Marci Powell (The future of online learning and online education)

In this episode Marci Powell and I talk about:

  • How the COVID crisis revealed how unprepared schools and universities were for online education?
  • Why an ‘offline copy’ of learning won’t work online.
  • What ‘free content’ will do to the education industry – especially outside of the US.
  • How a modern curriculum should look like? How much customization will it involve?
  • Is homeschooling a way to improve schooling and lower cost?
  • How we will motivate the children and young adults to learn?
  • What role will standardized tests play?

You may watch this episode in 4K resolution on Youtube – The Judgment Call Podcast Episode #40 – Marci Powell (The future of online learning).

Marci Powell is a futurist and public speaker. She has been on the forefront of distance learning for more than 20 years and in 2019 she chaired the U.S. Distance Learning Association (USDLA).

You may reach Marci via LinkedIn.

Apologies for my audio quality during this episode. Thanks to Marci for saving the day!


Torsten Jacobi:  Yeah, well, I want you to explain that what you’ve done there a little bit further to me. Well, let’s start up with a bit of an introduction about you. I got curious, I saw your profile and I realized how much you’ve been investing into the field of distant learning over the last couple of years and tell us a little bit more. How did you get into distance learning and that was way before COVID hit us and it became a topic for everyone. You seem to be in that industry of education and in distance learning for at least a decade.

Marci Powell: I’ve been in distance learning for nearly 20 years. I was cheapest back in 2002. I was president of the Texas Distance Learning Association and then 2008 maybe it was. I was president of the United States Distance Learning Association and then went on to become board chair for that organization. So yes, I’ve been in it for a very long time and if you really go way back to it, it’s when technology first really hit as we know it, computers and so forth, when it first hit education, I was working for an educational institution. At that time, I was in K12. I’ve since done a lot more in higher education and corporate training. But at that time, I was a technology director at a K12 institution and we were considered the Lighthouse District for Technology Integration in the state of Texas by our commissioner of education. And that was when we first started looking at distance learning. We actually set up the very first video conferencing network for K12 in the United States and we connected across the state of Texas. It was very interesting. I can tell you more about all of that, but we were really, that video was one portion of what we were doing with enhancing with technology enhancement for education. So that was my start. I called up Texas Distance Learning Association and I asked them if they could help us because we had won a million dollar grant from the Department of Education to do video conferencing between our district and what a Laredo school district. We were in the Dallas area and we were going to do it with the Laredo School District down on the Mexican border. And I asked for help and they said, oh, we can give you all kinds of help, but could you come speak at our conference? And that’s what started the whole change really in my career and I found it very interesting. But it was getting excited about these future technologies and how they could impact teaching and learning. Yeah, and now, if I correct me if that’s not the case, but you run the United States Distance Learning Association, right? Currently, I do not. I do not. Reggie Smith, Dr. Reggie Smith, Executive Director and the current presidents run the Blackburn New President each year. I’ve been on the, I was on the board for 15, 16 years.

Torsten Jacobi: And now I help as needed. And this is a nonprofit or that’s a for profit organization to help spread the message.

Marci Powell: It is a nonprofit organization. It is focused on all market segments or industry segments. So K12, higher ed, vocational training, a medical government, et cetera. And the way it’s, it’s based out of Washington, D.C., and then underneath U.S. Distance Learning Association, we have various chapters like the federal government, DLA, and Texas DLA that I mentioned in other states and different areas that have organizations like that. So yes, that’s what it set up to help all constituencies with online learning.

Torsten Jacobi: Yeah, I, you know, distance learning for, for a lot of us, and I, I grew up with the Internet do it. It came in late into my life, so to speak, in the late 90s. And it was one of those buzzwords, one of those big trends that everybody knew would happen. But there were so many startups that tried to, to pull off distance education and education. And it seemed to be, by the time 2010 rolled around, it seemed to be one of those big trends that we all expected to happen relatively quickly, but somehow they never happened. At least they didn’t get mass traction. That’s true. It seemed to be a promise and a continuous promise out there for, for, for improving the lives of people for making education cheaper and better. But somehow it hadn’t happened. And it appeared like even 2010, 2020, it was kind of in the same, it’s kind of like remote work. I started going remote in 2010, and I never looked back and I never felt that was a bad thing. It actually helped me. I could travel to wherever I wanted. I took my family. If they had the chance, obviously we had to wait for the summer break for the kids. But there is this, this, this, the sudden realization now that distance education with COVID is what we have to rely on, and it’s maybe the future of learning. This is what I believe in or have believed for a long time. And suddenly it seems to inch closer to, to these institutions that became a reality for these institutions like schools and like colleges that always wanted to ignore it as much as they could, right? They said, well, there is online education, online universities, but for crap. If you want a good degree, if you want to have any kind of network, you have to come here and pay your dues, you’re $50,000 a year if you go into, into master’s degrees. What do you think, just COVID? Is there something that else that happened that really pushed online education even before COVID into the limelight? And where do you think, what happens with online or distance education over the next 10, 20 years? Do you back to the trajectory of, of crazy growth?

Marci Powell: Well, and that’s very loaded, very, a lot of my brain’s going all over the place, but I appreciate it because what I do see is, yes, to reach critical mass or mass adoption has taken a long time. There have been pockets of innovation all over the world in online learning for many years, for 20 years. And you have even the European Distance in eLearning Network organization, Eaton Fellow. They’ve done some spectacular things throughout the years and adopted it quite substantially. Brazil Distance Learning Association, I went and keynoted for them, like the first time I keynoted was 10 years ago. And then I did again, maybe four or five years ago. So there have been pockets of adoption that have been very valuable. There have been, when COVID hit, there were some K12 schools, primary secondary schools, mainly secondary schools, and higher education, second and technical schools that were ready to roll, locked and ready, no problem switching. I mean, I can even go back torsted to, I remember probably 10 years ago, at least, when a hurricane hit Galveston, I think it was Ike, Hurricane Ike, I live in Texas, so I’ve lived through a lot of hurricanes, and it was Ike hit Galveston, took out half the island. Well, Texas A&M had a campus, a Galveston campus. Their rest of their semester was devastated, because the campus is no more. But Texas A&M had already adopted and implemented online learning, and the switch over to distance learning from, we can’t do it in person, from wherever you are, because the students scattered to go wherever they could find a place to live, they were able to continue learning and finish out the semester almost seamlessly, because they were already set. So I will say that it’s been going on a long time. Had it ever reached master’s adoption, not to the level it needed to, or to its potential, and I agree with you that a lot of people tried to turn their back on it and hope they just cannot look at it, it won’t hit them, they won’t have to mess with it. So they were caught off guard. So when COVID hit, we got a lot of, I’m trying to think of a nice way to say icky distance learning. I’m not going to say the words I’m thinking, because, but it was just crud. Some of the stuff that people were just to finish the semester. And I understand we were in a situation last year, a year ago at this time with, we’ve just got to get through the end of the semester, how are we going to do this, and we don’t have anything set up, so what do we do? So I understand that. Now I think that the next semester, this past fall, was the market improvement of people doing online learning, still not where they could be. And then this semester, they’ve gotten better. Have they even looked at what you can really do with online learning? Have they looked at what you could do with gamification and virtual reality and augmented reality and holography and spatial computing and artificial intelligence and predictive analytics and all of these things that we could use and have been, many of us, all over the world for a while and are innovating with them, has most of the world turned towards that? No, they haven’t. That’s what I see. You asked where we’re going to be in the next 10 years or so. I think that we all realize COVID and what happened made us know that we need to have a better disaster preparedness or emergency preparation, but we also need to embrace. It’s like you said, you said just a moment ago, you went remote in 2010, right? So 2010, you went remote and you haven’t looked back. I’ve been doing remote for over 20 years, so I know exactly what you mean. And I love it. And I think that what we’re going to have is kind of a catch 22 here going forward. We’re going to have some people, a lot of students who say, I love learning online. I love learning from home. I love not having to drive and commute. And they’re going to say, I want hybrid, or I want some online and some in person, or I want all online. There’s going to be a high flex that the students are going to ask for. I think the faculty are going to ask for it. How many people have I talked to that they still haven’t gone back to work at the office yet and they don’t want to? So it’s the same way you and I are with our remote work. This next generation of learning is going to be just like the next generation workplace, where we know we’re not going back to accepting, not taking advantage of online learning. And so I see what I see in the next 20 years is where people embrace it to the level of actually innovating with it and implementing high quality online learning and not let’s just get by on my learning.

Torsten Jacobi: Yeah, I hope you’re right there. I think the idea or the label that people put on is that you’re remote first, online first, right? So you structure a curriculum and you structure education around mostly an online process that can be substituted, maybe we can go very soon into how my model for a school ideally looks like. So you can always go a little offline, but generally most of the information sits aligned. And I think this is already true when we think of information, excuse me, most of the information sits in the cloud, sits in YouTube. And we have those massive online repositories of where this information is and then we have groups of people who study better at studying together, some are better at listening to content, some are better when they see the content in front of them, some are even better. Really throw it through. This is probably the minority now. One thing that I was really disappointed over is last year, my children went to school in a pretty affluent neighborhood here in Silicon Valley. And I was under the impression, falsely as it turned out, that they would get excellent online education. Because they were all on iPads, so literally in first grade, it was iPads all day. And the school would provide those devices. And it seemed like it’s basically preparing children for the next century. But what happened when things went online, teachers not ready for this at all. There was no Google Meet recordings, there were no Zoom meetings, there were Zoom meetings and they went all over the place. There was no online tasks, there were papers being sent out, PDFs, I’m like, oh my gosh. Maybe it was just because I suddenly saw how schooling actually worked. Right before I could just push it out and say, okay, kids go to school, somebody probably knows what’s going on, it’s probably good. But then I thought that they basically took an offline copy and just put that online and it was terrible. And I was not expecting this from a school district that I always thought would be ahead of the curve, but it wasn’t at all.

Marci Powell: It was eye opening indeed. And I think it was eye opening for a lot of parents to what their children are learning as well as the way it’s being delivered. Now, I’ve heard some students say, well, this is not the way class normally is, it’s usually a lot more interactive and engaging. And what that really goes down to and where I’ve spent a lot of my career has been around engagement, whether it is next generation learning or next generation workplace, how do you engage virtually? How do you, it’s like you said, some students will lean towards huddle groups. And what I have found with a lot of courses that have been offered online is that it has been natural that students around the world found others that could study with them online. They, you know, self created their own study groups. And it was very eye opening how, especially in primary secondary education, these teachers are trained pedagogically, in other words, the art of teaching and engaging. What they need is the adjustment of how do I convert that to virtual? If I can’t put my hand on Susie’s shoulder and lean over and say, yes, this is what you’re doing, try moving this paragraph here or changing this context so that, you know, you can’t do that when you’re virtual. Oh, but you can. The trick is how do you do it? And so teaching them how to do that. Now from a higher education level, many of the faculty are not trained in the pedagogy or androgogy and the fact that they teach adults as well. But they’re not trained in the art of teaching their subject matter experts. So in some cases, some know how to use the technology and leverage it and engage. But in most cases, it’s let’s record a lecture and then they can do this offline. Right.

Torsten Jacobi: Yeah, well, even that didn’t work.

Marci Powell: I didn’t know.

Torsten Jacobi: So for for a teacher, all he has to do is basically put the phone there. I always thought so that for me, my model of the hybrid school, this this two models that I have, one is more transitional and one is more maybe further out. So the current one is like, if the student is in his seat, and I’m talking about K to 12 schools, if the student is in a seat or the iPad is in a seat like as an avatar, so to speak, that records everything and has the same model of interaction that shouldn’t matter to class, right? So they should be modeled in a way irrespective of the student is in that classroom or maybe on another continent, and even accounting for a little bit of time, time change there. But that’s not the reality, right? So if, for instance, I take my children to Mexico for two months, they tell me I need to have an independent study package. I’m like, are you kidding me, right? So it’s online learning anyways to say, no, it’s not online learning in the little study package if you’re not coming to the school every two weeks, which is really odd to me. So there’s a whole different mindset in most K to 12 schools that blocks them from recognizing what school should be. And for me, it would be online first, and then there would be a community where our children can go. I don’t even think they need the institution of these schools anymore, but they get supervision, they get maybe some mentoring, they get definitely a bit of motivation, they get friendship with other children, not necessarily all the same grade. And those might be just per city block or for a couple of city blocks. And basically, this is a place, like a library, so to speak, with adults supervision, where they can learn their curriculum. And it should also be like a curriculum that’s the same anywhere on the planet, right? So whatever curriculum I would like my children to subscribe, they can do this in Jakarta, or they can do it in, in Mombasa, or they can do it in San Francisco, it shouldn’t change. But all of these things are accepted most of online in the online world, but in K to 12 education, they sound crazy.

Marci Powell: Yeah, that’s very true, and it’s really set, I remember years ago, 20 years ago, we first started doing what I called virtual field trips. And that was to expose the students to all over the world. We could take them to meet authors, to meet, to be, if you’re studying World War II, we could take them to the war rooms in England, virtually. And I remember being in an inner city school, and a young lady, we were just showing them the power of the technology, and she said off the top of her head, that her, she had been grown up in that school, her mother went to that school, her grandmother, her great grandmother had grown up in that school, they had never left the city. And she said, if I could dream, I would go to Paris, France. We went on video and dialed one of JFR, John Francois, in Paris immediately, within seconds, she was connected to a Frenchman who told her all about the Eiffel Tower and had the view right out his window. She virtually went on a field trip. And that was 20 years ago, people were shocked that they could do this. And it became really widely adopted in K12 across the United States, across the world. It turned into, I forget what year it was, I met with Barbara Bush, the former first lady at the Bush Library and College Station, and we kicked off, read around the planet. And that was a virtual event with authors and students from all over the world participating exactly what you’re talking about. So it is happening, and it has happened in pockets, that I would say educational technologists and schools that, that there are many schools that have embraced that. I can name some of the events we’ve done with schools in the Silicon Valley. And one of my friends that worked for NASA for a long time became, I’m trying to remember which town in the Silicon Valley, he was a technology coordinator, but he was the one at NASA, at Ames Research Center, that set up all the virtual field trips for students all across the United States. We even did a global event, and I was responsible for getting all of the international schools. So K12 has been doing some, is it where it needs to be? No. And is it going to change? Yes. Because I think students will demand it. And higher ed has had to step up and realize that if they want to not go bankrupt, which has really COVID has had a huge impact on higher ed, they’ve lost, there’s been a great attrition, they’re losing their retention of students, they’re losing enrollments, they’re losing all sorts of revenues, revenue streams, housing that they have not been able to recoup from. We’re not in the best position right now, but what we’re learning is that the demand is there. It has to be, in my opinion, relevant starting with early childhood all the way through going to work. We need to have the right workplace preparedness, career readiness in our K12 schools, and that means global exposure. You’re from around the world. I’ve worked with companies when I was at AT&T or Polycom, any of the companies I’ve worked for, we were global. I had someone that worked for me that was in Australia, and my manager was in Singapore. That’s the global workplace. And as you look at the workplace changing, education has to change to match.

Torsten Jacobi: Yeah, workplaces has adopted a pretty, I think the last 10, 15 years already, and it never made its way to education. And I was chatting with Professor Damoradan, last week, his last name always makes it hard for me to pronounce. But he had a unique insight, he said, you know what, I’ve basically been delivering a hybrid offline online course for, since 1997, I put my videos online, and I attracted an audience that’s massive, that’s millions of people over time. And that wasn’t something that my school would allow me initially, and then I convinced, he convinced them. But he said, his insight was in the 90s, and I think we all shared his insight is you literally only need one professor per subject or say a handful, and that’s a global scale, right? So you need a very small number of highly efficient, highly industrious, very gifted individuals who basically do the big part of knowledge transformation. He’s a gifted educator, he’s won many awards of being, taking really difficult subjects like corporate finance and making them very easy to understand. Everyone can understand them. My 12 year olds would understand them easily. What I’m trying to say is, is there is this, there was, and maybe this is why we had these issues for almost 20 years, it seemed like a threat over the institutions, and maybe it still is, right? So the teachers, the professors, a lot of staff in schools, they’ve realized, okay, if this thing happens, we’re out of business, because you still need teachers and professors, but you definitely don’t need the number of them right now. You need them in a different role. My importance goes down. I think this is my little conspiracy theory, I don’t know if you shared this. But I think the rejection of any kind of change in that model, I think we have something similar with the journalists going on right now, this development is much further out. I feel like they’ve blocked this, but the intention over the wisdom, so to speak, that the role of the educators that we used to have is changing completely, and many of them will not be needed anymore. That seems to be the expectation of everyone involved.

Marci Powell: Well, there’s a fear. I think that there’s a fear for, there’s multiple fears we’re dealing with, and that is certainly one of the top ones is I’m going to be replaced by technology. So there’s a fear there, but they also are, they’re scared of their intellectual property going away. If I put my course online, I lose the control, they don’t need me anymore, they can just, they’ve got all my lectures recorded, why would they need me anymore? So there’s fears there. And there’s a little reality in that, but not to the level that you would think. We, yes, we could use one incredible professor for one subject and the whole world could take that. I think you would lose so much by not having the diversity and the train of thoughts from various people. There’s a collective wisdom. And I believe educators, yes, their roles are shifting from sage on the stage to a guide on the side, that they will, there’s so much more you can do as an educator, and you don’t have to be the all knowing, all knowledgeable sage on the stage. Your job is to make sure every student, and you’ve already talked about our different learning styles, auditory, visual, kinesthetic, there are all kinds of different learning styles. And you have to make sure you’re getting the best content for them.

Torsten Jacobi: I think we have a model for this, which is called Hollywood, right? So we have a lot of actors, all of them are great. Like I did the wonderful people. You know, they’re a bit more on one side than the other psychologically. But anyways, they’re wonderful people. But the money, the commercial reward and the attention you get is a few hundred people. Everyone else basically barely makes any money. I mean, there is money involved, but it’s small numbers and you have to really struggle for this. And the internet really facilitates this in other industries. So the fear, and I think this is not just a fear, that’s actually correct. That will do the same thing to education. There’s a few hundred individuals on some big platforms, maybe Google, maybe something else. And they will basically take over 99% of education.

Marci Powell: You think so? Do you think that’ll really happen? Yeah. I mean, the internet, every single industry, it starts, music, movies, Google search, anything you can come up with in my industry ends up like this. Well, okay. So to not argue, but to debate this for just a minute, we have the massive open online courses that have been created. That started in the Silicon Valley with Sebastian Thrun, who started one and had over a hundred thousand students immediately. So they’re already doing some of these things you’re talking about. You have Professor Ali Habashi at the University of Miami, incredible, talk about Hollywood meets education. Here is a man who is an award winning documentary filmmaker. And he gets a Herbert Hoover Foundation grant. And what he does is to create an entire course on the ocean health, oceans health, trying to say we’ve got to be more cognizant to save our oceans. And so what he did was he went and found the experts all over the world from the various oceans around the world. And you had, he created an entire course. It’s called Oceans Health Voyage, and every expert, each module has different experts who are marine, the top marine scientists from around the world, teaching their module from their ocean. And spectacular course, what, you know, and any university can make an agreement with the University of Miami to use that course. I think that’s the kind of collaboration that we’ll see. Educators in general haven’t been in education to teach to make money. We haven’t. We have been in education because we want to help people and give back. And in many times that meant sacrificing in great ways. So, but you still want a job. So what I think is that, yes, we should leverage the expertise of the best. And literally for mine, if I’m personally going to school, home school, if you will, my grandchildren, I would figure out, I want them taken Latin from the expert. I am going to build my own content and my own courses and pick in my best experts, like you said, to create these courses that I think will give them the best education they can get. What I think is going to happen with education is that there will be a lot more shareable content, what we call open educational resources. They’re open and you can all use and take advantage of them. I think we’re already seeing that being shared throughout the world. I was in Brazil. I keynoted at a conference for the second International Congress of Healthcare Innovation. And I was one of the keynotes. And while I was there, I was blown away by this one connection they did with Tanzania, where they in Brazil had created a Vasus, which is a video repository that’s open and it’s full of like training first responders and all sorts of health videos that can help a nation. And what happened was a Brazilian who was a missionary in Tanzania, saw this, found this, when he was home in Brazil, he found the repository and he begged them to turn it into Swahili that would help all the African nations, Sub Saharan Africa and over 40 nations that speak Swahili. And they agreed to translate it. And a couple of gentlemen from Harvard were there with me and they were the, they were working to translate this. These are the kinds of resources that I’m talking about, expertise, the ways we can share. This content is rich and valuable and much needed. We’re not all looking to become Hollywood rich. We’re looking for providing for our students, preparing them for their future and to stay healthy and to give them the education they deserve. If we work together and use these technologies and innovate, we’ll do that.

Yeah, I think that I think I love your optimism there, but I think we are looking at them a much bigger change there because you know, what’s going on right now is that we, we, we drag education out of its regulated basis where it has been forever, it’s like healthcare or even basic parts of transport. And what we do now, we, we apply this, this cruel and massive permissionless innovations. Anyone could do anything they want. And you know, the medium is called YouTube where we are on. You can just create, create content. It’s basically free. If you have it in your head, if you have an iPhone for a hundred bucks, anyone in, in the middle of Congo can make a video and put it on YouTube. And here’s the great part with YouTube is you just mentioned it with a translation. So YouTube obviously does translation, but they, but it has the subtitles, right? So the subtitles come out in 130 languages right away when you publish a video and they might not be perfect, but they’re good enough to understand what the 70% yeah, yeah, and get the concepts across, which is incredible. And this is all free. So YouTube for whatever reason has decided to, to spend a lot of money on this. And you know, I, I, I diss a lot of the big tech, big tech companies, obviously that’s a part of big tech that, that a lot. And it’s very expensive to run. I don’t think anyone else can afford it. I don’t think even the United States as an entity could afford to run it. That’s how expensive it is to have all this data transfer and all the storage costs. But what this will do, it’s, it’s like the, the, the, the termion explosion, right? Which this suddenly everyone, anyone can make money from it or can just get across to his or her personal passion for education. There is, you don’t need to go to college anymore to become a teacher. You can be, but you don’t need to. You can, you can teach an entire generation of, of, of teenagers, something and I’m not saying this is going to be a play or a circuitous, but that you can actually just with a few YouTube videos and we saw that George leaders and he’s obviously the best example right now with a few YouTube videos, you changed, you changed the world and the, the, the way a generation believes in its world around it. And I think this is extremely powerful. This is what I’m looking at. I feel like we’re looking for education. We are not just looking at the new process and the better understanding. We’re looking at a force that just it completely annihilates what’s out there. Like, like education can look maybe, and you know, we’ve both expected that much earlier at the head, but now we have the tools together. This could be like a complete rebuild of education from the bottom up without any city educators or state educators or federal money. None of this is needed. I think this is where they’re the real power lies. Well, you know, I think you even look at why LinkedIn bought was the YouTube video type learning environment and one of my son in law’s favorite sayings is every time something happens, the window broke in his car and went down in the door and he fixed it. He said, no, I’m YouTube certified because he just went on YouTube and found someone else that had the same problem and he watched their video. And you know, you really look at like even my seven year old granddaughter, the other day I looked over her shoulder and she had drawn the most beautiful picture of Anna and Elsa from frozen. And I thought you’re seven. You’re supposed to be doing stick figures. Well, maybe a little bit better than that because she is a good artist, but it was perfect. And then I thought, I said, how did you do that? Well, she showed me the video on YouTube. She was watching where it was line by line. Now you’re going to come up here and you’re going to draw a line this way. And she did it. This is now you’re going to come up here and you’re going to, and she literally drew an entire beautiful picture of Elsa and Anna that you would think, okay, I even know adults that can’t draw like that, but it was all through YouTube. So yes, I think it’s, it’s giving us a lot to think about and a lot to consider. And we’re only talking, that’s just a video portion. When you look at how much one thing education is good at is, is that we have to bring it to you now have that knowledge, but how do you use that knowledge and put it to practice? So you’ve got the theory, let’s put it into practice and so you look at the technologies that are out there now for online learning from virtual reality and simulations and gamification. And there’s so many tools that are out there that can really teach things in a very practice hands on type environment, very engaging like gamification. And you look at, wait, okay, let’s talk about simulations for just a second and you go back to remember when some, Sullenberger landed the hit plane in the Hudson and no one died. Did he have practice at that? Had he ever done that before? No, but he had practiced it on simulations. He had over 40,000 hours of practice, 40,000, think about how much that is. And he had seconds to respond, seconds. It was life, it was a matter of life and death literally in seconds to change. Simulations is what he had to rely on and he landed it and saved all those people. What I’m talking about is that there’s so much more power than just a YouTube video that you can watch and kind of emulate, but there’s also that the simulation and the games, there’s really good games for calculus. I’ve seen one where you go into a virtual world and you become the avatar and to get on the different levels, you have to know variant limits and how to do all of those higher levels of math to move forward. So I think yes, in the sense that yes, this is going to change education and that will be big in the future. I think it’s going to take longer than we want it to, but I also think that there will, I don’t know that we’ll need to, that we will forgo the state level or the local level to the federal level or a world level because you think about one of the things teachers do besides teaching a particular subject is that we have an entire, what we call a scope and sequence, we literally have to sit down and say, what is it that we want this student to know, be able to think, see and do by the time they finish our course or by the time they finish this grade level or by the time they finish this degree program and we figure out that entire scope and sequence. What’s happening towards that is that there’s so much content out there, number one, knowing where to find the best content, two, knowing what you need and each one of us have individual weakness and strengths, so we need a personalized learning environment. You can do that with learning analytics and you can do that with educators who are saying to get from point A to point B and then on to C, here’s the sequence that you need to take and here’s all that’s out there that we’re going to bring into a program for you and you need that help. Guys, students don’t know what they don’t know. I was talking to an African American. That’s an interesting point, let me just interrupt you there. I think you’re attaching something very crucial and I think we’re talking in the end, we can think of Socrates and Aristotle, so Socrates or Cleo in its transformation will have told us we have to restrict knowledge because if we don’t do it, people will not become warriors, will not become good tradesmen, will not become good politicians, so we kind of need to take care of our youth and make sure they’re not being corrupted by all the vices out there. He probably formulated it slightly different, but that was kind of his approach, his absolutely possible solution to this problem. Aristotle said, well, we have to think about this a little different and we have to act differently. I introduced people to the real world. In order to do that, we have to show them the real world and we should at any point really be very careful with how we restrict information. I think it’s a similar point here, when you’re talking about this, it’s kind of, to me, when I grew up in Eastern Germany, so I have my own observations about communism, but I always felt like the top down approach and we decide what’s good for you. We decide what’s the correct along. We decide where you should be when you’re 16. We decide where you should be when you’re 12. I think the bigger potential, and I know this is well intended, I know this has worked to an extent, but I feel like there is a bit of this big stagnation. We haven’t seen as big a productivity growth since the 70s and it’s claimed on all kinds of things. Nobody really knows why it’s actually happening, but one thing that sometimes runs through my mind is we haven’t made huge changes to this curriculum. We kind of still set up people, our children, like they would be going into the industrial world. For the last 100 years, I know. Yes. We felt like this is a safe bet, and I call this the baby boomer model. You’re going to have some kind of career, and we can’t tell you what career, but it’s always going to be some kind of career. But now they realize, oh, but there’s no careers, right? So all we learned isn’t terrible, I mean, it’s not that we should unlearn it, but it isn’t actually what gives us the skill to really create opportunities because they can’t create opportunities. We blame it on the fact and we blame it on China, maybe, but I think the real problem is it just let people go and decide what is their curriculum, what they want to learn. Obviously, the question is then how we moderate them, that’s a big question. But if you let them go and decide them for themselves, maybe they come out with something much better and they just completely change the sequences. My example is always, I learned how to build AIs. I learned how to program in different languages. Nobody taught me this ever. I never went to college because I studied law, and I find it really easy and I get people asking me questions how this works, but this I learned fully out of sequence, but always on a particular case, right? So I had something in mind that I wanted to build and I did it and I found the information necessary. And I think this is true for all our children now. They can find all the information they ever want online. We just need to motivate them, and I think this has become the real curriculum. How do we motivate people? I am so with you on everything you just said because I feel like we have not, we’ve been stuck in a rut for the last ever since we started in the United States alone. I’m more global. I look more globally at things, but when you look at the United States alone and the way we established education in the U.S., how much has changed since then? But the world has changed since then, so I’m with you that, A, that we need to really reinvent, reimagine education. We’ve used those terms a lot. I’ve done a lot of speaking on reimagining education and really looking to all these new ways of, I think, I love students that go and learn on their own and that seek out things they’re interested in. Otherwise, you have students sitting there bored out of their minds and hate school. And that’s our fault in a lot of ways because there’s no limits on what we can do, especially with the technologies. And I love, to me, you can look at learning analytics or even predictive analytics and figure out what the student really loves and be able to recommend things that they need and what would help them. And I think there’s, the Netflix of education should be there. And so I’m a big proponent of that and figuring out your own. I also am not of the opinion that you only allow them to learn what you want them to learn, that you put a box and put them in the box. I hate boxes. I don’t do well with boxes. And I looked at original, and I don’t get me to quote in this article, but I did hear some latest things they’re doing with math in Oregon and K12, and it made me sick because I felt like you’re going to oppress the children with the way you’re approaching it. It’s not leveraging technology and leveraging all the ways you can do it. I love the idea of using TikTok to show your work, kind of. But my point is, it’s, it, you’re going to be in hot water for this statement. We need to, I’m just kidding, say again, you’re going to be in hot water for recommending for recommending, yes, but we’ll go ahead and recommend TikTok, Oregon recommended it. I did not recommend it. Let’s set that straight. They now want their math students to not show their work, but they could use TikTok to show some things. That’s why I’m still kind of mulling over how I feel about this, but one of the things that bothers me the most is that, especially when it comes to equity, I’m all about providing equity and access, and that’s real hard when you’re talking about educational technologies and you’re talking about internet, because not everybody has access to the internet. I mean, you and I are talking out there with, as if everyone can get on the internet, go learn whatever they want to. It’s not true for a lot of, a lot of students in a lot of places around the world where there’s, they walk 20 miles to go get internet, or they have to download everything onto hard drives and then go to the library 20 miles to go be able to get access to the coursework that they need, because they don’t have devices themselves. So it’s not as rare as you think, but it’s not as rare as you think. Well, I’ve been to most places, even in Africa, and still after one of the poor places on the planet, but it’s when you believe the official statistics, but in slightly urban areas that includes small towns, the access to a small Samsung device, and internet that works enough to work like on the lowest resolution YouTube, if it’s not banned, some countries ban it. If you’re going to be not a good example, because they shut down the internet sometimes, but it is almost universally available now. I mean, there is still pockets. It’s getting there. The internet’s so slow, but I think 97% of the world’s population is there. Well, let’s just look the United States alone, where we’ve had internet since the 90s, and it’s been proliferated throughout the United States. You still have inner city kids that can’t get access to the internet at home to do their schoolwork. They can’t afford it. It’s available if they could buy it, but they don’t have the money to buy it. And so then I’ve seen superintendents. There’s one up in the Northeast of the United States, where the superintendent had this predominantly economically disadvantaged student body, and he outfitted his school buses with Wi Fi cell towers and drove them out at night. They would park buses all around the city as access points for these students. So they had access to the internet. And I’m all for that. So what I was trying to say was, though, we have to think about access and equity, but we don’t need to dumb down our kids or not allow them to achieve or limit because we’re not thinking through what’s going to, they can do it if we believe in them and we help them. And that’s where we go from the guide, the stage on the stage to the guide on the side. If you’ve got almost tutoring as needed, these students can excel, but we have to make them aware of it. And that’s another reason school counselors are there and volunteers and the PTA, and I love, I met this one parent in Chicago who was doing some incredible stuff through their PTA for all their students, and wow, we went over and looked at some of the work that they were doing. I was just blown away with how these parents were deciding what to do. So one thing that I was really curious about, and you mentioned homeschooling earlier, so you probably have solved that already, or you can give us ideas how other people solve this is the motivational issue, right? So we can curate content, we can provide it, all of this is relatively easy and we already have solved this upon a technological basis, but we haven’t solved, and I think this is becoming a bigger issue by the day, is how do we motivate people to be interested in anything? Let’s put it this way. And once they go down the rabbit hole, so we learn a lot about one topic, how do we bring them to the next rabbit hole that’s also of interest to them? I think this is where most of the algorithms, those problems, they can tell you what’s related to this, but they can’t really get you out of the rabbit hole to the next rabbit hole, definitely not in sequence, so that’s even more of a trouble. And it disappoints people and disappoints students, including myself, and that takes a lot of experience and not have yourself be frustrated by this. And how do you do it in your home example? I think this is even more challenging. I find it really difficult to teach my own children, do I have the knowledge, but getting them motivated to listen to me because of the parental structure, right, it’s different when you have your grandparents or when you’re an uncle, but because of the parental struggles, they are entering puberty. I find this extremely difficult. I don’t know what solutions you’ve seen that could solve these things potentially. Well, I think one of the most important things in motivation is to make it engaging, to make it engaging and enjoyable. And yes, we’re going to have subjects we don’t like, but let’s even take, so for example, one of the college courses that many of us hated more than anything was statistics. Now personally, that’s my husband’s favorite course, but he loves probability and all of that, but most, a lot of students hate it. How do you motivate them to want to take the course? They have to take the course if they’re going to continue through their education and reach their ultimate goal. Dr. Rosie Ching, who is a professor at Singapore Management University, she’s one that believes in engaging those students and making it active and getting them excited about learning and figuring out how to reach them. And she let some go down rabbit holes, but she kind of directs the rabbit hole. She created a game called CSI Agent on a Mission in which the students would virtually online travel around the world and they have to figure out, based on the customer service index, how economically profitable will a country be based on their experiences? And she used her students to create the course, and then she let the students do this game on their own time, and it was amazing what they were doing with this course. And they’re excited about it. Well, she also went out and created courses like they went around the whole all of Singapore and did a, checked out all of the public toilets and on a matrix, they had to rate them and then you can only do this in Singapore. Don’t do it. Absolutely. And that’s my point is that you have to look at your school system and how much we allow teachers to create, to engage. If we push them down with you have to teach this much, you know, like we’ve talked about America in K12 teaching to the test and every teacher I know cringes when we talk about it. I’m sorry, I can’t do that. That’s not in my scope and sequence and that doesn’t fit. And we get all caught up in what’s been handed us to teach and every student little Johnny or sister like I’m going to scream or I don’t want to go to school anymore. And then when you get to secondary, like you see, they, there’s a motivation just to get them up to get them to school, just to get them there. And there’s been a lot of creative ways people have addressed that by starting later, like schools that switch their adjustments to being there at 730 and going till 330. You get there at 1030 and go till 530 and students that fit that like it. So I think there’s a lot of things when you think about them, they’re physical, like where will they do? We don’t want making people come and sit and get for hours upon hours upon hours is one of the troubles with public school that we have to overcome. And when you look at homeschool, they can get homeschool done in three hours instead of eight hours in one day. How is that possible? Well, because you’re having more one on one teaching, but you’re also sitting down and teaching at their level, you’re not slowing them down so that you pull the other kids up or you’re not figuring out more work for them to do because they’re bored. We really need to use the technologies and I think in get with the idea of active learning being number one at any level and it needs to be that taking the theory into practice. Students want to learn if it applies to them, let me give you a good example. Talk about teaching to the test. I had a school district that called me up years back and they said, we have 59 students who are going to fail objective four on a state test and we have taught and retaught and their judge is not clicking. They’re not getting it. We want to know, is there anything in the online world that we could do that would make it stick? And I said, let me do some research and I’ll get back to you. And I went out and checked around and what I did was I said, let’s sit up two groups and we’re going to do 45 minute sessions with each group, only 45 minutes. We’re going to take them on a virtual field trip and we’re going to go to the aquatic research interactive near Chicago virtually and we’re going to let the students, there’s a diver, a scientist teacher in the pool in the buoyancy pool lab and he’s going to connect. It happened to be, believe it or not, objective four was simply measurement. How do you do perimeter, how do you do area, how do you do volume, that kind of stuff and these students just couldn’t remember the formulas, couldn’t click, didn’t care if they learned it. And so this diver started off saying, you measure distance by kicking, we measure how many kicks and that’s how far we know. It’s a matter of life or death because you have to know how far away you’ve gotten from the surface and how far away from the boat you are and you know your kicks, your distance by how far you’ve gone and how deep you’ve gone and then you know when to return and based on how much your air pressure. So he explained it all to them why measurement was important and then he said, if I wanted to perimeter this pool, tell me what I need to do and they had to come up with a formula. We’ll swim the length of the pool, now swim the width of the pool, okay, he goes I’ve done that, this is how many kicks it is, now what, now what and they had to figure it out. After 45 minutes, even at the very end, Torsten, they did, at the very, very end, he goes I’m so proud of you guys, yall figured this all out, oh no, he’s, oh no, I forgot, the shadow end slopes down into the deep end so we’re all off with our measurements, what do we do and they had to come up with a Pythagorean theorem and he had to say what’s that and they had to figure it out, do you know that 56 of the 59 passed that portion of the test after a 45 minute session, why, because they sat in front of that test screen and thought what do we have the diver do, hold on, oh yeah. Marcy, yeah, I like that example, but I think it also illustrates something that I feel is wrong with the way education is being treated, so I think this is a way of making it less abstract is the way to go for it, but I think maybe we should look a little one step further, so when I look into the real motivation of human beings to learn, what do we, why do we learn, right, so we learn and that’s like everybody has that to a different degree, but we wake up day one, we are being born and we want to learn, we want to learn how to survive, right, we want to learn how to survive and then we learn how to survive better, we want, we’re doing this for status, we’re doing this for more income, there’s a deeply associated with our brain and we all do this through learning, some have to learn, some have to learn that, we don’t all get the same hand dealt by our creator, but I think this, we don’t have to worry about this, what happens is our brain tells us you don’t have to worry about the path, but you don’t have to learn about the map for instance, what you have to learn about is how do I get this result, so for instance, how do I get ahead by providing something slightly cheaper, faster, better than my other peers, so that increases your status, right, or how do I, I don’t know, what nail polish do I put on, how does that make me look, and it’s not something that’s taught in school, but how do I, as someone who grows up as a young girl, how do I interact with boys for instance, all of these things are necessary learning steps, some are taught in school, some are random, some your parents maybe teach you a little bit, so what I’m trying to say is that results is what children are interested in that help them increase their chances of survival, now this is a very small process. True, very basic, yeah, yes. But the how and the path, nobody, our brain doesn’t care about this, so, but we do need to know that to get to the next level, because if you want to look through it, it needs to be, it’s not encapsulated, but what you see with knowledge these days is that it’s encapsulated, so if I’m a developer and do really pretty difficult, say AI, that’s like one of the more complicated things based on statistics right now, so where your husband is an expert, but here’s the thing, to in order to handle and make them productive and use them for my own decision making, I don’t need to know any statistics, I just block them into this layer that has been developed by others that know way, way more about that and they know lots about statistics that I could never even compete with them because decades ahead. What I’m trying to say is what we teach children and what we want them to understand is the path, the process, because we feel once they understand this, now they can stop, but in real world. Critical thinking skills. Yes. Right. In the real world, what’s often, what’s more important short term, and we can, I’m not having made up my mind there either, but this is actually not a useful skill anymore. The useful skill is how do I add the next layer on what’s already existing out there and just this little next layer, how this creates an opportunity for myself and opportunities not necessarily business opportunity, right, this is just, I have something another people want or find of interest. And I think this, our brain works fundamentally different than what’s taught in school where we tell, we taught, we teach something different that most kids, they don’t find of interest because it doesn’t get them ahead of life from what they can see, right? And they obviously have a, and I’m very, I’m very critical of this. They have a very short term vision of their life and they don’t care about the long term vision. Absolutely. It’s true. But maybe there’s a way to align this, right? So when we think of capitalism and Adam Smith, right, so we, we aligned the short term benefits with the long term benefits of the, the world. So each our little small minded profit maximization, which makes things cheaper to everyone and everyone wants to buy from us, makes the, the whole world better off, which is the beauty of the invisible hand, maybe be underestimate the invisible hand in education and be kind of forced down and this is all an assumption. Be forced down something we feel is good for them for our children, but actually it is because they can’t get to this plane of higher knowledge yet because they’re not 25 years, so to speak. So what I’m trying to say, 25 year olds make these decisions for 10 year olds, but 10 year olds wouldn’t teach themselves the same thing. That’s very true. You know, I think kids are a lot smarter too than you now than they were when I, I was a kid in the sense that they’re exposed a lot more to knowledge and they can make more educated decisions on where they want to go. I, there have been times in my career when we’ve used students to teach other students. We’ve used, I even had a group, I walked into a school library, had a tour group that had come, this is 20 years ago. I had a tour group from Washington schools that wanted to come down to see what we were doing with technology and we walked into the school library at an elementary school and there stood a little kid, I call him Bill Gates Jr. teaching this L shaped bank of teachers and I walked over and said, what are you doing? And he said, teaching Excel. He was training the teachers, so he smart enough to know how to go out and plan for himself and reach that higher level. He can make some decisions on what he wants to learn and how he wants to learn it and how he wants to share it. And what was interesting was I leaned down and said to him, well, how old are you? And he said, nine, do you mind? And I was like, sorry, we’ll get out of your way. And there was a nine year old teaching teachers about technology. I think in education we’ve limited and tried, well, that’s the difference between public education and what some people have chosen to do with homeschool education and what some people are doing with piecemeal higher education is that they’re choosing for themselves what they want to learn. You can even do, you can bend, if you will, an education learning and what you want them to learn towards what the student loves. So for example, in homeschooling, my oldest grandson, who is in secondary school, he’s 16, and he loves marine biology, he loves animals, he loves animal science, he loves all nature. So if I want him to learn a subject and I want to motivate him, I get do a little research and put it out there and say, instead of forcing him, we’re going to, like we read the scarlet letter together, it was a misery for him and took extra long for him to get through it. But Swiss family Robinson, he could go through like this. I know it’s a different reading level, but nonetheless, my point is that allowing students to do for themselves and allowing them to create their own learning environment. If you open up and make room for individuality and personalized learning, and you use some of the technologies we’ve had out there that can know what works for people and can recommend things because it’s smart enough to recommend what content or the way you could teach any subject with bending it towards their personality, their learning style, and what they’re interested in and let them have a say so in what it is. Instead of here’s the masses, we’ll do everybody the same way, and here’s the limitations. I’m with you that we have the technologies now, we have the environment now that we can really personalize learning in much more productive ways at all levels, all the way through postgraduate. Even one, there’s a Canadian university who developed a course that’s on energy, it’s for engineering students, and it’s a green energy focus course, and they knew people, these engineers or these people were going to take the course, it was an IEEE, I forget what it was called, I’m not an expert on that course, but the point was they had four entry levels and four exit levels, so you could hand pick with one course what you need from that course, that’s creative, because they could say I only need the bronze level, I need the basics, this is what my company wants me to know, and this is just give me this, or you could say I’m in charge of all this for our whole organization, and I need the platinum level, and I need to do a flagship project on it, and you could choose entry and exit levels based on what do you need to get out of that course, now that’s personalized learning, and that’s when we’re using these technologies to really serve people. Yeah, I’m curious what you think of testing, so we have the standardized testing in the US, had the best intentions, but it turned out like all Soviet era things, it eventually becomes stale and it works against you, that’s what we have to keep that in mind, and I think the education system has operated like the Soviet Union for a long time, like a healthcare system, we need to change this or we’re not going to make it against China, that’s what I keep telling people, because there’s a few places that are innovative and permissionless and all the rest that works like the Soviet Union, and it’s way behind China and those. Anyway, so what I feel the tests, they kind of come out of, and this is, I haven’t made up my mind for this either, but so I’m curious about your input, I feel like do we really need the test, because the test is kind of, Jordan Peterson came up with this idea and said, we have all the content for any lecture you want, it’s already online, so we don’t need to even worry about content anymore and lectures, this thing is done, and it might take a few more years, but this goes down to any level now, why don’t we just add on top of this kind of a certification, so you actually don’t just pretend you’ve taken the course, what do you do with some kind of multi factor test, multiple choice test, so we don’t even need humans to look through this, so we basically run an AI against you and AI decides if you’re clever enough that you understood this, and I think this all started good, and I think it makes a lot of sense, but here’s the thing, isn’t a test just a weird abstraction, and again, it’s randomly blocking you into a certain dot process, so what I’m trying to say is you can take a test of your good developer, but if you never run any code, this is completely useless, right, you can be wonderful in abstract math, but you struggle with even the easiest coding problems, so the real life, and I know tests stand as an abstraction for the real life to prepare us for this, but do you think there maybe is another way of getting people closer to the real thing, like letting them try out the actual application of their knowledge, instead of going through tests, because they are stale and they are behind, they always give you, like you’re fighting the last war, so to speak, we’re not fighting the next war, when we run people through testing and certification and you completed this, maybe there’s a better way, have you thought about that? I have a lot, I really have, because I think we’re missing the boat in so many ways, we’ve saved so focus on the knowledge and the theory that we’re missing the skills, and that’s obvious with all these employers who have university graduates coming to them that can’t do the job, and so I think we’re missing the boat in so many ways, I think standardized testing, is it really necessary if you could get badges, if you could get the certifications that are actually a hands on do it kind of certification that shows your employer, I’ve got all these certifications and this experience and I know what I’m doing, I think of my cousin who works, right now he’s got a nuclear plant in Virginia and he contracts out and goes to all kinds, every industry, and he’s really specialized in safety, he has 26 certifications including OSHA level certifications, but he has a whole gamut of certifications, but he doesn’t have a college degree, and he goes out to these groups, like he was at one other day where they used a crane to try to pull another crane out, and it broke the boon on the $250,000 crane, and he went out to give a report on what happened, and three gentlemen standing there with college degrees had not calculated, done the math calculating it correctly and had overridden its safety features and basically had a quarter of a million dollar now paperweight because they broken it, and he could look at it and say, he saw all the things around it that said, here’s how much weight limit it has, here’s the math fact, he knew it, he knew what to do, he knew how to prevent it, and he knew where it was failed, so my point is that you could consider each one of those certifications as a badge or as it shows, I not only understand this concept, but I can put it to action, you know, I can put it into practice. I’ve built something, yeah, I’ve built something, yeah, that’s how I built it, yeah. And you can even look at interviews that are going on, and right now we’ve had a lot of people, my son in law for example, I write about him in my book, I wrote a book on remote work called Remote, but it’s to leverage the distance and achieve excellence when working remotely. And in the book I talked about my son in law being interviewed for a job, and it was with coding part of it, web design and graphic development, you know, all of this was part of what they wanted to hire him for. He went through two interviews over a Zoom call, and then the third one, they wanted to see him in action, and they literally connected over Zoom, and they muted their video and audio, and could see his video, and they gave him three hours to complete this design for this web page, and do all the back end coding, the front end and back end, so his UI, user interface, and back end, and he finished all of it in 45 minutes, and then unmuted or he unmuted himself and said to them, okay, I’m ready for you, well, they’ve been watching him the whole time, do it. So they knew what his skill sets were, and at what level he could work. This is the real world, the next generation workplace that we’re trying to educate people to work in. And to me, that’s when you get it right. When the two meet, do you have the skills, are you graduating with the skills we need to do this job, or am I going to have to totally retrain and there’s a little bit you’ll always have training that you’re going to need to do that’s personalized to your workplace, or your way of doing things, but do you have the knowledge, the critical thinking skills and knowledge you need, but also the practice and skill sets that you need. And I think there’s a better way to show that than a nationalized test that limits how teachers can teach. Oh, yeah, I mean, I think that’s terrible. I think what people are already exploring, and I’m very happy, it’s taken off now as well, is the whole freelancer model, and I’m not talking about the freelancer model that people drive for Uber, which is pretty standardized, pretty standardized exercise. But what they have discovered is like upwork. And they still have lots of little things to work out, or, where you have a massive workforce, and you think like, oh, they never get done what you want. But for a lot of tasks, they are so specialized, they get whatever you want to get done in a second, so to speak, in a few minutes, it’s something that would, in a typical organizational structure, and I used to have companies with 150 employees, we just didn’t have that knowledge and we couldn’t acquire it, and it would have taken us a few days or a few weeks to get it done, and now you find someone on the other end of the world and he gets it done in seconds because he’s done this before, many times it just blocks you into this workflow. But there’s no company created around it, there’s not even a web service. It’s just, you basically access someone’s skills in their brain, and it’s fascinating. So if we combine those things, and it’s still in the early stages, and it only works for certain organizations right now, but if you could combine those, take that education that’s pretty open, get it into a freelancer marketplace, but the ward is not good, and marketplace is not good either. But access to that knowledge and other people’s brains, I think that’s the Holy Grail, and I think hopefully we’re going to be there in 20 years from now, which is really pushing up our productivity for the whole country. I agree. Can you still hear me, Torsen? I can, I can. You sound changed a little bit, but that’s all right. I am because my iPods are dying, AirPods have died. I have another pair, but I’m trying to switch. I think that my recording has switched, and is looking at it, is it possible to pause or do we need to just hopefully make it few? No. You know what? I’m almost done with the questions I have, so I’ll only have like a few more minutes. Maybe we’ll just kind of hang on to this. I need to get going also in a few minutes. Thanks for doing this, Marcy. Thanks for being on the podcast. I know we have some technical issues right now. I’m not sure you can hear me, but that was an awesome discussion. You probably can’t hear me, but I hope you get to do this again. Maybe next time we’ll don’t have any tech issues. I know you just had a big freeze in Texas just a week and a half ago.


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