personal health education

Personal Health Education and the Death of the Tech Guy Stereotype

Below you find a post that I originally wrote for edcetera, but itt did not make it on the blog. It was intended to be part of my 2013 prediction series and the recent news and events around fitness and health startups reminded me of this draft.

Hence, I thought why not publish it here as I just wrote about the topic the other day. I think it’s still as relevant and should give you some ideas on what personal health education and tracking might impact down the road.

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Skype Dating

A Broken Relationship or How Skype is Degenerating into a Cheap Dating Service

My relationship with Skype has been a long one, and for some years it was good. Unfortunately for me, these days are over.

I’m not naive, so I’m aware that now is actually a great time for Skype or I should probably say Microsoft as they’re the owner of the service and Skype is not an independent company anymore. I have acknowledged this at various occasions and written several posts about my ambiguous feelings toward the service.

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Google Adsense Opium

Getting off the Google Adsense Opium

Hello, my name is Kirsten and I was a Google Adsense addict. Well, kind of. But at least I hopefully got your attention. When I started my online teaching brand back in early 2008 I was looking around the interwebs to find ways to generate revenue besides selling live lessons. I read a lot about “passive income” from guys like Joel Comm and ShoeMoney and implemented some of their tactics to Deutsch Happen, my online repository of short video lessons for German learners.

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Medium

Why I am excited about Medium

Lately I found myself being utterly bored by (ed)tech. It seems that we are currently going through a period in which nothing really exciting happens. There is no innovation, just some iteration and lots of hype. And yes, this includes everything from MOOCs to Google Glass. Dull and boring.

Now, of course, there are exceptions. Nomadic.fm for example and everything that is going on around OER and clever use of technologies in developing countries is actually pretty exciting. Unfortunately, we don’t hear or read that much about it. It is definitely something I want to dig deeper into in the coming months.

Yet there is something out of Silicon Valley that got me pretty excited. Medium, the new content platform startup by Evan Williams. In case you don’t know Ev, he is the co-founder of Blogger, Odeo and Twitter. Based on these three startups (blogging, podcasting, micro-blogging) you can say that he knows one or two things about web based content.

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Ashton Kutcher

Ashton Kutcher and not the Media Kind of Fucked up Twitter

Pardon my French, but that’s a quote from the talented actor / tech pundit / investor Ashton Kutcher. You might remember him from critically acclaimed dramas like “Dude, where is my car” and such. A couple of days ago mister (ex)Twitter was whining about how “the media fucked up Twitter“. But everyone who was on Twitter before “celebs” like Ashton, Demi, Kim K or Diddy and such jumped on the service to establish a more personal and direct relationship with their fans knows that it was them who have started the decline of Twitter.

Don’t get me wrong, I still love and use Twitter (other than mister Kutcher), however it is very apparent that the service is not the same that it used to be.

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Twitter

If Educators aren’t using Twitter by now, are they likely to use it in the Future?

What had started as a small, one-sentence question has stayed on my mind for longer than I thought. Benjamin Stewart originally asked the question that makes the title of this post on Google+ and it actually turns out to be not that easy to answer. My first reaction was, it depends on how far Twitter has become an essential part in the day to day life of the average person whether it had established itself in the mainstream.

For example, if you don’t use a telephone today you probably have good reasons not to and therefore you probably won’t use it in the future. Sure, it makes you look a bit weird but that’s a personal choice. I don’t think that Twitter is that far as there are enough people left who have not even heard about it though this number is surely shrinking thanks to the embedding of Twitter in popular news and entertainment shows on TV.

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Follow me on Twitter

The Easiest Way to get my Attention? Follow me on Twitter

Other than reading the headline may suggest, no, I don’t want to artificially increase my number of Twitter followers. But I often get asked which way is the best to approach me with your project pitch. As I was thinking about it, I noticed that many of the conversations I have had over the years started like the one I just finished an hour or so ago.

It was a very interesting Skype call with Matthew Burr, one of the co-founders of Nomadic.fm. How did he manage to get ahead on the list of people I want to talk to? The answer is simple: he just followed me on Twitter. As a side note: Nomadic.fm is now my favorite startup of 2013 so far.

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EdTech Digest Edtech Leadership Award 2013

I have won the EdTech Digest Leadership Award in the Category Edtech Blogger

I am excited to announce that I have won the Edtech Digest Leadership Award in the category Edtech Blogger at the third EdTech Digest Awards Recognition Program. The EdTech Leadership Awards recognize outstanding forward-thinking contributions to learning and technology.

This year EdTech Digest’s panel of industry influencers and veterans evaluated more than 200 finalists from over 40 categories. Past winners of the EdTech Digest Awards Program have included, among others: Pearson, Epson and McGraw-Hill, as well as emerging solutions providers Panarea Digital, StudySync and StudyBlue.

Other winners of this year’s Awards include Learnist as Best New Product or Service, Edmodo as Best Product or Service, Learnsprout as Emerging Technology Solution, Always Prepped as LMS, StudyBlue as Mobile App Solution, Schoology as Social Networking Solution, Straighterline as Product Trendsetter as well as individuals like Heather Hills from Pathbrite, John Baker from Desire2Learn, Bill Goodwyn from Discovery Education and Farbood Nivi from Learnist.

You can take a look at all the finalists and winners on EdTech Digest.

First and foremost, thank you to all of my readers for your support over the years and then of course to the jury for naming me Best Edtech Blogger. This award reassures me, once again, that there is a place for long-form quality content in our fast-paced industry.

Dragon Pearl Jasmin

Content Lessons from Drinking Tea

Something weird has happened to me. Along the lines of never say never I am slowly but surely turning from a hard core coffee drinker into a tea aficionado. In fact, tea already cut down my coffee consumption per day by at least 50%. And that in less than a month!

How could this possibly happen? It is all about quality, like many (most) things in life and I think we can learn some lessons for content creation here.

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Jerry Maguire blogging lessons: show me the money

Jerry Maguire Blogging Lesson: Show me the Money

Yesterday I watched one of my favorite movies again after a long time: Jerry Maguire. The hilarious “Show me the money” scene is as good as ever.

So when an Edupreneurs Club member shared an article on Facebook about Make Money Blogging (free backlink juice) today, I thought it might be a good idea to explain the difference between blogging and online marketing.

Because that is what most of these blogs are all about, online marketing – crafting copy to sell (virtual) goods. Blogging is a totally different animal but often gets confused with the latter.

So let’s start with a definition (my definition) of blogging.

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2013 BLOGGIES

What is Your Favorite Child? My 2013 BLOGGIES Quandary

Tough question to answer, right? I believe, most parents wouldn’t even dare to think about it. And somehow I got into a similar catch-22. As we are still in the awards season I learned that not one, not two but three of my blogs ended up being finalist at the 2013 BLOGGIES. And all in the same category, namely Best Education Weblog!

So what to do?

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youtube paid channel subscriptions

More Signs for Paid YouTube Channel Subscriptions Appear

There have been rumors about paid channel subscriptions on YouTube for a couple of months, but now there is evidence for that in the code of the YouTube Android app. Which is by the way a good example of why it could be interesting to learn how to code. The journalism of the future might very well be about finding evidence hidden in code.

YouTube also confirmed to CNet that they were looking into new ways for content creators to monetize on their videos besides ad revenue and rentals and that paid subscriptions would be probably part of this strategy.

Of course, YouTube says that they are not prepared to announce anything in the near future but that should not hold you back to come up with a YouTube strategy if you haven’t one, already.
So let me sum this up again: why do I think that YouTube is one of the must be places for edupreneurs?

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engineers jamming

Spoiler: Just Knowing how to Code won’t get Kids anywhere

Today a video of Code.org is making the rounds on social media and various tech blogs. You see a lot of high profile tech and pop culture leaders talking about their experiences of learning how to code and how it changed their careers.

The conclusion of the video is that we need to teach coding in schools and everything is going to be peachy for our kids in the future. They will work for awesome companies like Facebook, Valve, Dropbox etc have amazing offices, get free and healthy lunches and extra possibilities to spend their free time. Heck, even their clothes will be washed for them!

Though I agree that we need to teach more coding in schools, I think the message of this video (and others that went down the same road) is misleading. I am probably going to write a longer post about that on Big Think, but here are some initial thoughts.

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jamie oliver salman khan

What Salman Khan and Jamie Oliver have in Common

Yesterday, I had a brief however interesting exchange with Benjamin Riley on Twitter about one of my latest posts “In the search of 100.000 Salman Khans”.

 

Benjamin asked what about 1000 teachers collaborating on video lessons like the folks at Learnzillion. Though I think they are doing a great job, it is simply not the same. We are talking about Jamie Oliver vs. FoodTube. Let me explain.

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keep calm and watch edukwest

Everybody Calm Down – I am still doing Interviews

keep calm and watch edukwestSoon after my announcement that I joined OpenLanguage as content lead I received lots of emails and comments that anticipated I would not do video interviews from now on. Actually, the opposite is the case.

Yes, my new role at OpenLanguage cuts out a nice chunk out of my daily schedule, but I would never quit something I have built over several years “just because” I have a new commitment. I had similar commitments in the past, yet I have always continued with my own projects – nothing new here.

That said and as people often ask me how I can possibly keep up with all the different things I am doing I wanted to share two key principles of my work ethics with you today.

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edublog awards 2012

EDUKWEST and Fair Languages are nominated at the Edublog Awards 2012

I have some exciting news to share. This year two of my blogs are nominated at the Edublog Awards!

EDUKWEST in the category Edtech Blog and my latest blogging endeavor Fair Languages has got a nomination as New Blog. As every year I need your help which essentially means your vote.

Go to edublogawards.com/vote-here and choose the category Edtech Blog to vote for EDUKWEST and New Blog for Fair Languages. You can vote once per day through Sunday, December 9th.

Thank you very much for your support over all these years!

Berlin

Meet me at Online Educa Berlin 2012

BerlinTaking into consideration that I didn’t plan to attend Online Educa in Berlin this year, it is really funny that now I am not only covering the event for EDUKWEST and Today’s Campus but also ended up as a panelist and learnshop host.

In case you don’t know, Online Educa is one of the biggest conferences in the online education space and takes place in my beloved hometown of Berlin. There are a ton of sessions, keynotes, panels and learnshops going on, and I am really looking forward to mix and mingle with all the education folks from around the world. There is also an exhibition floor where edtech companies, service providers and institutions will be presenting their products and solutions, and I am going to try to cover as much as possible of that part, as well.

You will be able to follow my coverage on EDUKWEST as I will try out a new mobile podcasting tool called Audioboo which I am going to use to give you a quick overview of the sessions I am planning to attend. On top of that there will be recorded video interviews in the weeks to come after the Online Educa, both on EDUKWEST and Today’s Campus.

The two sessions I will take part in are as follows:

The Question Time session follows the popular BBC 4 format with the same name and will be live streamed via the Internet on Thursday. You can submit your questions to the panel either via email or Twitter using the hashtag #OEB12QT.

My learnshop will be about crowdfunding and how teacherpreneurs might benefit from it. As it’s meant to be an interactive / hands-on session I am planning to answer as many questions from the participants as possible besides giving them an overview of the different crowdfunding platforms, basics on how to setup a successful campaign, challenges and risks for both sides involved etc. If you have a specific question you would like me to answer, please submit it to the comments below or send me a Tweet @KirstenWinkler.

Picture by Thomas Wolf, www.foto-tw.de (Eigenes Werk), via Wikimedia Commons

wayne's world

Adsense and Tutors – Pros and Cons

wayne's worldFellow edupreneur Sylvia Guinan asked if using Adsense to monetize personal blogs or websites in education actually makes sense. As the answer is a bit more complex I decided to put my answer in a blog post.

There are basically two schools of monetizing educational content. One says that you should rather focus on selling your own stuff on your website(s) blog instead of giving up valuable screen real estate to other vendors. This is also tied to the notion that you should try to keep each visitor on your site as long as possible instead of giving him/her a quick possibility to exit and likely having them buy stuff at a competitors site.

That said, most edupreneurs don’t have much to sell but their online or offline lessons. I know few who go through the trouble of creating downloadable or even physical content that visitors might want to purchase.

Hence, the second school of thought says any money is good money. If you are not going to convince the visitor to buy a lesson with you, you might as well profit and earn some cents through a click on a banner ad.

To me, both options are valid, and as I am in the position of maintaining several blogs and websites I basically use different approaches at the same time.

Different blog, different audience, different approach

Long time readers of KW will remember that even this blog used to have Adsense on it until I decided against it. You can read my post about it in the archives. On the other hand, my Deutsch Happen project is heavily monetized by Google Adsense, so is my latest blog Fair Languages. EDUKWEST has advertisements on it but no Adsense. So let’s break it down for the individual cases.

KW is my personal blog and I don’t feel that ads match this approach. In this case I could also wear branded clothing like sports professionals and insert advertisements in my daily conversations, just like Wayne and Garth.

It just does not feel right thus I decided against it. These days, I don’t even promote my own services heavily on this blog which may change again but I have not made up my mind about it yet.

Deutsch Happen started in 2008 as a side project of my online teaching. On the one hand, I wanted to build my personal brand as German teacher, on the other hand, I used the videos as additional resource for my students in between live lessons. Similar to Salman Khan I saw a rising interest in my videos, so I thought monetizing them might be a nice additional source of revenue. As we all know, Sal never monetized his videos but he also had some cash in the bank from his Wall Street days.
Deutsch Happen monetizes its content in two ways, Adsense on the website and Adsense displayed in the video lessons. The revenue isn’t great but also somewhat an excuse for me to keep on going with the project. Video production is time and cost intensive and doing it completely for free does not fit my hefty schedule anymore.

Fair Languages is a resource site for language learners. Hence, leading our readers to new and interesting language learning products is part of the experience. This can be done via links in reviews or, of course, advertisement on the blog. One way is to generate money is to sell ad spaces to interested companies in the language learning space. Moreover, we display Adsense in the spaces that are not booked.

EDUKWEST is a premium brand as it is very production heavy. It implies that I only accept premium advertisers that match the brand and who are willing to pay a premium price to reach the EDUKWEST audience. Which brings us to the pros and cons of Adsense.

Pros and Cons of Adsense

The pro is of course that it is pretty much “set it and forget it” or “passive income” as they used to call it back in the days. As soon as you are accepted to the Adsense program it is pretty easy to embed the code and get things rolling.

The con is that you don’t have much influence about what people will see in the ad space(s) on your site. It might be related but it could also be Asian dating sites, how to lose belly fat or cheap pharmaceuticals. There are possibilities to go under the hood of Adsense and block certain sites but I think that this is work that does not pay off.

Sylvia also asked if ads interfere with the site and its content. Again, it depends. If you take a look at Fair Languages I think we found a nice way to integrate the ads. As the site is pretty heavy on photos, the ads fit in nicely without disturbing the user’s experience on the site. I suppose, most people don’t even (actively) see them.

Deutsch Happen is much more “in your face” but the site also dates back four years now and does not run on WordPress. Redesigning the site would not make much sense and also potentially screw up our search ranking, so we leave it as it is.

Is it worth the effort?

The above brings us to the biggest problem of Adsense in education. Quite frankly, it does not pay much. Adsense is based on the content it is embedded into and advertising rates in education are pretty low. If you have a blog about insurances you can make up to $50 a click, in education you are lucky to get $1 once in a while. Most clicks are worth between $0.01 and $0.05.

If you take the old rule of thumb that among 100 visitors one of them will click on an ad you can easily predict what your blog or website might generate based on your monthly visitors. I hope you are tracking it! Also keep in mind that Google pays out your earnings based on a €75 / $100 threshold per month. As a result it might take you some months until you get something in your bank account.

Bottom line: I think it is worth to experiment with Adsense. You can’t really break anything and it will get you a better feeling of what your brand is worth. Another positive side effect is that marketers who see that you are monetizing your blog with Adsense may contact you and offer some direct advertising as well. I usually got offers for $80 to $100 for a text link on my blog.

Sandbox

Playing in Someone Else’s Sandbox Rules May Change

SandboxOne of the major topics among edupreneurs, online marketers, blogger and others relying on Facebook traffic is the recent change in what fans actually see popping up in their news stream. I wanted to title this post “Waahaa – Cry Babies want their Facebook traffic back!” but that would have been a bit unfair ;). Nevertheless, I think the issue has been blown way out of proportion.

Let’s start with the basics. When a platform is new the first priority is to get as many users as possible. Therefore the rules are pretty much beneficial for the users. It makes you use the product and hopefully get you to the point where you can’t live without it. A bit like selling crack-cocaine.

Facebook has given page owners a free ride for many years, driving the traffic away from Facebook to their own sites. Now ask yourself, is that something you would do with your blog or platform? Your goal is to keep your users on your site, not leading them away from it to other sites, right? So why on earth should Facebook do it without any benefit?

On top of that Facebook is now a publicly traded company, e.g. they have an earnings call with Wall Street analysts every couple of months. People invest in Facebook on the terms that the social network grows its revenue. Hence, it makes even less sense for them to give you free traffic.

Let’s say you are one of the people who have spent time and effort on building your brand outside of Facebook over the years you were most likely not shocked at all or even surprised as it (or something similar) happened before and will happen again. The thing is, you are constantly playing in someone else’s sandbox and surprise: it’s not you who makes the rules. Here are two examples.

Google

If you spent time on trying to get your page ranking on Google for related search terms you might have been hit by the infamous Panda update back in early 2011. It was so bad that it took out two big players in the education space, my favorite platform TeachStreet and the just newly refocused Mahalo. And even today algorithm changes affect startups. Just read the latest New York Times article on the matter.

YouTube

Like Google, YouTube is experimenting a lot with new ways to display and surface “relevant” content on the platform. I have been hit by the changes at least three times with my Deutsch Happen channel over the past years and even big YouTube stars like Mystery Guitar Man saw huge drops in audience and hence revenue.

But you know that all of the platforms offer you to get traffic in return. Google has Adwords, YouTube lets you promote videos and Facebook now lets you promote posts. Hence, if you really, really want (need) the traffic, there is an option for you.

As a long time reader of this blog you will know that I have always advocated that edupreneurs need to learn about the processes behind the scenes of technology they use. If you have at least a bit of an idea on how funding or even an IPO affects the destiny of a startup you cannot be surprised by such changes.

In August 2010 Andrew Lewis coined a phrase that is still true today:

If you are not paying for it, you’re not the customer; you’re the product being sold.

Have you ever sat down and truly asked yourself if you were willing to pay for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or any other free service you are using on a regular basis? If the answer is “No, I won’t pay” then you have to ask yourself whether the startup actually built something meaningful at all. Which leads to the next question that when you don’t see any real value in the service, why should others?

A handful of edupreneurs like André Klein, Koichi and myself have always preached that you need to invest into your own website (sandbox) as it is the only place you are truly in charge of. All the rest is nice as long as it works and if it stops working you simply move on. The goal is that you need to get your audience to come to your site on their own because they want to, not because they might see a Twitter, YouTube or Facebook update pop up in their cluttered stream.

If you want to have something that catches their attention, get them to sign up for a newsletter. This way you are directly in their inbox as long as they choose to be on the list. You want direct contact, not filtered through a middleman.

Facing the Realities

On the other hand, the new Facebook algorithm might also have some positive side effects as it clears up the news stream from all the noise.

As a side note, when I take a look at both the reach and engagement graphs of my established pages Kirsten Winkler, EDUKWEST, Deutsch Happen and Deutsch Sprechen I have not noticed any significant drop in either graph on any of the four pages mentioned. The only drops I see are the ones I am familiar with, e.g. not updating the page or usually on weak days like Saturday.

All in all the number of likes your page got never reflected the actual number of engaged fans, anyway. The same is true for Twitter followers and YouTube subscribers. It’s a vanity number, nothing more. The new actual number of people “seeing” your Facebook page update also reflects how many people really visit your page or group in the first place. Taking the Edupreneurs Club as an example we have 200+ members but each posts gets seen by 7 to a maximum of 35 members. And that’s about the engagement I noticed over the months. There are about 10 active members and some lurkers. The rest joined but never came back.

This means, if people choose to visit your page anyway on a daily or weekly basis by clicking on the link on the left side, then all is well. If they just liked your page and never returned, anyway then you didn’t lose anything at all. You just get a realistic number of how many people actually care about your stuff. And yes, sometimes reality hits you hard, bro.

Picture by waterbridge via Morguefile

search

New YouTube Algorithm may help Educational Content

searchYouTube played around with its algorithm, again. Being an educational YouTuber myself since May 2008 I have seen a lot (of changes) over the years. Some were good and helped me to get more exposure and subscribers, others were bad for my channel especially the last change that affected content discovery.

Whereas a video I uploaded a year ago easily surpassed 1000 views in the first two weeks I now get around 500 which is kind of weird as my subscriber base has constantly grown in the meanwhile. Hence something is seriously broken in terms how people find the videos even when they are subscribed to my channel. It feels a bit like Twitter or Facebook where only a fraction of the followers or fans see your content as it will simply drown in the stream of updates (and supposedly, this won’t change as long as I don’t pay to promote my updates or tweets).

But on the upside, I still have good engagement and views on the video lessons which could help them to rise in the search results according to the announcement of the latest changes in the algorithm.

YouTube wants to focus on viewing time instead of clicks which is especially interesting for video lessons. When they are good or cover a topic people are interested in, they will of course watch the entire video and not click away to the next one.

Another part of this algorithm change is that YouTube will also take into consideration how much viewing time your videos drive across the platform. Hence, if you interlink your video lessons and people consume more of your videos it will help your lessons to come out on top.

In order to help you keep track of how your videos are performing, YouTube added a new tab to the analytics desk that shows you how long your viewers spent watching your lessons.

Picture by mconnors via Morguefile