STEM Education Starts Before School

Working in the enterprise hardware space I occasionally find myself frustrated with the amount of time that it takes for the adoption of what I view as obvious and unquestionably superior technology to what is being used by customers or within my industry.  I then step back, relegate myself to “the customer is always right” and seek to find that happy balance of pushing them toward a successful strategy that delivers benefits to their business and their careers while planting some form of go-forward strategy that gets them out of the Ice Age before it’s too late.  What’s interesting is I can have a conversation with the same decision makers about their personal usage of cell phones and the innovator/leading edge thinking of them immediately comes out.  I refrain from telling them that the disk arrays you use that are dependent upon you committing the whole capacity of several drives to create a static RAID group are the equivalent of that brick of a cell phone accompanied by the pager on your waist that you wouldn’t dare be seen with beyond 2010.  I digress.  Not too mention the geek speak specific to Enterprise Storage, but hopefully you get the point.

The place where I see similar or more slowness and where I’m most disappointed about the lack of movement is in the education of US children.  With the opportunities and growth in Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) sector (high paying, long term careers) continuing to improve beyond the already high number of vacant positions today, I wish everyone in our society (not just a school problem) were tripping over themselves to have students excel and be ready for these opportunities as early as possible in life.  A relatively low effort area is in math.

While returning from a business trip two years ago, I read about this online education system called Khan Academy (http://www.khanacademy.org).  Upon returning home, I began looking around the site and decided for myself that my oldest sons (16 and 14 at the time) could benefit.  Well, at that age, it takes alot more than me deciding for myself to generate regular usage, but on occasion, it was obvious that they benefitted from it.  That same year, my then “just turned 6 year old” was having the occasional challenge with his first grade math.  Good for us, he also liked television and video games and they soon became currency or incentive to do a little extra practice on his math before watching a show or playing a game.  By the end of the school year that supplemental instruction had him very confident in his addition facts and number lines and understanding the rules of carrying.  He transitioned from being an okay math student that wasn’t very confident in his abilities to one of the stronger math students in the class.

After continuing to work on Khan Academy for nearly half of the summer (typically 30-45 minutes per day), he entered second grade with very high confidence in math and was frequently pulled aside along with two peers to do math work that suited their advanced level.  At some point 2012, I was at dinner with customers from Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) and as usual I was bragging about Khan Academy when one of the managers from CME acknowledged the good work of Khan Academy and challenged my familiarity with an app called Math Bingo.  I’d never heard of it, but after hearing her endorsement along with the fact her kindergartner was regularly doing addition work with ease, I simply had to learn more.

I was able to install Math Bingo on our iPod and Kindles and found a lively, learning experience on the basics of math that the now 7 year old saw as a game.  Equally interesting was that my almost 4 year old son who had recently learned to count to twenty was excited about playing the game also.  Despite this interest and excitement it was obvious that some fundamentals were lacking to grasp the concepts of addition; though that didn’t stop him from wanting to hear the game make the loud blowing sound whenever a Bingo was achieved.  This would initiate a process of developing handmade practice sheets that I alternated with Math Bingo addition levels (easy, medium, and hard) and later flash cards to ready him for Khan Academy.  In less than six months the 4 year old confidently completed two digit addition on Khan Academy, hard level of addition on Math Bingo, and had memorized most of the basic math facts between one and twenty.  Over this same period, the 7 year old had mastered all of the addition and subtraction exercises as well as multi-digit multiplication with a strong start in division.

Aside from being proud of my kids and having pride in their intelligence, what I’ve come to believe is that most children have the capacity to accomplish similarly in math at an early age.  I also contend that the availability and acceptance of today’s technology could help all of our chlidren realize their potential in math far sooner than what’s measured or achieved by any of the current standards.  Technology alone will not solve the deficiencies in STEM education; however technology has enabled education to take a step in the same direction and it’s time for our homes, schools, and communities leverage the technology available to do so.

The opportunity for a lifetime of amazing feats and discoveries rests in the abilities of the amazing children of our world.  Ongoing delay in the rapid adoption of technology to its fullest extent only stands to cripple our nation’s ability to lead our world in realizing its full potential and eventual destiny.

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Technology is abuzz in Greater Sacramento area

I love living in the Sacramento area.  Schools, cost of living, plenty family-oriented activities, tons of outdoor hobbies and interests, bearable traffic, easy access to airport with direct flights to virtually all major hubs, and a great mix of mature and budding technology companies.  Being a geek at heart, the technology piece has me completely excited to roam around the 50 corridor, Downtown/Midtown, through Roseville/Rocklin, and other locations to see how the technology scene is already here and gaining added momentum and maturity everyday.

From my vantage point, core to this speed and maturity has been the Sacramento Regional Technology Alliance or SARTA (@SARTA_Tech).  Under the leadership of Meg Arnold (@MegAtSarta), SARTA carries itself with a “get in where you fit in” attitude that welcomes and accepts anyone ready to contribute to the growth of high tech ventures in the area however direct or distant the effort might be.  Despite running a million miles an hour the SARTA staff manages to stay connected with and considerate of other non-profits in the area that are pushing technology or business interest.

Of those, my absolute favorite is the Hacker Lab (@SacHackerLab).  They refer to themselves as a “coworker and maker space” but the reality it is an innovation mecca.  For all practical purposes, it’s a big shack (former tattoo shop) in midtown with three big garage doors in back.  However, I think there was some amazing voo-doo in the blood that was splattered on the walls that has this place hopping with really good hee-bee-gee-bees.  If you’re an old school ham radio person, new school app developer, staunchy enterprise hardware tester or developer, PC technician, dabbler in code, lover of code, mechanical engineer type, IT manager, user of IT, oscilloscope loving propeller head, or maybe you just like good people and technology- then you owe it to yourself to make a stop by 1715 I Street.

There are many more connections that SARTA brings to the table and it’s much for the locals to be proud of and for businesses in other states to bear witness to.  The biggest complaint that I hear about Sacramento in terms of technology and innovation is that it isn’t San Francisco and the Silicon Valley.  Well no $#!+.  Sorry, I’m kind of sick of hearing that.  Were you to put the tech scenes of New York, Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, DC, Seattle, Bangalore, Tokyo, you name it 100 – 125 miles outside of Silicon Valley, they too would look smallish in comparison.  The only missing ingredient that I can muster is a private institution of higher learning that delivers a great mix of young technologists and liberal artists.  Downtown is coming around too.

That aside, UC Davis does a phenomenal job of keeping fresh talent rotating through with a knack for research, Sac State has no shortage of graduates ready to dive in both testing and development roles, Cal Poly SLO some how manages to send large numbers of its top talent to the area year after year, and we thank Silicon Valley for being Silicon Valley and sending so much tech genius who’ve decided they want to see green stuff growing from the ground, shorten the drive for skiing, easily access bike trails and rivers, row on Lake Natoma, send their kids to great schools without paying tuition, spend more time working than commuting, amongst many other reasons.  Technology is abuzz in the the Greater Sacramento area, the environment is primed for it, and it’s going no place but up- really fast.

 

Fan Experience at Sacramento Kings New Arena

Long Live The Kings is Here To Stay and a new arena is on the way. With that, I’m done with my rhyming and completely excited about the opportunity for the new Kings ownership to provide an amazing basketball and downtown Sacramento experience to fans and the community. Below, I’ve taken a stab at my first dozen fan-facing ideas that I’d like to be considered for leveraging technology to enhance the fan experience at the new arena. I’d love to hear back on ideas above beyond these or how the Sacramento Kings faithful will rate these. And yes, these are currently listed in my order of preference. These ideas are my own, not tested or vetted with any company or group. Though, I’m keenly aware of a company (one of TIBCO’s largest partners) that can facilitate making this all a reality.

Note the list doesn’t list the need for lots of monitors, wifi, where monitors need to be posted, what needs to be on monitors, etc. which I considered a given but don’t let that stop you from re-emphasizing.  I also have a list of to-dos and to-adds for the app of which the top ones are included below.  But there are clearly more.

My Top Dozen for a Savvy Technology Fan Experience

1. Tickets and parking pass barcode via phone
-make it easy like at an airport and less paper
2. Pre-order and pay for food via smartphone/app before walking to concessions
-include in app with appropriate rules/conditions
3. Location-based awareness of walking arena vendors in app
-where vendors are in arena, what they’re selling available via app, and means to identify interest
4. Game-time candids
-photos/videos of sections and suites throughout the gamethat can be searched online using ticket number
5. Suite attendees/guests listed on arena camera/board
-option for every Suite Holder to include names of companies or people in suite via TicketMaster or App
6. Tweetboards in arena and concession stands
-display tweets occurring during game
7. Enable pledges to Kingscares charity of the game
-encourage charities to drive attendance
8. SoMe of the game
-award to fans with most/highest quality SoMe posts during game / Make @Kings top NBA trender
9. Downloadable videos/photos of arena camera during game
-readily available to capture experience of game
10. Best of the game uploadable photos from the crowd
-monitored post-game and made available for others to see at Kings.com
11. Easy access to post-game downtown locations and events
-in-game videos, app updates, etc. of where to go post-game (sell ads)
12. Team and Game Gear Promotions
-targeted promotions during games and ability for fans to pre-order specific items

A few good men…

A good look through my WordPress page, my slow-written autobiography, or knowing me and my history will readily identify that I credit most good in my life to the love and direction given by my grandmothers, my mother, and a high school teacher (M. L. Kohn)- all women.  And most of my bad decisions came from not honoring those women or their advice.  I’m also very willing to provide my opinion on topics of privilege which frequently align with issues around women in the workplace or society.  I look forward to continuing to write as I do and am also delighted that today it’s weighed upon me to write about a few good men.

Walter Priester, John Hooten, and Scott Terpstra

Walter “Bunky” Priester is my uncle (mother’s brother), a friend, a retired US Army leader, an educator, a spiritual leader, a sacrificing brother, an honorable father, a loving son, and a phenomenal role model.  A lead camel in the torrential winds of the desert.  Can’t say enough about him yet lost in the words to bring together to do him justice.  Uncle Bunky, I love you!

John Hooten is a hoot.  Small in stature and big on results and bigger on the process for generating greatness.  He obsesses over the particulars and details and believes in practicing relentlessly until perfection is secondhand.  He’s the pain in the butt for anyone who wants to be great needs to have around on those days when they think they need a break from being great.

Scott Terpstra is just a good person.  That goes along with being a savvy insurance professional, thoughtful friend, and carer of his family (immediate, extended, and adopted).  Never one to claim to be the best and definitely never the worst, Scott works hard to see the best in others and is glad to help others and himself overcome challenges that may appear as daunting at firs sight.

We’re a few weeks out from Father’s Day and I’m glad that I realized that after I began writing this versus this being some sappy homage that I came up with because of Father’s Day.  I’m also glad for the example these men are to me.  I’m glad that they’ve seen me fail as much as they’ve seen me do well and treated me much the same.  They’ve encouraged me in times of high and low, and committed to being available to help me.  They’ve coached me as a father, a son, and a friend and I’m sure each would love to deliver a good whacking to me for the advice I’ve yet to put to work but they refrain from such attempts due to fear of me massive muscles.  🙂

These are all “everyday” men who choose to be their best everyday and I’ve been blessed to have them to learn from.  Maybe I’ll be as wise in another twenty years.  Unc, Coach, and Scott-  I love you.  Thanks for all that you are to me and so many others in this world.

Rambling before a real post

Being relatively new to WordPress, I’ve noticed the date since my last post progressively age over the past two months.  There were times where I thought, “Man, I’m becoming irrelevant.”  Which is funny and obviously all ego talking because that would suggest I’d been irrelevant for the 40 years that I didn’t have a WordPress blog.  And we KNOW that’s not the case…. yes- me adding to the ego claim.

Whatever the case, there was an underlying self-created pressure to say something.  Which reminds me of the many alcoholics I grew up around.  If you can’t relate, something I found common amongst alcoholics is their willingness to profess and make clear that they have something to say.  It usually goes (imagine being said with a drunken slur), “OHHH!!!  I got sumtin’ to say, ya betcha!”  Even funnier, that was often said when no one was saying anything to them or refuting their position.  Maybe it’s not appropriate or funny to laugh at such behavior but it was free entertainment that I and others enjoyed our front-row seat to.

I admit that I’ve spent more than a few alcoholic moments (without the drink) languishing on the fact that I have something to say and will write something soon on my WordPress page.  Thankfully, I’ve managed to hold off on writing anything until I actually had something to say and not just out of the urge to say something.  With that, I will hush on my rambling and begin to share something worth sharing from my very relevant state of mind.

Have a blessed day.

Why should Ginger Rutland apologize for her editorial?

Yesterday, Friday, April 5, 2013, an editorial piece titled “Why should Obama apologize for telling the truth?” was written by Ginger Rutland.  You can read it here.  http://blogs.sacbee.com/the_swarm/2013/04/why-should-obama-apologize-for.html

In response to remarks by President Obama and seemingly follow on coverage from Fox News, Ginger asked, “Where else in the world do men have to apologize for calling a good looking women good looking?”

 Here are the remarks from President Obama that led to this discussion.

“You have to be careful to, first of all, say she is brilliant and she is dedicated and she is tough, and she is exactly what you’d want in anybody who is administering the law, and making sure that everybody is getting a fair shake.

“She also happens to be by far the best-looking attorney general in the country — Kamala Harris is here.  [Applause.] It’s true.  Come on.  [Laughter] And she is a great friend and has just been a great supporter for many, many years.”

I believe that women and the struggles they continue to face to be viewed equally within the work place with duly noted recognition for their professional talent is demeaned when Ginger
1. Defends the President or politicians in light of this situation
2. Attempts to compare the choice of words from President Obama with media stories published about the California Lieutenant Governor, and
3. Excuses a privileged society of men who “feel constrained at the office, afraid of offering even the most common place compliments to their female co-workers,

President Obama clearly overstepped the privilege of being male and the authority President of the United States of America.  How did he do this?

There are very few instances where he isn’t at “work” and put in the context of a corporate conglomerate, he essentially turned to a senior-manager of a subsidiary within the corporation and praised her work and skills before continuing on to remark about her physical appearance which has absolutely no bearing on her job performance.  Furthermore, this was stated in contrast to senior managers in the same role at the other 49 subsidiaries of the corporation which means all of those individuals stand to critique themselves on what they can do to climb the ladder of “appearance” in the eyes of the CEO since it’s obvious that he pays close attention to that.  Otherwise he wouldn’t have mentioned it, right?

Maybe, just maybe, I could be a teeny bit okay if he complimented her specifically on something she was wearing.  In this case, regardless of how much he admires her appearance and regardless of how “okay” she might be with the compliment, he’s wrong for making that statement.  Furthermore, he did the right thing in apologizing and I believe it’s great for the media to discuss this matter in a mature fashion.  Unfortunately, expecting maturity via the media (especially television) is almost like seeking the same in political discourse – very unlikely.

This story provides yet another opportunity to have a practical and constructive conversation on male privilege in our society.  Within that there rests an opportunity to install a small sample of coaching on the difference in complimenting and borderline objectification or maybe just a lesson or introduction to the fact that male privilege really does exist and simply being aware can go a long way toward improving work conditions and career experiences of women throughout the United States and the world.

This closely aligns with a post I made last month regarding an incident at a technical conference (PyCon) and is yet another indicator that it does happen everyday and we all have a responsibility to improve it.  Here’s the blog post https://lamillsgarrett.wordpress.com/2013/03/24/dongles-and-forking-and-privilege-oh-my/

I believe –
1. President Obama was wrong in his choice of words
2. President Obama was right to apologize
3. President Obama further perpetuated the entitlement many men feel in their words and behaviors toward women
4. Ginger Rutland (and every other person of influence publicly espousing a similar message) should apologize for her editorial that defends this situation and seemingly presents “ordinary men” as victims for a culture created by men.

Then we should get back to our lives and ignore the ignorant media outlets that will make this about anything but what it really is in the hopes of selling another advertisement on behalf of some talking head.

Hype of the Sacramento Valleydictorians

This post stands as my first attempt to build publicity, appreciation, and greater interest in the individuals who will build our world’s economy, be leaders of our free world, contribute to advancements in medicine, agriculture, science, technology, and so many other great things we’ve yet to imagine. I’m doing this because it’s action I can take toward DOING something good versus contributing to ongoing TALK about the discrepancy in attention and focus placed on athletics versus academics within our society. To be clear, I agree that’s an unfortunate discrepancy and I’m also a very strong contributor. So this isn’t to place blame, but to spur action.

I believe sport or competition is a critical component of a person’s development within our society and I couldn’t imagine personal success for myself had I not had the experiences from participating in several sports during my childhood. I also believe that a strong majority of the adults within the United States do our children an injustice via the overwhelming promotion of athletics over academics and the lack of drive for academic excellence. Additionally, I believe the opposite- having students be high academic achievers who are inept in social settings and have very limited communication skills is not much better and possibly worse.

I believe the leaders of our future are individuals who have demonstrated obvious leadership skills, prepared self for academic success, shown savvy in working across cultural and socio-economic boundaries, committed to personal accountability and improvement, demonstrated the ability to work well with others in stressful situations, and have exhibited a commitment to society via their time and effort. I also believe students living up to this should be highly publicized, discussed, ranked, and sought than those who simply do well in a popular sport i.e. football, basketball, baseball, track, tennis, swimming, golf, etc. with very few other accomplishments. Thus, I’ve put together a base set of criteria that when combined serve as leading indicators of my ideas of leaders of the future.

My hope is that local publications (newspapers, magazines, TV, etc.), school administrators, parents and the community will participate and raise the awareness of these young leaders with the outcome being recognition of the Sacramento Valleydictorians. I welcome questions, challenge, and suggestions on the criteria and hope to initiate with a focus on high school seniors graduating in the Class of 2013. I also welcome discussion on the importance of this above and beyond the singular focus on sports.

Though the results will develop over time, I foresee this effort leading to local media highlighting the Valleydictorians throughout the school year more than they do athletes. Maybe a story discussing the challenge the student is having with choosing colleges and how colleges are pursuing them. Or maybe highlighting the likely pay that these students stand to accumulate over their careers versus that of an average professional athlete over their career. Essentially, let’s make sure we’re driving the needed focus whereas younger students will aspire to do what they do because of the attention and notoriety given. My assumption is that these students will garner far more college scholarships then those highlighted in sports and be more likely to have an enduring legacy for advancement of the local area.

Please distribute to others. Feel free to suggest students and submit data points to sacramentovalleydictorians@gmail.com .

Data Points used in Criteria
1. Academic Club
2. ACT Score/SAT Score
3. Class Rank of Class Population
4. Club/Team where Titled Leader
5. Individual Sport
6. Ongoing Volunteering Activity
7. School poplulation eligible for free or reduced-price lunch
8. School-wide Leadership Role
9. School API
10. Team Sport