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EdStartup 101 Week 2: Response to Betsy Corcoran–Content, Process, Style

There are just a few hours before the next video goes up online, but I want to finally get my thoughts down about Betsy Corcoran‘s video for EdStartup 101 Week 2. My thoughts are all over the place with this one, but I’ll try to keep it organized.

 Content

There were several interesting or thought-provoking items in Betsy’s video.

* I’m not even closely related to the VC angel funding etc. world. Any of the budding ideas I have for my own projects do not require them. I’m really not interested in going that direction for several reasons. Mainly, I already have a full-time career that I value. Secondly, I’m looking at how to start something up that allows me to learn all the aspects–not hire people to do them. I’m looking at my EdStartup as educational for myself.

* Listening to her description of how hard it was to try the non-profit route hit home. I’m just try to work as part of an existing non-profit, and the headaches from regulation here in Tokyo are terrible. Much easier to go the for-profit route. And, if there are ever any profits, try to think about what to do with them to further educational goals.

* Her comment about page views driving online journalism-and tech journalism in particular- and that until recently edtech just couldn’t provide the page views to get coverage are kind of sad but true. Until the ad-driven page view model is replaced, we’ll be stuck with a lot of bad journalism. Is the MetaFilter model one to look at? Is there a way to monetize the ISI impact factor model in academic publishing?

* Interesting that there is such a bubble forming in edtech. I had no idea. Considering that education is chronically underfunded, where do these people see the money coming from? It isn’t like healthcare or defense where there are giant pots of money to dig into. On the other hand, maybe that is precisely the point. Create a product or service that allows educators to do more with less and you have something of potential value. But then, if you follow that logic, you may be chasing a dwindling pool. OK, I’ve talked myself out of the viability of edtech, so there must be something wrong with my reasoning. More money to earn from individuals than from institutions, for example.

Process

My thoughts on video and how it was used this week.

*Use video for what video is good for. Video is great for giving people a personal connection, less so for rich information/date, and terrible for reviewing, linking to, or scanning. A short video intro from the experts first like we all did the first week would have been good for the personal. I find a one hour video like this not very useful. This was basically a single-iteration asynchronous communication. It doesn’t work that well. Let me explain.

  • The Q and A forum was not used before the discussion.
  • The video is produced live with only the few on YouTube at the time providing live comments, questions, and feedback. Though better than most YT comment streams, not all of it was helpful and only the few who were available at that time could participate. (Personal gripe: since I am at GMT+9 I will not be able to participate live in any of these.)
  • The YT video is marked “No description available”. Really?

* How about more accessible media? I am not a big YouTube user (as creator or viewer) so maybe there are better ways of doing this, but why do I have to futz around with trying various downloaders, mp3 converters (I wanted to listen on the train), etc. Why is YT the right tool for this job? More open video, an mp3 download/podcast, and a transcript would all be valuable.

* A one-hour video interview with an expert is a relatively low demand on the expert’s time, and maybe that is why this format is used, but I’d like to see something else. How about the 2-5 minute intro one day. Followed by more action on the Q and A board (people might ask more questions if they have something to hang them from). Then, if video is used, break it down into 3-4 daily 15-20 minute interviews. This would make it more communicative and multidirectional. Ideally, interspersed with some text-based discussion. All of this would of course demand several hours from the experts rather than one. Maybe not possible.

Style

This is a personal request, but offered to help people communicate better. Maybe I’m just sensitized and this is confirmation bias in action, but since 2004 and then 2011 the word “tsunami” has entered everyone’s consciousness. Newscasters, journalists, and others seem to like to use this now for big game-changing events. (Perhaps to replace the cliched and tiresome “game-changing”).

Please don’t.

The phrase “Internet Tsunami” in this context is hard for me to listen to. Would you say an Internet Katrina? Or, an Internet 9/11? Think about it.

The phrase “Internet Tsunami” in this context is inaccurate. It’s bad writing. The metaphor is all wrong. What Betsy was describing was not an unpredictable result of a single event that destroyed almost everything in its path with little warning and replaced it with nothing.

(Sorry Betsy, you’re not the only one. Plenty of writers have been doing this lately.)

Finally

Not to leave on a sour note, I did enjoy the talk. It gave me a lot to think about. Betsy is really on top of things, and I became much more interested in EdSurge. I think near the end she said something like “company in search of a business model”. I hope that search goes well, and that we can all learn from it.