Rival Views, Both Right (reposted from The New York Times)

I’d like to share an interesting read –  Rival Views, Both Right (Reposted from The New York Times)

Is there an app for improving America’s educational system? Will watching a PowerPoint presentation about the nation’s educational challenge help to understand the opportunities and difficulties facing the country?

Two college dropouts, Steve Jobs (Reed College) and Bill Gates (Harvard University) have articulated theories about education. And their viewpoints are as different as are their companies (Apple and Microsoft, respectively), presenting a contrast in style and philosophy.

Flashback to 1983: Jobs and Gates.
Gates hopes to analyze and adjust the education system in order to produce a more efficient and effective learning environment. He advocates sophisticated metrics to measure results. What makes one teacher better at her job than another and how can best practices be shared? Technology enables analysis and is also the delivery mechanism.

Once the education community receives reliable disaggregated research, the policy makers can allocate their limited resources in a fashion that will produce a higher yield. As Gates has said, “…we need to raise performance without spending a lot more.”

Jobs is focused more on individual learning and less on systemic education. Technology is his way to get a well-integrated mind flowing in multiple directions. His learning philosophy gives each person the ability to chart his own course. It is less about the structure of the system and more about free will.

A discerning mind, one that blends science and Springsteen, is the backbone of the creative spirit: ideas fuel entrepreneurship. Gates’ recent speech to the nation’s governors stressed assessment, measuring outcomes and tracking students’ progress. Technology and benchmarking are joined at the hip. He feels it is worth charting the effectiveness of particular majors with regional job creation. (Does he favor vocational education?)

Jobs’ approach allows for individual experimentation to find a unique solution to each person’s quest. It is the symbol of intellectual multi-tasking. This is a more experimental, integrated search for a holistic view of the universe, one that has multiple access points. Each student becomes his or her own teacher.

My heart is with Jobs (full disclosure: I wrote this on a MacBook Pro). But my mind fully understands Gates’ mandate to discover ways to maximize scarce resources to best prepare the workforce. It is beyond noble; it is essential. Gates has contributed millions, perhaps even billions, for the study of education. He is looking for the vaccine to cure education’s ailing health. Jobs is tripping our mind with the jazz of life put before us to spark awareness that the more we learn the more powerful we become.

How does this relate to the curriculum of higher education? Keep poetry, architectural history and Russian literature alongside mechanical engineering and agricultural studies. A discerning mind, one that blends science and Springsteen, is the backbone of the creative spirit: ideas fuel entrepreneurship.

Gates is studying the science of education. Jobs is creating the art of learning. I’m sure there is an app for teaching arithmetic by watching the heavens and counting the stars.

WFH

Last Wednesday, I was working from home. It was a fairly quiet shift until I decided to do something I have never done before during work hours. Midway on my shift I decided to pop a cold bottle of Red Horse Beer right from the fridge.  I didn’t exactly planned to drink beer, it just happened. Suddenly I was in the zone during that moment. God knows how I hate drinking beer even in parties and special occasions. The thought of drinking during work hours is too much to resist, especially when you are tasked to monitor a network with more than a hundred sites – an outage that is left ignored could cost millions of pesos including my job. Now that is doing something different for a change, a stab on the back of daily routine.

After drinking 3/4 of the bottle’s contents, I saw the alarms turn bloody red. I scampered towards my work desk with the TV still on, totally ignoring Anne Curtis in the process. A one gig link connecting all of the 18 branches in the Philippines was down hard. In short, I am in for a long day of troubleshooting and coordination with the stupid carrier, not to mention the after actions reports which I despise more than anything, maybe next to GMA.

The lesson is to never ever even think about drinking beer during your work hours except if you are Chuck Norris, which is on a different level. It was hard on my mortal body to work properly with alcohol on my veins. I was giggling most of the time while I was talking to someone on the phone.

Switch

Yesterday, I cleared the 642-813 Switch exam. To be honest, It is was the most brutal Cisco exam I have ever taken to date. Although my preparation was not as long and thorough like when I took the 642-901 BSCI exam last July 2010, I was just happy to pass and that’s it. It took a lot from me to hurdle this exam, I had to culture a lot of effort and patience, the qualities I always fell short in every aspect of my life.

Keeping the Promise

When we were kids, my sister had a small paper back dictionary. The title, I barely recall but it goes something like Dictionary of words that don’t mean what you think, to that effect. It was like the ancestor of Urban Dictionary before Al Gore invented the Internet. You know I’m joking about Al Gore inventing the Internet, right? Going back to Urban Dictionary’s ancestor on paper back, it had an entry regarding promises:

Promises: Are like snowballs, easy to make but hard to keep.

Too young to grasp the satire, the entry prompted a vivid winter scene in my head . I can see myself wearing winter clothes with matching scarf and ear muffs. What the hell, snow in our backyard! My puny hands in snow gloves shaping snow, round and round, filling our wheel-barrow with snowballs of promises that glowed in the dark. Even at the start of summer, the snowballs remain intact inside my grandfather’s barong-barong along with his pack of juicy fruit gum, melon candies and some pack of cigarettes he used to smoke under my mom’s radar. It is the first thing to pops out of my head whenever promises are mentioned, or discussed in context. I avoided making promises that I couldn’t keep, like the adults that seem to keep one  in handy and use it carelessly when they need to shut a kid’s mouth.

Back in 2008, I promised myself to complete the exam requirements for CCNP before my CCNA expires in July 2011. If you look at the picture below, you will see the huge gap from the time I took my ICND2 until I took BSCI which is one of the prerequisites of CCNP. During that span of inactivity, I had doubted many times if I would ever keep my promise. I was preoccupied with the wrong things,  until a good friend helped me regain track. Thank you Berns!