Teach Like a Champion 3.0

Many moons ago, I encountered Doug Lemov's book Teach Like a Champion.  Although the book compiles pedagogical techniques gleaned from teaching elementary and high school students, I found many of the techniques translated well to the undergraduate classroom. When associate dean, I provided each faculty member a copy of Teach Like a Champion.  The faculty self organized and held a series of brown bag discussions in which one or more of the pedagogical techniques were discussed and/or faculty shared their experiences applying one of the techniques.  

I learned that Lemov has just published Teach Like a Champion 3.0: 63 Techniques that Put Students on the Path to College. I look forward to getting a copy to experience this latest version of what I consider to be an essential pedagogical resource. 


94% of educators agree that video directly contributes to improvement in student performance

 So touts the eCampusNews

A new survey predicts that video in education will continue to grow, as a majority of educators say they believe video content is more engaging and effective than text-based content.

Yep, as a record number of courses went online or hybrid due to campus residency restrictions, faculty use of video in their courses escalated. Yep. And, anecdotally, students appreciate the ability to control the speed of video content and the ability to revisit video content as they wish. (Whether students engage video content in the first place, is a whole different matter). There is evidence that video course content positively impacts course completion rates. A key question faculty ponder: how to best leverage video as a pedagogical tool.   

However, the skeptic in me wonders if a study conducted by a company that provides video solutions  provides the guidance faculty seek.  

GO BIG: ASU's Thunderbird Seeks 100 million Learners by 2030

 Arizona State University is never shy about going big! Check this out:

The Thunderbird School of Global Management at Arizona State University plans to launch a new global management and entrepreneurship online certificate program that will offer five free online business courses in 40 languages worldwide and aims to reach 100 million learners by 2030, 70 percent of them women. 

The program was announced by the university Thursday and will be funded by a $25 million alumni gift matched by in-kind donations from the business school and the university, which will bring the business school at least halfway to the $100 million goal for launching the program across the next two years, said Sanjeev Khagram, dean of the business school.

Or is this vapor program/course-ware?  This, to me, is a big tell:

Khagram [dean, ASU's business school] said he is working with the university to ensure the certificate can be converted for college credits. 

In my experience this may be a surmountable hurdle, but many moons must first align.  

Will this certificate program get off the planning board? This will be fun to watch!   


Covid 19 Resources

COVID-19 Resources

A compilation of COVID-19 data sources and analyses I have stumbled across.





Should a College Degree be Convenient?

The Jain Family Institute (JFI) just released a fascinating analysis and tool that explores, what they term, the geography of higher education access. The analysis is intriguing.  They develop a school concentration index (details here) utilizing zip tabulation area data. An interactive visualization tool accompanies their analyses. Impressive stuff!

Fundamental to the analysis is the fact that:
The majority — 56.2 percent — of public four-year college students attend an institution under an hour’s drive away, and nearly 70 percent attend within two hours of their home, according to the latest Higher Education Research Institute’s CIRP survey (via econofact). 
Interestingly, JFI's analyses, and the interactive graphic, enables visualization of concentration with a 30 min., 45 min., or 60 min. distance.  It would be useful to see the data for a two-hour drive radius.

Two key challenges I see with  the analysis published are:

  • First, geographic proximity is assumed to be essential.  This ignores online education opportunities available to part-time and full time students seeking higher education. The data for online programs suggest that most choose an institution geographically proximate. However, for online students. campus access is less important.
  • Second, students are assumed to be homogeneous;  segments within higher ed evidence important behavioral differences.  Students pursuing an associates degree via face-to-face courses, generally, are part-time students and commute to/from campus.  For this segment, geographic proximity is important to enable integration of pursuing an education with work, family, and other life activities.

    Students pursuing a bachelors degree on a part-time basis similarily benefit from geographic proximity of campus to home.

    Students pursuing a bachelors degree full-time come in two flavors. Flavor one is the 'traditional' college model in which the student lives on or near campus. Geographic proximity of campus to home is less critical. These are the students that, per the data above, likely live a one to two hour drive from home.  Full-time students that elect to live at home and commute to campus are a second flavor. These students can save a considerable amount by living at home. At many schools, the cost of room and board exceeds the cost of tuition (net not gross). For these students, geographic proximity (i.e., a commute of less than an hour is critical). Commuter students in a major metro area, such as greater New York City, have access to mass transit options (e.g., train) that are not available in less populous areas. 
Does convenience matter for students pursuing higher education? As with anything interesting, it's complicated. I believe the short answer is yes. But that requires acknowledging and factoring into the analysis important differences between student segments.  A drive distance that may deter a student interested in pursuing an associates degree part-time may be viewed positively by a student seeking to live on campus and pursue their degree on a full-time basis (think buffer from 'surprise' parental visits).  This requires that the data be modeled separately for each student segment.   

NOTE: My interest is in understanding factors that might inhibit academically qualified and financially capable individuals from pursuing higher education.


Canon EOS 80D Initial Impressions

For the last decade (that's multi-centuries in techno land), a Canon EOS 40D has been my primary camera. For those interested in lineage, the 40D replaced a D60; a durable DSLR that my youngest daughter continues to use. It is REALLY impressive, amazing even, that a consumer electronic device is still functioning 1.5 decades of service later.  But I digress ...

Seeking better high ISO performance and the ability to explore shooting video, I picked up a Canon EOS 80D kit this past weekend at Costco (it is similar to this kit on Amazon.com). Although I don't really need additional lenses, Costco's price for the kit got me. The kit includes:

  • Canon EOS 80D Body
  • Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM lens
  • Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM Lens
  • 32 GB SD Card
  • Extra Canon LP-E6N Battery
  • Canon Instructional DVD
  • Voucher for a cleaning by Canon professional services
  • Canon camera bag (perfect for storing my 40D)
In short, the kit includes everything needed to provide a great starting kit for someone.  I'll see whether the lenses ever get used. The 18-55 is a very nice range for walking around. It's compact size is a plus. And it provides more at the wide end than does my Canon EF 24–105mm f/4L is II USM, a great "walking around" lens. I have yet to unbox the Canon EF-S 55-250mm F4-5.6 IS STM Lens and will likely eBay it. But, I digress.

First impressions of the 80D are very favorable.  Build quality seems very solid.  It is smaller than the 40D, which I like. My hands aren't that large. The 40D with grip always felt a bit big. The 80D is more comfortable for me to hold. It has a nice grippyness to it that inspires confidence. 

Controls are similar enough to the 40D that the learning curve is shallow.  It has been a quick transition. Yes, the on/off switch is in a different location. And, yes the 80D has more buttons, but the layout is logical and well thought out.  I especially like the location of the focus-point selection button. It makes changing the active focus point (or set of focus points) intuitive and easy.  The built in level is another nice feature. The in-viewfinder level feature is, based on initial trial, too finicky for practical use. Perhaps, with practice, it will become useful.

The swiveling touch screen is a nice touch. I'm still getting used to the touch features, but they are VERY handy.  

ISO performance is promising.  The 40D got noisy at ISO800 and ISO1600 was usable under very special circumstances.  The 80D, on initial trials, appears useful to ISO6400, and possibly above depending on conditions.   This means that routine shooting at ISO800 or ISO1600 is possible.  This low light performance opens interesting creative possibilities. 

The 80D's 45 focus points is a vast improvement over the center clustered short list of focus points. The 80D focus performance is fast and sure. So far, I've only tried single shot.  AI Servo mode trials remain.

Video? So far, I've shot but a couple minutes of exploratory video.  Too soon to render any opinion on that front. 

What else did I consider?  I carefully considered the Canon EOS M50. The feature set and the DIGIC 8 processor (vs the DIGIC 6 in the 80D) got my attention. But, ultimately, the diminutive size of the M50, it's lackluster battery life, and questions about AF performance with my L lenses and the adapter tipped me away from the M50 to the 80D.

So, there you have it. Very initial impressions of the Canon EOS 80D.  Image quality?  A topic of a future post when I have some samples to share. 


Kindle Fire 7" tablet 2.5 Years In

About 2.5 years ago I shared initial impressions of the 7" Kindle Fire tablet. My impressions at the time were and remain mixed. The inability to run Google Apps remains a major annoyance and significantly limits the tablet's functionality.  A saving grace is that the Amazon App Store distributes the INO Reader and SONOS apps.  Critical in my world.  And the battery would last almost a week of normal usage.

About a month ago, the Fire's battery life took a dive.  The battery drains rapidly, even when the device is not in use. The tablet must be tethered constantly to use-enabling power cord.  Very frustrating. But not unexpected. Another Kindle Fire that graced the Digito Household experienced a similar sudden departure from utility. Sigh.  Based on these experiences, it is unlikely another Kindle Fire will cross my threshold.

In case you are wondering about the iPad 2 ... well, it still lives. Sort of.  It is glacially slow. Ya gotta love Apple's strategy of fatally crippeling devices that are otherwise functional. It lives on the handle bar mount of the bike on a trainer and serves (sort of) as an entertainment device. I say, sort of, because the only app that works with some dispatch is the timer app.  At least I know how long I've spun the pedals.

While we're on the subject, a Samsung Tab A 8" tablet has been my workhorse tablet for the past couple years.  The size is great for many applications, including running the fabulous Navionics Boating USA HD app when sailing Meridian.

Costco is currently running a killer deal on a Samsung Tab A 10.1" tablet. I couldn't resist and ordered one. It should arrive early next week.  I look forward to having more screen real estate available for route planning and for Kindle books that have lots of detail, such as Nigel Calders's classic and enormously useful Boat Owners Mechanical and Electrical Manual 4/E.

Not so Quicken

Whoo boy! I've been a Quicken and Quicken Bill Pay user for over three decades. Like many, I would update every two or three years. Intuit's annual incremental upgrades were never too dramatic. The accumulation of two or three years of incremental upgrades generally yielded a useful improvement in my user experience.

In April 2016, H.I.G. Capital acquired Quicken from Intuit. The Notorious H.I.G. promptly switched business models from the legacy shrink-wrap physical product in store shelves to a subscription model. In effect, Quicken has always been a subscription product. Typically, connectivity services would go dark after three years. A functionality loss sufficiently aggravating to inspire splurging on the latest Quicken version. Thus restarting the cycle. The Notorious H.I.G. transitioned Quicken to an annual subscription service. Akin to Adobe Creative Cloud, software functionality ceases absent a current subscription.

I had Quicken 2017. The Notorious H.I.G. established end of life at April 30, 2020. I fully intended to milk this version for all it was worth. I'm not one for conspiracy theories, but it was oddly coincidental that, each Quicken 2017 update brought significant technical issues. The most annoying was an issue that prevented entering the password needed to download transactions. A fresh install fixed the issue. But my confidence was shot.

And what should magically appear in my inbox but an offer for a two year Quicken Premier subscription at a 40% discount. Intriguingly, the Quicken Premier subscription includes Quicken Bill Pay. I've been paying forever $9.99 a month for Quicken Bill Pay. Two years of Quicken Bill Pay exceeded the cost of the two year Quicken subscription. Hmm .... that got my attention.

Curious, I contacted Quicken support. If I subscribe to Quicken Premier, will my existing QuickenBillPay account stitch over and the monthly charges stop? Yes, I was assured, they would.

So I took the plunge on June 30, 2018, and ordered up a two-year subscription of Quicken Premier. The download and install of Quicken 2018 happened as one would expect. No surprises. All accounts loaded, banks connected, etc. All seemed OK.

A couple weeks later, a $9.99 charge for Quicken Bill Pay appeared in my bank account. Puzzled, I again contacted Quicken customer support. The perky customer service rep. admonished me, "Oh, no, you must cancel your old Quicken Bill Pay account and create a new Quicken Bill Pay account. And here's a URL pointing to the details you need." Gee, thanks! Would have been great if the customer service dude had shared that keen intel last week.

So, I initiated creation of a new QuickenBillPay account. Entered payment account info and, sat back. A perky email promptly arrived informing me that two micro deposits will appear in the account in approximately 48 hours. Enter those amounts to finalize account registration. Swell!

When the micro deposits failed to appear after a week, I again contacted Quicken customer support. The very helpful individual quickly diagnosed that I made an error when entering the account number. He stepped me through the simple process of establishing another payment source with the correct account information. He promised that he micro deposits needed to confirm the payment source would appear within 48 hours.

Fast forward another week, the micro payments are still M.I.A. I placed another call to Quicken customer support. Now, the Quicken Premier subscription includes "Priority access to customer support." Quicken appears to consider a 25 minute wait time "priority access." Nonetheless, I eventually connected with another perky customer service rep.

She asked: Have you submitted a voided check?

Me: Um, no, I've not been asked to.

She: Well, you need to. Here's how to submit your voided check ...

Me: Oh, OK.
She: We are backlogged and the micro payments won't appear in your account for 12 to 14 days.

Me: Oh, swell. Oh, by the way, two days ago, I was charged for QuickenBillPay. I cancelled that. 
She: Oh, that was your final payment. 
Me: Oh, swell, so far I've been charged about $20 for an account I thought was closed. Quicken has disabled all payment accounts attached to that QuickenBillPay account. At the moment, I have no online payment service active.

She: Would you like me to reactivate your old account?
Me: Um, no. Thanks. 

So, here we are, six weeks after activating my Quicken Premier subscription, still dorking around finalizing configuration of my QuickenBillPay service. To be continued, I'm sure.

Not so Quicken.


Amazon Kindle Fire Fire: Not bad for $50 If you Can Manage the Frustrating Limitations

A 7" tablet is, in my personal device ecosystem, an essential device. It is my go-to device for reading news (thanks to the Inoreader Android App), managing email, keeping up with the Delos crew on YouTube, and controlling my multi-speaker Sonos system via the Android Sonos Controller App. My iPad 2 goes largely unused except when in situations where WiFi is not available and its 3G capability keeps me connected.

When my beloved Nexus 7 bricked, the new Amazon Fire 7" called my name. At $50 per unit, or six for $250 (buy five get a sixth free), Amazon hits a compellkng price point for a 7" tablet. It's an impulse buy. A "why not?" A "nothing to loose" and (possibly) much to gain value proposition. But is it?

The specs are promising. The screen is crisp (171 ppi / 1024 x 600).  The 1.3 GHz quad-core processor is capable. The 8 GB of on-board storage can be expanded to 128 GB by addition of a micro SD memory card. Lots of storage head-room there. And, in the field, the battery yielded full day use. Yep, lots to like. (For full specifications go here).

The operating system, a variant of Android, is much more Androidish than the first generation Fire Tablet. Amazon's take on the Android OS has a custom launcher that ties the Fire tightly into the Amazon ecosystem. One screen displays recent activity, including books read, movies watched, apps, etc. That recently used page proved useful. Another launcher page displays all installed apps. The remaining launcher screens are devoted to pitching Amazon content (books, audio books, movies, apps, games, etc.). Indeed, on powering up the device one is greeted by a pitch for a app or other goodie available from Amazon. In short, this tablet has a lot going for it. And at $50 a compelling impulse buy.

The Kindle Fire 7" is tied to the Amazon app store.  If you intend to consume Amazon content exclusively, that works well. The Amazon app store is stocked with myriad apps beyond Amazon's. However, the collection is unpredictable. And this unpredictability may prove to be a deal breaker (or force purchase of a different tablet). For example, the GoPro app is not in the Amazon app store. Neither is the lovely Wunderground weather app. On the bright side, the Sonos Android Controller app is available from the Amazon App store. And, oddly, the Amazon app store includes the NetFlix app (a direct competitor to Amazon's Prime Video), but does not stock the YouTube app.

The Amazon app store's limitations loom largest if, like me, you are thoroughly integrated into the Google ecosystem. The Amazon app store stocks none, nada, zip, zero of Google's fantastic Android apps. No Gmail, no Drive,  no Pictures, no Sheets, no Calendar. No YouTube.

As workarounds, the Amazon app store includes apps that are pointers to full screen browser sessions for Gmail, Calendar and YouTube. While a step in the right direction, these bookmarks are less than ideal if you use Google services.

The Kindle Fire ships with native email and calendar apps. The email app lacks the email sorting functionality that make the Gmail app so useful, and renders email a useful tool. The email app that ships with the Kindle Fire 7", because it lacks the magical email sorting functionality that Gmail and Inbox execute so well, managing daily email, given my typical volume is not possible. The calendar app that ships with the Kindle Fire 7" is serviceable.

How does the Kindle Fire 7" function as an Amazon consumption device?  I'm not a big movie watcher and play no games, so no insights are available on those fronts. The Kindle reading experience is, oddly, challenging. I found it challenging to access the menus without flipping several pages back and forth in the process. My Kindle PaperWhite provides a much more satisfying, and less frustrating, reading experience.

After using the Kindle Fire 7" for two weeks, with growing frustrations due to the lack of Google apps, I yielded to the call of an Acer Iconia Tab 8 while making a CostCo run.  Early impressions are very favorable. The screen is fantastic! It provides a fairly straight-up Android 4.4 experience. One concerning factor is that Acer is providing no guidance on whether and when Android updates will be available. Having experienced the ugly side of upgrading too soon, I'm currently happy with the rock-solidness of Android 4.4 Kit-Kat. We'll see how it performs over time.

Meanwhile, please share in the comments your experiences with the Kindle Fire 7" or the Acer Iconia Tab 8.


Reflections on SCOTUS' ACA Decision

Some reflections on today's SCOTUS decision re. the Affordable Care Act follow:

  • The "individual mandate" provision is unconstitutional when viewed through the lens of the Commerce Clause. The prevailing justification provided when the law was created and sold to the public was thus deemed out of bounds.
  • The "individual mandate" provision is Constitutional if construed as a "tax." SCOTUS apparently applied the "duck test" to reach this conclusion (i.e, if it waddles like a duck, looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it must be a duck). 
  • The determination that the individual mandate is a tax directly contradicts President Obama's assertion  that the individual mandate is not a tax and makes clear that the ACA imposes a huge tax increase on much of America (or at least the minority of Americans that actually pay income taxes). One gets the impression that the "liberal" justices, joined by the Chief Justice, were at pains to make obvious the President's lie.
  • The court's finding that the mandate is a "tax" reveals that the intent of the Affordable Care Act is to raise revenues for the government; not to make health care affordable. 
  • The tax determination fits the stereotype of President Obama as a "tax and spend liberal."
  • The tax determination will likely afford the Tea Party with renewed energy, enthusiasm, and focus, especially for Tea Party rallys already scheduled to occur in conjunction with Independence Day celebrations. 
  • A majority comprised of "liberal" and "conservative" justices converged on the decision that the individual mandate is a tax.  This "bipartisan" majority has the potential to nullify (or confuse) critics prone to characterize the decision as "partisan politics." 
  • SCOTUS severely limited powers under the Commerce Clause with regards to provisions of the ACA that would discontinue a state's Medicare funding if it did not comply with federal government mandate. 
Taken all together, SCOTUS' decision appears to have the potential to create more challenges for the Obama administration than it resolves.  On balance, the decision seems to afford critics of the ACA greater traction than is provided supporters of the ACA.  The decision also streamlines messaging objectives for opponents of the ACA in a way that makes it more difficult to message support of the ACA. It will be fun to observe how this unfolds in the coming weeks and months. @AnnAlthouse summed all this up with her concise Tweet: 

My view of the Obamacare case in 2 words: President Romney.