Friday, December 16, 2016

The Edtech Curmudgeon's Top Predictions for 2017

photo credit: Viewminder @ Flickr

Well, it's that time again. Time to look back at all the wonder that was the year 2016, and to look forward with excitement and trepidation to 2017.

They say that Alan Kay said that "The best way to predict the future is to invent it." They say that, although I once spent a day with Alan Kay and not once did he say it. He did tell an interesting parable about Buddhist monks and a basket of croissants however.

So without further ado (if indeed that WAS "ado") here are my predictions.

  1. Microsoft buys Prezi and creates HoloLens Prezi, supporting exciting presentations. Their motto is "It's PowerPoint, but it's 3D!" (In a related story, edtech budgets struggle to keep up with the demand for vomit bags.)
  2. The march of data continues, as universities across the country find new and better ways to help their stakeholders find, analyze, and visualize incorrect and incomplete information.
  3. A major company in the education space introduces a new LMS intended to disrupt and revolutionize the LMS market. Meanwhile, Canvas continues to sop up what's left of the market like a piece of bread on a gravy plate.
  4. A new concept, the Flipped Flipped class, dominates 2017 edtech press coverage. The Flipped Flipped class, inspired by Uber's experiments with driverless cars, eliminates the need for hiring expensive and noisy contingent faculty, as students can watch videos IN CLASS without an instructor present.
  5. A panel on diversity in ed tech carries on valiantly even after the one woman invited to join the panel can't attend because her travel funding is pulled at the last minute. 
I had more predictions, but I lost them when I cancelled my Evernote account.

Have a wonderful 2017, and remember, the future is always just up around the bend, past the signpost. If you look carefully, you can see it from here, just like Russia.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Three Laws of Bureaucracy

Basset Hound asleep on a patio in the sun

As I executed one of my important job functions as a senior administrator - scrawling my name in ink on pieces of paper - #2 below came to mind. For completeness, I figured I needed three. Not terribly original I know, but it made me feel a little better...

The Three Laws of Bureaucracy
  1. An institution at rest tends to stay at rest.
  2. For every action, there's an equal and opposite pile of paper.
  3. The life of any initiative is inversely proportional to its impact.
Got any more?
Photo credit: Don DeBold @flickr CC-BY 2.0

Friday, February 12, 2016

What Happens When Everyone Gets Their Own Logos

One of the hats I wear on campus is oversight of Marketing & Communications. Like most campuses we have a style guide and a set of web standards, which discourages you from creating your own logo and putting it on the web along with the campus logo.

Creating a logo is fun, and no matter what your campus logo is, there are some who will hate it and want to use something different. (Usually people want to use the old logo, which of course was once the new logo and was hated, often by the same people.) I get it, I really do, but if you want to see what a web page looks like when everyone gets their own logo, take a look:
screen capture of the home page at illustrating what it looks like when you have seven different logos on one page
Welcome to - wait, where am I?
This is not just ugly.... it's confusing! Where am I, and what am I supposed to do here? How do the SEVEN DIFFERENT LOGOs relate to one another? What's the different between GOES and FAST? What the heck is FLUX? Sentri? (And how did Homeland Security, the parent agency of Customs and Border Protection, miss a chance to get in on the fun?)

You can't build an interface from the inside out, and you can't build a coherent brand from the bottom up. Letting everyone choose their own visual identity results in an ineffective and unappealing mismash, despite good intentions.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

How Broken is Email?

Email, which started as a transformation in the history of communication, seems to be close to a complete breakdown. Do any of you not struggle to find the nuggets of important information amidst the noise? How often do you send an important message via email and have to follow up via text or phone to find out if it got through? I don't know what will come next, but it's depressing to see where we are now.

Just to illustrate - this is ONE DAY'S WORTH of the spam collected for my campus email account. True, the spam filter caught all these messages, but a) occasionally there's a false positive, so I miss something important b) dozens of crap messages get through every day and c) my campus spends A LOT OF MONEY for the hardware and software that does the filtering.

So when our students tell us that they don't read email or read it only under duress because we tell them we have to - maybe they have already figured out something we don't seem to know yet.