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Category Archives: Best Practices

Speaking like Jobs – Presentation tips from 10 years ago

Exactly 10 years ago this week, Steve Jobs took to the stage –a technique he would go on to perfect — to launch the iPod Shuffle.

That was Jan 11th, 2005.

I often do ‘anniversary’ events in my class, to get young people to think about where we are now, in relation to where we and the technologies we take for granted were once at. After all, this is a Computer and Technology Lab, and I don’t want to get into the trap of always featuring today’s shiny new object, or the hottest new parlor trick in digital media. We often need context, and it tends to fly by when we refresh our feeds, doesn’t it?

Back to Jobs. His presentation trick was to use insanely simple devices. Well rehearsed, and well timed but simple. Which made him very different from his tech contemporaries, who revel in Silicon Valley argot. (Yes, I listen to ‘This Week in Tech, to catch up with the other kind of tech-talk!)

Listen to how he works up the crowd, and keeps them hanging on for that characteristic”One more thing.”  Fast forward to 1:35, and see what I mean.

  • He uses words like ‘noodled’ (He “noodled on it” not “researched it”)
  • He uses unexpected pauses, and slows down and speeds up suddenly
  • He uses home-spun images – comparing the iPod Shuffle to a pack of gum, and contrasting it with four quarters

Notice how he also stays away from big words, using words like “easy”, “simple,” “thing,” etc. (And yet, peppering his presentation with keywords!)

Even if there was no YouTube, I bet we would still listen to it.

 

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Disrupting Education. Sorry, There’s No App For That!

It’s easy to get sucked into the belief (or is it group-think?) that apps are the only way to disrupt an existing business model, or that true engagement is all about stubby fingers on a screen.

I tend to take the contrarian point of view that tablets are not the thing that will change everything. We romanticize these pieces of glass too much. Waaay too much.

I come at this from two angles. First as someone who runs a computer lab, where the touch-screens will soon over-run the grey boxes. Second hearing first-hand what very young kids barely out of diapers, can do. At the Montessori school my wife runs, pre-schoolers show leaps of knowledge, grasping complex ideas in science, geography, and math, with no tablet in sight.

Against this backdrop I took a deep dive into the Khan Academy, and even got some of my 5th grade students to follow its curriculum. Online, mind you. The opinion I came away with is neither black nor white. It’s not about the screens. It’s not about the technology. It’s a lot more simple –and subtle–than that.

If you have fallen in love with tablets, you may skip this link below:-)

 

If you want to read about it, it’s in this month’s LMD Magazine, for which I write a monthly technology/business column.

“Disrupting Education. Why Schools Love It.”

 
 

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No phones allowed at White House Cabinet Meetings

No live blogging, no checking your email, no tweeting during meetings.That’s a White House rule at cabinet meetings.

  • What does that tell you about how grown-ups behave at meetings?
  • What might it suggest about decision-making and technology distraction?

 

I’ve read somewhere that many businesses are asking people not to bring their Blackberries and iPhones to the meeting. I’m interested to know if you have seen or heard of an official policy on this anywhere.

 
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Posted by on February 20, 2014 in Best Practices, Social Media

 

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Sochi’s ‘Teaching Moments’ through social filters

How to teach social media, without actually calling it social media?

That’s one of the challenges I run into, now and then. To many young students –and I am talking those elementary school to whom “hash tag” means something else entirely–, there is no big distinction between media variants. Newspapers, photo albums, television, encyclopedias etc all belong to one blurry category.

You will probably hear this often – schools are really anxious about (social) media behaviors and the flood of tools that enable them. I take what might seem a contrarian approach: It’s better to prepare students for responsible use of digital media, than ask them to check them at the door.

Yesterday Feb 5th was Digital Learning Day, so it was a good day, as any to address some of these topics. Since this week also happens to be the opening week of the Olympics, I tried to pull these two strands together. As always there was a lucky collusion of opportunities.

  • Padlet - OlympicsTo bring this all together in a classroom experience I began experimenting with a website another teacher referred me to: Padlet. It lets a student import content into a page in a variety of ways – from PDF to QR code, to an embed link – as you could see here. or via this QR Code it generates.

Some of these open the door to what we educators like to call Teaching Moments. To deal with topics such as:

Copyright. What does that mean in a link economy, where someone could embed a video or link to something without violating intellectual property rights? Even the International Olympic committee has had to spell out its SM Policy about blogging and tweeting. Even grown ups need to abide by an event or site’s rules – such as this, below that says one cannot ‘assume’ a reporter’s persona!

Olympic_SMPolicy

Collaboration: The connectivity students take for granted (the always-on wi-fi) makes it possible to have a close conversation with a total stranger, and learn from him/her, but at the same time, sharing personal information with someone on a public channel could be dangerous.

Old media that was decidedly one-way, locked down, or expensive didn’t allow some of these opportunities, but it also protected us from the torrent of meaningless discussions, and TMI. Maybe there’s a lesson in that too.

If you’re curious about Padlet, here’s what the page looks like:   http://padlet.com/wall/m2iy0fn1fy.

 
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Posted by on February 6, 2014 in Best Practices, Social Media

 

Technology with a sense of humor (and humanity)

So much of tech in our lives is about inanimate objects that deliver some convenience.

Maybe they animate our lives a bit: Typewriters helped us write better reports. Levers helped us move large rocks. Microphones and memory devices) helped us record and preserve important  moments.

I’m becoming more steeped in the four S-T-E-M areas, because (a) that’s where all education is headed, and (b) I run a computer and tech lab for a school where students from Kindergarten to 6th grade come to experience computers in education.

So it’s always refreshing to be able to focus on technology that is not a computer, or at least one that NOT rectangle-with-screen. I have robots, of course (a big ‘Aha’ for third graders): rectangle with wheels and sensors, and a few other objects.

But where could you take (or hide) a computer, to make our lives more interesting?

I found a great example of a ‘technologist’ who comes from an a non-tech space, and adds a layer of humanity to objects. She’s not from Silicon Valley, and I don’t believe she’s been featured in Fast Company. Bangalore-born Aparna Rao infuses technology with a sense of humor and humanity, letting us find our own meaning in inanimate objects such as a phone, a typewriter etc. The one on the left, for instance, was designed so that her uncle could send email, making him feel he was typing a normal letter on a piece of paper. But it gets funnier, and, deeper, such as when she uses a camera to make people disappear — the reverse of what we do now in our desire to put ourselves into every conceivable screen-captured image of life.

This is probably one of the best reasons why the arts –and the capital ‘A’– cannot ever reside outside the S-T-E-M areas everyone is so focused on.

This is the best example I’ve come across for encouraging schools to add some S-T-E-A-M!

 
 

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Unrehearsed Conversations, often most poignant

I just got off a Google Hangout with a group of dynamic new media folk, who interviewed me about Chat Republic.

It’s odd, and so appropriate to have these well moderated chats about a book that makes a big case for  inviting the unscripted, un-fettered conversations.  We had to pause  whenever we ran into a glitch – technical issue, human error etc — but as the moderator, Adnan, told me at the end, he leaves the glitches and silly mistakes.

I try to respond to the famous questions about ‘over use’ or ‘dangers’ of new media by saying that this thing called social media is not one thing, with a handbook. To expect it to have a set of rules is like expecting there to be a set of rules for how to use the telephone or how to speak to your neighbor.

There’s a good column in the New York Times today on the downside of email, and how in interrupting us all day, it interferes with thinking time. It ends with a line that echoes something I touched on a few days ago, when speaking of Content Curation and TMI.

“And let’s never forget the value of face-to-face, or voice-to-voice, communication. An actual un-rehearsed conversation — requiring sustained attention and spontaneous reactions — may be old-fashioned, but it just might turn up something new.”

Indeed!

In a time when we could bypass human interaction with a messaging device, an app, or a process, let’s not forget that it’s the spontaneity of being ‘social’ that makes it such good ‘media.’

 

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On camera, or on Mic, don’t over-produce your subjects

I am never comfortable whenever someone freezes that smile or his head angle for a picture I am about to take. It’s become the done thing to strike a pose. Not sure where this comes from, but I get the feeling it’s got something to do with a celebrity culture –and perhaps the media uproar when someone is caught looking less photo-ready.

I’ve also worked with PR people and know there is a solid reason to make sure the room is set up well so that the Big Guy (or Gal) acts natural. Controlling clothing, lighting, messing with hands or tapping on a table etc. There’s a good post about this by Paula Lovell, with a related discussion worth following at a LinkedIn group.

Gerard Braud is a pro at this and I’ve even sat in one of his media training workshops some years back at an IABC conference. He knows what he’s talking, so if you do have a client or am planing to put someone on camera, this is a great place to start.

But I have some comments about looking too ‘produced’. It’s not what the pros may say, but think about this:

  • Why should a CEO or thought leader always look like he/she never makes mistakes, and is flawless? Given the big push for transparency in communications in general, business and government in particular, wouldn’t the target audience prefer to see someone who looks slightly more human than studio settings permit?
  • A videographer or photographer could over-prepare a subject. Isaac Pigott makes a good point that the confidence from being who you are trumps all other external factors. That’s why teleprompters are scorned so much, today.

I my new profession, Education, I also teach children to present ideas and ignore the technology as much as they could. Yes I use cameras – video and DSL. I also put them in front of a microphone –corded and a ZoomH4N. It is possible to train them too much; it is also possible to let them come up with the most amazing things, unscripted, warts and all. I know what you may be thinking. They don’t have stakeholders to convince.

It’s a long shot from a CEO interview or podcast that I used to do until recently, but I’ve found some striking similarities in making them come off ‘as they are’ not as we want them to be.

If you are an educator, I write about these education issues at Voices-On.com

 

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