Reflections on EdCamp Boston 2013

Eric Braun Blog 0 Comments

EdCamp is an exploratory adventure. It behaves like a start-up company and turns attendees into ad-hoc entrepreneurs. This is what I love about it, because I firmly believe that teachers should act like entrepreneurs in the classroom. If this is true, classroom innovation will occur with much greater frequency. But learning to be an entrepreneur is not easy, just like learning to be a teacher is not easy. Each learns a series of skills and competencies, and each finds the real world very different from what has been learning in preparation. And what is this beast called EdCamp? From an entrepreneurial perspective, it is an Unconference. From a business perspective, it is Conference Gone Wrong. From the uninitiated, it may look like Chaos and Confusion. (Queue up the background flames and squeaky, mechanical music noise here). It starts with a bunch of people (usually teachers) with similar interests (usually students and learning). They all get together in a space that seems pretty big but then very quickly seems pretty small. They hover around a big hand-made Excel spreadsheet on the wall and peer intently at the words in the table cells. Some reach for pieces of cardboard and markers, where they write down ideas that relate to something they just read on the board or something that is burning within their minds and souls. Some drop the pens and fall to their knees. Others climb over their colleagues in order to read better, in order to overcome the glare in their glasses or maybe …

7 Minutes of Cool @MassTLC: Connecting Techies of All Shapes and Sizes

Eric Braun Blog 0 Comments

I headed into Boston bright and early to congregate at the Renaissance Waterfront Hotel at the annual meeting of the Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council (MassTLC). With over 500 attendees, there was lots of opportunity to network. I thrive on networking at innovation-oriented events, because I find it helps me see things from different angles and be more creative. These events are different from the pure networking events where people are just looking to unwind or find a friend. The innovation community helps you think and create, which has been my mantra lately. I decided to try out the 30hands Mobile app in a different way, more from a journalistic perspective. We call 30hands Mobile a “photo storytelling app”, because it lets people organize photos and images into a storyline then record audio on top of the photos. If the storyline doesn’t flow the right way, just drag and drop the thumbnail images around into the desired order. Recorded audio stays with the images as they move around. If you stutter when speaking or just don’t like it, just click record again and record over the previous audio. From the desktop, there’s a preview button (play) that let’s you review the whole story. When you’re ready with it, click the action button in the upper right and publish it as a video presentation to your camera roll or to a 30hands site, if you’ve signed up for one. We’re still working on some more editing features, so I was wondering how …

Stop Learning, Start Thinking

Eric Braun Blog 0 Comments

Yesterday, I watched a TEDxTEEN talk by child prodigy physicist Jacob Barnett (Don’t mix him up with “Josh” or you’re in for a surprise). He says, “Stop learning, and start thinking!” Yes, he says it with enthusiasm. He cannot contain himself! He attributes his knowledge and understanding with the fact that he takes time out to contemplate an idea in depth.  Why does he say this? Why could it be true?   When the goal is to create something or solve a problem, we have to think about it. At some point, we will come to the conclusion that we need to do some research — find books or websites or other people who will gives us some information to use as a tool to solve the problem. This is true learning. This is what we as employers want to see in our employees. Another thing employers want in employees is people who can work well in teams. They don’t always know they want this, but they do. Even the best lone programmer in a corner will not typically be as good as a circle of programmers who talk to each other about their ideas, help each other from time-to-time and share code.    What if we make as many learning materials available as possible (and anytime, anywhere on any device if possible) and then set the students free with projects to create and problems to solve in teams? Our role as teachers is to coach the students through the …

Seth Godin, Jedi Master of the Connection Economy?

Eric Braun Blog 0 Comments

I just got back from a talk by Seth Godin at Tufts University. As expected, it was inspiring. His core message to students was to get out there and connect. It’s a connection economy. Connect and you get noticed. Do something to help others connect, and we will notice you and care about you. This is essentially a new take on his “permission marketing” concept of past: turn strangers into friends and friends into customers. Today, says Godin, success means being a connector. But the more he talked, the more I felt that he meant more than that. He seems to take Malcolm Gladwell’s tipping point concepts of Connectors, Mavens and Sales People and make them all requirements of a successful entrepreneur. “You have to be all three of these things.” He did not say this in so many words, but he did say, “Pick up the microphone while it’s still available.” This is essentially what a Maven does, right? Speaking out will help you build your network of connections and followers. The more you speak out, the more of a sales person you will become. And of course, it’s all about the 10,000 hours, too. Do it, do it, do it. You will fail, but you will fail less over time. If you’re not doing something that rubs someone the wrong way, you’re probably not pushing yourself, and you will be doomed to a life of mediocrity. As Tufts students, the audience is not prepared for mediocrity, but Seth …

“Fail Fast” – Teaching the Success of Failure

Eric Braun Blog 0 Comments

  In the past few weeks, I have run into “failure” several times. First, a colleague wanted to have a get together to talk about our collective failures in starting companies, which led to a roundtable discussion. Then, it seemed like I encountered more and more stories of failure at every turn — from my students to my fellow entrepreneurs, from videos I use in my class to articles I came across on the Internet. From the ubiquity of failure, it occurred to me again (my brain has gone down this path many times before) that failure is a natural part of life. I found myself telling my students not to be afraid of failure and, in fact, to embrace it. “Fail fast,” I said, “so you can pick yourself up, redirect your efforts and try something at last slightly intelligently better. This approach often leads to ultimate success. Just because 9 out of 10 startups fail does not mean that they fail forever. It means you may have to fail 9 times before you succeed once. But my students still have trouble embracing failure. As a society, we worship success so much that we think that failure is bad thing instead of part of the learning process. As toddlers, we only learn to walk, because we fall down enough times to figure out how to do it successfully. We only learn to talk, because when we say, “I want food”, it comes out “Goo-goo gaa-gaa”, and we do not …