Support Intercambio and the Culture Jam June 21st 2014

Blog post
edited by
Matt Tricomi

This February 2014, Xentity lost an important member to its family – Consuelo Arias.

She is the Founder’s Grandmother. She came to the U.S. from Mexico in the World War II era. She believed education was fundamental and that it opened so many opportunities, and you had to earn it. She learned English early and perfectly (not even allowing the Three Stooges to be shown on TV in her house). She soon trained as a nurse and later as a nurse practitioner, spending her career working at Boston area Hospitals such as Mass General. She raised four children on her own, stressing the pursuit of learning and the power of education. She adored her grandchildren and always welcomed a spontaneous visit.  Although she loved to travel, she never drove a car.  She was devoted to professionally helping others and that frequently spilled over to family and friends. Her dry sense of humor, brilliance, and caring ways were her hallmarks. 

At Xentity, she supported our early work in the private sector, learning about our impact, and she became our biggest fan. She would check in, scan and send newspaper clippings. Admittedly, she did chuckle initially in 2003 when we got into Government transformation, but as she saw our impact, she cheered us on. When Matt asked in 2008 whether to pursue 8(a) or not, and sought guidance from ‘AyAy’, she said “If you can make more of an impact this way, then do it.” She supported the process of getting 8(a), eventually processed in 2010. 

During her latter years, instead of receiving gifts or flowers, she instead insisted on donating time, money, etc. to charities such as in cancer research, animal protection, and education.

You can see a brief video that was played at Culture Jam clicking here or on the photo.

In Memory of ‘AyAy’, Xentity is sponsoring a fundraising event supporting intercambio.

http://www.intercambioweb.org/

The Non-profit, founded in 2000, Intercambio is bridging our communities divide – helping everyone communicate, and starting with language. They educate parents, families, kids, workers. They promote and sponsor ESOL (English as a Second Language) courses to adult immigrants as well as workshops in life skills, culture training, and citizenship. To date Intercambio has helped 9,000 immigrants and trained 4,400 volunteers.

Culture-Jam-2014---Tickets---For-Intercambio-Website

They also reach out to the established community to help connect the immigrant community. Events like “Culture Jam” is just one of the those events. It celebrates the rich diversity in our community. It is a fun event with world renowned music with a mix that just cant be labeled – salsa, hiphop, cumbia, funk, merengue, etc. 

Celebrating the rich cultural diversity in our community, Left Hand Brewing Company is proud to host Culture Jam for its second year! Three time Grammy-Award winning Ozomatli will return to the Longmont stage, bringing Colorado together for a family-friendly evening of world class music, dancing and the arts to benefit Intercambio Uniting Communities and Longmont YMCA.

More info is at InterCambio web site.

What if there was a way to improve the game of football and reduce concussive injuries at the same time without losing the games appeal

Blog post
edited by
Matt Tricomi

We are always interested in transformational projects for data. Or data that can help drive transformational projects. Transformation – which we admit a word they is likely overused, but nonetheless – may be due a adopting new cultural norms, a new business practice, or due to a technological evolution. It may impact how a program runs, how a products is made or distributed, or workforce efficiency or asset acquisition. 

It could also be how a policy change impacts its community, its constituents, or its workforce as a whole. 

Given the Super Bowl season we are in here in the U.S., lets take a look at how professional football has adopted – or not – major rule changes that have impacted its game play, its fans, its players, safety, and entertainment value.

It has been a long time since American Football has rethought its approach to scoring.

It has dabbled around the edges with two point conversions but not fundamentally addressed this aspect of the game since 1912 or introduced a truly transformational offensive rule change since 1933 when emphasizing the forward pass.  

What if there was a way to improve scoring and hence offensive strategy of the game of American Football, reduce injuries while at the same time increasing the games scoring options, its unpredictability and hence fan appeal? What would this game look like?

By challenging some of the basic unspoken assumptions underlying the game, football can be refactored to draw out exciting and unpredictable aspects of a team’s offensive potential, turn the offensive side of the field into a point generation sweepstake and reduce the probability of injuries.

At the heart of this new design are principles that challenge footballs current assumptions that have determined its scoring system for the last hundred years and hence offensive strategies for the last half century.  These new principles are:

  1. Any play that generates points cannot have an excessively high rate of predictability for success, i.e. the current Point after Touchdown (PAT),
  2. The points from successful scoring plays, field goals or touchdowns from scrimmage, should be directly correlated to the yards gained during the scoring play,
  3. Increase the risk and reward opportunities for the offense whenever and wherever possible without slowing the game down,
  4. Develop incentives to maximize the scope of the fields scoring geography,
  5. Incentivize select types of plays and skills to reduce excessive injury causing collisions.

When these principles are applied to the offensive scoring events/plays like field goals, extra points and touchdowns from scrimmage, they open the door to the development of dramatically different offensive and by implication defensive strategies.  These new principles and designs will incentivize the types of play calling that will mitigate the chances of injuries by moving play downfield. Additionally, it can create opportunities for completely new and different emphasis on underrepresented skill positions like place kicking or rare long distance scoring from scrimmage. Lastly, it places a richer strategy dynamic for the fans who know 95% of the time what the next type of play will be called. It is the exception to be fooled.

Before we get into the details, we need to introduce a couple of borrowed and proven concepts from other sports that support the principles articulated above. These concepts will enable the offensive drive new approaches to football strategy. The concepts are defined as follows:

Degree of Difficulty (DoD) – a rating which reflects the difficulty of the maneuver or action an athlete is attempting to perform in sports such as gymnastics and diving, and which is factored into the final score. In the new approach to football we define the DoD as follows:

DoD for field goals and point after touchdowns is the equivalent to the reduction of the width of the goals posts by 0, 25 or 50 or 75. Table 1 describes the goal post distance and the allowed scoring methods.

Table 1 – Degree of Difficulty – Goal width and Scoring Method

DoD

Goal Post Width

Used for

Field Goal

Used for

Point after Touchdown

0

18’ 6”

Yes

No

25%

13’ 7.5”

Yes

No

50%

9’ 3”

Yes

Yes

75%

4’ 8.5”

Yes

Yes

Borrowing a the idea from the three point play in basketball that the further you are from the goal the more valuable the shot should be, the DoD for football is the distance from the line of scrimmage to the end zone. For simplicity of audience understanding and visualization on television, we introduce the idea of Point Zones on the field. 

Point Zones which are predefined areas of the field that determine the possible points on a scoring play based on the distance from the ball to goal posts or goal line.

Offensive Scoring

So what do these concepts look like on the field.  We will now describe how these ideas affect the offenses 3 main scoring methods and where the approach should not be applied.

Notable Changes

1898: A touchdown was changed from four points to five.

1904: A field: goal was changed from five points to four.

1906: The forward pass was legalized. The first authenticated pass completion in a pro game came on October 27, when George (Peggy) Parratt of Massillon threw a completion to Dan (Bullet) Riley in a victory over a combined Benwood-Moundsville team.

1909: A field goal dropped from four points to three.

1912: A touchdown was increased from five points to six.

1933: The NFL, which long had followed the rules of college football, made a number of significant changes from the college game for the first time and began to develop rules serving its needs and the style of play it preferred. The innovations from the 1932 championship game-inbounds line or hashmarks and goal posts on the goal lines-were adopted. Also the forward pass was legalized from anywhere behind the line of scrimmage.

1960: The AFL adopted the two-point option on points after touchdown

1994: There is now a 2 point conversion following touchdowns (teams now have the option of passing or running for two points or kicking for one after a TD);

Field Goals

Let’s talk field goal!  In Figure 1, we introduce the combined Point Zone and DoD for field goals that support the principles listed above and show them in the context of the field of play.    

Figure 1 – Field Goal – Point Zones and Degree of Difficulty

For example, if the offensive team chooses to kick a field goal from the 23 yard line, in effect kicking a 40 yard field goal, they would have been situated in Point Zone 3. If they chose a DoD of 50%, 25% or 0%, they would have the opportunity to score 5, 4 and 3 points respectively.  A coach’s decision would obviously need to take into consideration, the current score of the game, environmental conditions and the skill of the kicker and the supporting special team.  In effect this opens up the field and offensive strategy dramatically for teams positioned with talented kicking operations or provides alternative approaches as the game clock winds down at the half or end of game. This creates a “moment” where the fans at the stadium or watching on TV no longer have a high degree of certainty of what is going to happen next – hence increased attention. It also will lead to fundamental redesign of offensive strategies.  For the players, the model provides opportunities to score more points from more areas of the field without having to “grind” out the drives risking injuries as the field shortens.

The recommended Point Zones take into account the current statistical kicking performance.  In 2014, there were no misses in the NFL statistics 0-20 range (in effect the 3 yard line) with five attempts.  This practice, in effect violates principles #1, 2 and 3.  In the recommended model, the Point Zone scoring system acts as a disincentive to taking the chip shot by only granting 1 point up to 27 yards or requires the team to change the DoD and increase risk to achieve up to 3 points or go for the touchdown.  This stimulates a change in risk reward thinking, possibly moving teams to take more shots at the end zone while in zone 1.  It certainly provides more options for the fans to think and speculate about what could happen by removing the predictable decisions. More fans would sit and watch what would have been the “gimmes”.

As the Point Zones move away from the goal posts/line, the risk and reward calculus changes. The field goal now has the potential to nearly rival the touchdown as a primary objective for the offense. The field goals maximum value is 6 points if kicked beyond the 62 yard distance with the maximum DoD of 50%.  This may seem like an unlikely event, nearly equivalent to the current record of 63 yards, but we believe with reintroduction of tees and the greater point incentive, the distance will be conquered with increased investment in kicking skills and techniques.  Most importantly, it gives the offense numerous options to exercise and keep the fans guessing and supports all of the principles.

Point Zone 3 is where the value of the field goal in the new and old models converges.  The field goal kicker can score 3 points with no change in the degree of difficulty while kicking between 42 and 62 yards.  In 2014 through week 12 they were hitting 75/102 attempts successfully or roughly a 25% failure rate. No guarantees. It is here, the model provides an incentive for the team with a greater reward for riskier behavior.  An accurate kicker can realize up to 5 points for a successful attempt with a DoD of 50% within Point Zone 3. How many of the 75 successful field goals could have earned 1 or 2 more points and as a result made a difference in the game’s outcome. Once again, the situational context of the game will be a key to the decision process and provide a means to capture the audience with new strategies.  Not all fans want to see just hard hitting.

Touchdown from Scrimmage

In the new model, touchdowns from the line of scrimmage are also subject to the similar risk reward calculus as the field goal.  For a play from the line of scrimmage, the DoD is the yardage required to score. Figure 2, shows the Point Zones and the associated additional points that would be added to the six points when a touchdown is scored.  Once again, the idea is to incentivize the offense to attempt more tries to score over longer distance by increasing the number of points that can be gained.  The incentives would encourage teams to open up the offensive strategy and introduce plays to spread the field and reduce the number direct collisions occurring at the line of scrimmage.

The rushing offense style strategy seems to lead to most injuries.  “Offensive lineman (center, offensive guard, and offensive tackle) sustained the most injuries (18.3%) of all positions; however running back had the highest percentage of injury for any one position (16.3%)”. (3)

Spreading the offense can mitigate “the leading mechanism of injury is football’s full-contact nature, with player-player contact accounting for 64% of all injuries and 13.4% of injuries attributed to player-surface contact. More specifically, being tackled (24.4%) and tackling (21.8%) accounted for a majority of the injuries.

In the spirit of reducing injuries, the DoD points would not be used to incentivize kickoff and punt returns.

Figure 2 – Point Zones for Plays from Scrimmage

Point after Touchdown (PAT)

The point after touchdown is straight forward.  By default, the goal post will be set to DoD of .50 for a 1 point kick (See Figure 3). The team will have the option to set the DoD to .75 and go for two points.  Passing or running for two points will no longer be an option to minimize injuries.

Figure 3 – DoD and Points after Touchdown

Tying it back to transformation in our world

Professional Football has been around several decades now and has adapted and adopted to changing norms. There are more norms for it to address – social responsibilities, players safety, impact on youth, simplifying rules, financial access, organization non-profit status, etc.. The tale though shows how a major program/entity such as this, with so much on the line can choose to adapt and adopt, with some fall off, turbulence, and alienation, but ultimately thrive with its constituents. Its easy to throw mud at the largest professional sports league in the U.S., and there is a lot to throw. While at the same time, there are always lots of good takeaways from leading organizations as well that show how adapting, adopting, adjusting minor and major rules through varying time tables can actually happen when leadership can stand behind a change.

So what is the point of this metaphoric drivel

Blog post
added by
Wiki Admin

So what is the point of this metaphoric drivel about cowpaths, space shuttles, and chariots?

Yes, fair enough. Aside from being a fun story, there should be a point.

I think there are 3, not unlike the Goldilocks story.

Change Agents can’t come in too hot to put in new technology and abandoned the old as there are consequences

Change Agents can’t come in too cold and put in new technologies just putting it in the footprint and same design footprint of the old.

Change Agents need to find the transition balance between the old and new that allows the new ecosystems to be adopted and the old ecosystem to adapt.

To get this balance, there are three factors standing in the way of introducing a disruption such as this:

  • Scaling – Scaling Research Readiness for solution expansion, adoption, and architecture qualities
  • Legacy – Legacy investment stakeholders agendas
  • Transition – Patterns for new investment that benefits the new solution and addresses legacy investment stakeholders

Read the next blog post for considering the disruption factors on an example topic – advancing our global network keeping up with the Computers to make the internet truly 21st century.

More to come.

What cow paths, space shuttles, and chariots have in common

Blog post
edited by
Wiki Admin

A colleague recently sent me a chain email (they do still exist) about the old adage on how new technology is driven by thousand year old standards. I had seen it before. I remember then I liked it. But, my new habit on chain emails or viral urban legends was to poke around. Being childlike, I hope for fun new ways too see things, but being a problem-solver as well, I am skeptical of these amazing discovery of trivial connections. Regardless, its still a fun story where one can mine some good nuggets.

The anecdote essentially notes how historical inventions are connected and a moral. Reading it backwards, it connotes how the width of the space shuttle rocket boosters are due to width of railroad tunnel. And how railroad tracks width are due to the carriage wheel width. And how that width is tied to chariot width because of the width of two horses. Point being, the boosters width is derived due to width of two horses rear-ends.

Like I said, it is fun, but the tangents are more loosely coupled and coincidental than the “seven degrees of Kevin Bacon” concept. Snopes nicely walks us through how while this is true, but only through generalities – not unlike how someone could say the clothes we wear now is because of a medieval tailor sized it that way. Snopes can be a party pooper some time, but they did also note a few things about people and change (insert my agenda HERE). This is why I do like stories like this as I can tie my own tangential take-aways from it.

Snopes points out humans presets on change:

Although we humans can be remarkably inventive, we are also often resistant to change and can be persistently stubborn (or perhaps practical) in trying to apply old solutions to new conditions. When confronted with a new idea such as a “rail,” why go to the expense and effort of designing a new vehicle for it rather than simply adapting ones already in abundant use on roadways? If someone comes along with an invention known as an “iron horse,” wouldn’t it make sense to put the same type of conveyance pulled by “regular” horses behind it?

It goes on for several more examples noting how new innovations leverage the blueprints of previous generation inventions, regardless of their direct influence. The tone felt a bit down when noting this, but I felt this continuity is not wholly a bad thing.

As a physical society that build infrastructure to share, this compatibility is needed to limit the impact of disruption while progressing towards addressing societal challenges of Maslo’s Hierarchy of Needs globally.

For example, lets say there is a future decision to stop using dams for hydroelectric power and go into a series of nano-electric generators that works off river flow that would impede water less and generators more power. This is great as we have a lower cost, simpler, more efficient solution that also does not disrupt the ecosystem such as riparian development, fiash spawning, etc. like dams have for decades.

How do we transition to the new nano solution. The railroad story says we would use the previous footprint of the dam, and once ready, slowly migrate to the new solution to allow the water flow to slowly come back in place. This would allow the wetlands and riparian ecosystem to grow back at natures pace, and allow for fish and river life to adapt generationally.

Yet, the new solution does not require the same footprint. We could build it anywhere along the river. It could even be setup in a series of micro generators, and once the level of energy put into the grid matches the dams, in theory, the dam could just be exploded, and we could progress on without anyone in the future anthropocene historic footprint to be aware that a dam was ever there.

But, removing the previous infrastructure in a responsible way will be key. Blowing up a dam means the water release would cause major sediment displacement, kill the dam-resulted adapted riparians and wetland ecosystems, and generations of fish and river life would actually die as a result. The dismantling process, though not required for the new direct energy human need, is very critical to consider the indirect impact of the evolved ecosystem. 

If still interested, check out the follow-up blog post So what is the point of this metaphoric drivel

Flattening the classroom by flipping the teaching engagement model

Blog post
edited by
Matt Tricomi

Continuing on from: The world is getting flatter – Why isnt our educational system?

With this approach, teaching resources will not be spent on redundant or duplicative efforts such as preparing and delivering the lesson. 

The video lesson and supporting services will do that.  A simple rough order magnitude business case estimates we can shift an enormous set of resources from preparation and delivery to creativity, facilitation and assessment.  Here is how significant a shift it is:

$63,033,390,000 = (180 days/year X 3.5 hours / days X $30/hr.) X 3,335,100 teachers

 

These tools will work for the vast majority of subjects and lessons. This cursory analysis assumes 2/3 of the lessons can be affected and that teachers deliver 5 classes /day with an average teacher salary of $30 dollars an hour sans benefits.  This obviously does not include the cost of developing the alternative content which should be offset by the cost avoidance benefit of not buying text books, improvement in teacher productivity, remedial education etc… 

This approach is certainly not arguing for a reduction in teaching resources or in their level of subject matter expertise.  This approach is arguing for:

  • A reallocation of the resources away from redundant lesson preparation and delivery towards ensuring the lesson is understood.
  • A role change that would place greater responsibility on the student and introduce the opportunity to customize educational delivery.
  • teachers to become facilitators of learning and apply their creativity, knowledge and inter-personal skills but at a different phase of the learning cycle.
  • students to be able to work with parents and other students to comprehend the lesson. 
  • for student centric education.

The combination of the Khan Academy and flipped classrooms allow us to do that.  The target state value chain now adopts the “create and facilitate” functions in lieu of prepare and deliver. (See Figure 2)  Ideally, if this is implemented and it provides the opportunity to save human resources by increasing the number of student to teacher ratio, the resulting resources savings should be reallocated to Early Childhood Education (ECE). Either way, as any rationale individual would conclude, ECE should be a high priority target investment opportunity due to its Return on Investment (ROI) and social benefits (3)

With this synthesized approach, we can achieve a form of scalability that allows us to focus on the application and assessment of the student’s progress.  It allows for creativity and the development of best of breed approaches for lesson preparation and delivery.  Students can progress at personalized rates using tools that conform to their learning styles.

Now, how do now get the best “quality” lesson preparation and delivery?

We take our “best” or most impactful teachers and they become the lesson producers who create and deliver the content for this new model.  We allow the best of breed lessons to develop at a grass roots level and let the market demand for quality establish what is effective.  If we empower the educators, we will find hidden stars and performers and discover teachers who are even more creative in enhancing this new model of education.  We will have tapped into a rare commodity that will enhance other teacher’s approaches and engage the students with a personalized approach. Motivating and positioning teachers to out create one another will only ensure the students are getting the quality they deserve.

Another fundamental deficiency within the current educational system is the limited role parents have.  

They are effectively shielded from the most critical part of the process – delivery. The communication model is woefully inadequate and in essence is single point of failure network with the child as the weakest link. (See Figure 3)

 

This new model allows us to “flatten” communication increase shared access to information between parents, teachers and students. It offers a number of additional possibilities.  A student will be more empowered and vested in their educational journey and will now be more responsible and motivated to set and reach greater educational goals.  The student’s goals and progress will be easily tracked and monitored by parent and teacher.  The approach aligns well with the rapidly developing technology trends on how our whole society is researching, discovering and learning new information – self-paced, personalized and content rich.  Each lesson can be the launch point for self-exploration and research on related subjects or a deeper dive into the content.  A student’s time and motivation, home support or peer group will now be the constraining factors.  The student is no longer the weak link between parent and teacher.  Parents will have the option take a more proactive role. If they do, wonderful, if not, the student has options to pursue with peers or go solo.  Inevitably, as the amount of information and content flow increases between the parents, students and teachers, the awareness of educational system performance and accountability will organically improve. (See Figure 4)

 

We will accelerate the transformation from the teacher-centered pedantic model to a student-centered responsibility model.  

Teachers will fulfill the challenging role of content creation, facilitation and assessment. If it takes the student 10 viewings to understand the lesson, they can now do that without system or peer pressure.  The student may do the lesson by themselves, with their family or with their peers. They can and should discuss it on social networks or in their friend’s basement.  Encourage educational topics to be discussed – anywhere and everywhere. Encourage the growth of educational communities.  Let’s destroy this anti-intellectual notion that we only learn in school and that it is best to learn by oneself.

Extending lesson delivery beyond the classroom, frees the student to collaborate and explore the best means to meet the lessons ends with a less restrictive timeframe.  Students could even share a computer and learn lessons together.  Why not?  Learning with peers has proven to one of the more effective means for intellectual, social and emotional growth.  Students should be encouraged and trained to learn collaboratively.  Why would we want to constrain lessons and learning to a teacher-centric classroom?  This is certainly not what will be expected of them in the workplace or in their personnel lives.  The world is flattening, why not the educational system and the classrooms?

Parents will no longer be “blind” to how good or bad a lesson has been delivered.  

They can be active participants in educating their children using a medium that is much more natural and intuitive than a text book.  They will be able to learn for the first time or relearn, as we often have to, along with their child. They will be able to take an earlier and more pivotal role in the learning process. This is potentially the most valuable and challenging departure from the traditional model. Why is it so important?  Parents will now have the option to model education and learning in addition to all other forms of social norms. Today, we have positioned parents in the background and we wonder why we do not get more school to home communication.  The achievement gap will also improve as we can shift the roles of parent and student to be integral to personalizing the educational experience.

We all know this has to change but we have never given the parents the tools to participate nor have we positioned them effectively in the learning process. 

We ask parents to help with homework but only after the child has had the lesson.  They have no insight into how effectively it has been delivered. We ask the parent to help the frustrated child when the parent has no idea how the lesson is structured or if they are contradicting what has been stated.  Let’s face it. We have outsourced education from the family. If we believe our own rhetoric and the underlying research, we all know that bridging the learning process between educators and family is transformational and the best means to ensure lifelong learners and an educated society.

Teachers should be empowered to create a “marketplace” for lessons and to be permitted to promote and sell them to schools.  

Teachers should be financially compensated for these creative outputs but more importantly honored for creating a better way to educate a student. Education is one of the few work pursuits, other than entrepreneurship, where one can readily create or influence the value of the core product or service.  We can improve educational performance with consistent content that is bundled with a customized delivery that addresses our inherent learning differences. Students should be able to choose from these alternative designs and personalize their educational approach based on what works for them.  We can develop a core lessons taxonomy and semantic model that will provide a means to catalog or organize the marketplace.  Teachers, administrators, students and parents will be able to search and discover based on content and delivery style what is needed for the individual.  Imagine a parent and child researching or shopping for a lesson to understand the Pythagorean Theorem and having choices.  No more running out to shop for just pens, notebooks, rulers and backpacks.  The family can now research and construct personalized curriculum for the school year!

This marketplace would allow teachers to develop a stronger and more creative voice, to be the principal producers of lessons and content that speaks directly to the primary stakeholders – the students. 

Teachers are the ones who get to see and assess what is working every day.  Allow them to build it, evolve it and ensure its impact.  Restore educators to a position of honor and respect.  Give a voice to students who undoubtedly will let the system know when it is not working.  Build a smart system that feeds and learns from itself and in the process let the model flatten.

If we do this with a national commitment, we will quickly rediscover the fact that children are not “robots”. 

They are much more capable of learning and taking initiative than we have come to expect from them.  What is needed is for them to know they are the principal stakeholders in their educational pursuit.  Given the chance they will take an active role in the structuring their educational destiny from the outset in collaboration with parents, teachers, friends and peers. Our future is at stake.

(1)      National Center on Educational Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=84

(2)      ASCD September 2009, Volume 15, Number 3, Highly Effective Teachers: Defining Rewarding, Supporting and Expanding their Roles. Laura Varlas

(3)      The Economics of Inequality – The Value of Early Childhood Education  James Heckman, American Educator Spring 2011http://www.aft.org/pdfs/americaneducator/spring2011/Heckman.pdf