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Google’s First April Fool’s Day 2014 Prank

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The Value of Marginal Gains

This post originally appeared on James Clear’s blog.

In 2010, Dave Brailsford faced a tough job.

No British cyclist had ever won the Tour de France, but as the new General Manager and Performance Director for Team Sky (Great Britain’s professional cycling team), Brailsford was asked to change that.

His approach was simple.

Brailsford believed in a concept that he referred to as the “aggregation of marginal gains.” He explained it as “the 1 percent margin for improvement in everything you do.” His belief was that if you improved every area related to cycling by just 1 percent, then those small gains would add up to remarkable improvement.

They started by optimizing the things you might expect: the nutrition of riders, their weekly training program, the ergonomics of the bike seat, and the weight of the tires.

But Brailsford and his team didn’t stop there. They searched for 1 percent improvements in tiny areas that were overlooked by almost everyone else: discovering the pillow that offered the best sleep and taking it with them to hotels, testing for the most effective type of massage gel, and teaching riders the best way to wash their hands to avoid infection. They searched for 1 percent improvements everywhere.

Brailsford believed that if they could successfully execute this strategy, then Team Sky would be in a position to win the Tour de France in five years time.

He was wrong. They won it in three years.

In 2012, Team Sky rider Sir Bradley Wiggins became the first British cyclist to win the Tour de France. That same year, Brailsford coached the British cycling team at the 2012 Olympic Games and dominated the competition by winning 70 percent of the gold medals available.

In 2013, Team Sky repeated their feat by winning the Tour de France again, this time with rider Chris Froome. Many have referred to the British cycling feats in the Olympics and the Tour de France over the past 10 years as the most successful run in modern cycling history.

And now for the important question: what can we learn from Brailsford’s approach?

The Aggregation of Marginal Gains

It’s so easy to overestimate the importance of one defining moment and underestimate the value of making better decisions on a daily basis.

Almost every habit that you have — good or bad — is the result of many small decisions over time.

And yet, how easily we forget this when we want to make a change.

So often we convince ourselves that change is only meaningful if there is some large, visible outcome associated with it. Whether it is losing weight, building a business, traveling the world or any other goal, we often put pressure on ourselves to make some earth-shattering improvement that everyone will talk about.

Meanwhile, improving by just 1 percent isn’t notable (and sometimes it isn’t evennoticeable). But it can be just as meaningful, especially in the long run.

And from what I can tell, this pattern works the same way in reverse. (An aggregation of marginal losses, in other words.) If you find yourself stuck with bad habits or poor results, it’s usually not because something happened overnight. It’s the sum of many small choices — a 1 percent decline here and there — that eventually leads to a problem.

Inspiration for this image came from a graphic in .

Inspiration for this image came from a graphic in The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson.

In the beginning, there is basically no difference between making a choice that is 1 percent better or 1 percent worse. (In other words, it won’t impact you very much today.) But as time goes on, these small improvements or declines compound and you suddenly find a very big gap between people who make slightly better decisions on a daily basis and those who don’t. This is why small choices (“I’ll take a burger and fries”) don’t make much of a difference at the time, but add up over the long-term.

On a related note, this is why I love setting a schedule for important things, planning for failure, and using the “never miss twice” rule. I know that it’s not a big deal if I make a mistake or slip up on a habit every now and then. It’s the compound effect of never getting back on track that causes problems. By setting a schedule to never miss twice, you can prevent simple errors from snowballing out of control.

The Bottom Line

Success is a few simple disciplines, practiced every day; while failure is simply a few errors in judgment, repeated every day.
—Jim Rohn

You probably won’t find yourself in the Tour de France anytime soon, but the concept of aggregating marginal gains can be useful all the same.

Most people love to talk about success (and life in general) as an event. We talk about losing 50 pounds or building a successful business or winning the Tour de France as if they are events. But the truth is that most of the significant things in life aren’t stand-alone events, but rather the sum of all the moments when we chose to do things 1 percent better or 1 percent worse. Aggregating these marginal gains makes a difference.

There is power in small wins and slow gains. This is why average speed yields above average results. This is why the system is greater than the goal. This is why mastering your habits is more important than achieving a certain outcome.

Where are the 1 percent improvements in your life?

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Where in the World are the Best Schools and the Happiest Kids?

enhanced-buzz-wide-4600-1389758007-13

The best test scores don’t always mean the happiest kids at school.  The Best Schools and the Happiest Kids visualizes the results from a worldwide survey of over 500,000 15-year-olds globally.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s triennial international survey compared test scores from 65 countries. Happiness was ranked based on the percentage of students who agreed or disagreed with the statement “I feel happy at school.” Test scores were ranked based on the combined individual rankings of the students’ math, reading, and science scores.

I can’t tell for sure, but it appears that Jake Levy, Data Analyst at BuzzFeed created this data visualization based on the data from OECD survey results.  Infographics like these often get shared without the rest of the article, so it’s important to include all of the necessary framing information in the graphics itself.  Title, descriptive text, sources, URL, publishing company, copyright, etc.

Thanks to Ron Krate on Google+ for posting

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Are We Still Teachers?

The next collaborative project between English and Information Technology is going to be this project from the NYTimes Learning Network:  Student Contest | 15-Second Vocabulary Videos

If we can fit this into CCSS, the deliverology we are mandated, collection of Data Team results, statistics for evaluations, new systems implementation, and everything else required this year.

Remember when we just got passionate about a great idea and inspired out students by teaching like our hair was on fire and asking for miracles and basking in the meta-cognitive moment that far surpassed anything else we would do that year.

We were teachers then.

 

Go to Book Review essay, Luc MelansonGo to Book Review essay, “A Nose for Words” »

Updated: Nov. 1.

We’ve been publishing a Word of the Day every school day since our blogbegan, and sometime this December we’ll reach our 1,000th.

A perfect time, we thought, to celebrate with a contest.

So here’s the challenge: Along with our collaborators for Word of the Day — the linguists who run Vocabulary.com and Visual Thesaurus — we invite you to create a short video that defines or teaches any of the words in ourcollection.

You have until Dec. 3 to do it, and all the rules and regulations, plus some inspiration from other students and teachers, are below.

Remember: tenacity + a desire to edify + an enterprising nature – sloth = abeguiling result.


vocabulary •\vōˈkabyəˌlerē,vi-\• noun

Q.  I’m in! What are the rules and guidelines?

A.  – All words must come from our Word of the Day feature. Each word must be pronounced and defined, and the part of speech must be given.Update: We now have a PDF of all 979 words published through Nov. 1.

–All definitions must come from either the Word of the Day orVocabulary.com. If there are several definitions, you may just use the first one if you like.

– You must be 13 to 19 years old, but can be from anywhere in the world.

– Your video should be no more than 15 seconds, but can be shorter.

– You can work alone, with a partner or in a group, but only one submission per student, please, whether you’re working alone or with others.

– Use your imagination. You can act the word out, animate it, use puppets, draw, sing a song, create a dance, incorporate photographs, create a Claymation, or anything else that will help viewers understand and learn your word.

– Post a link to the video as a comment on this blog post, along with the first name of everyone who worked on the video. We will watch the videos first to make sure they are appropriate before we approve your comment, so don’t worry if you don’t see your link for a day or two.

–The contest ends on Dec. 3 at 5 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.

Q. So we only post a link to our video on your blog. Where do we post the videos themselves?

A.  Anywhere that you, your teachers and your parents or guardians are comfortable with.

We chose the 15-second limit since we know many teenagers are already onInstagram. You can post there, on YouTube, TeacherTube, SchoolTube,Vimeo or even on Google Docs, Flickr or anywhere else that provides an embed code so we can post your final product on our blog if you win.

This page on “Video in the Classroom,” from EdTechTeacher.org, offers an excellent, clear overview of how and where you might film and post.

We also recommend this Edutopia post, “Five-Minute Film Festival: Vine and Instagram Video in the Classroom.”

Of course, please follow the Terms of Service for whatever platform you use.

Q. Where can I look for inspiration?

A.  Vocabulary videos aren’t an original idea — in fact, we originally came up with this contest after we saw an English teacher on Twitter, Brett Vogelsinger, post that he’d had his students make “Vocabulary Vines.”

Bridget Dalton, a professor, has written extensively about developing vocabulary through multimodal expression. In this piece for Literacy Beat, she describes the step-by-step process she went through with her graduate students to have them create short videos like this one:

Another set of examples come from students in John Mynatt’s Irving High School Webmastering 2 classes:

Still more examples can be found on the blog of a teacher, Vincent Bissonette, who talks about his process and shares tips, and on a site called Vocab Ahead, where videos of SAT words are available.

Finally, Larry Ferlazzo, a teacher and Learning Network contributor, recentlyexperimented by doing Instagram vocabulary videos with his E.L.L. students. Here is one:

(Please note that some of the video examples above exceed our 15-second limit.)

Q. Updated: How can I choose a word then learn enough about it to make a video?

A.  To choose your word, you can click back through our Word of the Day feature to see about 10 at a time, or you can scan this seven-page list of all 979 words we published through Nov. 1, 2013. (Teachers, you might choose the specific words from that list that you’d like your students to use.)

Next, look up the word by putting it, along with the phrase “Word of the Day,” into “search this blog.” Read the entry to learn its definition and see how it has been used in The Times.

You might next head to the Vocabulary.com dictionary where you’ll find a friendly explanation and a rich supply of authentic usage examples from both current and classic sources. Take a look at the entries for retinue anduproarious — both from the Word of the Day — as examples. Once you have a handle on the word’s meaning and how it is commonly used, you can start to think about the most effective way to teach that word in a 15-second video.

Q.  Vocabulary’s not really my thing, but I love the idea of a student video contest. What else do you have for me?

A.  You’re in luck. Purely by coincidence, The New York Times’s Culture desk is currently running a contest in which young people are invited to submit 15-second “Hamlet” videos. Read more about it and join in.


Thank you for participating! Post the link to your video, along with the first name (and last initial, if you like) of all those who worked on it, in the comments field, below. You can also post your questions there, and we’ll answer them in bold as soon as we can.

No last names please, although if you win you will have the option of having your last name listed.

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Goal: Public Bike Repair Project

fixitI am going to attempt to get a grant together for my school to have a Fixit for the kids.

Great Idea!

Where do I start?

Keep cyclists rolling in your community by offering them the tools they most need when bikes need tuning. From our popular full-featured Fixit stand which includes the wrenches, screwdrivers, and air pump needed for basic bike maintenance, to the stand-alone Air Kit pump add-on for bike racks, we’ve got cyclists covered when they most need it.