DVR box is dying, Woz's wisdom and other cool things learned at SNW

Wozniak says innovative projects, not tests, should determine a student's grade; the popular DVR follows your every move

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You just can't help but like him more each time you hear him speak. This time was no different.

Besides answering boilerplate questions about why he left Apple and what it was like to be a contestant on the reality show "Dancing With The Stars," Wozniak focused his presentation from a theatre stage on the importance of scholastic and corporate innovation.

Nothing, he said, has changed our lives over the past decade more than technology innovation. "It opens new business sectors, creates additional wealth that didn't exist before," he said. "That means we have greater efficiencies, which just means that we have more money left over for other things."

Public education remains a passionate subject for Woz, who was unabashed in saying that schools today are far too structured and thus impede innovative thinking - which is key to "the artistic side" of technology.

At issue, he said, are rules that tell each student exactly what they should be studying and when.

The learning cycle between what is taught and when a student is tested on it is far too short, he proclaimed. Short learning-testing cycles, Wozniak said, are nothing like the projects that technology innovators are afforded in real life.

When pressed by an audience member about how schools should judge student performance, Woz said they should be given one long project that spurs innovative thinking at the beginning of a semester and graded on their results.

"A really innovative person is known for something that usually took an awful lot of thinking, maybe even over years, and a lot of development in a laboratory putting it together and getting it to work. And it's new and it's different. And it's not something you read about in a book," he said.

"In school, intelligence is a measurement," he continued. "If you have the same answer as everyone else in math or science, you're intelligent."

In subjects other than math and science, such as English, students are given essay assignments where individuality shines, where each pupil goes off on their own and creates an answer that's different from every other student's. And yet, that's not associated with innovation today, he said, but that's exactly the thinking schools and businesses need to apply to computer sciences.

"There can be different answers than what I've known in the past or what I've read or heard," Woz explained.

Technology development projects reward innovators with a feeling of personal pride of accomplishing something no one else has done before, and "that's the sort of thing that inspires you to believe in yourself as an inventor type, not just an engineer who knows the equation."

"The value of these big projects is you learn diligence, lot of repetition. A lot of hard work results in something that's your own. Your own. You built it. You have personal pride," he said. "Personal pride is the strongest motivating force there is."

Wozniak, now the chief scientist with high-end solid state drive (SSD) maker Fusion-io, also reminisced about creating a floppy disk for Apple -- in just two weeks. Why so quickly? Because the reward was a trip to CES in Las Vegas, where he'd finally get to see the lights of the strip. He worked on the floppy on Christmas' day, New Year's Day, every day for two weeks -- just for the chance to see Vegas.

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