Older or Wiser or Just Different

I’m really not trying to pose as a seasoned veteran of the nonprofit sector when I say this, but I’ve noticed that I’m less inclined to try to change systems now than I was when I started.

It’s on all levels, from seeing if we can get a more efficient volunteer timesheet system to sinking a couple of hours into managing my contacts more effectively to seeking additional programming for my students to sending emails to my representatives regarding Adult Basic Education.  I would have been all over all of those things three years ago, but right now they’re on the back burner.

Now I’m finding myself throwing more energy into trainings, gaining deeper knowledge of what resources I have, and focusing more on volunteer recruitment, retention, and recognition.

Vintage wine by Guttorm Flatabø on Flickr
Vintage wine by Guttorm Flatabø on Flickr

In what may be a parallel situation, for the first time in the year plus that I’ve had an RSS feed, I’m seriously considering drastically reducing the number of blogs I read so I have more time to actively comment, write my own content, and read outside of my computer box.

Am I growing up or getting old?

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Twitter Ifs

I would pay more attention to Twitter if:

  1. I could have a desktop client on my main computer at work;
  2. TweetDeck didn’t take up an enormous amount of memory on my home computer;
    OR
  3. Twitter.com itself made it easier to listen.

I would be happier with Twitter being part of the world if:

  1. People would stop fretting and fussing that Twitter is causing the general populace to cease to read longer texts such as books;
  2. It didn’t lend itself so easily to generating new words such as “tweeps.”  It’s ridiculous – I was half inclined to name this post “twifs.”

Things I’ve learned because of Twitter:

  1. URL shorteners are handy;
  2. Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog was fun;
  3. Automated messages are Irritating.

In Defense of Low Tech

Broken Computer Monitor Found In The Woods by BinaryDreams on Flickr
Broken Computer Monitor Found In The Woods by BinaryDreams on Flickr

When my technology failed me in two classes in a row, I gained a new-to-me understanding of why exactly the use of new technology has been so relatively slow to become ubiquitous in classrooms, and why some perfectly intelligent people have dug in their heels and refused to jump on the computer bandwagon.

Some quick thoughts that have probably always been obvious to everyone but me:

  1. Most education organizations don’t really have the funds to pay for top-of-the line gadgetry, back-up versions of said gadgetry, or adequate staff devoted to keeping said gadgetry functioning.  So it’s likely to go wrong, and when it does, we’re unlikely to have great infrastructure to get it going again.
  2. Spending time planning a lesson and then having to completely throw it out the window and improvise on the spot, especially repeatedly, is frustrating.
  3. Planning a “just in case” back-up lesson for every hour of intended computer-based instruction would take a ridiculous amount of prep time.
  4. Teachers don’t like feeling helpless when their students patiently watch them fiddle with non-responsive machines during class time.

Again, I think these points are not earth-shattering.  But in a way they were to me – I’m otherwise pretty into making use of digital technology to expand learning and social interactions.

Even after my sudden flash of understanding it, I still think the decision to flat-out not use digital technology grossly underestimates its benefits and potential.  But I think many of us who embrace it grossly underestimate the amount of crap involved with making it work.

Quick Report

Happy Snail by davey-boy on Flickr
Happy Snail by davey-boy on Flickr

Although I’ve been slacking with the blogging, I wanted to let you know that I’m still inching along with the 5WC about teaching.

I had an “interview” with one of my volunteers who’s an experienced adult ESL teacher.  It ended up going much differently than I’d expected.  We both teach Advanced at my center, so we ended up talking a lot about that class specifically.  It was fantastically helpful, I think for both of us, and I think it will result in some positive changes that will benefit our students.

I was surprised that I was able to give back during our chat.  She asked more about the 5WC with the idea of bringing it to a group she’s involved in.  I was also able to give her helpful tidbits about Macs and social media.

So I’m really glad the 5WC spurred me to actually take the time to talk to people instead of just saying, “yep, that’d be a good idea someday.”  The 5WC made “someday” become a “today.”

I have to admit, I’m not doing so hot with my reading.  I also have no idea where I’m at in the five weeks.

But for now I’m still going (at a snail’s pace, but still going!) and finding that every effort I’ve put in has been rewarded far more than I’d expected.

Beyond Story-Telling: What’s Next?

Photo by David Webber
Photo by David Webber

I was just talking to my mom on the phone, and she told me about a big book donation project her library did for an alum stationed in Afghanistan.

I think it’s a powerful story – the request, the way the community came together to make it happen, the challenges that never seemed to become full-out problems, and the way she facilitated the whole thing.

She said the college was excited about the potential for publicity, and that she was doing a big write-up of the story so that PR could send it to the regional newspaper.  She also said she might present this project at an upcoming library conference.

What was really exciting to me was the feeling that this was a big success for the community; my mom agrees that there’s a sense of “Great!  We rock!  What’s next?”  I’m interested in how they could use social media to keep up the momentum.

I see a huge opportunity for the college to reach out to its community of neighbors and alumni.  I see a way for the library to assert its continued relevance in a changing world.  I see a successful project whose nuts and bolts should be shared, and a story about a large county-run community college going above and beyond what many would expect.  This doesn’t have to be a one-time occurrence.  It could be a direction.

I have so many ideas for where they could go with this, but I think my ideas are a lot less relevant than those of people affiliated with the college.  I wonder what would happen if the college worked wikily (Beth elaborates) with its faculty, staff, students, and alumni to look for a place where needs, interests, and resources met.

No, seriously.  They’re planning to send out an email to the whole college with thank-yous and some donations stats.  Why not enclose a link to an extremely simple wiki called “What’s Our Next Project?”

(Really, Mom, why not?)

General questions:

  • If they had time to share their story in only one additional way, what would you suggest
  • How did you tell your story?
  • How do you keep the momentum going, turning one great instance into many?
  • How do you bridge a large preexisting community from newspapers and emails to Web 2.0?

Value of Social Media: Being the Change

Gandhi during the Salt March, March 1930.  Photographer unknown.
Gandhi during the Salt March, March 1930. Photographer unknown.

Gandhi is credited with saying, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”  It’s quoted so often that it almost seems trite.

But it’s not trite.  It’s exactly what we have to do in just about every role we play: global citizen, family member, employee, teacher, and more.

When surrounded by situations we want to change, even when they’re nothing that will go down in history, it can be difficult to stay strong in the face of resistance, misunderstanding, and indifference.

One of the ways I deal with that is by surrounding myself with blogs that support the values I want to act upon: innovation, excellent teaching, resource sharing, and intentionality.  I’m not talking about keeping up with best practices; I’m talking about moral support.  My RSS feed is peer pressure to do what I consider to be the right thing.  It’s a simple way to keep myself on track.

How do you stay the course?  What role does social media play for you?

Online Communities Plunge Into Lake Scranton

The Wall Street Journal’s Business Technology blog posted “Why Most Online Communities Fail.”  (Thanks to Doug H for sharing it on Twitter!)  It’s short and sweet, and explains it’s based on a study of around 100 businesses with online communities.  Three big, common errors: 1) They spend too much on “oooh, shiny!” technology, 2) They don’t appropriately staff the projects, and 3) Their goals and metrics don’t align so they’re pretty much doomed to appear to fail.  The article points out that these are pretty obviously mistakes.  Any thoughts on why these illogical errors were so easy to make for so many businesses?

It’s so good to read a concise yet pithy post about what not to do!  Sometimes I think that social media talk is just a tad more Pollyanna than is warranted, though I obviously partake and enjoy doing so.  The We Are Media Project has been talking about how to be Social Media “Evangelists.”  I think that sharing awareness of common pitfalls is a huge part of being a responsible social media evangelist.  It shows that it’s not a brand-new, completely untested idea.  It shows that you’re informed and honest.  And it provides a more complete map to guide our organizations.

The fate we’re all trying to avoid is that of Michael Scott, who unthinkingly follows his car’s GPS straight into a lake and then insists that technology tried to kill him.  We can be intelligent about new-to-us technology, and understanding where pitfalls (or lakes) are can keep ridiculous plunges on The Office and out of ours.