The Dark Side Of Technology

Bee Wolf Ray's Photo Stream

So despite my absence in the blogosphere I have  spent more time than I care to admit in front of the computer in the last six months. That’s the problem. After spending 6-10 hours a day working on projects and tasks that I am paid to do I have no motivation or inspiration to spend my ‘free time’ sitting in front of this screen.  This is significant because the learning I have acquired over the last six months has been grueling and satisfying at times but does not feed the other technically creative side that inspired me to use technology tools in the first place. What would I love to do on this silly machine?  I still have two thousand photos that I would enjoy sifting through from my recent trip to Italy. I would like to find some fitness apps that I can download on my iPod touch to monitor pace and distance in running, I would like to extend my editing skills with video and dig deeper into Adobe Premiere. By this time of the day I’m tapped out. So I’m off for a run and then out to celebrate a milestone. I cherish my time away from the keyboard and the screen and I’ll try and figure out a way to carve out the creative pursuits that drew me to this digital world  in the first place.

My Grade Six Teacher Is Haunting Me

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One of my most irritating memories of Grade 6 was Physical Education classes. We had a teacher who’s idea of PE was a daily regimen of jogging and Netball. We never experienced a game of  tag, dodgeball, or capture the flag. The ubiquitous metal climbing gym (that adorned all the Vancouver schools of the 1970s that were later deemed as “death traps” by risk analysis consultants) remained entombed in chains  against the gym wall for the entire year of 1976.

The only thing worse than jogging in the Vancouver drizzle for ten months of the year was squinting through the sweat and freezing rain at my PE teacher who would just stand on the sidewalk in her long wool trench coat looking like she was waiting to take her seat at an opera rather than jogging herself and in turn modeling for her students how to develop physical fitness and a love of sport.

Why do I bring up this annoying memory? Well I have an opportunity to show a few people the value of blogging as a reflective, connecting, creative activity; however, if I am not willing to sustain a blog myself then I might as well don my own comfy coat  find a place on the sidewalk and watch those I’m working with blog around me. Sorry Mrs R…..from 1976 I won’t be joining you. I am going to carve out the time to write.

Is the Grim Reaper Waiting For Elluminate?

Is it just me or is anyone else frustrated with the way in which most presenters have been using Elluminate to express their ideas? I have seen about twenty webinar presentations  and most of the time presenters have adopted the traditional didactic practise of illustrating findings for most of the scheduled time, then allowing the remaining  five minutes of a presentation for questions and answers. During the course of their lectures I can’t help but wonder about the lost opportunities to hear from the other participants or in many cases…observers. Sometimes I have wondered whether webinars are just another expensive anachronistic device and my patience has been waning as a participant in this online experience but there is reason to hope! Hope for a truly participatory online experience arrived during a sixty minute presentation by George Siemens at LearnTrends 2009. In his presentation he harnessed the ideas of some of 100 participants by allowing people to contribute ideas regarding the challenge of finding balance in the apparent dichotomies of learning support structures. It was an engaging open ended discussion about these realities. Below are a few screen shots of the presentation.

After a brief introduction about his topic and the an explanation of how his presentation would progress, he provided a quick tour of the recommended Elluminate whiteboard tools that we should use then posed his first question to the group:

” What dualistic principles do you deal with when supporting learning in the workplace?”

As the whiteboard filled  with ideas someone eventually remarked (in the chat window) that this was too busy for them. George suggested that this was just ‘stage one’ in allowing ideas to be exchanged. From this initial template, ideas could be categorised and examined for emerging patterns.

In subsequent slides he asked participants to mark or remark on areas where they also experienced tensions in working with different perspectives.

It was fascinating to watch participants take ownership of this exchange. In the slide below George was trying to compare the continuum of perspectives we must hold in order to maintain relevancy with any implementation process. He said, “Just imagine that the left and right side of the screen are labelled with ‘Gladwell and Laskas’.” He had reviewed this same slide earlier in his presentation with the same clarifying comment and repeated this request again when he posted the graphic a second time but this time one of the participants just wrote words on the left and right side of the screen so that it would be clearer.

This session was an inspiring example of how to provide a context with which people can exchange ideas, doubts, needs, questions and insights. I highly recommend you watch this presentation if you are looking for an Elluminate best practice illustration.

How is Twitter Like The Diamond Head Game?

Wikipedia

The Diamond Head Game was a unique American game show that aired for 130 episodes before it was sadly cancelled in July 1975.

impalergeneral’s photostream

One of the highlights of the show was the “Money Volcano” in which contestants stood in an acrylic looking cage (more attractive than the one in this picture) while money spun around them at great velocities. The aim was to capture as many bills as possible in thirty seconds. Among the dollar amounts in the “Money Volcano” was one bill worth $10,000. I don’t remember anyone catching the elusive $10,000 bill but I always wanted to try out the “Money Volcano” for myself. I experienced something like the “Money Volcano” yesterday when I joined the Twitter session #lrnchat. As soon as I signed on to #lrnchat, hundreds of ideas, opinions, questions and links about learning and technology began to scroll down my feed page. At first it felt like I was floating in a moshpit of ideas but then I dove in and started to respond to inquiries that sparked my interest. As soon as I took time to draft an idea then thirty more tweets would scroll down the page. “Ahh…I can’t keep up!” I screamed. Is this what a distributed model for knowledge exchange feels like?

After a few minutes I started to breath again and I didn’t attempt to keep up with all the random insights. I selected what looked interesting and hastily responded. I desperately felt the need for a better interface to review ideas and make more relevant connections with the numerous “conversations”. I felt like I was just grasping at ideas hurtling by me. Maybe there is a virtual sticky noteboard that illustrates a coloured note every time a tweet appears  so that I can categorize, save, respond to and easily retrieve tweets and responses. Otherwise, the chaos of rapidly streaming ideas obstructs the potential gems of deeper inquiry. Maybe it’s my beginner’s uncertainty with the ambiguous random direction of interactions. I’ll step inside the “lrnchat Volcano” next Thursday at 5:00 PST and find out whether it’s a meaningful exchange of ideas or a just a fascinating distraction for me.

WordPress Workout In Victoria

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So what happens when 100 people get together to share how they like to share? Is it like the quintessential campfire complete with perfectly roasted marshmallows, caramelized smores and Bono acoustically crooning in the background? Bono was a no-show but there were some sweet moments during the day. Here are some of them.

Cindy Stephenson provided some exemplary blogs to review if you are new to blogging and looking for ideas. Some of these blogs include:
Steven Rubel
KD Paine

If you ‘re interested in making some money from blogging or an online presence Cindy suggested copyblogger as comprehensive introduction.
On Cindy’s recommendation I checked out Chris Brogan’s blog and his book, “Edit Yourself” in order to obtain some guidance about sustaining my own interest in my blogging.

There are so many cool technology tools out there. The problem for me is I won’t bother to try them out unless I see how they can be used in a variety of contexts. Triss Hussey’s presentation provided a thorough explanation of how he uses a variety of tools to enhance his blog.

Just when I was beginning to think that this blogging experience was getting too intense for me Lorraine Murphy’s presentation provided an irreverent breath of direct plain speaking opinions about communicating online. My favourite quotes, “Don’t waste your time with side bar widgets, no one looks at them.” “If you’re after google hits go with WordPress.com not .org.” My all time favourite, “If I’m bored, I look for online plagiarizers and I report them.” Sorry if these quotes aren’t completely accurate Lorraine-please don’t report me!

Dr. Raul Pacheco-Vega is living proof that how you communicate speaks louder than what you say. This guy is funny. He’s also passionate about using dynamic tools to enhance online communication. Check out his integration ideas. Better yet find out where he is speaking next!

Paul Holmes organized this amazing day and given the enthusiastic response another WordCamp Victoria may happen in six months. I’ll bring the marshmallows!

Limping Out Of Lurkdom

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NatalieMaynor’s photostream

For the last couple of years I have been part of the 90% of people who interact with blogs by simply observing the online dialogue. This is experience is contradictory to my face to face interactions in which I find myself comfortably and actively involved in small and large group discussions. I am a true extrovert and thrive in environments where I am meeting new people but in an online environment I am surprisingly guarded. I have been trying to figure out this inconsistency and here’s what I discovered so far.

Sometimes the prospect of contributing a reply or question to a blog feels like I am crashing a dinner party. This is because some blogs can appear to be cliquish if the same people are responding to the the blog posts week after week. It’s a little intimidating to post or respond if there is an ongoing pattern of communication between a few contributors. The online environment benefits specific communication styles that are concrete, direct and analytical. For those of us who are visual and relational communicators it takes an unpredictable amount of time to determine how and when to communicate ideas online because the visual parameters that provide clues about unspoken social mores are not available.

And just what are the rules?

Unlike many online bulletin boards, and forums that usually include a FAQ section that outlines the acceptable structure and content of the discussion, blogs don’t provide an introductory space for those who are reading blogs for the first time. The blog space is a much more individualized space,  a little like walking into someone’s home. Some guidance about how to actively engage in the space would be more motivating for those of us who are content to just read.

How do we lure lurkers to say something?

Here’s a couple of ideas I’m going to try to integrate with my own blogs:

Frequently invite people to respond and provide several possible ways to respond. Comments, questions, jokes, best title, caption, web links or even one word.

In the “About” section of my blog I am going to provide information about how people can interact. If it is an active blog maybe describe not only myself but who a little information about the frequent contributors.

How about you? Are you more comfortable lurking? If yes, why?

What other strategies could be used to encourage active engagement with a blog?

Listening To Those Who Loathe Technology

itunesMartin Krzywinski’s photostream

I have had the privilege of working with many people who would consider themselves digital refugees. A digital refugee doesn’t care to know an iTune from an iGoogle and may demonstrate animated disdain for an answer that includes the phrase, “Oh that’s easy!” from the digital zealot who clicks the mouse button thirty-one  times to complete the “simple” task.  Digital refugees are sometimes frightened, threatened and/or  alienated by technology and they usually resist the prospect of using a computing or technology tool.

People who are ambivalent about technology have a lot to teach us. They are the barometer for which we should measure our assumptions for digital tools that are reputed to be intuitive and web environments that boast a seamless interface.

Digital refugees snag considerable  judgement both professionally and personally for not being riveted by the latest technology gizmo that frequently squanders our precious time with the promise of maximized efficiency. The question they often pose is, “Why would I want to do that?” A reasonable question that is frequently answered in condescending jingles about strategic plans or “enterprise value added deliverables” (sound familiar?). When I  expend the energy to listen to the opinions of one who is disinterested with technology I am often challenged by their insightful perceptions and the conversation usually becomes much more extraordinary than just merely discussing the tool. Questions such as, “What matters to you? What is an expert? What does it mean to learn?” often permeate the dialogue and these foundational ideals not only become the central inquiry but also form the neutral zone with which we can explore the purposeful use of technology.  When we don’t provide the environment for critical opinions to be heard about technology we have to readjust our notion of just who is the digital refugee in that situation. A humble reminder that technology does not alienate individuals – people do.