This blog is for educators, academicians, students and those who are interasted to integrate technology in class room.

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Open Educational Resources and MOOC

The Rising Power of MOOCs: Now, Everyone Can Learn at Harvard


Open Educational Resources And Open Access Textbooks for Massive Open Online Courses

Strategies for Promoting Open Educational Resources for Massive Open Online Courses(MOOCs)


Education in the 21st Century



College, Reinvented: The Finalists

Read Our Favorites and Vote

When we invited readers to imagine what kind of college they would create if they could start one from scratch, we weren’t sure what to expect. Sure enough, the scores of entries we received—from professors, administrators, and undergraduate students, well-known leaders in higher-education and interested bystanders—ran the gamut.

Some entries were abstract and idealistic; others offered as many details about budgets and curricula as could fit in our 500-word limit. Most were prose descriptions, but we received two videos and quite a few poems. You pick the winning entry, by voting below.

In about two weeks, we’ll announce the winner and reveal the identities of the five finalists.

Costco University

I model my proposed college after a law firm. Just as senior lawyers own the firm and delegate various administrative responsibilities, I would have a college where faculty own the institution, and administrators work for faculty, rather than vice versa.

Like Costco stores, my Costco University would keep costs down by stinting on everything other than what matters: delivery of relevant services to the end user. (No, students aren’t customers, even if they are paying the bills.)

Thus, institutional infrastructure is to be avoided, with savings passed along to the students. Dining halls, residence halls, athletics programs, even libraries are unnecessary, provided that the campus is in a big city, and students have access to the Internet. Ideally, costs could be kept sufficiently low that tuition would cover everything. So that this makes economic sense, assume that each professor makes $80,000 a year and teaches four courses per semester, or eight courses a year. With typical overhead, each course costs $20,000 a year to teach.

If 10 students take each course, each needs to pay $2,000 a course. At four courses a semester, or eight courses a year, tuition could be $16,000 a year. OK, maybe the cost of classroom rental is extra—everything is rented. A generous estimate of the cost of classroom rental is $50 an hour, or $5 per hour per student, amounting to about $225 per student for 45-classroom-hour course.

Students might have to pay, say, a $4,000 administrative fee, bringing their tuition to $20,000 a year. (Sorry, no scholarships are possible with this arrangement.).

A major strength of the existing model of higher education is its combination of research and teaching. A sister institution, Costco Research and Development, might be created to generate revenue by allowing Costco U professors a vehicle for creating intellectual property. The most obvious model here is the Stanford Research Institute, which does contract research in science and technology.

However, Costco U. humanities professors will also be encouraged to generate revenue by creating, for example, MOOC course content. While both Costco U. and Costco Research must remain separate, half-time appointments in each, or other forms of close cooperation, will be encouraged. Indeed, certain courses at Costco U. could involve internships at Costco Research.

If the entrepreneur Peter Thiel is willing to provide funds to people not to go to college, perhaps he, or someone like him, would be willing to spring for the necessary start-up money. Founding faculty members would then buy into the partnership, just as new law-firm partners do.

Perhaps leading universities, too, would buy into the Costco U. concept. Since they are blessed with many more qualified candidates for both students and faculty than they can possibly handle, perhaps Costco U. could be composed entirely of such candidates, without any further effort at selection

The Virtual Classroom

Let’s Go Monk! The 21st-Century Monastery, Reinvented

In most discussions about reforming higher education, intellectuals argue about how to move us forward into the 21st century. With all due respect, I disagree. I would move higher education backward. In my reinvented university, we go back about 800 years. We become monks.

Instead of attracting visitors, this university would frighten away prospective students with strict vows of poverty, charity, and abstinence from social media. College is not for wimps. Upon entry, students don identical robes woven from the same fabric as sweatpants (decorative belts are permitted.) All mobile devices, including laptops and iPads, are confiscated at the gatehouse and may be reclaimed by their owners only upon going into town to buy toothpaste. All intracollege communication takes place with quill, ink, and parchment; calligraphy is the new cursive.

Academically, the co-ed university enrolls students in single-sex classes no larger than 15. The academic year is 12 months, as is the calendar year for the rest of the planet, with two six-week vacations and two months spent in a foreign country.

Throughout the year, the university pursues multidisciplinary answers to one Big Question, such as the clean-water crisis, peace in the Middle East, or how to fix American public education. When parents ask, “What are you doing with that education?,” these students answer, “Saving the world.”

The curriculum is set for the first two years. All students take the same foundational courses in philosophy, world religion, the Great Books as defined by Mortimer Adler, mathematics, biology, chemistry, and the history of China, Russia, India, and Britain. In addition, students must study Arabic, Chinese, Spanish, or Hindi. In order to save the world, you have to be able to know who’s in it.

The third year matches each student with a faculty mentor who guides him or her through a multidisciplinary capstone project. This provides ample opportunity for students to collect “when my professor came in wearing her pajamas” stories and to develop their research skills. It is common during this year to begin working at the college-owned vineyard or brewery, for self-evident reasons.

Students are forbidden, upon risk of expulsion, to create résumés or start the job search until the fourth year. During that year, students leave the university and the robes for full-time internships with alumnae. They are, however, required to wear capes to remind them that their purpose in life is to (remember?) save the world.

In addition to growing wine and making beer, students grow and cook all of their own food. This lowers tuition costs and complaints about the quality of cafeteria food. When they’re not studying or cooking, students chill out in one of the many dance halls on campus. Most of those come with disco balls and repetitions of “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” although there is a Regency-era ballroom where students dance as the characters do in Jane Austen.

They might be monks, but they’re well-educated monks. Who’s with me?

The Virtual Classroom

College of the Global Village

With an emphasis on experiential learning through a multidisciplinary investigation of varied meanings and practices of the good life; an immersion into the experience of new languages, including those of literature, the visual and performing arts, and the STEM disciplines; and the acquisition of an additional spoken and written language through living and learning in a culture where that language is primary, it is the objective of the College of the Global Village, through disciplined engagement, to strive to refocus learning on depth of experience rather than breadth of knowledge.

Through a first year in which students participate in four immersive blocks of study, each eight weeks long, College of the Global Village requires all students to participate in a course of research and writing in which everyone is expected to construct meaning and to create knowledge rather than being mere receptacles of previously digested information.

Through a topic of one’s choice from the arts and humanities or a STEM discipline, students will be matched with experts in their chosen field, including those from academia as well as nonteaching professionals with whom students collaborate on a research-and-writing project that enables them to explore both the process of deep research and the complexities of ideas leading to the written work they will produce.

A second required block is “The History of Science and Ecology,” in which students learn the principles of those disciplines through field study of the relationship between the allocations and usage of resources in their college community and local economy.

A third block is devoted to engagement with great books, in which students converse with authors and their characters about the moral choices they faced and the implications of these choices in both the texts and the life experiences of the students.

The year concludes with a language-immersion experience in a part of the world that is unfamiliar to the student, engaging awareness of self and others through navigation of territory beyond the boundaries of his or her experience.

During the second and third years at the College of the Global Village, all students are asked to fulfill eight additional learning blocks, through choices of multidisciplinary courses such as “A Guided Inquiry Into the Role of Museums and Concert Halls in Civil Society” and “The Transformation of the World From Nation-States to Global Networks.” The emphasis of those and additional offerings is to enable the students to develop practical applications of their learning in a context greater than a single classroom affords.

The fourth year is spent in a guided internship overseen by a professor or community leader, which includes a weekly integrative seminar with all students in their internships, to share their diverse learning experiences.

The Virtual Classroom

The Mobile University

Higher education offers students the opportunity to find out who they are, what they do not know, and some insight into as many as two or three subject areas. If a university or college pretends to do more, then it is probably guilty of misleading marketing. One way of achieving those three goals is setting up a four-year “mobile college,” whose “home” is defined not by place but by just four faculty mentors—one each in the social sciences, the humanities, the sciences, and the arts—who move from institution to institution over four years with a cohort consisting of no more than 40 students.

The best way to help students discover who they are is to take them abroad, put them into a foreign environment, and expose them to how the “other” sees them and their nation. Their first-year curriculum is the liberal arts.

In the second year students are placed, by agreement, in an American college or university that offers top-quality faculty and curriculum in the social sciences, where they also continue to study the language of the place where they spent their first year. The second-year focus is on the meaning of citizenship in a democratic society, studied in interdisciplinary fashion.

In their third year, students are placed in an American college or university staffed by outstanding faculty in the sciences and the humanities. They continue studying the second language.

In their final year, the students return to complete their studies at a university in the same nation where they began their studies. They become proficient in that second language and demonstrate a high level of expertise in one or more subject areas, and very likely demonstrate some interdisciplinary expertise.

This approach makes use of existing institutions of higher education, relying on carefully designed articulation agreements between the mobile college and the institutions visited by the students. Each of the four faculty members is dedicated to outstanding teaching and mentorship, and each is paid $25,000 per year, plus room, board, and travel expenses. One of the faculty members earns an additional stipend of $25,000 for arranging articulation agreements and for handling travel and accommodations. A rough cost estimate of four years for the mobile college is $1.5-million, comprising a comprehensive fee for each of the 40 students of about $37,500. Host institutions in the United States should provide some aid, or reduced tuition costs equal to their average discount.

The mobile college’s success depends on selecting outstanding faculty mentors, along with international institutions whose tuition charges are subsidized by their governments and domestic institutions eager to add adventuresome students at a discounted rate; identifying 40 intellectually focused and risk-loving students who will agree to a legally binding, four-year contract (dropping out is not an option); getting accreditation; and probably raising some private support for a number of financially challenged students.

The Virtual Classroom

Reinvention Poem

Inspiration is paramount in survival situations,
To continually push hard, and exude dedication,
To observe and recite precise information,
The reason we pursue a higher education.

If we’re starting from scratch then it should be noted first,
Current universities have been well executed,
But what more could we do, to describe and enhance,
Reinvent university with precision diligence.

For starters, diversity is key for excitement,
As this university is made to share cultures and stories,
No black or white issues where race is divided,
This is open to the world, and everyone is invited.

And we’re living in the future, so the future is embraced,
All science departments and green studies take place,
If there is ever a problem, our students won’t sweat it,
Next week for finals, our students will invent it!

Of course there are issues of payment and tuition,
Which current institutions seem to abuse and get away with.
Our solution is simple: Just pay when you can,
Since we have faith in your future, your debt is the least of our cares.

Or better yet, you can work off your dues,
As you can teach classes to your classmates, too!
Innovative options will keep our university alive,
As students stay focused, successful, and thrive!

No fee hikes, increases, or surprise bill inflation,
As our admins are alumni in cooperative education,
All working together for one common goal,
The benefits of volunteering, until the next student body gets old!

Emphasis on technology, creating, and sharing,
A “World’s Fair” style nirvana and utopian place,
It’s possible this style has been tried already,
But our university will excel in awareness.

In survival situations, remember inspiration
But the Reinvention of University? Please, without hesitation—
Diversity, technology, and emphasis on innovation!
We’re ready and waiting for your application!

 Source: “College, Reinvented.” The Chronicle of Higher Education. 2012. Online.

Table of Contents


PART I: Motivations
Chapter 1    How a Class Becomes a Community: Theory, Method, Examples…Cathy N. Davidson

Chapter 2    From Open Programming to Open Learning: The Cathedral, the Bazaar, and the Open Classroom…Barry Peddycord III, Elizabeth A. Pitts

Chapter 3    Practicing Web Wisdom: Mindfully Incorporating Digital Literacies into the Classroom…Patrick Thomas Morgan

PART II: Provocations
Chapter 4    Paying Attention to the Chocolate-Covered Broccoli: How Video Games Can Change the Ways You Understand Teaching, Learning, and Knowledge…Cristiane Sommer Damasceno

Chapter 5    The Medium of the 21st Century Is Light…Jade Davis

Chapter 6    Open for Whom?: Designing for Inclusion, Navigating the Digital Divide…Christina C. Davidson

PART III: Invitations
Chapter 7    #EveryDayDesign: What Do 21st Century Digital Literacies Look Like?…Jennifer Stratton

Chapter 8    Surprise Endings: Putting the Lessons into Action…Omar Daouk

The Mozilla Manifesto
Creative Commons License
(Mostly) Digital Tool Kit for Open Peer Teaching and Learning
Useful Documents


Mozilla – The Mozilla Manifesto


The Internet is and continues to become an increasingly important part of our lives.

The Mozilla project is a global community of people who believe that openness, innovation, and opportunity are key to the continued health of the Internet. We have worked together since 1998 to ensure that the Internet is developed in a way that benefits everyone. We are best known for creating the Mozilla Firefox web browser.

The Mozilla project uses a community-based approach to create world-class open source software and to develop new types of collaborative activities. We create communities of people involved in making the Internet experience better for all of us.

As a result of these efforts, we have distilled a set of principles that we believe are critical for the Internet to continue to benefit the public good as well as commercial aspects of life. We set out these principles below.
The goals for the Manifesto are to:

  1. articulate a vision for the Internet that Mozilla participants want the Mozilla Foundation to pursue;
  2. speak to people whether or not they have a technical background;
  3. make Mozilla contributors proud of what we’re doing and motivate us to continue; and
  4. provide a framework for other people to advance this vision of the Internet.

These principles will not come to life on their own. People are needed to make the Internet open and participatory – people acting as individuals, working together in groups, and leading others. The Mozilla Foundation is committed to advancing the principles set out in the Mozilla Manifesto. We invite others to join us and make the Internet an ever better place for everyone.


  1. The Internet is an integral part of modern life—a key component in education, communication, collaboration, business, entertainment and society as a whole.
  2. The Internet is a global public resource that must remain open and accessible.
  3. The Internet should enrich the lives of individual human beings.
  4. Individuals’ security on the Internet is fundamental and cannot be treated as optional.
  5. Individuals must have the ability to shape their own experiences on the Internet.
  6. The effectiveness of the Internet as a public resource depends upon interoperability (protocols, data formats, content), innovation and decentralized participation worldwide.
  7. Free and open source software promotes the development of the Internet as a public resource.
  8. Transparent community-based processes promote participation, accountability, and trust.
  9. Commercial involvement in the development of the Internet brings many benefits; a balance between commercial goals and public benefit is critical.
  10. Magnifying the public benefit aspects of the Internet is an important goal, worthy of time, attention and commitment.

Advancing the Mozilla Manifesto

There are many different ways of advancing the principles of the Mozilla Manifesto. We welcome a broad range of activities, and anticipate the same creativity that Mozilla participants have shown in other areas of the project. For individuals not deeply involved in the Mozilla project, one basic and very effective way to support the Manifesto is to use Mozilla Firefox and other products that embody the principles of the Manifesto.

Mozilla Foundation Pledge

The Mozilla Foundation pledges to support the Mozilla Manifesto in its activities. Specifically, we will:

  • build and enable open-source technologies and communities that support the Manifesto’s principles;
  • build and deliver great consumer products that support the Manifesto’s principles;
  • use the Mozilla assets (intellectual property such as copyrights and trademarks, infrastructure, funds, and reputation) to keep the Internet an open platform;
  • promote models for creating economic value for the public benefit; and
  • promote the Mozilla Manifesto principles in public discourse and within the Internet industry.

Some Foundation activities—currently the creation, delivery and promotion of consumer products—are conducted primarily through the Mozilla Foundation’s wholly owned subsidiary, the Mozilla Corporation.


The Mozilla Foundation invites all others who support the principles of the Mozilla Manifesto to join with us, and to find new ways to make this vision of the Internet a reality.


Four Ways to Improve the Culture of Commenting


In my Riff for this past weekend’s magazine, I write about the history of online comments and how they came to often take such an off-putting form. Here are some things we could adopt to help build a better commenting environment:

User-driven moderating: Create more robust systems of user moderation and teach people how you want them to participate online by training and rewarding them. The best argument for this comes from economics, specifically the work of the Nobel Prize-winning economist Elinor Ostrom, who showed that commonly held resources (like fishing grounds or groundwater) are more sustainably managed by communities of users, instead of by government agencies or the marketplace.

I often find that the problem with comments isn’t that they’re offensive or off-topic; it’s that they’ve distracted me with irrelevant information or told me what I already knew. (Yes, some people don’t like Obama.) I wish I could flag a comment or even a whole thread as a waste of time for other readers. The tragedy of the comments is a tragedy of the commons, because the unreplenishable resource that has been overexploited when comment threads go awry is the finite amount of attention that we have to spend reading. Any individual commenter is simply doing what the system encourages him to do; in aggregate, however, all of these decisions eat away at the attention.

“You have time to create something beautiful. You have time to read the comments sections. You do not have time to read both,” Shane Liesegang tweeted (@avoidcomments). I’m not comfortable with eschewing comments altogether, because I assume that the expertise that finds its way into bylined articles in the newspaper is a small subset of the expertise that exists in the world. If the comments section enables a larger amount of the expertise to reach a wider audience, then I’m all for it.

There’s still a problem, though: How do you know where to go for comments that are worth reading? That leads to the next improvement:

Commenting weather systems: One of the tools that’s used to analyze Twitter and other social media is called sentiment analysis. This is a machine-based method of measuring the emotional dimensions of what people say. Computers analyze huge chunks of language that people use when talking about products, institutions, events and other things, and then they extract how people feel, either negatively or positively, about those things. Someone should create an Internet-wide sentiment-analysis system that would track, in real time, the commenting “weather” on various participating Web sites. Positively oriented threads are good weather and negatively oriented ones are inclement, however “positive” and “negative” are defined. Publications could even provide a view of the commenting weather within their own sites. It’s in their interest to do this sort of thing, especially if they’re investing in human moderation and filtering algorithms. If those tools are improving the level of discourse but no one knows that, what’s the point? This could also lead to a culture of rhetorical storm-chasers, people who flock to virulent comment threads and report back to calmer parts of the world.

A commenting weather system would promote another development:

Connoisseurship: Increasingly, when people recommend an article to their friends, they also note the quality of the comments, and indicate that a particular flavor of a comment thread is the reason to go to — or avoid — related content. You might have already seen this happening informally. I see it all the time on Facebook.

This sort of connoisseurship should be encouraged to grow around the culture of commenting, and it should start with awards: a Pulitzer Prize or something similarly prestigious given to comment threads, with the award shared equally among the commenters, the moderators, the writer and the publication. The entire content + comments, as well as a moderation log, would be submitted as a package, so that judges could see the quality of the article, the value added by the comments and the decisions that moderators made about curating the comments.

In order to foster connoisseurship, another tool is needed:

Searchable comments: There’s no better indication of the hierarchy of content on the Web than the fact that comment threads are generally not searchable. For this blog post, I wanted to mention a remarkable comment that accompanied a photo-driven story in Boston Magazine about the capture of the marathon bomber, but I didn’t have time to search one by one through the more than 3,300 comments. Similarly, I’d love to credit to the person who wrote the pithy statement I quoted in my Riff (“the comments are where the real America is”), but I couldn’t find it again.

Would any of these things change comments? Maybe not all of them. But if the Web is about participation, we could enlist more of the off-line world’s tools to reward good participation — not just gripe about the bad actors.


Collaborative Learning for the Digital Age


Kevin Van Aelst for The Chronicle Review

Enlarge Image

Five or six years ago, I attended a lecture on the science of attention. A philosopher who conducts research over in the medical school was talking about attention blindness, the basic feature of the human brain that, when we concentrate intensely on one task, causes us to miss just about everything else. Because we can’t see what we can’t see, our lecturer was determined to catch us in the act. He had us watch a video of six people tossing basketballs back and forth, three in white shirts and three in black, and our task was to keep track only of the tosses among the people in white. I hadn’t seen the video back then, although it’s now a classic, featured on punk-style TV shows or YouTube versions enacted at frat houses under less than lucid conditions. The tape rolled, and everyone began counting.

Everyone except me. I’m dyslexic, and the moment I saw that grainy tape with the confusing basketball tossers, I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep track of their movements, so I let my mind wander. My curiosity was piqued, though, when about 30 seconds into the tape, a gorilla sauntered in among the players. She (we later learned a female student was in the gorilla suit) stared at the camera, thumped her chest, and then strode away while they continued passing the balls.

When the tape stopped, the philosopher asked how many people had counted at least a dozen basketball tosses. Hands went up all over. He then asked who had counted 13, 14, and congratulated those who’d scored the perfect 15. Then he asked, “And who saw the gorilla?”

I raised my hand and was surprised to discover I was the only person at my table and one of only three or four in the large room to do so. He’d set us up, trapping us in our own attention blindness. Yes, there had been a trick, but he wasn’t the one who had played it on us. By concentrating so hard on counting, we had managed to miss the gorilla in the midst.

Attention blindness is the fundamental structuring principle of the brain, and I believe that it presents us with a tremendous opportunity. My take is different from that of many neuroscientists: Where they perceive the shortcomings of the individual, I sense an opportunity for collaboration. Fortunately, given the interactive nature of most of our lives in the digital age, we have the tools to harness our different forms of attention and take advantage of them.

It’s not easy to acknowledge that everything we’ve learned about how to pay attention means that we’ve been missing everything else. It’s not easy for us rational, competent, confident types to admit that the very key to our success—our ability to pinpoint a problem and solve it, an achievement honed in all those years in school and beyond—may be exactly what limits us. For more than a hundred years, we’ve been training people to see in a particularly individual, deliberative way. No one ever told us that our way of seeing excluded everything else.

I want to suggest a different way of seeing, one that’s based on multitasking our attention—not by seeing it all alone but by distributing various parts of the task among others dedicated to the same end. For most of us, this is a new pattern of attention. Multitasking is the ideal mode of the 21st century, not just because of information overload but also because our digital age was structured without anything like a central node broadcasting one stream of information that we pay attention to at a given moment. On the Internet, everything links to everything, and all of it is available all the time.

Unfortunately, current practices of our educational institutions—and workplaces—are a mismatch between the age we live in and the institutions we have built over the last 100-plus years. The 20th century taught us that completing one task before starting another one was the route to success. Everything about 20th-century education, like the 20th-century workplace, has been designed to reinforce our attention to regular, systematic tasks that we take to completion. Attention to task is at the heart of industrial labor management, from the assembly line to the modern office, and of educational philosophy, from grade school to graduate school.

The Newsweek cover story proclaimed, “iPod, Therefore I Am.”

On MTV News, it was “Dude, I just got a free iPod!”

Peter Jennings smirked at the ABC-TV news audience, “Shakespeare on the iPod? Calculus on the iPod?”

And the staff of the Duke Chronicle was apoplectic: “The University seems intent on transforming the iPod into an academic device, when the simple fact of the matter is that iPods are made to listen to music. It is an unnecessarily expensive toy that does not become an academic tool simply because it is thrown into a classroom.”

What had those pundits so riled up? In 2003, we at Duke were approached by Apple about becoming one of six Apple Digital Campuses. Each college would choose a technology that Apple was developing and propose a campus use for it. It would be a partnership of business and education, exploratory in all ways. We chose a flashy new music-listening gadget that young people loved but that baffled most adults.

When we gave a free iPod to every member of the entering first-year class, there were no conditions. We simply asked students to dream up learning applications for this cool little white device with the adorable earbuds, and we invited them to pitch their ideas to the faculty. If one of their professors decided to use iPods in a course, the professor, too, would receive a free Duke-branded iPod, and so would all the students in the class (whether they were first-years or not).

This was an educational experiment without a syllabus. No lesson plan. No assessment matrix rigged to show that our investment had been a wise one. No assignment to count the basketballs. After all, as we knew from the science of attention, to direct attention in one way precluded all the other ways. If it were a reality show, we might have called it Project Classroom Makeover.

 At the time, I was vice provost for interdisciplinary studies at Duke, a position equivalent to what in industry would be the R&D person, and I was among those responsible for cooking up the iPod experiment. In the world of technology, “crowdsourcing” means inviting a group to collaborate on a solution to a problem, but that term didn’t yet exist in 2003. It was coined by Jeff Howe of Wired magazine in 2006 to refer to the widespread Internet practice of posting an open call requesting help in completing some task, whether writing code (that’s how much of the open-source code that powers the Mozilla browser was written) or creating a winning logo (like the “Birdie” design of Twitter, which cost a total of six bucks).

 In the iPod experiment, we were crowdsourcing educational innovation for a digital age. Crowdsourced thinking is very different from “credentialing,” or relying on top-down expertise. If anything, crowdsourcing is suspicious of expertise, because the more expert we are, the more likely we are to be limited in what we conceive to be the problem, let alone the answer.

Once the pieces were in place, we decided to take our educational experiment one step further. By giving the iPods to first-year students, we ended up with a lot of angry sophomores, juniors, and seniors. They’d paid hefty private-university tuition, too! So we relented and said any student could have a free iPod—just so long as she persuaded a professor to require one for a course and came up with a learning app in that course. Does that sound sneaky? Far be it from me to say that we planned it.

The real treasure trove was to be found in the students’ innovations. Working together, and often alongside their professors, they came up with far more learning apps for their iPods than anyone—even at Apple—had dreamed possible. Most predictable were uses whereby students downloaded audio archives relevant to their courses—Nobel Prize acceptance speeches by physicists and poets, the McCarthy hearings, famous trials. Almost instantly, students figured out that they could record lectures on their iPods and listen at their leisure.

Interconnection was the part the students grasped before any of us did. Students who had grown up connected digitally gravitated to ways that the iPod could be used for collective learning. They turned iPods into social media and networked their learning in ways we did not anticipate. In the School of the Environment, one class interviewed families in a North Carolina community concerned with lead paint in their homes and schools, commented on one another’s interviews, and together created an audio documentary that aired on local and regional radio stations and all over the Web. In the music department, students uploaded their own compositions to their iPods so their fellow students could listen and critique.

After eight years in Duke’s central administration, I was excited to take the methods we had gleaned from the iPod experiment back into the classroom. I decided to offer a new course called “This Is Your Brain on the Internet,” a title that pays homage to Daniel J. Levitin’s inspiring book This Is Your Brain on Music (Dutton, 2006), a kind of music-lover’s guide to the brain. Levitin argues that music makes complex circuits throughout the brain, requiring different kinds of brain function for listening, processing, and producing, and thus makes us think differently. Substitute the word “Internet” for “music,” and you’ve got the gist of my course.

I advertised the class widely, and I was delighted to look over the roster of the 18 students in the seminar and find more than 18 majors, minors, and certificates represented. I created a bare-bones suggested reading list that included, for example, articles in specialized journals like Cognition and Developmental Neuropsychology, pieces in popular magazines like Wired and Science, novels, and memoirs. There were lots of Web sites, too, of course, but I left the rest loose. This class was structured to be peer-led, with student interest and student research driving the design. “Participatory learning” is one term used to describe how we can learn together from one another’s skills. “Cognitive surplus” is another used in the digital world for that “more than the sum of the parts” form of collaborative thinking that happens when groups think together online.

We used a method that I call “collaboration by difference.” Collaboration by difference is an antidote to attention blindness. It signifies that the complex and interconnected problems of our time cannot be solved by anyone alone, and that those who think they can act in an entirely focused, solitary fashion are undoubtedly missing the main point that is right there in front of them, thumping its chest and staring them in the face. Collaboration by difference respects and rewards different forms and levels of expertise, perspective, culture, age, ability, and insight, treating difference not as a deficit but as a point of distinction. It always seems more cumbersome in the short run to seek out divergent and even quirky opinions, but it turns out to be efficient in the end and necessary for success if one seeks an outcome that is unexpected and sustainable. That’s what I was aiming for.

I had the students each contribute a new entry or amend an existing entry on Wikipedia, or find another public forum where they could contribute to public discourse. There was still a lot of criticism about the lack of peer review in Wikipedia entries, and some professors were banning Wikipedia use in the classroom. I didn’t understand that. Wikipedia is an educator’s fantasy, all the world’s knowledge shared voluntarily and free in a format theoretically available to all, and which anyone can edit. Instead of banning it, I challenged my students to use their knowledge to make Wikipedia better. All conceded that it had turned out to be much harder to get their work to “stick” on Wikipedia than it was to write a traditional term paper.

Given that I was teaching a class based on learning and the Internet, having my students blog was a no-brainer. I supplemented that with more traditionally structured academic writing, a term paper. When I had both samples in front of me, I discovered something curious. Their writing online, at least in their blogs, was incomparably better than in the traditional papers. In fact, given all the tripe one hears from pundits about how the Internet dumbs our kids down, I was shocked that elegant bloggers often turned out to be the clunkiest and most pretentious of research-paper writers. Term papers rolled in that were shot through with jargon, stilted diction, poor word choice, rambling thoughts, and even pretentious grammatical errors (such as the ungrammatical but proper-sounding use of “I” instead of “me” as an object of a preposition).

But it got me thinking: What if bad writing is a product of the form of writing required in college—the term paper—and not necessarily intrinsic to a student’s natural writing style or thought process? I hadn’t thought of that until I read my students’ lengthy, weekly blogs and saw the difference in quality. If students are trying to figure out what kind of writing we want in order to get a good grade, communication is secondary. What if “research paper” is a category that invites, even requires, linguistic and syntactic gobbledygook?

Research indicates that, at every age level, people take their writing more seriously when it will be evaluated by peers than when it is to be judged by teachers. Online blogs directed at peers exhibit fewer typographical and factual errors, less plagiarism, and generally better, more elegant and persuasive prose than classroom assignments by the same writers. Longitudinal studies of student writers conducted by Stanford University’s Andrea Lunsford, a professor of English, assessed student writing at Stanford year after year. Lunsford surprised everyone with her findings that students were becoming more literate, rhetorically dexterous, and fluent—not less, as many feared. The Internet, she discovered, had allowed them to develop their writing.

The semester flew by, and we went wherever it took us. The objective was to get rid of a lot of the truisms about “the dumbest generation” and actually look at how new theories of the brain and of attention might help us understand how forms of thinking and collaborating online maximize brain activity. We spent a good deal of time thinking about how accident, disruption, distraction, and difference increase the motivation to learn and to solve problems, both individually and collectively. To find examples, we spent time with a dance ensemble rehearsing a new piece, a jazz band improvising together, and teams of surgeons and computer programmers performing robotic surgery. We walked inside a monkey’s brain in a virtual-reality cave. In another virtual-reality environment, we found ourselves trembling, unable to step off what we knew was a two-inch drop, because it looked as if we were on a ledge over a deep canyon.

One of our readings was On Intelligence (Times Books, 2004),  a unified theory of the brain written by Jeff Hawkins (the neuroscientist who invented the Palm Pilot) with Sandra Blakeslee. I agree with many of Hawkins’s ideas about the brain’s “memory-prediction framework.” My own interest is in how memories—reinforced behaviors from the past—predict future learning, and in how we can intentionally disrupt that pattern to spark innovation and creativity. Hawkins is interested in how we can use the pattern to create next-generation artificial intelligence that will enhance the performance, and profitability, of computerized gadgets like the Palm Pilot. The students and I had been having a heated debate about his theories when a student discovered that Hawkins happened to be in our area to give a lecture. I was away at a meeting, when suddenly my BlackBerry was vibrating with e-mails and IM’s from my students, who had convened the class without me to present a special guest on a special topic: Jeff Hawkins debating the ideas of Jeff Hawkins. It felt a bit like the gag in the classic Woody Allen movie Annie Hall, when someone in the line to purchase movie tickets is expounding pompously on the ideas of Marshall McLuhan and then McLuhan himself steps into the conversation.

It was that kind of class.

“Jeff Hawkins thought it was odd that we decided to hold class when you weren’t there,” one student texted me. “Why wouldn’t we? That’s how it works in ‘This Is Your Brain on the Internet.'”

Project Classroom Makeover. I heard the pride. “Step aside, Prof Davidson: This is a university!”



“A wacko holding forth on a soapbox. If Prof Davidson just wants to yammer and lead discussions, she should resign her position and head for a park or subway platform, and pass a hat for donations.”

Some days, it’s not easy being Prof Davidson.

What caused the ruckus in the blogosphere this time was a blog I posted on the Hastac, an online network, which I co-founded in 2002, dedicated to new forms of learning for a digital age. The post, “How to Crowdsource Grading,” proposed a form of assessment that I planned to use the next time I taught “This Is Your Brain on the Internet.”

It was my students’ fault, really. By the end of the course, I felt confident. I settled in with their evaluations, waiting for the accolades to flow, a pedagogical shower of appreciation. And mostly that’s what I read, thankfully. But there was one group of students who had some candid feedback, and it took me by surprise. They said everything about the course had been bold, new, and exciting.

Everything, that is, except the grading.

They pointed out that I had used entirely conventional methods for testing and evaluating their work. We had talked as a class about the new modes of assessment on the Internet—like public commenting on products and services and leaderboards (peer evaluations adapted from sports sites)—where the consumer of content could also evaluate that content. These students said they loved the class but were perplexed that my assessment method had been so 20th century: Midterm. Final. Research paper. Graded A, B, C, D. The students were right. You couldn’t get more 20th century than that.

The students signed their names to the course evaluations. It turned out the critics were A+ students. That stopped me in my tracks. If you’re a teacher worth your salt, you pay attention when the A+ students say something is wrong.

I was embarrassed that I had overlooked such a crucial part of our brain on the Internet. I contacted my students and said they’d made me rethink some very old habits. Unlearning. I promised I would rectify my mistake the next time I taught the course. I thought about my promise, came up with what seemed like a good system, then wrote about it in my blog.

My new grading method, which set off such waves of vitriol, combined old-fashioned contract grading with peer review. Contract grading goes back at least to the 1960s. In it, the requirements of a course are laid out in advance, and students contract to do all of the assignments or only some of them. A student with a heavy course or workload who doesn’t need an A, for example, might contract to do everything but the final project and then, according to the contract, she might earn a B. It’s all very adult.

But I also wanted some quality control. So I added the crowdsourcing component based on the way I had already structured the course. I thought that since pairs of students were leading each class session and also responding to their peers’ required weekly reading blogs, why not have them determine whether the blogs were good enough to count as fulfilling the terms of the contract? If a blog didn’t pass muster, it would be the task of the student leaders that week to tell the blogger and offer feedback on what would be required for it to count. Student leaders for a class period would have to do that carefully, for next week a classmate would be evaluating their work.

I also liked the idea of students’ each having a turn at being the one giving the grades. That’s not a role most students experience, even though every study of learning shows that you learn best by teaching someone else. Besides, if constant public self-presentation and constant public feedback are characteristics of a digital age, why aren’t we rethinking how we evaluate, measure, test, assess, and create standards? Isn’t that another aspect of our brain on the Internet?

There are many ways of crowdsourcing, and mine was simply to extend the concept of peer leadership to grading. The blogosphere was convinced that either I or my students would be pulling a fast one if the grading were crowdsourced and students had a role in it. That says to me that we don’t believe people can learn unless they are forced to, unless they know it will “count on the test.” As an educator, I find that very depressing. As a student of the Internet, I also find it implausible. If you give people the means to self-publish—whether it’s a photo from their iPhone or a blog—they do so. They seem to love learning and sharing what they know with others. But much of our emphasis on grading is based on the assumption that learning is like cod-liver oil: It is good for you, even though it tastes horrible going down. And much of our educational emphasis is on getting one answer right on one test—as if that says something about the quality of what you have learned or the likelihood that you will remember it after the test is over.

Grading, in a curious way, exemplifies our deepest convictions about excellence and authority, and specifically about the right of those with authority to define what constitutes excellence. If we crowdsource grading, we are suggesting that young people without credentials are fit to judge quality and value. Welcome to the Internet, where everyone’s a critic and anyone can express a view about the new iPhone, restaurant, or quarterback. That democratizing of who can pass judgment is digital thinking. As I found out, it is quite unsettling to people stuck in top-down models of formal education and authority.

Learn. Unlearn. Relearn. In addition to the content of our course—which ranged across cognitive psychology, neuroscience, management theory, literature and the arts, and the various fields that compose science-and-technology studies—”This Is Your Brain on the Internet” was intended to model a different way of knowing the world, one that encompasses new and different forms of collaboration and attention. More than anything, it courted failure. Unlearning.

“I smell a reality TV show,” one critic sniffed.

That’s not such a bad idea, actually. Maybe I’ll try that next time I teach “This Is Your Brain on the Internet.” They can air it right after Project Classroom Makeover.

Cathy N. Davidson is a professor of interdisciplinary studies at Duke University. She served as the first vice provost for interdisciplinary studies at the university from 1998 until 2006, when she helped create the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience. This essay is adapted from her book Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn, just published by Viking.


Research Tools

The Internet can be a researcher’s dream come true. By browsing the Internet, much as you would browse the shelves of a library, you can access information on seemingly limitless topics. In addition, web-based catalogs are available in many libraries to assist researchers in locating printed books, journals, government documents, and other materials.

Possibly the biggest obstacle facing researchers on the Internet is how to effectively and efficiently access the vast amount of information available with the simple click of the mouse. With the Internet’s potential as a research tool, teachers must instruct and guide their students on manageable strategies for sorting through the abundance of information. The search for reliable resources can be both overwhelming and frustrating if students are left on their own in their initial search. A few simple guidelines can make conducting research more manageable, reliable, and fun.

The research process

Lessons and projects should be designed so that research time on the Web can be maximized in terms of efficiency. This may mean gathering necessary information beforehand, having students work in groups, or focusing on whole-class projects.

Barron and Ivers (1996) outlined the following cycle for online research projects.

RESEARCH CYCLE ILLUSTRATIONStep 1: Questioning — Before going on the Internet, students should structure their questions.
Step 2: Planning — Students should develop a search strategy with a list of sites to investigate.
Step 3: Gathering — Students use the Web to collect and gather information.
Step 4: Sorting & Sifting — Students analyze and categorize the data they gathered on the Web.
Step 5: Synthesizing — Students integrate the information into the lesson, and draw conclusions.
Step 6: Evaluating — Students assess the results, and if necessary, begin the process again.

Searching the Web

There are billions of pages of information on the World Wide Web, and finding relevant and reliable information can be a challenge. Search engines are powerful tools that index millions of web sites. When entering a keyword into a search engine, you will receive a list with the number of hits or results and links to the related sites. The number of hits you receive may vary a great deal among different search engines. Some engines search only the titles of the web sites, and others search the full text.

Techniques for using the different search tools vary. For best results, read the search tips or hints that are provided at each search site. Also, note that some of the search engines do not allow Boolean searches that combine words with the logical connectors of AND, OR, or NOT.

Common commands for search engines include:

  • Quotation Marks ( ” )
    Using quotation marks will help to find specific phrases involving more than one word. For example: “Martin Luther King”
  • Addition Sign ( + )
    Adding a + sign before a word means that it MUST be included in each site listed. For example: + Florida + taxes
  • Subtraction Sign ( – )
    Adding a – sign before a word means that it will NOT appear in the sites listed. For example: + Washington -DC
  • Asterisks ( * )
    Asterisks can be used for wild-cards in some search engines. For example: Mexic* will look for Mexico, Mexican, Mexicali, etc.

Search engine capabilities

Search engines are rated by the size of their index. Large engines such as Google are good tools to use when searching for obscure information, but one drawback to an extensive index is the overwhelming number of results on more general topics. If this is the case, it might be better to use a search engine with a directory structure such as Yahoo.

Many search engines provide directory-listing search tools such as yellow pages, white pages, and email addresses. In addition, many allow you to personalize their site to your needs. For example, you might want to set the attributes of the page to show educational news headlines and your favorite teacher resource links. In the preferences of your web browser, you can then set this page as your home start-up page.

Search engines especially for children

Search engines designed for younger students are useful tools for the classroom. They screen for inappropriate material and provide appropriate sites for students on topics related to educational and entertainment purposes. Using these sites helps to narrow the scope of hits on a search inquiry. As a result, the student will spend less time reading irrelevant material.

Although some search engines allow you to turn on filters to help filter out adult content, they are not always thorough or accurate. There are several good search engines that are specifically designed for the younger audience, such as Ask Jeeves and Yahooligans.

Evaluating Internet sources

Students often uncritically accept information they see in print or on computer screens. Students should be encouraged to carefully evaluate sources found on the Internet. The evaluation tool (below) will help students analyze web resources in terms of accuracy, authority, objectivity, timeliness, and coverage. Consideration of these factors will weed out many of the inaccurate or trivial sites students may encounter.

Analyzing web resources
Answer the following questions to evaluate web resources.Accuracy
Are sources listed for the facts?
Can information be verified through another source?
Has the site been edited for grammar, spelling, etc.?Authority
Is the publisher reputable?
Is the sponsorship clear?
Is a phone number or postal address available?
Is there a link to the sponsoring organization?
Is the author qualified to write on this topic?

Does the sponsor have commercial interests?
Is advertising included on the page?
Are there obvious biases?

Is a publication date indicated?
Is there a date for the last update?
Is the topic one that does not change frequently?

Are the topics covered in depth?
Does the content appear to be complete?


Setting bookmarks on the Web

Browsers such as Safari, Firefox, and Internet Explorer provide a way to create a list of your favorite sites that you can access with a click of the mouse. The procedure for creating a list of sites is an easy and powerful tool for web use. When you find a web page that you want to bookmark, simply select the “Add Bookmark” or “Add Favorite” option from the menu bar. To return to the site at a later time, choose the name from the bookmark or favorite list, and you will immediately access the site. You can organize your bookmarks into file folders and can save them on a disk to transfer and use on other computers.

Copyright issues

Teachers and students have a somewhat flexible, but not unlimited, copyright privilege under the “fair use clause” of the U.S. Copyright Act. “Fair use” is the means by which educators of non-profit educational institutions may use copyrighted works without seeking permission or making payment to the author or publisher. Teachers and students are also protected to some extent by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which went into effect in October 1998. Under current guidelines, teachers and students are able to make limited use of copyrighted materials for instructional purposes.

Currently, copyright law as it relates to the Internet is vague and being challenged and rewritten on an ongoing basis. However, the guidelines of the “fair use clause” can be applied to Internet use in the classroom. Although classroom use allows teachers and students to be creative, you must also be extremely careful. Teachers and students should realize that all materials found on the Internet are protected by the same copyright laws as printed materials. Copyright protects “original works of authorship” that are in a tangible form of expression.

Copyrightable works include the following categories:

  • literary works
  • musical works, including any accompanying words
  • dramatic works, including any accompanying music, pantomimes, and choreographic works
  • pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works
  • motion pictures and other audiovisual works
  • sound recordings
  • architectural works

These categories should be viewed broadly. For example, computer programs and most “compilations” may be registered as “literary works”; maps and architectural plans may be registered as “pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works.”

Important questions to ask

  • What is the purpose for using the material?
  • Who is the audience?
  • How widely will the material be distributed?
  • Will the material be reproduced?

It is allowable under copyright guidelines to use copyrighted materials for class assignments. Check specific guidelines for length of time the material can be kept up on a web site.

When in doubt, ask.
If you and your students find a graphic or portion of a text on the Internet that you want to utilize in a class project, locate the source of the web site and email them to ask permission for use of their graphic or text. Many web site designers are happy for you to “borrow” their graphics and words. Some ask that you give them credit and others do not. Although your students may be too young to comprehend copyright law, they can understand the concept of respecting someone else’s property.

It is advisable for school sites to have an online service provider or an “agent” who can act as a filter on copyright issues. The agent would be the person someone would notify if they found a copyright violation on a student or school web site. In most cases, you are simply asked to remove the offending copyright violation.

For more information on fair use guidelines for educational multimedia, go to the
Multimedia Fair Use Guidelines (CCMC) web site.

Copyright discussions with students may include:

  • Does copyright apply to student web pages? Any original work of authorship, whether created by a student, teacher, or professional is protected by the copyright laws. An original piece of work does not need to possess or display a copyright to be protected under the copyright laws.
  • May students “borrow” art, sound, animation, etc., from others’ web pages? Resources (such as graphics and sound files) from most web sites are copyright protected and require permission to use, but the resources at some web sites are advertised as “free” for use. These web sites may require that credit is given to the original source of the materials.

Student activity: Finding a Needle in Cyberspace

Using the major search engines on the Web, find the best way to look for a needle. Fill out the following chart, noting the number of hits you receive in each of the search engines for the word needle and the phrase “Space Needle.” Then, answer the questions at the bottom of the page.

Search Engine Search for: needle Search for: “Space Needle”


  1. Which search engine would be the best if you were looking for something very obscure?
  2. Did searching for “Space Needle” always result in more hits or less hits than searching for needle? Why?
  3. Which search engine seemed to display the result fastest?
  4. Try another search. This time, look for sites that contain all of these words: needle, sleeping, and beauty. (Hint: On many of the search engines you can specify that certain words MUST be included by adding a + in front of the word: +needle +sleeping +beauty.)

NOTE: This activity is available as a separate web page or as a PDF file for printing.

Student activity: Owner’s Rights

Often a web site will state the terms and conditions for the use of copyrighted materials. The following activities require students to find this information on two different web sites.

America’s Story from America’s Library

America’s Story
America’s Story from America’s Library is from the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. and is designed for young people.

About this Site
From the “America’s Story” web site, go to About this Site and find out who owns the site and copyright information.

  1. Does the Library of Congress own the rights to everything in its collections?
  2. What type of information does the Library of Congress provide?
  3. If a researcher would like to use material from this site, whom must they contact to get permission?
  4. Where can a researcher find more information about U.S. Copyright law?

Explore the States
From the “America’s Story” web site, go to Explore the States and then click on Florida. Next, click on the spyglass for enlargement of the photo credit.

  1. “Saint Augustine, Fla. Bastions of Fort Marion”, comes from what collection of photographs from the Library of Congress?
  2. Who owns the right to photo 1?
  3. Between what years was the photograph “Jacksonville, Fla. Signal tower” taken?

Singing Games
Visit the Mary Mack Singing Games section of “America’s Library”.

  1. The group of girls performing were from what high school?
  2. What was the date of the performance/recording?
  3. What is the name of the song?
  4. Can it be used for a class project?

Meet Amazing Americans
Visit the Frederick Douglas section of “America’s Library”.

  1. Click on “A Daring Escape.” What is the copyright year of the 1845 cover of Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave?
  2. Who owns the rights to this image?
  3. Click on “Follow the North Star“. What newspaper did Frederick Douglas publish?
  4. Where in the Library of Congress is this newspaper located?
  5. Click on “Recruiting for the Union Army“. Who owns the rights to this picture and in what year was it copyrighted?

Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has many beautiful photographs on their site. They also have a page on their site concerning the terms and conditions of use of these photos.

  1. Are you permitted to use images from this site in a school report that you are not publishing?
  2. Are you permitted to copy the images to a CD-ROM?
  3. Are you permitted to use images from this site on a personal web page that includes advertisements?
  4. Citations for images must include the author and source of the materials as you would from any printed work. What additional piece of information must also be included?

NOTE: This activity is available as a separate web page or as a PDF file for printing.

Student activity: Browse the Library of Congress

Visit the The Library of Congress Gateway to Library Catalogs .

01. Who is the author of Waiting for Godot?
03. What is the last digit in the ISBN number for Ann E. Barron’s 1997 book?
04. Who wrote The Mysterious Cat?
06. Who wrote a pantomime about Jack and the Beanstalk?
07. What is the first word in the title of one of Michael Verney’s books?
09. What is the last digit in the LC Call Number for 101 Dalmatians by Justine Korman?
10. Who wrote Anatomy of the Honey Bee?
12. When Ten Great Basketball Offenses was revised,how many offenses were there?
13. Who wrote the Global Mind?
14. What is the title of a book by Leon Uris?

01. Who wrote How Good Guys Grow Rich?
02. How many books did Judy Blume publish in 1972?
03. What does the F. stand for in F. Scott Fitzgerald?
05. Who illustrated the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, published by Heritage Press in 1940?
08. Where was the Equestrian Statue of Peter I published?
11. How many years did the author of The Scarlet Letter live?

NOTE: This activity is available as a separate web page or as a PDF file for printing.

Answers: Chapter 5 activities

Student Activities Answers

Finding a Needle in Cyberspace

Answers will vary.

About this site

  1. No
  2. Factual
  3. Copyright Owners

Explore the States

  1. Selected Civil War Photographs, 1861-1865
  2. Sam Cooley
  3. 1860-1865

Singing Games

  1. Liberty High School
  2. 5/16/1939
  3. “Itiskit-Itasket”
  4. No

Meet Amazing Americans

  1. 1999
  2. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  3. The North Star
  4. African American Odyssey: A Quest for Full Citizenship
  5. Currier and Ives, 1863

Metropolitan Museum of Art

  1. Yes
  2. No
  3. No
  4. The URL “”

Browsing the Library of Congress

01. Beckett
03. Five
04. Garrick
06. Cregan
07. Complete
09. Two
10. Snodgrass
12. Twelve
13. Perelman
14. Exodus
01. Berg
02. Three
03. Francis
05. Rockwell
09. Leningrad
11. Sixty


Innovation Imperative: Change Everything

Online Education as an Agent of Transformation

WHEN the first commercially successful steamship traveled the Hudson River in 1807, it didn’t appear to be much of a competitive threat to transoceanic sailing ships. It was more expensive, less reliable and couldn’t travel very far. Sailors dismissed the idea that steam technology could ever measure up — the vast reach of the Atlantic Ocean surely demanded sails. And so steam power gained its foothold as a “disruptive innovation” in inland waterways, where the ability to move against the wind, or when there was no wind at all, was important.

Tony Cenicola/The New York Times


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In 1819, the technology vastly improved, the S.S. Savannah made the first Atlantic crossing powered by steam and sail (in truth, only 80 of the 633-hour voyage was by steam). Sailing ship companies didn’t completely ignore the advancement. They built hybrid ships, adding steam engines to their sailing vessels, but never entered the pure steamship market. Ultimately, they paid the price for this decision. By the early 1900s, with steam able to power a ship across the ocean on its own, and do so faster than the wind, customers migrated to steamships. Every single transoceanic sailing-ship company went out of business.

Traditional colleges are currently on their hybrid voyage across the ocean.

Like steam, online education is a disruptive innovation — one that introduces more convenient and affordable products or services that over time transform sectors. Yet many bricks-and-mortar colleges are making the same mistake as the once-dominant tall ships: they offer online courses but are not changing the existing model. They are not saving students time and money, the essential steps to disruption. And though their approach makes sense in the short term, it leaves them vulnerable as students gravitate toward less expensive colleges.

For-profit universities latched on early to online learning, rough as it was in the 1990s. The target, as with all disruptive innovations, was customers who wouldn’t otherwise consume their product — in this case, working adults for whom traditional higher education was inconvenient. In theory, for-profit companies should have shaken up the higher education landscape. But federal financial aid seems to have gummed up the disruption: the easy revenue has encouraged some schools to indiscriminately enroll, often at the expense of quality, and has discouraged cost reduction.

Still, the theory predicts that, be it steam or online education, existing consumers will ultimately adopt the disruption, and a host of struggling colleges and universities — the bottom 25 percent of every tier, we predict — will disappear or merge in the next 10 to 15 years. Already traditional universities are showing the strains of a broken business model, reflecting demand and pricing pressures previously unheard-of in higher education. One example: Needing a cash infusion, Thunderbird School of Global Management in July announced a merger with Laureate Education Inc., an online pioneer.

Even the venerable Harvard Business School has ceded ground to online instruction. Before starting school, students are directed to learning modules on the web that cover entry-level accounting concepts. With the basic competencies covered, classes spend more time on higher-order discussion, and more deeply explore real-world applications. Harvard Business School is also developing a series of “pre-M.B.A. and post-M.B.A.” online courses that it plans to have ready by summer. It calls the initiative HBX.

Meanwhile, many universities have jumped on the MOOC bandwagon, creating a hodgepodge of these massive open online courses for public consumption. But for MOOCs to really fulfill their disruptive potential, they must be built into low-cost programs with certification of skills of value to employers. So far, only a few traditional universities have incorporated MOOCs into their curriculum, and only to supplement what they are already doing — like “flipping the classroom,” with lectures watched from home. MITx is trying to add structure to the MOOC free-for-all by rolling out a sequence of computer science foundational courses this fall, and the MOOC provider Coursera has just started the Wharton M.B.A. Foundation Series. But perhaps the most promising experiment is from the Georgia Institute of Technology, which next year will start offering a $6,600 online master’s degree, a sixth the price of its current degree, in partnership with the MOOC platform Udacity and AT&T Georgia Tech is putting its reputation behind a MOOC credential.


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The lessons from any number of industries teach us that those that truly innovate — fundamentally transforming the model, instead of just incorporating the technology into established methods of operation ­ — will have the final say. So it’s no wonder that observers of this phenomenon ask if online learning portends the end of the residential collegiate experience — the opportunity for students to live, socialize and learn together.

The experience that so many of us remember fondly — those bridge years from childhood to functioning adult — is already one that only a minority of students enjoys. According to the Census Bureau, just 30 percent of all beginning students live on a college campus. But it’s unlikely that the residential experience will disappear. Counterintuitive as it may seem, online instruction may mean even more students benefit from the collegial spirit, though one that looks quite different from the residential experience of today.

Right now, some students who want to live on campus find it prohibitively expensive; some who would rather commute live too far away to do so. As online learning evolves, students should be able to customize their experience with what they need and can afford. This kind of unbundling has occurred in countless industries.

Consider personal computers. Nascent technologies always underserve their customers. As they mature, the opposite happens: they overserve, with bells and whistles customers are less willing to pay for. In the beginning, computer components were unpredictable and not standardized, and each company had to build every one of its parts. As the ways in which the components fit together became better understood, companies like Dell could quickly and affordably customize a computer. A customer ordering a Dell in the 1990s specified the amount of memory wanted and type of Seagate drive and Intel processor. Dell simply snapped the modules together and shipped out a computer within 48 hours.

The Minerva Project, a start-up headquartered in San Francisco that aims to provide an affordable liberal arts education, offers clues as to how this might unfold in higher education. Minerva anticipates that most of its students will be from outside the United States. To serve them, it will enlist operators to create mini-campuses around the globe where clusters of its students will live and socialize together in residence halls, as well as take online courses and work together on projects.

With this unbundling, many more students should have the ability to create aspects of a residential experience for themselves. Some students might take courses online and then, to develop their skills, attend learning spaces like Dev Bootcamp in Chicago and San Francisco, or one of General Assembly’s eight locations around the world. Others may just value the flexibility and convenience of a total online learning experience.

As concepts and skills are taught more effectively online, it’s unlikely that face-to-face interaction will cease to matter. Instead, students will be able to arrange for such experiences when it suits the job they need to get done. Given the reality that we all have different learning needs at different times, that’s a far more student-centered experience. It may not benefit some colleges but should create more options for all students.


The Mozilla Manifesto


The Internet is becoming an increasingly important part of our lives. The Mozilla project is a global community of people who believe that openness, innovation, and opportunity are key to the continued health of the Internet. We have worked together since 1998 to ensure that the Internet is developed in a way that benefits everyone. We are best known for creating the Mozilla Firefox web browser.

The Mozilla project uses a community-based approach to create world-class open source software and to develop new types of collaborative activities. We create communities of people involved in making the Internet experience better for all of us.

As a result of these efforts, we have distilled a set of principles that we believe are critical for the Internet to continue to benefit the public good as well as commercial aspects of life. We set out these principles below.

The goals for the Manifesto are to:

● articulate a vision for the Internet that Mozilla participants want the Mozilla Foundation to pursue;
● speak to people whether or not they have a technical background;
● make Mozilla contributors proud of what we’re doing and motivate us to continue; and
● provide a framework for other people to advance this vision of the Internet.

These principles will not come to life on their own. People are needed to make the Internet open and participatory—people acting as individuals, working together in groups, and leading others. The Mozilla Foundation is committed to advancing the principles set out in the Mozilla Manifesto. We invite others to join us and make the Internet an ever better place for everyone.


● The Internet is an integral part of modern life–a key component in education, communication, collaboration, business, entertainment and society as a whole.
● The Internet is a global public resource that must remain open and accessible.
● The Internet should enrich the lives of individual human beings.
● Individuals’ security on the Internet is fundamental and cannot be treated as optional.
● Individuals must have the ability to shape their own experiences on the Internet.
● The effectiveness of the Internet as a public resource depends upon interoperability (protocols, data formats, content), innovation and decentralized participation worldwide.
● Free and open source software promotes the development of the Internet as a public resource.
● Transparent community-based processes promote participation, accountability, and trust.
● Commercial involvement in the development of the Internet brings many benefits; a balance between commercial goals and public benefit is critical.
● Magnifying the public benefit aspects of the Internet is an important goal, worthy of time, attention and commitment.

Advancing the Mozilla Manifesto

There are many different ways of advancing the principles of the Mozilla Manifesto. We welcome a broad range of activities, and anticipate the same creativity that Mozilla participants have shown in other areas of the project. For individuals not deeply involved in the Mozilla project, one basic and very effective way to support the Manifesto is to use Mozilla Firefox and other products that embody the principles of the Manifesto.

Mozilla Foundation Pledge

The Mozilla Foundation pledges to support the Mozilla Manifesto in its activities. Specifically, we will:
● build and enable open source technologies and communities that support the Manifesto’s principles;
● build and deliver great consumer products that support the Manifesto’s principles;
● use the Mozilla assets (intellectual property such as copyrights and trademarks, infrastructure, funds, and reputation) to keep the Internet an open platform;
● promote models for creating economic value for the public benefit; and
● promote the Mozilla Manifesto principles in public discourse and within the Internet industry.

Some Foundation activities–currently the creation, delivery and promotion of consumer products–are conducted primarily through the Mozilla Foundation’s wholly owned subsidiary, the Mozilla Corporation.

The Mozilla Foundation invites all others who support the principles of the Mozilla Manifesto to join with us, and to find new ways to make this vision of the Internet a reality.

2014 International Year of Crystallography

Crystals shape our world

© IUCr and Wikimedia Commons.
The crystal structure of graphite (bottom) is very different from that of diamond although both are pure carbon.

Crystals —familiar to all in gemstones, glittering snowflakes or grains of salt— are everywhere in nature. Throughout history, people have been fascinated by their beauty and mystery. Two thousand years ago, the process of crystallizing sugar and salt was already known to the ancient Indian and Chinese civilizations. Since then, the study of crystals’ inner structure and properties has known steady progress, giving us our deepest insights into the arrangement of atoms in the solid state and leading to advancements the sciences of solid-state physics, chemistry, biology, medicine and even mathematics, by considering the symmetries behind crystalline and quasicrystalline patterns.

In the early 20th century, it was discovered that X-rays could be used to ‘see’ the structure of matter in a non-intrusive manner, thus beginning the dawn of modern crystallography —the science that examines the arrangement of atoms in solids. X-ray crystallography has allowed us to study the chemical bonds which draw one atom to another. Crystallographers now apply this knowledge to modify a structure and thus change its properties and behavior. Since this discovery, crystallography has become the very core of structural science, revealing the structure of DNA, allowing us to understand and fabricate computer memories, showing us how proteins are created in cells and helping scientists to design powerful new materials and drugs. Thus crystallography has many applications. It permeates our daily lives and forms the backbone of industries which are increasingly reliant on knowledge generation to develop new products, in widely diverse fields that include agro-food, aeronautics, automobiles, cosmetics and computers as well as the electro-mechanical, pharmaceutical and mining industries.

Image: Wikimedia.
Snowflakes are crystals. Their hexagonal symmetry results from the way in which water molecules are bound to each other.

Although crystallography underpins all of the sciences today, it remains relatively unknown to the general public. That is one of the reasons why the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) proclaimed 2014 as the International Year of Crystallography (IYCr2014)*, and requested UNESCO to lead and coordinate, with the International Union of Crystallography (IUCr), the planning and implementation of educational and capacity-building activities during the Year.

2014 marks the centennial of the birth of X-ray crystallography, thanks to the work of William Henry, William Lawrence Bragg (father and son) and Max von Laue —the later was awarded the 1914 Nobel Prize in Physics for his discovery of the diffraction of X-rays by crystals.

A century later, the International Year of Crystallography 2014 highlights the continuing importance of crystallography and its role in addressing post-2015 development issues such as food security, safe drinking water, health care, sustainable energy and environmental remediation; as well as commemorating auspicious crystallography accolades. This Year also commemorates the 50th anniversary of another Nobel Prize, awarded to Dorothy Hodgkin for her work on vitamin B12 and penicillin, and is the 400th anniversary of Kepler’s observation of the symmetrical form of ice crystals (in 1611), thus beginning the wider study of the role of symmetry in matter.

* At its sixty-sixth session in July 2012

Main objectives

© Shutterstock/S_E.
Crystallography can identify new materials that purify water, such as nanosponges
  • Increasing public awareness of the science of crystallography and how it underpins most technological developments in our modern society
  • Inspiring young people through public exhibitions, conferences and hands-on demonstrations in schools
  • Illustrating the universality of science
  • Supporting the Africa Initiative on Crystallography and creating similar programmes in Asia and Latin America
  • Fostering international collaboration between scientists worldwide, especially North–South contributions
  • Promoting education and research in crystallography and its links to other sciences
  • Involving the large synchrotron and neutron radiation facilities worldwide in the celebrations of IYCr2014, including the SESAME project set up under UNESCO auspices

Main activities

Phillip Maiwald/Wikipedia.
Lotfollah Mosque in Iran.
  • Organizing hands-on Crystallography Open Laboratories
  • Encouraging the organization of Crystal Growth competitions worldwide
  • Fostering the organization of Crystallography Exhibitions
  • Launching an open-access crystallography journal
  • Providing all levels of students, from pre-school to university, with crystallography demonstrations at appropriate levels
  • Publicizing the contributions that crystallographers make to the global economy by submitting articles to the press and to magazines or developing television and radio programmes
  • Sponsoring poster exhibitions highlighting the usefulness and wonders of crystallography
  • Organizing problem-solving projects through which students can use their knowledge of crystallography, physics and chemistry
  • Publicizing the contributions that crystallography has made to improve lives, particularly recent developments in drug design and material science
  • Organizing crystal-growing competitions
  • Interacting with governments to underscore the importance of a strong crystallographic education
  • Organizing consultations concerning the best ways to save all diffraction data collected in large-scale facilities and crystallography laboratories

Key events

© IUCr.
Antibodies binding to a virus.
  • Opening Ceremony of the IYCr204, UNESCO Headquarters, 20-21 January 2014
  • Open Laboratories in Crystallography, in Africa, Asia and Latin America, during the Year
  • Asian Summit Meeting on Crystallography, Karachi, Pakistan, 28-30 April 2014
  • Latin America and Caribbean Summit Meeting on Crystallography, Campina, Brazil, September 2014
  • African Summit Meeting on Crystallography, Bloemfontein, South Africa, 15-17 October 2014.


IYCr2014: What crystallography can do for you

The aim of this short video is to announce 2014 as the International Year of Crystallography. Crystallography is that branch of science that is concerned with the investigation of the arrangement of atoms in matter. It is from the basic knowledge of how atoms are linked to each other to form molecules or extended structures that the properties and behaviour of materials can be understood. Crystallography is thus vital in chemistry, biology, physics, materials science, mineralogy, and other disciplines. Hence the title of the video: IYCr2014: What crystallography can do for you. Our commitment for 2014 is to tell the world about the enormous contribution that crystallography makes to society.
The video begins with a view of the beautiful Pulpí geode in Almería in southern Spain, Europe’s largest geode. The walls of this ovoid cave, which measures approximately 8 x 2 x 2 metres, are coated with huge transparent  gypsum crystals.These crystals resemble large blocks of ice, bringing to mind the Greek origin of the word crystal: krystallos, meaning supercooled water. The cave is a magnificent example of the aesthetics of the crystalline world.
From the very moment we get up, and with every step we take, there are crystals all around us. We find crystals as components of our toothpaste, as sugar grains or forming the structure  of an eggshell, thus controlling its mechanical properties. Crystals are also in the liquid crystal displays of alarm clocks, our mobile  phones and our computer screens. Crystals are also in the catalytic converters found in cars, in the snow falling outside or in the frozen foods in our freezer. Crystals are literally everywhere in our daily lives.
Our bones as well as our teeth are made of crystals of a type of calcium phosphate, called hydroxylapatite, which forms our skeleton, allowing us to stay upright. Single crystals of calcite (one of the most common minerals) located in the inner ear control our equilibrium. We do not fall down because of crystals! Advances in the discipline of crystallography help to produce not only biocompatible materials mimicking the size and texture of these hydroxylapatite crystals for better prostheses but also new materials inspired by crystal structures that are part of living organisms, such as snail shells, coral or pearls.
The vast majority of the minerals that make up rocks are crystals. Snowflakes themselves are nothing but crystallized water. In many cases these natural mineral crystals display beautiful polyhedral shapes with sharp edges that tell us about the internal ordered structure characteristic of crystalline matter. Jewels and semiprecious  stones appear mostly as crystallized minerals in nature. Furthermore, the study of the properties of natural crystals improves extraction and processing in modern mining.
The vast majority of today’s materials such as semiconductors, superconductors, light alloys, non-linear optical elements and catalysts are crystalline, as are materials that are expected to play a role in our future, for example quasicrystals and graphene.
New technologies use liquid crystals for watches and telephones, crystals for lasers, semiconductors in the electronic components of chips and LED displays.
Every medicine needs to be crystallized to ensure its purity, verify its pharmacological functionality and improve its efficiency. Thanks to crystallography there are new methods that allow us to visualize the spatial arrangement of atoms and molecules and use this knowledge to understand how drugs work and how they can be improved.
Conserving precious works of art is a continuing problem because of the materials used. Modern crystallographic techniques allow us to identify these materials and understand the reactions that cause the material to age.
Crystals and crystallographic theories play a fundamental role in art and beauty. For instance, the periodic  repetition of matter that constitutes crystals creates patterns that are similar to those found in the mosaics of the Alhambra and even today helps to inspire new decorative designs.The concept  of crystal and crystalline order and the rationale behind it has always fostered an appreciation towards the natural harmony and beauty of the science, which is clearly shown in some of M. C. Escher’s prints in architecture and philosophy. Purist and cubist art as well as the architectural dreams of Le Corbusier that we can see today on the skylines of our cities have been inspired by crystals.
We all know that the most valuable gemstones are crystalline, like diamonds, rubies and emeralds …
… but few people know that the cosmetics industry exploits the properties of crystals: colour and texture depend on the shape and size of the crystalline phase used in the manufacture of beauty products.
We are all familiar with sugar and salt, both of which are crystals. The quality and taste of brown and white sugar depend on how they are crystallized. The prices are different for simple table salt, Maldon salt or “fleur de sel” because they are crystallized in different ways. But you may be surprised to learn that chocolate also contains crystals and that the quality of the chocolate is dependent on how these cocoa fatty acid crystals crystallize. The taste and quality of ice cream depends on the size and shape of the ice crystals it contains.
Crystalline pigments add colour to our lives. But surprisingly it is the interference of light  with the crystal structure of chitin rather than pigments that gives butterfly wings or birds’ feathers their beautiful colours. The exploitation of so-called “structural colours” may play a role in the future of the design industry.
The crystallization of fertilizers, soil conditioners and other agrochemicals must be performed to higher degrees of accuracy now new quality-control measures are in effect.
Solar photovoltaic panels use crystalline silicon to convert sunlight into electricity. The future of solar energy depends on developing new arrangements of crystals in semiconductors. Zeolites, highly porous crystalline materials, are used in petroleum refinement to obtain better and cleaner fuel.
Crystals that form some types of meteorites contain information about the history of the early stages of our planet and solar system.
Revealing the mineral composition of Mars, the Moon and outer space is the first step to knowing about the places we may be destined to explore and live. Data on mineral composition is also crucial in answering the age-old question: is there life on other planets? Crystallography provides the technology to characterize the mineral composition and share some of the secrets of other planets and solar systems.
Currently we do not have microscopes powerful enough to observe the intimate structures of materials. Thanks to developments in diffraction theory and the ability to crystallize large and complex biological macromolecules, crystallographers are able to reveal the atomic structure of nucleic acids and proteins.Thus we are able to understand the relationships between atomic structure and biochemical function of these key molecules, i.e. how life works at the molecular  level.
Thanks to these crystallographic methods, crystallographers have revealed the helical structure of DNA, how haemoglobin transports oxygen and how the hormone insulin  works. And it is crystallography and crystallographic techniques that have shed light on the structure of the target protein involved in AIDS.


The video ends with an animation featuring the two great discoveries on which crystallography is built. The first discovery, in the 19th century, is that a crystal is made up of the periodical arrangement of units of matter (either atoms, molecules or macromolecules) and that, as a result of this internal periodical order, crystals display external polyhedral shapes with precise symmetry. The second landmark discovery in the early years of the 20th century is that the interaction of crystals with a beam of X-rays produces diffraction patterns that contain valuable information about the internal structure of the crystals. Crystallographers have been able to develop theoretical and experimental tools to deconstruct these sets of spots and transform them into images of the atoms and molecules from many types of materials, from common table salt or the most healing medicines to the complex constituents of life: nucleic acids, viruses and proteins. And with that critical information, crucial advances in medicine, materials engineering, chemistry, geology and pharmacology have contributed to and continue to improve social welfare. No wonder  then that the Nobel Committee has awarded the discipline 28 Nobel Prizes.


Learn about crystallography

These pages link to information about the subject of crystallography.




MOOC on “The Fascination of Crystals and Symmetry”


Beauty and Structure

Glistening rubies, sugar, stones or snowflakes – we encounter crystals in our daily lives. Even though they all look very different, there is one thing they have in common: their molecules are arranged in lattices. How do these structures form? What properties do they contribute to these materials? How can you classify them? This is shown in this course. The focus is placed upon the creation of a crystallographic basis, enabling you to decipher and understand the cryptic language and the abstract concepts of crystallography. With this basis, you will be prepared for the advanced lectures and readings in solid state chemistry and physics, material sciences, crystallography or mineralogy.­

Aesthetics and Fundamentals

After the definition of the term “structure” and the notion of what makes a crystal and why anisotropic properties (specific materials properties are direction dependent) result from this, the correspondence principle (relationship between the inner structure and the outer shape of the crystal) is introduced and visualized in aesthetic images. We will treat the concept of the unit cell – the fundamental building block of every crystal – in detail. We want to use platforms like flickr or twitter to share everyday life examples with each other; thereby the concepts of translation lattices and motives are taught. In this context, there will be enough challenging exercises to train and apply what has been learned so far. Another unit will cover the hierarchical systematics in the classification of crystals (crystal systems, crystal classes, Bravais lattices) and its benefits. Occasional excursus will be used to link course content to current events and questions in research (i.e. the International Year of Crystallography or 2011’s Nobel Prize in chemistry for the discovery of quasicrystals).

Explore Crystals in 3D

Next, the symmetry of crystals is dealt with. All macroscopic and microscopic symmetry elements and symmetry operations (mirror planes, glide planes, centers of inversion, rotational axes and screw axes) are characterized and illustrated with many examples gathered through crowdsourcing. We hope that you will take many pictures, we can discuss together regarding symmetry elements. Finally, the connection to the systematics of crystals is shown and we will discuss the concept of what is called “space group”. The last part of the course will focus on practical experience. Using free computer programs for three-dimensional crystal visualization (Mercury, VESTA etc.), you are given the opportunity to discover countless crystal structures, which are freely available on the internet as CIF-files. Concepts like the asymmetric unit, fractional coordinates, general and special positions, multiplicity and Wyckoff positions can be discovered, developed and understood on the fly. Of course, the respective tutorials to use the software will be provided.

Learning targets / Educational objectives

Upon completion of this online course you can answer the following questions:

What do the patterns on wallpapers and the structures of crystals have in common? There are innumerable appearances of crystals. How can all crystals in this world be classified into seven different crystal systems? Why is it sufficient to know the positions of only a few atoms to precisely describe a crystalline solid consisting of a myriad of atoms? How can you find crystallographic data and how can it be analyzed regarding symmetry? What relationship exists between the structure and the properties of a material? Why is diamond so hard and how can you explain phenomena such as ferroelectricity?

Prior Knowledge

Basic knowledge in chemistry (atoms, simple molecules).


Top 13 Influencer posts of 2013

11 Simple Concepts to Become a Better Leader:

Being likeable will help you in your job, business, relationships, and life. I interviewed dozens of successful business leaders in my last book, Likeable Business, to determine what made them so likeable and their companies so successful. All of the concepts are simple, and yet, perhaps in the name of revenues or the bottom line, we often lose sight of the simple things – things that not only make us human, but can actually help us become more successful. Below are the eleven most important principles to integrate to become a better leader:

1. Listening

“When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.” – Ernest Hemingway

Listening is the foundation of any good relationship. Great leaders listen to what their customers and prospects want and need, and they listen to the challenges those customers face. They listen to colleagues and are open to new ideas. They listen to shareholders, investors, and competitors. Here’s why the best CEO’s listen more.

2. Storytelling

“Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world today.” -Robert McAfee Brown

After listening, leaders need to tell great stories in order to sell their products, but more important, in order to sell their ideas. Storytelling is what captivates people and drives them to take action. Whether you’re telling a story to one prospect over lunch, a boardroom full of people, or thousands of people through an online video – storytelling wins customers.

3. Authenticity

“I had no idea that being your authentic self could make me as rich as I’ve become. If I had, I’d have done it a lot earlier.” -Oprah Winfrey

Great leaders are who they say they are, and they have integrity beyond compare. Vulnerability and humility are hallmarks of the authentic leader and create a positive, attractive energy. Customers, employees, and media all want to help an authentic person to succeed. There used to be a divide between one’s public self and private self, but the social internet has blurred that line. Tomorrow’s leaders are transparent about who they are online, merging their personal and professional lives together.

4. Transparency

“As a small businessperson, you have no greater leverage than the truth.” -John Whittier

There is nowhere to hide anymore, and businesspeople who attempt to keep secrets will eventually be exposed. Openness and honesty lead to happier staff and customers and colleagues. More important, transparency makes it a lot easier to sleep at night – unworried about what you said to whom, a happier leader is a more productive one.

5. Team Playing

“Individuals play the game, but teams beat the odds.” -SEAL Team Saying

No matter how small your organization, you interact with others every day. Letting others shine, encouraging innovative ideas, practicing humility, and following other rules for working in teams will help you become a more likeable leader. You’ll need a culture of success within your organization, one that includes out-of-the-box thinking.

6. Responsiveness

“Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.” -Charles Swindoll

The best leaders are responsive to their customers, staff, investors, and prospects. Every stakeholder today is a potential viral sparkplug, for better or for worse, and the winning leader is one who recognizes this and insists upon a culture of responsiveness. Whether the communication is email, voice mail, a note or a tweet, responding shows you care and gives your customers and colleagues a say, allowing them to make a positive impact on the organization.

7. Adaptability

“When you’re finished changing, you’re finished.” -Ben Franklin

There has never been a faster-changing marketplace than the one we live in today. Leaders must be flexible in managing changing opportunities and challenges and nimble enough to pivot at the right moment. Stubbornness is no longer desirable to most organizations. Instead, humility and the willingness to adapt mark a great leader.

8. Passion

“The only way to do great work is to love the work you do.” -Steve Jobs

Those who love what they do don’t have to work a day in their lives. People who are able to bring passion to their business have a remarkable advantage, as that passion is contagious to customers and colleagues alike. Finding and increasing your passion will absolutely affect your bottom line.

9. Surprise and Delight

“A true leader always keeps an element of surprise up his sleeve, which others cannot grasp but which keeps his public excited and breathless.” -Charles de Gaulle

Most people like surprises in their day-to-day lives. Likeable leaders underpromise and overdeliver, assuring that customers and staff are surprised in a positive way. There are a plethora of ways to surprise without spending extra money – a smile, We all like to be delighted — surprise and delight create incredible word-of-mouth marketing opportunities.

10. Simplicity

“Less isn’t more; just enough is more.” -Milton Glaser

The world is more complex than ever before, and yet what customers often respond to best is simplicity — in design, form, and function. Taking complex projects, challenges, and ideas and distilling them to their simplest components allows customers, staff, and other stakeholders to better understand and buy into your vision. We humans all crave simplicity, and so today’s leader must be focused and deliver simplicity.

11. Gratefulness

“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” -Gilbert Chesterton

Likeable leaders are ever grateful for the people who contribute to their opportunities and success. Being appreciative and saying thank you to mentors, customers, colleagues, and other stakeholders keeps leaders humble, appreciated, and well received. It also makes you feel great! Donor’s Choose studied the value of a hand-written thank-you note, and actually found donors were 38% more likely to give a 2nd time if they got a hand-written note!

The Golden Rule: Above all else, treat others as you’d like to be treated

By showing others the same courtesy you expect from them, you will gain more respect from coworkers, customers, and business partners. Holding others in high regard demonstrates your company’s likeability and motivates others to work with you. This seems so simple, as do so many of these principles — and yet many people, too concerned with making money or getting by, fail to truly adopt these key concepts.


Three Things I’ve Learned From Warren Buffett:

I’m looking forward to sharing posts from time to time about things I’ve learned in my career atMicrosoft and the Gates Foundation. (I also post frequently on my blog.)

Last month, I went to Omaha for the annual Berkshire Hathaway shareholders meeting. It’s always a lot of fun, and not just because of the ping-pong matches and the newspaper-throwing contest I have with Warren Buffett. It’s also fun because I get to learn from Warren and gain insight into how he thinks.

Here are three things I’ve learned from Warren over the years:

1. It’s not just about investing.

The first thing people learn from Warren, of course, is how to think about investing. That’s natural, given his amazing track record. Unfortunately, that’s where a lot of people stop, and they miss out on the fact that he has a whole framework for business thinking that is very powerful. For example, he talks about looking for a company’s moat—its competitive advantage—and whether the moat is shrinking or growing. He says a shareholder has to act as if he owns the entire business, looking at the future profit stream and deciding what it’s worth. And you have to be willing to ignore the market rather than follow it, because you want to take advantage of the market’s mistakes—the companies that have been underpriced.

I have to admit, when I first met Warren, the fact that he had this framework was a real surprise to me. I met him at a dinner my mother had put together. On my way there, I thought, “Why would I want to meet this guy who picks stocks?” I thought he just used various market-related things—like volume, or how the price had changed over time—to make his decisions. But when we started talking that day, he didn’t ask me about any of those things. Instead he started asking big questions about the fundamentals of our business. “Why can’t IBM do what Microsoft does? Why has Microsoft been so profitable?” That’s when I realized he thought about business in a much more profound way than I’d given him credit for.

2. Use your platform.

A lot of business leaders write letters to their shareholders, but Warren is justly famous for his. Partly that’s because his natural good humor shines through. Partly it’s because people think it will help them invest better (and they’re right). But it’s also because he’s been willing to speak frankly and criticize things like stock options and financial derivatives. He’s not afraid to take positions, like his stand on raising taxes on the rich, that run counter to his self-interest. Warren inspired me to start writing my own annual letter about the foundation’s work. I still have a ways to go before mine is as good as Warren’s, but it’s been helpful to sit down once a year and explain the results we’re seeing, both good and bad.

3. Know how valuable your time is.

No matter how much money you have, you can’t buy more time. There are only 24 hours in everyone’s day. Warren has a keen sense of this. He doesn’t let his calendar get filled up with useless meetings. On the other hand, he’s very generous with his time for the people he trusts. He gives his close advisers at Berkshire his phone number, and they can just call him up and he’ll answer the phone.

Although Warren makes a point of meeting with dozens of university classes every year, not many people get to ask him for advice on a regular basis. I feel very lucky in that regard: The dialogue has been invaluable to me, and not only at Microsoft. When Melinda and I started our foundation, I turned to him for advice. We talked a lot about the idea that philanthropy could be just as impactful in its own way as software had been. It turns out that Warren’s brilliant way of looking at the world is just as useful in attacking poverty and disease as it is in building a business. He’s one of a kind.

Photo: Bill Gates 


10 Things To Do Every Workday:

I’ve always been focused on performance. I’m a list person. I love the feeling of crossing things off. It makes me feel productive. Plus, consistent productivity has the wonderful byproduct of accomplishing more. Jeff Haden’s recent article on Linkedin summarizes the value of having a daily to-do list beautifully: You don’t wait to do the work until you get the dream job – you do the work in order to get the dream job.

I’ve never shared this list with anyone until now.

It’s the list of ten things I try to do every workday. Yes, there are days when I don’t get them all done, but I do my best to deliver. It has proven very effective for me. They are:

  1. Read something related to my industry.
  2. Read something related to business development.
  3. Send two emails to touch base with old colleagues.
  4. Empty my private client inbox by responding to all career coaching questions within one business day.
  5. Check in with each team member on their progress.
  6. Have a short non-work related conversation with every employee.
  7. Review my top three goals for my company that are focused on its growth.
  8. Identify and execute one task to support each of my top three goals.
  9. Post five valuable pieces of content on all my major social media accounts.
  10. Take a full minute to appreciate what I have and how far I’ve come.

This list could be longer. BUT…

If it was longer, I wouldn’t be as good at getting them all done. This list is manageable to me. Of course, I do more than these ten things every day. But, these are the ten I choose to do with consistency. Why? Over the years, they’ve proven the best way for me to grow my career and my business. The collective results have made completing these tasks consistently; even when I don’t feel like it, well worth it.


Stop Using These 16 Terms to Describe Yourself:

Picture this. You meet someone new. “What do you do?” she asks.

“I’m an architect,” you say.

“Oh, really?” she answers. “Have you designed any buildings I’ve seen?”

“Possibly,” you reply. “We did the new student center at the university…”

“Oh wow,” she says. “That’s a beautiful building…”

Without trying — without blowing your own horn — you’ve made a great impression.

Now picture this. You meet someone new. “What do you do?” he asks.

“I’m a passionate, innovative, dynamic provider of architectural services with a collaborative approach to creating and delivering outstanding world-class client and user experiences.”

All righty then.

Do you describe yourself differently – on your website, promotional materials, or especially on social media – than you do in person? Do you use cheesy clichés and overblown superlatives and breathless adjectives?

Do you write things about yourself you would never have the nerve to actually say?

Here are some words that are great when other people use them to describe you – but you should never use to describe yourself:

1. “Innovative.” Most companies claim to be innovative. Most people claim to be innovative. Most are, however, not. (I’m definitely not.) That’s okay, because innovation isn’t a requirement for success.

If you are innovative, don’t say it. Prove it. Describe the products you’ve developed. Describe the processes you’ve modified.

Give us something real so your innovation is unspoken but evident… which is always the best kind of innovative to be.

2. “World-class.” Usain Bolt: world-class sprinter, Olympic medals to prove it. Lionel Messi: world-class soccer (I know, football) player, four Ballon d’Or trophies to prove it.

But what is a world-class professional or company? Who defines world-class? In your case, probably just you.

3. “Authority.” Like Margaret Thatcher said, “Power is like being a lady; if you have to say you are, you aren’t.” Show your expertise instead.

“Presented at TEDxEast ” or “Predicted 50 out of 50 states in 2012 election” (Hi Nate!) indicates a level of authority. Unless you can prove it, “social media marketing authority” might simply mean you spend way too much time worrying about your Klout score.

4. “Results oriented.” Really? Some people actually focus on doing what they are paid to do? We had no idea.

5. “Global provider.” The majority of businesses can sell goods or services worldwide; the ones that can’t are fairly obvious.

Only use “global provider” if that capability is not assumed or obvious; otherwise you just sound like a small company trying to appear big.

6. “Motivated.” Check out Chris Rock’s response (not safe for work or the politically correct) to people who say they take care of their kids. Then substitute words like “motivated.”

Never take credit for things you are supposed to do – or supposed to be.

7. “Creative.” See particular words often enough and they no longer make an impact. “Creative” is one of them. (Use finding “creative” references in random LinkedIn profiles as a drinking game and everyone will lose — or win, depending on your perspective.)

“Creative” is just one example. Others include extensive, effective, proven, influential, team player… some of those terms may truly describe you, but since they are also being used to describe everyone they’ve lost their impact.

8. “Dynamic.” If you are “vigorously active and forceful,” um, stay away.

9. “Guru.” People who try to be clever for the sake of being clever are anything but. (Like in #8.) Don’t be a self-proclaimed ninja, sage, connoisseur, guerilla, wonk, egghead… it’s awesome when your customers affectionately describe you that way.

Refer to yourself that way and it’s obvious you’re trying way too hard to impress other people – or yourself.

10. “Curator.” Museums have curators. Libraries have curators. Tweeting links to stuff you find interesting doesn’t make you a curator… or an authority or a guru.

11. “Passionate.” I know many people disagree, but if you say you’re incredibly passionate about, oh, incorporating elegant design aesthetics into everyday objects, to me you sound over the top.

The same is true if you’re passionate about developing long-term customer solutions. Try the words focus, concentration, or specialization instead.

Or try “love,” as in, “I love incorporating an elegant design aesthetic in everyday objects.” For whatever reason, that works for me. Passion doesn’t. (But maybe that’s just me.)

12. “Unique.” Fingerprints are unique. Snowflakes are unique. You are unique – but your business probably isn’t. That’s fine, because customers don’t care about unique; they care about “better.”

Show you’re better than the competition and in the minds of your customers you will be unique.

13. “Incredibly…” Check out some random bios and you’ll find plenty of further-modified descriptors: “Incredibly passionate,” “profoundly insightful,” “extremely captivating…” isn’t it enough to be insightful or captivating? Do you have to be profoundly insightful?

If you must use over-the-top adjectives, spare us the further modification. Trust that we already get it.

14. “Serial entrepreneur.” A few people start multiple, successful, long-term businesses. They are successful serial entrepreneurs.

The rest of us start one business that fails or does okay, try something else, try something else, and keep on rinsing and repeating until we find a formula that works. Those people are entrepreneurs. Be proud if you’re “just” an entrepreneur. You should be.

15. “Strategist.” I sometimes help manufacturing plants improve productivity and quality. There are strategies I use to identify areas for improvement but I’m in no way a strategist. Strategists look at the present, envision something new, and develop approaches to make their vision a reality.

I don’t create something new; I apply my experience and a few proven methodologies to make improvements.

Very few people are strategists. Most “strategists” are actually coaches, specialists, or consultants who use what they know to help others. 99% of the time that’s what customers need – they don’t need or even want a strategist.

16. “Collaborative.” You won’t just decide what’s right for me and force me to buy it?

If your process is designed to take my input and feedback, tell me how that works. Describe the process. Don’t claim we’ll work together — describe how we’ll work together.


The One Thing Successful People Never Do:

Success comes in all shapes and colours. You can be successful in your job and career but you can equally be successful in your marriage, at sports or a hobby. Whatever success you are after there is one thing all radically successful people have in common: Their ferocious drive and hunger for success makes them never give up.

Successful people (or the people talking or writing about them) often paint a picture of the perfect ascent to success. In fact, some of the most successful people in business, entertainment and sport have failed. Many have failed numerous times but they have never given up. Successful people are able to pick themselves up, dust themselves off and carry on trying.

I have collected some examples that should be an inspiration to anyone who aspires to be successful. They show that if you want to succeed you should expect failure along the way. I actually believe that failure can spur you on and make you try even harder. You could argue that every experience of failure increases the hunger for success. The truly successful won’t be beaten, they take responsibility for failure, learn from it and start all over from a stronger position.

Let’s look at some examples, including some of my fellow LinkedIn influencers:

Henry Ford – the pioneer of modern business entrepreneurs and the founder of the Ford Motor Company failed a number of times on his route to success. His first venture to build a motor car got dissolved a year and a half after it was started because the stockholders lost confidence in Henry Ford. Ford was able to gather enough capital to start again but a year later pressure from the financiers forced him out of the company again. Despite the fact that the entire motor industry had lost faith in him he managed to find another investor to start the Ford Motor Company – and the rest is history.

Walt Disney – one of the greatest business leaders who created the global Disney empire of film studios, theme parks and consumer products didn’t start off successful. Before the great success came a number of failures. Believe it or not, Walt was fired from an early job at the Kansas City Star Newspaper because he was not creative enough! In 1922 he started his first company called Laugh-O-Gram. The Kansas based business would produce cartoons and short advertising films. In 1923, the business went bankrupt. Walt didn’t give up, he packed up, went to Hollywood and started The Walt Disney Company.

Richard Branson – He is undoubtedly a successful entrepreneur with many successful ventures to his name including Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Music and Virgin Active. However, when he was 16 he dropped out of school to start a student magazine that didn’t do as well as he hoped. He then set up a mail-order record business which did so well that he opened his own record shop called Virgin. Along the way to success came many other failed ventures including Virgin Cola, Virgin Vodka, Virgin Clothes, Virgin Vie, Virgin cards, etc.

Oprah Winfrey – who ranks No 1 in the Forbes celebrity list and is recognised as the queen of entertainment based on an amazing career as iconic talk show host, media proprietor, actress and producer. In her earlier career she had numerous set-backs, which included getting fired from her job as a reporter because she was ‘unfit for television’, getting fired as co-anchor for the 6 O’clock weekday news on WJZ-TV and being demoted to morning TV.

J.K. Rowling – who wrote the Harry Potter books selling over 400 million copies and making it one of the most successful and lucrative book and film series ever. However, like so many writers she received endless rejections from publishers. Many rejected her manuscript outright for reasons like ‘it was far too long for a children’s book’ or because ‘children books never make any money’. J.K. Rowling’s story is even more inspiring because when she started she was a divorced single mum on welfare.

Bill Gates -co-founder and chairman of Microsoft set up a business called Traf-O-Data. The partnership between him, Paul Allen and Paul Gilbert was based on a good idea (to read data from roadway traffic counters and create automated reports on traffic flows) but a flawed business model that left the company with few customers. The company ran up losses between 1974 and 1980 before it was closed. However, Bill Gates and Paul Allen took what they learned and avoided those mistakes when they created the Microsoft empire.

History is littered with many more similar examples:

  • Milton Hershey failed in his first two attempts to set up a confectionary business.
  • H.J. Heinz set up a company that produced horseradish, which went bankrupt shortly after.
  • Steve Jobs got fired from Apple, the company he founded. Only to return a few years later to turn it into one of the most successful companies ever.

So, the one thing successful people never do is: Give up! I hope that this is inspiration and motivation for everyone who aspires to be successful in whatever way they chose. Do you agree or disagree with me? Are there other things you would add to the list of things successful people never do? Please share your thoughts..


9 Qualities Of Truly Confident People:

First things first: Confidence is not bravado, or swagger, or an overt pretense of bravery. Confidence is not some bold or brash air of self-belief directed at others.

Confidence is quiet: It’s a natural expression of ability, expertise, and self-regard.

I’m fortunate to know a number of truly confident people. Many work with me at HubSpot, others are fellow founders of their own startups some of whom I’ve met through my angel investment activity. But the majority are people I’ve met through my career and who work in a variety of industries and professions.

It comes as no surprise they all share a number of qualities:

1. They take a stand not because they think they are always right… but because they are not afraid to be wrong.

Cocky and conceited people tend to take a position and then proclaim, bluster, and totally disregard differing opinions or points of view. They know they’re right – and they want (actually they need) you to know it too.

Their behavior isn’t a sign of confidence, though; it’s the hallmark of an intellectual bully.

Truly confident people don’t mind being proven wrong. They feel finding out what is right is a lot more important than being right. And when they’re wrong, they’re secure enough to back down graciously.

Truly confident people often admit they’re wrong or don’t have all the answers; intellectual bullies never do.

2. They listen ten times more than they speak.

Bragging is a mask for insecurity. Truly confident people are quiet and unassuming. They already know what they think; they want to know what you think.

So they ask open-ended questions that give other people the freedom to be thoughtful and introspective: They ask what you do, how you do it, what you like about it, what you learned from it… and what they should do if they find themselves in a similar situation.

Truly confident people realize they know a lot, but they wish they knew more… and they know the only way to learn more is to listen more.

3. They duck the spotlight so it shines on others.

Perhaps it’s true they did the bulk of the work. Perhaps they really did overcome the major obstacles. Perhaps it’s true they turned a collection of disparate individuals into an incredibly high performance team.

Truly confident people don’t care – at least they don’t show it. (Inside they’re proud, as well they should be.) Truly confident people don’t need the glory; they know what they’ve achieved.

They don’t need the validation of others, because true validation comes from within.

So they stand back and celebrate their accomplishments through others. They stand back and let others shine – a confidence boost that helps those people become truly confident, too.

4. They freely ask for help.

Many people feel asking for help is a sign of weakness; implicit in the request is a lack of knowledge, skill, or experience.

Confident people are secure enough to admit a weakness. So they often ask others for help, not only because they are secure enough to admit they need help but also because they know that when they seek help they pay the person they ask a huge compliment.

Saying, “Can you help me?” shows tremendous respect for that individual’s expertise and judgment. Otherwise you wouldn’t ask.

5. They think, “Why not me?”

Many people feel they have to wait: To be promoted, to be hired, to be selected, to be chosen… like the old Hollywood cliché, to somehow be discovered.

Truly confident people know that access is almost universal. They can connect with almost anyone through social media. (Everyone you know knows someone you should know.) They know they can attract their own funding, create their own products, build their own relationships and networks, choose their own path – they can choose to follow whatever course they wish.

And very quietly, without calling attention to themselves, they go out and do it.

6. They don’t put down other people.

Generally speaking, the people who like to gossip, who like to speak badly of others, do so because they hope by comparison to make themselves look better.

The only comparison a truly confident person makes is to the person she was yesterday – and to the person she hopes to someday become.

7. They aren’t afraid to look silly…

Running around in your underwear is certainly taking it to extremes… but when you’re truly confident, you don’t mind occasionally being in a situation where you aren’t at your best.

(And oddly enough, people tend to respect you more when you do – not less.)

8. … And they own their mistakes.

Insecurity tends to breed artificiality; confidence breeds sincerity and honesty.

That’s why truly confident people admit their mistakes. They dine out on their screw-ups. They don’t mind serving as a cautionary tale. They don’t mind being a source of laughter – for others and for themselves.

When you’re truly confident, you don’t mind occasionally “looking bad.” You realize that that when you’re genuine and unpretentious, people don’t laugh at you.

They laugh with you.

9. They only seek approval from the people who really matter.

You say you have 10k Twitter followers? Swell. 20k Facebook friends? Cool. A professional and social network of hundreds or even thousands? That’s great.

But that also pales in comparison to earning the trust and respect of the few people in your life that truly matter.

When we earn their trust and respect, no matter where we go or what we try, we do it with true confidence – because we know the people who truly matter the most are truly behind us.


How I Hire: Focus On Personality:

There is nothing more important for a business than hiring the right team. If you get the perfect mix of people working for your company, you have a far greater chance of success. However, the best person for the job doesn’t always walk right through your door.

The first thing to look for when searching for a great employee is somebody with a personality that fits with your company culture. Most skills can be learned, but it is difficult to train people on their personality. If you can find people who are fun, friendly, caring and love helping others, you are on to a winner.

Personality is the key. It is not something that always comes out in interview – people can be shy. But you have to trust your judgement. If you have got a slightly introverted person with a great personality, use your experience to pull it out of them. It is easier with an extrovert, but be wary of people becoming overexcited in the pressure of interviews.

You can learn most jobs extremely quickly once you are thrown in the deep end. Within three months you can usually know the ins and outs of a role. If you are satisfied with the personality, then look at experience and expertise. Find people with transferable skills – you need team players who can pitch in and try their hand at all sorts of different jobs. While specialists are sometimes necessary, versatility should not be underestimated.

Some managers get hung up on qualifications. I only look at them after everything else. If somebody has five degrees and more A grades than you can fit on one side of paper, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are the right person for the job. Great grades count for nothing if they aren’t partnered with broad-ranging experience and a winning personality.

That doesn’t mean you can’t take risks when building your team. Don’t be afraid of hiring mavericks. Somebody who thinks a little differently can help to see problems as opportunities and inspire creative energy within a group. Some of the best people we’ve ever hired didn’t seem to fit in at first, but proved to be indispensable over time.

If you hire the wrong person at the top of a company, they can destroy it in no time at all. Promoting from within is generally a good idea as the employee who is promoted will be inspired by the new role, already know the business inside out, and have the trust and respect of their team.

Equally, bringing in fresh blood can reinvigorate a company. Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Australia recently brought in CEOs from outside – John Borghetti at Virgin Australia and Craig Kreeger at Virgin Atlantic. They have brought a lot of fresh ideas into the company, as well as experience of what the competition is doing well and what they are doing badly.

When companies go through growth spurts, they often hire in bulk and company culture can suffer. While it may seem a desperate rush to get somebody through the door to help carry the load, it is worth being patient to find the right person, rather than hurrying and unbalancing your team. I heard a great line by Funding Circle CEO Samir Desai at the IoD Conference in London (quoting Apple’s Dan Jacobs) about making sure you hire (and fire) the right people: “It’s better to have a hole in your team than an asshole in your team!”

Photo Courtesy


The 3 Questions People Always Forget to Ask in an Interview:

Getting an interview for that dream job is a perfect chance to sell yourself and you need to make sure that you get everything right.

Preparation is vital and it goes without saying that you should turn up for the interview knowing everything there is to know about your prospective employers and the role that you have applied for.

Of course, no two interviews are ever the same and the line of questions that you take will be determined by the nature of the company and the people who are interviewing you.

But I have always been more impressed by candidates who ask ME questions. The process should never be one sided – you need to take control. The best way of doing this is to ask as many questions as the interviewer does.

There are at least three questions you should definitely have ready to ask for every job interview you go for. Remember the aim is to sell yourself as a bright, motivated and ambitious individual but it is important not to be too obvious. The people who are interviewing you will have heard it all before and they will be looking for someone who has that little bit extra quality or personality which sets them apart from the rest of the crowd.

Here are three questions that you should always try and ask:

What qualities are you looking for in the person you are hoping to appoint?

This may sound like a very obvious starting point but it is vital for both parties to grasp exactly what it is needed from candidate in terms of skills and experience. Remember the whole point of the interview is to prove you are the person that they want and are looking for. There is a much better chance of being able to do that if you actually ask the interviewers straight from the start what their ideal candidate would be.

What scope is there for personal development at your company?

It is important to show any prospective employee that you are the type of person who is ambitious and is looking to move their career forward. No one wants to take on an individual who is going to be content to coast and you need to show that you are not coming along just for an easy ride. Any ambitious and forward thinking company will be looking for like minded individuals. Ask a question which will give you give the chance to show just how driven you are.

Is there anything you have seen in the other people on the shortlist that you have not seen in me?

This is a great question to throw into the mix as the interview is drawing to a natural close. I remember a candidate asking me this once and I had to smile because it left me with nowhere to go. As well as turning the tables on the panel it is also a great way of gauging just how well or how badly you have performed throughout the course of the selection process. You should always be looking to improve and getting feedback from an interviewer is a crucial part of this. It is a risky strategy to take because you might get an answer you are not happy with. But if you are prepared to take a risk, then this final question is a gamble that just might pay off.


The Most Important Interview Question of All Time – Part 1:

(NOTE – this is not the ONLY question, just the most important.Make sure you check out THE ANSWER (Part 2) post. Part 3 is for job-seekers on how to prepare for the interview.)

Over the past 30+ years as a recruiter, I can confirm that at least two-thirds of my hiring manager clients weren’t very good at interviewing. Yet, over 90% thought they were. To overcome this situation, it was critical that I became a better interviewer than them, to prove with evidence that the candidate was competent and motivated to do the work required. This led me on a quest for the single best interview question that would allow me to overcome any incorrect assessment with actual evidence.

It took about 10 years of trial and error. Then I finally hit upon one question that did it all.

Here’s it is:

What single project or task would you consider the most significant accomplishment in your career so far?

To see why this simple question is so powerful, imagine you’re the candidate and I’ve just asked you this question. What accomplishment would you select? Then imagine over the course of the next 15-20 minutes I dug deeper and asked you about the following. How would you respond?

  • Can you give me a detailed overview of the accomplishment?
  • Tell me about the company, your title, your position, your role, and the team involved.
  • What were the actual results achieved?
  • When did it take place and how long did the project take.
  • Why you were chosen?
  • What were the 3-4 biggest challenges you faced and how did you deal with them?
  • Where did you go the extra mile or take the initiative?
  • Walk me through the plan, how you managed to it, and if it was successful.
  • Describe the environment and resources.
  • Describe your manager’s style and whether you liked it or not.
  • Describe the technical skills needed to accomplish the objective and how they were used.
  • Some of the biggest mistakes you made.
  • Aspects of the project you truly enjoyed.
  • Aspects you didn’t especially care about and how you handled them.
  • How you managed and influenced others, with lots of examples.
  • How you were managed, coached, and influenced by others, with lots of examples.
  • How you changed and grew as a person.
  • What you would do differently if you could do it again.
  • What type of formal recognition did you receive?

If the accomplishment was comparable to a real job requirement, and if the answer was detailed enough to take 15-20 minutes to complete, consider how much an interviewer would know about your ability to handle the job. The insight gained from this type of question would be remarkable. But the real issue is not the question, this is just a setup. The details underlying the accomplishment are what’s most important. This is what real interviewing is about – getting into the details and comparing what the candidate has accomplished in comparison to what needs to be accomplished. Don’t waste time asking a lot of clever questions during the interview, or box checking their skills and experiences: spend time learning to get the answer to just this one question.

As you’ll discover you’ll then have all of the information to prove to other interviewers that their assessments were biased, superficial, emotional, too technical, intuitive or based on whether they liked the candidate or not. Getting the answer to this one question is all it takes.


The Number One Job Skill in 2020:

What’s the crucial career strength that employers everywhere are seeking — even though hardly anyone is talking about it? A great way to find out is by studying this list of fast-growing occupations, as compiled by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Sports coaches and fitness trainers. Massage therapists, registered nurses and physical therapists. School psychologists, music tutors, preschool teachers and speech-language pathologists. Personal financial planners, chauffeurs and private detectives. These are among the fields expected to employ at least 20% more people in the U.S. by 2020.

Did you notice the common thread? Every one of these jobs is all about empathy.

In our fast-paced digital world, there’s lots of hand-wringing about the ways that automation and computer technology are taking away the kinds of jobs that kept our parents and grandparents employed. Walk through a modern factory, and you’ll be stunned by how few humans are needed to tend the machines. Similarly, travel agents, video editors and many other white-collar employees have been pushed to the sidelines by the digital revolution’s faster and cheaper methods.

But there’s no substitute for the magic of a face-to-face interaction with someone else who cares. Even the most ingenious machine-based attempts to mimic human conversation (hello, Siri) can’t match the emotional richness of a real conversation with a real person.

Visit a health club, and you’ll see the best personal trainers don’t just march their clients through a preset run of exercises. They chat about the stresses and rewards of getting back in shape. They tease, they flatter — maybe they even flirt a little. They connect with their clients in a way that builds people’s motivation. Before long, clients keep coming back to the gym because they want to spend time with a friend, and to do something extra to win his or her respect.

It’s the same story in health care or education. Technology can monitor an adult’s glucose levels or a young child’s counting skills quite precisely. Data by itself, though, is just a tool. The real magic happens when a borderline diabetic or a shy preschooler develops enough faith and trust in another person to embark on a new path. What the BLS data tells us is that even in a rapidly automating world, we can’t automate empathy.

Last week, when the BLS reported that the U.S. economy added 175,000 jobs in May, analysts noted that one of the labor market’s bright spots involved restaurants and bars. Waiters, cooks and bartenders accounted for a full 16% of the month’s job growth. As the Washington Post’s Neil Irwin put it, “A robot may be able to assemble a car, but a cook still grills burgers.”

Actually, it’s the people in the front of the restaurant — and behind the bar — that should command our attention. The more time we spend in the efficient but somewhat soulless world of digital connectivity, the more we will cherish a little banter with wait-staff and bartenders who know us by name. We will pay extra to mingle with other people who can keep the timeless art of conversation alive


On GPAs and Brainteasers: New Insights From Google On Recruiting and Hiring:

“We found that brainteasers are a complete waste of time. How many golf balls can you fit into an airplane? How many gas stations in Manhattan? A complete waste of time. They don’t predict anything. They serve primarily to make the interviewer feel smart.”

That was just one of the many fascinating revelations that Laszlo Bock, Google’s senior vice president for people operations, shared with me in an interview that was part of the New York Times’ special section on Big Data published Thursday.

Bock’s insights are particularly valuable because Google focuses its data-centric approach internally, not just on the outside world. It collects and analyzes a tremendous amount of information from employees (people generally participate anonymously or confidentially), and often tackles big questions such as, “What are the qualities of an effective manager?” That was question at the core of its Project Oxygen, which I wrote about for the Times in 2011.

I asked Bock in our recent conversation about other revelations about leadership and management that had emerged from its research.

The full interview is definitely worth your time, but here are some of the highlights:

The ability to hire well is random. “Years ago, we did a study to determine whether anyone at Google is particularly good at hiring,” Bock said. “We looked at tens of thousands of interviews, and everyone who had done the interviews and what they scored the candidate, and how that person ultimately performed in their job. We found zero relationship. It’s a complete random mess, except for one guy who was highly predictive because he only interviewed people for a very specialized area, where he happened to be the world’s leading expert.”

Forget brain-teasers. Focus on behavioral questions in interviews, rather than hypotheticals. Bock said it’s better to use questions like, “Give me an example of a time when you solved an analytically difficult problem.” He added: “The interesting thing about the behavioral interview is that when you ask somebody to speak to their own experience, and you drill into that, you get two kinds of information. One is you get to see how they actually interacted in a real-world situation, and the valuable ‘meta’ information you get about the candidate is a sense of what they consider to be difficult.”

Consistency matters for leaders. “It’s important that people know you are consistent and fair in how you think about making decisions and that there’s an element of predictability. If a leader is consistent, people on their teams experience tremendous freedom, because then they know that within certain parameters, they can do whatever they want. If your manager is all over the place, you’re never going to know what you can do, and you’re going to experience it as very restrictive.

GPAs don’t predict anything about who is going to be a successful employee. “One of the things we’ve seen from all our data crunching is that G.P.A.’s are worthless as a criteria for hiring, and test scores are worthless — no correlation at all except for brand-new college grads, where there’s a slight correlation,” Bock said. “Google famously used to ask everyone for a transcript and G.P.A.’s and test scores, but we don’t anymore, unless you’re just a few years out of school. We found that they don’t predict anything. What’s interesting is the proportion of people without any college education at Google has increased over time as well. So we have teams where you have 14 percent of the team made up of people who’ve never gone to college.”

That was a pretty remarkable insight, and I asked Bock to elaborate.

“After two or three years, your ability to perform at Google is completely unrelated to how you performed when you were in school, because the skills you required in college are very different,” he said. “You’re also fundamentally a different person. You learn and grow, you think about things differently. Another reason is that I think academic environments are artificial environments. People who succeed there are sort of finely trained, they’re conditioned to succeed in that environment. One of my own frustrations when I was in college and grad school is that you knew the professor was looking for a specific answer. You could figure that out, but it’s much more interesting to solve problems where there isn’t an obvious answer. You want people who like figuring out stuff where there is no obvious answer.”


The Invisible Web:Exploring Hidden Mystries

The Ultimate Guide to the Invisible Web

by Andrew Churches 

“Considering search engines reveal only a fraction of overall search results, perhaps the Invisible Web, or Deep Web, could hold the real information you seek. But what is it, and how do we get to it? The staff at OEDb provide us with the know-how to do just that in the following article. ”


Search engines are, in a sense, the heartbeat of the internet; “googling” has become a part of everyday speech and is even recognized by Merriam-Webster as a grammatically correct verb. It’s a common misconception, however, that googling a search term will reveal every site out there that addresses your search. In fact, typical search engines like Google, Yahoo, or Bing actually access only a tiny fraction – estimated at 0.03% – of the internet. The sites that traditional searches yield are part of what’s known as the Surface Web, which is comprised of indexed pages that a search engine’s web crawlers are programmed to retrieve.

So where’s the rest? The vast majority of the Internet lies in the Deep Web, sometimes referred to as the Invisible Web. The actual size of the Deep Web is impossible to measure, but many experts estimate it is about 500 times the size of the web as we know it.

Deep Web pages operate just like any other site online, but they are constructed so that their existence is invisible to Web crawlers. While recent news, such as the bust of the infamous Silk Road drug-dealing site and Edward Snowden’s NSA shenanigans, have spotlighted the Deep Web’s existence, it’s still largely misunderstood.

Search Engines and the Surface Web

Understanding how surface Web pages are indexed by search engines can help you understand what the Deep Web is all about. In the early days, computing power and storage space was at such a premium that search engines indexed a minimal number of pages, often storing only partial content. The methodology behind searching reflected users’ intentions; early Internet users generally sought research, so the first search engines indexed simple queries that students or other researchers were likely to make. Search results consisted of actual content that a search engine had stored.

Over time, advancing technology made it profitable for search engines to do a more thorough job of indexing site content. Today’s Web crawlers, or spiders, use sophisticated algorithms to collect page data from hyperlinked pages. These robots maneuver their way through all linked data on the Internet, earning their spidery nickname. Every surface site is indexed by metadata that crawlers collect. This metadata, consisting of elements such as page title, page location (URL) and repeated keywords used in text, takes up much less space than actual page content. Instead of the cached content dump of old, today’s search engines speedily and efficiently direct users to websites that are relevant to their queries.

To get a sense of how search engines have improved over time, Google’s interactive breakdown “How Search Works” details all the factors at play in every Google search. In a similar vein,’s timeline of Google’s search engine algorithm will give you an idea of how nonstop the efforts have been to refine searches. How these efforts impact the Deep Web is not exactly clear. But it’s reasonable to assume that if major search engines keep improving, ordinary web users will be less likely to seek out arcane Deep Web searches.

How is the Deep Web Invisible to Search Engines?

Search engines like Google are extremely powerful and effective at distilling up-to-the-moment Web content. What they lack, however, is the ability to index the vast amount of data that isn’t hyperlinked and therefore immediately accessible to a Web crawler. This may or may not be intentional; for example, content behind a paywall or a blog post that’s written but not yet published both technically reside in the Deep Web.

Some examples of other Deep Web content include:

  • Data that needs to be accessed by a search interface
  • Results of database queries
  • Subscription-only information and other password-protected data
  • Pages that are not linked to by any other page
  • Technically limited content, such as that requiring CAPTCHA technology
  • Text content that exists outside of conventional http:// or https:// protocols

While the scale and diversity of the Deep Web are staggering, it’s notoriety – and appeal – comes from the fact that users are anonymous on the Deep Web, and so are their Deep Web activities. Because of this, it’s been an important tool for governments; the U.S. Naval research laboratory first launched intelligence tools for Deep Web use in 2003.

Just as Deep Web content can’t be traced by Web crawlers, it can’t be accessed by conventional means. The same Naval research group to develop intelligence-gathering tools created The Onion Router Project, now known by its acronymTOR. Onion routing refers to the process of removing encryption layers from Internet communications, similar to peeling back the layers of an onion. TOR users’ identities and network activities are concealed by this software. TOR, and other software like it, offers an anonymous connection to the Deep Web. It is, in effect, your Deep Web search engine.

But in spite of its back-alley reputation there are plenty of legitimate reasons to use TOR. For one, TOR lets users avoid “traffic analysis” or the monitoring tools used by commercial sites, for one, to determine web users’ location and the network they are connecting through. These businesses can then use this information to adjust pricing, or even what products and services they make available.

According to the Tor Project site, the program also allows people to, “[…] Set up a website where people publish material without worrying about censorship.” While this is by no means a clear good or bad thing, the tension between censorship and free speech is felt the world over; the Deep Web. The Deep Web furthers that debate by demonstrating what people can and will do to overcome political and social censorship.

Reasons a Page is Invisible

When an ordinary search engine query comes back with no results, that doesn’t necessarily mean there is nothing to be found. An “invisible” page isn’t necessarily inaccessible; it’s simply not indexed by a search engine. There are several reasons why a page may be invisible. Keep in mind that some pages are only temporarily invisible, possibly slated to be indexed at a later date.

  • Engines have traditionally ignored any Web pages whose URLs have a long string of parameters and equal signs and question marks, on the off chance that they’ll duplicate what’s in their database – or worse – the spider will somehow go around in circles. Known as the “Shallow Web,” a number of workarounds have been developed to help you access this content.
  • Form-controlled entry that’s not password-protected. In this case, page content only gets displayed when a human applies a set of actions, mostly entering data into a form (specific query information, such as job criteria for a job search engine). This typically includes databases that generate pages on demand. Applicable content includes travel industry data (flight info, hotel availability), job listings, product databases, patents, publicly-accessible government information, dictionary definitions, laws, stock market data, phone books and professional directories.
  • Passworded access, subscription or non subscription. This includes VPN (virtual private networks) and any website where pages require a username and password. Access may or may not be by paid subscription. Applicable content includes academic and corporate databases, newspaper or journal content, and academic library subscriptions.
  • Timed access. On some sites, like major news sources such as the New York Times, free content becomes inaccessible after a certain number of pageviews. Search engines retain the URL, but the page generates a sign-up form, and the content is moved to a new URL that requires a password.
  • Robots exclusion. The robots.txt file, which usually lives in the main directory of a site, tells search robots which files and directories should not be indexed. Hence its name “robots exclusion file.” If this file is set up, it will block certain pages from being indexed, which will then be invisible to searchers. Blog platforms commonly offer this feature.
  • Hidden pages. There is simply no sequence of hyperlink clicks that could take you to such a page. The pages are accessible, but only to people who know of their existence.

Ways to Make Content More Visible

We have discussed what type of content is invisible and where we might find such information. Alternatively, the idea of making content more visible spawned the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) industry. Some ways to improve your search optimization include:

  • Categorize your database. If you have a database of products, you could publish select information to static category and overview pages, thereby making content available without form-based or query-generated access. This works best for information that does not become outdated, like job postings.
  • Build links within your website, interlinking between your own pages. Each hyperlink will be indexed by spiders, making your site more visible.
  • Publish a sitemap. It is crucial to publish a serially linked, current sitemap to your site. It’s no longer considered a best practice to publicize it to your viewers, but publish it and keep it up to date so that spiders can make the best assessment of your site’s content.
  • Write about it elsewhere. One of the easiest forms of Search Enging Optimization (SEO) is to find ways to publish links to your site on other webpages. This will help make it more visible.
  • Use social media to promote your site. Link to your site on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook or any other social media platform that suits you. You’ll drive traffic to your site and increase the number of links on the Internet.
  • Remove access restrictions. Avoid login or time-limit requirements unless you are soliciting subscriptions.
  • Write clean code. Even if you use a pre-packaged website template without customizing the code, validate your site’s code so that spiders can navigate it easily.
  • Match your site’s page titles and link names to other text within the site, and pay attention to keywords that are relevant to your content.

How to Access and Search for Invisible Content

If a site is inaccessible by conventional means, there are still ways to access the content, if not the actual pages. Aside from software like TOR, there are a number of entities who do make it possible to view Deep Web content, like universities and research facilities. For invisible content that cannot or should not be visible, there are still a number of ways to get access:

  • Join a professional or research association that provides access to records, research and peer-reviewed journals.
  • Access a virtual private network via an employer.
  • Request access; this could be as simple as a free registration.
  • Pay for a subscription.
  • Use a suitable resource. Use an invisible Web directory, portal or specialized search engine such as Google Book SearchLibrarian’s Internet Index, or BrightPlanet’s Complete Planet.

Invisible Web Search Tools

Here is a small sampling of invisible web search tools (directories, portals, engines) to help you find invisible content. To see more like these, please look at our Research Beyond Google article.


10 Search Engines to Explore the Invisible Web:

<firstimage=”http:”” wp-content=”” uploads=”” 2010=”” 03=”” maze.png”=””>No, it’s not Spiderman’s latest web slinging tool but something that’s more real world. Like the World Wide Web.

The Invisible Web refers to the part of the WWW that’s not indexed by the search engines. Most of us think that that search powerhouses like Google and Bing are like the Great Oracle”¦they see everything. Unfortunately, they can’t because they aren’t divine at all; they are just web spiders who index pages by following one hyperlink after the other.

But there are some places where a spider cannot enter. Take library databases which need a password for access. Or even pages that belong to private networks of organizations. Dynamically generated web pages in response to a query are often left un-indexed by search engine spiders.
Search engine technology has progressed by leaps and bounds. Today, we have real time search and the capability to index Flash based and PDF content. Even then, there remain large swathes of the web which a general search engine cannot penetrate. The term, Deep NetDeep Web orInvisible Web lingers on.

To get a more precise idea of the nature of this “˜Dark Continent’ involving the invisible and web search engines, read what Wikipedia has to say about the Deep Web. The figures are attention grabbers ““ the size of the open web is 167 terabytes. The Invisible Web is estimated at 91,000terabytes. Check this out – the Library of Congress, in 1997, was figured to have close to 3,000terabytes!

How do we get to this mother load of information?

That’s what this post is all about. Let’s get to know a few resources which will be our deep diving vessel for the Invisible Web. Some of these are invisible web search engines with specifically indexed information.


invisible web search engines

Infomine has been built by a pool of libraries in the United States. Some of them are University of California, Wake Forest University, California State University, and the University of Detroit. Infomine “˜mines’ information from databases, electronic journals, electronic books, bulletin boards, mailing lists, online library card catalogs, articles, directories of researchers, and many other resources.

You can search by subject category and further tweak your search using the search options. Infomine is not only a standalone search engine for the Deep Web but also a staging point for a lot of other reference information. Check out its Other Search Tools and General Reference links at the bottom.

The WWW Virtual Library

invisible web search engines

This is considered to be the oldest catalog on the web and was started by started by Tim Berners-Lee, the creator of the web. So, isn’t it strange that it finds a place in the list of Invisible Web resources? Maybe, but the WWW Virtual Library lists quite a lot of relevant resources on quite a lot of subjects. You can go vertically into the categories or use the search bar. The screenshot shows the alphabetical arrangement of subjects covered at the site.


invisible web search engines

Intute is UK centric, but it has some of the most esteemed universities of the region providing the resources for study and research. You can browse by subject or do a keyword search for academic topics like agriculture to veterinary medicine. The online service has subject specialists who review and index other websites that cater to the topics for study and research.

Intute also provides free of cost over 60 free online tutorials to learn effective internet research skills. Tutorials are step by step guides and are arranged around specific subjects.

Complete Planet

search invisible web

Complete Planet calls itself the “˜front door to the Deep Web’. This free and well designed directory resource makes it easy to access the mass of dynamic databases that are cloaked from a general purpose search. The databases indexed by Complete Planet number around 70,000 and range from Agriculture to Weather. Also thrown in are databases like Food & Drink and Military.

For a really effective Deep Web search, try out the Advanced Search options where among other things, you can set a date range.


search invisible web

Infoplease is an information portal with a host of features. Using the site, you can tap into a good number of encyclopedias, almanacs, an atlas, and biographies. Infoplease also has a few nice offshoots like for kids and Biosearch, a search engine just for biographies.


search invisible web

DeepPeep aims to enter the Invisible Web through forms that query databases and web services for information. Typed queries open up dynamic but short lived results which cannot be indexed by normal search engines. By indexing databases, DeepPeep hopes to track 45,000 forms across 7 domains.

The domains covered by DeepPeep (Beta) are Auto, Airfare, Biology, Book, Hotel, Job, and Rental. Being a beta service, there are occasional glitches as some results don’t load in the browser.


how to use the invisible web

IncyWincy is an Invisible Web search engine and it behaves as a meta-search engine by tapping into other search engines and filtering the results. It searches the web, directory, forms, and images. With a free registration, you can track search results with alerts.


how to use the invisible web

DeepWebTech gives you five search engines (and browser plugins) for specific topics. The search engines cover science, medicine, and business. Using these topic specific search engines, you can query the underlying databases in the Deep Web.


how to use the invisible web

Scirus has a pure scientific focus. It is a far reaching research engine that can scour journals, scientists’ homepages, courseware, pre-print server material, patents and institutional intranets.


TechXtra concentrates on engineering, mathematics and computing. It gives you industry news, job announcements, technical reports, technical data, full text eprints, teaching and learning resources along with articles and relevant website information.

Just like general web search, searching the Invisible Web is also about looking for the needle in the haystack. Only here, the haystack is much bigger. The Invisible Web is definitely not for the casual searcher. It is a deep but not dark because if you know what you are searching for, enlightenment is a few keywords away.

Do you venture into the Invisible Web? Which is your preferred search tool?

Image credit: MarcelGermain


Resources to Search the Invisible Web:

The invisible web includes many types of online resources that normally cannot be found using regular search engines. The listings below can help you access these resources:

  • Alexa: A website that archives older websites that are no longer available on the Internet. For example, Alexa has about 87 million websites from the 2000 election that are for the most part no longer available on the Internet.
  • Complete Planet: Provides an extensive listing of databases that cannot be searched by conventional search engine technology. It provides access to lists of databases which you can then search individually.
  • The Directory of Open Access Journals: Another full-text journal searchable database.
  • FindArticles: Indexes over 10 million articles from a variety of different publications.
  • Find Law: A comprehnsive site that provides information on legal issues organized by category.
  • HighWire: Brought to you by Stanford University, HighWire press provides access to one of the largest databases of free, full-text, scholarly content.
  • Infomine: A research database created by librarians for use at the university level. It includes both a browsable catalogue and searching capabilities.
  • MagPortal: A search engine that will allow you to search for free online magazine articles on a wide range of topics.


Students and Technology-2013: A report, infographics and survey by educause



ECAR has surveyed undergraduate students annually since 2004 about technology in higher education. In 2013, ECAR collaborated with more than 250 higher education institutions to collect responses from more than 112,000 undergraduate students about their technology experiences and expectations. The findings are distilled into four broad themes to help educators and higher education institutions better understand how students experience technology on their respective campuses and the ways in which new, better, or more technology can impact students’ relationship with information technology.


Key Findings:

  • Students recognize the value of technology but still need guidance when it comes to better using it for academics.
  • Students prefer blended learning environments while beginning to experiment with MOOCs.
  • Students are ready to use their mobile devices more for academics, and they look to institutions and instructors for opportunities and encouragement to do so.
  • Students value their privacy, and using technology to connect with them has its limits.

ECAR Recommends:

  • Students expect their instructors—not others—to train them to effectively use the technology required for coursework (e.g., use of the CMS, hardware, and software—including specialty software and common productivity software). Instructors need support, encouragement, and possibly incentives to do so.
  • Educate your students about MOOCs; most students are unaware of them. Institutions have a fleeting opportunity to contextualize MOOCs for students in a way that will mesh with the institution’s own MOOC strategy.
  • Create (or update) a strategy for incorporating mobile device use into the classroom. Address the IT infrastructure barriers (such as a lack of convenient charging outlets and/or charging stations and insufficient network access) that keep students from using their devices effectively while on campus.
  • Approach learner analytics purposefully and thoughtfully by adhering to information privacy principles. Collect data for a stated and transparent purpose in order to build students’ confidence in learner analytics activities.

Download ECAR Report-2013: