing into smaller functional units or seeing those smaller functional units merge into larger ones?

In some ways, this is a silly statement.  Saying society is always either consolidating or fragmenting is sort of like saying the economy is always either growing or shrinking.  It is reflexive.  This dialectic isn’t entirely a meaningless cut of the world since consolidation and fragmentation are motivating factors rather than end results.  The drive towards one or the other is something that defines an end state of societal components.  Other dichotomous distinctions (like growing vs. shrinking) are often mere outputs.  When an economy grows, you can’t draw the same conclusions about its future as you can when you know that it’s going to be consolidating.  (E.g., growth in what direction?)

Continue reading


1 Comment

Labor-as-a-Service, or, the Next Industrial Revolution

Lifehacking abounds these days, on sites like Quora, Reddit, startup blogs, even NPR.  It’s a perfectly rational trend for society to adopt.  Lifehacking promises not only to help us do things better, it promises to make us happier and give us more time in our lives.  Anyone who follows this trend realizes how closely lifehacking is tied to Silicon Valley culture.  (There’s a reason three out of four links above are from Quora, Reddit, and the hugely popular social media startup Buffer.)  Decomposing the phrase  “life hack” itself should tell you this; it co-opts the term “hack” which has only recently taken on positive connotations through unironic evangelizing by the respected tech establishment.  Hacking refers to subverting a traditional system through well thought out side roads.  In the lifehacking sense, it’s productivity arbitrage.

I can’t help but read deeper meaning into this connection between lifehacking and Silicon Valley.  Tellingly, lifehacking is rarely focused on improving your productivity for the sake of work.  Instead, it’s focused on improving your productivity for one of two things: a) personal fulfillment or b) personal efficiency. That personal focus is key: lifehackers lifehack for entirely selfish purposes.  (How many lifehacking articles start with, “20 Ways To Maximize Your Value To Your Employer”?) Which leads to the question, is it a coincidence that the originators of the “as-a-Service” movement are so desperately seeking ways to improve their own personal productivity?  No.  In fact, I’d argue lifehacking is the enabler of a new “as-a-Service” movement: Labor-as-a-Service (obviously, LaaS).

Continue reading