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The future of education is already here, it’s just indistinguishable from magic

It has been a while since my last post. It delved into the topic of education and the ownership of learning, and now, five years later, the subject remains pertinent and has motivated me to return to writing. Reflecting on the fact that educational systems continue to fail students, it seems that every 4-5 years, I find myself revisiting the subject of learning, though from different angles. Despite this, it appears that fundamental issues persist and outdated mindsets continue to prevail.

The spark for this writing came from the recent release of ChatGPT and the decision by some educational institutions to reject what could potentially be a powerful tool. I will not delve into the ethical considerations surrounding the use of such technology, as the morality of a tool is ultimately determined by the user. But I believe it’s worth exploring various potential applications and institutional reactions through a multi-variable testing approach, akin to A/B testing, but with a greater number of variables, not morality police or outright banning.

Are the actual threats worth banning for or should educational institutions be the drivers of specific use cases for this type of technology such as: student usage for educational activities (research, tasks, homework, projects), customizing learning paths, automating the tutoring process, and providing language translation and accessibility features for students with special needs might? Should institutions focus on how to mitigate the dependence on technology which may lead to lack of critical thinking and problem-solving skills then outright banning it? Should…

At this point the author realized he had a choice: either keep it brief and get straight to the point, or start working on a novel. Guess we’re sticking with the short and sweet option!

If we take a step back and think about the problem at its core, we’ll see that there’s more to it than that… or less, depending if you’re first principles thinking. For example, consider a task assigned to a group of students that employed one of the latest publicly available software tools to solve the assignment. Where’s the cheating in that? Did the first printers cheat? Did Alexander Graham Bell cheat by not using pigeons? Did DeepMind cheat when it used AlphaFold to solve protein folding? It’s ironic that the institutions meant to teach our next generations how to solve problems optimally are banning the use of what could be a disruptive tool.

This type of thinking is short-sighted and fails to take into account the potential benefits that ChatGPT and other similar technologies can bring to education. By focusing solely on the potential for cheating, institutions are missing out on the opportunities to improve and enhance the learning experience for students.

One of the most obvious benefits of ChatGPT is its ability to automate the tutoring process. This technology can provide personalized feedback and guidance to students, helping them to better understand the material and improve their performance. Additionally, ChatGPT can assist with language translation and provide additional context, making education more accessible to students with limited language proficiency.

Furthermore, ChatGPT can help to customize learning paths, allowing students to progress at their own pace and focus on the areas they need the most help with. This can be especially beneficial for students with special needs, who may require more individualized instruction.

In order to mitigate the dependence on technology and ensure that students are not losing critical thinking and problem-solving skills, it is essential that institutions take a thoughtful and nuanced approach to the implementation of ChatGPT and other similar technologies. This includes developing appropriate curriculum, assignments, and testing practices that take advantage of the technology while also addressing the potential risks.

One group that is also impacted by the ChatGPT in their education is non-students who are looking to learn and improve their skills. These individuals do not have access to the resources and support provided by educational institutions, and were in the past at a disadvantage when it comes to learning and personal development. But, the availability of ChatGPT to non-students provides an opportunity to level the playing field.

With ChatGPT, non-students can access the same personalized feedback and guidance as students in educational institutions, and can also take advantage of the technology’s ability to automate the tutoring process, customize learning paths, and assist in various educational activities such as research, tasks, homework, and projects.

In addition, companies and organizations may prefer to hire non-students who have had access to ChatGPT over students who have been educated in institutions where the technology is banned. This is because these non-students may have had a better and more personalized learning experience, and may have developed more advanced problem-solving skills and critical thinking abilities as a result of using ChatGPT.

In conclusion, the decision to reject ChatGPT and other similar technologies in education is a missed opportunity. Instead of focusing solely on the potential for cheating, institutions should take a more holistic approach and consider the many benefits that this technology can bring to the learning experience. With the right approach, ChatGPT and other similar technologies can be powerful tools that can help to improve the education system and better prepare our next generation for the future.

P.S. It’s possible that some or all of this text was generated by ChatGPT. Can you spot where the model’s input begins? Feel free to try and find out for yourself!

P.S.S. It’s possible that some or all of this text was generated with the assistance of a human. Inconsistencies can be directly attributed.

Ownership of learning

Learning is what shapes and ultimately defines us. The path we are going to follow for the duration of our life is enabled by our education. And while learning is one of the most important aspects of life, the ownership of learning is often overlooked. People rarely have control over their learning. And when they do, it’s only partial.

In the first part of one’s life parents are mostly in charge of their education. Most parents try to influence their children to follow a path they believe will offer the best outcome. Others try to have their unfulfilled dreams come true through their offspring. Either way, they strip the ownership of learning and enforce their own views upon their children’s education.

Then comes school, college, master’s degree, MBA and other forms of education. Here, the educational system plays an important role. Each country, along with its institutions, is responsible for programs of study, subjects and curriculum. These are mostly under the control of politicians, teachers, trainers or personal development experts.

Once one reaches adulthood and gets employed, their career path is in the hands of their employer. Courses, training, shadowing programs, training on the job, certifications and continuous education are all decided mostly by the employer.

Thus, most people end up having their education being decided for them by someone else for the entire duration of their life.

Without ownership of education, the paths people follow are dictated by almost anyone except the person actually receiving the education. And let’s be honest, most of our educational systems are failing their students. The skills we teach our kids and employees are outdated, in an outdated format and boring. This creates a lot of people being unhappy with their education, jobs and ultimately, their life. Force-feeding education leads to unhappy people and poor results.

On the other hand, people who take ownership of their education have better results and are happier with their careers and personal life. This is an important aspect that both the person in charge of the education and the one receiving it should be aware of and strive to obtain.

We need to change our way of teaching, the skills we teach and who has the ownership of learning.

Comparing yourself to others

Comparing yourself to others is not very useful. Studies have shown little to no improvement and in some cases even a negative effect on results when people are being compared to peers or another person. Also, always comparing yourself to others create dissatisfaction and leads to low self esteem from misjudging the other person or by under-evaluating yourself.

On the other hand when comparing yourself to you and your past results things change dramatically. Studies show that students who know that their results will be compared to their past results, and not to other peers, perform a lot better and constantly improve. Also, while these people struggle as well, fail or need to retake the same exams, tests or redo tasks several times before improving, once they do, their results skyrocket.

Comparing is not the issue, but rather the point of reference. When moving from comparing yourself to others or external references to yourself and past performances the effects are outstanding.

Fixed vs growth mindset

There are a lot of elements which differentiate a fixed from a growth mindset. You can find intricate schemes to highlight different characteristics and how people act based on their mindset. But if you want to reduce it to the most basic elements, the real difference is your view on the world and yourself.

A person with a fixed mindset believes in static attributes (IQ, EQ, strength, speed) and inherited abilities or skills. This leads to “I’m not good at math” or “I’m not talented enough to play basketball at pro level”. On the other hand, a person with a growth mindset believes he can always improve everything from his intelligence, to physical abilities, and skills.

I am not that good… yet.

I am not that smart… yet.

I am not that strong… yet.

I don’t know it… yet.

I don’t have the necessary skills… yet.

I can’t do it… yet.

Yet is an extremely important word that can change your entire mindset when approaching a difficult situation. Just by adding this single word into your daily vocabulary you can program yourself to make a small change into moving from a fixed to a growth mindset.

It’s up to you if you choose to get stuck into believing that it’s nature’s fault that you’re not good enough or take responsibility and put in the necessary work in order to achieve what you want.

My biggest fear

What’s your biggest fear? You don’t have to answer. Actually it doesn’t even matter what your biggest fear is… It’s all in your head anyway. No matter if you are afraid of heights, spiders, public speaking, sharks or you’re claustrophobic, everything is just in your headYou are aware of that, you know it’s not an actual danger or a life threatening situation, but you can’t just help it being afraid.

Well, every excuse you have ever came up with to avoid: pursuing your dreams,  going that extra mile and deliver something extraordinary, talking to the person that could help your idea or project come to life, getting our of your comfort zone, are all in your head. Just like your biggest fear, they’re just a thought you know it’s not actually a true threat. But, nevertheless you keep using that as an excuse.

All those excuses are just a mask of your fear of failure, to make a fool of yourself, to be judged by others as not worthy, a looser. But that’s just in your head. You can’t accomplish great things without ever failing. All successful people have failed, have been rejected and have struggled before getting to their biggest success. Edison made 1,000 unsuccessful attempts at inventing the light bulb, at his first show Seinfeld froze and was eventually jeered and booed off of the stage, during his lifetime, Van Gogh sold only one painting, Stephen King’s first book, the iconic thriller Carrie, received 30 rejections. And the list can go on.

Everyone of them failed but they had something that many others didn’t, the courage try again. They knew that, much like all our biggest fears, the fear of failure is just in our heads.

At the end of the day what scares me the most is the fear of failing… Failing to be true to myself.

How to have a better conversation

You can go ahead an read all the self help/ self development/ self improvement sites out there for tips on how to have better conversations and you’ll notice one thing: they all teach how to fake having a conversation.

Their advice go from looking the other person in the eyes to nodding from time to time, repeating or rephrasing what has been said, topics to make the conversation better and so on. These are all wonderful tips, but when you are engaged in a meaningful conversation, you already do most of them without having to force yourself. These come natural to you.

You don’t need to learn how to be better at having a conversations, but how to approach conversations in order to make them better. And it’s not about faking them. It doesn’t matter if you look the other person in the eyes or rephrase or follow any other tips out there. If this was true, Stephen Hawking would be the worst person to have a conversation with and everyone would avoid him, but in reality it’s the opposite.

You aren’t good at having a conversation because you don’t want to have that conversation in the first place. If you want a meaningful conversation make sure you really want to be in that conversation. A conversations requires at least two people genuinely interested in what’s being discussed in order for it to be truly a conversation.

It all comes down to this: enter every conversation assuming that you have something to learn or don’t do it at all. Each person knows at least one thing that you don’t. It’s up to you if you want to find out what that is.

TLDR

TLDR version… Sorry, don’t have one.

Just some random facts before we go on:

  • the attention span started going down somewhere around 1950 and is going down at an increasing rate ever since
  • if 10 years ago you had about 5 minutes to capture the attention of your audience when delivering a presentation, now it’s down to less then 2 minutes before everyone starts checking their phone
  • facebook videos have a 80% drop in audience after the first 10 seconds
  • there are stories being told in tens of tweets of 140 characters instead of a compact block of text just because their target audience would dismiss them when seeing a block of text

TLDR went from a simple “too long didn’t read” and became the motto of Generation Z – and it’s applied to everything, not just reading a text anymore. It’s become part of the lifestyle where people aren’t willing to dedicate more then just a few minutes of uninterrupted attention to something before they dismiss it, or even worst, they just dismiss everything that will require too much time without even trying to see if it’s worth it or not. It’s the search of the sensational, the rush of adrenaline or the meaningfulness in a second.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not a fan of long posts, mails, calls, meetings or anything else that could easily be reduced and save time. But, and here it’s a really big BUT a lot of people seem to be missing. Quality, meaning and relevance can’t always be kept when trying to reduce everything and narrow it down to a tweet, a vine video or a 2 minutes presentation. You can’t live your life 5 minutes at a time. Or maybe you can, but does it have the same quality or does it provide the same in depth experience? Will it have the same meaning or relevance?

This attitude affects both professional and personal life of more and more people each day without them even knowing it.

Professionally you can’t reach mastery without investing a lot of time in your work. You can’t learn/teach someone to play the piano in 5 minutes and expect them to play Bach or Mozart. You can’t write the next A Song of Ice and Fire in 140 characters tweets. You can’t find the cure for HIV by stopping to check your facebook feed every time someone posts something. Great results are obtained by dedicating long uninterrupted periods of time to your work. You need to focus on your tasks, get into your flow state and only then will you be able to produce your best results. When you are used to dismiss everything after a few minutes and you are not able to maintain your focus, you set yourself for falling short on doing exceptional work and delivering outstanding results.

Also, in your personal life the things that really matter can’t be reduced to a tweet or a 9 seconds vine. You need to take your time in order to enjoy them as you should. Getting a preview is not the same. You can’t enjoy the beauty of a sunset/ sunrise in a 9 seconds vine. You can’t grasp the beauty of climbing Kilimanjaro by looking at some picture by someone who was there. You can’t understand the joy of finishing a marathon by sprinting for 100 meters.  You can’t build lasting relationships by exchanging tweets or by listening to your partner for 2 minutes and then taking your phone out to check your feed.

True value is in the details and you can’t have that without being willing to invest time! 

I got to vs I get to

I got to vs I get to is the perfect example how your words and how you phrase your life makes the difference between happiness and sadness, between an awesome life and a dull one.

You have to get up and go to work. You have to do your tasks. You have to go to the gym. You have to eat your vegetables. You have to go to that network party. You have to… Everything is an obligation nowadays, even your leisure time activities. You just have to take a vacation, go see a movie with your girlfriend, go to that birthday party, buy that new TV set.

On the other had, there are people who get to go to that great job, get to do awesome things at work, get to workout, get to eat healthy, get to meet all these incredible people. For them everything is a chance. A chance to do, learn, improve, connect, enjoy.

Changing just a single word in how you phrase your life can create a totally different image on your activities. Everything offers a reason to be happy, a chance to learn, an opportunity to do something exciting, but it’s up to you if you see it as an obligation or as an opportunity.

You can change that “I got to” into “I get to” anytime. It’s all a matter of how you phrase it.

What are you going to choose today?

I see a lot of people unhappy with the way the look, the job they have, the place they live, the friends/ boyfriend/ husband they have, their lifestyle. The person you are today is made of all the choices from yesterday and the day before and the day before that… These choices define who, how and what we are today.

But, today is a new day. A new day full of possible choices to be made. The big question is: What are you going to choose today? Are you still going to make the same choices that you did the day before? Are you going to keep making the same choices that make you unhappy, bored, dissatisfied, sad or are you going to make different ones?

You can choose to eat that unhealthy food or you can have a salad today. You can sit all day and watch TV or you could go out for a run or even a long walk this evening. You can be afraid and avoid taking any chances like always do or you can get out of your comfort zone for once. You can keep smoking or just not smoke for a day. You can complain about all of the wrong things in your life or you can make one better today.

You don’t need to make a lifetime commitment not to smoke, to eat healthy, to take risks or exercise each day. You just have to make a choice for today. Tomorrow is a different day, with different choices, but you will also be different. These small decisions you made today will define a different you for tomorrow. And, maybe, that person with today’s experience of new and different choices, might make better ones.

Every day is full of choices and the choices you make today define who you will be tomorrow.

The sidewalk

Where do you walk when you are in a hurry?

If you look at people on the street, the ones who are in a hurry always walk on the edge of the sidewalk. In the middle you will find the slow walkers, the ones looking around to admire the city, the ones going with the flow. On the edge you will find less people, the ones who are in a haste to get somewhere, the ones who want to be the first.

You can also apply this when it comes to business cases, your career and almost anything else. Those on the edge are the ones who will always move faster. Start-ups also start on the edge. The middle is crowded by big companies; while the edge is where you’ll find a lesser crowd and the possibility to advance fast, gain speed and make a difference.

People with bright careers are also on the edge. They’re the ones moving fast, getting out of the middle where everyone is fighting for the same jobs, projects and contracts. They shift quickly, take risks and advance at a higher pace than the ones looking around and walking in the same pace as everyone else.

Where you walk is your choice.