Education and the Future Workforce

My parents have been telling me every since I was born…”You will have to have a Ph.D. to get a job one day!”  Well, they are becoming more and more right (as much as I hate to admit that). has created an infographic (in collaboration with Hyperakt and in partnership with University of Phoenix) that looks at the growing demand for educated workers in our society.  The lower left part of the infographic should be given much attention – although small, it provides a lot of interesting information…

Enriched Environments and Technology in Schools

Jon Becker tweeted about his experience while visiting the Information Technology High School.  As my curiosity got the best of me, I was anxious to hear about what that high school had going on that was new, innovative, etc.  Much to my surprise, the 1:1 initiative was taken away after the first year because kids could not be trusted and there really wasn’t anything noteworthy to back up such a profound name!

Combine this thought with a developmental psychology class that I took in my Master’s program – where we are discussing and reviewing research about the benefits of an enriched environment.

Add in nagging pessimists who say technology hinders kids from learning more so than helping them.

Okay, now everyone is up to speed on what is going on in my head.

The developmental psychology class brought me up to speed with how taking a kid out of a horrible environment and bringing them into a “normal,” “basic,” (however you want to phrase it) environment has a great positive outcome on the learning curve.  The unknown territory comes when a kid is moved from the “normal” environment into an “enriched” environment.  What is an enriched environment?  What would it include?  Who would it include – and how would we decide the who is?  Well…arguments continue on how societies decide what an enriched learning environment is, but regardless of how schools set themselves up, or districts determine the make-up of such an environment, or how national standards influence what the new “normal” is…every learner is different and every learner will not benefit from one overall “enriched environment.”

Now that it has been said, how can standards, districts, and school systems work together to produce the most conducive environment for enriched learning to take place?  Well…I think technology has a major role in the answer to that question…

With apps for almost everything – including calendars, note-taking that syncing across devices (Evernote, Sugarsync), learning management systems (Blackboard and Moodle), cloud printing (ePrint, Google Cloud Print), and everything in between – administrators, teachers, and students have the technology created to go completely digital.  The problems = funding, upkeep, updates, technology leaders in the school, etc.  I completely understand that there are still many issues which need to be addressed in the schools for technology to completely take over – and some schools are doing great jobs at this, but even more are resistant to change.

There is an immediate need to change!

My wife is in dental school and they tell them about apps that are available to tremendously help them, but…they are over $200.00 a piece!  My brother-in-law finished up PA school in southern Kentucky and they mandate the use of apps for such prices.  Which…you guessed it…forces the student to have a smartphone or computer capable of supporting this type of learning.  Higher education (at least at most flagship universities) are beginning to push this technology into the classrooms, but primary and secondary schools are missing the mark.

When we have a high school with the name of “Information Technology High School” and they can’t keep a 1:1 initiative going and don’t have anything else that a normal high school has for students to learn, then what message are we conveying to the future of the kids, the future career opportunities, the future of our nation?  School used to be a place where learners grasp an exemplary understanding and knowledge base of the latest theories and hardware for their disposal in the job market upon graduation.  We wonder why we need more degrees for every generation in order to get a job?  It’s because we spend more years catching up rather than moving forward.  Technology is here, technology is now, and technology needs to be the new “normal” environment rather than the impossible “enriched” environment.

Where does data visualization and evaluation come in?  Try understanding 200 years of information through looking at and studying charts, diagrams, and numbers (it would take forever).  Hans Rosling helps us to see 200 years of health and wealth data in a matter of minutes and understand how that data interacted as a result of the past and implications for the future!  Videos, infographics, interactive visualization sets for students and teachers, real-time visualizations for administrators to monitor school performance, networking technology for schools to work together for the students rather than competing for personal recognition…the possibilities are at each of our fingertips…we just have to dive in and make our mark on the future!

Don’t wait for tomorrow when you can change your life today.

Future of Inventions and Entrepreneurship

If you are interested in designing, business, inventing, or business – you should know what the future may have in store for us…

Not too long ago, I listened to a podcast on whether or not there were still inventions to be thought of in our world today.  The basic understanding of the podcast was that instead of new inventions, the type of inventing for our next few generations is taking a product (such as a computer) and making it smaller, faster, multi-functional, and simpler (e.g. – iPad).  Here’s the next wave of inventions…

This concept video gives a look into the future of technology, infographics, and data visualization.  More specifically, this is what Microsoft Office Labs is supposed to look like by 2019.  With rumors of certain technologies within the video coming out sooner than most people think, this video is not out of reach.

What was once fictitious products, shown in movies like the Harry Potter series, are now coming on the market.  In 2010, LG released the flexible electronic newspaper.

Just as any new, amazing product comes onto the market, the prices are sky high, then about a decade later come down and are available to the public.  So maybe by 2019, flexible electronic newspapers will be available for the general public.

With more and more visual opportunities for businesses and news, combined with the technology that is becoming popular – and accessible – the future of data visualization and infographics is very bright!  The field of medicine is typically the first to implement technology, then it is carried over to the schools over time.  Instead of experimenting with technology when it comes to people’s health, why not first start in the classroom where teams can collaborate to find new and better uses for the implementation of technology!

The Perfect Data Visualization

I have a mentor who once asked me what “Perfectionism” is.  If you have never attempted to define perfect, then give it your best shot.  As subjective as any response would be, it was best described to me as follows: Being perfect is being able to perform the balancing act of every situation.

Being able to balance disappointment with contentment, family with work, and (in this case) art with data.  That’s it…a balance.  Perfection is something that is strived for and sought after rather than achieved.  Attempting to look for the perfect data visualization or infographic, there not only seems to be looking for the balance between data and art, but also, complexity versus simplicity (see picture above).

Take Toby Ng for example.  His use of crisp lines combined with sharp colors produces a beautiful visualization that is simple and easy to understand.  Hiding behind the picture though is a complex process to figure out the proportions for each image and to attractively display the data.  Although a large data set, it is simple art.

good data viz 1

good data viz 2

Of course every data visualization has it’s own unique population in which it is designed for.  So maybe a very complex visualization is meant for the individuals concerned directly with the topic and he/she is able to disseminate the information without much trouble.  When this is the case, an outsider looking at the visualization become confused and disinterested, at best.  So yes, if you prefer to sway more toward art than data…call it ART (not data visualization).  If you are taking more of a complex approach to the data visualization, then help the general audience be able to understand it.  So on and so forth.

Look at a couple of (not so perfect) data visualizations…

bad data viz 1


bad data viz 2

Even if perfection is impossible to obtain, pursue it and reach for it with every bit of pride in your hard work.  Yes, it may take longer…but reach.