Monday, September 27, 2010

What Makes a Good Teacher?

Today, President Obama announced his initiative to recruit 10,000 more Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) teachers in the next two years.

That'll set you thinking: What makes a good teacher? Of course, teachers are necessary to guide the students to a particular learning goal, be it learning an algebra, a calculus, a quantum mechanics, how to program a computer, etc. However, in reaching these various goals, a student will need to successfully negotiate suitable, intermediate, learning milestones. Thus, an effective teacher will be able to define, and guide students through, these intermediate milestones too.

Therefore, once a learning goal is established, a teacher will have to define suitable, intermediate, learning milestones in reaching that goal, so that students can be helped. At a macro level, this is seen clearly in university curricula where a certain course cannot be taken by a student without his/her getting a passing grade in a prerequisite course.

If you now consider that the purpose of life is self-realization — See, for example, Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs —, an immediate next step for self-realization teachers is to determine the intermediate learning milestones towards that goal. (Commentary on what those intermediate learning milestones can be is for another blog post).

A corollary: If we want self-realization as a goal to be applicable to all of humanity, it seems to me that a society or a community that incorporates such intermediate milestones into its everyday life is better poised to lead its members towards that goal.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

On the article "Are There Jobs That Can't Be Outsourced?"

If you read the articles in "Are There Jobs That Can't Be Outsourced?", and the accompanying comments, you begin to wonder whether the US Government has appropriate policies that encourage job creation within the US.

In the opening speech today at the Cisco Financial Analyst Conference, CEO John Chambers hoped that the tax treatment of corporate cash outside the US would become conducive to repatriating those funds back into the US, thus encouraging the funds' expenditure within the US border.

Last month, at the Aspen Forum, Intel CEO Paul Otellini warned the audience, as reported by CNET:
Unless government policies are altered, he predicted, "the next big thing will not be invented here. Jobs will not be created here."
And, he further observed on how the Government's efforts have worked so far:
"Every business in America has a list of more variables than I've ever seen in my career." If variables like capital gains taxes and the R&D tax credit are resolved correctly, jobs will stay here, but if politicians make decisions "the wrong way, people will not invest in the United States. They'll invest elsewhere."
Is the US Government listening? The policymakers need to work this problem at a global level: Every government has an obligation to provide a decent living opportunity to its citizens.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Tidbits from the opening session of the Cisco Financial Analyst Conference September 2010

If you watch John Chambers' presentation on the opening session of the Cisco Financial Analyst Conference of today, it is difficult not to make a couple of these observations:
  1. The demonstration of a highly collaborative educational environment is very eye-opening, and it amplifies the distinction between an Apple iPad and a Cisco Cius. The power of collaborative information exchange seems to have the so-called network effect built into it. Once students around the world start making use of this device, it is easy to imagine Tom Friedman's recent observation: In a flat world where everyone has access to everything, values matter more than ever.
  2. John presents excellent arguments as to why commoditization of Cisco's market segment is a distant one: Architectural play, that involves numerous products and processes integrating them. A single product solution cannot even come close. The slide presented on this topic, shown here, is very self-explanatory.

  3. Finally, it looks like there will be dividend on Cisco stock, with 1-2% yield, starting from FY 2011, and we are already in the new fiscal year. With the stock closing at $21.45 (+$0.19) today, you can expect to get dividend income anywhere from $0.21 to $0.42 per share of stock; or, even if the stock doubled by July 2011, you may be able expect $0.42, or 1%.
Disclaimer: I am an individual investor in Cisco stock.