Igniting potential in families, learning, and creativity with technology

Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

Global Gathering

More joy and exhilaration from a skinny blue box could not have been had yesterday! Every minute seemed to bring news of  several additional colleagues joining the online Yammer community. I could hardly contain my excitement! I probably tried the patience of my team with intermittent exclamations of surprise, awe and wonder as the stream filled with folks joining from far flung areas of the world. Samoa, Hong Kong, Peru, Europe. And not only was this a global gathering it spanned the organizational hierarchy with Managing Directors to Physical Facilities folks, Directors, managers and others. As I watched the count rise to 400 I asked my team how long it might take for the next 100 members to join. In what I thought was fairly optimistic thinking I guessed another month. Surely this trend could not continue as it had and sustain a similar influx to the space. The total count of 500 came and went and by the end of the day the members on Yammer reached 619. I was astounded!

My team and I looked to the intranet for a potential explanation of the sudden and momentous rise in account activations. As Yammer is a third party external tool, I was extremely skeptical that it would have made it through the official communication channels of the conservative bureaucracy. No signs of any intranet posting regarding the availability and awareness of Yammer. I reached out to a woman in Hong Kong, welcomed her warmly and asked her how she received her invite. She shared with me that the invitation had been sent by Larry Richman, with whom she is not even remotely familiar, and in her estimation may have been a mistake. She, nonetheless, was curious and did not hesitate to jump in. She also invited many others in her office to join her on the tool. I thanked her for her perspective and encouraged her to see this as an opportunity for her to be inviting and friendly and make more connections and stimulate collaborative conversations.


The only conclusion I can come to is that someone clicked the Invite All button which potentially generated emails to approximately 3,000 individuals. An investigation for another time would be to understand how the email addresses of 3,000 individuals made their way into the Yammer invite utility. Did someone import their extensive rolodex? Some questions around this event might shed much needed light on the situation. What were the conditions that incited someone to push the Invite All button now rather than and time prior? What was the motivation for pushing the Invite All button? How many of those invited extended their own invitations to local colleagues? What was their motivation for reaching out to others?


Realizing that accounts activated is only a small fraction of the work needed to cultivate relationships, conversation and community, the gears shifted slightly in my mind. I am hopeful for the future but am concerned about people actually using the tool. I felt comfortable in a smaller sized base of colleagues. The environment was very familiar and open. I am not entirely sure how I might influence the environment for the hundreds of new joiners and still maintain the warm, inviting atmosphere the initial folks enjoyed. The idea of deputizing others to give attention to these matters is compelling but difficult to enact without establishing relationships. I anticipate that many will assume those types of roles themselves and lead out in cultivating the ideal conditions for their teams and communities to flourish but failing to have some mechanism / intervention to stimulate that thought and activity would be a haphazard approach to the situation.


A few salient nuggets of knowledge appear from this experience. The curiosity of those invited is more compelling than originally thought. I have been a strong proponent of relationships of trust as the catalytic force driving many of actions and decisions. Relationships apparently do NOT account for all of our motivations. I also see indicators that employees are eager for and anticipate greater connection to one another even in a corporate work setting. Signals such as very brief profiles and posts of confusion may reflect fatigue for technology or profile creation.
Much much more to know and understand about this phenomenon. Here’s to people connecting and conversing online!


The Role of Technology in Learning

The design of personal mobile technologies for lifelong learning

Mike Sharples

After establishing learning theories and extrapolating the criteria necessary to support lifelong learning, Sharples observes that technology innovation is rapidly converging on these requirements. The article proposes that conversation is the basis of learning and that technology could potentially either assume the role of one of the actors in the dialogue or it may merely facilitate the conversation. For example, technology may adapt to a learner’s unique style or context by filtering and curating all the available information on a given topic or problem or technology may simply provide a virtual space in which the conversation is conducted.

This article interested me for a variety of reasons the most compelling being the view held that learning happens in conversation. Our design project seeks to continue the conversation by way of pairing young readers with more seasoned adults around the synchronous reading of an online book via a video chat. The technology in this instance serves as a conversation facilitator with rich media and real-time personal nuances.



Optimal Capacity Building: Integrating Brain-Based Learning and Educational Research into Technology-Supported Learning

In searching for a way to facilitate optimal capacity building, this article synthesizes many learning theories. Two salient ideas combine to give focus to the research. The first is Block’s finding around the superior learning one to one human tutoring holds for individuals. The second is Vygotsky’s proposition that scaffolding can assist in approaching the zone of proximal development. The ubiquity of emerging technology is the impetus for many of the statements made in this article. With ubiquity comes the opportunity to use technology as a medium to enhance the entire learning process and not just a single aspect of learning. Technology will assess, augment, adjust, and optimise educational environments to achieve optimal capacity building which is a physical change in the brain.

The brain has always fascinated me and is a main reason for my selection of this article. I find the holistic approach to education and learning very appealing and intriguing. The possibilities of ubiquitous computing seem so limitless it is almost difficult to dream up what what will happen.


Together Time in World of Warcraft

Class in a virtual world like WoW was a unique experience but not without it’s own hiccups. All the cues I had indicated that I was fully present with the cadre. Yet, no one seemed to respond to anything I typed. Try as I might I could not participate and because of the limited means for communicating (text only and strange avatar body language). Had I been tipped off earlier it would have been a much more enjoyable experience.

The environment was immersive. I noticed that my attention was rivetted on what was going on. Other cadre mates were dancing or laying down, a random player came bouncing by and laughed that we were trying to have class. The ambient sounds and the occasional laugh really helped me feel a part of the exchange. Even the proximity of other cadre mates affected my emotions and reactions.

I was terribly frustrated with the chat mechanism. I had to click the chat area each time it lost focus. Frequently I would type not knowing my focus had left the chat area and the keys I hit would trigger all the other shortcut windows within WoW.

Overall, I was able to focus on the discussion at hand, truly consider my response to the intriguing questions, and appreciated the feeling that I had just spent quality time with the cadre. Now I am left to wonder how I could encourage virtual meetings among a very conservative organization. 😉

Stewarding Technology

Digital Habitats is an interesting read so far. I find a lot of solace in knowing that there are others in the same situation of focusing on enhancing community potential with online technology. In my own pursuit of this desire I have seen social challenges dominate any technical considerations. I also appreciate the leadership aspect of assuming the responsibilities of a tech steward.
I am happy to report that there is much less installing and more simply configuring that tech stewards have to do theses days. A service I really enjoy is http://grou.ps. The solution is hosted and open. I am not bothered by the technology and can focus my attention on serving the community. I can customize practically every single
aspect of the services offered without needing to worry about how it all integrates. Full control without the headaches of dealing with the underlying technology. It truly feels liberating to know that I can sculpt and mold the features to fit the needs of the community. I hope that more community focused software takes this approach of configuring vs. installing.
I also came across a related list of tips for “community managers” (not quite tech stewards but close). http://mashable.com/2010/04/13/community-manager-tips/ I especially appreciate number 7 and leveling the playing field.

iPad Impressions

I think I am the perfect candidate for a mobile device like this. Two hour round trip commute on the bus (with free wifi), a little child at home, The iPad saved my wife and me a few maddening moments around dinner time. I downloaded several Sesame Street podcasts and slapped one on when we were about to eat dinner. The iPad was my son’s personal HDTV and he loved all the colors, motion and sound. He wanted more kinesthetic feedback or response from the iPad (granted he is on 8 months old).

I found the battery life to be outstanding! I was very pleased. Flipboard kept me up to date with all my social streams on my way home from work. It was tricky trying to type on while riding the bus without a case to position it well.I also noticed that the iPad was shared and passed around in social settings. During a surprise birthday party, I was able to pull out the iPad and have a friend show me the paintings he was trying to describe to me and then pass it around the room for others to see.

Overall, it was a great experience. I’m not convinced that it is fully capable of all the activities I would want to replace a laptop but a very convenient and intuitive device nonetheless.

Together Time

For quite some time now, I have said that we are more connected online but we are not together very often. On my way home yesterday, I came across Video Chat Rounds, a new facebook video chat platform that seems to be promising. The service affords people the opportunity for more together time online. I like that. I don’t have to jump in to a virtual world and use an avatar to spend time with someone. The platform allows you to do things together (play games, surf, watch videos, etc.). There have been other sites that have attempted to do this but none have been bold enough to integrate with facebook. I believe rounds (http://rounds.com) has a lot of potential to give families and friends more together time online.

I had some together time with a colleague yesterday. Despite being uber-connected via technology we needed together time to truly connect. What together time will you take today to truly connect?

Searching for Social Online

Buzz around the recent meeting made me think of what I might do to further the online social initiatives that are currently underway. I thought of the three I’s of organizational change Uncle Gibb mentioned to me (information, involvement, incentive) when I first asked about the rollout of SmartBuilder, a new elearning authoring tool. I look forward to conversations about how these principles might assist in moving the goals around online social community forward. What we are really talking about is sharing in a more broad and visible way than we have before. It is pretty simple in the end. Help people connect and converse.

From these conversations come ideas and knowledge creation, relationships and caring. Many of the addresses from the recent conference highlighted how learning and performance improvement are best situated in loving relationships such as the family. The current organizational structure serves to segment and divide people into departments and functions instead of offering opportunity to mingle and unite.

%d bloggers like this: