Learning How To Learn : Course Experience

The human brain has 100 billion neurons, each neuron connected to 10 thousand other neurons. Sitting on your shoulders is the most complicated object in the known universe.

What is learning? Well basically, forming and consolidation neural patterns.

Recently I took the course “Learning How to Learn” on Coursera. I really wanted to figure out the best way to enhance my learning. And this course has been really helpful. It provides you with the right tools and tips to construct your own learning schedule. Methods shown in the course are scientifically proven and helps you understand your brain better.

Here is a quick summary of what I learned in the course :

WEEK 1 :

There are two modes of thinking :

  1. Focused Mode
  2. Diffused Mode

Focused Mode is where our mind is concentrating on following neural patterns that it is already familiar with and Diffused Mode where our mind is sort of relaxed and is ready to find new neural patterns.

Why we procrastinate?

Studies have shown that we procrastinate because when we are about to start a task that we are uncomfortable with our brain activates the parts that correspond to pain and thus wants to stay away with it.

Solution? Well, just get started. With practice this feeling will go away.

Don’t think too much and just “eat that frog”.

WEEK 2 :

Chunking : A chunk is a small interconnectable piece of information that you can learn at a time.

Basic idea behind chunking is to get a bigger idea of the topic that you are going to study and divide it into meaningful chunk. These chunks then get interconnected to to help brain learn effectively.

Mastery is just the art of increasing the number of chunks that you can interconnect.

Personally, I feel chunking is a great way to tackle procrastination too.

Illusion of competence :

When you are done with learning a topic. Force yourself to recall it.

What motivates you? Having a feeling of motivation and excitement towards learning helps the brain learn more effectively as feeling motivated releases dopamine which causes happiness.

Overlearning and Einstellung :

One should be beware of overlearning i.e repeating several times topics you already know. This causes the brain to go into Einstellung, which means that brain refuses to explore new neural patterns and becomes rigid to ones we already know very well.

Week 3 :

Habits are energy saver mode of our brains. When a habit has been formed our brain doesn’t overload itself with information and zombie mode kicks in.

Habit can be described with following parts :

  1. The Cue : Triggers that launches the zombie mode.
  2. The Routine : Habitual response in reaction to the cue.
  3. The Reward : Habits exist because we get reward.
  4. The Belief : To change habits we need to believe that we can change them.

Understanding how habits are formed and work can help us develop new good habits and get rid of the bad ones. 10 years from now everyone is going to know about your bad habits, your success is going to represent you. Now is the time to get rid of them.

Avoid Procrastination? Focus on process not the product.

Also, make your to-do list for the next day the night before. This will allow your diffuse mode to work on it while you will be sleeping.

WEEK 4 :

There is a difference in smartness of people. Smartness equals having a larger working memory.

But people with smaller working memory are scientifically proven to be more creative.

Deliberate Practice, practicing hard stuff again and again, can lift the normal brain to the realm of naturally gifted. Practicing certain neural patterns deepens the mind.

How to become a better learner?

Exercise : Exercising created new neurons in brain.

Life experiences : Gaining varying life experiences also enhances the brain.

Analogies and Metaphors : Can be used to learn and memorize effectively.

And finally ,

Virtue of less brilliant is perseverance and grit.

This course has been great for understanding how our brain works in nutshell. At least know you know how it works, you can make it work for you.

I am trying to become good at things that are way complex than what I have worked on till now. This was the reason why I took the course.

My takeaways were to practice, persevere and have patience.

I have started next course “Introduction to Algorithms by MIT”. This is a course that I always wanted to finish completely. Hopefully this time I can do that.

See you next time!

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IIMBx: EP101x DO Your Venture : Course Experience on edX

The best way to win is to show grit and bid on your strengths and intuitions. I have been trying to start my own company now for quite a some time. This course came into my mail box by edX, title looked captivating and thus I decided to take it.

It was a light course. Not much effort needed other that just watching the videos and doing some assignments.

The course was focused on making people get off with their venture from the idea phase to execution phase.

Throughout the course I was evaluating  my ideas and operations using the learnings given by the course and it has been of some help at least.

The course was divided into 5 weeks :

Week 1 : The “Do” Philosophy 

DO philosophy is based on “do or do not. There is no try”. There is a gap between intent and action and thus best bid is to don’t wait for halcyons days and just DO IT.

It proposed a term equifinality which means that every entrepreneur and his path is different and there are many ways to entrepreneurship.

It then provided interviews with various startups like Bums On Saddle, Hobby in a Box etc founders sharing their journey so far.

Week 2 : Opportunities, Idea Creation & Generation!

This week was focused on how entrepreneurs come up with ideas. Few of them are  :

  • Hobby driven ideas
  • Painstorming
  • Change in some rules and regulations

Each of these points can provide you with a nice venture idea. I already had my idea prior to the course and thus just thought about it again from these view points.

Week 3 : Idea validation and Evaluation

After the idea has been selected. We have got to validate and evaluate it.

Some if the methods for this are :

  • Personal feasibility
  • Market feasibility
  • Customer feedback

Best way to validate idea is to talk to customers. Real unknown customers. Not just people in your acquaintance. We here at Rainbow Shelf went out to talk to retail shop owners (around 10) and tried to explain them the idea. Response was not very encouraging but it was an experience that helped us.

Week 4 : Lean Canvas

This week was all about the lean methodology used in startups. I have read the book The Lean Startup  and thus this all made sense to me.

The 5 principles of lean startup are :

  1. Entrepreneurs are everywhere
  2. Entrepreneurship is management
  3. Entrepreneurship is validated learning
  4. Build, Measure, Learn
  5. Innovation Accounting

The course also provided a lean canvas that should be used by startup to assess their idea.

Week 5 : Effectuation

Effectuation, which is defined as a “logic of thinking, discovered through scientific research, used by expert entrepreneurs to build successful ventures“.

This week was about measuring the uncertainty in the entrepreneurship.

Effectuation has these 4 principles :

Bird in Hand Principle – Start with your means. Don’t wait for the perfect opportunity. Start taking action, based on what you have readily available: who you are, what you know, and who you know.

Affordable Loss Principle – Set affordable loss. Evaluate opportunities based on whether the downside is acceptable, rather than on the attractiveness of the predicted upside.

Lemonade Principle – Leverage contingencies. Embrace surprises that arise from uncertain situations, remaining flexible rather than tethered to existing goals.

Crazy-Quilt Principle – Form partnerships. Form partnerships with people and organizations willing to make a real commitment to jointly creating the future–product, firm, market–with you. Don’t worry so much about competitive analyses and strategic planning.

 

Overall. I wasn’t expecting very complex and hard material in the course just normal guidelines stuff and this was exactly what the course provided. This course was offered by IIMB. And showed many startups that are incubated there are NSRCEL.

As of now I have taken many scattered courses on entrepreneurship from University of Maryland to MIT to IIMB. Now i have decided to just take the specialization offered by Coursera  and that should be enough for time being until my company scales.

I have now shifted my focus to learn more core technical and domain knowledge that will be required to build remarkable company that can stand out that bring value to its customers.

 

UBCx: Marketing1x Introduction to Marketing : Course Experience

Marketing is no longer about the stuff that you make, but about the stories that you tell.

In today’s world everyone in some way or another is trying to market themselves to the world. This becomes even more prominent if you are trying to attract customers to earn your living.

Preping to become an entrepreneur, I decided to take this course to get the proper understanding of how the mind of a marketer works.

This course included loads of case studies in the form of stories that covered many famous marketing campaigns world wide, from Viagra vs Cialis to Hershey’s vs Mars. Each story will teach you important aspects and tactics of marketing. It will equip you will all the marketing jargon that you will no longer hesitate to invite your marketing friends for a cup of coffee or beer.

The course was 6 modules long. I did it in 15 days as I was running short on time.

Module 1 : Changing nature of marketing, Competition

It covered various tools and frameworks like 3C’s , SWOT and PEST to understand the changing marketing scenario around your business.

Module 2 : Market Research, Segmentation and Targeting

Market research to get actionable insights will make sure that you don’t end up making a product that nobody wants. The case very common with startups.

Study of demographics and psycho-graphics to determine the target customers is another vital component.

Module 3 : Positioning and Value Propositions and Product

Positioning your product in the market by the use of VPs , PoPs, PoDs will determine your product gets sales or not.

Product is not just product, it is a much broader and deeper experience that customer is having with your brand.

Module 4 : Branding and Pricing

Brand identity is what company thinks of its brand, brand image is what use feels about your brand. The more they are similar, more well your product will do.  

Pricing should also be done using skimming and penetration approaches.

Module 5 : Distribution, Integrated marketing communication 

Channel economics, indirect or direct and how product distribution schemes can affect it.

What are IMCs? Basically these are used to reinforce your brand images in customers mind.  Be it PRs, SEO, websites, traditional ads etc.

Module 6 : Social Media, Measurement and Conclusion 

How social media is changing the marketing scenario when combined with digital marketing. (Mobile marketing is what my new start up is based upon).

They can be used to facilitate customer communication.

Metrics of any marketing campaign is revenue, cost of customer acquisition and customer lifetime value.

Conclusion : 

Being a beginners course in the field of marketing, this course served its purpose. My new startup is in the field of mobile marketing where we help small businesses get mobile and expand their customer base.

This course really helped me in shaping what exactly I have to do to shape the company.

Edx : Digital Branding and Engagement Course Overview And Experience

People Respond to Effort

Lately I have been following Gary Vaynerchuck, an entrepreneur and serial investor. He also owns a social media marketing company Vayner Media. Listening to his podcasts and keynotes is an eye opener on how digital media marketing is reshaping the advertising world.

So I took a course on Edx Digital Branding and Engagement finally know the digital marketing in and out.

The course was 4 weeks long and delivers perfect contextual content.

Module 1 : 

First module covered various topics like :

  • Paid , Earned and Owned media.
  • Consumer controlled market.
  • Top consumer trends.
  • Brand Advocacy.
  • Audience multiplicity.

This module was enough to make you super excited about this field. It was full of content that you can relate to, you witness everyday on facebook, twitter etc, just naming it formally.

Module 2 : 

This module was about Content Marketing. That means examining content marketing, determining its value, content distribution strategies etc.

It showed many successful campaigns on social media as case study and its impact on company sales and publicity.

  • Content marketing strategy.
  • Branded content distribution.
  • Content publishing.
  • Investing in marketing.
  • Distribution amplification.

As Gary Vee always say “Content is the king, but context is the queen”.

Module 3 : 

This module was on Owned Media Assets.

  • Owned media decision making.
  • Websites, Landing pages, Microsites etc.
  • SEO strategies.
  • Branded Application for mobile.
  • Gamification and Adver Games.

Module 4 : 

Most vital component of digital marketing is Earned Media. That means all the brand advocates, customer relations you create via marketing and delivering value.

  • Bottom up marketing.
  • Earned media amplification.
  • Social techno-graphic ladder.
  • Participation branding.
  • Crowed sourcing.
  • Shaping earned media.

99% of people don’t market in the year we live in.

Soon I will start working on my product based start-up that is in stealth mode right now, what I think would be a new way to consume content.

In this start-up bubble age when every one is looking to start their own company, marketing and reaching your consumer is the key. And best platform for marketing is FREE!!!. 

I am very sure that all this gold mine of marketing knowledge will help.

MIT 11.133x : Implementation and Evaluation of Educational Technology – Week 3 Sum Up

What does it take to implement a educational technology? You have the idea that can supposedly change the world of ed tech and learning, but how to implement it?

Throughout the course, in the past 3 weeks I was constantly having my idea of creating an ed tech. With each passing week the course taught me something new which can be used to carve the idea even better.

By the end of 3 weeks I was having a very clear vision of what area of learning I have to target in my ed tech implementation, but again no technical knowledge was there on how to shape up the implementation wire-frame.

This week was about Implementation of education technology. What does it take to successfully implement an ed tech? What are the challenges and what should be done to overcome them.

I was having an idea to implement a learning management system, actually an start -up idea! So all the course material was used to carve the idea only.

Barriers in implementation : 

Course introduced the i5 framework to evaluate all the aspects associated with the implementation of ed tech.

i5 framework

 

The graphic above describes all the aspects of ed tech. It covers all the barriers in implementation of ed tech.

Professional Development of teachers and educators : 

Next important topic discussed in the course was professional development of the teachers and educators. After all teachers are the one who are going to use the ed tech, thus development of their attitude towards ed tech is the key factor.

Professional development is long term process and needs constant effort over a long period of time. We need to connect teachers to the ed tech world and constantly work to make their attitude constructive towards it.

Equal investment should be made both on tools of ed tech and the teacher’s development who is going to use that tool.

While implementing an ed tech we should be constantly in touch with the teachers and educators. Their feedback on prototypes is the magic potion.

On enhancement I can think of is results in schools come pretty late. It loses the context of the test which was given by the student. Making a Assessment Tool  for the school can create a lot of difference.

Goal of ed tech implementation should not be to only present the information to the student but to orchestrate a learning environment around them.

I was relating all the ideas to my ed tech start-up idea. And this was the exact next thing tackled by the course.

Ed Tech Start-Ups : 

There is great potential for start-ups in the field of ed tech. Especially for the ones working on products for school curriculum and for efficiency in school operations.

Challenges faced by the ed tech start-ups : 

Honestly this was the exact same thing going in my mind before I played this video. My reaction was “Get out of my brain!”.

  1. Lot of ed tech start-ups
  2. This creates lot of tools having scattered ideas.
  3. Lack of practical testing.

Ed tech industry is slow when it comes to giving feedback on products. But that is exactly opposite of fast paced rapid development methodology of start-up culture. This is where the problem lies.

A remedy can be to include schools in the pipeline of development cycle and give them prototypes on regular basis to get feedback.

What comes after conceptualizing your start-up idea? Entrepreneurship!

Entrepreneurship in the field of ed tech : 

There are lot of challenges here.

  1. These guys are real difficult buyers.
  2. Getting fit in school budget is tricky.
  3. Sales are seasonal.
  4. Selling at the right price is always a challenge.

Few things that can be done to make life little less miserable can be  :

  1. Blended learning should be emphasized.
  2. Understand the tech requirements.
  3. Freemium model is great to get customers and collect data.

The course also included some start-up stories of ed tech entrepreneurs. Though stories are too long to be discussed here (I am already feeling sleepy :P), but the essence can be stated pretty easily.

Make products that are easy to learn, support the pedagogical features, are easily accessible and most importantly fun to use.

Mistakes made by start-ups  : 

  1. Not understanding data privacy.
  2. Terms of service should be flexible.

Teaching is the profession without which no other profession can exist.

Throughout the course I was having the idea of how can I make education more effective using ed tech. Keeping indian scenario in mind, I will look forward to implement a LMS (Learning Management System).

To take the first steps towards it I will be working on Assessment Tool for teachers and students both.

Being a software developer I also looked for open source organizations working in the field of ed tech. I found BuilmLearn pretty impressive.  Especially the idea of making education apps for mobile. Considering india’s economy mobile can be a very good step towards implementing technology and innovation.

I will look forward to get in touch and contribute to this organization. More on this another post. (Almost falling asleep on keyboard 😛 ).

Last week of the course left. See you guys next time.

 

 

MIT 11.133x : Implementation and Evaluation of Educational Technology – Week 2 Sum Up

Here is it end of week 2 of 11.133x. And we are back with the  sum up.

This week was about many aspects that one should deal with while implementing an education technology, like deciding education technology framework, how to analyse a ed tech, technology buying process etc.

This week started with TPACKWhat is TPACK and why does it matter?

TPACK is a framework which combines 3 knowledge. These are technological knowledge, content knowledge and pedagogical knowledge.

Content knowledge : 

It is the focus on the content that we have to teach and deliver to the students.

Pedagogical Knowledge : 

How to teach that content? What methods are we going to use to deliver that content to the students. For example using group discussions, debates etc.

Technological Knowledge  :

Decide what kind of technology support is required to achieve this. It can be a case that technology is not  the best solution. This aspect should be analysed very carefully.

Next was a video on logistical and instructional half of an ed tech.

Logistical and Instructional half to decide the use of ed tech : 

1. Logistical half : 

  1. Cost of that ed tech and funding available to implement that ed tech.
  2. Access of the ed tech to students and teachers.
  3. It should be equal for all. For example all must be using same tablet.
  4. Usability of the ed tech. How easy is to use the ed tech.
  5. Best ed tech is the one that students already know how to use.
  6. Flexibility. Multi-use of the ed tech is possible or not.

A great example on flexibility of ed tech is popcorn machine and chefs knife. Though popcorn machine is very good at making popcorn, but it can’t be used for other purposes. On the other hand chef’s knife takes some time to learn, but can be used in many ways.

2. Instructional Half : 

  1. Quality of learning. How effective that ed tech is in improving the quality of learning. How much does it help to deliver complex topics to students.
  2. Efficiency. How fast can students pick up the concepts by the use of the ed tech.
  3. Possibilities of creation of new opportunities.
  4. Collateral skill development.

 

Next in the course was a video on initiative on BYOD (Bring your on device) and and 1:1 student to device ratio in Maine.

In India, this can be possible by giving tablets, as Indian schools run on a tight budget. But 1:1 ratio is where the power lies.

Cloud based ed tech apps also have a great future and applications. Users can access all the information just using a website.

Each week brings new mind opening concepts regarding ed tech implementation. I am myself having some ideas on creating a ed tech. Will also look to connect to some open source ed tech organizations.

Let’s see what is in store in next week.

 

MIT 11.133x : Implementation and Evaluation of Educational Technology – Week 1 Sum Up

edx

Here is it. End of week 1 of the course 11.133x.

This week was a little more focused on educational technology. It covered various vital topics like  :

  1. Stakeholders in ed tech.
  2. Evaluation and assessment.
  3. What makes a good ed tech?
  4. Future of teaching.
  5. Where to start with ed tech?
  6. Concept of SAMR.

Stakeholders in Ed Tech : 

Stakeholders in ed tech are the ones who are going to be affected by the ed tech the most.

Major stakeholders are :

  • Students
  • Teachers
  • Parents
  • Administration of the educational institution.

Ed Tech companies making the ed tech products.

Evaluation v/s Assessment :

Evaluation is very different from assessment.

For evaluation we need to know our goals and we analyze how well we have accomplished our goals.
Assessment is just checking the state of something.

Why use Educational Technology?

There are many good reasons to choose Ed Tech :

  • Creativity
  • Collaboration.
  • Communication.
  • Breadth and Depth of the topic is covered in a more efficient way.
  • Flexibility.
  • Personalization and differentiation at the same time.
  • Assessment and evaluation.
  • Efficiency.

Blended Learning  :

Blended learning is the combination of learning face to face and distant.

What is happening at the class room is integrated with what is happening at a distance.

What makes a good Ed Tech?

Start with the goals not with the technologies.
Teachers and admins should collaborate and understand each other for successful implementation of technologies.

Tools should be :

  • Easy to use
  • Easy to set up
  • Easy to access.
  • Access to data should be efficient.

Qualities of a good Ed Tech Implementation : 

  • Goals should be clear. What we want to achieve with the educational technology should not be vague.
  • Strong focus should be on professional learning.
  • Goals again should be higher priorities than ed tech.
  • Long range plan should be made regarding that ed tech.
  • This even included funding required to maintain and continue that ed tech.
  • Maintenance of ed tech afterwards.

How teaching looks like in future ?

This is just my perception of how teaching is going to change for good in the near future by the impact of ed tech.

  • More communication between students and teachers.
  • Teaching students how to keep learning.
  • Connecting world to classroom and classroom to world. MOOCs are good examples of this one.
  • Meet individual learning needs.
  • Social context of learning getting more emphasize. This include connecting students to communities for better knowledge transfer stream

Where to begin with Educational Technology?

  • Place to start is were you are not doing well in your study curriculum.
  • Technology should be always in the service of learning goals, not just for the sake of having more technology in the classroom.
  • We get fixated to the logistics technology that we lose track of pedagogy technology.

Concept of SAMR : 

S : Substitution of a tool.
A : Augmenting a lesson.
M : Modify a lesson because of ed tech
R : Redefinition.

Start with objective…. technology will be used to serve that objective.

Keep in mind before choosing ed tech :
1. The pedagogical basics.
2. Implementation in context.
3. Evaluation.

This week was very keen and precise to cover above discussed points related to ed tech.

It actually helps you broaden your point of view as a programmer and creator of ed tech. What goes behind the curtains before one decided to go for some ed tech? What are the hesitations of the customers regarding  ed tech? What are there requirements? This week was all about brainstorming these points while listening to interviews with pioneers of the field.

Next week hasn’t started by the time I wrote this article. Let’s see what comes in next week. Super excited!