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August 24, 2012 / Brent Sears

College of the Future…and It’s Free!

Coursera is changing education!  It is an online school where 16 universities have courses available for FREE!!!  It’s an incredible meld of great content taught by amazing faculty and brought together completely online.  At the time of this writing 1,145,752 students have enrolled/joined.

I wish this had been around when I was in college.  I probably would have never gone and saved an enormous amount of money – not to mention time, with all the general education courses.  In a decade we are going to look back at our education and say, “Really!  That was how we learned!?”

See the Ted Talk by Coursera’s co-founder, Dr. Daphne Koller here.  In it she outlines a couple of the main problems with education:

1. There are not enough classrooms to meet the new demand for learning in the world.

2. The cost of traditional education has exploded – 559% since 1985.

This is where Coursera steps into to make great courses available to anyone with self-direction and an Internet connection.  Course have start and end dates, homework assignments, quizzes, and access to community forums if you have questions.  The grading process is automated–every teacher should be rejoicing–and the data helps the instructors and back-end developers know where people get stuck and how to make it better.

Upon completion you receive a certificate which, according to Dr. Koller, people have used to get academic credit at colleges and even presented to employers to show competency.

This is what education should be.  Once it and similar programs take hold, traditional schools and universities are going to have to rethink their mission and purpose.  The important thing for now, with the speed at which the world is changing, is that we don’t get to stop learning.  But to me, that’s the fun of it!

Action: I am toying with the idea of starting a Facebook group for people who are interested in taking an upcoming Coursera course.  I am going to take one in the next 6 months, and I would like to connect with others who are trying our Coursera, as well.  I have some friends who are interested in learning, so if I can make some connections, then that’s cool too!  If you’re interested leave a comment below.

August 1, 2012 / Brent Sears

With Too Many Options It’s Hard to Be Bored

I can’t remember the last time I was bored.  It must have been years ago.  I think it started when I took a semester off from college because I couldn’t the cost of living.  Before that I had been bored A LOT!  But mainly because I was doing jobs that were not all that interesting just to keep my head above water.  And I was doing the same while I wasn’t in school, but at night, I was free to go to the library and read anything I wanted. 

Each night was like an exploration, and life has never been the same since.  I was into learning purely because I wanted to grow – and it was nice knowing there was no one ready to grade my work.  Since then, my learning has been constant.

Today I noticed something when I returned half a dozen books to the library unread.  I can’t possible consume everything I want to learn.  There are more online tutorial, books, Youtube videos, and blogs to keep me busy for the rest of my life. 

The challenge is to stay focused each day on the wildly important.  It takes real discipline to define exactly what needs to be done, and what doesn’t.  The other obstacle is saying no – to myself and others.  When hard or mundane tasks come up in the day it is easy to rationalize investing another hour with an amazing author or speaker.  But that task is the one thing that will push the work forward.  That is the real challenge. 

The real work is not in wandering through the sea of knowledge.  It’s picking an edge, digging in deep, putting the blinders on and cranking out what needs to be done.  That is the thing I struggle with every single day. 

But I am never bored!

April 22, 2012 / Brent Sears

7 Changes Needed in Education – To Name a Few

I have yet to meet a person who doesn’t think that our education system needs to change. Most people agree on the following:

1. The cost of schooling is too high.
2. The kids today are using different tools than those in which their teachers were trained to instruct.
3. The Internet has completely changed how students are learning.
4. There is too much student debt in “higher education” – the US just passed $1 trillion.
5. When information is always available, memorizing facts is kind of pointless.
6. To stay competitive, a person’s education now needs to be constant.
7. A college education does not guarantee a good job.

In the old world, every school was built around its library, but now they are built around servers. YouTube, Apple, and MIT, to name just a few, now have world class content available for free and on-demand. What they all lack is accreditation, which leads to some sort of degree or certification.

The new system is here, and we all know it. The problem is, no one has figured out how to implement it – yet. That is what we must and will be doing into the future. It won’t look the same as the one we have now, and new people will be leading it, solving old problems in new ways with tools that may not be invented yet. We will be writing a new story that replaces the one we currently have; the one that says education is something you do in the classroom between ages 5-22, to solve problems that someone has already figured out.

Sounds like fun to me!

April 18, 2012 / Brent Sears

How to Do a Local Search on Google

I am amazed at how many people don’t know this simple little trick for finding things in their local area on popular search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo.

Let’s use Google as the example and say that you are looking for a new auto repair shop in your area.  So in the search box type “auto repair” and then your zip code “13205“.  (See below)


Then scroll down and you will see Google Maps pushpins.  (See below)


This section allows you to click on links to a business’s website, or their Google Places page where you can read reviews if they have any.  From there you can make a decision to contact them via phone, email, or in person.

It sure beats using the yellow pages!

Here are examples of local searches for “auto repair 13205” on Google, Bing, and Yahoo.

If you have any questions about local search post them in the comment box below.  Happy Searching!

April 17, 2012 / Brent Sears

Copyright: Forever Less a Day

The History of Copyright is to Help Big Companies

April 17, 2012 / Brent Sears

What World Are You Living In?

That Used to Be Us is the latest book by Thomas Friedman.  In it he talks about the current state of the USA and where we stand it the world.  He makes a convincing argument for the fact that we seem to have lost our way as a nation – at a time when we should have been gearing up for the Internet revolution, fueled by globalization and enormous advancement in IT.

Ironically, he argues, because of our success in winning the Cold War we have now created the world we are living in.  We succeeding in  spreading capitalism to every corner of the globe – and now we  compete every single day in that world.  There is always someone out there willing to do the job better, faster, and cheaper.  Many jobs, once thought safe, are on the chopping block and being replaced by automation.

So what is left in a world where “average is officially over.”?  Everyone is going to have to do extra.  And it is that extra that will be the difference.  In the world we are currently living in, if it can be outsourced or automated it will be.

The jobs of the future most likely haven’t been invented yet.  In this state of flux knowledge workers will have to constantly update their skills – learning things at a faster pace than ever.  And that is now going to be the minimum.

I have decided I like this kind of world.  It’s one where nothing is owed me.  I have to constantly learning new things and add value.  I have access to more tools, ideas, people, and opportunities than ever before.  I don’t get to stand around and then collect a check at the end of the week.  I have to add value to the world around me.

It all comes down to embracing the world as it is and doing what is necessary.  It is a lot easier, but more dangerous, to sit around and complain about the way things are or the way they should be.  But that is just a waste of time.


July 13, 2011 / Brent Sears

Piano as Workstation


It has been over a year since I left my awficle (office/cubicle/awful). Now I am testing out the mobile working lifestyle. Since 28 June I have been in various parts of Peru on a missions/service project. Today is the first day in July that I have had the privilege of a hot shower and clean clothes. Most of that time I was in the mountains with limited Internet – I chose not to use it as I tested the usefulness of the iPad2 to teach kids math facts and simple English phrases. It was amazing how much learning can be done with a few free/.99 cent apps – and in the streets no less.
The rest of my team jetted out last night so today begins the test of what can be done with an Internet connection, an iPhone 4, and an iPad2. I am currently uploading photos of our trip to DropBox. From there I will send them to the rest of my team. While I wait I am testing out my first mobile blog post on my iPhone.
Welcome to the revolution!

Where do you work?!

March 12, 2011 / Brent Sears

Scholarship Excuses

What is holding you back from winning scholarships? Because any excuse you can make is something that you can learn to do well. If it is money, eliminate all the things in your life that you can possibly live without. This many mean cutting Internet, downgrading your smart phone, cancelling Netflix, not going out to eat, and anything else you don’t need to survive. I didn’t say it was going to be pretty – but you will learn a lot from the experience. If it is poor grades go online and find someone who is blogging about how to build better study habits like Cal Newport. Go to the writing center at your college and see what academic support is available. If you think you aren’t the best candidate start researching what you need to do and take the first step.

The biggest thing you need to do is decide that you want to do something worth your time. You need to stop making excuses for doing nothing and get to work – or at least getting to work that matters. If you start doing work that matters to you, then you will find purpose in even the menial and once boring tasks. So stop making excuses.

March 11, 2011 / Brent Sears

Campus Email

Ugghhh!  Okay, I hate campus-wide emails.  They send you a billion of them and most of them don’t pertain to anything relevant.  Announcing the loss of the Presidents cat Mr. Whiskers.  Yeah, thanks!  But there are useful things that come across that you need to pay attention to.
Guest speaker are the first to come to mind.  I have met New York Times best-selling author by seeing email announcements and attending…oh yeah, you have to go up and introduce yourself too.
Anyway, watch out for what is coming up.  During scholarship season there may be an award that hasn’t or isn’t going to be claimed.  If you pay attention you could make out.  Opportunities abound, you just have to decide, is the juice worth the squeeze?

March 10, 2011 / Brent Sears

Is College Outdated?

Information Storage

I used to love the library.  Walking though the rows of books looking for something good to read was one of my favorite things to do.  Now it feels funny – almost like a memory of how things used to be in my childhood.

Ask anyone under age 15 about a card catalog.  They probably won’t have a clue what one of those is.  For thousands of years libraries were the places to store our books, and books were the places to store our thoughts and ideas.

Then along came the internet: Google, Amazon, mobile phones, cloud computing, and online everything.  Each new day that passes we see more and more information being stored on servers and hard drives.  You can get the latest book as soon as it comes out by pre-ordering on Amazon.  Google has thousands of free books for anyone with a computer and an internet connection.  It is safe to say that the traditional library is in trouble.

But here is the crazy thing.  Did you know that college campuses are built around libraries?  What would a college campus be without one?  Where would you get access to knowledge and the ability to share it?

The internet has become the educational revolution.  The same way it has revolutionized retail, newspapers, television, movie rentals and many more industries.  The problem is that the average student, parent, and employer haven’t caught on yet.  Right now there is no suitable alternative that feels safe enough for people not to invest in the traditional 4-years.  It is a tough time to be a student.  The world has changed, but the educational models haven’t.

Do you think is it risky to do something other than go to college after high school?