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Category Archives: Social Media

Balloons could add new flavors to the ‘Cloud’ and Digital Democracy

Most of you know how I dislike the word ‘cloud’ as a catchall for anything accessed online. So how about getting used to balloons? As in Google’sProject Loon that has been in the works for some two years, and now is supposed to be set to launch in Sri Lanka.

It’s a crazy, heady idea. Sri Lanka will be the first country to get ‘universal Internet access’ as TechCrunch put it.

I just got back from Sri Lanka, and did an extensive train and road trip with the family. I experienced first hand what connectivity is –and is not. The new, fast highways are obviously connecting more people to more opportunities. The Telcos are providing easy-to-get (via a scratch card) low-cost bandwidth for smart devices. There is growing free Wi-Fi presence in towns as diverse as Galle, Anuradhapura, Kandy and some places in Jaffna; even on a train we took to the hill country! Access does get spotty and sluggish at times, but the appetite for connectivity is growing in leaps and bounds.

And now balloons!

Here’s why I welcome this. Not for the obvious reasons, such as giving everyone including tuk-tuk drivers or election monitors the ability to tweet or upload pictures – which could be useful in and of itself.

Education: First sorely needed bandwidth to homes, schools and offices will change the game. I was at one outstation school, and the science teachers had to use a dongle to get online. ‘Universal access’ for schools would change the dimension of how learning takes place beyond the Google search. Young people could be empowered to create content and not just consume it. It’s about time schools got a better deal when it comes to connectivity. Why haven’t the telcos given schools a better deal? What will they do now?

Political participation. Sri Lanka has demonstrated that despite the dismal examples of governance, that democracy and citizen participation works. ICTA reported recently that “Sri Lanka has shot up to 74th position in the United Nations E-Government Survey of 2014, after climbing 41 places since 2012.” Nalaka Gunewardene goes into rich detail about how Digital Democracy is at work. Beyond elections, this will affect transparency and accountability, when everyone has an uplink, a camera and a voice.

There are obviously several more examples, which some of you might like to add. Please do!

 

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The Uber Effect. Has it disrupted your business?

Have you noticed what Uber is doing? And I don’t mean shutting people to destinations.

The company that began as a ‘ride hailing’ company in San Francisco, has become the metaphor of how almost any service-based business could be tweaked to provide a richer service. Tethered to a network, of course.

The first ‘network’ to consider is the people network. We-the-people constitute a powerful connective tissue to other networks. In this instance, it is the road network. Taxis monopolized this human-transit network, but there was space for a different type of taxi, and Uber unlocked the genie.

There are lots of other businesses that could be Uber-ized. It will annoy the status quo (note how Taxi operators make a case for how ‘dangerous’ such ride-sharing/ ride-hailing companies are); But it will eventually create some interesting offshoots.

My column in this month’s LMD Magazine looks at what this business model is all about.

 

How bankrupt is our media? The ‘Caitlyn’ story proves it

You know the media has been suckered into a story when the entertainment media and the ‘quality’ news outlets begin quoting one another. Fawning over one another, really.

If you haven’t noticed, watch how the ‘Bruce-Caitlyn’ story in Vanity Fair is being echoed by outlets sch as The New York Times (The Woman Behind Caitlyn Jenner’s Vanity Fair Cover),TMZ (reporting on the Diane Sawyer interview about “the biggest reveal of 2015 for sure…”), to Us Magazine, and the Perez Hilton’s of this world.

Consider too, the ‘reporting’ being done, and the attempt to give the story gravitas based on the tweets. You know something is seriously wrong with journalism, when the headline such as “Caitlyn Jenner Crushes Record for Fastest Time to Reach 1 Million Twitter Followers” becomes a basis for a story.

Think about it. Would a reporter have written a story of ‘courage’ had half a million people ‘followed’ someone with no publicist or celebrity photographer in tow? The mad rush to cover this event –and it seems like a media event, when you think about how carefully orchestrated it is, with photo-shoots, and Kardashian-ized comments going back and forth– even had Us Weekly retracting a story.

There are so much more important things the media could be occupied with, but all we get is a story validated by the number of tweets, followers, viewers and  ‘unique authors.’

To be fair, one media outlet, asked the tough question. Melissa Block of NPR asked this of Buzz Bissinger:

I didn’t know until I read your story, Buzz, that Caitlyn Jenner has a deal with the E! television network for a docuseries about her life. It’s the same team that does “Keeping Up With The Kardashians.” Why is she doing this? Is it the money? Is she at all worried about exploitation?

His answer?

“I think part of it is money. As she says in the piece, you know, I’m a businesswoman. I have a right to make a living…”

And we have a right to tune out this nonsense.

Click!

 
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Posted by on June 3, 2015 in Hype, Media, Social Media

 

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Why the fuss about the @POTUS handle?

Hasn’t the White House cheering squad got the memo that the number of ‘Followers’ one has on Twitter is not a big deal anymore?

In the early days of micro-blogging, when so many so-called social media experts were bragging about hitting some magic number in Followers, this was excusable – although pathetic.

So it befuddles me why so many stories are showing up about president Obama’s Followers on his @POTUS handle.

It is a fun acronym, I know. But it’s just a stand-in for a real person. Caitlyn Dewey put it best, when she said (in a Washington Post column) that “On the modern Internet, impressions of anonymity and ephemerality are, well … usually fake.”

Translated: POTUS is just that – a handle. By handlers.

 

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Technology in schools. Love it or hate it?

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Touch screens and Robotics. My classroom this yea

In my upcoming July technology column I analyze the pros and the cons of Technology in Education. A few in my network have asked me about my thoughts on this ever-changing topic. (In Oct 2014 I did cover it – “Disrupting Education)

Here’s a summary of what’s to come. As you and I witness the discomforting transition from text books to tablets, from hand-outs to videos-as-homework, from sequential ‘lectures’ to disruptive (noisy) small group activity, it’s easy to fold our hands across our chests and fight it. But there are some compelling arguments on both sides. The Wall Street Journal, and the International Association of Technology in Education almost in the same week ran Pro and Con arguments about Ed-Tech. I get both sides! In my classes I argue against the inane use of social media for the sake of ‘publicity’, but I encourage thought use of digital media with real, and real-time audience participation.

‘Hall and Stevens’ Vs Khan Academy. In my younger days, I had to thumb through Hall and Stevens, the geometry ‘bible.’ Today’s kids are learning geometry from a guy called Salman Khan, founder the free online learning portal for mathematics and science. (Fun sidebar: ‘Hall and Stevens’ is available as an eBook; flip the pages as if it was a real book, here: https://archive.org/details/schoolgeometry00hall

Screen Time vs Think Time. I am a big proponent of virtual and augmented reality, especially if it could bring in ‘distant’ experiences (Civil War, 3D models of engineering, space science etc), but I also aggressively advocate limited screen time. Odd isn’t it? That’s the dilemma we educators and parents face. Augmented Reality

Your son or daughter probably goes to school with a device in her backpack with more processing power than the rocket that took men to the moon, and this child wants to be… an astronaut? You’ve forgotten how to log into your son’s school website to download his missed homework, but… he’s found a way to ‘jailbreak’ your cell phone? There are ‘teaching moments’ in all of these.

Sal Khan speaks of the “fundamentally dehumanizing experience” in education. And he was not talking about teenagers and even pre-teens staring at their phones and not talking to one another. A real, ‘digital citizenship’ crisis, right now! He was referring to children packed in a classroom! Hmm!

Love it or hate it, technology is gate crashing our class rooms, just like ball-point pens or calculators once did. Are you ready for it?

 

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When science works, machines break, and coffee cups burn

In teaching technology we like to say that it’s OK mess up the first time. This is counter to how we like things to run smoothly – neat transitions, good closures etc. A formula, in other words. Even when doing a demo, you probably want your audience to see the end result.

earthquake-simulatorBut I’ve realized that in many lessons – life lessons, not class lessons– the worst thing you could do is to have something perform flawlessly.

Take this ‘Earthquake ‘simulator’ we built here. The plan was to simulate tectonic plate movement that brings down buildings. This was for our STEM Night, which happened on 21st April. A rickety contraption that would shake-rattle-and-roll using a power drill. We quickly ran into a few issues. The wheel you see here was cracking.With two hours to go to the ‘earthquake challenge’ we implemented Plan D – Duct tape. Which looked messy, but it worked. In a sense, I loved that uncertainty; an opportunity to tell students that this ‘problem-solving’ stuff we go on about, is real, even for us.

The next day, FOX 10 News showed up. More issues, with the weather guy and a camera pointing at our ‘machine’.

  • Problem #1: The drill that drove the wheel, had been taken home!
  • Problem #2: Reporter Cory McClousky wanted to repeat the ‘quake’ and of course, it failed. On camera. Nice!
  • Unrelated issue. Behind the earthquake simulator was the solar oven we used the previous day. I had left my coffee cup inside while we were waiting. A solar oven, in case you haven’t heard can reach up to 250 degrees in 30 minutes. So does the plastic cap, as you can see here, which warped out of shape.

You cannot plan these things. What looks bad, actually informs the story. McClusky’s parting line about the solar oven was: “We’re burning coffee cups in here…” Indeed. You can’t touch this.
STEM Night 2nd Red Camera (12) Solar baking After

FOX 10 News | fox10phoenix.com

 Cory Goes Back to School

 

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What social media was like five years ago

I came across these pictures taken during a series of webinars on social media I conducted in late 2010, and it made me realize how far we have come. Or what we have left behind.

The series was called Passport to Digital Citizenship.

I have met some of these ‘students’ who have subsequently gone on to do amazing work in the digital space in Sri Lanka.

But now that I teach a different age and demographic of students, it is interesting to see how some major concerns of digital citizenship, have been over-ridden by new ones. Then there was no WhatsApp, and Instagram or Snapchat to think about. At that time, it was almost inconceivable that these new digital channels would practically revise the political spectrum in Sri Lanka – as Nalaka Gunewardene has well documented.

Webinar students - Passport to Digital Citizenship 2010

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you for the experience all of you who attended.

What are the most important tools you use in your work today? More importantly what are your biggest challenges?  Privacy? Information overload? Earning trust? PR?

 

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