Thursday, December 3, 2009

Parents--Let your children grow

Hiatus over...the unsorted thinker is back with a lot on his mind!

I came across the embedded video at Edutopia. It is a part of their Digital Generation Project. I encourage you to dive in and learn more about it. I am doing the same. I like the basic message. The next generation will usually understand more about future technologies than the current one. Now it is social media and video games. Once upon a time it was television, radio, telephony, moving vehicles, air travel, or getting information from a printed page instead of word of mouth. Think of how you life would be different without these things.

I understand that there are downsides to the brave, new world. I also see that there are opportunities that older generations may never have imagined. Your Spidey sense will tell you that with great power comes great responisbility. Share that lesson with the next generation and let's see where they grow.

Note the links on the right side of the page. I strongly urge you to browse the content and particularly the share link. It provides ways that you can get involved.

These are the discussion questions that followed on the website. Find a tech savvy youth and have a thought swap meet.

Discussion Questions

1. What is the cultural shift that technology is enabling? How has technology changed your life and the life of your kids?
2. Are adults really afraid of technology? Why, or why not?
3. Why do adults need to be actively involved with the digital-media habits of the kids around them?
4. What does it mean to be a citizen of the world? What are practical ways we can prepare kids for this role?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

What could educators do with a Flip Video Camera?

Not really a post as much as an idea from a tweet.
isteconnects Digital Wish is offering 2 for 1 Flip Ultra camcorders for your classroom! Cool deal w/no catch. Info here:

Giving credit where credit is due...Let's get 10 ideas from across the pond.

Taking to another level, the easy starting point is letting the kids tape themselves in class. However, taping yourself is not as revealing as seeing others in new and interesting ways.

Put the kid reporters to work. I know an elementary school that does a newscast in the mornings. They limit their stories to the studio. Let those kids go find stories in assemblies, trips, after school/community sports, science & technology fairs, and anywhere else they normally go.

How about a video pen pal program? Teacher--send your video camera to a friend teacher that works in another school, town, state, or country. It should have some interesting facts about your class and the things you like to do. That teacher can share the information with his/her class. They can do a similar thing and send it back for your class to see.

Bring the business partners to the school level. Many public schools seem to have challenges attracting good business partners. It should not always be about the money. The school can use vide to show what gaps additional products and services can fill. The video could almost be an add on to the school's strategic plan. On the other side, a business partner could be interviewed by a student. This helps the school community understand what the partner does for the school and why they contribute. It would not hurt to let them do a little pitch for their business as well.

One take away that I would like you to get your hands many of these things were even possible (at a reasonable cost) when you were in school? It's a different world; let the kids prepare to be productive in it!

Finally, here are more ideas that come from Mark Belinsky and Tom Barrett.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Teacher Communications

I am interested in the happenings at my child's school. This is particularly true of the classroom activities. We get paper updates about once a week and grade level updates about once a month. I want better, more modern communications.

The school has a website, but it really doesn't communicate much current, dynamic information. The likely method of communication is multi colored tree killer piles of paper on Thursdays. Twitter has Follow Fridays and the school has Tree Trunk Thursday. Interestingly, in this era of tightening school budgets, we still have not made better progress with free communications.

Here's my suggestion. Each teacher should have a page on the website and a school approved twitter account. The webpage should be simple enough to let parents know what the teacher thinks is important. It could be a combination of pictures, assignment & activity dates and class highlights. You can omit pictures of the students for security, but the basics of what the teacher would want the students' families to know would go up on the page as soon as the teacher chooses. This eliminates the long lag for any good things that happen the day after the weekly push of printed material. One way for teachers to do this without cost would be to use a blog. In the case of educators, they might try Edublogs. Another option would be to get the students involved and start a wiki. You can expand your page to include multi media, but for now it is sufficient to recognize it as a great way to communicate with the extended school family.

Once the teachers have a method of putting their information into a webpage or blog, the next step is sharing that information with the parents. Twitter is an easy way to do it. When the teacher updates the webpage/blog, they send a tweet. This would alert all the followers to check the page. The followers should be the student families. It could also include peer teachers and interested administrators. Here is an example of a school district twitter feed.

There are several upsides. There is less paper purchased and used. This is another step to save the planet and teach the kids about options that are environmentally friendly. The school website becomes more useful once it includes the active teacher pages. There should be an increase in traffic which may allow them to better monetize the website. This increased traffic could also make it easier to recruit business partner advertising.

The burden on those that want to keep up with student information is small. It can be done via computer (at home, work or a free one in the library) or your mobile phone by receiving text messages. If you want to print the information, you can.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Twitter is now on the menu

Earlier this year, there was a Why I Don't Twitter post.

All of those facts are still valid for me. However, I have discovered that there is an entire business opportunity that aligns well with social media.

Without sending a single tweet, you can find all sorts of information, including coupons, special deals, customer service, and professional tools.

For me, Twitter is not about the question, What are you doing, but it is about the question What do you know that might be useful to me.

As you will see in the near future, it also allows me to blog more often. Twitter helps with one of my basic business rules. You have to meet people where they are. The younger, more technologically adept customer is hanging out in social networks.

Twitter is definitely a part of my evolving Technology Action Plan (TAP)

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Healthcare in small chunks, part 3

How are WE paying for healthcare?

Some of the terms below (red plan, green plan) originated earlier in this series of healthcare posts. If you are not familiar, just jump back and check them out.

I could go uber policy wonk and dive into the federeal budget. But let's be real, the average person does not want that level of detail. Here's an extremely short version of health care cost savings from the White House. You can determine how much you believe the numbers and your interest level. Consequently, I wanted to think about funding health care in simpler terms. It's about money from inside the system and outside the system.

Inside money comes from cost savings based on things that we do within the healthcare system. If you used to buy a medicine for $3/pill and you now get it for $2/pill, there is a $1/pill cost savings. You multiply that by the number of these pills used in a year and that is your annual cost savings. The trick is to only count the real cost savings and not the fake ones. A fake one would be a savings of $1 per interoffice call if the price of the call truly stays inside of the hospital. If the cost savings does not show in a reduced cost from the phone company that provides the service, it is a false savings.

There is a lot of money to be saved inside the system. While I prefer that the government stay out of competitive, private industry things, when they do get involved, the Feds MUST get cost savings inside of the healthcare system based on the large quantities they control. This is true for medicines, medical tests, and all sorts of activities that support the basic (previously called red level plan) healthcare. The same is true for all of the current medicare & medicaid level healthcare.

Here is an example of how that inside savings can work for private companies. I need a medical test and for some reason get a 2nd opinion. Let's use the same information when possible instead of running the tests again. If the test are run again, let's have a follow up step to determine the value of the additional testing. If it is a low value test, the reimbursement for that testing is split--some to the testing organization and most to the red level fund. Now wasted tests are helping to pay for basic levels of healthcare. Either the testing becomes more efficient and effective or it helps to fund healthcare for those that cannot afford it. Either way, the system gets better.

One other area that could save money and improve healthcare in the long run is centralized patient information. Instead of relying on the memory of a sick person, let's put all of that healthcare information in a centralized place where medical professionals can access it. We would save money on record keeping. The severe downside is privacy and how the information might get (mis)used. If you want an extreme example, see the movie, Gattaca. You could let people opt out of the system, but they would be responsible for the storage, cost, and accuracy of their own records. No chance to sue the doctor who got the wrong medical information from you.

On the public side, few if any people want to pay more taxes. In reality, the people that have the most resources are probably least in need of healthcare reform. It is politically unpopular to put the burden of healthcare expenses on people with fewer funds. We often turn away from the fact that it is easier to get $1 from the average family than it is to get $1 million dollars from a rich person. There are only so many rich people to go around. How do we balance these concerns for a shared sacrifice? I'd suggest a combination of a consumption tax that impacts everyone and a tax on the high end (green level plan) medical services that are more optional than necessary.

That's my 2 cents on paying for healthcare. Is it enough to make change? Ask your congressperson and senators--soon.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Healthcare in small chunks, part 2

Levels of care

When it comes to healthcare, some folks want a lot and others want little to none. Most want something in between. I see the goal of healthcare for all as a way to provide a decent minimum option. Individuals will view as an acceptable minimum differently.

Classify healthcare in 3 levels. There will be multiple plans in each level, but the core of the plans are similar in each level.

It's easy to use traffic lights because people are very familiar with them.

The minimum level would be red. This will establish what you get if you are not in an existing health plan. This is the only level that has a lot of governmental intervention. Mostly because the federal governemnt would be actively involved in paying for these services and determining what you get in the red level plans. Many of these services will be preventative, optional services that improve your chances for healthy living. Much of this could be done by medical professionals that are not doctors, such as nutritionists, physicians assistants, nurse practitioners, dental hygenists, etc. Doctors would be used for real medical issues beyond colds and the actual critical care that is needed for emergencies and significant health issues. No more stops at the emergency room to get basic care because someone lacks insurance.

The primary front of the red plans would be cost effective health care clinics and true emergency services. The second level would be referred health services for more significant problems. There are few primary care physicians in this plan.

The next level would be yellow. There are more elective features in this level. Many of these plans would fit traditional ranges of healthcare insurance as most people know it through their employers. The primary front would be the traditional primary care physicians. There would also be choices for the same services. (Examples--choice of color for cast here, no choice in red plan. Fewer options means less inventory management costs for red plan. From a quality of care level, there might be more access to choice. In yellow, you can get a thinner, more expensive eyeglass lens that is included in the price of the plan. In red, you would have to pay extra if you wanted the more advanced lens.)

The top level would be green. The highest levels of services are here and likely include many elective procedures and higher levels of availability. For what you pay, there is even more choice and service levels included in the plan.

Ultimately the tiers would be identified by price, not by service. Much of the healthcare debate is about the funds to provide services. If the average person could get 24/7 coverage with house calls from a great medical group for 1/2 the price of their current insurance, I think they would run to that deal.

The policy makers would have to figure out the numbers, but it might break out as 25% red, 65% yellow, 10% green.

These estimates are based on the following assumptions. Red plan would be uninisured people under 65 + medicare/medicaid people + a few folks who see this plan as superior to their current insurance and buy into the plan. Yellow plan would be most of the currently insured with decent to very good health plans. (Maybe those plans that would get D+/C- to B+ grades for cost.) The green plans would the the A plans.

Here are some healthcare stats via the CDC that may help you get a better feel for some of the details.

Bottom line, everyone gets access to real healthcare, but not quite the same as it has been done in the past for those who are on the public plan. Next part of this deal--how do we pay for it. It's more complex than letting the federal government keep printing paper money.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Healthcare in small chunks, part 1

Lot’s of chatter out there about health care reform. A complete look at the topic exceeds the reasonable space of any blog. I have decided to put my 2 cents into the discussion in small pieces.

The debate is messy for one of the same reasons that education reform is a messy topic. For the most part, the people that get the service are not the people directly paying the service providers. Also, you can pay a variety of prices for the same basic service. For fun, let’s look at our healthcare through an analogous look at our eating habits.

Imagine the uproar if you went to your favorite fast food place, the Greasy Glutton, and ordered your preferred meal. However, before your price came up, there were discussions about your place of employment, the level of food plan you chose during the enrollment period, and other factors that helped them to price your meal. That’s what we do with healthcare.

Digging a little deeper, imagine if more of that pricing was dependent on your employer. For those more health conscious employers, questions come up about your exercise patterns and quantity of unhealthy food you have eaten in the past month. The worse your diet, the more you pay for the greasy meal.

If you eat at the Healthy Hut, the questions might be the same, but the pricing would be better. The better your diet, the more of a chance that you will be a healthy and productive worker.

Much of this links back to the risk you present to the employer, and more importantly, the company that manages the risk and pays for your food (or healthcare.) The insurance companies are usually the groups with the money that influence behavior based on how and why they allocate funds to the service providers.

What to do, what to do?

Do we get healthcare for all?

Do we get healthcare for some?

How much healthcare do you really want?

If there is no additional cost, the answers will still vary by person. Some people like to have the comfort of a medical professional while others just don’t like doctors, hospitals and the associated structure. Some folks will gladly accept some things from the local drug store and be done. Others want a 4th opinion on the sore throat.

As I lead into the next chunk, I believe the basic look of public healthcare is already out there. We just don’t use it widely…yet.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Bare Naked Bucks--Prepared for Sudden Wealth?

Last week a number of young men have moved into an expected sudden wealth financial category based on their draft status with the NBA and NHL. While this is good news for them, it also comes with a number of strings attached.

Because these guys were expected to make big money, I am sure that tons of "lost" relatives have come calling. In addition, some of them will have collected best buds faster than Facebook friends.

What some of these people will not do is protect the long term investment. The average NBA career was just under 5 years. If we apply the average (mid level) exception salary for the past 5 years (2004-2008), we get about $26 million. HOWEVER, the NBA pays its stars very well and most players on a roster make LESS than the average salary. The more acccurate number to use is the MEDIAN salary. (You get this number by ranking the salaries from smallest to largest and stopping in the middle.) For this past season it was just above $3 million. If we assume that the median salary and the mean salary have grown in similar percentages over the past 5 years, then the median salary over an average 5 year career is actually $14,213,779.

Take the rookie scale for draft picks. In 2005, out of 30 first round draft picks that are given automatic raises annually, their first option year is the 3rd year of the contract. At that point, only the top 4 picks exceed the median. So 26 rookies are actually trying to get above the median on their 2nd contract, which many may never see as it comes after their 4th year in the league.

Anyhow, take that almost 3 mil/yr and subtract federal taxes (34%) and a standard agent commission (4%). We will skip over the variety of state and local tax possibilities and look at the average player as a person with $1,762,509 annually for 5 years. After that time it is likely that the salary will drop significantly for the remaining work years.

By the time the player gets a place to live and spreads some of that money around to the "friends & family" just how much will really be left to live on when you retire in your mid 20s?

To all my newly rich "friends" that were drafted, be careful with your money and don't collect an entourage...unless it is the DVD box set!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

CSI - Lose my trust, lose my business?

On Saturday, I was convinced to stop by a fast food place that had a special deal. Fair disclosure requires me to say that I stop by fast food places about 10 times a week. What was different about this stop was the way they pulled their deal off the table.

I can live with a company getting overwhelmed by a deal or running out of an offer and making adjustments. The jury is still out on the long term effects of this oops as I wait for my KFC coupon. What I find amazing was that the other place pulled the Saturday deal and offered no alternatives. That makes me question your integrity. Once I am not sure that I can trust what you say, how can your advertising be anything but a waste of time and money. It's like that Lucy & Charlie Brown thing with the football.

When one of the little Unsorted Thinkers calls you out, you know that your organization has done wrong.

This leads me to the following simple suggestions from my customer service days.

  • If there is a special deal, make sure the staff know about it and how to process it in your POS system.

  • If you run into a problem, e.g. run out of the special--identify an alternative

  • Share the alternative with the staff...along with how to process it in the POS system.
It's really not that tricky.

Soon, we will touch on another CSI that came up at the same franchise (different shop.) It almost made my my jaw hit the floor because it was just that unbelievable. I will make an adjustment to some of my fast food patterns now that I know...I just cannot trust some places.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

How are you TAPped in?

Going back to the 1970s, families relied far less for technology than we do now. The big expense was the standard home phone with separate charges for local and long distance communications. Most families had no access to daily pay TV, mobile communications (phones & text messaging), internet access, or data transmission (fax, e-mail, VOIP, etc.)

Today, we all spend money on technology, but how does the expense fit into your planned use of technology? Even at the basic level of a home phone, people no longer lease the physical phone from the local phone company. You purchase your phone from somewhere. That phone may be wired or cordless; it could have an answering machine or not; it may use features like caller ID; it may have speed dialing features.

This weekend we officially shifted farther away from free TV. Digital television requires a converter box and antenna to get “free” channels. This change brought me to think about my technology action plan (TAP). While many may not think about their TAP, each person has one no matter how passive it might be.

Just in case you know someone that still needs help with the Digital TV conversion, you can find local assistance through this link.

Think about the technology that you actively use. What purpose does it serve for you? Have you compared it to the alternatives? Is it cost effective? How do these answers change for people in a larger family unit?

We will TAP in much more in the near future.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

A Toast to Dear Friends

Maybe I should have looked online before I was responsible for a wedding toast, but in truth--when I did my first, being on AOL was cutting edge. So much advice that I have never used. Fortunately, I think I stumbled into most of the right thing if this lady gives good advice.

I owed a couple a copy of a toast I did. Unfortunately, I don’t write these things down. Once the basic ideas are in place, I absorb a little from the environment and just flow. I'd say that is the warm & personal part. I don't do 5 minutes for a toast--that's a segment in a celebrity roast. While this isn’t exactly it, I’d call it a reasonable facsimile.

Some of us lead lives with lots of structure, like an elegant picture frame. Others have wonderful lives that possess a special, artistic originality. The lives they lead paint beautiful images. When we are fortunate enough to bring the two together, great things can happen. The frame gives a stabilizing influence to the picture. The portrait brings out the artistry that exists in the details of the frame.

Today, we honor and salute this couple.

Of course the names were omitted to protect the innocent. Just know that I think they are great folks.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Did You Know - Innovation Happens

A few years ago a Technology Director at a high school in CO, Karl Fisch, created some presentations that took a look at technology and its increasing impact on education and innovation.

Today, I looked at a slicked up version of his most noted work that was done for a business meeting in 2008. Sure it's a cool presentation, but it also does a fine job of sharing some of the ways that recent technology advancements have had a big impact on us.

If you continue to keep your eyes and ears open, these things are here to stay and the pace of change will only accelerate. How do we get the next generation ready for things that the prior one could barely imagine? I suggest that we do more to capture and maintain the creativity of youth that is not bound by the rules of society.

Imagine some words you may have heard if you could have been there when these folks were young...

If the world is flat, maybe we should go check out the edges. - Little Christopher Columbus (future explorer)

I think I could find lots of fun stuff to do if I could keep the candle on all the time. Little Humphrey Davy, then little Thomas Edison (the guys that linked the light bulb and the idea)

I think I can make computers do things with these programming codes. - Litlle Bill Gates

All were a bit on the edge of the rules. They tinkered with things in out of the way places. They challenged the norms of society to do things differently. What they came up with made significant impact in the world.

Kids, keep dreaming and parents, give them the latitude to pursue those ideas...otherwise we might be stuck putting our thoughts into stone.

Another bit of insight from Karl Fisch and his blog. What if...

Friday, April 17, 2009

Taxing Facts - Stressful thoughts?

Think about the current state of banking. If I went to a bank and started borrowing money on a deal where I offered to pay interest only, how many banks would run my way? Take this story deeper. Assume I already had a ton of debt out there, but I wanted more. In this age where credit card companies are raising rates and cutting credit limits -- I want more credit and a lower rate. While I am doing all of this, I also lend out massive amounts of cash to businesses that have crappy financial health themselves.

Some might think this scenario is either crazy, a scam, or comes from the psycholgically unstable.

Actually, it comes from the US Government. Check out how much the government owes. 

Lot's of details in the links if you are curious about who the Government owes. Maybe we'll get into that another day.

For now, I'd like to link this big debt deal back to your taxes.

We hear a lot of comments about taxes. The rich should pay more. The rich pay too much. Too many don't really pay at all. The poor make money off the progressive tax system; they don't pay their fair share...and so on.

Here are some tax facts.
If we look at the term, middle class, to represent the middle 20% of taxpayers, we can generally describe the middle class as those making $37,771 - $60,000 in 2006 tax year. If you want to break that out with more details or you prefere a braoder range for middle class, check the source link.

Average household income for these levels in (parentheses)

In 2006, the top 20% of individual income tax payers ($248,400) were responsible for 86.3% of the individual income taxes paid. In 1986, that top 20% ($167,800) was responsible for 68.9% of the individual income taxes paid.

The middle 20% of individual income tax payers ($60,700) were responsible for 4.4% of the individual income taxes paid. In 1986, that middle 20% ($52,500) was responsible for 9.2% of the individual income taxes paid.

The bottom 20% of individual income tax payers ($17,200) were responsible for -2.8% of the individual income taxes paid. In 1986, that bottom 20% ($14,800) was responsible for 0.2% of the individual income taxes paid. This means there was a very small tax liability in 1986 which became a rebate in 2006.

Let's loop that back to the whole deficit thing. As a country, we do not collect enough taxes and fees to cover our expenses on a national federal government level. As the deficits continue to grow this is an issue for all of us regardless of political affiliation. The US has had deficits for most of the last 50 years, but they usually just grow.

Good thing that Riley's beef is with Santa instead of the people that back the savings bond in his drawer. (Clip has foul language.) Is this a future step for those modern day tea parties? I hope not.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

CSI - Deal or No Deal

This blog is not about a television obsession. It is about a CSI - customer service investigation.

A friend of mine had a blog recently about companies failing us. While not every business situation is an honest transaction, most are legitimate. It made me think about many of the inside parts of customer service. Lately you will see all sorts of special deals--buy a car, get one free; lose your job and we make the payments; fill out a bunch of surveys and get something free; kids eat free.

You have to check the fine print. Companies want to make money and keep people coming to the business. Usually there are all sorts of rules that limit their exposure on these deals. Don't get mad at them because they cannot afford to give you entirely free stuff. Make sure that you understand the rules and can live with them.

The other day, I was in a fast food place that listed a discount on a kids meal. The fine print was that you had to buy a non breakfast value meal. That works fine for me and the kid. However, the employee rang up the kid's meal at regular price. I objected and referred him to the sign in the window. The claim was that the deal had not started yet. (Not so--I read the fine print first.) We called in a manager and the discount was applied.

Unfortunately, the employee was not current on how to ring up the discount with these modern/advanced cash registers. Long ago, they punched in prices--nowdays, the employee has to put in the correctly coded sequence to make the right price appear. I don't blame the guy for not knowing how to key the discount, but I do hold him responsible for trying to fake his way through the error instead of asking the manager for help.

Caveat emptor - buyer beware. Make sure you know the fine print to the deal. If you do, it is easy to determine if you want the deal. Maybe you don't like the deal, but a better one might be available if you ask for it. We'' save that for another CSI blogisode.

More CSI to come.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Uncle's Money - UncCars version

Taking the money has allowed the government to not only peek into the privacy of many budgetary houses, but it has also given the government the authority to start making suggestions and to initiate actions on the business expenditures.

How would you feel if you borrowed money from your Uncle and he started telling you to buy canned tomatoes from the bulk ware house instead of getting the more expensive fresh tomatoes?

Better yet, you run a business, that Unc has no real expertise in running, but your new silent partner has found the unmute button. Why do you pay that VP so much? I don't think he's any better than the manager that makes 1/3 of the money.

Recently, Unc told GM, you have 2 months to get your act together...and do that without your leader. He needs to go now. Not that I disagree, but it's interesting that Unc has to do what the GM board would not do...even in desparate times.

By the way, Unc will now guarantee the warranty on some vehicles...because the companies took his $$$. I wonder how that deal tastes to Ford and the other auto companies? Maybe Unc will fix cars too. After all, those government mechanics will need something to do when they are not making warranty repairs for UncCars divisions TCCFKAGM (the company formerly known as General Motors) and TCCFKAC (the company formerly known as Chrysler). You know how the government loves those jacked up acronyms.

If you had written employment contracts with some of your employees, do you abandon them based on advice from Uncle or do you take the heat and gain a little credibility internally?

There are no easy answers, but I am confident of a few things.
If Uncle w/o industry experience knows more about your business than you do, find another line of work.

If you made commitments to your employees prior to taking Uncle's money, make sure you know how this will impact your reputation inside your organization and industry when you decide to change the game. He who holds the cash may make the rules. That doesn't mean that the rules are good ones. If I am your competitor that did not take Uncle's money--this is a part of the game plan to take your best employees.

If Uncles smacks you around for spending money on things that may not fit the core business, make sure he treats you the same way when the questionable spending goes to Uncle's business associates. From taxpayers to TARP to Congress.
It is not easy to be responsible with large quantities of other people's money, but it is clear that many folks are tempted to chastise business people when they spend money in ways that they don't like while looking the other way when the funds are spent on themselves.
When my neighbor is out of work, its a recession.

When I am out of work, it is a depression.

When politicians get TARP funds it's hypocrites in session.
Whos is watching Uncle's employees?...hmmmm
The elected ones have 2-6 years between formal evaluations/elections.

Can we even afford to fund Uncle's wallet? That's a future discussion.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Newco Motors

Innovation has been on my mind. Let's look at the other side of it.

The motor vehicle industry is struggling. Even the good ones are having a tough time. If you are honest with yourself, how often does the average person need to buy a new car? Buying used cars help dealerships, but they don't justify manufacturing more new vehicles. There is an overcapacity of auto manufacturing. If an auto manufacturer goes bankrupt, I do not expect to see the company return...unless...some insightful new organization is ready to change the game.

That means a company or group of companies that are ready to change the way we look at the cash flows related to automobile ownership.

Imagine you purchase a Newco mobile. At Newco, they have models that look like your standard cars, but the deal is different. For the price you pay they bundle in certain things that link you to their big organization. In addition to the standard warranty, they include maintenance and insurance for X years. Newco provides you with some additional services (think OnStar) that are bundled into the price of the car. Maybe they bring some other services to the table that car buyers have to purchase or have demonstrated that they will pay for over time.

Newco is an organization setup by an insurance company, a finance company, possibly an oil/fuel station company and a major auto repair organization. They sell the cars to make real money off the services. It is similar to the way companies sell printers to make significant profits from the ink replenishment. The same way that the profit is in the razor blade sales much more than the razor sales. The difference is that their auto industry profit is bundled into the purchase terms.

Changing the game happens, but often we miss the key moment that tips the scales. Look at how you spend the part of your household budget called communications. Thirty years ago, this was mainly a black telephone and its related service that was tied to your home. Now it is a combination of home service w/o equipment, mobile phones for almost everyone, and internet. It is also likely a larger percentage of your budget than the black phone was in the 1970s.

hot car Pictures, Images and Photos

The next big industry shift is moving fast. Do we see it?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Better Education Now

You can find lots of chatter about the need to make schools better. Some will link it to more funds. Others will say that we need innovative techniques. The truth may sit in between these ideas. However, I propose that there are some ideas that can be initiated now that will have minimal cost, but useful impact on education.

Teacher--blog thy community.

Asynchronous learning--a fancy way of saying, give students a chance to learn when they are not in front of the teacher. A blog provides the teacher a chance to share information with students that they can refer back to at any time they have internet access. In addition, a blog provides an opportunity to share information with parents as well. They can keep up on lesson plans or special requests (upcoming field trips, special learning experiences) without coming to the class.

While there are many sources for free blogs, like this one (Blogger), there are also blogs that specialize in working with the educational community, like Edublogs.

For those who are concerned about families that have limited resources, most public libraries have free internet access with your free library card. Some businesses have computers and interent access for little or no cost. If there is a will, there is a way. Is there a will to get to the internet? These sorts of information sources might encourage some families to access the internet and learn together.

RUTE Knowledge - Research Used, Tactics Evolved

If you need new ideas about ways to innovate, do a little market research. Talk to people that have a similar demographic as your students. If you teach 3rd graders, talk to some 3rd graders. Find out what they like to do outside of school and how they spend their pleasure time. These same ideas apply if you teach GED to 30 somethings with families.

If it's the kids and Club Penguin, the adults and Monopoly, or the seniors and water workouts, there are lots of potential commonalities that can be explored between what I do and what I learn.

Bringing elements of your students' personal interests into your lessons will give them a personalized flair that allows them a better chance to stick with your class.

Innovate lessons with current technology

When many people think of adding technology to education, often we think of significant investments for new technology that our teachers don't know how to use. It is usually much wiser to start with simple innovative ideas that use technology that is easily available to most people right now. Some teaching techniques may stand the test of time, but they could be improved with newer technology.

Consider a high school educational scavenger hunt. Instead of hiding things all over an area for them to find and bring back, let the students take pictures of the items with mobile phones or digital cameras. No need to wait for pictures to develop. Easy to compare different interpretations of the goal based on these pictures. In the end, students could print the pictures and create collages OR post their video diary to a website or blog. Old ideas can have a new twist with technology that is common now.

Have you checked the podcast options available for your MP3/4 player? Have you gotten insight on an advanced topic from experts around the country? Have you considered text messaging as an improvement to the game of telephone? Today's teaching innovations are more cost effective if you can apply yesterday's technology innovations.

Friday, February 27, 2009

N - O - V8

There are difficulties with the economy, education, and other areas of life. One of the common themes I hear is that innovation will make it better. While I believe that innovation is the way to a better future, I do wonder how much we support the efforts to innovate.

While I question the need for more bureaucracy, I could see an expanded opportunity to actively encourage more innovation through the Departments of Commerce and Education. Seems like the government is already bankrolling some nonpartisan efforts on innovation.

Educationally, professionally, or personally those who innovate are less common. In the development of innovation they are likely to be less appreciated. It is only with the confirmation of success that society gives credit for innovation.

Think about your TV recordings. Did digital TV recording start in the late 1990s? Think again--it's middle aged!

There are businesses that do a great job of turning innovation into products, services, and profits. They change the game in ways that create greater prosperity and convenience. Fast Company tracks and recognizes innovative businesses annually.

Let's roll those innovation thoughts over to K-12 education. Once you have the basics, how should your education evolve? We will get into more of these ideas in future postings. We see examples of educational innovation in people that challenge the educational status quo. I think about charter schools and new private schools and new types of assignments that are unfamiliar to their parents from their time in the same level of school. For now, let focus on personal uniqueness as a route ot innovation.

Standardized testing usually doesn't measure your capacity to create innovative solutions. Innovators tend to use common ideas in uncommon ways. Think about ways that you are uncommon.

  • How did you develop those unique skills?
  • How do you use your uncommon skills?
  • What innovative things do you use now that you did not touch a few years ago?
For example, mobile phones are commonplace now. The commercially available portable phone was an innovation. When they were big and bulky, they were new. Once the price and size shrunk, they gained more widespread acceptance. The smaller, smarter phone was another step. Blackberrys, iPhones, Google phones and their apps are innovations that feed off each other and challenge the innovators to dig deeper.

Sometimes business innovation is simply repackaging something you have already done in a way that is more publicly acceptable. Let's get it started?

Friday, February 13, 2009

Why I Don't Twitter

For the mobile community that hangs out a lot, Twitter is probably one of several useful ways to answer the question, what are you doing?...right now!

Nowdays there are other methods to do the same thing. I saw Loopt on an iPhone commercial. Seems like a more personal version of that localized personal update...and it works on Blackberry and the G1 as well.

If you are an extrovert with a ton of friends, these may work for you. I doubt the introverts are trying to keep up with 100s of pals or want 382 of your best buds to start tracking your movements.

I'm sort of old school...text messaging is fine.

Do I really want to admit what I am doing throughout the day. This commercial highlights why it is sometimes best to not Twitter.

After all, do you want trackable, step by step personally incriminating evidence of what led to the wassup sequel?