I was spellbound seeing 6-11 year old kids recite up to 15x multiplication tables using a sing-song Marathi melody in the hinterlands of rural India. Even while I wondered about the virtues of rote learning, I was comforted by this super long Math pipeline underway in the country.
The teacher Sapna Baraf (seen in the video) recently gave her 12th grade boards – she’s smart and confident of herself and her students who were eager to race past the more complicated 12x tables and complete 3-digit subtractions with ease. Math and social messages were mixed in local folk songs and dances. Mixing up children of all ages seemed beneficial – with elder kids helping the younger ones and younger ones making the elder ones more responsible – this principle is described wonderfully in Salman Khan’s One World Schoolhouse.
With over 50,000 single-teacher schools and 1.5 million students, Ekal Vidyalaya is one of the largest grass-root education movements in the world. Operations are managed in clusters of 30, 90 and 270 schools. A teacher such as Sapna would scale to managing 1 school to 270 in just a few years. The impact is powerful.
Ekal focuses on the 3Rs: reading, writing and arithmetic. And it works. Take a look:
We are all alumni from somewhere. Scan through your LinkedIn or Whatsapp list and you would notice that both your friends and professional contacts are largely from schools you attended, places you worked in and because of interests you developed along the way.
I went to University of Michigan 10 years ago and not a week goes by without Michigan finding a way to keep giving back to me. I started our company with Michigan alumni in the student lounge, raised money from Michigan folks, contributed to books by Michigan professors, hired via Michigan, volunteered at Michigan organizations, built partnerships with Michigan companies and worked for Michigan clients.
Here are a few thoughts on nurturing your own alumni networks.
1) Education/ workplace is a seed for future relationships. It’s a common misconception that our relationship with our school ends after we are educated. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. It’s the relationships that we build during and after that give rise to continued learning that becomes immensely useful in our careers.
At work, people fail to realize that it’s their colleagues who are actively forming present and future relationships that can form a base for the future. Colleagues can become business partners, friends, family, investors, classmates, promoters and on and on. We would be far more compassionate in our dealings if we viewed everyone we worked with in this light.
2) Give and the get happens. As with any relationship, the person who gets the most is the one who contributes the most. And the giving is usually never transactional – when you give, you get unexpected returns from totally unexpected sources. The idea is to be in the mode of contributing with your knowledge, your resources, your time, your money – whatever is possible and natural for you.
3) Weak links are actually quite strong. Most of my business relationships today are because of a few minutes of random conversation I had years ago with no expectation. The weak links become strong when opportunities arise. When I choose people I wish to work with, I usually look for people who have confidently delivered in some domain, have easier egos and emotions, are trustworthy and can be fun to hangout with. The opposite is true too – when I choose to skip working with someone, it’s usually because of a series of small behavioral observations over a period of time. Alumni networks provide an opportunity to expose yourself to a wide array of weak links that can be brought to action when needed.
4) Business networking is passe. I remember often being lost in b-school career networking events. It’s high stress and somewhat desperate. Nurturing relationships over a long period of time is more natural. Alumni networks require nurturing. It’s not about stuffing your business cards into people’s hands and finding out quickly if they can be useful to you now. It’s about getting to know people who share a common, emotional experience. And that’s very powerful.
5) Showing up matters. When we’ve been out of touch for awhile, we often don’t know where to begin. We worry what others might think about us. Once we get over that self-created phase of comparing and wanting, we enjoy the communities that we already, naturally belong to. Just go have a drink or grab that coffee. Nurturing happens as it should. And it’s even better if there are no opportunities to show up – you get to create one for others and they would be indebted to you.
I engage in a variety of ways with my school and with our past colleagues and if someone calls/ emails me, I love to respond. The experience is rewarding and enriching. People often ask me how I get the time. I often wonder how they cannot.
I’m still reeling with my night-out inside a Google Cardboard, a simple virtual reality device made of cardboard, lens, a magnet and a rubber-band! Depressing the magnet down is equivalent of a mouse-click and tilting my head to the side is what I do to back-button – that simple. Sliding an Android smartphone into the contraption completes it and takes you into the very bizarre, very weird, ultra-cool world of virtual reality. There are several VR apps on the Google Play store from oddball games to surrealistic experiences.
There’s an addictive game called Lamper VR that makes me into a bug zooming in a psychedelic tunnel – last night I found myself stretching my arms, crouching and balancing (see picture). Another lets me fly across snowy mountains – a small Santa Claus flies alongside. In another, I’m led into dark rooms with eerie footsteps (mine I suppose) before a tarantula eats me up – wrong app for night time! There are apps with roller coasters, dinosaur forests and even relaxation music with celestial visuals. By the end of my VR night, I felt sick in the stomach with a trippy head. I slept with difficulty, my mind bombarded with images of a constantly moving bizarre tunnel.
I’m excited about how this little device changes everything we know about user interfaces (including on the web). 3D easily manipulated my senses and messed with my head. I can imagine countless applications in every industry bringing a solidly immersive experience to our everyday online interactions (like in medicineor in retail).
Google Cardboard was a 20% hobby project of a couple of employees at its Cultural Institute in Paris. But with over 500,000 shipped units, it’s now more of an unexpected strategic reality for the company. There’s an upcoming version of aCardboard app store within Google Play – with early-stage apps that keep crashing. But it’ll evolve and undoubtedly take off.
There are several vendors on Amazon in most parts of the world selling it for around $20. Buy one (or make one), you’ll thank me for the trip – even if it makes you a wee-bit queasy.