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Monday, January 30, 2017

Interview with Abbas Manjee, Kiddom: Innovators in e-learning Series

Welcome to an interview with Abbas Manjee, Kiddom. Kiddom is a new platform that helps teachers pinpoint their students' needs and to track the impact of their teaching adaptations. It's a performance-based approach to teaching, but without the pain.

1.  What is your name and your relationship to e-learning?

Name: Abbas Manjee
Role: Chief Academic Officer
Relationship to e-learning: Before Kiddom, I taught high school math serving at-risk youth in New York City.

2.  What is Kiddom?

Kiddom is the easiest way to plan, assess, and analyze learning. We integrate assessment, curriculum, communication, and analytics in one easy-to-use platform.

  •     Teachers save time with an integrated library of free, standards-aligned resources.
  •     Teachers access beautiful, actionable reports to pivot and tailor instruction.
  •     Teachers are able to commit more time to designing richer, engaging assessments.
  •     Teachers can provide students feedback in real-time with built-in communication tools.
3.  How did you get the idea for Kiddom? Who are the users?

Kiddom’s users vary from elementary school teachers to high school teachers: we have tens of thousands of users spanning across K-12. We also support SPED teachers (track IEP goals), homeschoolers, and school counselors (who wish to track social emotional learning standards).

Here are a few examples:

  •     A high school literacy teacher reflects on using Kiddom  
  •     A teacher submitted a personal use case on EdSurge as a case study   
  •     An elementary school teacher writes about her experience working with us 

Three years ago, I wrapped up my fourth year of teaching high school algebra in NYC. Meanwhile, my best friend Ahsan was developing mobile math games in San Francisco. I owed him a visit, so I flew out to California that summer to spend some quality time with an old friend.

Ahsan and I talked at length about my experience teaching at-risk youth and shared our thoughts on the future of education. I was more pessimistic than Ahsan; upon hearing my day-to-day challenges, he introduced me to some innovative educational technology tools coming out of Silicon Valley, most of which I had never heard of. And while I was thankful, my immediate response was not solutions-oriented: I was already working investment banker hours.

These new tools only added work. I was not incentivized to use these “gadgets” because ultimately, I would be doing the grunt work of transferring data into my school-mandated gradebook. I was already burdened with data entry, which constrained the time I had to work with my students individually. I spent hours in Excel crunching numbers to truly understand and predict my students’ achievement.

This conversation created Kiddom: a platform for teachers to integrate content, aggregate data, and use real-time analytics. Ahsan’s previous entrepreneurship experience coupled with my teaching experience will help us develop Kiddom into an indispensable tool for  teachers to meet the demands of 21st century education.

4.  What makes Kiddom different?  How does it differ from other products in the same space? 

Great teachers working with the students most in need are constrained by archaic workflows and tools that are ineffective or redundant. As a result, these teachers inefficiently spend their precious time working in and around those constraints, expediting their burnout. If these teachers could access transformative tools that could simultaneously personalize learning, expand access to content, foster collaboration, and open a channel to share best practices and resources, they could level the playing field for students, particularly those at-risk.

We’re building Kiddom to be that transformative tool. The Kiddom platform allows teachers to track student assignments along with the standards they assess for, then access a range of analytics that inform teachers which standards need more work, which students need more help, and which students should be pushed forward. In addition, we integrate the analytics with content, so if a teacher does not want to reinvent the wheel, they are free to utilize our premium, standards-aligned content library to send resources, videos, quizzes, and more directly to students. We do not define ourselves as a learning management system, because by definition, those products tend to want to keep teachers locked into their system, whereas we encourage teachers to use third-party apps and content providers directly from our platform. We’re also 100% free.

5.  What are the instructional design concepts that are incorporated in the product?

We follow and designed the Kiddom platform based on the ADDIE model.

Standards-Based Grading Guide
Social-Emotional Learning Guide

6.  How does Kiddom tie to things we know about how people learn and cognitive psychology?

We recognize the traditional teacher-centric model (GRR / “I do, We do, You do”) does not always optimize learning for individual students. GRR has its shortcomings since it erroneously assumes all students learn and work at the same pace. At the same time, teachers devote a lot of energy to keeping their entire class engaged throughout a lesson grounded in GRR. This usually proves difficult to achieve and often creates unnecessary classroom management challenges. We believe personalizing instruction within this model is a Herculean task and so we have designed our product to make learning personal, expand access to quality content, and foster community collaboration.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

I Fly High On Fire-Scorched Wings: Companies Re-Invent Themselves in the Delaware Basin

The Delaware Basin is the habitat of the fire-scorched Oil Phoenix, which rises from the ashes of a 3-year oil industry meltdown that has savaged companies that have held acreage, operations, and infrastructure in the costly resources plays of Colorado, Texas, Pennsylvania, North Dakota, and more.

The mythical Phoenix (image credit: wikipedia)
It is also the place where companies that have invested heavily in gaining expertise in the latest techniques used in shale plays (such as the Eagle Ford) can have a tremendous pay-off, as their knowledge allows them to effectively produce a complex stacked play, that combines conventional reservoirs with resource plays. Companies such as Devon can use their knowledge and experience to bring in wells that can initially flow 6,000 bopd in the prolific sub-basin that straddles southwest Texas and southeast New Mexico reaches of the Permian Basin. The formations "stacked" in the Delaware Basin are the Delaware, Glorieta-Yeso, Bone Spring, Wolfcamp, and the Abo-Yeso.

The competition for the sweet spots in the Delaware Basin is fierce. In January alone, several massive acquisitions were announced, including WPX Energy's acquisition of Panther Energy Permian holdings for $775 million in cash, Noble Energy's acquisition of Yates Petroleum for $2.5 billion (partially debt-financed), and the record-breaking ExxonMobil's acquisition of the Bass Family's Permian assets for $5.6 billion in stock. Last September, EOG Resources bought Yates Petroleum for $2.5 billion.

The result is that there are 105 active horizontal rigs in the Permian, and the number is expected to rise as companies acquire acreage before the price of oil goes any higher, while there are still productive leases to be had.

Why invest so much in a basin where land prices have risen dramatically in the last year to in some places as much as $40,000 per acre?

The answer has to do with the persistently low price of oil and the presence of stacked pays. The Delaware Basin is one of the only places in the U.S. where companies can drill, complete, and produce at a relatively low price. In some cases, some operators are able to make money even at $25 per bbl.   With companies able to hedge at $50 per barrel through the 2nd quarter of 2018, it's all about doing efficient factory drilling, and really understanding your reservoir, which involves very detailed geological, geomechanical, and geochemical studies as well as typical reservoir simulations. Economics are based on right around 1,900 Boe/d at more than 70% oil.

So, in an environment where most experts do not expect to see oil prices rise much in 2017, the Delaware Basin is a perfect place to test just how low one can go in operating costs.

 The Delaware Basin also a great place to implement green technologies, and on any given day, you'll hear the whine of drones doing facilities inspections to detect and report fugitive methane emissions, and churn and whir of new water recycling plants.

Now, if you are one of the companies that has invested heavily in the Delaware Basin, you are going to need to learn from the successful operators. And, you're going to have to learn fast.

The quick, effective knowledge transfer from the engineers and geologists who are doing the hands-on work in the Delaware Basin is the goal of the one-day AAPG Midland Playmaker Forum to be held in Midland on February 22.  Companies such as Devon and Parsley Energy will be making presentations. Parsley will discuss how it plans to complete 120 - 140 gross operated horizontal wells (Midland and Delaware Basins) in 2017, with an average lateral length of 8,000 feet, which is 75% more lateral footage than the previous year.

So, imagine yourself as a refugee from a currently uneconomic play such as the Haynesville or the Mississippian Lime. You're currently riding on the fire-scorched wings of an Oil Phoenix ready to rise to where technology and fey luck will take it.

You yourself feel scorched from the last few years, and more than a little bit skeptical, but like all the new developments in recent times, much has to do with the mysteries of disruptive technology and innovative financing. Maybe this time you'll be one of the lucky ones.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Tools and Tips for Creating Group Presentations for an Online Course or Distributed Projects

Creating presentations does not have to be a terrifying experience, and your presentation does not have to be long or detailed to be effective. The key is to be able to define your objective very clearly and to know exactly why you are making the presentation in the first place. What do you want to accomplish?

Then, as you organize your content, be sure to arrange it in a sequence that is logical and easy to follow. Keep your overall objectives in mind in each separate step.  If you are collaborating with your presentations, it may be necessary to develop a clear workflow so that your roles and responsibilities are clear, and also that you flow together.

Depending on the comfort levels of the team members, it can be possible to collaborate on a single video-enhanced presentation that you work on together. You can use a cloud-based application that allows each person to upload slides and record audio.

Or, if you want to do it the simplest possible way, you can use a cloud-based storage area such as Google Drive to upload your presentations and audio into a project folder. The individual contributions can be combined, or simply viewed sequentially.

Presentation Objective: Informational
This type of presentation involves providing definitions of topics, and it requires you to be able to place the concepts within a framework. Your presentation will have the following overall structure:
•    Main Idea / Primary Thesis
•    Definition of the concept
•    Definition of elements within the concept
•    Examples (at least two)
•    How it should work in the future

Presentation Objective: Recommendation for Plan of Action
This type of presentation requires you to both define your problem and also to formulate a strategy that is easy to follow and which is backed up by evidence and support.

•    Problem to be Solved
•    Evidence that it’s a problem
•    Why something has to be done
•    Consequences of doing nothing
•    Recommended Actions
  • Step 1
  • Step 2
  • Step 3
  • Step 4
•    Reality Check: How do we test to make sure it’s working?
•    Conclusions
Technical How-To with Free and Almost Free Video-Enhanced Online Presentations:

1.  Powerpoint with Audio: Each individual contributes to a single Powerpoint.

•    Each team member contributes content to a shared outline document
•    Final version of the shared outline is place into a PowerPoint presentation
•    Bullet points of what to cover in the script should be in the notes
•    Each individual records audio. Record directly onto the slide that you’ve been assigned.  Save as a different name and upload in a shared folder, perhaps in Google Drive or Dropbox. To record audio, use the recording function on your computer.

2.  Each person creates his / her own PowerPoint with Audio.
    The easiest approach is to create the PowerPoint and the audio separately.  You can record the audio on your phone using an app such as “Voice Recorder.” You can upload the recording to Google Drive.

•    Step 1:  Create a brief PowerPoint that covers your share of the team content
•    Step 2:  Record an audio that covers your content.
•    Step 3:  Upload both your PowerPoint and your Audio to Google Drive in a separate folder.
•    Step 4:  Share with your team members.
•    Step 5:  You can make a single PowerPoint presentation by combining the presentations. You can also combine the audio files by using Audacity or uploading them sequentially to Youtube.

3.  Each person makes a video presentation.
In this format or structure, you walk people through your presentation and audio.  Here are a few free or almost free software packages:

Recommended Free and Almost Free Presentation Software / Apps

Knovio: http:/  -- Knovio Lite allows you to upload slides and then record audio. You can save them and then download the file. It is very simple to use.

Kizoa – can easily create a presentation using photos – excellent for creating an online open house demo for real estate or discussing images

Emaze – very easy to use with many templates

Camstudio – good for creating screen captures and demos where you need to do things like point to certain features in a map.

As you can see by the number of helpful applications and the online collaboration and storage tools, there is absolutely no reason to be fearful about creating joint projects. The key is to develop a clear workflow and process that everyone on the team understands quite well. 

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