Category Archives: Education

Does Your School Hinder Creativity?

school hallway

Imagine one day you come to school after working hard on an essay only for your teacher to tell you that it is trash and you need to go back and rewrite it. You think to yourself, “rewrite it? But I just spent all night working on it? It was great when I turned it in.” You go back and work on it again and when you turn it back in the teacher marks it up again. You can not figure out what is going wrong so you turn to your friend in class and ask them to look it over. They tell you it’s not in the format and outline the teacher wants. You get mad that the teacher didn’t say that, or least you didn’t pay attention or read the instructions, and so you blame it on the teacher for not explaining it clearly. You write the essay again in the format required and end up getting a B- because it was turned in late. You are happy and move on with your life.

The example above is one that many students experience over and over everyday in school. It is the reason so many students lose interest in certain subjects because they didn’t follow directions or the teacher was not clear enough, or in some cases the teacher is only looking for a certain format. Any student in English class will lose interest in the art of writing after going through an experience like that because they learn that writing should only be formatted a certain way instead of a form that expresses how the author thinks and feels. Take that similar feeling and imagine the number of students each day who lose hope in ever getting good at math because they keep getting bad grades. Not all students are proactive enough to seek out help and in many cases they are waiting for someone to come and help them.

That is the case for many students at all levels of school. Not everyone is a leader and not everyone will seek out help. Students gauge their level of skill on the type of grades they get not really knowing that they have the ability to get better, if only someone provided them with support. So what about the super-achievers at school? The ones that want to impress and show off their talents? Where do they end up? Many of the overachievers get the support they need in class and at school because they know to speak up and raise their hands and attend after school help. They seek out the resources they should be using and take advantage of them. But what happens to that one student who gets punished because the understanding of one teacher, or teachers, mistook their amazing efforts for something terrible? What does that do to a child’s psyche and self-esteem? A lot of damage actually.

The Teachers at Schools in America
Teachers in America do not have to have the most rigorous training or educational achievements in order to teach in a K-12 classroom, infact, math teachers in majority of places do not have to have any kind of college math training or degree in order to teach math at the highschool level. This is why most high school coaches teach math and science, aside from the fact that they don’t have to throw any kickbacks to the math and science teachers to keep their athletes grades up in order to play, because they already have a certificate in addition to a education degree to teach in a school. I do need to point out that many schools are changing the requirements but for majority of them, which are public schools, they do not require more than a state teaching certificate and degree in college, most likely an education degree.

If math teachers are not required to study math in college than what does that say of the requirements for other teachers in their subjects? Do English teachers need to have read all the books they are required to teach in school or do they only need to know how to write and create curriculum lessons as long as they have a degree in education? The sad thing is that the college of education at most universities in America are the dumping grounds of the students who can not make it in any of the harder degree fields. Infact, the requirements for a degree in education are so simple that even the college students themselves take it because they know it is a knock-off degree that will get them a paying job after college. Of course little do they know, because they don’t bother to actually study, the economy is flooded with education degrees making them more worthless than they already are.

Don’t forget these are the same people that will be teaching your children study skills and the importance of getting an education later on. Scared yet? The challenge with that is that most teachers do not have the versatility in education to understand all the subjects students are learning in school and this is where problems arise.

Why Finland and East-Asian Countries Produce the best students
They do not mess around when it comes to education. Here is an example of what that means in South Korea: on the day of the exam that determines where seniors in high school will go after they graduate, police, airports, and transportation services all ensure that students do not have any distractions – this means no planes flying overhead during exam time, no traffic congestion so police block off and reroute traffic away from schools, and taxis offer free rides so students can get to school on time before their exam. That is what a nation, dedicated to providing a proper role model for students, does to show how important education is.

School days there are long so that means students learn to get along better with everyone but that is not everything. When the majority of the day ends the students change clothes and start cleaning their school. This very behavior teaches students to appreciate and take care of the very place that will give them a nice future. They are required to mop, sweep, clean, and take out the trash. That very dedication to taking care of the school lowers the costs for so many things that the school doesn’t have to worry about. Students notice more things than a regular janitor would so if there is a light broken somewhere then a student can go and fix that right away. After they are done cleaning they all go to the cafeteria and have dinner together and when that is over they head back to class until it is time to go and study with their independent tutor schools. There is a strong focus on studying and parents make every effort to ensure that students get all the help they need but also that the teachers teaching each class have proven themselves worthy to teach. Infact, the independent tutors work on a capitalist system which means that the higher demand for one teacher from students means more pay. You can read about how this teacher gets paid just as much as people in silicon valley because of his excellent teaching skills. These high standards coupled with students taking care of their schools produce high quality students.

Finland, on the otherhand, has made it a point to ensure that any teacher in front of any class has gotten the best training the top universities have to offer. The top job to have in their country is a teacher, whereas, kids in the US are told that the top job to have is to become a doctor, lawyer, or engineer. Students respect their teacher because they understand how hard it was for them to even get in front of that class and teach. It is about the same amount of training that a doctor in America would receive, if not more. This is why they tend to be number 1 in the world in terms of producing the smartest students in the world.

Finland is the top role model in getting students to understand how important an education is and to understand what you want to do with it. How many schools like that exist in America? Chances are you would have to attend a private school to come even close to what Finland offers for free to all their students. Infact, students there have more freedom to do things on their own than in South Korea and America.

So why can’t schools in America strive to be the best?
The simple answer: paranoia from parents, politics and bureaucracy. Education is always ignored and the education budget is always the first on the chopping block.

Poor Education Leads to Terrible Mistakes
Students in schools take for granted that their teachers are always there to help them. Many students like to show off and impress their teachers because it makes them feel good about themselves and what they are able to do but it also is a way for someone in the same area of interest to acknowledge what they have accomplished. Unfortunately the lack of education on one teacher can have devastating consequences on a student. In this case the situation with Ahmed Mohamed is a perfect example of what happens when a teacher, in this case an Engineering and English teacher, were not able to determine whether a device is a bomb or just a clock.

Let’s look closer at what could have caused this problem. Ahmed said that he showed the clock he made to his engineering teacher who was very impressed but showed concern. It might confuse someone else that a student with a certain type of name and skin color might cause some problems. That part is assumed. In this case it lead to a huge problem with a student being arrested because a teacher, a high-school teacher at that, was not able to decipher correctly that an engineering project was a threat. What could cause a teacher to not understand the significance of what this student at his age, 14, was able to accomplish? Lack of science, tech, and engineering background. If you build and tinker with stuff all the time you will quickly learn what wires are used for what, how clocks are actually made, in this case a digital clock, and what all goes into a project like this. You would also know that in order to make a bomb of that size, some chemistry will be needed but in this case there were no liquids, radio controller, moving parts, external power source, or anything contained except the clock board and some circuits.

Does someone need to study these things in college in order to understand this kind of complex stuff? No, actually it was the same stuff I learned in middle and high school so it is not like a special background in this stuff is necessary. I attended an engineering high school where we were always building things and taking them apart and putting them back together and never once did I ever feel scared that a teacher would mistake what my friends and I were doing as something wrong. It takes experience and education in order to create a safe learning environment where students are pushed further.

In the case of Ahmed, it was his English teacher that got frustrated with the fact that his alarm clock was going off in class and took it away from him out of fear that it was a bomb. Teachers now are required to report any kind of disturbance or suspicious behavior to the office and alert the police. In this case the teacher’s lack of understanding caused Ahmed to be arrested at his school wearing something that only dedicated students of science and tech would wear, a NASA t-shirt.

So what is going to happen to Ahmed’s English teacher? The one responsible for all this mess? Are there going to be any consequences for their behavior and lack of science education? The simple answer is nothing will happen to a poorly educated English teacher. They will continue on with their job teaching more students in the coming years. Sad right? A student gets suspended and arrested but nothing to the teacher, why? Politics and school bureaucracy, plain and simple. Union rules make it extremely difficult to fire teachers but Michelle Rhee knows how to do it the right way. Those same union rules also make it difficult to fire a teacher who has had sexual relations with a student.

Lack of Education lands Trip to Google, Facebook, NASA, MIT, and the White House
In many cases this situation has shown a bright light on a student that would have otherwise had to have proven themselves the regular way like most students. If not for the lack of education by the English teacher Ahmed would never have been invited to the White House;

Mark Zuckerberg would never have known who this teenager was from Irving Texas,

and MIT and it’s student body would never have worked hard to create their own clock

and invite him out for a campus tour.

Google even saved him a seat with a complete invitation to their science fair.

The CEO of Box has invited Ahmed out to tour their company.

The whole world has taken notice of all the cool projects and gadgets that Ahmed has been creating for years, all for his love of science, technology, and engineering. The English and Engineering teachers are examples of people that are considered obstacles to student’s careers and for many high school students they would have lost their interest in what they love to do because of someone else’s poor judgement. It is great to know that Ahmed will be transferring to a school that will encourage and reward his creative endeavors but now that the top names in science, engineering, and technology know who he is, it won’t be hard for him to land a job right after college. Many top tech companies have already offered him an internship, including Twitter itself.

If Ahmed takes up all the offers he has been given his high school years will be unlike anything a typical teenager gets to do. He will have access to so many amazing people and places that he will be a role model for other teenagers to follow. Ahmed could easily build this into a program that helps more students connect to the top people and companies in the world by encouraging them to follow their passion in STEM programs. If I was Ahmed I would talk with all the people who invited me, build trust and raise funds to start outreach programs to get more students into building things and learning about how they can help their community.

The support from the science community, especially NASA and scientists has been amazing.

NASA sent out a tweet about all its programs for students

Ahmed was invited to the Toronto show Generator. which is a science-based variety show on Oct 28th and many supporters have offered to pay for his flight and hotel.

Former Astronaut Mark Kelly even tweeted his support for Ahmed

The outpouring of support from companies, institutions, and people show that they have to pick up the slack that schools still can not do on their own. They showed their encouragement to Ahmed because it is important not to kill any interest a child has in what they love to do. The world needs critical thinkers as well as STEM people too. It is even harder to find programs that combine both. The sad thing though is that schools love bureaucracy so much that it hinders the kind of help students actually get in school. For many public schools they are simply a place for adults to have a job and nothing more.

Why Schools Kill Creativity
Sir Ken Robinson gave one of the greatest TED talks on this topic explaining how and why schools kill creativity. Surprisingly enough many schools have done very little to fix this problem since his famous talk, instead, forcing more students to study in the areas that kill creativity. The hard part about creativity is that it is a very abstract thing to teach but it can be taught but only by those who know how to get the best out of students. In the book, Creating Innovators, the author, Tony Wagner, explains that the very teachers that produce the most innovative students are never considered for tenure at their universities because of politics and bureaucracy. Instead of changing the rules and encouraging more of these teachers, universities still focus heavily on professors that can bring in more research money instead of producing high quality students that have already proven how they will change the world. It is that backwards way of thinking in the higher education institutes that hurts students in the long run.

The other issue is teaching to the test that all teachers are forced to deal with. Many say that it limits their time and ability to get students interested in their subject because they have to make sure they cover certain topics every week in order to make sure they are on track for the test. That is one way of killing creativity for sure. The limits that teachers have on their time to teach hurts the future of this country because America is known as the powerhouse of innovation but how can you create innovators when you have to stick to a standardized level of learning. The students who are naturally smart and want to excel tend to get bored in their classes faster because there is nothing there for them to do. I remember in several of my classes in middle school and high school there were times when I had completed majority of the course work before it was even assigned and since the teacher didn’t know what to do with me I was just left to work on coursework from my other classes.

The teachers that are the best are the ones that push you past your limits and never give you the answer, even when you ask for it. They challenge you to try harder and they know when you need help and that is the only time they offer assist which is only after you have exhausted all your options. Students like Ahmed need learning environments that push him further and have the resources available for him to continue learning past what he already knows. The schools and universities that produce the best students are the ones that combine group work with multidisciplinary fields which focuses more on work than just reading.

This means that if you want students to learn chemistry then you need to give them more projects that require them to explore the properties. If you want students to learn Shakespeare then why not have them act it out in class instead of just students reading one paragraph at a time? You have to engage the students in creative ways that gets them to apply what they have read in order to see how it works. Ahmed has been doing this on his own for a long time and so when he goes to visit all the top Silicon Valley companies he will never want to leave because he will see people doing things that he wants to do right now.

Sir Ken Robinson wrote a book called, Creative Schools, in which he lays out an actionable plan that anyone in education can follow. The talk he gave is a way to inspire and motivate people to take action and his books provide all the resources and insight as to what people need to start doing. The rise in home-schooling has lead to a push-back of standardized testing but at the same time, many of those kids don’t come close to what exceptional kids have and that is, an internal motivation to really learn and create. It has been the case that I have met many parents who call their kids natural geniuses but in all my time working with kids it has been very difficult actually finding just a handful. Every parent calls their child naturally-gifted but that can not be true for every child and it is only the ones that create that set themselves apart from everyone else. I don’t care how high your test scores are, if you have nothing to show for how smart you are then you are just being selfish to the world.

Rewards and Positive Future
In the time since all this has happened to Ahmed, he has gained more support from people who realize there needs to be more of a push to help creative students. We need more critical thinkers so this means more people need to get a liberal arts education and on top of that we need more STEM people combined with entrepreneurial training. It is difficult to find schools that combine all three but they are out there like Olin College where students can build their own major and incorporate all areas of learning into the process of learning and building.

The engineer who can build something and see the complete impact of their product on the world at every level of the life-cycle process while at the same time determining if this will actually benefit the users and the environment are more important than the engineer who only knows how to build because they are told to do it by their employee.

It is great to see that Microsoft got in on the action of helping Ahmed by sending him an awesome swag box of tech goodies. The kind of tech goodies I would geek out on. If you click this link you can see the picture of all the stuff he got for being a science, engineering, and tech nerd. Microsoft sent a tweet saying they can’t wait to see what he creates with all of it. The number of invites shows that more students need to be encouraged as to what all is out there for students of STEM backgrounds.

Creating Enriching and Innovative Environments for Students
Freedom to Explore and Learn
Students need an environment that allows them to explore and find out how things work and where they come from. They need to know they can go out and attend events and meet people who will get them to see a new perspective in this world. I am always encouraging students that they need to attend as many events as they can in their city, especially SXSW and Startup programs. Students who explore on their own gain an advantage over students who can only do things with their parents around.

Watch lots of TV and Movies
The most creative people in the world work in Hollywood and if you want to see what kind of work they create, just turn on your TV or go to the movies and see. Peoples’ lives have been changed because of a movie or TV show. They are meant to touch and inspire people to see a different way of experiencing the world by what the writers, producers, directors, and actors create for everyone to see. The more you watch the more ideas you get.

Read a lot
The same can be said for books too. They open your mind to a creative world of imagination. The more you read about someone or something the more your mind begins to take on its own way of seeing things. Books are a gateway to the writers soul and when you see the works that people from the past to the present have created, you begin to see there is so many different ways to get inspired to create something. This also includes reading the news every morning.

Creative Teachers that Push students
These type of teachers are hard to find and they come in the form you least suspect. In the movie, Stand and Deliver, you have a teacher who came in and changed the lives of students who would have otherwise never gone to college. The amazing thing about what this teacher did was that he taught all his students to pass the AP calculus exam without a calculator, what teacher could do that today? Movies like The Power of One, Lean on Me, Spare Parts, Dangerous Minds, Freedom Writers, The Karate Kid, and McFarland, USA are all examples of great teachers pushing their students to do their best and showing them the natural gifts they have. Unfortunately the bureaucracy that is set up in schools do not reward the efforts these teachers make and that is why it is hard to find and keep them.

Connecting Students to Outside Opportunities
Students learn a lot of different things everyday at school but no where do they learn how to apply it in the real world except in class projects. Students need to be connected with programs outside their school that relate to what they are interested in doing and how that applies to the world. It is not enough to study and get good grades, students need to learn how to apply their knowledge. You need special teachers who will take the time to take students to programs that connect them with people who do what they love professionally.

Always on the look out for excellence
This part is hard to find in schools, even universities. Schools should always be on the look out for exceptional students who go beyond what is asked of them. Those are the students who need to be encouraged to work harder and learn more. When a school identifies a student like that and rewards them it raises their self-esteem and benefits the world later on.

Devotes time for Exploration and Play
Students need to know that they will have time to try out the things they are learning. They need to explore and play with stuff in order to see the issue they are covering from all sides. Play and exploration are the key components to creative learning. It engages the mind by taking what they are learning and allowing the student to see how it all fits together based on the projects they are doing.


Ahmed set off a firestorm of a debate about how students in schools should be treated for their natural talents. It is important for schools to teach students areas of interest that will help them later on in life. There is a rising trend of students from high school joining more trade schools and even coding schools because it means a shorter time in school and a higher paying job later on. They miss out on the fact that going to college is supposed to get you a well-rounded education, of course, that is for the students who truly apply themselves.

If you feel your school is not giving you the education you want and not providing you with the opportunities you thought you would get to have then you need to start looking at how you spend your time. How many student organizations are you apart of? How many internships have you done? What projects have you created on your own that relate to what you are studying? That should give you an idea of how you spend your time and once you start connecting with clubs and programs at your school the opportunities will open up. If your school doesn’t offer what you want, then start your own program or find a school that does.

Ahmed will have no problem picking what school he wants to attend and which company he wants to intern with and eventually work for. Like I said before, his options are wide open now so for every other student who has to do things the regular way, they just need to know that they need to start creating stuff that will show off their skills, as well as, help other people. I hope Ahmed is getting some good advice about how he should use his new fame.

 

News Articles

Family: Ahmed Mohamed, clock-making teen, transferring to another school

Here’s the ‘Bomb’ Clock That Got Ahmed Mohamed Arrested

Handcuffed for Making Clock, Ahmed Mohamed, 14, Wins Time With Obama

Ahmed Mohamed: No charges for boy, 14, arrested over clock

Facebook, Google roll out welcome mat to Ahmed Mohamed

Even NASA loves the teen arrested for bringing a homemade clock to school

Microsoft Seriously Hooked up Ahmed Mohamed After That Clock BS

They thought it was a bomb’: 9th-grader arrested after bringing a home-built clock to school

Why a ninth-grader’s arrest over a home-built clock struck a chord across America

#IStandWithAhmed: Scientists and the public surge to support boy arrested for homemade clock

How to Make Your Own Homemade Clock That Isn’t a Bomb

This teenager discovered a new planet on his third day at work

Tech companies Stand with Ahmed, offer the young inventor opportunities

NASA opportunities for students

Google Programs for Students

Teachers offer lesson plans for pay

Kids in class

Gone are the days when teachers had to fend for themselves to come up with their own lesson plans for the school year. The day-by-day management of classroom course work can create a lot of stress on teachers, especially first-year teachers. Now there are more options than ever with pulling from other teachers who have been doing this a long time. The amazing thing to learn about this new “sharing economy” is that there is a lot of content already available for anyone to pull from and use.

Lesson Plan Creation
If you remember the days of when you went to school you didn’t really think much about the work that was put in front of you except that you had to learn it and turn it in for a grade, which amounted to even more work for the teacher to do, even after they came up with the assignment. As kids you didn’t really think about where that work you did came from because you just wanted to get it over with so you could go back to talking with your friends.

For elementary teachers this process is fairly easy because you have the same students all day long, except for those that rotate for other subjects throughout the day or even week. You can blend your lesson plans together and if one day the students fall behind you can still play catch up with all of them because you know your students so well. That is the nice thing about planning your lessons for younger kids because they were just interested in learning and doing their best and for even most of them getting stars on their charts or golden stickers on their assignments with 100’s made their day so they were happy regardless.

In the middle school and high school range, the challenge with lesson planning gets very complicated because not all classes work at the same rate or level so coming up with new and interesting topics everyday or weeks can be very difficult, especially when you have kids that learn faster or slower than others. In order to reduce the amount of lesson planning that teachers are required to perform many of them break up their semesters into smaller chunks that revolve around certain topics, for example, biology teachers will focus on animal and plant cells for a week or two before moving on to the next level. This is why English teachers assign X number of books a semester because their lesson plans focus on just the content of each book for a few weeks.

Sharing What Your Good At
It should not come as a surprise that teachers have more options than ever in getting support for their classrooms. Infact, there are many new ways that teachers can now support and provide for students just by using crowdfunding sites to help assist the kind of work they want their students to learn with by getting the resources they need. This is very important to the future development of student’s educations because it can mean the difference between one student falling in love with science or another losing interest in math because the lesson plans created just didn’t make sense.

The resource that I’m about to talk about stems from the whole sharing and gig economy model. Many people are learning to become their own entrepreneur using sharing apps to make extra money. It should not come as a surprise that many people who work part or full-time jobs also work for Uber or TaskRabbit in order to make extra money to pay the bills. Now teachers can make money doing what they are good at – Creating Lesson plans. Teachers Pay Teachers is a website that lets teachers browse countless lesson plans and resources that teachers have created and posted for others to buy and download. The great thing about this website is that not only are teachers rated on the content that they create and sell but also that each content item that is posted is also rated for quality assurance from other teachers. This helps people know beforehand whether or not it is worth buying.

There is an app version available on the iPhone and Android market but there are many bugs that need to be worked out and you can not purchase anything on the app, just browse. Once those issues get fixed and people can purchase them with their paypal account then I believe this will be a very powerful app. The website though is still superior to the app because this is content you will want to review on a large screen, not a tiny phone screen. Many lesson plans offer previews so you know that what you are purchasing is worth the price.

The prices range from free all the way up into the hundreds. In many cases the lesson plans that cost more than a $100 are for long periods of time or even workshops of a large magnitude. The most expensive listed items cost in the thousands and not surprising many of them have never been purchased or rated for that very reason. Teacher salaries do not have the flexibility to be able to afford such high cost plans so that is something to consider if you plan to use the service. The range that is most common tends to be from 10 to 40 dollars.

Variety by the Item and Seller
The interesting thing about this website is that it was created with the idea in mind of teachers selling other teachers their lesson plans but now that the site has gotten more popular in recent months, textbook makers and publishing houses that specialize in educational material are now putting all their books and lesson plans and supplemental materials on the website. What makes the website great in the beginning is that it was teachers helping teachers teach better with materials that they perfected and have found that their kids enjoy. Now that large companies are coming in it takes away from the fun.

The variety of what the site offers, in terms of use, is that anyone can focus their search results by many options; subject matter, price, resources, and grade level. The most popular option that people enjoy is the free section of items because it includes tons of free things that teachers can download and use right away. Many of the items include games, charts, posters, and poems. Again this is very useful to any teachers who is looking to fill their students time with productive activities that encourage more of what it is they are learning in class.

In addition to all the custom lesson plans that teachers have created there are also a lot of Common Core items coming up that teachers have created that will help others improve their students scores. In many cases there are posters that highlight important things to know which can help students focus on learning the right material. There are also assessments that can be purchased to help make sure your students are on track to pass.

Success from Selling
This website has been a blessing for many teachers because it means another source of income for teachers. The challenge of course is being able to teach your classes and still put out new content for all your fellow teachers to purchase, especially your group of followers that some tend to create. It is interesting to learn that only 12 teachers have become millionaires using the site with 300 teachers earning in the 6 figure range. These are teachers who know what it means to create lesson plans that are easy to use and understand but also that students will enjoy and get the most out of them but also learning how to price your items correctly.

Just like with any other website that is similar to this, infact the same thing can be done on Amazon or eBay, it all comes down to how well you market what it is you do. There are helpful tips and guidelines provided by the website that explain the importance of using social media to keep your followers updated on new content in your profile. In any case this website is a much needed service for anyone that is a teacher that wants to put their name out there but also build a new stream of income. It doesn’t matter if you teach in a public school or provide private lessons at home anyone who is a teacher in any capacity can use this website to share what it is they are good at.


If you would like to sign up and start selling or just purchase items keep in mind there are three different types of accounts available, two of which are free. If you just want to download free items and purchase things there is a free individual account but if you want to sell items then you can also get one for free but you won’t get a dedicated homepage to your services which is what the third account offers.

News Article

A Sharing Economy Where Teachers Win

The Best way to Learn is to Watch Someone

Coding

The rise in live streaming is adding new life to areas of work that people would normally consider boring to watch. The adage that watching people play video games would never be a thing because, “who would want to watch someone play video games when you can do it yourself,” is now completely false. This is a myth that has long been put to bed. People today watch gamers online 24/7 and just like talent scouts look online for the next internet superstar, there are gaming companies that are watching live streams of gamers in order to find the next big gamer to come and compete at their next big tournament.

The rise of coding with the project of Hour of Code has created some new business ventures that are capitalizing on bringing two areas of interest together, live streaming and coding. This new industry is posed to create a whole new way of learning how to code and what better way to learn than to watch someone code. Twitch currently is the model in which most live streaming services look towards to understand how the live streaming community works but also how the business model works. Although live streaming on phones is still popular, screen capture still provides more for viewers to take in. Phone streaming only provides in-the-moment situations, whereas, screen capture allows more actions to be taken that can be planned ahead before starting.

But Isn’t Coding Boring?
This is a concern that many people have who are coders and have been doing it for years. The idea here is that if you have been coding as a professional you are completely aware that it can get boring and tedious very quickly after awhile but for someone who is just learning they can watch how all the pieces fit together. This right there is the appeal to this new market.

The first time you learn about something it is all very interesting and new so everything you see is something to learn about. The same thing is happening when you watch people live stream what they are good at. This is the reason Twitch and gaming are so popular because gamers who are just starting or want to be better at a game can watch and learn how some of the best players play. The same goes for coding. Infact, Twitch does offer a category where you can watch programmers code and go back and look at all their videos. The category they created is for game developers. Many coders have even built up an audience by doing this just like gamers and youtubers have.

The great part about watching coders code is that you also learn about what websites they are using in order to figure out how to code better or where they pull lines of code from. There are many websites that coders use as databases or libraries so they don’t have to keep memorizing lines of code all the time and that is also the appeal to why this new industry is seeing an up rise in users. The author of this blog has already created their own account in order to better learn how to program.

Challenges of Gaining Coders
The hard part about this that many people might be concerned that you are giving away something secret or special that you don’t want anyone to know about. This is a strong case where you might be building an app or program that you don’t want anyone finding out about. There are plenty of coders out there who do code for fun but now it is a matter of finding ones willing to live stream the projects they are working on for the public. This is part of the reason it is hard to get quality programmers to contribute to the site.

Developers, programmers, coders (they are all the same) are paid very well for their time and for many when they are not coding they enjoy relaxing doing other things. There are coders who enjoy being at their computer all the time but getting them to share online can also be a  challenge so the first websites are looking to find incentives. YouTube already provides the option of allowing users to turn their channel into a paid channel but those videos are not live streamed so you can not give instant feedback or ask questions as you are watching. YouTube does provide the option for streaming so that is another option to use since YouTube is more well known in the world. YouTube also just announced that they released an app, YouTube Gaming, that lets gamers stream their gaming content with a focus on live streaming. You can watch on your computer as well but this just demonstrates the growing demand for live streaming services.

Where to Watch
The two websites to bookmark and sign up for are LiveCoding.tv and WatchPeopleCode.com. Here you will know that the audience that is watching you is dedicated to learning how to code in order to improve their skills. Users are able to ask questions and, depending on the channel, get full explanations on why they set up their code in a certain way. There are some channels where all you are watching is a live stream of people working with music playing the whole time. This is done for more advanced users who are interested in learning how to do things a little faster.

LiveCoding.TV provides a live stream on their front page of the website in order for first-time viewers to understand how they can benefit from such a website. In many cases there is a capture screen of the code itself and the programmer in the corner talking about what they are doing. Livecoding lets you set the parameters of your profile after you sign up in order to find exactly what it is you are looking for. You are able to say whether you plan to watch or stream and create your username. Whether or not you plan to ever stream is up to the user but you have the option at any time just by clicking on your username after signing up.

After you have created your account you can then filter their large database of videos to find the ones you are looking for. For example if you are a beginner learning HTML then you change your difficulty to beginner and then select from the category list HTML. On the side bar you can even find the top channels for the language you want to learn from. This helps you narrow down your search by finding the videos with the most views.

WatchPeopleCode.com allows people to sign up with their Reddit account and find the videos they are looking for. Their categories are not as extensive as Livecoding but they encourage anyone to post anything to do with live coding. The site is connected to Reddit subcategory  /r/WatchPeopleCode.

Benefits to Live Streaming Code
The benefits are huge when you think about how many people are watching your live stream or going back and seeing how you created some of your past projects. Some of the coders who stream their work say they prefer Livecoding over Twitch because they know that all the people watching on Livecoding are there to learn how to improve their coding skills, whereas, Twitch’s community is made up of mostly gamers so you get a lot of people trolling on coding streams just to get attention. This means you can create more meaningful conversations about people who really want to learn on Livecoding.

The other benefit to all the live streamed videos is that you build a library of all your work for companies to see. Right now the landscape is fairly new so making a name for yourself is easy in a new field but as more and more coders sign up the quality of the session will have to improve if they want to grab the attention of a company like Google or Facebook. This means that coders will need to have better communication skills as they are streaming their videos and answering questions. I have always said that you have no idea who is checking our your online content and you might one-day get that person who can change your life so the better quality you produce the better your chances are of getting someone’s attention for a high paying job.

Kids and teens who use a site like this to teach others how to program can put this on their college application to show how they helped people learn how to code better. Young digital natives are able to pick up on the nuances better and faster so if they can create streaming sessions for community members then they will be able to demonstrate to colleges and future employers that they have the technical and communication skills to do their job. The ability to translate and teach online is a skill that is also growing in demand because it demonstrates that you know how to set everything up, structure your sessions, and communicate clearly.

Coders who create a name for themselves on these kind of websites are in a prime position to be able to offer their services one-on-one. One of the challenges that websites like these must face is monetizing their services. One option the founders, Jamie Green and Michael Garbade, had was to let users pay for 1-on-1 sessions with their favorite streamer and for streamers to offer more advanced sessions for private groups. The founders even talked about letting streamers provide help with school homework at any level. For coders looking to make a little extra cash on the side and build a name for themselves this a great opportunity to sign up for now.


The world of watching coders code live is a new one so it will be interesting to see where these websites end up in a year from now. They could possible be the next big thing to happen for Hour of Code because as it turns out not every school that says they are for coding is actually keeping their word about it. Infact, in a survey conducted by Gallup they found that most schools don’t feel that parents and students are interested in learning to code. Infact the conflicting problem is that most schools don’t feel the need to prioritize computer science because of standardized testing.

There are also some links for other streaming services below

If you want to learn more about this new trend check out the links below

News Articles

The Strange Appeal of Watching Coders Code

Huh? Schools Think Kids Don’t Want to Learn Computer Science

The importance of Mentors when you are learning to code

Livecoding.tv

WatchPeopleCode.com

Other Streaming Services

YouNow

Ustream

Developing an Entrepreneurial Mindset

It is easy now-a-days to think that you have the next best idea waiting to happen. You discovered it one day when you were at a family get together and all the kids kept complaining that they didn’t have an easy way to fill up their water balloons and that it took too much time. You figured out a way to build a spout that can fill up hundreds of balloons all at the same time.

In coming up with this product you figured that the time it took to make your device was pretty simple and easy and you kept hearing from people all around you that you have a million dollar idea on your hand. You begin to reason that “yea, I do have a million dollar idea on my hand but how I do I turn it into a business?”

Glamorizing the World of Startups
The show, Shark Tank on ABC, has grown in popularity because of the ability of the producers to take what is normally a boring presentation process and turn it into something entertaining to watch. If a startup company needed an investment then they had to apply to many Venture Capital Firms hoping that a few call them back to come in and pitch their idea, which was way before the show Shark Tank.

People love watching the show because a lot of them sit at home saying to themselves, “oh I had that idea a long time ago, mine was better.” Others might say, “No, I wouldn’t invest in your company, you have no idea what you are doing!” These are common things all across the board when watching the show until you come across an idea that already been done before but in a new way. Those are the companies, with a healthy growth rate, that catch the eye of the sharks in the room. Of course many of those sharks are not all that interested in your company in the but trying to gain as much control of your company as possible in order to increase the wealth potential of their own portfolio.

So what are those Sharks thinking about when they look at other people’s ideas? Why do they act so ruthless and not care that they might offer them a lowball offer for a high equity share when it means a not-so-positive fate for the CEO pitching to them? Why? They want the product and idea and the CEO pitching has done the homework of showing them how the market is reacting to their idea. If it is positive, then with the amount of money each shark has, they can easily turn it around and make millions more off of it but first they need to own it outright or have controlling power.


In order to see why certain entrepreneurs go on to make it and why others keeping to spin in circles I will show three habits that are shown to have huge positive effect on growing your business but also help improve your work habits.

Step 1. Developing Habits
Successful entrepreneurs are different from people who call themselves entrepreneurs because they don’t really do anything except keep busy with busy pointless work. Successful entrepreneurs have developed habits that keep them out there learning about what all is happening.

One of the first things that naturally successful people do is develop a complete picture of what they want their life to be in their head. They are usually the ones to get up early and perform some habit before breakfast. The most common are writing, working out, responding back to emails, preparing a To-Do list that is achievable throughout the day, or working on a project one step at a time. People like this keep their schedule well planned out but allow flexibility.

Many CEOs and many articles have been written about what they like to do early in the morning. It is a most common trait to hear that many of them get up at 5 or 6 in the morning to start their routine. Many of them don’t pour that first cup of coffee until an hour or two later. This is enough time to get your mind and body into the habit of getting work accomplished throughout the day. People who start their day with no purpose or direction tend to putter around in the mornings going from one little thing to the next before they sit down and ask themselves, ok, what should I do today?

An entrepreneur should have their days planned out according to their week and month. For example, they know that they need to work on their website but they know that they cannot spend all their time doing that so they devote a certain portion of an hour each morning until they have to launch, or if it is already up and running, then working that hour to make sure it looks updated for people to see that the website is new and refreshed each time. This habit of updating also matches with making sure the website is growing over time. A website that looks the same from seven months ago is not a company that shows any growth or promise.

The work you do today should match what you plan to accomplish tomorrow and the work you accomplish this week should enable you to finish the work you plan to do next week. Everything is built on layers and successful entrepreneurs have a clear understanding of this but also of their time and schedule. Events that pop up are not a challenge because successful entrepreneurs understand that there are events that they just need to be at. Schedules help keep things in order but Life is what you plan around so thinking that you can just ignore certain events is not the habit of successful people in general.

Creating a habit is difficult because it means having to change what you have been comfortable doing before. Many times it just requires doing it cold turkey and not looking back. There are many, many books out there about how to change habits, many are amazing books to read like this one, but the difference between reading and doing is the act of prolonging. A book gives you the feeling of accomplishing something in small steps just to convince yourself that you are doing something but many times after the book is over you fall back into the same rut. Change is not easy but doing great things was never the intention.

Step 2. Focus on Goals with Accomplishments in the End
This is a very common thing that people have trouble dealing with. You start a project with intense focus only to get distracted by something else and you get sidetracked. You set aside the project and leave it until you have more time again to work on it. Or as you are working on your project you run into a problem that prevents you from completing your work. The obstacle in the way, for many people, keeps them from completing their work so they lose interest and start another project thinking that a fresh start is all they need. This is a common bad habit because after years have past you look back at all the unfinished projects.

Each time you start something new without finishing those old projects you create the bad habit of “doing things that are easy” but also the creating the mindset, “if I don’t like it then why should I force myself to work on it if I’m not enjoying it?” Both are big problems that keep people from doing great things but none is more so than the last one. When you reason to yourself that it is ok to only work on things that make you happy you teach yourself to be selfish in your personal habits of work. Not all work is meant to be fun and accomplishing great things takes large amounts of time to be great at them but a huge proportion of that time is meant to be difficult and strenuous. Only great people become great by doing hard things.

The most common activity all books on creating positive habits tell you is to start with small activities that can be finished right away. This helps build the habit of learning to finish things you started. When I meet people one of the things I pay attention to is listening to how they speak about what they work on. People who sprinkle excuses in everything they say tells me that they are not interested in getting real work done because “they don’t have the time.” They just want to look busy but the reality is you will never have enough time.

The habit of maintaining your schedule concise and clearly enables you to see how to finish the projects you start. You should be able to look at their schedule and see when each part will be finished so by a future date set you will be able to move on to the next phase. Take for example someone who plans on writing a book. Someone that is serious will not let anything get in the way of their schedule so they set a time that is least likely to have any other major event push it out of the way, hence why so many successful people like writing early in the morning. They might give themselves a goal of an hours worth of time or 2000 words a day until they hit 300 pages.

A project with a goal like that is easy to follow because it has a defined limited with a daily goal set so all that needs doing is the work. You will be ale to know when you will finish the book by knowing how many words fit on each page. Understand that if writing books is your work then creating a schedule is helpful but creating a workflow is more important. This is why many writers look for little get-away locations that offer inspiration and solitude on the weekends in order to accomplish more without anything getting in the way. The importance behind all this is making sure the thing you set out to do is finished because there will always be a next phase that follows. Just because you finished the book doesn’t mean it stops there, now you need to get a cover done, get it edited, and then submit it to publishing houses. knowing there will always be a next phase scares many people because it means the work never stops and why should it? People will always want more if they like it.

Step 3. Being Proactive about Opportunities
This is a mindset that is very hard for a lot of people to follow just because it means having to put yourself out there more. How many times have you met an entrepreneur who is working on their project and you tell them about something that they should attend that will help with what they are doing only to find out that they never went. Then you find out that they are simply working on their project because they enjoy it but their actions do not show they actually want any growth for what they are doing. Actions will always speak louder than words so instead of asking someone if they want to grow their business it is better to ask them how they spend their time. That is a huge indication of what their actions are saying. An entrepreneur that is just starting out by meeting people will be more successful with their projects than someone who stays home and keeps to themselves but pours a lot of money into online advertising. Which one will be more successful in the end? The one that gets out and meets people because they might meet someone that connects them with someone who can help grow their business.

The internet has enable many people to just sit behind a screen and never talk to anyone but it gives the wrong impression that that is all they need to do in order to grow their business. In the book, The Promise of a Pencil, author Adam Braun talks about how he used his friends and their friends to help throw him fundraising parties for his organization. In was through his proactive nature to get out there and connect with people to find out who would be interested in what he was doing, which was building schools in poor regions of the world that didn’t have access to education. Starting an idea like that takes larges amounts of people to help because sitting behind his computer and just running a website wasn’t going to do it. He was always attending events, talking to people, and trying to find the next person who could help and he did.

An entrepreneur who is inflexible about his schedule will miss out on a lot in life. I could easily say that I have enough on my plate to work with but there will always be new events popping up that I need to be at and if I miss them I miss what opportunities were present If I had attended. Business is still very much a contact sport and can only be accomplished by getting out there and meeting people so if you are not willing to change your life and schedule for that then why are you trying to be an entrepreneur? There are many office jobs that will suit you just fine.


These three habits can help start the process of what it takes to start thinking and acting like someone with a purpose, especially if they are trying to build a company. The sharks on the TV all come in with a purpose, which is to find the next great idea that will make them a lot of money. They got to where they are by getting up and working on their business everyday without any excuses. It’s not easy, and it is most certainly not fun majority of the time as this book made very clear about what being a CEO is really like, so the next time you make an excuse about something catch yourself and do away with it. The reality about excuses is this, you can only use them once or twice before people start to see right through them. This is because you should learn to fix the problem so it doesn’t happen the next time but when you use it again to get out of something you lose respect from people because the “action” you are speaking is that you have no control over your life so other people begin to think why should I share any new information with you when all you are doing to do is make more excuses to get out of it?

If you need more help understanding how to view excuses, which is the very reason why I have made it a point to never use them unless it actually happens, then this saying that my teacher in high school used to tell everyone that tried to get out of doing something works like gold, “Excuses are like armpits, everyone’s got them and they all stink.” Just remember that the next time someone tries to use an excuse on you for getting out of something.

The Importance of SXSW & Why You Should be There Every Year

South by Southwest is officially over which means that it is only 51 weeks away until the next SXSW festival which mean you have plenty of time now to save up and buy yourself a badge for next year and attend. For those that can not afford SXSW badges, I will explain to you what I learned doing SXSW this year for less than $20 dollars. Yes you read that correctly, having done SXSW so many times, being a resident of Austin, and living right next to downtown has its many perks.

SXSW had tons of opportunities for everyone to enjoy and experience so saying that it had nothing that appealed to you means that you really have no clue why this festival is considered to be one of the top festivals to attend in the whole world. It is ranked number one by Fuse website for Music Festival, which is understandable since half of the week is dedicated to just music acts. Business leaders, investors, and startup wannabes all come to SXSW from all corners of the world to find out what the latest trends are. Film makers, producers, and celebrities all come to Austin to screen their movies and make deals and talk about what new projects studios have in the works. The number of new movie ideas that blossomed during the film portion is enormous considering all who were here. If you went out walking about you would have seen celebrities all over the place just enjoying themselves. I told a friend some of the hot spots celebrities like to relax and enjoy themselves at and you know what he did? He spent most of his time at those places getting to meet people he thought would be surrounded by body guards just sitting down and enjoying a drink and talking to people. It completely took him by surprise how approachable some of them were but he was happy because he got to meet some of his favorite movie stars all in person.

Understanding SXSW Hype
You hear about this festival down in the southern region of the US and think, “what could those people possible know down there? They are so far away from where all the action is going on how could they say what the trends are?” Easy, SXSW brings the best minds down here to get away and talk with similar minded people about what it is they do all year. People attend these events because they all are trying to find the same answer to the same question, on hopefully what is the company’s dime, “How’d you get so successful doing that?”

The hype about this festival is surrounded around the same idea of seeing all these successful and important people walking about with those special badges around their necks that get them into private events. If you don’t have the money for those badges then you miss out on all the big stuff (hint: I got into some pretty big events and didn’t have a badge so it can be done). The truth of the matter though is that most of those badge holders are there trying to keep up with the trends so they can run back to their companies and help them prepare for what is coming in the next few months.

The big stuff for nerds, educators, and geeks all happens a week before the music festival portion. The education portion brings teachers, educational entrepreneurs, school district administrators and even technology companies down to learn about some of the new teaching styles, innovation in apps that improve learning, and other ways teachers can engage more people to learn now that we live in a world where being connected is constant. The challenge for educators in any form is how do you get people to take learning seriously now when information is always there online now?

This poses a challenge for many other people, especially companies that have to hire those students later on. People with shallow educations are a liability to companies later on that depend on creative individuals to innovate. Hence why they send their best employees down to SXSW to catch up and stay ahead.

SXSW is all about finding out what will be happening in the coming year, in terms of, technology, startup companies launching (remember Twitter exploded at SXSW in 2007), and new gadgets but also what films to look out for later in the year. So when you mix all this information together with other little films trying to screen and small businesses trying to expand their brand at SXSW with a zero dollar budget you begin to understand why hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world come to Austin for a week or two.

Remember SXSW does everything it can to help those first-timers navigate the large open space that is Austin by creating a page on their website for newbies. You can check out their page but I will point out one thing that their page does not cover, how to get the most out of the event and what to pay attention to, with or without a badge. SXSW does not cater to those without badges so that is why other opportunities have popped up to fill that need. SXSW has the official events they list on their website, twitter, and app but they do not list the unofficial events and knowing how to find that stuff takes skill and talent.

What I got out of SXSW 2015
Every year I learn something new about SXSW and the people who come to Austin. This year they included this in an infograph and the books they hand out only to badge holders. I got my hands on one and found some surprising information.  The average age this year was 36 and the top skill that all badge holders had was social media skills. This tells you that this is not a young person’s festival for Interactive and judging by all the tweets that I read over the past week, while showing people how to do SXSW, I learned that a lot of them couldn’t wait to get back to their hotel rooms, lock the doors, order room service, and enjoy the peace and quiet that they don’t normally get back home because a certain portion of them have kids.

One of the first events I attended was the Job Market fair that was in the new JW Marriott hotel. I went, not looking for a job, but to find out what kind of jobs companies were hiring for but also the kind of people they were interested in talking with. I will say it is funny when recruiters find out that you are not there looking for a job but instead want to learn about the new hiring trends because you already have a job. That is when their whole personalities change and they switch from presentation mode to letting down their guard. They are so used to selling all day long that it is rare for them to talk with someone that is NOT looking for work.

Here is what I learned from that job fair
– Companies are mainly looking for coders in all languages
– Sales, marketing, business, finance, and all the other regular areas they are hiring for as well
– The well prepared come dressed up ready to hand out resumes but few ready to relocate
– Most had just resumes to handout but nothing different to offer – here’s what I mean
– Recruiters are only interested in a few things about your skills – how many years of experience you have doing one or two skills really well, what have you created recently on your own, if you are willing to move, & are you currently employed. They don’t care about the name of your school.
– The well prepared carry business cards with them everywhere
– The top items of swag given out were tech gadgets (powerbanks, USB mini stereos, flashdrives, & styluses for tablets and phones)
– Employers will ask to see some of your work right there on the spot if you are a coder
– Companies expected that most people attending were either proficient or experts with basic business software programs, used social media fluently, and understood mobile technology well.

All this information is great to know if you are looking for a job but more importantly it tells you what companies are expecting people to learn in school and college. Coding is not just a skill that only a select few should learn now it is a skill that all people will need to learn because right now companies do not have enough of them. Check out my list of education resources to find out how to get started learning how to code for free.

Attendee Statistics
People come from all corners of the world to attend this great festival but what are most of them looking for? I pulled these stats from the interactive book that polled their badge holders asking what they were after. Here were the goals for those that attended
– 62% said Find New Business Opportunities
– 36% Connect with Existing Clients
– 24% No Particular Goals
– 16% Seek Employment/Contract Work
– 15% Hire Talented People
– 11% Launch a new Product or Service
– 9% Seek Investors
– 6% Invest in New Companies

The last stat corresponds with the number of attendees who are considered wealthy and probably investors, which is around less than 10%.

So what do these stats tell you about what people are looking for at this festival? Remember, these are all those people who purchased badges and look important walking around. Most of the people there wanted to either quit their job or find more work and a quarter of them had no clue what they wanted to get out of the festival. If a quarter of the people had no clue then that means they were just walking around and taking in all the sights and probably only attending a handful of lectures at a time.

The part that got my attention was the last few stats. This is the section that tells you who are the ones with money and/or influence. They attend the festival to sit in on a few talks and see what products are being demonstrated but to find those diamonds in the rough. They walk around looking for companies trying to launch grassroots style and find out a little more about what they do. They attend the official events but they also attend the events that are not official in hopes of finding that one unique idea.

People I Met
In the class before SXSW I taught, “How to Grow Your Business with SXSW.” One of the things I mentioned about the festival was that you were going to see a lot of posters and people passing out flyers everywhere and even chalk signs on crosswalks. Low and behold that is exactly what I saw as I was exploring; I had one guy introduce himself to me while we were waiting in line, he gave me his flyer to ask if I could check out his youtube page. Another time I got handed postcards that were an invite to a special screening about the American Inventor (you can watch it here now available on YouTube that screened at SXSW) and how it is harder now to bring an idea to life because of current patent laws.

I attended a lecture on how to build, run, and manage a kids’ maker space for STEM education. The thing that surprised me the most was that the event was open to anyone but there were very few people there. Maybe less than twenty at most but I did make the most of my time introducing myself and talking about how other people can improve their locations. I met one interesting man who told me he was having trouble getting people to teach at his locations but he had plenty of space. I informed him that he had the opposite problem of mine, I have the teachers but no space to teach in. So you see a great connection was made from being at these events.

I met a musician who provided free rides at SXSW that was working to become a DJ and said that he tried to take advantage of many of the opportunities there to meet some big names. He is hoping he can turn his work into something he can do at next year’s festival. I was glad to find the main options of getting free rides because getting around SXSW on foot can be difficult but good exercise.

Then while taking a break at Starbucks I saw two company employees from the Yo app so I introduced myself to find out what Yo was hoping to accomplish at SXSW. I was told they were promoting their brand by offering free breakfast every morning if you just sent a special Yo message but unfortunately their campaign did not work since the service was terrible judging by these tweets. I know that other people did get their meals but it doesn’t look like they got the reception they were after according to this tweet. Hopefully the founder was joking. In all the tweets being sent during SXSW I saw very few talking about Yo though.

Another time my friends and I were all enjoying some free lunch when one of them sat down at this table and started talking to people there. Well it turns out one of the people at the table just so happened to be a speaker for the Interactive panels. My friend kept asking this person questions about their job and what they plan to talk about and the more my friend asked the more amazed he was to find out who he was talking to. He didn’t think he would run into a speaker for SXSW that also happened to work on a show that he enjoyed watching. It turns out the guy was a writer. I told my friend that he needed to make sure they exchanged information and kept in touch, which they both did.

The one app that took SXSW by storm was MeerKat. This awesome app is set to change the whole streaming world by taking a new model of communicating to large audience members in real time and improving on it. I will talk about this more in the trends section.

This is just a small portion of all that happened to me while I was there. I’ve been told I need to put together a business that teaches people how to do SXSW. I’m considering it.

SXSW Trends from this Year’s Festival
In this article that was just posted, as of the writing of this article, you can see that people are still writing about all the stuff that happened during Southby. The conference covered a number of items that will soon start to impact out lives, one that just launched today actually, driverless cars and personal robots. The issue of robots and A.I.s entering our lives is quite profound as Dr. Cynthia Breazeal talked about in her SXSW talk on, “The Personal Side of Robots.” If you are not familiar with who she is this is the lady who created an Indiegogo campaign to bring Jibo, the world’s first family robot, into people’s homes. Her campaign caught media attention for going way pass her goal and raising over $2 million dollars from a goal of only $100k.

While walking around one of the things you caught a lot of people doing was holding cardboard boxes in front of their faces. If you are familiar with this idea then you know it was Google’s campaign to teach people about how to create their own virtual reality headset, much like the one for Oculus Rift, out of cardboard and their smartphones. You simply fold the cardboard pieces and you have something that looks like this below

All you do is drop your phone into the slot and it changes your dept of vision to make it look like virtual reality. This is a layout of how it folds.

Pretty cool little toy which is why I picked up two of them in case one broke from wear and tear. So why were people playing with them? Well Google Fiber decided to make a big push during Southby by setting up shop in their downtown location where people could come in and pick up a free headset and some stickers saying where they wanted Google Fiber next in Austin. I got a few of those plus a nice t-shirt.

I didn’t get to attend the Robot Petting Zoo, yea I know just the name sounds awesome, but I did get to meet some of the makers of one of the top robotic sport’s team. It turns out the little guy was busy playing soccer but I took his picture anyways.

Robots

Alright so after all the fun here is what alot of people were after while they were down there taking in all this information. I will mention some of the trends but then list a few of the topics that were covered at Interactive.

1. People want to learn from other people about how to improve what they’re doing back home
This might sound like common sense but it is how people behave and operate in new places. People go to conferences in hopes of finding that one person who has the solution to their problem back home. I would talk with so many people about the struggles of their business only to tell them where to look online about how to fix or improve what they were doing.

One business owner said that they were using a portion of their retail store to encourage kids to learn how to build stuff. They told me this came from the idea of seeing so many bored kids in front of their store so they figured why not make a separate space for the kids to teach them stuff while the parents shop. The parents and kids loved it but they ran into a problem of growth so that is when I told them about this TED talk about how one tutoring center turned into a world wide phenomenon. It had a few ideas that any business struggling with growth can learn from.

2. Businesses are becoming more of a secondary degree for work than a standard option
Chances are today you probably know someone who is an Uber driver or works as a freelancer cutting hair through hairstylist apps or even people who do odd jobs here and there. This new consumer-to-consumer economy is taking off faster than most companies know what to do. People can earn a very comfortable living with just service apps alone now and the best part of about them is that there is no set schedule to follow, you simple log in when you are ready to start work and log off when your tired. This creates an easier way for people to connect with others instead of going through an temp agency or having to apply for jobs online all the time. (Maybe the end for Monster.com? Who knows)

The interesting thing about this new way of living is that many major companies are getting in on the action too by creating new brands under their company name in order to keep consumer’s focused on the service instead of the company that owns or runs it. The challenge is that major companies have the money to sink into these apps in order to get a large share of this new collaborative sharing economy that is going on between consumers. All these apps make money by taking a share of the money that is transacted between the two parties. Basically the app is a more efficient method of connecting two people with similar interests and needs.

3. Meerkat Dominated Apps
If this is the first time learning about Meerkat then let me tell you why it was the new hot commodity that everyone was talking about. If you are a gamer than you know all about Twitch and how it has changed the whole landscape of video games by turning it into a spectator sport now. Video game players can turn on their twitch account and start streaming their game playing to all their followers and anyone watching. Well, Meerkat does the same thing except it is on your phone now. So you could build a following of people to find out what you are doing right at that moment and stream it.

Think Facetime but instead of 1-to-1 call it is 1-to-all your followers in real time. That is why so many people love the app because now instead of sitting at your computer and using a web cam to stream what you are doing you can now use your phone and stream wherever. What does this do to the internet and service usage? It puts a huge demand on internet service and requires high amounts of bandwidth. Curious to read what people are saying about this breakout hit? Click the articles below.

Meerkat Restores Faith in SXSW’s Startup Magic

Meerkat stole the show at SXSW. Sorry, Twitter

Why Meerkat, the breakout app of SXSW, is more than a flash in the pan

4. SXSW encourages the Entrepreneur Scene
If you walked around chances are you probably ran into a few guys and girls shoving flyers into your hands trying to get you to attend their launch party or swag party, which is where companies give out swag in hopes that you check out their products and learn more about who they are and what they do. I got a pretty sweet expensive swag bag from one of these little parties. During my time at one of these parties I talked with a lot of the CEO’s who were right there to talk about their products. One guy was happy to talk his product and how he started his company so getting to meet the people in charge is not hard to do if you know how to put yourself out there. You never know where they might be in a few months or next year but at least you got to meet and learn about how they got their idea and turned it into reality.

SXSW created the startup village which has grown to help startup companies gain more appeal and attention. But why is the startup village so important to entrepreneurs and why would you want to get your company in there next year? Easy, it connects existing companies that are failing to innovate with up-and-coming companies. There might be a consultant who is flown into check out what new businesses are coming up and what products they have to offer, so “John” might be asked to find a new business that his company might be able to do business with. This is how startup companies find new clients so it keeps them growing. What you don’t hear about are those meetings during dinner time with the startup CEO and co-founders and the consultant to talk about the details and work out a contract together. That is how the movers and shakers work.

5. Advertising is all about Getting into People’s Habits
Ex Machina is a movie that premiered at SXSW and it touches on the issue of robots and intelligence, but more importantly emotional intelligence. In order to get more people aware of the movie the studio created a brilliant ad campaign to get people interested in watching the movie by playing with their emotions. They launched a tinder account that looked like a normal 25 year old female just looking for love in Austin. If you were one of the unlucky ones to fall for it then you were not alone. Many guys apparently fell for it because just when you thought the conversation with her was getting interesting she linked you over to her instagram page where , at the time, it listed a film trailer for the movie and the poster for the film, the studio has since added more content now. All in all, it got a lot of people talking about SXSW and the innovation of marketing and advertising that went into that campaign.

6. Interacting with People Face to Face tops them all
All the apps and wearables and technology out there is pretty damn impressive now but nothing beats and probably will never beat face-to-face interaction. The best part about SXSW are the connections you make for a brief moment during the day and if you know how to make the connection you ask to meet for dinner and talk more in person. You want that face-to-face connection before that person heads back home because without it there is not much to learn about the person except what they write in their email.

The after parties are where the real deals happen and the magic takes place. The movers and the shakers all know this so they attend as many after parties they can get themselves into. They work the rooms for the free drinks and then see if they can connect with anyone. The whole idea is to find someone that has the “it” charm in what they say and do. They are looking for someone who looks like they know what they are doing, and once they find them then they see what all they have to offer that might be of benefit to one another.

Maybe you are shy and not sure what to do, but the best thing you can do is just to get out there and talk. This is why during SXSW there are so many parties with free drinks to help loosen people up to talk. Yes the free drinks also draw in the crowds but for the shy people who need a little pushing it helps them to not be afraid to go up and talk to someone. This worked for a number of people and the connections they picked up in the end were well worth it.

7. Robots are becoming more a part of our lives
It is hard to imagine that our lives are becoming more like what we watch in movies. Minority Report is one of those movies that when it came out people were astounded at seeing people swiping in the air to move things like it was magic and now we have those kinds of TVs and motion detectors, like Kinect and Leap Motion. If you show a kid that movie today it will not impress them except the cool cars and flying suits but everything else they can pretty much do today. But where do you think they got the inspiration from? That’s right, movies.

Now that driverless cars are going to become the norm in the next few years and robots have already been slowly entering our homes it will start to be our responsibility to learn how to treat them properly and what they should be allowed to do and not do. The latter part will be difficult seeing how we now have robots that are designed to learn on their own so how will we be able to regulate how much they learn or what they learn or even what they are allowed to do with that information once they’ve learned it?

In the robot petting zoo there are drones that can act as search and rescue but also ones that can build things so it will be very interesting to see how robotic drone technology will evolve in the coming year. This is why the FCC is having a hard time figuring out the rules because the potential of what drones are capable of is enormous and they don’t want to limit that but they also have to protect and respect people’s privacy, but seeing how nothing on the internet or our phones is private anymore I don’t see why they are worried about drones as the problem.

A few of the topics at Interactive were

– What Tech Startups Should be Doing Next – Jessica Lawrence
– The Future Role of Tech in Dining and Food – David Chang, Matt Buchanan
– Secrets of Growth Hacking: From Zero to $50M – Neil Patel, Sean Ellie, Tammy Camp
– You Are Everywhere – Kristina Halvorson
– World Leaders on Twitter: What they can teach us – Alexander Ekkelenkamp, Aurelie Valtat, Matthias Lüfkens


SXSW is an amazing festival to attend and if you live in Austin there really is no reason NOT to be here experiencing it all. It is just one week out of the year to plan for this that thousands of people make the time to be at. One of the best part is also the gaming portion.

The Gaming Expo was a fantastic experience that all gamers should experience at one point. For all the kids and families who did attend I commend those parents for doing a great job of taking their kids there and for the parents who just dropped them off to experience the whole thing on their own, I say, you are a great parent for doing that. Keep it up!

Gaming Expo

I learned quite a bit at the gaming expo and since I had all the time to enjoy myself here is what I did there. I attended a Zombie quiz show and got some free swag for it. I finally learned how to play the famous board game The Settlers of Catan and another game by the same makers called, Patchwork, which was a lot of fun. So how did I learn how to play? The game makers had tables set up with different versions of Catan setup on each one and if you wanted to learn how to play all you had to do was sit in on a tutorial, taught by one of their instructors there, and play along. So now when someone asks if I have Sheep in exchange for two coals, I know what they mean. After playing for awhile they gave me a nice swag bag that came with a character expansion pack for free including a Catan metal pin to wear which I got for having learned how to play.

I also made it a point to get a picture with the sweet Delorean from BTTF

After that I played a lot of video games that are still being tested out and got to see some cool video game characters walking around which I got my picture with. Afterwards I made my way over to the Maker Square space set up at the Long Center where I got to make some cool things, including a badge that I had to solider together in order for it to work, which looks like that in the picture.

All in all the whole experience was a lot of fun but also a lot of learning about where the gaming industry is headed. So now to the part you have been waiting for, what do I get out of all this? I’ll tell you.

How did you do SXSW for less than $20 bucks?
Easy, here is how I did it. I monitored twitter ahead of time (about a week or two) to find out what all the special hashtags were for finding the free events, free food, and free parties. I left those tabs open on my phone the whole time I was there and checked them ALL the time. I managed to get free food starting from the official day it started (Friday) until midday Tuesday. I got some free morning snacks during Pi Day (3/14/15). In the picture below they had little Pi’s in both apple and raspberry, because you know, Raspberry Pi? Get it? haha. I also found where my birthday was in Pi, and if you want to learn where yours is at then go to mypiday.com.

Pi

Not bad for managing my time there considering I also got to see Jimmy Kimmel live at the Long Center as well. You need Twitter in order to get around SXSW otherwise you miss all the free stuff popping up all around you. All you really need to survive is free food and then you can just walk up to events happening all around you. The cost for me was the bus rides into downtown and extra things I wanted to buy. Parking downtown is a nightmare during that time and not worth paying for.how to get around SXSW

How people did SXSW before Twitter just amazes me but it also says that you had to have a badge in order to get the book that told you were all the official stuff was. I have no idea how people found the unofficial stuff without Twitter.


Experience SXSW at Home
In case you missed SXSW, guess what! You can still watch all the panels that took place from the comfort of your own home. SXSW has put up majority of the lectures on youtube so I will put the link below so you can find the talks you want to watch. Then after that link I included the visual representation of those talks created by ImageThink. A lot of those images are very helpful in getting the main points from the talks.

Interactive Talks SXSW YouTube

Visual Form of Interactive Talks

Just find the video title and match it with the slide title to see the talk visually.


My time at SXSW was absolutely fun and I always tell people that they need to get out and enjoy it because there is no reason to pass up one of the best festivals in the world if it is right in your own backyard. People spend thousands of dollars to be there so why not take advantage of it for practically nothing?

Thanks for all the fun SXSW, I had a blast and can’t wait to do it all over again next year, hopefully this time as a speaker at Interactive. Austin you look beautiful and I had so much fun walking around everywhere.

Skyline of Austin

If you would like to learn what other cool festivals you should attend this year I posted the link below to some of the best ones including one for women.

Festivals Female Entrepreneurs Can’t Miss

9 Conferences in 2015 that are worth your time and money

Considered one of the Most Innovate Festivals to attend, Invite-Only (Awesomeness Fest)

Free Resources for Entrepreneurs

In my past article on the master list of educational resources I showed how you can get an entire education online for free now, you just have to have the time and dedication for sitting down and doing the work. The great thing about the internet is the vast number of resources that are out there for anyone to use if you know how to find things on the internet. My original intent for this article was to take what the author had put together and just post the links all on here but that would have been a lot of work. Instead I decided to just post the link below and let people click on it for themselves to ensure that they are serious about learning what is out there to help them cut the costs down for starting and running a business.

A Little Background
I do want to point out though how the free things list got started. I read the article, “Why I just Fucking Did it…,” the author wrote about where he got the idea for the list. His understanding for the list came from the same urge we all get from time to time. We all get this itch from time to time that we should be doing more with our time. We all had dreams growing up of something we wanted to become but it never quite works out that way because of how life works.

In that whole thought process, the different types of people emerge; first you have the ones that act on their emotions and impulses and make something for themselves; then you have the ones who know they should be doing something but don’t know how or don’t feel like putting in the hard work that is required to make it all happen. Taking an idea and turning it into something great is not an easy process but there are those people that can just do it because their understanding of things is so much clearer than others. How many people want a better job? How many people know they can write a novel but never get around to it? The doers and the sayers are two completely different types of people, the ones that deal with the hardship to see their ideas come to life and those that wait for things to happen.

Ali Mese, the author of the article, just put his heart and soul into creating that list of awesome things because he wanted to see how people would respond to his efforts. The outpouring of support from people has been immense, to say the least. He has gotten so much feed back from people that it made the hard work worth the effort. When you see the full list of resources and then read about what he did to make it happen, you see a whole other side to what it takes to create such a list. Writing my Education article took about two weeks just to cobble together all those resources so the whole process is hard but the pay off of having it at your hands and available for others makes it all worth while.

Habits form Change
There is nothing more frustrating than waiting for something to happen in life. At any point in time anywhere in the world there are people who just wait and wish for things to change. They have conditioned themselves to believe that the only way something good will happen is to be patient and wait. They are made to believe that “good things come to those who wait.” The truth of the matter is that those left waiting will use up a large portion of their life waiting while those that say, “Just do It,” and go out and do it and make their mistakes along the way, end up learning a lot more about themselves and what they are capable of doing.

Srinivas Rao has written many articles explaining how writing 1000 words a day and a million words in 5 years changed his life. The process to get started wasn’t easy but the pay off in the end was huge. He is now asked to speak at many conferences, he has written many books, and gives lots of motivational advice for those struggling to get started. I will say that when I first started this blog the process to get started was not easy but once I learned to structure everything correctly the ease at which to write and produce an article started to get easier. I will say that some day’s it is still hard to sit down and write when I have so many other things going on that keep me from sitting down and writing but the impulse is now there.

Mr. Rao explains, like so many others, that if you want to do something you need to stop making excuses and go and do it. Life is really short and most people don’t get that concept until after they leave college and it hits them when all they do is work everyday and suddenly they are 40. You have to just do it even if you don’t want to do it. Once you get into the habits of getting your body used to doing it everyday then your mind will get into that mode of thinking that way and you will start to get adjusted to it very quickly.

Take Advantage
The amount of resources found on this one website is enough to get anyone from point A to point B, in any kind of business, but only if they are serious about it. The old Chinese proverb saying, “Your teacher can open the door, but you must enter yourself,” holds a lot of merit but the sad thing is that very few people ever take advantage of a good thing. Remember, opportunity really only knocks once at your door, but it is you that must be willing to open it and make the change. This holds true for everything found on this website. I can present you with all the tools found on here but you must take the next step and apply and turn them into something great.

The +300 hundred resources found here are broken up into several different categories:

  • Business/Marketing
  • Design/Code
  • Work/Productivity
  • Discover/Learn

Each category holds enough information and resources to launch your one-man operation or ten-person business to heights that no company in the 1980s and before even had access to. There is more computing power and crowdsourced information on that one page and my master list to turn anyone into a one-man team, all for free. Thank about that for a minute.

After you browse through the resources, make sure to play around with them but give yourself enough time each day or week to really get used to what they can do. There is a website that offers free stock photos, this is great for any company looking to add quality and style to their website without worrying about copyright infringement. There is another link that lets you create invoices right away without having to do anything else besides typing in the numbers and printing it out. You don’t need to know how to create formulas to calculate the costs or design a form.

Bottom line – the resources found on that page and my article combined with smarts and creativity are enough to launch and run your business entirely for free if you know how to do it.


Please make sure to take the time to go through the list but also make sure to check out my education list as well. Anyone with a fast computer and google fiber can really make something with their time. If you really enjoyed reading this please make sure to share and like it with other people who could benefit from knowing about this.

300 awesome free things

Why I just Fucking Did it…and why you should do the same

She has been reading for the blind for 50 years

Reading can be a pleasurable experience when you have the right setting. People who can see take this passive activity for granted. They don’t see anything hard or difficult about it because they have been doing it for so long. In effort to show what people have been doing for others for a long time I decided to feature what this lady has been doing for the past 50 years all on her own time. Ellen Hanna has been volunteering to read for the blind and she has been doing it for 50 years now. Her work has gone on to help thousands, if not millions, of people be able to read again and learn.

Her mother started losing her eye sight long after she had started reading for the blind and the idea of a parent not being able to see their child again made her realize the true importance of her work. Ellen’s work is something she felt helps those see again. She started in 1963 with Learning Ally, which was then called Recording for the Blind, after attending a volunteer fair at the University of Georgia where her late husband, Mark Hanna, worked as a business professor.

In the video below Ellen talks about how she got started and what she enjoys about the program.

Ellen is part of a very exclusive club of members that have earned the distinguished title of 1000 hours member club. In the 50 years that she has been there Ellen has earned well past that number and then some. During those years she has recalled the different types of technology her non-profit company has gone through in order to help people gain access to the material. In many cases, having to record the material again because of a change in format. Recording on reel-to-reel was difficult because she mentions that you had to know at what point you messed up and go back and re-record all that information again. Now she has computer software to help track any errors she makes and can also turn her words into digital text. This allows the software to also highlight the word that is being spoken to help people follow along. Many people with disabilities are able to benefit from this new way of reading.

Dyslexic people are able to follow the highlighted word to help their eye stay focused on reading correctly. Blind people are able to listen to what the book is covering, and deaf people are able to follow along with the reader in order to keep up with the pace. There are many other benefits to this new form of reading.

The content that Ellen reads for is open to anything except popular fiction. She really enjoys reading science, math, and story books for all ages. Ellen has amassed a huge wealth of knowledge reading all that material because one, it makes her sit down and read it, and two, she learns just as much as when she is reading the material out loud. The part that gets people about reading is making the time to sit down and read. A program like volunteering to record for the blind is a structured way to get people to sit down and read, only this time you are reading out loud and being recorded.

Why Read to or for the Blind/Deaf/Dyslexic
People who read all the time don’t realize the effort involved. Someone with severe dyslexia can have trouble following along with a simple sentence. I wish there were more programs available that allowed people to come and read to the blind as there once were. Many senior nursing homes have people who are blind and are looking for volunteers to come and read to them or talk with them about a movie they are watching.

The huge benefit also comes from kids who are just learning to read or need help improving their reading skills. Reading to another person requires active participation on the reader to follow along correctly otherwise risk losing the listener in the process. The listener might call attention to a fact that doesn’t make sense, which might come about when they accidentally skip a sentence, which is common for first time or troubled readers.

When you read to or for the disabled you give back something that they do not have. Blind people must learn how to read with their fingers and by listening. They must form images in their mind as to what it is they are hearing or touching for the first time. Someone with excellent dictation and enunciation have gifts that can help another person learn or pass their time in an enjoyable way.

Ellen has said that her time with Learning Ally will be one where she will stop when they tell her they don’t need her anymore. That is dedication and heart. At 84 years old it will be awhile before she stops for good.


For more about who this wonderful lady is and what she does, you can read the articles below. If you want to get involved and donate an hour or two to help someone check out the links further below. Also remember that many public libraries, Amazon, and the central texas digital library consortium has many audiobooks to listen to as well.

News Articles

She’s spent half a century reading for the blind

Volunteer Spent 50 Years recording books for the disabled

Ellen Hanna, 84, Celebrates 50 years

Get Involved

Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic

Texas Talking Book Program

Book

What Blind People Wish Sighted People Knew About Blindness