Thursday, December 18, 2008

Are you a 21st Century Learner, Teacher or Both?

Wendy Drexler created and shared the following video. In a 5 minute CommonCraft inspired video, she does an excellent job of explaining what connected learning is all about. Check out Wendy's blog to read about the Connectivism project for which she developed this and to read the many comments that she has already received.

While she is referring to k-12 school learners and teachers, I think everything she is talking about applies to anyone , especially knowledge workers - regardless of their student status. We are all learners and we are all teachers.

For a great example of how this 21st Century Learner/Teacher stuff works: I found this from an article on 's blog "Digital Down Low", which I found from a Google Alert about a link to my blog on Lori Sheldon's "Blogs I Follow" class wiki page. She and I have been following each other for quite some time in Twitter and have exchanged several helpful messages via twitter when I found that she was doing some really cool stuff with Web 2.0 in her K-12 schools.

I've shared the Wendy Drexler's Video via Delicious, Facebook and YouTube and now, hopefully, I've added a little to it in this blog. I'll also be crossposting it on the NCCE TechTalk.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

4 Steps to getting started with social networking

There are probably thousands of pages written about 'how to get started with social networking'. Recently, I read Floyd Davenport's "Adopting Social Media". In it he linked to Chris Brogan's article "If I Started Today". Anne Adrian wrote "Getting Started in Conversations" more than a year ago. All of these are good reads.

Being that my job is to teach knowledge workers how to use technology to make their jobs easier and better, I felt that I needed to (wanted to) write something to encourage anyone not already using social networking to get started. There are so many ways these tools can help just about anyone today.

Floyd wrote, "Desire has to come from the individual perspective of value. How I feel about and use social media doesn’t always translate well to my colleagues. At the same time, I interpret Knowledge not as how to use technology, but how to make the change within your own time-constrained and political environment."

If you aren't already using some of these tools, how can I get YOU to desire to use social networking? The ways I'm trying to do it include:

  • being there (in the social network) first - so when you are ready to join, you have someone to connect with
  • demonstrate its effectiveness
  • sharing my content
  • evangelize about the virtues of social networking
  • teach 'how'
What would it take to get you or someone you know to 'want' to start social networking? Please use the comments in this post to share your insight and advice (or comment in FriendFeed)

How to get started

If you are not already social networking, I'd recommend the following sites to get you started with social networking.

Use a Feed Reader to read content. There are many out there. I use Google Reader. Then, whenever you see the feed icon in the browsers location panel or button bar for a page you are interested in, subscribe to that page's feed. If you are using a home page for your browser that never changes, use your Feed Reader to be your home page.

Add your comments and opinions to blog posts that you read. Start by commenting on blogs written by people you know. A note to say 'good article' as a way to get your feet wet and to let them know someone is reading their post.

Use - a social bookmarking site - to share your bookmarks/favorites. (Pete Flores and I recently recorded a podcast about delicious.( Install the delicous buttons (if you are using Firefox or MS Internet Explorer) and upload the bookmarks/favorites from all the browsers and computers you use. Stop using your browsers' bookmarks/favorites and only use delicious. Then, start sharing the sites you want by not checking the "Do not share" box. To me, this is the easiest way to get started because it doesn't require that you join an existing network and you can choose to share what you want. Also, the benefits are immediately apparent.

Look for others delicious users that are tagging the type sites you are interested in - find people in your field or hobby that are using delicious and add them to your network. Then, subscribe to your network's feed in your feed reader. This way, you will know whenever they tag a new page.

Start growing your network - tell those who would be interested in knowing what you are bookmarking (colleagues, specialists, friends with common interests) that they can find your bookmarks in delicious and encourage them to share their bookmarks. Chances are, these are the same people you would want to know about what they are bookmarking.

Start your own blog. You have a unique perspective that others could benefit from knowing. Everyone has something to teach, so why not you? Even if nobody ever reads your blog, use it to improve your writing skills and help organize your own thoughts. You might be pleasantly surprised by who finds it interesting. I've talked to many bloggers who say it is great therapy.

Advice for social networking
  • Break down the walls between your personal and your professional life. Aren't the people you work with your friends? Getting to know them on a personal level will (in most cases) improve your working relationships with them.
  • Be willing to share in order to build relationships. Remember the first thing someone asks when you haven't seen them for a while? What have you been doing/reading/working on? Why wait between face-to-face visits. Let those that care find out as it happens.
  • Realize that you have something of value to add to 'the conversation'.
  • Have fun.
  • Be yourself.
  • Make friends.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Are you still working the same way?

I liked the article "Productivity 2.0: How the new rules of work are changing the game" from Zen Habits and wanted to share it more widely. (If you are following my Delicious, you'd have already seen it there too.) In it they make some good observations and some that I need to adopt.

Here are the 8 rules to whet your appetite , but the article is worth reading in its entirety.

  1. Don’t Crank - Work With Deeper Focus.
  2. Minimize Out Meetings and Planning Overplanning — Just Start.
  3. Paperwork is out — automate with technology.
  4. Don’t multi-task — multi-project and single-task.
  5. Produce less, not more.
  6. Forget about organization — use technology.
  7. Out with hierarchies — in with freedom.
  8. Work fewer hours, not more.
I read about this in the PSU College of Agriculture's Information Technologies eNews volume 108. They do a great job and I always learn a lot from reading their stuff. Vince's Lighter Side and Interesting Links are always worth checking out!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Can the generations work together?

Several observations make me question if the older generation can work with the new generation (or visa versa). IMHO, I think a lot of the problems are related to a lack of respect and understanding for each other's communication preferences. I am generalizing here and am using 'generations' to identify people, regardless of their age, who use the tools and have the preferences generally associated with the different generations.

Last week when my grandmother passed away, my oldest son chose to be with her at the end while my youngest chose not to remember her that way. This was the right decision for each of them. Soon after she passed, my oldest text messaged his brother to let him know. While he was doing this, my mother (who was just coming back to the room) saw this and made a comment about it. If he had been talking to his brother on the phone, I think she would have understood what he was doing. But she and many others in the generations that didn't grow up with text messaging don't understand the way the others prefer to communicate.

I have to admit that I would rather talk to someone than text them from my phone. This probably has to do with the fact that I haven't become proficient at texting (I need to get a phone with letters big enough for me to see without my reading glasses or get contacts).

Just from my personal observations, I'd say that most people under 25 prefer texting to talking on the phone.

Another story: A year or two ago, my family was heading to South Carolina to go camping, but when we got to the campground, it was full. My youngest son mentioned that one of his friends (not a 'close friend', but one he likes) was camping with her family (who we know pretty well) was camping at a nearby campground this weekend. They texted back and forth and soon we were camping just a few sites away and spent a great weekend with them. My sons' 'network' of friends are so much more rich than mine was at their ages - and even now at my age, that I'm jealous. They make friends when I take them to conferences and they maintain and grow those relationships throughout the year. When they go to the conference the next year, their friends are there and they pick up from yesterday, not last year. How do they do this? They use Facebook and MySpace.

They are much more comfortable sharing more of their life. And because of this, they have more friends, are more connected to them and they have stronger relationships.

One of my biggest regrets is losing touch with many of the friends I've made in the past. My goal for the near future is to get back in touch with many of them and rekindle those relationships - especially if they are using social networking tools.

Yesterday, I had lunch with a coworker and she told a story where someone asked if her daughter's college was closed because of snow. The mother didn't know, but another coworker (younger generation) in the next room overheard and said yes, the school was closed and told them what the daughter was doing this morning. She knew because she was friends with the daughter on Facebook.

We talked about how the younger generations are using email to communicate with 'old people' and use other tools to communicate with each other.

Paul Glazowski wrote Study: Surfing Social Networks at Work Could Be Good for You. I've been holding this trying to think of a good way to get it out to those IT departments that are blocking things like instant messaging, social networking sites, sharing sites and the like and even games because they think they are going to stop employees from 'wasting time'. IMHO, this couldn't be more counter-productive. Yes, there will be employees that will waste time using these tools, but do they honestly believe that by taking these tools away the employees that would waste time with these tools will become more productive? I think not. They are going to bring crossword puzzles, books, or their cell phone to the office or just spend their time hanging around the water cooler. And the ones that are working hard will be less productive because they have fewer tools to work with. The time-wasting employees need to be addressed administratively, not by blocking IT tools.

Another observation is the blurring of the work/personal boundaries for the new generation of knowledge workers. If you are working behind a counter, then yes, you need to be there at certain times. But, if you are a knowledge worker and are most productive at 4:00 AM and enjoy bike riding, why do you need to be at desk from 9-5 during the winter when it gets dark at 5:30? I think the new generation of workers 'get' and want the Freerange enterprise that Kevin Gamble describes.

Back to the title of this article - if you find yourself with the characteristics of the 'older generation' (regardless of your age), it is time to explore the advantages of the tools the 'younger generation'. It is hard for us to change our work habits, but by taking small steps, it can be done. The first step is to work to gain an understanding of the tools.

I think this is the longest post I've ever written. Maybe I ought to change the title of the blog to "Ramble On"... but that's already taken...

Friday, November 14, 2008

Tools for Scheduling

I was recently asked the following question:

Do you know of any software or online program that would allow us to manage our meeting rooms?

Things I would like for it to be able to do include:
  • Work with 3 rooms, 2 of which can be combined
  • View the schedule online
  • Request space online, to include # of people, name of meeting, contact for additional information, purpose of meeting
  • automatically let the person making the request know if there is a conflict
  • option for moderator to respond to requester for additional information
  • identify an individual or two to "approve" requests
  • moderator approve request
  • automatically post to schedule once approved
  • automatically respond to requester that it is approved/denied
My suggestion was to use Google Calendar and Google Forms. With these, they will be able to do everything in your list except the automatically responding.

This is just one example of where you could use Google Docs and Google Forms 'in the wild'.

While I don't think this is exactly what they were looking for and certainly not an ideal solution for what they want, it is free and it does what is needed. Is there some solution already made out there for them that comes closer to what they want.

Do you know of other ways/suggestions to address this common issue? If so, email me or post a comment.

Social Networking

Ning,, is a site that allows you to create you own social network website and social networks. After getting a Ning ID, you can create, join, or request to join, these groups.

Even without a Ning ID, you can browse or search for groups from the Ning home page. This link,, will show you the results of a search for the term 'farming' on their site. Unfortunately, since Ning sites are community-based you may need to search to find an active Ning site where the members are asking and answering questions, uploading content, etc.

Agriculture Online,, where you can also find the Successful Farming magazine, has a special feature on this site called Farmers for the Future. As part of this effort, they've created a Ning site for young and beginning farmers. The site has a forum and places for photos, videos and blogs. Check it out.

If you are a geek, you might want to check out the NCSU Web Developers network that just started at:

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Discussing Google Docs

Earlier this week, my counterparts Pete Flores from Texas and Duane Rigsby from Ohio recorded another podcast. In this one we discuss Google Docs. You can find it at Tech Know Talk.

We developed the script using Google Docs and held the conversation using Skype.
Pete recorded the conversation using PowerGramo Skype Recorder then edited it with Audacity.

If you have any suggestions or thoughts about the pros and cons of podcasting, please comment below! I'm still weighing the costs/advantages of it. Is this a medium that you would like to see more or less of? Is it a medium your audience would like to use to hear from you?

Monday, November 03, 2008


Recently, I came across an old (last year) class done in a blog about using 'Web 2.0' tools. It was set-up as part of the UMD Library Learning 2.0 program to encourage staff to experiment and learn about the new and emerging technologies that are reshaping the context of information on the Internet today. The objectives of this program are to encourage exploration of Web 2.0 and new technologies by UMD Library staff and to provide the staff with new tools (that are freely available on the Internet) to better support UMD Library’s mission of promoting learning and research.

I believe all of the content is still very applicable. When I talk about computing in today's environment, these are the key points I try to hit. I use almost all of the tools mentioned in this class almost on a daily basis - they are that useful. If you haven't adopted or at least explored these tools, you owe it to yourself to do so. They can make you more productive, and efficient.

Below are the topics (with links to each page) each 'lesson' is very short, but be warned - once you get started, you might not be able to stop :)

Introduction to Learning 2.0
Safe computing
Grab yourself a blog in 3 steps
Explore Facebook and MySpace
Learn about instant messaging
Make life "really simple" with RSS & a news reader
Finding Feeds
Podcasts, Smodcasts
You too can YouTube
Discover Flickr

More Flickr fun
Google Picasa Web Albums

Play around with image generators
A thing about LibraryThing
Roll your own search engine
Tagging, folksomonies & social bookmarking in
Getting not-so-technical with Technorati
On Library 2.0 & Web 2.0 ...
So what’s in a wiki?
Playing around with PBWiki
Web-based Apps: They're not just for desktops
Discovering Web 2.0 tools

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Do you Skype?

Skype is a tool that I think many people are unaware of or just haven't explored. I can see LOTS of ways it could be used to save LOTS of $$$ and time.

Why use Skype?

  • FREE long distance calls
  • Video calls - see who you are talking to
  • Avoid 'voice mail hell' by knowing if someone is available before calling
  • Voice mail is available free with any subscriptions or just $20/year
  • Text chat for quick messages or questions
  • Free conference calls (up to 24 people)
  • Why not augment a web conference by using Skype for the audio. This would allow people to participate from a land line if they can't be at a computer. Personal observation: I noticed that the Skype audio quality was better than the audio in an Elluminate Live! session (and I've been pretty happy with the audio in Elluminate sessions).
  • Record calls with (Pete and I recorded our podcast using this tool)
  • If you frequently receive calls from a long distance friend or family (or work), for $6/mo or less get a local number at their end, so they can call you for free - from a land line or cell phone
  • Get those calls forwarded to any other phone when you are not online ($0.021/minute)
  • Dial land lines (or cell phones) anywhere in the US/Canada (aka unlimited long distance) for less than $3 per month
So, before you pick up the phone to make a long distance call, why not look to see if the party you are calling is online? You might save yourself some time and money.

Of course, this assumes that you will be using voice to communicate. Often, there are much better ways to communicate, but that's another post.

Disclosure: I have no financial or other interest in Skype other than as a satisfied user.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

My first podcast

With the help of my good friend, Pete Flores from Texas, I've created a podcast. Actually, Pete did most of the heavy lifting - creating and editing the audio file - I just contributed the content. But, that's a step. You can find it at:

In the past, I haven't been a big fan of podcasts - not seeing them as real useful, but since I've started listening to more of them I'm changing my mind. I'm still trying to figure out how/where/when they'll work for me and teaching the people I'm responsible for teaching...

Earlier this year, I got an iPod and used it to listen to some podcasts, but I just never found a good time to listen. I can't pay attention to what I'm listening to and read or write at the same time, so I have to stop working in order to listen. Since I can read faster than most people talk, I would prefer to get the information in text format - usually via an news/RSS feed. What changed my mind is I got a device that lets me listen to my iPod through my radio. In many newer cars and my '72 VW bug (which is for sale by the way) there is a jack to plug it in - just requires a cheap audio cable.

Now, I keep learning and stay up-to-date in my field while I drive. Not all of my listening is work related. I catch a lot of the NPR broadcasts that I miss over the weekend like Car Talk. I also like listening to Old Time Radio shows. I don't listen to much music on it, but Kevin Gamble tweeted something that made me think - "The housekeepers left the radio on in my hotel bedroom. Remember radio? Feels very weird listening to a total stranger's playlist."

For technology information, I've been listening to: Apple Quick Tips, Geekspeak, The World Technology Podcast, and several podcasts from CNET.

I'm beginning to change my mind on the usefulness and popularity of podcasts. I'd like to hear what others think? Is podcasting a good way to educate? Are there podcasts you'd recommend?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Sharing what you find on the web

Every day I find web pages (usually through one of the "new ways") that I want to hold up to my friends and coworkers and say 'hey, this is good stuff' or 'have you seen this yet?' So, how do I do that?

There are several ways and the process has changed over the years and continues to change on at least a monthly basis. If I didn't adopt new methods of gathering information, I'd be left behind.

Old way

E-mail a mailing list or group from my address book. I rarely if ever use this method any more. Occasionally, I'll email a link to one individual with a personal note - if I know they aren't using any of the newer and better methods.

New Ways (in no particular order)

Delicious - Easy to find in future if you ever need it. Categorized. Has replaced my browsers' bookmarks with browser plugins for MSIE and FF.

Friend Feed - Allows others to add their comments. Aggregates more then just web sites.

Twitter - Keep up with more than just links. Maintain relationships. A couple of my cohorts post an IT tip of the day (usually with a link) to ITTOTD.

Reading feeds with Google Reader and posting to blogs (here and here) - Adds more context and discussion than any of the other methods.

Google Reader's Sharing - Share pages directly from within Google Reader - others can subscribe to your shared pages using their favorite Feed Reader.

When I started writing this list I was identifying "advantages" of each, but as I wrote each advantage, I realized that almost every one of these advantages could be perceived as a disadvantage by some. To me, these are all advantages.

Today, I'm using Google Reader to keep up with most of the incoming information along with Twhirl to keep up with both Twitter and Friend Feed, which keeps up with my friend's Delicious, blogs, and more. I'm not convinced that this is the best way and am open to trying other methods.

I also use my iPod to keep up and really enjoy listening in my car (adapter plugs into the radio). But that's another blog post.

Please share how YOU keep up and share.

Here's an old article about using delicious, but most of it still holds true.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Moving to FriendFeed

While hiking (without computer and cell phone reception except for a couple of times on the peaks) I found myself thinking about what I would tweet if I could. You know you're addicted when you start thinking in 140 characters.

On the last night on the trail, I asked my son what he missed most, what would he miss if he lived in the days without electricity, indoor plumbing and the like. I don't remember his exact words, but it boiled down to missing his network - he missed being able to communicate with all his friends. My network was at the top of my list too (after being with my wife and youngest son). I could easily live without electricity, computers, indoor plumbing, non-dehydrated food, and my comfortable bed (new sleeping pad was worth every penny). What I missed most was being connected to my friends. One of the first things I did when I got home was to upload my pictures to Flickr and tweet to tell my friends that I was back and read about what I missed during the last three weeks.

As I read my tweets and feeds I learned about how FriendFeed was replacing twitter. This means that I need to change my work habits again. I still need to figure out how to move to FF without leaving my twitter friends behind. - suggestions?

Can I post to FriendFeed and have it go to Twitter?

Look for another post (hopefully soon) with more info about FriendFeed.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Your GMap

Every now and then, I find something that grabs my attention and says "this has real applications right now!" YourGMap is one of those things. I found this one a long time ago and was recently asked if I knew of an application that did just what this one does. I had posted it to my first blog, but wanted to capture the content and have it on this blog.

YourGMap is a FREE web based application that lets you create your own map and publish it to the web so you can link to it from any web page or email message. I quickly put together a map of the west district county offices and research stations.

Because this is based on Google's Map program, you can pinpoint down to within a 100 yards or so or you can map points across the country or world. You can indicate a location by street address, GPS coordinates or by pointing to it on the map. You can also add comments to each location. I choose to include the address and entered the phone and fax numbers. Once you've created a map, you can go back and edit it later to remove or adjust your locations or add more locations to it.

How could an Extension Agent use this?

  • Map your demonstration farms. Use different color pointers to indicate different types of demonstrations.
  • Map disease or insect outbreaks.
  • Map the largest trees in the county.
  • Map the roadside vegetable stands.
  • Map the 4-H Clubs meeting places.
  • Map the locations where you will be teaching a nutrition class. Use the comments to indicate the date and time for that location.

These are just a few ideas that I thought of off the top of my head. I'm sure you can think of many more that apply to your work.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Catching up after long absence

I have not posted in more than a month. First, was the preparation and hosting of the 2008 NACAA Annual Meeting, then immediately after that, I went on vacation for two weeks to hike with my boy scout troop at Philmont Scout Ranch (pictures are here) - no phone, computer or electricity. Then returning to work with all the normal classes/questions/etc. catching up on three weeks of missed calls/questions/etc. and all the followup that needs to be done for my position (Electronic Communications Coordinator) after the National Meeting, plus all the personal obligations just moved my blogging to the back burner.

There are just so many things I've learned since I posted last that I want to share I just haven't made the time to write. Blogging has got to become more of a priority for me. But those other responsibilities (life and work) just keep getting in my way. Finding your work-life-blog balance.

I'll be writing more soon. Promise.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

I was tagged

Janyne Kizer tagged me. She didn't give any instructions, just a 'tag your it' message in Twitter.

So, I did a little research to find out a little more about this 'game'. Apparently, it's been going on for quite some time and is called 'blog-tag'. The earliest reference I found (I didn't spend much time looking) was from December, 2006 where Jeff Pulver has one set of 'rules'. He wasn't the first, but I quit looking. Jeff's state the rules as: "Turns out there is a game of Blog-Tag going around the blogosphere in which bloggers are sharing five things about themselves that relatively few people know, and then tagging five other bloggers to be 'it.'"

I found a couple more from December, 2007, with rules of eights. Luis Suarez lists the rules as: 1. Link to your tagger and post these rules. 2. List EIGHT random facts about yourself. 3. Tag EIGHT people at the end of your post and list their names. 4. Let them know they’ve been tagged.

But, in following with how I was tagged, here's my lists....
Five snacks I enjoy:

  1. Gorp (2-4 combined)
  2. Peanuts
  3. M&Ms
  4. Raisins
  5. Pretzels
Five Things on My To-Do list today:
  1. Get OpenID working on
  2. Start using classes in my coding
  3. Start using AJAX in my coding
  4. Finish writing several blog articles that I've started - this wasn't on my to-do list...
  5. Work out
There is a good chance that one of these will get worked on today...

Five Things I would do if I were a billionaire:
  1. Fund my wife's philanthropic idea for helping those with addictions and their loved ones
  2. Buy more land in the Appalachian mountains
  3. Build my own house
  4. Start an arts (wood working, glass blowing, etc.) school
  5. Start a market for the crafters
Five jobs I have had:
  1. Hog farmer
  2. Inventory business owner (grocery/convenience store)
  3. Veterinary assistant
  4. Ranch hand
  5. Computer User Coach
Five of my bad habits:
  1. Tendency to get tunnel vision - effects my listening skills
  2. Don't say 'no' enough
  3. Perfectionist (I was told this was something I needed to work on in an performance evaluation. I asked "how do I improve upon that?")
  4. Work too much
  5. Don't exercise enough
Five places I have lived:
  1. Florida
  2. Oglethorpe, Georgia
  3. North Carolina
Five people I would like to get to know better (yes, this means you are tagged!):
Now go and post your lists of 5.
  1. Vince
  2. Greg
  3. Brian
  4. Seth
  5. Molly
I had my wife and two sons listed as 1-3, but since they don't blog, took them off.
There were some others that are prolific bloggers that I felt I knew pretty well already.
There were some others that just don't blog - yet.

Five Random Things:
  1. Looking forward to hiking 67 miles with my oldest son and seven other Boy Scouts in Philmont (Cimarron, NM) in July
  2. Wish I could understand why I'm the only one who has problems (or gets frustrated) with Macs. People I respect for their technological knowledge LOVE them, but I just can't figure out why. Still trying though.
  3. I like woodworking and cooking - don't do much of either.
  4. I love my family. Wish I was a better husband and father.
  5. I answered this tag, not out of arrogance as suggested by Rob Stokes, but for several reasons.
    • Out of respect and consideration for Janyne who tagged me
    • The idea that if you (the reader of this who got this far) cared enough to read it you might be more likely to share your information for me to read
    • One of the biggest benefits of Web2.0 is the relationship building and maintenance aspects. If I want to learn more about someone else, I'm obliged to share something about myself. It's hard to do, but helps me get out of my introverted shell.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Live commentary (shared note taking)

I just saw a cool use of a new tool - CoverItLive!

Right now, Kristin Hokanson is at the NECC and taking notes. What's cool is that I can read her notes as she takes them. What's really cool is that others can join and help her take notes!

Are you interested in seeing what she noted about the session she took from David Jakes and Dean Shareski's presentation? Check out her blog "The Connected Classroom". During the session, the notes were appearing as she (and others) was entering them.

She took a snippet of code from CoverItLive and embedded it into her blog and then as she typed, it appeared on her site. Since I can't make it to the conference, this is a great way for her to share what she is learning with me (and you!). Also, now she has the notes to the session stored on her blog for future reference.

Is there a meeting or session that you will be attending that others would like to get the highlights - as they are happening? - They could even give you questions to ask the speaker!

Soooo many really cool tools are out there! And they are all easy to use!

Thank you for sharing Kristin!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Sharing is amazing!!!

I get inspired and educated by seeing what others are doing. Today, I had several "WOW" moments. I'll share the path I took this afternoon and hope that my sharing will inspire and educate you.

A little before lunch, I noticed in my twitter stream (using TwitBin to follow it) bnr1 tweeted "@lorisheldon - Hello Web 2.0 class... from State College PA". That peaked my interest. So, I went to to see if perhaps lorisheldon was someone I knew and if not, if they were someone I might want to get to know. After all, she is either taking or teaching a Web 2.0 class. Turns out, her twitter profile says she's a "3rd grade teacher turned HS tech. coach". I saw from her recent tweets that she was teaching a Web 2.0 class and was showing twitter. She had requested people say hey and tell where they were from. So I sent her a hello.

One of her recent tweets gave the URL for her Web 2.0 class. Of course, I went and explored and discovered some tools I wasn't aware of along with an excellent video - WOW #1 - The Connected Classroom

After watching the video, I had to explore WOW #2 TeacherTube a YouTube site just for education. This is where I came across WOW #3 - Pay Attention

Which brings me back to getting inspired. I've been developing (slowly) a Web2.0 class for more than a year now. This gets me going on it again.

Of course, in this example the subject was Web 2.0 tools. But, if you use twitter, you'll be following people who are sharing things that you are interested in doing and learning and get inspired from.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

BSA Starting Open Source Software Developent Projects

The Boy Scouts of America has just started developing an Open Source Software project at:

Their mission statement reads:

We are committed to serving the needs of the community. Our Open Source Initiative is dedicated to bringing together the Scouting Community and the Open Source Community in a joint effort to serve the needs of the wider community of software users.

In the welcome page, it states:
In the tradition of the Open Source Movement, the resources of the OSS Website are "Open" to the community. We welcome the participation of organizations who face the same sort of technology issues that we do. Many of the challenges faced by the local Boy Scout Councils, and their volunteers, are the same challenges that other non-profit organizations deal with every day.
If your organization has similar technology needs as BSA, then this might be something worth exploring and getting involved. I think it is a great idea for BSA to tap the resources of all the Scouts and Scouters (adult volunteers) to help build the tools that they all need - and in the process share it with everyone else.

It makes me proud to be a part of such an organization.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Ask the Expert

Knowing the following:
eXtension has an "Ask an Expert" feature that is supported by numerous Extension Agents and Specialists from across the country. They answer questions in about 16 different categories with more to be added.

Extension Services across the country have publications on MANY different topics.

I recently revisited the AllExperts site and thought about a question that has been on my mind for quite some time. It first came to me when I learned about Wikipedia.

Would an agent or specialist participating in others (i.e. AllExperts and Wikipedia) as an expert and contributor be a good way of marketing Extension?

My Current Opinions and Thoughts:
Yes, it is good for agents and specialists to participate and contribute in other sites where 'experts' are needed and recognized with one caveat. There must be a way for the contributions to be recognized as coming from an Extension Agent or Specialist. This can be done in Wikipedia by each individual creating and maintaining a user page with information about credentials and of course their association with Extension (with links). This may require that we maintain two separate accounts - one for when they are representing Extension and one for when we want to post something that should not be associated with Extension - i.e. personal opinions that aren't backed by research.

When we contribute we need to be sure to reference (and link when appropriate) Extension publications, services and expertise.

The argument against this is that we are providing these other services free content and expertise, improving their reputation - which may drive traffic away from our sites. I disagree with this argument. IMHO, the more we can be seen as expert participants on other sites, the more traffic will be driven to our own sites.

Besides, the Extension mission is to disseminate the researched based information to the public. Doesn't it make sense to take advantage of all the venues we can to achieve that goal? Let me make a physical world analogy - if we had the opportunity to talk to a large group of interested people that someone else gathered together, wouldn't we take advantage of that?
Of course we'd wear our Extension name tag and mention Extension services and products in our talk. So, what's the difference?

The problem I see is that most of us are assigned a geographic region to serve. With the web, we are serving a many more than our region and most in our region will never see the results of the time we spend in these endeavors. How do we justify spending time on these type projects to our funders - who primarily care about the people in their geographic region?

Call for discussion:

I don't claim that I'm right in my thinking - that's why I'm posting. I'd like to hear your opinions and reasoning - especially if they disagree with mine!

Should agents and specialists be encouraged to contribute to non-Extension sites? If so, how should those activities be encouraged?

How can they be rewarded and recognized for the time it takes?

How can we 'sell' it to our funding sources?

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Another great use for twitter

Over the past year, I've written about interesting ways that Twitter is being used.

Michael Martine wrote a good article titled "Twitter is like sex" where he makes the point that you just have to get in and experience it to understand it.

The more I use Twitter, the more I find it to be an invaluable tool. Sometimes the noise to value ratio gets a little high, but then something like today's power outage where eXtension and NC Cooperative Extension house their servers occurs. They can't send an email to any of their mailing lists because they are on the servers that are without power. However, I found out about it because some of the people that I follow 'tweeted' that their building was without power. They also used the eXtensionOrgSys twitter account to post the status of their system.

Last week, I drove with my wife to Pennsylvania. Before leaving, I turned on Twitter's SMS feature to have the tweets from that those I follow sent to my cell phone as text messages. Throughout the day, I was able to keep up with my friends and what was going on in the world. I tweeted what I was doing so they could keep up with me. Vince Verbeke shared how to pronounce Wilkes-Barre and even gave directions to a great garden center to visit from where we were having lunch.

After using twitter for more than a year now, I still feel it is a great information gathering tool. It is a great relationship maintenance and building tool. And it's just fun. Twitter is still the first thing I check - before email or anything else. It's like going to a party with all your friends and being able to listen to and even participate in all the discussions. Some I just listen to and laugh, others I participate.

vcverbeke, myself and some others are posting an IT Tip Of The Day (ittotd).
vvanpetten is doing a great job of using twitter to promote her blog and herself.
jdorner is where you can find me.

If you haven't tried Twitter yet, the way I would suggest getting started is to try it with some friends or family that you don't see often. Convince them to 'try' it for a month.

I recommend using a third party tool to read and post to twitter. "How Are People Twittering" has a top ten list as of January 31, 2008. Right now, I'm using Twitbin in my Firefox window. I also like Snitter. And plan to try out Twitterrific (free w/ ads) on my Mac.

Caveat: Twitter is not 100% stable. At this time, I would not recommend using it for mission critical information. Just this morning, there were a couple tweets that I could read on the twitter web site, but didn't get them in my Snitter or TwitBin.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Unable to Learn? Or Unwilling to Learn???

In working with a lot of people in the area of technology, I hear "I'm not tech savvy" or something along those lines an awful lot. Usually it is a very intelligent professional person. Most of them hold advanced degrees in their field.

As an IT Trainer, how do I get them to become tech savvy? Or maybe I should ask how do I get them to want to become tech savvy?

I honestly believe that there are very few of these people that are unable to learn. The issue is how to get them to 'want' to learn. Is it possible that in today's world, they don't know about the benefits of being 'tech savvy'? Do they think it is just too hard? Do they lack the confidence in being able to learn? Are they using this as an excuse to get out of doing work? Are they afraid? If so, of what?

I don't have the answers. I suspect that I'm not even asking the right questions.

It wouldn't be so bad if their ignorance only affected them. In today's world, their ignorance affects everyone around them. Their co-workers waste a lot of time because they are working on projects with them. The organization loses because countless hours and dollars are wasted, knowledge is not being shared and work is being duplicated to name a few ways their ignorance affects others.

I'm working with a team and we'll have a conference call that will last 2 hours. If the team members could/would post their reports to the web (wiki) prior to the conference call, the secretary's job would be much easier (and more accurate) and our conference call would last a fraction as long. We could spend that time addressing the issues for which we need everyone's input.

If the team members were more tech savvy, we could use some web conferencing software and save hundreds of dollars of phone charges, run a much more efficient meeting, show many of the things we'll be talking about and have a recording for those who were unable to attend.

None of these require skills much beyond being able to type into a web page form, use a word processor or plug in a headset.

I'm done ranting for now...
Your comments would be greatly appreciated!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Getting nothing done this morning

My mornings usually start with me catching up with my 'tweets' by reading what they did since I was at a computer last. If you aren't using Twitter, it is fun and a great social networking tool. This morning @esagor shared a blog article "Twitter is my village". A great quote from that article is: "For a contrived, weird and techy way to communicate, Twitter’s “passive conversation” fosters very natural, gradual relationship-building."

I learned that Auburn University now has a YouTube channel from @aafromaa and about the daily goings on of several of my friends - that I don't see but once or twice a year. It's just a great way to keep in touch. In return for them sharing their days, I feel I owe it to them to share what's going on in my life.

Another good description of twitter is 'micro-blogging'. Often, I get just enough information to get my interest and want read more.

I also discovered two funny blogs - "Because I Said So" and "MaNiC MoMMy". Okay, sometimes twitter leads to non-productivity. But, more often than not, it leads to extreme productivity and great discoveries.

If you still aren't convinced to start using Twitter, read Anne's article "Advantages of Twitter".

If you care about what I'm doing, get a Twitter account and follow me.

If you want to get a (almost) daily IT tip, follow ITTOTD. If you have an IT Tip, share it with me and I'll add you to the list of those that ITTOTD follows.

Time start getting things done!