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Why IoT is not M2M with another name

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In a recent meeting I attended a very well respected business leader asked a question about IoT. He mentioned that when he was an engineer, decades ago, he recalled designing a product based on a Texas Instruments device that when it detected a problem would use the PSTN and dial back to a waiting server to “cry” for help. He asked, so what is so different about IoT?

A few weeks later, talking with a friend who ran an company many years ago enabling smart advertisting signage using plasma screens, mentioned that the system would use the GSM data connection to report detected faults such that rather than time based servicing the service system could be forward looking and hence predictive. The example given of the temperature rising by an amount higher than usual above ambient would likely mean the air filters or cooling system needed attention. He mentioned at the time this did not have a name, but asked how does it differ from IoT?

In both cases I provided a different perspective, a non-engineering perspective. In fact IoT is not about engineering and devices and connectivity, it is not even about predictive maintenance, although that is a subset. It is really about establishing disruptive business models that enable new whole offers that are compelling to a broad customer base.

The example I like to use is that of Cascade3D, a provider of actional analytics. Historically they collected data from leisure centres and used their data scientists to analyse the static data to determine actions that can attract new members and retain current members.

With Hadoop, Spark and Storm running on arrays of servers to develop machine learning and intelligence for the IT arena and always on, connected operational technology the folks began development of a home monitoring care system.

If an M2M perspective was taken, that would likely be panic buttons, perhaps temperature sensors and possibly cameras. The control centre would be monitoring for an alert to come from the source and send in a nurse.

Taking an IoT perspective, the home is instrumented. The hot water pipe monitored, the cold water pipe, the fridge interior light, the front door, each room has a movement sensor, the chairs have pressure pads, the bed has pressure pads, the food shelves sense changes, the microwave, oven and hob, heating are monitored. The data is transmitted periodically to an actionable analytic system in the cloud.

Machine learning can determine “usual” behaviour, the home help arriving, the toilet flushing, the fridge opening, the kettle being used, movement between rooms, sitting watching TV or listening to the radio. No camera’s needed, no privacy breached, yet the disabled, aged or infirm person being cared for can be looked after.

The analytics and machine learning can then raise an alarm if unexpected behaiour is reported, or perhpas a new trend is noticed such as the toilet being used multiple times in the night.

The point of the example is to highlight that IoT is about bringing IT analytics to OT systems such that new, disruptive business models can be provided that bring greater value.

With web-services API’s an analytics engine can enquire of other services to aggregate something of additional value, bring in live data and innovations abound. Perhaps your home heating system could learn the thermal coefficient of your home such that it only heats when occupied and from the family members location can determine the optimal heating, or cooling pattern to ensure it meets the family needs.

A greater example is that of Telensa. On first look it would seem to be connected street lighting, reporting that a lamp has failed would be the M2M historic view. However, add lux meters, people sensors, traffic sensors,parking bay monitors, temperature, wind, humidity, COx, NOx and other pollution factors into every street light and a city can leverage analytics and machine learning to determine huge insight, with automated actionable analytics. Lux meters to set the output to provide uniform lux, so helping reduce the electricity useage, people sensors such that the lighting is only active when needed, parking bay monitors to direct a driver to a bay, pollution levels so redirecting traffic away from schools at key times.

Recently I sat in a room with motion sensors in the lights, having not moved, as I was reading email, the lights extinguished. Frantically waving my arms I triggered the light to return. However, if all the lights in the room were connected the system would know where I was last “seen” and would keep the lights on until I moved away, or exited through a door. Likewise, street lighting would know through their collective intelligence when they are no longer needed, and as LED light is instant, would illuminate as soon as needed.

In summary, M2M was just that, machine to machine. The immense power of servers, virtualisation, hadoop, spark, etc. and machine learning and analytics applied to live telemetry such that new business models can appear is the world of IoT.

My personal favourite is BrewLogix, the connected system that ensures a place of beer has beer. It instruments the barrel through a pad and monitors the draft beer levels, providing insight into trends, making historic recommendations connected to festivals, weather, promotional marketing activities and their effectiveness and reduces waste as a barrel change is when its really required and no longer subjective. It is more M2M than IoT, in that its not leveraging multiple sources of information, but for some reason it’s one I really like!

Golden Paste -the healer

Eighteen months ago I was in a mother and fathers roller disco race and a father pushed me out of the way causing me to fly, and crack my Medial Malleolus, the bone that sticks out on the inside of your ankle.

The medical consultant told me that if its splits away it will need a screw, if not then it will likely take more than 12 months to heal.

The pain towards the end of the day has been awful, plus, for some reason, my Achilles tendon on the other foot is incredibly stiff, painfully so, both of them making my TAGB Taekwondo tough to focus on.

The medical community tell me it will take time, use Ibuprofen, Paracetamol, Asprin to cope with the pain, however I believe pain is the body saying something, masking it is likely to make things worse.

So I endeavoured on a mission to find out what the internet might have as a view, and I discovered both for people and horses Turmeric is recommended. In fact Dr English, http://turmericlife.com.au/turmeric-recipes-golden-paste/ a vet has a whole world of followers with some 190 members on his closed Facebook group.

A friend, who uses the Golden Paste for acne suggested I tried it, as it works wonders.

So I started with a teaspoon (3g) of Turmeric and some black pepper on sandwiches, salads, baked potatoes, pizza and in 4-days I went a whole day without pain.

So next to find out how to make Golden Paste, and I discovered many, many recipes, all about the same, but all using units of measure I have no clue about. For instance, 1/2 cup of Turmeric and 1/2 cup of coconut oil, what size cup, how does that translate.

Additionally, the coconut oil I bought was solid, not liquid, and those that mention a measure I could use stated 70ml, written again the American way of 70mils.

Posting on Facebook provided lots of help, people telling me to use the internet, lots of conversion sites that can help .. however, none of them provides a conversion from a liquid oil to a solid oil.

So, I took 100g of solid coconut oil and placed it in a bowl and placed the bowl over a saucepan of boiling water as you would when melting chocolate. Once melted I then poured it into a chemistry graduated vial, 70ml. Perfect, now I have the measures:

  • 65g                          Organic Turmeric power
  • 250ml                     Water
  • 75g                           Manuka Honey (optional sweetner)
  • 100g                         Solid Organic Virgin Coconut Oil
  • 3g                              Organic Powered Black Pepper
  • 2 teaspoons           Cinnamon Powder (optional spicy sweetner)
  • a pinch                       Low Sodium Salt

The process is so simple, the toughest part is knowing how much it will make and finding a suitable jar to put it in when you have finished as you need to store it in the fridge.

I doubled all the above and ended up with much more than I intended .. ooops!

  1. Mix water and Turmeric together in a pan on the hob with a wooden spoon who you don’t mind being yellow for the rest of time, and bring the mix to a simmer. Add extra water if needed, it needs to be quite a thick paste, something like plaster for walls or even those DIY wall fillers that come in tubes.
  2. Add all Black Pepper, the Cinnamon (if spicy sweet is interesting) and the slat and cook on simmer while mixing for 5 minutes. Don’t let it boil.
  3. Add the Coconut solid oil, it will melt quickly and mix until it eventually disappears, it will, you just have to believe it will and keep mixing!
  4. Turn off the heat.
  5. While cooling, add the honey, if this is your preferred sweetner, and blend thoroughly.
  6. While still runny, pour into clean jars and refrigerate.

I’ve tried it without sweetner (Turmeric has a bitter flavour), with cinnamon and with honey and I prefer with cinnamon or plain. I like honey, but not in this case.

The mix should last many weeks in the fridge as the ingredients are all anti-microbial and the cooking will have killed any other items, like moulds, etc. that might have been present in the raw ingredients.

 

The Black pepper is reported to be key to the success of this, it contains Piperine which apparently increases the bioavailability of just about everything. That is other medication you may be on will be enhanced by black pepper, and Curcumin (the active component in Turmeric) has been reported with some insane increased levels of effectiveness.

There are all sorts of claims of Golden Paste on anti-inflammatory capabilities especially in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis and other inflammatory conditions. Curcumin is able to inhibit the activity of cytokines and enzymes such as COX-1 and COX-2. It has been recommended as a treatment for chronic neurodegenerative diseases in combination with lower doses of Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)….

However, never believe what you read about on the internet, so who knows whether it does all of that.

What I can say, is a week of taking my Golden Paste an neither of my ankles ache, at all. Now, its been 18 months, nearly two years since the race and the ankle smash, so perhaps it all healed just the same week as I started to take 1/2 teaspoon a day, in 2 doses (morning and night). Others have said its all in the mind, and taking the paste is having me believe it works, maybe …

What I do know is that it’s working, rather amazingly in fact. I will keep going another 4 weeks and see where it gets me, but for now I am amazed.

 

 

To Crack or not to crack my Medial Malleolus

Ok, some would say, starting to learn to rollerblade for the first time on your 50th Birthday is a little  crazy, but then those that know me would not be surprised.

Four and a half years later of skating 2hrs Friday, 1hr45 Saturday and 2hrs Sunday every week has me doing ok. My 14 yr old son, streets ahead even though we’ve skated roughly the same amount over the same time. I’ve recently removed my brake, recently managed crossovers and most recently was gaining confidence on t-braking.

Anyway, a couple of weekends ago I entered the Mum’s and Dad’s race as I always do, and over the past nearly 5-years my speed has gradually increased until this particular Saturday evening I was flying around in front at some 10-12 mph. As I took the second lap, crossing over my right on my left to double power around the bend I saw another Dad coming up on the inside, an ex-ice hockey player.

He shoulder barged me on my left, and not in slow motion, I flew through the air, landed on my left bum cheek, slid along the floor with my left leg out straight and felt my right leg come rapidly pulled down by the weight of the boot to hit my medial malleolus onto the skating floor, while in my boot, with a thud.

That hurt, lots. I got up, rolled around a little on my inline skates and mentioned it was painful and left it. Around 20-minutes later I went to first aid and put ice on it and elevated it. I then, at the end of the roller disco, hobbled with my son to Ten Pin, a bowling alley and had a San Miguel with Nacho Double Cheese with Jalapeños. Around an hour late I drove home … and went to bed.

The following morning the swelling was as bad as it had ever been, so after a while (and tutoring Maths), I took myself to Accident & Emergency, ER if you like.

An hour later the consultant said I’d cracked my medial Malleolus and they put me in plaster, … now to get someone to fetch me and the car .. urgh!

WP_20151001_10_14_56_Pro  Revised Foot

No weight on it, two crutches, a plaster cast on my right … nightmare. No cups of tea, no breakfast, no showers (I need a daily to wake up in the morning), awful.

That following Thursday I had the plaster replaced with a fibreglass version, claims of it being lighter are grossly overrated. The medial malleolus is renowned for not healing, so the consultant this time said I want an x-ray every week, we need to keep an eye on it and pin it if its not healing.

The following Tuesday, the new consultant has my cast removed, sends me to x-ray, and all are puzzled. The plaster room, the consultant, the radiologist. To be honest the first radiologist said “you’ve not broken it make, I think its bruised, but let the Doctor take a look”. This time the consultant said something rather strange;

“When did you last break your ankle sir”, he said. “Me, I’ve never broken my ankle”, I replied. It seems I have, in the past 2-5 years I had broken my medial malleolus and it had since healed. What they were looking at was a aged healed break. The new consultant pressed the bone that sticks out of the inside of my foot, nothing. He said I would be flying around the room, as I will do when he presses … this … boy I flew around the room.WP_20151006_001

That he said is a very bruised medial malleolus but its not broken, they then said “of course, we knew all along” in the plaster room, I had not chance to check with the radiologist, but I could feel him thinking “I told you so”. Anyhow, they’ve put me into surgical boot, one of those that Robocop wore in the film I think. To be worn when out and about and I am to wear slippers or shoes in the home …

The pain this week, 1.5 weeks after the accident, is still rather unpleasant, especially if I hold it still for any length of time. Last weekend I returned to the Roller Disco and spoke to the quietly spoken, but rather competitive Dad and watched my son skate .. when it comes to this weekend in the boot I suspect he will be surprised.

Robocop returns, heals in 2-weeks, feels no pain after a break; real or implied; and is really rather scary .. for me, I am thankful that pinning my ankle back together is not something I need to be done any time soon.

September/October 2015

Teaching, Lecturing, Training and Learning

I finally have found a role I am as passionate about as I am about education. It’s fun, it’s gregarious, it’s emotionally rewarding as well as financially.

However, I’ve just been put through an online e-learning course which must have been more than 30 hours of modules. It was horrific.

I work from home, alone, with the phone and email as my tools. I travel frequently around the country and also often fly to Finland, Sweden and Norway to visit my Accounts, as I am an Account Manager.

So sitting alone, listening to some sort of online presentation with interactive questions has been a severe challenge.

I wish more trainers and the like would take a PGCE and teach for a year actual 11-18yr old students. When you realise how people learn you would never think training is video lecturing with tests of recall rather than understanding. Teaching is not imparting knowledge. … That is the first base of error.

Latin gives a clue, the Latin root of Educate is ‘to draw out’. The student needs to find paths of recall in their minds. The facilitator in the room, often called the teacher , needs to draw out the understanding from the student. Pushing information in does not create recall paths, neither do tests of comprehension. The test should be determining understanding.

Additionally, the solitary experience of being lectured and tested for recall via an online portal is an assurance of wasted time and money as the student is unlikely to be able to synthesise the information provided into something of use to their situation.

Footballers do not hone their skills sitting in a room alone with an e-learning set of presentation before starting a match. Football training is taking an ability and developing it into a skill through repetitive application. For football it needs a field, a ball and a few team mates.

Teaching is not telling, Training is not lecturing … So much of the training courses developed are of near zero applied value. Take a student and test for comprehension (not recall) some 6months to a year after the class was taken and the results will doubtful shock.

Global Integration on Remote Teams showed how to do it. Splitting a class into 5×5 and then dropping them all over Brussels with part of a puzzle to solve that needed groups to connect, no phones available. The mission, to get all 25 to the restaurant.

The teaching method was educate (to draw out) the training method was to engage in a physical team activity. Genius.

So, how do you do it. Well, first, as a teacher you get the students to drive. Create discussion, explore ideas. As teacher you facilitate, ask questions, take the room down dead ends. The class decide its a dead end, they look further. To propose things to consider. They come to a consensus. Through multi-way dialog, ensuring all contribute, they determine understanding. As they formed it themselves they connected the imagery and the neurones to ensure they have comprehension, understanding and recall.

I did this with a group of 30x 14 yr olds and they had a wild time in the lesson. They solved all the problems given , they passed the end of topic exam with little to no additional work and they told me it was the best lesson they had had in the school ever … They had been through years 7 and 8 before making 9.

I’m interested in how online education, personal development and training can be delivered effectively and have some thoughts of my own but would be interested to explore others.

The Internet of Things (IoT)

The world is getting connected. Not so long ago things, parking meters, phones, cars, buses, etc. we’re standing alone doing their thing.
Then Machine to Machine arrived, where a thing would talk to another thing. The most common is probably the parts in your car, the remote key unlocking doors.
However, in the past 3 years there has been a rapid acceleration of connecting things to a central server at a hosted location via the internet connectivity, the thing is connected to the Cloud. This is the Internet of Things.

A parking meter that has number plate recognition and gets its tariff by accessing the cloud. A street parking meter that informs it’s cloud that it has an empty space that in turn provided the detail to an App on a phone helping needy drivers to find a space.
The bus that can inform the stops ahead of it where it is and how long it will be. A central system that can understand passenger loading so ensuring enough buses are on route.

My favourite , the removal of signals from the train rails as the trains are given intelligence and details of where they are and where the other trains are.

This last one will make for much safer trains. They will never hit each other, the signalling failure will never hinder flow, the fault will take a train out not a service. Additionally the service can provide more trains per time interval. In fact, companies like Rail Track will be a hosted cloud service providing access to tracks for the various train operators making for real competition.

Of course, at sometime cars will connect to the Internet and will know where all the other cars are … I wonder if we can improve traffic density and flow with such technology?

5 ways to improve Teaching

1. Start pay scales at professional levels

In the UK, at this point in time, the union collusion with government has the pay scales set to ensure teaching quality is kept low or at least and a second household income.

Learning to teach is like learning to fly, you start with theory, then you watch an experienced person, then you try for yourself under supervision, then once qualified you have to accumulate recorded and occasionally monitored hours.

While not qualified the highest pay you can get in the counties next to Greater London is £26k/year before tax.

Now, for a partner of the main home earner or a recent graduate who is living with parents that may work. However, for a career change person with significant experience in industry this is nonsense.

Additionally, the £26k applies to all teacher trainees, no matter whether they are scarce resources or not!!

I have experience of teaching Physics, had to leave a PGCE due to NQT pay scales, and yet I can teach computing, or programming and mathematics too. All three are subjects that there is a huge shortage of teachers for yet the ‘offer’ of £26k remains the same as Biology, Geography, History teachers. Market forces are artificially being contained by union nonsense.

The result, the best at Physics, Electronics, Programming, Mathematics, Chemistry, etc. do not share their passion, experience and fun for the subject. The schools end up with the least able teaching.

2. Enable guest teacher appearances

Teachers, once qualified, are isolated and insular. They spend hour after hour with children. They teach the same set each week. Each year the audience change but the subject doesn’t. There is little sense of community between teachers as the plire of department are caught in the c isolation.

Having guest teachers, guest professors, being a guest teacher would build a community of experienced teachers who can explore together innovative ideas on how to engage the class.

3. Enable 360 degree appraisals

4. Involve the students in scheme of work planning

5. Focus on developing curiosity not cramming their heads with facts

I started to write this blog more than a year ago, out of frustration that there was no way for me to enter the profession yet my personal experience had shown me that its such a rewarding role. Nearly two years later and I find my 5 points still incredibly to the point and still proving to be very valid.

This last one is the most important. The one I saw work wonders. If you try and push facts into their heads they resist, even subconsciously. Those that appear not to resist will appear to understand yet when that understanding is checked they will not recall correctly. Simply they had no passion to reflect the learning.

However, if you use questions and exploration you will develop their curiosity, they will ask more questions. Whether its Mathematics, English, History, Art, Religion or Science does not matter. Build the lessons to engage the audience, using whatever techniques you can dream up. Have the students explore, examine, question either as a large group or small groups and have them present back to the class what they discovered. Allow failure to be acceptable in the learning process, discuss and reflect on what confusion led to the wrong understanding, explore why its wrong.

That last part is easier in Physics, however in Art or English the question of interpretation comes to the fore. In many instances an interpretation away from the norm is allowed, however in others this is not the case. However, you will recall as a student yourself what it was that captured your passion for the subject and keep that front and centre.

The mission is not to push out lots of data, lots of facts, but purely to develop a passion for exploration, for questioning, for curiosity. For, if you can teach a child to be curious then you have taught a child to learn, something they will enter the world with that will constantly help them to add value to themselves and to the world as a whole. That has to be the ultimate role as a teacher, to allow and develop curiosity.

I will come back later and fill out the remaining three, perhaps in another few months. I am not sure they need explaination.

 

Surviving Redundancy in a deep Recession – Part 2

In my previous blog I wrote about the basics of getting yourself into the proactive, find a role push that is needed to support a personal marketing campaign and to find those hiring managers before they open a dialog with HR or a Recruitment agent. In times of plenty, and we have plenty of people looking for a role, you have to find another way. Its tough, very tough, an emotional roller coaster in fact that may have you questioning every aspect of yourself. Nothing I can say other than keep marching, even when it seems hopelessness or hopeful, keep marching. The soldier who gives up on the roadside will not get to relax in the bar of a tavern in the distant city.

So, there I was, promoting on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Paper.li and building a network of connections into all areas of interest and I found a number of small companies in need of some part-time assistance. However, any income I received from my exit point through to the end of the tax year would be taxable at the annual rate. From that I looked at sole proprietor or limited company, and concluded the later can be done simply and cheaply …

1. Forming a Limited Company. In the UK this is done on te Companies House website and costys £18. You need to decide who the directors and who the shareholders are and allocate Ordinary A and Ordinary B shares to them as you think fit. The two types are to enable you to pay out different Dividend Rates. For example you may be the sole Director but your spouse could be a shareholder.  Once formed you have 18 months to submit your first annual return, so no need to worry about that for now. The name, and securing a domain for the website is all you need right now, most likely £18 for the company and £13 for the domain.

2. You will need a company bank account. This will need your paperwork from the formation of the company and some forms of ID. Its trivial and it takes a week or so to get in place, online access, a company credit card and you have it all.

3. Ensure you have implemented Statutory bookkeeping. For those in the UK, the Quickfile provides a free online bookkeeping package that is centred around your business current account. YOu can download your statement and then simply, with a click per line, allocate the entry to something defined in the accounts. Things like travel, internet access, etc. Quickfile has recently enhanced to understand VAT so its a full package, although I am not sure it will scale as your business grows.

A cheap, but not free version, is ClearBooks which truly understands double entry bookkeeping, the various VAT rules, etc. and has the means to expand as your business expands. Its clumsier than Quickfile to use as you have actions and reactions, for example you have to raise a purchase entry before you can allocate funds to that, as in pay it.

4. Value Added Tax. This is a debatable item. Credibility is built from having a VAT number and with the UK flat-rate scheme its simply a percentage of revenue gained in a period. The flat-rate is charged to the customer at a different rate than paid to the HMRC providing a small source of income. For this reason I chose to register, however it is time consuming.

5. Customers paying for services. The invoice format is within the bookkeeping packages, however you can also develop your own. When the clients pay you the amount goes into the company current account. That is not money you can draw on unless you a) charge expenses to the business, b) register as PAYE and start PAYE payments and payslips, c) Directors loan it (pay back within 18 months) or d) pay Dividends as per profits recorded.

However, until you start to draw some form of income from the business account or register as PAYE (paying tax as you go each month) you will not incur any income tax. This is actually an effective way of minimising your tax liability and using your severance to buffer you while you build a business.

6. Getting an Accountant. If you are wise and follow the rules outlined on mileage and other business expenditure and you complete an expense claim as if you were employed that you submit and approve to the business then I would say you do not need an accountant. Besides, at this point you have very little revenue going into the business as you need to find customers who have a need for your product or service.

In fact do not register for PAYE until the new tax years starts if you can help it, that is the new tax year starts and you intend to draw a regular, monthly salary. The amount you draw is somewhat irrelevant, but it should be above the personal allowance limit so it appears on the inland revenue radar. As long as you are on their radar all will be fine. That said, the majority of your personal income should come from Dividends, Dividends that you can release early as a Directors Loan.

These details are not to be worried about, simply register for PAYE in the first tax month of the year, decide on an amount per month and use the tools, (in the case of the UK), that are provided by HMRC to calculate deductions. Its actually a simple process, and yes you can let it go to an Accountant but it will be for a fee, a fee you simply may not have yet and if you did I would still recommend you understand how its done.

The next installment will be about getting your Klout score up using social media and making a noise, getting yourself visible to the huge audience in your target market sector and determining what to say to them that keeps you connected.

The end of the PC is nigh!

In 2007 I had a vision, a mobile phone with cloud based Office through a browser with a Bluetooth keyboard and a wireless Display Path to a 24″ wide screen using LTE as the WAN to enable usability. At the time I was at AMD, the reason for 4-core PC’s was in question and the ATI gpu performance heading to new heights.

We are now in 2013, Android leads the mobile computing space followed by iOS and then a weak Windows. The PC is in decline, double digit decline.

Then I found the Mozilla Seabird, a smartphone that projects a keyboard onto the desk and projects a 24″ screen onto a wall … If they provide access to Microsoft Word, Excel and Powerpoint along with Exchange email then it will truly be over, the reason for being of the traditional PC will have gone.

The CPU of old will be in the hosted servers, the place I recommended the focus should be for high-performance multi-core and the GPU in the gaming console. The rest of technology will be in the phone, although the intelligent network is likely to demand processor cycles too.

I had not thought of projecting keyboard and screen, well done Mozilla to visualising that next step.

HTC, Nokia, get on board quickly and get that competitive edge against Samsung and Apple.

Windows 8 is rather cool – and App-nostic

I am wondering. I have read a lot about how hard Windows 8 is to use on a laptop or a desktop without a touch screen. How its hard to find the things you need, the things you were or are familiar with. Yet, I have a 32-bit version on an old laptop, and after somewhat of a fight to find out how a 64-bit version on my desktop and I am finding both rather cool and certainly more functional than Windows 7.

In fact, I am wondering if those who review or write about this are just in an age group that is hindered by change. I suspect they would have complained when DOS 6.2 switched to Windows 3.11 in that they could not easily enter “cd docs” or “c:\wp\wp  c:\docs\ltr12345.doc” to open their Word Perfect file with the DOS restriction of 8.3 for file names. It must have been tough, the icons were not all on the desktop and the files were not all in a known folder and quite often the executable programs, now call Apps were in a special place.

For those that are struggling with change, perhaps they should try this. Start the PC, get to the main screen with all the tiles and click on the one named “Desktop”. Once open right click and choose Personalise. Then click “Change desktop icons” and select each of the traditional icons, they will appear on the Desktop much like they did on Windows XP and Windows 7.

In fact, at this point the struggling user will realise that the only real difference between Windows 8 and Windows 7 is that Windows 8 has a Start screen rather than a Start button. If you used the “Windows Key” in Windows 7 it would be like clicking the Start button, if you use it in Windows 8 it pulls up the main screen of Tiles.

The things you have running in the background are found by sliding your mouse to top left, when selected the present opened windows will effectively minimise and the other window appear. If you want to close an App you grab the top of the screen and drag it to the bottom. If you have a mouse with a wheel you can scroll in some helpful directions on the Start screen, if not then you need to find a driver for your touchpad.

What I think is incredible, is that with my Hotmail account as the login I now have Office on my laptop, phone and desktop and whenever I log into to which every one and open an Excel spreadsheet its the same spreadsheet (or Powerpoint presentation) on all the devices. I am able to do productive work from whatever hardware I have … Outlook on Exchange, Word, Excel, PowerPoint are the killer Apps and they are connected.

If Microsoft can get their OS onto HTC, Samsung and Nokia as well as Dell, HP, Lenovo and Acer and they spend some money making Corporations aware of the amazing productivity possible by an OS platform that is target hardware generic and App-nostic (like Agnostic for Apps) then they will blow past the Android and IOS arena to, as I have stated in my past blogs, repeat the past. For, those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

 

Educare – Latin ‘to draw out’ .. the origin of the word Education that should not be forgotten

Training, Lecturing, Coaching, Mentoring, Teaching are showing the challenge of the English language and its history of being based on Gaelic, Latin, Saxon, Danish and Norman French. That story is interesting, but is for another blog, it involves being conquered many times (German, French) and a plague (1600’s) killing fifty percent of the population, for those that are curious. It results in words like cow (kuh) being used by the animals poor farmer and beef (boeuf) being used by its wealthy consumer … I digress.

So what about Education?

Lecturing is like public speaking. The speech delivers the facts, hopefully the knowledge and the students take what they can. A great lecturer will deliver it in memorable, fun size bites and be a joy to listen to, so its not an easy role. If you have the audience laughing, looking puzzled and keen to ask questions then you can rightly assume you have the X-factor. If they leave mumbling about the assignments or the weather then you may want to find training or reconsider your approach.

In contrast, the trainer takes the students present understanding and turns it into delivered habit of excellence. I suspect we all have thrown a javelin so we know how to do it, the trainer will work with us and if we have passion and flare help us to make it a skill. Its a very tough, full on, draw out the students understanding role but is based on a knowledge base. It is not coaching, its about building skill through repetition, its about building a neural path in the brain that will make the activity a habit, build it into the students subconsious.

Coaching is often, if not always, included to some degree with training. However, the coach does not need to be exceptional at the activity, unlike, I would argue, the trainer. The coach should  just know how to guide the student to improve. I have heard it said the best coaches for tennis players are ex-skiers; they have an eye for form, for balance and for pace and are able to transfer that into assisting a tennis player to improve their game. By way of contrast, the trainer would be the person the tennis student plays the game with, enabling the repetition of the actions. The coach can advise on how to improve, the trainer needs to know how to play well.

Perhaps we should recap here, just to bring it together before we move on. You can read a book on tennis, you can watch a PowerPoint driven class on tennis, however that will not get you to Wimbledon. It will give you the knowledge,  but not skill. In fact, if its not taught, then it’s quite likely to not give you knowledge either, just awareness. I used to laugh when I heard that a product line were training the sales teams around the world, using PowerPoint. I asked the question at the time; “How many top class footballers train looking at PowerPoint in a room”? If you tested the staff at the end of the “training” on their understanding and how they planned to engage the customer base with the new PowerPoint story the results proved the “training” to be nearly worthless. At best they recalled three things, are worst the were confused and hoped to figure it out later. A lecture on the features and benefits will really only create awarness and little more, the staff had to find their own way to transpose it into something that can address a customers pain point or problem. Of course, I could digress as to whether the more informed were looking for a featured, benefit, advantage or as some, struggling to cope with fba, perfer to make feature, advantage, benefit. Simply, its not the exciting thing that the feature does but the real benefit that the thing it does brings to the explicit need … I will leave that thread for another day.

In the tennis analogy, when you are out on the court the trainer will make sure you engage in exercises, repeat the same action many times, may even be the other tennis player you need to practise with. Its helpful if the trainer has played tennis, its actually helpful if the trainer plays tennis well. When you struggle with an aspect, the coach will explain how to adapt to accomodate the difficulty and the trainer will help you repeat that until it becomes habit. Over time you will build up a skill, if your passion drives you on that skill, the ability to repeat something precisely and effectively without thinking, you may become world class.

Another example is learning to drive a car, something most of us have done. If you drive one now and have done for a few years then you have trained to a level that you can do just about anything in the car without thinking. Things like gear selection, speed regulation, sensitivity to other road users, positioning in the road are all what we might call second nature. Our training was to repeat the activity, we rarely have a coach although watching some people on the road I think it would be wise for some, and some go on to advanced driving classes which have a coach to help you to improve. A previous employer of mine sent the whole sales operation on a defensive driving course, to reduce the insurance premiums, where we drove for a day with a coach. A few days later I was very thankful of the coaching as it defused a situation that could have gone very nasty .. ooops!, again I digress.

I do recall a collegue and I fighting back often against the PowerPoint “training” and showing how it could be done differently when together we went to deliver training for a European Distributer in La Gaude, France at their technical conference being held at the Club Med. Together we had developed a single PowerPoint slide, yes that is one slide, for a whole day of training, one team in the morning, one in the afternoon with a total of 25 students per session. The other vendors had hundreds of slides, going into the finest details and in a discussion in the bar the night before they thought we were insane having one slide for training in some 15 products types for the day. That evening we won the best training session award as the audience had been entertained, were engaged, learnt more than they had ever done before and bounced out the the room excited to get on and find some customers for all the new ideas they had.

The secret, the one slide had a problem as a picture that was formed from 5 items. The 5 teams of 5 students were given one of the 5 items that they had to solve. They had to make a single slide and present what they suggested would solve their problem. They were engineers, the problems were design-in challenges and they had to choose components. On the table in front of them they had all the data sheets and user manuals of the products they were being “trained” on.

The creativity, the dialog, the energy, the cool designs, the want to do it with imagination was outstanding. The presenters become the facilitators and the audience built their solutions, preparing to share the logic behind their component choices. Even after lunch the second set of 25 students did not suffer from post-lunch doze, there was no presenter droning on about some detailed feature they are likely to never care about. What we had delivered was training. They were engineers, they already had the knowledge that enabled them to explore technology. They used their knowledge to develop, along with the trainers who knew the subject well, a range of solutions that they all shared and debated to ensure the optimal design was identified for each problem.

Moving on, then of course, then there is Mentoring. Often confused with Coaching, Mentoring is not about repetition until it becomes a skill and honing the deviations to ensure that the repetition is consistent and focussed on improvement. Mentoring is about taking proven knowledge, understanding and skill and sharing that experience with someone trying to do something similar. If I stay with the driving analogy, you are unlikely to seek out a Mentor to improve your driving. A trainer, a coach, maybe but not a Mentor, unless you want to be a Rally or Formula One driver. In the case of a Rally driver you would engage a Coach to help to hone the skills you have and a Mentor to understand what skills you need to develop, and in that instance an ex-world class Rally driver would be a great Mentor. Details like gaming strategy, finding the right line, understanding how the weight distribution changes through a route would be Mentor subjects while the Coach would be about honing what you are doing to be more effective. However, while Mentoring can have a component of teaching, as can Coaching the real subject of Teaching is very different.

Teaching is really special, its about developing knowledge. The Black box methodology being used by teachers in recent years is incredible, it has the student do the work, in a social, questioning, so called formative manner and  what results is new neural pathways that are created as learning occurs. The brilliant teacher leads, ask questions, helps the students explore and helps them find the answers. Education, from its latin root, means to “draw out”, that is to pull from the minds of the students what they know already and using their social interaction to build on what they know and adapt the understanding of the group through questions and deep thinking. They assess themselves, their own understanding and in doing so they build a real understanding, the connections in the brain are used to build and correct their comprehension of the subject.

In 2009 I spent some time teaching Physics in a boys Grammar school in the UK. It was a magical experience. When you have a room of boys curious and engaged, as the lesson you are delivering is asking questions rather than pounding knowledge into their minds, the buzz is incredible. When they all say “wow! sir, that’s the best lesson we have ever had here” at the end of a lesson I challenge anyone to beat it, and yes I am referring to Physics.

Prior to the Black Box research the Honey & Mumford learning styles were just about all that teachig had to go on. The Teacher was told that exposing the student to knowledge, that is trying to fill their heads with facts, was the role. The learning styles theories abound, in basic terms it says that students learn in different ways, duh! (rocket science, not!) Whether its Visual, Audiory, Kinetic (VAK) or the more detailed Activist, Reflector, Theorist and Pragmatist (Do, Review, Conclude, Plan next step) of Honey & Mumford is a debate that many might enjoy. It has value, but nothing like the change in impact that Black Box principles have.

What VAK means in real terms is the teacher had to say it, write it and demonstrate it and the student had to say it, write it and experience it. Back when I was at school that involved the teacher writing it on the board or reading it from a book and then we had to copy it from somewhere into our own exercise books … OK, OK, you can wake up now!! That paragraph sent me to sleep while I was writing it. The student had no chance, they either had to be personally passionate about the subject or have the drive and determination to find their own way to learn before the test or exam, no wonder so many children never made the grade.

I would say even back then, the teacher who showed energy and drive and conveyed a passion to the audience was the winning teacher. They were not the teacher that had a silent class, they were the teacher that looked to the external viewer as if they were running chaos. They had discussion, dialog, exploration, challenging ideas, questioning expected outcome versus experienced outcome and high energy lessons. They had stories, case studies, history of how the truth was found, even in English they questioned word choice, sentence construction, author thinking, author experience. In Mathematics it was about abstract ideas from number behaviour, in Chemistry it was about the magic of the atom and how new elements have been found and the daft names they have been given, or blowing things up. Of course Physics was about hair raising experiences and is now about how Newton was mistaken, his laws are approximations and that quantum mechanics is a better model, and the fact that after all they are all models.

When I was training to teach I recall a passionate discussion with my students in year 9 (14 year olds) about how a laser works, how it differs from a flourescent tube and a vaccum bulb and the thought path the inventor followed to explore if it was possible to play with excited atoms. I also recall a passionate discussion with the lower 6th (17 year olds) on what mass and gravity really are and how they are strangely related. Perhaps the developed curiousity of my classes will move them to explore their world further and find the cure for cancer, who knows. My mission was simply to make them curious, explorative, to want to know how the world works with our present models. Even the students that found recalling the facts tough were enthusiastic to explore and when tested recalled the facts, and how good can it get was all I could think at the time. I often wonder about what my students are doing now.

I have no idea who said it, but I am mindful of the thought “To teach is to touch a life forever” and as such I ask that those who are teaching, realise that their passion, their energy and their ability to engage their audience are touching their students lives forever. Teach, using Black Box principles, get the students engaged, convey curiosity and passion not knowledge and watch they soar to new heights of understanding.