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We join spokes together in a wheel, but it is the emptiness of the center hole that makes the wagon move.
We shape clay into a pot, but it is the emptiness inside that holds whatever we want.
If college professors spent less time lecturing, would their students do better?
A three-year study examining student performance in a “flipped classroom” — a class in which students watch short lecture videos at home and work on activities during class time — has found statistically significant gains in student performance in “flipped” settings and significant student preference for “flipped” methods.
The study, provided exclusively to The Atlantic, is one of the first to examine a “flipped” classroom in the current state of its technology. Russell Mumper, a Vice Dean at the University of North Carolina’s Eshelman School of Pharmacy, conducted the study, and two separate articles based on its findings are now in press in the journals Academic Medicine and The American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education. The education technology company Echo360, whose technology was used in the classes examined, funded the study with a $10,000 grant.
The study examined three years of a foundational pharmaceutics course, required for all doctor of pharmacy (Pharm.D.) students attending UNC. In 2011, Mumper taught the course in a standard, PowerPoint-aided lecture format. In 2012 and 2013, he taught it using “flipped” methods. Student performance on an identical final exam improved by 2.5 percent between 2011 and 2012—results now in press at Academic Medicine—and by an additional 2.6 percent in 2013. Overall, student performance on an identical final exam improved between 2011 and 2013 by 5.1 percent.
Students also came to prefer the flipped model to the lecture model. While 75 percent of students in 2012 said, before Mumper’s class, that they preferred lectures, almost 90 percent of students said they preferred the flipped model after the class.
“As I always like to say, we flipped their preference,” Mumper told me. “They went from largely wanting and valuing lectures to just the opposite.”
Read more. [Image: Echo360]
I think it is time to flip conferences, too. Instead of having presentations (lectures) take up most of the time, and discussion sandwiched in the interstices — at meals, breaks, and after hours — we should record the lectures (presentations) and have people watch them before the event. Then, when they come to the conference people can spend the time when they are all together in one place digging into the ideas, hacking things, creating new next steps.
This will happen, but will take a decade.
From GigaOM Research:
I will be presenting one of the keynotes at the upcoming Social Now conference, 18-19 April 2013, in Lisbon. I am eager to go, not just because Lisbon is a wonderful city where I have old friends, but also because the event is very tool-focused. In fact, I am one of the few presenters not directly talking about tools.
So I thought I would share an abstract of the talk, and after the conference I will publish something longer, once I have heard what I have to say.
The Future Of Work In A Social World
The social revolution is still in its early days, but we have enough experience to have learned a bit, and to be able to conjecture even more. The arrival of social tools is one part of a larger, swirling mess of large-scale change smashing into our lives like a tornado, and tearing the roof off the world of business. The elements of that mess all influence each other — tech factors like digital, mobile, and the cloud, societal shifts like urbanization, new media, and the always-on lifestyle, and correspondingly massive stressors like climate change, globalism, the shifting social contract, and the boom/bust cycle of the world economy — these seem to be the new normal in the 21st century. The new normal is that there is no normal anymore. Welcome to the Postnormal.
We can be certain of little, but it’s safe to say that the future of work will be social (and other adjectives), and businesses that are becoming social are confronted by the need for deep cultural change, which is hard. The degree of difficulty depends on where you are starting from. I will present a new model of corporate culture, based on values and organization style, called the 3C model. [This will be the debut!] I think this will help us understand the nature of the change called for, what sorts of resistance is likely, and an end state: the form factor of a social business.
In brief, we are seeing a transition from process-defined work, where tightly defined rules and narrowly constrained roles shape people working lives, and organize the company culture into a collective mindset, toward relationship-framed work, where people use creativity, innovation, and connection to determine how to accomplish increasingly nonroutine work, and where we see a shift to fast-and-loose cooperation from tight-and-slow collaboration.
I will talk about the tools and practices that are most relevant — and those that are missing — for this transition to move forward. And finally, some thoughts about what that future social world might feel like for its inhabitants.
My talk with Paul Greenberg at Pivot Conference on Leadership In The Social Business (or more apt, Leadership In The Postnormal).
Panel session at conferences are very uneven, and often they suck. Why? The primary blame can be laid at the feet of the moderators, who often don’t do enough to make the panels great. Charlie O’Donnell offers details in a great post:
Charlie O’Donnell, Why do panels suck and how can we make them better?
I spoke on a SXSW panel in 2011 that didn’t suck. I know it didn’t suck because the first person to ask a question told us that our panel was worth the whole price of admission to the conference and we got the same sentiment echoed on Twitter. The panel included myself, Emily Hickey, Ben Lerer, and Christine Herron and we spoke about startup mistakes.
The panel didn’t suck because it was engineered not to suck. Here are a few things we did:
- First and foremost, the panelists were carefully chosen. They aren’t the biggest VCs and entrepreneurs, but they’re some of the most thoughtful ones. Some of the most successful people simply haven’t tought much about why they got where they are—and even if they have, they’re just wrong about it because they’ve only scratched the surface. These panelists have seen both success and failure, and they’ve seen it from multiple perspectives—and on top of that, because I knew them well, I knew they’d be able to share those stories. Not everyone is a good storyteller, so choose carefully.
- The moderator had a sense of the story that should come out of the panel. I knew what I wanted to cover and what I wanted the audience to leave with. Panels are, or at least should be, stories, and a story is supposed to leave you with something. You should remember them because they make sense in a structure. Too many moderators pick something broad like “The Future of the Present” and ask vague questions like, “So what happens after now?” You’ll never get a tight story that people can leave with if that’s what you do. People either need to leave with a specific story or a sense of “If I believe x, this will happen, if I believe y, this will happen.” Moderating is hard and not everyone can do it. Respect the craft.
- The questions were discussed among the panel ahead of time. We vetted a bunch of topics and decided on the questions that would output the best answers. That also gave the panelists time to think about their answers. In fact, they were given a specific format by which they should structure their responses—to think about the tweets that we wanted to see before further explaining. So, when the question was “How can you tell what makes a good hire?” Someone would say a one line, tweetable, comment-worthy sentence as an answer before diving in further.
- Not everyone answered every question. Don’t you hate when they go through everyone in order and the last two panelsts basically say, “Yeah, what she said…” but they still take 5 minutes to say that. Some of the questions simply aren’t relevent to everyone. With our panel, each person was asked to answer only 2-3 of the questions, so the answers bounced around the four of us and no more than two people addressed any given question—unless they really had something ridiculously awesome to say.
- The panel talked amongst themselves. We disagreed on a few things, asked questions of each other. It was like we were real humans sitting next to each other discussing a topic. Amazing.
I think Charlie’s hit it on the head, but let me add a few thoughts.
Interviews are underutilized at conferences. In many cases, people who really don’t present well — despite having great ideas or being quite accomplished — are great when interviewed. Small panels — a moderator and two panelists, for example — can be great, especially when handled like a parallel interview by the moderator.
And panels should have no more than one person for every ten minutes: 50 minutes = four panelists max and one moderator, for example. That means in today’s fast twitch conferences, a 30 minute panel would/should/could have only two panelists and one moderator.
Last summer, I led a Future Of Work seminar series in five cities, and although we were allotting 45 minutes, I held the panelists to two in all cases but one, and that worked well. The time I had three panelists was a bit cramped, in comparison.
Jim Collins, Best New Year’s Resolution?
Suppose you woke up tomorrow and received two phone calls. The first phone call tells you that you have inherited $20 million, no strings attached. The second tells you that you have an incurable and terminal disease, and you have no more than 10 years to live. What would you do differently, and, in particular, what would you stop doing?
I had a subarachnoid aneurysm a few years ago, and at one point I was informed — erroneously — that my brain injury was inoperable. I had some time to reflect on that, and even after it was clear that surgery was, in fact, an option, the mortality stats on my condition were pretty harrowing, with at least 50% mortality, and given the severity of my situation, significantly higher.
I have changed a great deal since then. I started playing the guitar again, after about 20 years hiatus, for example. I’ve started writing music and poetry again. I drink a lot more champagne, too. Have to smell those roses.
But I still need to stop once in a while and ask: what should I stop doing?
This year, I intend to raise even greater barriers to long-distance travel, which is so costly in time and often so meager in payback.
I am involved in a foundational transition in my work, started last year. I am transitioning from a modality of acting as an advisor to companies (usually software start-ups), and investing more of my my work-related efforts into various, well-defined research initiatives, often working cooperatively with other researchers. I will be saying more about these initiatives later this week, with more specific announcements.
The book that I have been talking about for the past few months (formerly called Liquid City) will be sewn into the new research agenda, and will be rolling out in pieces this year, in a slightly reconsidered form, and a new title (in process).
I have recommitted myself to connecting with the community here, in Beacon NY, my adopted home, and I am working to get a food cooperative off the ground. Most critically, my family is buying and moving into a new place here in the next week, and in the next few months we will be putting in a garden, fixing up the place, and settling in. Going to dedicate a lot to that.
I am working in NYC from the Grind coworking space, and I hope to be an active and involved member of that community, and the tech and innovation community of NYC, as well. This will all be keeping me relatively close to NYC, more local than I have been in decades.
I still plan to do 12-15 conferences in distant places, but I intend to keep to that number as a max, and the rewards — on some level or another — have to be pretty high to get me to go.
Say yes to some things, and no to most others. But I am open to discuss new ideas with people. I will be starting open office hours in February, after the move is over.
I recently came across Conferize — a company with the nobel aim of shaking up the conference experience, or business, or something.
Even after reading their manifesto, I didn’t know exactly what to expect when they release a product or services, but I am rooting for them.
Here’s the manifesto with my comments in brackets:
10 areas where we can improve the conference
[they don’t mean a specific conference, so ‘conferences’ might be better]
Yet when it comes to ushering the conference firmly into the digital era a lot could be improved. Not because conferences are poorly conceived or organized, but simply because the right formula for proper application of the social and semantic web hasn’t been developed yet:
1. Searching online for conferences is flawed. Only more so if you try to filter results according to location, interest, language and time. It’s an entire category of life where search has failed.
[I completely agree, and so I don’t search for conferences on line, really. I use services like Plancast and Lanyard, which are unmentioned, here, which is a glaring omission.]
2. At this very moment you’re probably missing out on a great conference somewhere and you don’t even know. We need better systems to actively keep us in the loop. Rather than searching for conferences the relevant conferences should find us.
[And they do, to some extent, because of those services, and tools like Twitter, right?]
3. Most conference websites makes us feel like it’s 1999, and yet it’s never been easier creating great user experiences online. How do we bridge this apparent gap between organizers and technology?
[What about attempts to throw technology at this like SxSW and Reboot websites? Or the dozens of conference tools like Crowdvine?]
4. With less time and money available to the average employee it means we’re often forced to pass on conferences we actually want to attend. But how can we effectively take part in a conference without being there? With advances in remote connectedness this should be possible today.
[No comment about livestreaming, which is very common these days?]
5. It’s too hard getting access to the knowledge produced and presented at a conference. You’ll find bits and pieces scattered around the web, on social networks, in inboxes and on hard drives. But where do you get the full picture and find what you’re actually looking for?
[A very good point, but a problem larger than conferences.]
6. In our educated culture the probability of a single person knowing more than his crowd of 200 is becoming smaller every day. How can we use technology to harvest the collective wisdom of all the wonderful minds attending your next conference?
[Hmmm. I guess I am too elitist, because I think that great speakers often do know more on their topics of interest than 200 or even 20,000 people attending or watching via livestream. There is still a place for involving people in unconferences, too, but no great conference arises from making 25 random people presenters.]
7. Today you usually don’t know who’s going to a conference until you’re actually there. And after the conference you often fail to reconnect with someone you met. Surely there must be a better way.
[Yes, this is an area that can be improved, but many conferences have tried social networks and it still doesn’t work right.]
8. To many people it can be difficult to just walk up to strangers and start talking. Why can’t we have a system in place where we can start conversations before a conference, then continue at the conference and even after it’s ended?
[It’s hard to have a conversation when there is none going on yet. I think it would be great to create a stream of posts from all speakers and attendees on the conference website in advance.]
9. Even when we’re physically present a part of our attention is constantly devoted to our life online. How do we turn this into a good thing in the conference space? And how do we create meaning in the digital noise that often seem to cloud the conditions for deep learning?
[No mention of livetweeting? And curation?]
10. When is a conference successful? How do we measure the true impact of a conference, both for organizers, speakers, venues and attendees? For every dollar spent on a conference we ought to know the net return.
[Maybe, but the true message of a conference is the change it has made in people’s minds, which is unquantifiable.]
A good start, but needs much much more contextualization in the world of actual experiments.
Has SxSWi jumped the shark?
Josh Williams, CEO and Co-Founder of Gowalla, a social travel guide that launched at the conference in 2009, has been going to SXSW Interactive since 2002, when it was 800 people in one ballroom. He’s agnostic on the presence of big brands in Austin, but he does think they change the conference’s tone. “The meaningful conversations that you used to have in the conference center get pushed to the side,” Williams says. When Gowalla launched at the conference in 2009, “you could still launch a new product here, you knew people who could help you rise above the noise.” But Williams thinks those days are over - there may be marketing opportunities for small companies, but the conference is too saturated for successful product launches by small startups.
With 19K official attendees, and an unknown number of camp followers, ‘South By’ has inexorably morphed away from what it was: a small collegial get together of the web vanguard.
I am hoping that SxSWi can transition from a more-or-less traditional web conference into something productive and interesting, like a small town growing into a more complex city, which means it will be intrinsically messier, noisier, and more chaotic.
However, cities have different neighborhoods, different social scenes, and a variety of districts where vastly different things are going on. Perhaps the answer for SxSWi is to break the conference into a collection of small conferences, just as SxSW is composed of music, film, and interactive already?
Update: 8:50am 1 April 2011 — via Alex Williams:
digiphile: @stoweboyd I can’t speak to past years, but I found much to like at SXSWi 2011. http://t.co/vwhOOqc
Marc has a big gripe about Supernova:
[from Business as usual - on the conference front by Marc Canter]
OK - I’m officially complaining now. The speaker’s list for Supernova has been officially sent out and guess what? Its all the same people - AGAIN?
I mean how many times do we need to hear from Dave Sifry, Mary Hodder, Joi Ito, Dan Gillmor, Werner Vogels, Jeremy Allaire, Amy Jo Kim, Craig Newmark, Seth Goldstein, Jonathan Schwartz - and my favorite - Robert Scoble?
How many times do these people talk at the same conferences, over and over again - on the same subject matter? Why doesn’t Kevin Werbach grok this? Who wants to go hear the same people all over again - talk about what? Web 2.0? The Long Tail? Ajax? Craigslist? Tagging? Citizen Journalism? Come on - give me a break!
It’s a commercial venture, Marc, and if Kevin Werbach thinks he can win by sticking with the conservative, rock-no-boats approach, fine. Just don’t go. Personally, I know and like most of the people on the list, so maybe Supernova is more of a big comfy cocktail party for the insiders? Sort of following the O’Reilly ETech pattern?
I recall Kevin’s courage in inviting me back to Supernova after I was almost tarred-and-feathered for saying that “email sucks” in a presentation on the future of email. But he is now affiliated with the Wharton School, and that may have dulled the edginess that characterized the first Supernova, so long ago.
In fact, I think I will get Marc in an email interview about where he plans to go, since clearly it won’t be Supernova. Certainly, I am actively searching for new places to go, for new voices, for new ideas. Maybe that’s what Marc needs, too.
[Update: 5:20pm 7 Apr — Marc proposes doing an unconference at the same time, across the street. I’m in!