Learning Your APPs
Great story (" 'A' Is for App"). I found it so fascinating that kids as young as 3 are discovering technology; the breadth of what they're doing is amazing. Plus, the piece delves into how these apps and computers can work with teachers and parents, not as a substitute.
Rachel Kramer Bussel
New York, New York
Fantastic that these children can interact and learn from a smartphone, but will they be able to interact with one another? We adults, too, are quickly losing our ability to interact in a civil manner, or have rational discussions or conversations.
Des Plaines, Illinois
Bravo for exploring the possible role of technology in education, but why did you focus only on small not-for-profits? There are lots of fast companies building great education applications, selling them into schools, and reinvesting their profits in further development. Because they have sustainable business models and they do outcomes research, they have long-term impact. Some great examples include Lexia and Headsprout in reading, and Symphony in math. Why isn't Fast Company writing about companies that do well by doing good?
As a high-school teacher, I am concerned that Americans will soon have to choose to invest on a national scale so that these potentially revolutionary educational technologies will reach all children, including those in the poorest areas, in order to remain competitive in the global information economy. Economic inequality can make it difficult for some school systems to purchase and adopt expensive educational tools.
Merrick, New York
I was struck by the linkage between "The Birth of a Sticky Idea" and " 'A' Is for App." Voracious consumption of sugary soft drinks complements the sedentary lifestyle encouraged by a proliferation of digital devices designed to have us sit and stare — our fingers are the last things moving. I've been a martial-arts instructor for 15 years and bemoan the ever-growing percentage of children that literally tip the scales after years of snacking and sitting in front of a screen. If we don't get our children moving soon, in 20 years, we'll have a population full of digitally literate diabetics. At least they'll be able to manage their electronic medical records.
Hazen, North Dakota
We may well be witnessing an educational revolution, but this transformation creates challenges that will have to be dealt with. To what extent will children become dependent on technology? How will they cope with information overload? What about the kind of creativity that doesn't come from using technology, but from a clear mind and a mindful way of relating to the world at large?
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Turn Up the Volume
Your knowledge of the world of podcasts ("Pod Star") overlooks one major source of free, high-quality, and zero-commercial-content podcasts: the BBC. Remember, we're globalized now, so we don't have to listen to droning ads on podcasts, or loudmouths like Adam Carolla. We can instead get this content all legal and free of charge and free of commercials. The world will always have its fools and it's mainly these punters who will be suckered into paying.
Lemmings and Leaders
Great article ("Let's Hear It for the Little Guys")! Without competent, motivated followers, leadership becomes an exercise in futility. How nice to hear someone put the spotlight on where the talent and hard work really pays off — the everyday folks who earn the wealth of the company for its leaders.
Robert D. Lewallen
Council Bluffs, Iowa
I have also wondered why we spend so much time and shelf space on leadership at the expense of intelligent followership. Then I discovered Ira Chaleff and was pleased to learn that someone was giving serious attention to the concept. I commend his book, The Courageous Follower.
Bull's-eye! After 64 years of work in the top ranks of both private and public educational settings, I would respectfully suggest that doing what Nancy Lublin advises is an investment that costs little and pays extraordinary dividends.
Walnut Hill School for the Arts
Chip and Dan Heath hit the nail on the head about the stickiness of the anti-soda campaign ad ("The Birth of a Sticky Idea"), but left out the rest of the story. It is called a half-truth in advertising. Fruit juices are just as sugary as sodas. Why pick on the soda industry and leave out the fruit growers? Next, the Heaths switched the story from stickiness to social responsibility with the question to soda-company executives, "Why fight this?" The answer is, because of their fiduciary responsibilities to this huge industry, they try to level the playing field.
Raleigh, North Carolina
Not Quite Connecting
"Ford's Big Reveal" made a number of interesting points about the automaker's past and future. However, the article left me wondering if Ford is stuck in the past in utilizing technology. Better ways to connect to our cell phones, browse the Internet, or watch videos simply increase the chances that we become worse drivers — at risk to ourselves and others. The photo on A Look at the Next Generation of Ford Sync in the article seems to bear me out. While heralding the improved simplification of switches on the wheel, the photo really highlights two things: first, all of the new flashy multifunctional video displays located below the windshield and on the center console; second, the driver's hand moving to the right to press a button on the console. None of these reflects any fundamentally "new" thinking; a driver's eyes still need to leave the road and a driver's hand still needs to leave the wheel.
Why is a video interface necessary at all? If you want to radically rethink the driver interface, imagine a completely auditory interaction in which the car instantly communicates speed and other data — either at preset intervals or at the push of a button on the steering wheel — and the driver's voice commands all functions ("Lower temperature to 72 degrees"; "Find me a radio station playing Led Zeppelin"; "Tell me when I get to Route 66").
And if a video interface is still desirable or necessary, why does it need to be below the dashboard or to the right of the driver? The military has been using heads-up displays in jets for years. By living in the past technologically, auto designers are making it easier for their customers to endanger themselves and others — and missing out on a huge opportunity to improve the way we interact with our beloved cars!
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A version of this article appeared in the June 2010 issue of Fast Company magazine.