Why Learning? An invitation to transform education.

Motivation drives our choices. And solutions.

The devastating, mind & heart-blowing, covid-centered times we’re living have triggered the so-very necessary change in the educational system. Schools close, browsers open, clouds are overwhelmed, a generalized “what am I going to do?” or “How am I supposed to…?”, or even a “No way we can do…”. I love it. Change. Just like seasons, like natural evolution, like birth, transformation, discovery, excitement, newness, fear, fun. Wow.

Time. It’s time to reflect, rethink, risk, and have some fun; disturb the stale waters of education, and get some excitement back.

Here’re some unedited thoughts to spark your neurons:

Why Learning? Part 1. Degrees wanted. We witness extrinsic motivation in education when a person wants to earn a degree to gain access to a higher degree, a nicer or better paying job, or a happy parent or partner, amongst many other possibilities. For those, I suggest the QuizzLearn University. A fully online, asynchronous, no teaching, just a repository-like environment open 24/7. In it, the degree’s-specific QuizLearn Complete Collection, to help prepare degree-seekers through multiple choices and knowledge gathered from returns on errors, an online repository of related information in all formats (video, audio, etc.), a personal learning environment they help create, a personalized and efficient adaptable path, to go from QuizzLearn to their desired accreditation.

Why Learning? Part 2. Network. There was a time that the only way to meet like-minded and influential people (faculty, students, VIP guests) was by sharing the same moment and context (i.e., pursuing an MBA at Stanford University or NYU gave you a unique trust network that would serve as speed-lead to future job and growth opportunities). Extrinsic motivation, attending top institutions to gain ROI connections. But this is no longer the case. We find amazing faculty, students, inspirational talks online, and reachable! Everyone is, literally, a click away. The challenge is that we are overwhelmed by the existing massive collection of stories, almost the whole world is online. How can we give “networking” value to students in this covid and post-covid times? I suggest institutions set up online Challenges that Matter, a call for the local or world community to share specific needs, to be tackled, voluntarily and maybe for semester credit, in diverse groups of 3-5 people (from different majors/disciplines). Small groups in joint effort generates value connections, while finding purpose with a value driven goal. It’s about meaningful connections and shared experiences that real networking takes place.

Why Learning? Part 3. Joy. With intrinsic motivation, the learner pays attention and interest because the story, the experience, the shared information, satisfies them, makes them feel excited, interested, and yes, motivated! It is the good tale, the mystery unraveled, the solving of a meaningful puzzle that drives curiosity, enthusiasm, and thirst for more. Yet intrinsic motivation is mostly found outside the classrooms, in conversations and smaller groups. It is then that we see the light in the storyteller’s eyes, how the world around us seem to disappear when we’re listening to an amazing chronicle, when we’re engaged in a sweet challenge, abducted by curiosity and magic, and fun, fearless. So I suggest institutions create subject-centered challenges that can be tackled by small groups of students, with the guidance of an expert/teacher/professor, challenges that involve experts beyond institutional walls, the community. Joy happens when we make learning meaningful, purposeful and, when we, courageously, break down the walls that limit the joy of learning.

So what do I believe schools should do during Covid-times and in the future?

1. Don’t do in the classroom what gets better results online. Just because you’ve done this for so long does not mean it’s the best for learner’s success and/or motivation, be it a degree, ROI contacts, or thirst for knowledge.

2. Offer existing premises as a concept lab for learners and your community to get together, in small groups, with or without mentors/guides, to capture challenges that matter, and help create solutions for these.

3. Help build an expertly curated online collection of content, to help learners understand the diverse subjects. Focus on quality vs quantity. The role of the educator, the teacher, the mentor, is to help pave this stimulating and thrilling path to learning, and assist in the process (i.e. offering online office hours, asynchronous responses to comments/questions, face to face participation when prompted, in or outside the classroom, help gather inspirational material, etc.).

4. Transform. Identify the storytellers, the enthusiastic and vocational teachers, those who care and have purpose, and assign them “role model” and “expert repository” roles. Identify the unmotivated, uncaring and/or uninterested ones and assign them “quizz-creating” roles. Identify the motivated staff and people in and outside the walls, and assign them “challenges-related” roles. Transform clearly, and gently, and don’t forget to act inclusively, transform for all.

Thanks for reading. Much love.

Photo by Juan Ramos on Unsplash

Social media ‘Sunday’ blues

I have fond memories of going to church every summer Sunday with my grandma, elegant that she naturally was, she would put on her favorite fashion and jewelry for what she knew it was the social gathering event of the week, the moment to look one’s best, share success stories and bring out the most joyful and loving self. Facebook was actually inspired by Sunday’s mass.

Photo showing me on my Sunday's good-girl outfit. Barcelona, early 70s.

Looking and being our best one day a week is manageable, it’s also manageable to receive the same from others, their spark of life, beauty, love and success. But every day, a couple of times, or even more often!, it’s exhausting and, in some occasions, like myself, can lead to symptoms of depression. As my reality kicks in outside the digital world, balancing work with meals, family entertainment, negotiations or strikes, creative needs, challenging relationships and an economic earthquake of a Richter magnitude of 8 or 9, I decided it was time to withdraw from the showering toxicity of constantly feeling that there’s something wrong with me. I have left the Church of LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram, and embraced the faith of my confinement view and my present, and future!, meaningful connections.

As someone passionate about technology and emotions, I am always interested in dissecting the value of what we create and try and identify what would be the recommended user guidelines. As much as technology can help us stay in touch with loved ones, find a new audience, stay on top of trends, news or be a source of fun and beauty, it can also be, a source of emptiness. Too many people, too many peacocks, too many goals. I understand everyone has different needs at different times, I just wish that the Sunday social-media mass tradition was more like Alcoholic Anonymous’ groups sometimes, be more real-life balanced.

Thanks for reading. Much love.

Good ‘design manners’ wanted.

Having good web manners is about being respectful and considerate of the person for whom we are designing. The bottom line is, “please, don’t stress me, don’t waste my time, don’t upset me, etc.”. Technology continues, in many cases, triggering negative emotions, increasing stress levels. Often, this stress may linger throughout the day, affecting work and/or personal relationships, overall health, sales, and many others.

In my last post I wrote about emotion detection and AI, but I realized I should take a step back and share with you what I believe is/should be a basic practice, the need for good design manners so, when we use AI to detect how a person feels, it returns the values of “happy” or “content”. 

In our current competitive online market we strive to find ways for building more secure, trustful and loyal relationships, yet it may be hard to do so without manners.

What are some ‘bad manners’ in my book? (and there is a difference between human error and deceitful design):

  • making it really hard to locate a blog subscription link without signing up on a new service, 
  • making the ad’s “close” icon so small or transparent you actually end up opening the ad, 
  • making it almost impossible to locate the live chat service they so nicely announce as good practice and trustful relationships.
  • making abusive use of empathetic-less bots.  
  • etc., you get the idea!

I invite those of you with an online presence to run a ‘good design manner’ audit (or good manners’ heuristics), to weed out some of the obstacles of success. Doing so may contribute to the desired return on investment, and also on mission and values.

Thanks for reading.

The feature photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash, reminded me of the Ten Emotion Heuristics so well summarized here by Nikki Anderson.

Don’t worry about machines reading your emotions, worry about those governing them.

There is a clear trend in emotions in general, and in emotions in AI specifically. The idea fascinates us, that something so “personal” can be read/captured by a machine. In many cases people respond with disgust to these new developments, in others, with curiosity, and the rest, with desire.

The facts:

  • wearable sensors, facial recognition, voice analysis and other technologies exist and are getting better every day. And it is/will be the combination of many of these that provide a “closer” and more accurate reading on the emotional/sensorial moment of a particular person (or group).
  • the above data is stored and managed by someone/many, and whomever has access to it can know about your health, your feelings, your conversations, etc.
  • the integration of emotion AI in different contexts and situations (i.e. hospitals, transport, construction, people with disabilities, etc.) brings increased safety and increased quality of life, at the least. The benefits are impactful.
Above image: April 23rd, around the corner from my house. Could such technologies have avoided this dreadful accident?

So, should we focus our emotion-tech-trend in battling against the technologies themselves or bring the focus to the governance of the data gathered through these? Should we request speedier policies to adapt to the rapid tech developments? Maybe new forms of oversight, supervision and control that helps enforce these? And, wouldn’t we want to include here the issues about the data gathered from anything that we write or say using technologies?

These are interesting times for closely monitoring what’s happening in this exciting and controversial field.

Related news and special thanks:

  • Special congratulations to Rana El Kaliouby for her newly released book Girl Decoded, nice memories of us dining out with the computer on the table and discussing facial recognition variables… 
  • And last but not least, I want to dedicate this first post to the woman that first introduced me to emotion-detection technologies in 2001: Rosalind W. Picard, founder and director of the Affective Computing research group at the MIT Media Lab. Thanks Roz!

A few initial thoughts…

I was recently invited to write a blog about my passion for emotions, engagement design and technology, but the truth is that I’ve never considered myself a good writer, I am also not sure if I will have enough to say as time goes by, and nor am I an expert in any of my topics of interest. So I feel a bit uneasy about it, but it sounds like a fun experience!

I will then go ahead and share with you my raw, unedited thoughts and ideas on the current issues that trigger my emotions’ radar.

  • I will share my thoughts on related news.
  • I will share research and updates in this area.

Hope you enjoy my musings!