Friday, November 22, 2013

Before the Internet, by Joy of Tech

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My random associations:
  1. Because the cloud is called the cloud, it does take imagination to know what it is.
  2. Now and then, apparently, social media stokes ennui into a revolution.
  3. In the dark, anything with light can be hypnotic. Consider: the theater.
  4. The meditative mind is the antithesis of internet mind, unless it's part of religion.
Thank you for reading, and let me know what you think!

Ron Villejo, PhD

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Age of the NSA, by Joy of Tech

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Now Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, knows how we citizens feel.  When I lived in Dubai, a couple of my friends and I would joke, and greet "Hi, Sheikh Mohammed," Ruler of Dubai, whenever we called each other.  Here, in the US, of course, we make sure to pay our respects to President Obama over the phone.

Thank you for reading, and let me know what you think!

Ron Villejo, PhD

Monday, November 18, 2013

What CEOs Pray For, by Joy of Tech

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This Joy of Tech comic says it all and says it brilliantly.  Clockwise, from the upper left:
  1. Sergey Brin, Larry Page, and Eric Schmidt:  The curious, commandeering sentinels of privacy  
  2. Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg:  The stewards of an imploding star
  3. Dick Costolo:  The student who learned his IPO lessons
  4. Tim Cook:  The understudy who took center stage
  5. Thorsten Heins:  The conductor of a train wreck  
  6. Steve Ballmer: The cheerleader with a fading cheer
  7. Jeff Bezos: The bookseller with tech firm dreams
Thank you for reading, and let me know what you think!

Ron Villejo, PhD

Friday, November 15, 2013

Need for Deep Dialogue in "Schooling the World"

If you wanted to change an ancient culture in a generation, how would you do it? 
You would change the way it educates its children. 
The U.S. Government knew this in the 19th century when it forced Native American children into government boarding schools. Today, volunteers build schools in traditional societies around the world, convinced that school is the only way to a 'better' life for indigenous children. 
But is this true? What really happens when we replace a traditional culture's way of learning and understanding the world with our own? SCHOOLING THE WORLD takes a challenging, sometimes funny, ultimately deeply disturbing look at the effects of modern education on the world's last sustainable indigenous cultures. 
Beautifully shot on location in the Buddhist culture of Ladakh in the northern Indian Himalayas, the film weaves the voices of Ladakhi people through a conversation between four carefully chosen original thinkers; anthropologist and ethnobotanist Wade Davis, a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence; Helena Norberg-Hodge and Vandana Shiva, both recipients of the Right Livelihood Award for their work with traditional peoples in India; and Manish Jain, a former architect of education programs with UNESCO, USAID, and the World Bank. 
The film examines the hidden assumption of cultural superiority behind education aid projects, which overtly aim to help children "escape" to a "better life" -- despite mounting evidence of the environmental, social, and mental health costs of our own modern consumer lifestyles, from epidemic rates of childhood depression and substance abuse to pollution and climate change. 
It looks at the failure of institutional education to deliver on its promise of a way out of poverty -- here in the United States as well as in the so-called "developing" world. 
And it questions our very definitions of wealth and poverty -- and of knowledge and ignorance -- as it uncovers the role of schools in the destruction of traditional sustainable agricultural and ecological knowledge, in the breakup of extended families and communities, and in the devaluation of elders and ancient spiritual traditions. 
Finally, SCHOOLING THE WORLD calls for a "deeper dialogue" between cultures, suggesting that we have at least as much to learn as we have to teach, and that these ancient sustainable societies may harbor knowledge which is vital for our own survival in the coming millennia.
I saw this film two years ago, while I was still in Dubai.  Simply on the face of it, it was thought-provoking.  At a deeper level, it was quite disturbing.  I didn't have the privilege of the summary above, and it captures well what was swirling in my head.

Religion, education or democracy, the West had a narrow, self-centered notion of what other regions and cultures needed.  Alternatively, it was the desire to exercise power and to satisfy greed that prompted the West to plunder (i.e., colonize) indigenous, mostly defenseless peoples - from Asia and the Middle East, to Africa and South America.

The organizers of this film showing did the right thing: We spent several minutes in the theater talking about the film, after viewing it.  They arranged further dialogue on it.

It's not to say that we, or anyone for that matter, ought not try to help indigenous cultures.  Rather, it's a matter of seeking to understand first, before being understood.  Certainly, before stepping and imposing something.

Thank you for reading, and let me know what you think!

Ron Villejo, PhD

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Khan Academy Teaches Millions of Students

With the backing of Gates and Google, Khan Academy and its free online educational videos are moving into the classroom and across the world. Their goal: to revolutionize how we teach and learn. Sanjay Gupta reports.
Its mission is to provide a free world-class education for anyone anywhere.  Still by any standard or walk of life, Bill Gates is not just anyone and he does not sit just anywhere.  The ambitious academy is the brain child of Salman Amin Khan, an Indian American educator and entrepreneur.  The fact that Khan Academy has unwittingly engaged the famous, wealthy tech icon adds immediate credence to this brain child.

The following are comments from 60 Minutes (emphasis, added):
This is a God send for me and my daughter. She consistently comes home with difficulty in math and only math. I have scoured the internet for the past 3 years looking for something that will help her understand math the way she needs it. That was always the issue for me as well. I need to be able to understand a concept my way, the way my brain works. Traditional classroom lecturing pretty much goes over her head and she is lost with some concepts and loses all the information by the time she gets home to do homework. I look forward to math now where I used to dread having to help her with math homework. Thank you for reaching every student every where. Love the mission.

I teach middle school science, and the idea of the flipped classroom actually holds some appeal for me. Generally lecture is the most boring part of my class (or any class) for both students and teachers. It makes sense to make that part homework, and have the students come into class preloaded with the "information" part of the lesson. That way I can spend class time on labs, practice, writing, etc. There are definitely some issues that need to be worked out, but it's intriguing.

This is like the 4th time this has been hyped.  Online education is not a panacea.  Other online schools have instructors doing lax work, not following up, students questioning instructor capability.
It is certainly difficult for a teacher with a large class to adapt his or her teaching to each student's learning ability, style and interests.  American education, for one, is geared for mass teaching, and advances standards that apply across the board for millions of students.  So the teacher must abide by this longstanding Zeitgeist and protocol.

Khan Academy is clearly one solution where individual adaptation is possible.  Why is this important?  Because individualized teaching optimizes the learning experience for students, as the parent above suggests.

The notion of flipped classroom is also intriguing: Students do homework at school, and do schoolwork at home.  This is so different from how it's usually done, that those students who want or need an alternative like this can revel in it.  The caveat, though, is that the usual approach may work perfectly well for some students, so we don't necessarily want to dismiss what is working well.

More videos from 60 Minutes:

Khan Academy in the Classroom: School administrators Alyssa Gallagher and Jeff Baier of the Los Altos, California, school district are testing out Khan Academy software in their classrooms.

Google's Eric Schmidt on Khan Academy: Eric Schmidt, the chairman of Google, explains why he's backing the work of Sal Khan and Khan Academy.

Khan Academy's "world-changing" plan for education: Khan Academy's core team - Sal Khan, Shantanu Sinha, Sundar Subbarayn, Ben Kamens and Jason Rosff - say they hope to revolutionize education.

Thank you for reading, and let me know what you think!

Ron Villejo, PhD

Monday, November 11, 2013

High Tech Transforming Teaching and Learning

Ohio's 2013 teacher of the year, Carole Morbitzer, shares her five favorite technologies for engaging -- and keeping tabs on -- students in the classroom, and keeping in touch with them after school.
If I were a school-age boy, I'd love Ms. Morbitzer's tech class! Notice how students work on Apple PCs, too.

A friend commented:
She's quite right, get immediate feedback on the kids progress, don't want until a test. I'd just like her to show how she uses this with group based activities/learning (I'm sure she does) because she is awesome. I'm a relatively recent convert to Apple and my kids are excelling with the iMac. The Smartboard has definitely helped with their classroom learning. Odd because at work I've seen the return of the whiteboard for efficiency and communication amongst team members. A time and place for everything.
Archbishop Stepinac High School, in White Plains, N.Y., is one of the first schools in the U.S. to do away with paper textbooks. Instead, the all-boys prep school requires students to use tablets and laptops in class. (Data provided by
I traveled across countries for consulting projects, and learned to travel light by using digital texts and manuals.

A digital dissection manual, published by a professor and students at Columbia's medical college, aims to improve the gross anatomy student experience.
Publishers of medical textbooks, themselves, must innovate, digitize and devise, or else perish.

A growing number of education experts, school districts and companies are applying what young people love about games and gaming to new tools for teaching core subjects. But do they work?
I'm not into gaming, but I'm intrigued with the potential of gaming for teaching and learning.

Thank you for reading, and let me know what you think!

Ron Villejo, PhD

Friday, November 8, 2013

Staggering Phenomena of the Twitter IPO

Facebook has since righted the ship, after its IPO fiasco a year and a half ago.  In contrast, Twitter is off to a terrific start as a public company, despite the fact that it's the most expensive stock in all of technology as far as price-to-sales ratio is concerned.  All of this, for a company that is losing millions of dollars.  It's a remarkable yet odd world we live in, when even the fundamentals of business, that is, earning money, do not seem to apply.  But we are reminded, I suppose, that investors play in a very different world altogether and may not even care about the business.  They just want to make money.

What a select, fortune few rake in, for an IPO like Twitter's, is staggering indeed.  Vast segments of the world cannot even fathom what these numbers mean or what such cash looks like.  Congratulations to these big winners.  I hope they will channel a good amount of their spoils for charitable or humanitarian purposes.

It's a tall order for Twitter to realize its potential and to deliver dividends to its shareholders.  But if in fact Vine by itself outgrows the rest of Twitter, as Jack Dorsey expects, then that potential may be far greater than we can imagine today.

I agree with CEO Dick Costolo that millions of people, a segment of whom are investors, understand what Twitter is and how it works.  Movie stars, athletes and broadcasters are on Twitter in hordes, and the familiar hashtag is often referenced on TV.  But it took time to get to this point of understanding and activity.  I got active over two years ago, but it was only this year that I found my stride in using it.

Thank you for reading, and let me know what you think!

Ron Villejo, PhD

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

News like a Network of Nerve Cells

In the old days, which wasn't too long ago really, many of us read newspapers and watched the news on TV.  I, for one, love reading the news.  But the advent of social media and smart phones radically changed my reading habits and, in so doing, opened my sights to a wider horizon of news.  This was an article I wrote two years ago, at the heels of Steve Jobs' death, and that revolutionary transition to digital news still resonates for me today.

October 22nd 2011

News of Saddam Hussein’s capture came to me through a Saudi friend.  I was in Dhahran, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, consulting for Saudi Aramco, and my friend and I were walking on the campus of their HQ.  That was in December 2003, literally two months before Facebook was launched. Fast forward a mere eight years, to now.  I found out about Steve Jobs’ death on my BlackBerry, while quickly scanning my friends’ news feed on Facebook.  I was still in bed, barely awake in the predawn dark, and that morning in early October 2011 was a sad beginning to the day for me in Dubai.

I learned, too, about Muammar Gaddafi’s death from a headline on LinkedIn Today yesterday, this time while sitting at my desk and browsing on my laptop. This was stunning news indeed, and the rough videos of his capture on YouTube were shocking.  Then, once again on LinkedIn Today, I see this article from Wired today:  On Facebook, NATO Chief Announces End to Libya War

Indeed the NATO Chief does:

Admiral Stavridis has a page on Facebook, where he keeps in contact with 7000+ fans. He has a blog, too, but apparently he broached his recommendation to end this NATO engagement to his fans first.

Writer Spencer Ackerman is practically gushing about this:
"Who could have predicted,” asks my colleague Mike Isaac in WIRED’s new app guide, discussing Facebook’s mobile app, “that one skinny nerd from Harvard would completely change the definition of social experience in the 21st century?” The power of Mark Zuckerberg’s creation has been on display all year as the Arab Spring has reshaped the Middle East.
In The Long Tail, Chris Anderson discusses how the internet has democratized the distribution of and access to digital products like music. What he means is something like this: The primary content creators like CNN and BBC have so many ways to put their news out there. For example, content aggregators like Google News and LinkedIn Today are marvelous conduits, not just for sharing news but also for expanding on it. Wired, along with a world of blogs, are dynamic, far-reaching content interpreters. Finally, of course, news reaches the content recipients, millions of us who are seemingly everywhere online and literally everywhere in the world.

No question, Zuckerberg is a leading figure in all this and Facebook is by far the most populated community online. But again what’s most amazing to me is what he and many others have spawned as far as information and communications are concerned.

No doubt, Facebook is a revolutionary social creation. But this by itself isn’t that amazing to me. Rather, it’s the fact that our world is so intricately connected that news comes to us much more quickly and through so many different avenues.

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This ominous forest of branches and twigs is the intricate network of nerves in our brain. Imagine, instead, all the content creators, aggregators, interpreters, and recipient represented as these nerve cells. It’s not imagination, of course. It’s as real as life gets.

Consider one more thing. They say at some point in our lives, these nerve cells stop growing and begin to degenerate. However, as far as information and communications go, there is simply no stopping or degenerating in sight. Traditional media like TV and radio will not go away any time soon, and neither will good old fashioned friend-to-friend word of mouth. In fact, the media and technology that enable all of this will, like the broader universe we live in, expand indefinitely.

It’s an unusual form of evolution, I’d say, because the new guard is not replacing the old guard, but rather is standing shoulder-to-shoulder among them. 

It’s a kind of multilinear evolution. 

Thank you for reading, and let me know what you think!

Ron Villejo, PhD 

Monday, November 4, 2013

Reflecting on Funny Media and Technology

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Funny, how media and technology have seeped into our modern day parlance.  How nostalgic it may be to harken back to the good old days.

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Of course, kids can bring their devices outside.  Even U-verse allows you to bring the TV to the backyard, and keep its wireless connection.  But we get your point, Will, and we agree.

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You see, that's the thing:  With the advent of Google, I don't have to store a lot of stuff in my memory, personal and computer.  Google has a gaggle, or googol, of information that it can collate and present to him when I need it.  

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This cartoon was framed as Microsoft Marketing Strategy.  In fact, this weekend, I was on a Hangout with a couple of guys while watching the Blackhawks-Jets game, and one of them did not want the Microsoft Surface (tablet) because of Windows.  I said, I was actually looking into it, as I liked the convenience of Office Suite, USB ports, and a keyboard.  Still, it made me see, at least in part, why Surface may be tanking in the market.  A company cannot keep putting out problematic operating systems, and expect the market to stay strong and loyal.

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A couple of comments were not too kindly toward Google or Glass.  But I thought this was funny.

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Well, I wasn't sure if this lady got my joke, and was just playing along, or if she believed that we could in fact 3D-print food.  

Thank you for reading, and let me know what you think!

Ron Villejo, PhD

Saturday, November 2, 2013

NetApp CIO and CMO Collaborate

CIO Cynthia Stoddard (middle) and CMO Julie Parrish (left) of NetApp talk about the importance of trust, transparency, and earnestness in their collaboration.  Not being territorial is crucial, because each function and staff must rely inviolably on one another.  For example, technology enables marketing efforts, and marketing guides technology.  Stoddard and Parrish work well together, precisely because they recognize and appreciate their mutual reliance.

Stoddard and Parrish emphasize that they're part of one NetApp team.  They have each other's best interests in mind, deliver on their commitment, and communicate transparently.  These under gird trust.  Stoddard speaks to the business point of view, not just technology.  Practically speaking, it means embedding themselves into the business, identifying its priorities, and grasping the reasons.  Not just for technology and marketing, but also for other functions in the company, such as HR.  In this regard, then, everyone comes to recognize the volume of data available and the complexity that is technology.

Going forward, Parrish speaks about getting back to basics, such as questions they should ask and work to answer.  She adds that having vision guides what technology her organization needs in regards to marketing.  That said, Stoddard's pulse on predictive analytics, as the future of technology, has context, purpose and direction.  Finally, making sure they grasp customer views, sentiments and needs, and they are clear on what questions or problems are on the table, help them identify that 'sweet spot' between human intuition and data analytics.

Thank you for reading, and let me know what you think!

Ron Villejo, PhD