My Professional Development in Fall 2016

Today, January 17, 2017, I revised and expanded the paragraph from my teaching biography on my professional development in Fall 2016, which was my first semester in the Education Ph.D. program, Instructional Technology track, at University of Central Florida:

After concluding my first semester as a Ph.D. student, I am a co-PI (principal investigator) on a microbiology attitudes validation study (Modification and Validation of a Biology Student Attitude Survey for Use with Microbiology Students) and a co-presenter on a social studies conference proposal (Correlating Subsidized Lunch Prevalence with Seventh-Grade Civics End-of-Course Exam Proficiency in Florida Schools). In August 2016, I presented The Implications of Mindsets for Learning and Instruction (poster) at the Association of Teacher Educators’ summer conference in Louisville, Kentucky. In Fall 2016, I worked extensively on a National Parks Service project in EME 6613: Instructional Systems Design (no publications or conference presentations forthcoming). As part of my summer volunteering and fall GTA work, I contributed to STEM Education grant proposals that my advisor and colleagues were working on (presentations and publications may be forthcoming in future semesters, pending grant approval).

My Teaching Biography

Here is a personal biography I wrote on January 14, 2017 to introduce myself to other students in the EME 7634: Advanced Instructional Design course at University of Central Florida. Here, I have detailed my teaching background, personal goals, and personal expectations, as I enter the second semester of the Education Ph.D. program in the Instructional Technology track.

(a) current work position and job title

My name is Richard Thripp (I go by “Richard”) and I am a first-year Education Ph.D. student in the Instructional Technology track at University of Central Florida, a Dean’s Fellow, and a Graduate Teaching Assistant to Dr. Richard Hartshorne. I earned my M.A. in Applied Learning and Instruction at UCF in 2016, my B.S. in Psychology at UCF in 2014, and an A.A. at Daytona State College in 2011. I am 25 and a lifelong resident of Ormond Beach, FL.

(b) your teaching/training experience

My teaching experience dates back as far as 2006, when I was a student worker in the Volusia County Library System and gave a series of three two-hour classes to senior citizens on how to use a PC, keyboard, and mouse, Windows 2000, Internet Explorer, and web email.

In Fall 2008, I took PHY2048: University Physics at Daytona State College and prepared several practice exams and solution sets for other students, which other students were very grateful for. This work helped me go from failing to passing in my grades on exams in the course.

In Fall 2009, I was the Supplemental Instruction Leader for BSC 1005: Survey of Biology for Non-Science Majors at Daytona State College, for which I led 33 one-hour review sessions with an average attendance of five students each, created a website with numerous supplemental and review materials including 146 pages of my scanned, handwritten lecture notes and six chapter review quizzes with answers, and distributed printed copies of the website’s URL to over 150 students in three sections of the course.

In Spring 2011, I was a Peer Tutor at the Daytona State College Academic Support Center (ASC), qualified to tutor remedial math, College Algebra, Precalculus Algebra, Trigonometry, and Survey of Biology, though I primarily helped remedial math students who were compelled by departmental policy to complete their e-homework at the ASC. (“Qualified” meant having received an A grade in the course, by the ASC’s criteria.)

Over the next few years, I tutored math, GRE preparation, and piano privately, while taking a year off and then working on my B.S. in Psychology at UCF. (I was tired of higher math and “hard” sciences at this time.)

In Spring 2016, I put together a sprawling online financial literacy course for my M.A. Capstone projects, completing over 25 modules with research-supported activities and pedagogical approaches, including over two hours of narrated video. To date, I find writing about personal finance more personally interesting and motivating than many other educational topics.

In Fall 2016, with three colleagues in EME 6613: Instructional Systems Design, I developed guidelines and rudimentary materials for the National Park Service to train facility management specialists and tradespeople to assess the conditions of historic structures within the park system, based in part on the ARCS model of instructional design (Keller, 1987) and the Learning-by-Doing model (Schank, Berman, Macpherson, 1999).

Also in Fall 2016, with training from Dr. Hartshorne, I graded and provided substantiative feedback on the following assignments produced by undergraduates in two sections of EME 2040: Introduction to Technology for Educators: 20 group-based classroom wikis, 55 one- to two-minute individual educational videos, 58 individual lesson plans, and 56 individual PowerPoint-based interactive quizzes. I quickly learned how time-consuming it is to grade and give quality feedback to large numbers of students.

(c) assessment of how this course relates to what you already know about training and instruction

I still have to look up the definition of ontology / ontological when I see it (cannot remember it), and until a year ago, I could not remember the definition of pedagogy or epistemology. (Now, I remember them as “relating to teaching practice” and “beliefs about knowledge.”) Where I generally am an excellent writer and can produce impressive prose despite having deficits in my retention of educational theories, this course will (a) help further fill in the gaps for me and (b) sharpen my specialization in instructional design. Many ideas in the prior course (EME 6613), such as the differences between systematic design and subject-matter expert (SME) -based design, were ideas I had intuited in past years but never came across a vocabulary for. Consequently, with respect to what I already know about training and instruction, EME 7634 will correct, extend, and make the implicit explicit.

(d) expectations and desired learning outcomes relative to this course

After concluding my first semester as a Ph.D. student, I am a co-PI (principal investigator) on a microbiology attitudes validation study (Modification and Validation of a Biology Student Attitude Survey for Use with Microbiology Students) and a co-presenter on a social studies conference proposal (Correlating Subsidized Lunch Prevalence with Seventh-Grade Civics End-of-Course Exam Proficiency in Florida Schools). I presented The Implications of Mindsets for Learning and Instruction at the Association of Teacher Educators’ summer conference in Louisville, Kentucky. I worked extensively on a National Parks Service project and on STEM Education grant proposals to the National Science Foundation (NSF) as part of my summer volunteering and GTA work.

While these accomplishments all provided useful experience and were interesting in their own ways, the only one I consciously chose was mindsets, which my interest in has now waned. My desired outcome for this course and the Spring 2017 semester is that I focus heavily on topics that are immensely interesting and motivating to me. While I do want to shore up some of my weaknesses, I want to focus more on strengthening my strengths, even if it doesn’t make everyone happy. This means when given the choice of topic, I would probably pick topics that are STEM- or finance-related. As for the analysis techniques I choose to study in this course, I have not read enough to know which ones I like yet.

My expectations are that Dr. Atsusi Hirumi will be as helpful, entertaining, and rigorous as last semester.

(e) one interesting aspect about your life (hobbies, personal interests, unusual skill or trait)

One ironic aspect of my life is that I skipped two-thirds of 1st grade, was home-schooled by my father for Grades 2–12 (through a private school), combined Grades 2–3 in one year, and graduated high school at Age 15. Then, I took four years to earn a two-year degree (I managed to drop out twice during this time) and took a year off. I am a prospective educator whose only experience in K–12 is attending kindergarten, three months of 1st grade, and sitting in on 15 hours of a 5th grade class in 2011. However, I am more interested in being a postsecondary educator (viz., a professor) than a K–12 educator.

My academic and personal writings and presentations on a wide variety of topics are presented unseparated on my website,


Keller, J. M. (1987). Development and use of the ARCS model of instructional design. Journal of Instructional Development, 10(3), 2–10.

Schank, R. C., Berman, T. R., & Macpherson, K. A. (1999). Learning by doing. In C. M. Reigeluth (Ed.), Instructional-design theories and models: A new paradigm of instructional theory, Vol. II (pp. 161–181). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

No Magic in the Power of Compound Interest for Personal Finance, etc.

The U.S. stock market produces about a 7% inflation-adjusted annual return, on average. Consequently, the return on an investment in the whole market (or even an index fund of just the S&P 500) over a number of years can be approximated by the equation FinalValue = Principal × 1.07^Years. This fact is frequently used to show the impressive growth in an investment over time. For example, if a 25-year-old invests $50,000 in Vanguard’s VTSAX index fund, s/he would have about $50,000 × 1.07^40 after 40 years (Age 65) = $50,000 × 14.97 = $748,723. The same amount invested at Age 18 would yield a higher multiplication factor of 1.07^47 = 24.05, leading to a balance of about $1,202,285 at Age 65. If, however, one invests the $50,000 at Age 35, well… 1.07^30 is a measly 7.61, which is only $380,613.

The stock market actually yields somewhere closer to 11.69% in nominal dollars on average, but the 7% figure is inflation-adjusted and somewhat conservative… Over 40 years, 7% returns yield 14.97× while 11.69% returns yield 83.29×. At first glance this might seem wrong, but only if you don’t notice the multiplicative element of 1.1169 × 1.1169 × 1.1169 × 1.1169 × 1.1169 … et cetera. Consequently, investing in the stock market at 7% annual average yield versus a CD at 1% annual yield is not just seven times better… It’s seven times better on average over a single year. Over multiple years, not only do the benefits of investing in stocks grow far faster than linear addition, but risk also declines. As a short-term investment, stocks are quite risky, but if you are investing for 40 years… there is much less risk. Our $50,000 invested at Age 25 at a 7% annual yield grows by 15-fold; at a 1% annual yield… well, 1.01^40 = 1.49-fold, which is a pathetic $74,443 versus a monstrous $748,723.

So, 7% versus 1% annual yield yields a 10-fold difference over 40 years… but that’s with the principal included. If we deduct the principal of $50,000, it’s $24,443 versus $698,723, which is actually 28.6× better. This is a legitimate mathematical maneuver, because obviously we don’t want the principal muddying the calculation… If it was one year, it would be $50,500 vs. $53,500 which is only a 1.06× difference with principal included, but a 7.00× difference if we just look at return on investment (ROI).

However, the power of compound interest too often becomes a demotivating counterfactual for people in middle age… or perhaps even people in their late twenties! The “magic” that happens here is not magical—it’s just exponential growth, or, literally multiplying the same number, the annual yield factor, over and over. That is to say, the compounding (exponential growth) curve remains the same regardless of entry point. At 7% annual yield, you could invest $50,000 at Age 25 and have $748,723 at Age 65… or, you could invest $53,500 at Age 26 and have the same result. If you enter the curve at Age 35, you would need to invest $50,000 × 1.07^10 = $98.357.57 to have the same result at Age 65 as investing $50,000 at Age 25. Of course, this oversimplifies risk, which is lower by investing in stocks for longer periods, but as long as you are over 15 years or so, it probably doesn’t make much difference… albeit, at Age 50 you would need $271.371.63 to get to $748,723 at Age 65… but that is still a tremendous return of 2.76× (or, 176%).

Because the exponential growth curve remains the same regardless of entry point, larger investments in middle age can make up for lack of investments in youth. As a corporate shill, one’s income tends to greatly increase in middle age, so it is not “too late” for you to achieve financial freedom in old age, provided you aren’t prevented from investing by the materialistic lifestyle that flushes every dollar you earn down the toilet. (Credit card interest compounds the same way, but against you, and often at 20% instead of 7%.)

Taxation aside, disconnecting exponential growth from your age is useful, because the two don’t actually have anything to do with each other, mathematically speaking. If Alfred Nobel puts $50,000 in a VTSAX trust fund, in 100 years the account would be at $50,000 × 1.07^100 = $50,000 × 867.72 = $43,385,816… and that’s an inflation-adjusted figure. But, recall that he could also put $748,723 in for 60 years and still wind up with $43,385,816. Not magic at all, but just a property of exponents.

Criticisms of BitCoin

Here are my thoughts on why BitCoin is centralized, inequitable, unsustainable, not scalable, risky, not useful, and a poor value.

  • Too few miners, mostly in China, responsible for large proportion of mining capacity
  • Transaction fees could easily exceed credit card interchange fees due to increasing transaction volume and halving of BTC payout every 4 years—miners have to collect higher fees to justify computational expenses as BitCoin bounties logarithmically decline
  • No way to guarantee a transaction posts to the next block—one chooses a fee and then miners’ algorithms decide whether that transaction gets included on the next block, based on transaction volume and other transactors’ fee offerings—setting your fee too low could result in the transaction taking 20, 30, 40, etc. minutes to post or never getting posted at all, while setting your fee too high is a common problem resulting in consumer surplus going to the miners (e.g., you might select a fee higher than what would have been needed to get your transaction on the next block, because it is not possible to accurately predict the minimum required fee to cause a transaction to be posted to the nth future block)
  • Each block is one megabyte (1 MB) max in size and comes approximately 10 minutes (600 seconds) apart—roughly, this is where the “7 transactions per second” bottleneck figure comes from, and it means BitCoin is insufficient for consumer transactions
  • BitCoin’s leaders have recently been waging a propaganda war against users who want to increase the block size above 1 MB. Raising the block size allows for greater transaction capacity, but is unsustainable as BitCoin is presently implemented because each transaction becomes part of the permanent BitCoin record (“blockchain”) which must be stored by each and every miner, as well as users who want to independently verify the veracity of new transactions. The blockchain is 96 GB as of end-of-2016, and while transaction volume perhaps “should” exponentially increase (if you reject the “settlement layer” argument in favor of the “payment network” argument), the size of the blockchain cannot feasibly increase exponentially unless BitCoin is implemented differently.
  • BitCoin is a tremendous waste of computing resources and carbon emissions. As miners deploy progressively more computing power, BitCoins blocks become progressively harder to produce, with the leading mining consortiums performing many trillions of SHA256 hashing calculations per second. A whole industry is built around producing specialized computer chips to perform these meaningless calculations, which serve only to indemnify the legitimacy of BitCoin transactions. Miners’ largest cost is overwhelmingly not the chips, computers, or datacenters themselves, but electricity. Cheap electricity is the deciding factor for a profitable BitCoin mining operation. The environmental consequences are unnerving.
  • The idea that a transaction takes several minutes or longer to post to the blockchain means BitCoin is not suited for trustless sales of instantly delivered goods, whether they be digital goods or retail merchandise, due to the double-spending problem. For high-value transactions like a new car, BitCoin recipients are advised to wait about an hour after the transaction posts to the blockchain to eliminate risk of fraud. However, the idea BitCoin is “trustless” is ludicrous—the buyer must trust the seller will deliver the goods. Further, it is laughable to expect a buyer to wait around for 10 or more minutes after checking out at a retail store. While other payment methods have their own issues which may be even worse, BitCoin comes with its own set of unique problems.
  • While BitCoin is a novel attack against the financial oligopoly, it creates a new oligopoly of BitCoin millionaries who benefit tremendously from buying in early on when BitCoins were cheap, often simply because they were involved in the founding or early operation of BitCoin. This feudalistic, landrush phenomenon is entrenched by an upper limit of 21 million BitCoins with the vast majority being issued early on: 50% of BitCoins are issued in the first 4 years, 75% within the first 8 years, 87.5% within the first 12 years, 93.75% within the first 16 years, 96.875% within the first 20 years, etc. BitCoin proponents criticize the inflationary nature of fiat currencies, which penalizes savers while benefiting spenders. However, the profound, deflationary nature of BitCoin benefits savers and early adopters astronomically, which is no more equitable. As evidence, the founder of BitCoin is estimated to have a million BitCoins, currently worth nearly a billion USD.
  • As an aside, I liken the introduction of altcoins such as LiteCoin to the addiction of the ICANN and their cronies to the landrush period when introducing new gTLDs. While new gTLDs are profitable, they are largely pointless. Among cryptographic currencies, BitCoin is analogous to .com in gTLDs. is worth millions of dollars while might not even be worth $1000. One BitCoin, as of this writing, is worth $950, while one LiteCoin is worth $4.50.
  • To the average user, interacting directly with the BitCoin network would be like a programmer writing in machine code. However, using intermediaries to simply the process, such as the ill-fated Mt. Gox, can have disastrous consequences. Consequently, the average user is left with a poor menu of choices to gain entry to BitCoin.
  • BitCoin presents the same ugly criminal problems as cash. While certainly superior to the current state of Venezula’s currency, it lacks the ubiquity of the U.S. dollar. For Americans, it is probably only superior to cash for international transfers, criminal activities, and high-risk businesses. Like with cash, if you are storing the equivalent of thousands of dollars in BitCoin, someone could steal your BitCoin address (“private key”) by hacking your computer and you would have no recourse. You could, of course, store your private key on paper in a safe deposit box, or in a password-protected, encrypted computer file, but this could still be obtained by social engineering or other method, or inadvertently lost or destroyed, like with cash. If you have a substantial sum of BitCoin, you basically must rely on security through obscurity (e.g., don’t draw attention to your BitCoin stash) to avoid being the target of heists. The lack of governmental and institutional support behind BitCoin means that for most Americans, it is much more dangerous than U.S. dollars.
  • Like Amazon’s mistreatment of holders of Amazon gift cards, BitCoin is a boon for mail-order merchants like Newegg, because customers have no payment-level recourse. When you pay with cash at a brick-and-mortar establishment, you are at the mercy of the merchant’s good graces to be made whole if you receive faulty goods. However, using a debit card, credit card, or PayPal means you can appeal to the intermediary for redress, which is much simpler and more effective than complaining to BBBs, attorneys general, or the courts. While no one pays with cash for mail-order goods, in this respect, the analog is closed-loop gift cards like Amazon, Target, or Starbucks. You can’t do a chargeback on a Target gift card against Target, and, like with the 99.97% success rate of FISA warrant requests, this is not an indicator of the DOJ’s impeccable law enforcement nor Target’s impeccable service, but rather a fundamental conflict of interest. With BitCoin, we have a new, trendy payment method, which, like cash and closed-loop gift cards (as opposed to open-loop MasterCard, Visa, and American Express prepaid gift cards), offers no protection to the buyer. In this way, using a credit card can be likened to using a condom, and BitCoin advocates can be likened to supporters of dangerous sexual behaviors. While chargeback and PayPal dispute fraud is real, merchant fraud, errors, lemons, and goods damaged in shipment are real problems too. If you pay with BitCoin, you give up a lot of leverage.
  • BitCoin isn’t good as a payment network and doesn’t work as a settlement network either. Putting your Starbucks latte purchase on the blockchain, to be duplicated millions of times, is ridiculous. The idea that Starbucks would aggregate their sales through an intermediary who uses BitCoin as a settlement network is also ridiculous, because it would be far easier to spin off an alternative settlement network (“altcoin”) using BitCoin’s underlying technology, without BitCoin’s steep legacy encumbrances. BitCoin apologists are quick to blame the users for failing to adapt, or pointing out the numerous problems with existing payment methods and merchant processing. However, a more accurate characterization may be that BitCoin is a promising first step in cryptocurrency, but lacks scalability, and may have to be completely replaced.
  • Ironically, the proposed solutions to allow BitCoin to scale beyond 7 transactions per second involve not using BitCoin! The proposed Lightning Network uses “blockchain smart contracts” for “transacting and settling off-blockchain,” meaning that BitCoin’s trustlessness is nullified, because you must trust the other party you are doing business with off-blockchain, while settling on-blockchain at infrequent intervals. If this is the solution, why even use BitCoin to begin with? BitCoin is touted as “open source P2P money,” but in fact it is not peer-to-peer, but rather peer-to-all, which is completely non-scalable and unsustainable. On the other hand, BitTorrent is a peer-to-peer file-sharing protocol that predates BitCoin by 7 years and has successfully scaled to hundreds of millions of users. While file-sharing is obviously a very different problem, it is clear that a cryptocurrency could scale much better if transactions could be broadcast primarily on a peer-to-peer basis rather than to all nodes on the network. However, ensuring the legitimacy of cryptocurrency transactions without a public ledger nor a kludge like the Lightning Network may be an insurmountable problem.

Six Reasons Why Evernote is a Freaking Joke

Starting in summer 2016, I took to using Evernote to take notes at meetings and classes instead of pen and paper as I had for nearly a decade before (I have paper notes dating back to my first college courses in fall 2007). I take notes with a Logitech K810 Bluetooth keyboard connected wirelessly to my Samsung Galaxy S7 phone, using the Samsung Wireless Charger as a stand. I’m not sure why, but many people are surprised/impressed by this. Often, I recall my classes at University of Central Florida being filled with people on laptops or MacBooks, which seems like overkill to me and is probably quite a bit less productive than my setup (although I often devolve into transcribing verbatim due to being able to type 100+ WPM, the small size of a smartphone removes the “wall” between others and I, and discourages multi-tasking).

My use of Evernote is fairly basic: primarily for text-based notes. I regularly use only my smartphone and home desktop PC, so Evernote’s recent decision to limit syncing to two devices (and simultaneously raise the prices of paid subscriptions with no new features) did not affect me. I’ve never approached Evernote’s atrociously small 60 MB per month data limit. I find the PC client useful for its search functionality, and like being able to view, write, and update notes from my phone. I’ve recently expanded into using Evernote to take photos of whiteboards or handwritten notes where necessary; it does a nice job of correcting lighting issues and cropping + straightening.

Nevertheless, it is abundantly clear that Evernote, as a company and product, is a freaking joke. Here are just a few big reasons why:

1. Evernote notes literally cannot be printed. Customers have been complaining about this basic feature being broken for over SIX years, and Evernote doesn’t give a crap. If your note has any italics or bold text, the printing comes out wonky. Like many “support” forums, Evernote’s forums have descended into people blaming users for trying to use an app for something it’s not designed/intended to do. Some even say printing is stupid! Evernote employees actually advise not using bold or italics as a workaround. I kid you not.

2. Evernote sync just plain sucks. Their solution is to put conflicted items in a “Conflicting Changes” folder, and changes can “conflict” even if the user does everything right. Evernote gurus instruct users on the forums that they should be very careful to click the “Sync” button and wait for it to complete before attempting to edit a note on any other device. Basically, blame the user for something that other apps like Google Docs have figured out. As for Conflicting Changes, Evernote offers no “diff” feature to compare these conflicts. Even MediaWiki (the bungling, convoluted PHP disaster behind Wikipedia) offers diffs. This can’t be too hard to implement.

3. Evernote’s PR is a freaking trainwreck. First, they had the poorly executed 2-device limit in June 2016, coupled with a price increase that makes Evernote almost as expensive ($7.99 vs. $9.99 per month) as Adobe Photoshop, an infinitely more complex and per capita (by features), a less stupid program. (Admittedly, Adobe for some reason removed tabbed browsing in Acrobat X and XI and then their forum volunteers/employees enjoyed going off on customers about why they shouldn’t want/need tabbed browsing, and then there is Adobe Flash, but I digress.) Second, in December 2016 they announced a Christmas present: a new privacy policy that says they will read your notes whenever they feel like it. You can’t make this stuff up.

4. Evernote forum morons (I don’t actually participate in support forums but often read them or find them via Google) repeat the mantra about Evernote, in addition to NOT being a word processor or synchronization tool, is also not a collaboration tool. Anyone who finds issue with this is Just Plain Stupid™. Of course, then, I think, I must be pretty stupid. What the hell am I using this piece of crap for? The search and “sync” functions? (The latter should really be labeled “backup” because remember, you should only edit an Evernote note on one device at a time or Bad Things Will Happen, quite literally, because you’ll have to manually reconcile a “Conflicting Change” with a note that’s missing half of what you wrote.)

5. Evernote’s Android and iOS apps literally bog down if your note is over about 10,000 characters. Seriously, in a 3-hour lecture, I’ve had to make three separate “Part 1,” “Part 2,” and “Part 3” notes because the typing becomes slower until the words don’t appear until many seconds after I’ve typed them, making corrections and even moving the cursor agonizingly slow. This is for a PLAIN TEXT note on the Samsung Galaxy S7, literally the Greatest Smartphone that Doesn’t Seem to Have an Explosion Problem in the World™. Seriously, I’m pretty sure my phone became hot to the touch because of the Evernote Android app not being able to handle a 10 KB note. This is like something out of 1991 (the year of my birth). The PC client doesn’t have this problem, but this is simply ludicrous to begin with.

6. Evernote cannot save an empty note. What? Even Windows NotePad can save a text file with no text in it. On the PC client, I often end up titling a note first, before typing anything in it. I put a “.” in the note body to be able to save the note. After I write the note, in the viewing pane, the preview of the note forever remains “.”! There is literally no way to update the preview snippet. actually, this seems to be working now in v6.4.2.3788 of the PC client, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t working before, and still, Evernote will never fix the printing issue for some reason and apparently believes they are treating their users and customers a lesson (yes, the paid version can’t even print).

As you can see, I am still using Evernote but I did, in addition to these grievances, suffer data loss once where I lost part of a note when switching from PC to phone, but this is Probably My Fault Anyway™ and I also should not feel so entitled as to complain about a free product that I am choosing to use of my own free will. Google can’t even get search to work properly in Google Calendar, and one commentator says it doesn’t matter because Google doesn’t make ad revenue off Google Calendar anyway, and another says I should be grateful to even have a Google Calendar. So, in the spirit of Christmas I am grateful for my Google Calendar and this freaking joke we call Evernote. (Though, in a year, it will probably be pretty embarrassing to look back and see I was still using Evernote at the end of 2016.)

Writing on education, finance, psychology, et cetera