Category: Social Creatures

The value of Edutainment

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By , October 9, 2012 7:41 am

What the heck? I’m posting more than once a year to this blog? Yeah I know… whacky eh? Well after leaving the ivory tower, and spending time in the snake oil sales environment of private industry (at least for what I was doing), I’m back developing content, delivering that content and reflecting. The biggest difference that I see is that outside the ivory tower, things are not about “what if” or “we can”, the things that get done are those that connect right now. So while these may be years or decades behind what is being suggested by the towers, they are making big impacts. Case in point? One of the things that I’m doing with my new position is developing a set of practice tools/scripted simulations. It’s done in Excel and is something that I would have taught students back in the early naughties. But regardless it’s being received as revolutionary. Granted, this is a very limited audience, but I don’t know if this is something that I would have appreciated had I not been cut from the tower.

But regardless of the technology element, the one thing that seems constant is the struggle for engagement. The content that I’m working with now is dry. But in order to get it across, I need to make it entertaining. So I do that between my personal presentation and the resources that I develop. The entertainment is not over the top, but as much a stand up show as anything else, and the resources are “just enough” and “just in time”. But the entertainment is what is making the biggest difference – think about it this way. My content is a pine tree, my show and dance is that makes it a Christmas tree. The value comes from the trimmings.

So if you are still with me, you might be lamenting the lack of details here. Well that is one of the down sides of where I am now. I can’t talk about what I do, but I think I can reflect on my practices.

Hopefully I’ll be able to post more as time goes on… but in the mean time, it’s nice to be back.

The Black Box has a name

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By , March 30, 2011 8:54 am

While I haven’t done much toward the PhD idea in a while, I have been watching some of the movements by companies in the social media space. One of these moves showed up this week as Salesforce.com bought Radian6. The latter being the system that after looking into things a little more almost first my idea of the “black box” that monitors the social sphere. In a way that is good news, as if I get a chance to do this degree, I would not have to get someone to build the box, just explore the elements that are around it.

Letters of the Revolution

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By , March 19, 2011 2:50 pm

I know, this is going to be an odd post to fall under change management, but if you think about it… what is going on in the Middle East and North Africa is really an interesting exercise in that… but odd thoughts aside. It occurred to me while chatting with my brother this morning that the most interesting thing about the way that social media, and more to the point, citizen journalism and life-blogging have been used in the current conflicts isn’t the organizing or the reporting of large events and movements. It has been in the way that it has opened up the little things about these conflict areas and allowed the world to see the smaller stories out of which these events emerged. In the past, the letters of soldiers and dissidents would have been found in later years and depending on who came out on top of the conflict, they would be used as proof for the actions that were taken or buried for all time as dirty secrets. Now, social media has put many of those little stories out for the world to see on their own. Not through the filtered lens of the embedded journalist or the official line of the government, but the raw ideas pouring out from those who are able to find a connection to the service of their choice. It will be interesting in a few years time to see what both scholars and laypeople alike say happened for the civilians, the combatants and those forced to be in that middle zone. The governments had their secrets spill out in the open with Wikileaks, it would seem to me that this might be the first time that history might have to acknowledge “secrets” as well as letters and notes from all manner of individuals are released and archived for the world to see and interpret.

Our Social Orbits

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By , January 31, 2011 12:00 pm

Over the weekend, it struck me once again that people really don’t pay attention to LinkedIn. Why? Because often people are on the service so that they can be seen, but they aren’t really doing anything there. The people who they connect to there are perhaps the equivalent of “single serving friends”. You need them every now and again to get something done and for most of us, that is when we are looking for professional movement (ie between jobs/careers). All this got me thinking, and then it struck me that there are shells of tools that orbit our various “selves”. There is the personal/internal (1) self that has tools like Facebook in orbit. Another self, the external/public (2) toolset has in orbit elements such as Twitter. Finally, you have the corporate/professional shell (3). This has tools like email. These selves orbit each other in a delicate dance within something I’m calling the “zone of comfort”, the Egosphere (5). Within this zone, there is also something I call the “Cloud of the Over/Under Ripes” (4). These are tools that we have become comfortable with, but they are not really catching on to one of the three selves. You’ll notice that the orbits of the tools within the Egosphere cross over. This allows tools/services to cross over between selves and get or promoted/demoted. There is one final sphere, the “Aposphere” (6). This is the zone that has all manner of tools or services that the individual doesn’t really care about. Finally, there is an orbital path, an entry corridor actually (7) that new services/tools must attempt to hit just right in order to overcome apathy, become comfortable and then get picked up by either the personal or public individual before it would have a chance of hitting the corporate self.

So, what does this mean for those who try to get into the sweet spot of being considered a valid Social Media tool and perhaps hit that hallowed ground of being so well used that mobile telecom providers include you on the list of “unlimited Social Networking” services? First, it means that a new tool has to be timed just right. It has to come in with enough energy and finally it has know that it might have to disappear for a while (yes, those blank parts are intentional). So if Google, with all it’s might tries to get Okurt to get into the personal orbit, it has to remember it can’t just fire it out and expect it to stick. I think Apple has found this to be the case with Ping. So the big players are a bit heavy footed, but other services like Kik, they exploded with just the right timing and energy, but then they got jettisoned to the realm of over/under ripe services as have many of the other messaging services that popped up afterward (Beluga et al). Remember, these systems are specific to the individual, so my system will be different than your own (I know people who are just as addicted to Beluga as they ever were to BBM).

I would love to hear what others think about this idea.

The Elements:

  1. Personal/Internal
  2. Public/External
  3. Corporate/Professional
  4. Cloud of Over/Under Ripe
  5. Egosphere (Zone of Comfort)
  6. Aposphere (Zone of Apathy)
  7. Entry Corridor

My 2011 Predictions

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By , December 28, 2010 9:03 pm

Well 2010 was certainly an eye opening ride for me, moving between institutions not of my own will and looking to a future that may or may not include academia. But for all that, it has provided me with yet another way of looking at technology and the way that it is used to educate us and help us tell our stories. So without too much extra reflection, here are my points from last year:

  • Augmented Reality – phones and other GPS enabled devices will add value to the world by being able to overlay data that incorporates real time updates, static content and, of course, social data.
  • Increased power of mobile – From payments (PayPal has apps out there now), to creation and management, increasingly you’ll have to be able to do it all mobile.
  • Privacy erosion – we’ll see just how fleeting privacy is, anything that gets transmitted is public, period. We should see much more this coming year, how and why this is the case. But at the same time, the value of the crowd being able to take a peek at what you do will gain value.
  • Decline of traditional transmission – I think (and hope) that cablecos will realize that PVR is the first step in enabling people to get content the way that they want – and that way is file based. I don’t know if the cablecos are going to make this move or if the content creators are, but it’s certainly coming. Fast pipes, big drives and cheap streamers make it very easy to set up one’s home to be able to download last night’s episode of whatever and watch it at a more reasonable time. Apple has some of this going through iTunes, but the system is overly restrictive and I don’t think people like the idea of paying for things twice.
  • Casual Gaming will explode – games on Facebook, Twitter, phones are going to grow and traditional games are going to stagnate… unless they have some social element.
  • Chrome – a non phone web based OS is going to make ripples, especially for those many billions out there who only really surf and turf on their machines. For those who need to handle media files, traditional machines will still be there, but the appeal of the “global roaming profile” will certainly appeal to many.
  • Short URLs – There is a reason why Google and Facebook have got into the game. I think brands are going to go to these to show approval or ownership.

So how did I do?

  • Augmented reality – we are certainly seeing what the increase in GPS capable devices has provided. The boom of location based services, while not really “augmented”, is certainly an enhancement.
  • Increased power of mobile – well mobile payment is increasing and the sudden rise of the iPad shows that mobile is certainly something people were waiting for, even if they didn’t know it or know where/how it would fit in their digital life
  • Privacy erosion – Facebook anyone? Check this Google News link.
  • Decline of traditional transmission – well TV and terrestrial radio didn’t die out, but YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, Boxee and many more certainly went main stream.
  • Casual gaming – Hear about Zynga? I doubt Google would have bought in if it wasn’t going somewhere.
  • Chrome – well I missed on that one, ChromeOS test platforms only now started shipping.
  • Short URLs – bit.ly and bit.ly Pro anyone – I think I got this one on the mark.

So what are my thoughts for 2011?

  • More mobile – who really cares what the latest computer is? Everyone is buzzing about phones. Between the fast revisions, portability and dropping price, the promise of capable computing in your pocket (as opposed to the office/den) is appealing to everyone
  • Social everything – we’ve seen how powerful Facebook has become, and it’s not going to weaken anytime in the future. There might be some ripples with Diaspora or other new services, but if they don’t use existing services as a rooting point, they are not going anywhere. To make change, you’ll have to convince a planet wide mob.
  • Bandwidth battles – net neutrality will come to a head again and there is going to be more available, but the providers are going to find more ways to charge for it
  • Text will still rule – even though video and audio will be easier to capture and transmit, people will still post and communicate using letters.
  • Education might actually get the hint that social and mobile compute is something that should be given consideration – well I can hope

So not as many this year as in previous years, but things are moving through a bit of a bottleneck right now and maybe in 2011 something will blow things open, or we see things crystallize in the nxt 8-13 months and then some real changes arrive in 2012.

Social vs Religious Observation (Cross Posted from boora.ca)

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By , December 23, 2010 7:46 pm

This afternoon, CBC Edmonton played a story about a Muslim family from Egypt who are going to be celebrating their first Christmas here in Edmonton. One segment of the story explores what other people think about the family celebrating Christmas, wondering if they are converts or aren’t “really Muslim”. The father mentions that what they are celebrating is the social element of the holiday, not the religious element.

This is exactly what many “something”-Canadian families do. They adopt the social aspects of the predominant culture’s celebrations, while incorporating their own elements. In my home, we don’t celebrate the Christian elements of Christmas (though, if invited, I’d like to see what Mass is like for the various denominations that my friends belong to is/are like), but gladly sing the songs and I will encourage my daughter to sing them all. After all, singing the songs of another group can only help increase understanding and acceptance of others. This is of course reciprocated by my friends who participate in events like Diwalli.

So when I see things like this happening in the UK, one really has to wonder – is it really the duty of good people of any group to attack the celebrations of another? How schoolyardish or medieval is that? And it isn’t only that group, there are plenty of groups that believe that the way they believe the world to be is the only way to be. This is something that as to change (though it likely won’t).

So even though I have worked for the last ten years or so to improve education through integrating technology to improve teaching through improving communication, part of me is thinking we are missing something. I think what we have missed is sharing the songs and stories of our various backgrounds. Starting as young as possible and associating those songs and stories with positive interactions. In this way, perhaps we can increase the understanding needed within our society and create an inclusive, pluralistic world that might be ready to use technology to gather and share the songs and stories of people further away. With that in mind, I leave you with this song from The Irrelevant Show.

Kiking the tires, thinking about Titan and the three desires

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By , December 14, 2010 4:25 pm

You might remember, a few weeks back, Facebook came out with news on the new messaging service that it wants to roll out – Project Titan. Not the email killer that many thought it would be, many people seemed to be puzzled about what (and why) Facebook was expending its energy on (sounds like Wave eh?). Facebook described the system as a means of unifying messaging across multiple modalities and to my mind, it is merely the completion of an idea that Google started with Chat that could send messages to SMS, Chat and Mail. A few fewer weeks back, Kik Messenger was kicked off of RIMs BIS network. It is claimed that Kik is violating some copyright or patented technology that is property of RIM. Many people understood this one right away. Kik was, and is, basically BBM (Blackberry Messenger) lite “for the rest of us”. It doesn’t have the group sharing elements of the BBM platform, nor does it integrate with anything other than the address book, but it does the “killer” thing that BBM does. Deliver messages fast and allow for a means of knowing the status of a sent message.

Fast forward to this week as I finally pulled the messaging part of my phone plan into the tail end of 2009 with a limit that is more than 100 or so messages. People who know me, know that I don’t like txting long back and forth conversations. I had this disposition for two reasons, the first was that it would chew through my allotted message limit very quickly and second that it would suck down battery just as fast. For this reason, I preferred using Google Talk or other messaging systems. So when Kik showed up, I quickly grabbed it, longing for a return to those heady days that I was still a Crackberry Addict and could send messages instantly and know when they were read. I know you can do the same thing with SMS, but who really wants all that noise within the system? BBM and Kik have it integrated and noise less. But, unlike BBM and Kik, Google Talk records all the messages that users send, and there are utilities to do the same with SMS, but not with BBM/Kik.

Scoot ahead to this afternoon, when out for my afternoon walk around the Legislature, it struck me why and how all these elements come together. There are three desires we have when communicating. We have the desire to know that we can reach our audience specifically, we want to know that they have seen our message and then we want to be able able to move through the messages that we have sent and received. I’m sure this is nothing new to communication studies (or allied discipline) people, and it isn’t really new to me either, but what it new in my mind is that there is now a potential pathway that, through the use of technology, would make it easy for people to experience the three desires. The problem is that the tools that would enable this confluence is currently behind one wall or another.

But there is hope, and for all that Facebook doesn’t do well, it might be that Facebook has in place, at least in principle, the ways and means to build a system that allows for the confluence to occur. If the final form of Titan is truly “input independent”, then it would make sense that Kik/email/SMS/Chat/enhanced smoke signal/what have you, could all be used to interact with the stream of messages that are stored in Facebook. Ideally, the transfer of messages would also be fast and feedback as to the status of the message would also be available without extra noise. I’m also sure, that like Google, Facebook is going to keep each and every one of those messages forever.

Ok, so where am I going with this? The world outside the classroom has figured out why it is important to keep messages and make sure they flow in a manner that alerts those involved as to their status. Why hasn’t education? Why is education thinking that messages only last for, at the most 12 weeks? Why is there no way to know if anyone involved in the communication cycle has received a message, or indeed who would have received the message in the first place. Unless formal education enables this form of communication, I think it will fall even further behind where it is now in terms of preparing students for the connected and engaged world that they will see in their future and that they are starting to see in their homes.

Novelty is the best teacher

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By , October 5, 2010 11:32 am


I’d say this is proof that novelty teaches (yeah, I know I’m behind on this meme… but what can you do?). I guess the trick is – you have to make sure that even the novelty has novelty. You might have to do some really boring presentations now and again if all you ever do is dance. At the end of the day, you want people to pause for a second and pay attention to something that is a bit off of what they expected.

Infacebook Learning

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By , October 1, 2010 9:46 am

Fast Company posted an interesting article a few days ago on Facebook and informal learning which I finally got around to today. There aren’t many people out there who won’t agree that something can be learned out of the formal context of a school room or lecture hall, but many will argue that social networks, and Facebook (being the largest), isn’t such a place. Before I get to the nugget that I found in the article, I do have to ponder… with 500M+ people using the system, there is a good chance that a few of those are smart people who, even through what seem to them to be banal observations, can enlighten others to thinking just a little different. But now the nugget:

Facebook provides a compelling outlet for people who enjoy learning, and it helps those seeking something else to accidentally and informally learn along the way.

As we build relationships with other people, we tap into their networks of knowledge and sense, creating learning webs, making our compound knowledge more valuable than compound interest.

Accidental learning… that sounds to me like research, like exploration, like self motivation, curiosity and reflection. Take a moment to think about how many things we have today are the result of accidental events that were reflected on and then recreated before being systematized into a product, a process, or even an entire discipline.

It may very well be time that we need to stop thinking about where learning happens as being part of what gives it value; and start thinking, perhaps about who it happens with as being important as borders and walls continue to drop away and the number of informal and accidental interactions with passionate individuals from numerous disciplines begin to increase.

Bullying is Bullying

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By , September 23, 2010 1:50 pm

Cyber/e/online whatever, it’s the same thing and some new research out of the US suggests that there are a few things that can be done to help cope with the problem. Looking at cognitive and behavioral measures, the research identified:

  • self-efficacy for avoiding self-blame
  • victim-role disengagement self-efficacy
  • self-efficacy for proactive behavior
  • self-efficacy for avoiding aggressive behavior

Essentially, one can boil it down into a nutshell, kids should learn not to:

  • blame one’s self for being victimized
  • understand that it is not their “lot in life” to be a victim
  • be assertive of your their rights and look to others for help
  • stay on their toes and try not to get into vulnerable situations

A great list to be sure (common sense thrown in there for good measure as well – as most good research seems to be once published), but remembering my own childhood, many of these things are easier said than done on the part of the child. However, these are things that kids might be trying and that teachers/parents/family should be looking out for as well as they may indicate bullying.

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