Thursday, December 23, 2010

2011 New Year's Resolutions

Well, it's that time again -- time to evaluate my progress towards goals and chart my new course. 2010 was an interesting year. I experienced some turmoil in my private life, but was able to more or less maintain my equanimity.  I feel as good about that as I do any of my accomplishments. I set fewer professional goals for myself, and that helped me to focus more. So let's look at how I did.

 1. Review and re-define my personal brand. I'm feeling a little unfocused and unhappy with my direction right now and need to figure out where it is I want to be in the next 3 years.
The work that makes me happiest right now is the thinking and talking about innovation and managing creative teams. It seems to me that there isn't a lot of knowledge about transforming teams from ordinary to innovative. I think that I would like to work on that, and in doing so, refocus my brand.

2. Blog more regularly. I really enjoy this, even if (as I suspect!) it is just me and my nephew occasionally reading it. But blogging does help me focus my thoughts. I am going to try to blog weekly. The summers are the hardest time, when all I want to do is be out in my garden. But let's see if I can't be a little more regular with this.
I think I blogged here 50 times, out of a target 52. I also started a new blog for my personal musings, allowing this to become a more professionally focused space. I blogged there 44 times. So the combined effort is well above my goal. 

3. Continue to improve my ASL skills. I have 18 months to reach Intermediate level on the Sign Language Proficiency Interview. This isn't a minor goal, to say the least.
I haven't made my goal here yet, but I still have seven months. I feel like my signing has improved. My receptive skills definitely have.

4. Continue work on my Instructional Design Model for Teaching Deaf Adults. I would like to be able to present this at conferences in 2011.
I made very little to no direct progress on this goal. However, I do have a better understanding of the linguistic aspects of ASL and that is helping me further define my model.

Here are my goals for next year:

1. Using a methodology I describe here, perform an analysis of the skills and experience that I need to develop in order to determine what I need to do to maintain my position.

2. Learn to use InDesign and complete a project using it.

3. Work on understanding what I can do to maximize the creativity and innovation displayed by my team. Write an article or give a presentation on leading a creative team.

4. Develop an idea for a mobile device app that I recently came up with.

5. Investigate moving this blog to WordPress that I host myself.

What are your resolutions?

Here's hoping that 2011 is your happiest ever!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Life Cycle of Pride Movements

I interested to know if there is some kind of a life cycle that has been described for "pride" movements. For example, when I was a young woman, the feminist movement was just getting off the ground and was relatively powerful. Although not all women considered themselves to be feminists, those who did were very vocal and focused, with a fairly clear agenda.

But now, I don't hear ANY young women describing themselves as feminists, although they all enjoy the benefits that the early feminists won for them. It seems obvious to me that there was a period where the notion of feminism was rising and gather steam, then a period when it had enough strength as a movement to effect changes, and then a period of decline, during which most of the societal changes persisted, but no new changes (such as passing the ERA) were able to be accomplished. Does this process actually exist, and can it be used to describe other "pride" movements?

If such a process exists, those of us who are supporters of particular social changes and their associated pride movements might modify our strategies based on where the movement was in the life cycle.

Any thoughts?

Monday, December 20, 2010

Major Themes for 2011

My boss has asked me to develop a strategic plan for my department at NTID. This has been a very interesting exercise. It has given me an opportunity to talk to people inside and outside about where should we be in three years and what do we need to do to be ready to go there. These conversations have been so enlightening!

I came to this task with an understanding that technology is progressively becoming more mobile and distributed. And that this will have a democratizing effect on the population.

My conversations with my colleagues have led me to see how important the idea of entrepreneurship is going to be to us. You may not immediately connect entrepreneurship to University. Understanding the fundamentals of product management is going to be important to my team, as we strive to support faculty and staff entrepreneurs. I will be exploring that connection in future blog postings.

Design-thinking is another new idea I will be exploring. What I like about design-thinking is that it includes empathy as well as rationality and creativity, and is a method for making innovation happen. Up to now I haven't had language or process to describe how I innovate, so my attempts at supporting innovation in my team have been less than universally successful. In a nutshell, if the person I was working with was an innovator, then mostly I just had to get out of the way. I want to do more than that. Hopefully, learning and implementing design-thinking will make that possible. Expect to read more about that in the future.

I am looking forward to 2011, and the learning and exploration that is going to come with it!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Developing a Place for Innovation

As I watched this video, I was very interested in Jane's comments about games and "epic wins", which she defines as an outcome so extraordinarily positive that you had no idea it was possible until you achieve it. According to Jane, gamers experience epic wins while playing games but not during real life.

Jane has written Reality is Broken and I'm planning on putting it on the top of my list for reading over the Christmas break. I am intensely interested in establishing a place (maybe I should say atmosphere?) where my team and I can innovate. I think Jane has some ideas that might really help with that. Stand by for more!

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

DevLearn 10

I'm at DevLearn 10. It's not as good as other conferences I've been to, and after Educause last month, seems down right puny. The day started out great with a "breakfast Bytes" session run by Terrance Wing. The topic was social media, and although Terrance had some opinions about the subject, he kept things low key. The most important take away was this: If you want to incorporate social media into your learning, find a problem and then ask the group to solve it. That appealed to my little constructivist heart. He also discussed the issues that arise between control (of information, of knowledge, of brand) and the democratizing force of social media. Honey, that ship has sailed. The mantra of my generation: Power to the people has come to pass. The power is with the people, get over it. The problem now is that companies will be pretending that hasn't happened, and be missing the boat. It makes me think of the story my marketing teacher in business school used to tell about the development of transistors. That technology was known to US manufacturers, but there was such an investment in vacuum tubes that we didn't go there. So Japan, who was forced by WWII agreements to not have a standing army and had gobs of money to invest, invested in transistors. And the rest is history.

So we need to realize that social media is a part of the equation. It is democratizing by nature. And it will not be controlled.

So what are you going to do about it?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Educause Day Thee, Part Two

My last day. Wow. I'm pooped! Ok, here's what I saw this afternoon.

The Top of the Stack: Fuchs on Funding
Ira Fuchs

What the program said:
In more than 10 years as vice president and program officer for research in information technology at the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Ira Fuchs oversaw the grants program that funded projects including Sakai, uPortal, Kuali, the Open Knowledge Initiative, Fedora, DSpace, and the Open Library Environment. Having been both a pioneer in the development of transformative technology projects and a leader in the higher education community, Fuchs will discuss the grant makers perspective on higher education, including insights to those seeking grants from philanthropic organizations.

My take: Ira Fuchs went over his pointers for grant writers, they they were pretty common sense. You know, like...if your potential finder doesn't fund Heath care, do ask for money for health care. Well, duh! But you know, it was god to hear it because it kind of demystified it for me.

Community Discussion: Next Generation learning Challenges
Ira Fuchs
The program said:
EDUCAUSE invites your participation and expertise in Next Generation Learning Challenges, a new effort to identify and scale technology-enabled approaches that dramatically improve college readiness and completion. Join initiative staff to learn more about the program, including future grant opportunities, and brainstorm with your colleagues on future directions.

My take: This was an opportunity for Ira to collect ideas from those gathered about what we saw as the best ideas for the biggest ideas facing college students.

You 3.0: Evaluating Software, Hardware, and Wetware
Rochelle Rodrigo

The program says:
This presentation by the EDUCAUSE Evolving Technologies Committee will describe the characteristics required for enterprise success with evolving technologies. We will discuss IT leadership and the decision-making process in the context of several evolving technologies including mobility, virtualization, and e-readers. Attendees are invited to submit proposal ideas for five-minute Ignite-style presentations to kick off discussion at

My take: Rochelle and her co presenters got 5 minutes and 20 slides to present about their ideas. What a clever idea! They had some very original thinking, and I look forward to exploring their themes more completely in the future.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Educause, Day Three, Part One

The workshop sessions continued to be excellent. I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed at this point, but pushing forward!

An Immersive Learning Experience via the Alternative Reality Model

David Lee Fulton,Web Developer, User Services Mississippi State University 
Ronald Jason Tiffin,Sr. Web Developer, Team Leader Mississippi State University 
Amy H. Berryhill, Mississippi State University

What the program said:
Engaging incoming freshmen in activities has a positive impact on the overall freshman experience. The Freshmen Common Book Committee at Mississippi State University decided to try a different approach. Using alternate reality gaming as a model, the committee designed an "Immersive Learning Experience" and viral marketing to engage students with clues, mystery, and rewards.

My take: this was a fascinating presentation. These folks basically constructed a theme based scavenger hunt. The prizes they had were "real" and "valuable," and not everyone got them. The second year they changed that and the game was no longer successful.

Distance vs. Distributed Education: Bringing the Campus to the Student
Dr Neil Gershenfield

What the program said:
Advances in integrating the worlds of bits and atoms are challenging assumptions of scarcity that are implicit in the organization of advanced technical education and investigation. MIT's Neil Gershenfeld will discuss the ideas behind this revolution and their implications for improving educational opportunities. Realizing this promise will require revisiting many current practices, including accrediting networks rather than locations, organizing individuals instead of institutions, formalizing informal learning, and creating corresponding career paths.

My take: I think I only understood a quarter to a half of what this man talked about...materials that are computers, that change as they compute... Wha????? But he did talk about an incredible network of open labs all over the world that I think NTID has to be a part of. I will be take g this back to work with me.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Educause Conference, Day Two, Part Two

The afternoon offered a lot choices. However sometimes the written descriptions don't really describe what the session turned out to be. That was the case with both of afternoon sessions.

Sherpa: Increasing Student Success with a Recommendation Engine
Robert Bramucci,Vice Chancellor, Technology & Learning Services 
South Orange County Community College District 
Jim Gaston, Associate Director, IT, Academic Systems & Special Projects 
South Orange County Community College District 

Here's what the program said:
"Students flock to online services that offer intelligent recommendations: Amazon, Pandora, Facebook, iTunes, and Netflix present personalized choices, yet when students reach college they find static menus leading to a bewildering array of choices. At this session we will present Sherpa, a revolutionary personal guide to courses, information, and services."

My take:
In this case the session wasn't what I thought it was going to be, but it was great. Bob and Jim have developed a system that "knows" there

Enforcing Copyright on Campus Networks: Lessons Learned and Next Steps

Kenneth E. Pflueger, Chief Information Officer Pomona College 
Kent Wada,Director, Strategic IT and Privacy Policy UCLA 
Steven Worona,Director of Policy & Networking Programs 

Here's what the program said:
Since July 1, campus networks have been subject to enforcement of the P2P provisions of the Higher Education Opportunity Act. Coincidentally, a variety of government offices have initiated separate reviews of how the Internet is impacting copyright, soliciting input from higher education along the way. In this session we'll review the experience of some HEOA "role model" campuses and discuss how lessons learned will inform and influence ongoing compliance activities on peer campuses as well as federal and offshore initiatives.



Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Educause Day Two, Part One

The University as an Agile Organization

Patrick Masson (University of Massachusetts Central Office)
David J. Staley (The Ohio State University)
Ken Udas (University of Massachusetts Central Office)

Here's what the program said:
"Web 2.0 is more than a set of tools; it is a 'platform' for organization, characterized by decentralized and emergent versus command-and-control leadership models. Can our institutions leverage the new realities of social media for better decision making and outcomes? This session will highlight the theory and practice of an 'agile university.'"

My take:
This was a terrific presentation! I realized that much of what I am trying to do with the team is simpatico with Agile, and that is where I need to put my effort in process improvement. When Patrick and Ken described the team at UMassOnline, my mouth was watering! They must be incredible managers to pull this off in a higher ed environment.

They suggested a couple of books:
Agile Project Management by Jim Highsmith
The New Invisible College by Caroline Wagner
The Spidar and the Starfish

I will be devoting several blog postings on this presentation.

Audio and Video Accessibility: Strategies and Workflows
Alice Anderson (University of Wisconsin-Madison)
James Glapa grossklag (College of the Canyons)
Sean Keegan (Stanford University)
Terrill Thomson(University of Washington)

Here's what the program said:
"Higher education institutions have legal and ethical obligations to provide audio and video resources that are accessible to all audience members, including those who are deaf or hard of hearing. This panel session will explore several institutions' his off in a approaches for addressing their media accessibility challenges."

My take:
Unfortunately, these people didn't have anything new to present on making video accessible. I keep looking for a magic solution that will provide instant perfect captions for free. It doesn't exist, at least not yet.

Sherpa: Increasing Student Success with a Recommendation Engine
Robert Bramucci,Vice Chancellor, Technology & Learning Services 
South Orange County Community College District 
Jim Gaston, Associate Director, IT, Academic Systems & Special Projects 
South Orange County Community College District 

Here's what the program said:
Students flock to online services that offer intelligent recommendations: Amazon, Pandora, Facebook, iTunes, and Netflix present personalized choices, yet when students reach college they find static menus leading to a bewildering array of choices. At this session we will present Sherpa, a revolutionary personal guide to courses, information, and services.

This blog post seems to be too long for Blogger. So check for the second half, following this post.



Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Educause Conference, Day One

Today was my first day at Educause, in Anaheim, CA. Wow, this is one big was the pre conference day, and I already feel a little overwhelmed!

My first session today was "Pedagogical Consideration in Implementing Social Media: Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and More"
"This session will focus on social media and how these tools can be used both inside and outside the classroom. Many of us are already avid users of social media because the marvelous technology allows us to do so many different things. This session will share perspectives from both the pedagogical side and online community-building sides, as well as encourage participants to become part of the conversation and share their experiences. Participants will be able to evaluate social media tools relative to their personal and institutional goals to determine which tool might be beneficial to achieve those goals. Attendees will also develop support networks through leveraging social media tools and sites to facilitate best practices and collaboration during and after the conference."

The session was presented by Tanya Joosten Interim Associate Director, Learning Technology Center,University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and Shannon Ritter, Coordinator of Auditions, Interviews, and Admissions, School of Theatre, The Pennsylvania State University. They did a great job. There are some new tools I learned about.

A way to organize what you love on the web. Looks cool in concept, but can check it out because it uses Flash. And my iPod doesn't.

This phone app gives you an opportunity to learn about your community. I love yelp, so I'm looking forward to using this app.

This site is my new favorite. It combines tweets to a hash tagged source, your links and documents. You really need to check this out.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Soft Eyes and ASL

As is often the case, two very different sources of information came together for me recently, helping me to understand something very important. Here is what happened.

When I was at Camp Mark 7's "Silent Week" camp this summer, I noticed a curious thing. There was a woman at camp who was just starting her journey to learn ASL. She had taken a class or two, but going to Silent Week was going to be a stretch for her. I definitely know how she felt, because I was in the very same place last year.

I noticed that when we were chatting that she was staring intently at my hands. This was especially noticeable when I was finger spelling. I remembered one of my first tutors encouraging me to not do this, to pull my self back a little and take in the person's face and shoulders as well as their hands. I knew intellectually that my tutor was right, but I wasn't able to do it. I would hone in on the fingers, and as a result, I would miss a very valuable source of information - the person's face.

The second source was an unlikely one -- a television drama that J and I have been watching: The Wire. Set in Baltimore, MD, this show follows drug dealers, junkies, teachers, dock workers, and police. In season four, a seasoned detective gives a new detective some important advice: that she needs to have "soft eyes" at a crime scene.

Soft eyes means you are looking at nothing and looking at everything at the same time. Instead of focusing hard on one thing, we relax the muscles in our faces, take a breath and release the focus. This is the same as when you are doing eyes-open meditation, when the gaze is about 12-18 inches in front of your face, a little lower than normal eye level. Try it right now.

Soft eyes relaxes more than your forehead, at least for me. It relaxes your jaw, neck and shoulders as well. It helps to put you in a mental state that is close to "shower thinking", where your brain isn't firmly focusing, but relaxed and able to allow new thoughts and combinations of thoughts to happen. It also increases your peripheral vision.

When I use soft eyes, I find I am much more able to follow signing, especially signing by native ASL signers. I stop reading SIGN SIGN SIGN and instead move to concepts, ideas, thoughts. I am able to "hear" the "voice" of the signer.

When I am fiercely concentrating, I tend to be more scared. I am more relaxed, which absolutely helps me.

Granted, you need enough vocabulary to get started, but if you are a ASL student with a year or two of classes and interactions under your belt, give it a try.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Book Review: God is Not One

One day I was doing a bunch of ironing, and I had the tv on, to distract myself from that boring chore. I happened upon a program about Stephen Prothero, and his new book: God is not One: The Eight Rival Religions that Run the World and Why Their Differences Matter. This man really got my attention with that title. 

I have heard people say, when talking about religions, "We are all going up the same mountain, right? Just up different paths." This always kind of disturbed me, but I didn't really know why. It sounds like the right thing to say, doesn't it? But as a Buddhist practitioner who was raised as a Catholic Christian, I know that the teachings of the Catholic Church and Buddhism are directly at odds with one another. But it was hard for me to understand exactly what the difference was, on a more metadata level. 

Stephen Prothero does an outstanding job explaining the 8 great world religions -- Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Daoism, and the religion you never heard of but is everywhere: the Yoruba religion of West Africa (and the world, due to the vast diaspora of African people.) There is also a chapter on Atheism. 

The thing that made this book so valuable for me is that Prothero reviews each religion by discussing what it defines as the problem it solves, and what the solution is. Because each of these religions sees the problem differently, people who share that world view aren't really in the market for what the other religions are offering as the solution. 

For example, the religion I grew up with was Christianity. The problem, according to Christianity, is sin. The solution is acceptance of Jesus as lord and savior. The problem, according to Buddhism, is suffering. The solution is non-attachment. Think of it as a lock and key. The lock each of these religions views as the ultimate reality are different, so of course the key of one won't work in the lock of another. As a Buddhist, I don't even grok sin. It isn't in anyway a part of the equation. I don't want salvation. Heaven offers no lure for me. In fact, the idea of a heaven that excludes others seems really profoundly wrong! 

I think it is important that we ask ourselves, why do we find it necessary to say that everyone thing is the same? I understand that "you aren't from around here, are you, stranger?" has been the prelude to most of the world's suffering. But I don't agree that saying we are really all the same is the solution. Because we aren't. And we need to appreciate and celebrate that fact, not be afraid of it. 

Find a copy of God Is Not One and read it. Wonderfully informative, and I promise you will appreciate your own spiritual/religious tradition more than you ever have before. 

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A Child's Right to Her Language and Our Responsibility as Her Ally

I'm at Camp Mark Seven, a camp located outside of Old Forge, NY that offers programs for Deaf people of all ages as well as KODAs (kids of deaf adults) and hearing people who want to improve their signing skills. I'm here to do just that. This is my second year. It's wonderful to be in a place were I can use ASL exclusively.

Today we heard little about the Deaf experience and what it was like for our teachers to grow up as part of a minority culture. Like many people who use a language other than English, my teachers experienced aggressive pressure to not use their natural first language, ASL.

I have no wish to co-opt the Deaf experience. That experience is one I will never have. But as a member of a minority culture, I do share the general experience of not being part of the dominant culture.

Our culture, as Americans, is one that values white, able-bodied, hearing, straight, English-speaking, slim, young, christian, Protestant people before all others. I realize that some of my friends who are white, able-bodied, hearing, straight, English-speaking, slim, young, christian, Protestant people might feel that they themselves value people that are different from yourselves. To that I say,well, that's probably why I love you. But you only have to ask a few of you "different" friends to hear some rather sad or shocking stories. Yes, and not from 50 years ago, either. From right now in 2010.

Even some of my friends that are part of a minority group may say that they themselves have never felt undervalued. To them I will point out that this kind of pressure can be extremely subtle. It doesn't have to be a sign that says, "We reserve the right to deny service" or "whites only." In someways that kind of under-valuation is easier to deal with because it is so obvious. When instead, it is wrapped in a cloak of a parent's love, it is so much harder to see. What good parent wouldn't want her child to have every advantage, including the advantage of being in the majority culture? But when that means the child is robbed of her natural language and full membership in her culture of origin, it is a profound and deep wrong.

Every person has a basic and inalienable right to be who they are. And most fundamental is the right to their own language. In my mind, depriving children of this is no less than a type of genocide and must be fought as furiously. Those of us who speak the majority language but understand this truth must be unflinching allies in the struggle to maintain the language rights of those around us.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Your Personal Value Proposition: Choose Your Own Adventure!

Several times, over the course of this year, I have been invited to coffee or lunch by folks who want to talk about their job search with me. Sometimes they are interested in a job at the university where I work. Sometimes they want a job in instructional design. I enjoy these conversations because they have really helped me to deconstruct my strategy for getting a job.

Most folks, even folks that use social networks like LinkedIn, go about the job search process in a rather "rat shot" fashion -- throw enough resumes at it and eventually one of them will stick. It's the "even a blind chick gets a piece of corn once in a while" approach. The problem is that there are a whole lot of blind chicks out there pecking away. Somehow you need to separate yourself from the flock.

A job search is like any sales transaction. If what you are selling isn't what the person in front of you is buying, then you are not going to make a sale. Period. To improve your odds, I suggest you start thinking about your personal value proposition A value proposition, according to Wikipedia, is " an analysis and quantified review of the benefitscosts and value that an organization can deliver to customers and other constituent groups within and outside of the organization."  A personal value proposition looks at your personal skills, experiences, and values, instead of those of the organization. 

Constructing your personal value prop can be done in four major steps:
1. Determine your market. 
  • Focus, focus focus! It may feel counterintuitive to narrow down your search, but doing so will ensure that your offering is actually what the potential employers are looking for. You need to state in one to two short sentences what industry and job you are seeking. It needs to be crystal clear to you. 
  • Know what that market values. This isn't the time for guess work and assumptions. Even if you have worked in this sector in the past, you need to take the time to go through the analysis. Do not assume that what was valued in the past is what is valued now. You can get this information in two ways, and I suggest you do both. First, find people who are currently working in that area, and interview them. What are the most important attributes their employers are looking for? What skills and experience do they think are the most valuable. Second, look for as many job postings for these positions as possible. make a spreadsheet of the skills and requirements these people are looking for, and tabulate the most desired skills and requirements.
  • Go beyond skills and experience to gestalt. Gestalt is "a configuration or pattern of elements so unified as a whole that it cannot be described merely as a sum of its parts." In other words, it is the essence or flavor of your potential future company. Study their website, their thought leaders blogs, their employees' responses to questions on LinkedIn. Who are these people? What values rule their life?
2. Determine your gaps and take steps to bridge them.
  • Using the list of key skills and experience you created in step one, take a very hard look at your own skills and experience. What are you missing? Again, I can't stress enough that you need to not get stuck in the past. It makes no difference how qualified you were in the past. All that matters now is today. Make a list of the things that you seem to be lacking, based on your research. 
  • Are any of these items things you simply can't fix? For example, if you need 5 years of experience in a particular area, and you have none, you can't get into your "way back machine" and fix that. You need to consider that this is NOT an field that you are going to be able to find work in. 
  • Make a list of skills and experiences that you need in order to bring your own skills and experience up to date. Make a plan for how you are going to do this. This is where you need to put your energy right now, not in sending out a zillion resumes to anything that looks remotely like a possibility. 
3. Determine how you can differentiate yourself from the flock.
  • What requirement does your potential future employer have that you meet in a wonderful and unique way? How does your work ethic, your values, your experience, your skills, meet that need in a way that no other candidate can match?
  • You need to tell a coherent story that connects every data point in your history into a big ol' arrow pointing at your potential future employer.  
  • Using your research about the gestalt of your potential future employer, determine how your experience, skills, and values make you a match.

4. Develop your resume and other "customer facing" materials.
  • Everything in your resume, portfolio, and other materials needs to support your value proposition. Take a hard look at every line, especially of your resume. This isn't a place to put everything you have done in your life. This is the place to prove that you have the skills and experience to be successful in your new job. Start by cutting everything that doesn't do that.
  • Use all the free space to offer proof of your experience and skills. Think result, not job duties. What have you accomplished? Don't assume your future employer is going to be able to read between the lines and connect the dots. They don't need to -- there is a big stack of resumes on her desk, so why should she work hard to read yours?
  • Your materials need to be focused. That means you might have a resume that is suitable for this job only. I can hear your moans of pain from here! Too much work? Not really -- since you are being quite focused in your search, you are doing the same amount of work as you would have if you were sending out a zillion resumes, just differently. 
  • Remember to prove to them how you are a member of their tribe. Tell them the story that links you to them. Back in the day, we did this by connecting to a person who was already an insider. You still need to do this, but even more, you need to help your potential future employer understand that you are indeed one of their flock. 
Is this a lot of work? Well, yes. But you will have a much more successful outcome -- for one thing, if you follow these steps, you will really understand who you are going to work for, and you are likely to be happier. And they are likely to be happier with you, as well. Good luck!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

ASL, Handshapes, and Schema Learning

Being an instructional designer by trade, I tend to want to take a very active role in my own learning. Learning ASL is a very high priority to me right now, and I am constantly looking for ways to improve the quality and speed of my learning. In general, my ASL teachers have been wonderful, possibly the best teachers of any subject I have had in my long career as a learner.

At this point I have taken 7 quarters of ASL classes. Here at NTID, the first 3 courses are ASL A, B and C. In those courses you learn some basic vocabulary, and general rules for how the language is structured. After that you can take Communication Practice (which practices expressive skills), Receptive practice, or courses on specific parts of the language, such as fingerspelling, numbers, and classifiers.

There is one thing they seem to be doing lately that I wonder about.

There are certain signs that were introduced quite early in my learning that I am constantly confused about. Maybe in the first week of ASL we learned the sign for "appointment" and "work".  I can come up with the sign for "work" -- I have used it many times. But the sign for "appointment seems" welded to the sign for "work" in my brain. And although I know if it is different than "work", but I have to really think hard to come up for it. Why is this happening? When I asked my wonderful tutor Marge Carillo, why these are taught at the same time, she replied that she taught them together because they were similiar signs.

Does teaching things that are close or similar help or hinder the learning process?

 My research turned up a chapter of Memory and Mind titled Category Learning as Schema Induction by researcher John P. Clapper, who is affiliated with California State University. (The entire chapter can be found here.)

Clapper contends that adults classify things into groups, and the most efficient way to learn the next thing is to see what it is "just like that, only different" as my brother Clyde would say. So showing the first sign, then showing a second, that is similar in some way -- either handshape or movement -- is good. But it is important how those two signs are introduced. Clapper says,

"As already noted, when instances of two categories are presented in a randomly
intermixed sequence, relatively little learning of either category is observed.
However, when the sequence is arranged so that one category (call it “A”) is
well-learned prior to the introduction of the second category (“B”), then people
will learn both categories easily. Thus, categories A and B will both be learned
much better in a “contrast-enhancing” sequence like A A A A A A A A A A A
A B A B B A B A A A B, and so forth, than in a “mixed” sequence like A B A
B B A B A A B B A B A B B A B A A A B, and so on. The only difference
between these two sequences is the fact that the first six Bs in the second (mixed)
sequence are absent and replaced by the same number of As in the first (contrast)
sequence. Thus, simply reducing the number of B instances (by eliminating all
of them from the first 12 trials of the training sequence) leads to a dramatic
improvement in B learning."
This would lead me to think that teaching one sign - "work" and having the student practice it multiple times before another sign - "appointment" -  is introduced, and then contrasted with "work" over and over, would be better than showing the first sign and then the second sign. I think this is especially important if the signs are similar, because they will have less to contrast with.  Presenting and practicing the material in the manner that John Clapper suggests would emphasize the differences in the signs, and that should result in improved retention and learning.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Conformity or Out of the Frying Pan into a Slightly Smaller Frying Pan

I found this clip on YouTube. Take a few minutes and watch it. Then come back and let's talk.

(My apologies that this isn't captioned. Not everything on YouTube is yet.)

I don't remember how I came accross this video, but it raises some interesting questions for me:

  1. In what ways is your conformity to your group resulting in the loss of your authentic self?
  2. If we must have creative and original ideas/products/processes to survive/make money/keep the business going how are we achieving originality when everyone may be conforming?
  3. Thinking is good but doing is better. What behaviors have you not changed that are keeping you from being happy. Why haven't you changed?

Monday, June 28, 2010

American Idol and People that Can't Sing At All Or How Could You Possibly Not Know?

I've noticed a strange phenomena since beginning work here at school.

I've noticed that many of the sign language interpreters that I meet are incredibly unsure of their ability to sign. I mean, really. These are folks who have had extensive training in ASL and work as interpreters full time. They work at one of the finest colleges for the Deaf in the world, and have access to a large number of native signers. I'm no expert, but these people are very, very, good at what they do. But it is not unusual for an interpreter will refuse to sign a waiver so we can videotape a presentation that includes him/her working. As a beginning student of ASL, I wonder: If this person who uses ASL as a key part of his/her daily work, who's ability to sign is a core competency thinks his/her signing sucks, how will I EVER learn to sign even a little bit? All this self-doubt seemed phony to me, or at least disingenuous.

On the other hand, sometimes I am asked to review students' portfolios. And there are cases (not often, thank goodness!) where the portfolio is TERRIBLE and the student is completely oblivious to this. How can someone be so completely out of touch with reality?

Another example: Over the years I've been seriously dismayed when I have read the self-assessments of some of the people that worked for me. Frequently my weakest performers will score themselves high on their self- assessments. And more than once, the person has been very upset at my appraisal of their performance, telling me that they have never received a negative evaluation before. How can this be? Did the person think they could bully me into a better score? Or are they some kind of egomaniac?

Well, now I know. It's something called The Dunning-Kruger Effect. According to Wikipedia, that authority on everything, Dunning-Kruger effect is "a cognitive bias in which people reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices but their incompetence robs them of the metacognitive ability to realize it.They hypothesized that with a typical skill which humans may possess in greater or lesser degree,

  1. Incompetent* individuals tend to overestimate their own level of skill.
  2. Incompetent individuals fail to recognize genuine skill in others.
  3. Incompetent individuals fail to recognize the extremity of their inadequacy."
So people who are actually unskilled think they are terrific, and people who are very skilled underestimate their own performance. And, to make matters worse, the incompetent people are unable to recognize competence. So they won't learn from just observing competence.

Another important point that Dunning and Kruger make is that people rarely receive negative feedback. And if they do, for it to be useful,  they have to understand WHY the failure happened.

So how do we mitigate against this type of bias that we are all subject to? If we don't clearly understand our strengths and weaknesses, it will be difficult to evaluate risk on projects, plan any kind of self-improvement activity, or in general, understand reality. I think there are two ways we can do this.

Dunning and Kruger suggest that, "If ... people... can be trained to substantially improve their own skill level, these individuals can recognize and acknowledge their own previous lack of skill."  Well, duh! I don't know if this is a very useful observation, if we are interested in self-evaluation strategies to improve in domains where one isn't a top level performer.

But a second point by Dunning and Kruger is more helpful. They suggest that people seldom receive negative feedback about their skills and abilities. But even with negative feedback, people need to understand WHY the failure is a failure. In other words, smart feedback is essential.

This article has made me rethink how I going about performance reviews for my team. Last year, I was frustrated by the difference between my evaluations and the individual's self-evaluations. My response this year was to bring people together to write a rubric that would describe behaviors in various levels of performance. Now I'm thinking that maybe that's not a good way to go about it, because my weakest performers are not going to be able to recognize what is the desired behaviors.  Instead I am going to need to think of a way to give everyone smart feedback, and at multiple points during the year. This is going to be challenging!

In the process of writing this blog article, I came across two interesting sources that you might want to check out.

The first article was in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology called "Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One's Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments" by Justin Kruger and David Dunning. This reports on the research that is the basis for what we know of the Dunning-Kruger Effect.

The second was a blog called Finch, written by Francisco Inchauste. He is a designer, and based on what I see in his blog, a good one! You can check out his article here. I really enjoyed his blog and wish he would write more.

* Kruger and Dunning say this about the word "incompetent": "...We think of incompetence as a mater of degree and not one of absolutes. There is no categorical bright line that separates 'competent' individuals from 'incompetent' ones.  Thus, when we speak of 'incompetent' individuals we mean people who are less competent than their peers.  Second, we have focused our analysis on the incompetence individuals display in specific domains. We make no claim that they would be incompetent in any other domains, although many a colleague has pulled us aside to tell us a tale of a person they know is is 'domain-general' incompetent.  Those people may exist, but they are not the focus of this research."

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Interesting Video Sites

 YouTube has undoubtedly changed the world by giving us a place where post our own video. And they are making powerful leaps forward with their automated captioning efforts. But there is more than YouTube out there.

Of course, there can be  zillion videos available, but if you can't find them, you have nothing. Blinkx describes itself as "world’s largest and most advanced video search engine" and with 35 million hours of video tagged and available, it looks like that is an apt description. I am still waiting for the day when intelligent auto tagging will make it possible for particular scenes to be located without the need for time consuming human involvement. We aren't there yet. But this is an important and useful first step.

Critical Past makes footage of historical events and people available to professionals and non-professionals. It also gives you the opportunity to buy still photos taken from historical footage. Concerning rights, they say:

When you place an order, the video clips and images provided by are licensed to you, royalty-free, in perpetuity...  Unlike most stock footage providers, Critical Past LLC welcomes professionals, non-professionals, and enthusiasts worldwide to search our site and license our media.
If you know of other, similar resources, please comment on them.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Returning to the Breath

Last Monday, J and I watched a show on our PBS channel called "Horses". (You can watch it for yourself here.) The show included the story of a nervous dressage horse named "Chamont". The rider asks the horse to make a particular move, and Chamont rebells, threatening to buck the rider off. Her coach praises her response, and tells her that every time he does that, but she sits quietly, and brings him back, that she strengthenss his confidence and their bond. He shys, she sits quietly. He rears, she sits quietly.

We know that's what meditation actually is. Some people mistakenly think that meditation is sitting really still and having no thoughts. They think that they can't meditate because when they try, thoughts arise. But in reality, meditation is the act of returning our focus to the breath. When thoughts arise, we label them as thought and return our focus to the breath. And return the focus to the breath. And return the focus to the breath. Its that returning that is the important part, nothing else.

In fact, when we look at our life, if we can think of our failures not as failures but as opportunities to return our focus to the breath, to repeat over and over that return, then our failures become a secret treasure. The relapse, the anger, the jealousy, the self cherishing behaviors are all the opportunity to return our focus. Instead of using the precious opportunities to practice self-hatred and guilt, we can use these opportunities to return to the present moment and practice. You can't buy that kind of opportunities. Rejoice in them!

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Wednesday, June 02, 2010

YouTube's Audio Transcription

I'm attending The Future of Reading conference at RIT next week. (Side note: Margaret Attwood is the Keynote speaker. I love her stuff and am thrilled to be seeing her!).  The conference is being conducted by the School of Print Media. The program looks really exciting and I am eagerly looking forward to attending.

One thing that wasn't very exciting is that the organizers have posted videos to YouTube. They weren't professionally captioned and only used the new captioning feature in YouTube. And the results? Terrible! The captions are so far from the spoken words as to be almost completely gibberish. There is no way that a person relying on captions could understand what this video was about at all. I'm disappointed -- I was hoping this would be an inexpensive way to get content captioned. Don't rely on the automatic transcribing feature on YouTube to make your video accessible.

Late addition: I heard from one of the organizers and they are planning to create captions for this video. Good for them! But my main point still stands: Don't count on this as a way to make your content accessible.

And now more: I got the following email from the posters of the video.

futureofreading has replied to your comment on Future of Reading Symposium Social Media Tutorial:@claredygert Hi Clare. We had to wait several hours for YouTube's machine transcription. We have corrected the captioning and it now work's properly.
And it does seem to be working better. I guess the final lesson to be sure to check your video to make sure the transcription is actually working!

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Welcome, Summer

Let's take a little break from instructional design to celebrate the beginning of summer.

Yesterday, on my way upstairs, I happened to notice a little embroidered picture that a friend, Lois Farnsworth, sewed for me in 1996. Lois was an old lady, well into her 80s when she made this little picture for me. I couldn't help but think how much my life has changed in just the relatively short period of fourteen years. Where and with whom I live, where I work, how I view the world, all have changed dramatically. But in 1996 and still today, I live as though things will never change. That life is in some way permanent. And it isn't, not even a little bit.

I hear people complain that "Memorial Day has just become the unofficial first day of summer". Instead of trying to create a day that memorializes lives cut short, let's recognize how impermanent it all is.The first day of summer? Yes, a summer that'll be over before we know it. We can't hang on to the days, no matter how hard we try. So let's celebrate the passage of days.

To celebrate, I made some lovely little Lemon and Lavender cakes, using lavender from my garden. Welcome, Summer. It's nice to have you back again.

Lemon and Lavender Mini Cakes
(adapted from the Family Bites site)
* 3 egg yolks
* 1/2 cup sugar
* 3/4 cup milk with 2 tablespoons of vinegar
* 3 tbsp lemon zest
* 1 tbsp lemon juice
* 3/4 cup olive oil
* 1 1/2 cups flour
* 2 tbsp dry roasted flax seed, ground
* 1/2 tsp baking powder
* 1/2 tsp baking soda
* 1/4 tsp salt
* 3 tbsp fresh lavender buds

Lemon Glaze

* 6 tbsp confectioner sugar
* 4 tsp lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a muffin tin with oil and set aside.

Beat the egg yolks and the sugar with a whisk until pale yellow and thick. Add the lemon zest, juice and yogurt and beat well. Add the oil in a steady stream and whisk until combined.

In another mixing bowl combine the flour, flax seed baking powder, baking soda, salt and lavender. Add the wet ingredients and mix until just combined.

Fill the muffin tin 1/2 - 2/3 full. Place in the preheated oven and bake for 15 minutes.

While the muffins are baking, make the glaze. Mix together the confectioner's sugar, and lemon juice and set aside.

Remove the pan from the oven and allow mini-cakes to cool for five minutes. Dip the tops of the cooled cakes into the lemon glaze and garnish with some dried lavender. Allow to set on a cooling rack.

(Makes 12 mini-cakes) Enjoy!!!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Velcro + Ipad = heart

iPad + Velcro from Jesse Rosten on Vimeo.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Thinking about Social Media

Way back, kids, back in the dawn of time -- like maybe twenty years ago -- my interest in the Internet had two major prongs.

One was the access to information. To me, the potential of the Internet was the ability  to research the topic of my choice with ease. I wanted a super public library mated with The Whole Earth Catalog.  What it turned out to be was so much more than I could have ever hoped.

The second major prong was the idea of the social net. From the very beginning I was involved in "lists"  where I could connect with other people who shared interests like me. It didn't matter if I was the only one like me in Rochester, NY. There was someone else in Garland, TX or Billings, MT and not only could we easily find each other, but we could talk via email as much as we wanted to.

With the advent of the term "social media", all the cool kids are thinking about how this aspect of the Web is changing our lives, how we do business, how we connect. Here is a site you might want to check out: Social Media Today's primary mission is to "help global organizations create purpose-built B2B social communities designed to achieve specific, measurable corporate goals by engaging exactly the customers and prospects you most want to reach." It is also an aggregator of writing about social media and the social web. You can also add your own blog to their lineup. Check it out!

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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Transforming American Education: Learning Powered by Technology

The National Educational Technology Plan 2010 was published this March. (You can download a copy of the Executive Summary here.) If you work in educational technology, I encourage you to take a look at this -- it is pretty interesting. Here are some points that I found especially interesting:

  •  21st Century competencies that our students must have include critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration and "multimedia communication".  I'm not sure what they are thinking of for multimedia communication -- Use of multimedia tools in presentations? Webinars? 
  • Students must be able to both develop deep understanding in specific content areas and make connections between content areas.I think that it is the connections between content areas that is most important, because that is how new knowledge is created.
  • Assessment of student performance must happen while there is still time to make improvements. I'm afraid that this will be translated to mean have more standardized tests. I believe it would be more useful to teach students how to self-assess. A score on a standardized test is not as valuable as the ability understand one's own strengths and weaknesses, and to chart a course of perpetual improvement.
  •  The Plan calls for a shift from teachers that are "solo practitioners" to one of "connected teaching." To make this possible, the Plan suggests that teacher professional development must stop being "episodic and ineffective" and become "collaborative, coherent and continuous." I believe that we need to move from a model where teachers are dispensers of facts, and more fellow learners who model how to assess, plan, and execute learning.

Monday, May 17, 2010

What is the Future of e-Learning?

Just recently, someone asked me, "Where do you think eLearning is going to be in the next 3 to 5 years, given the rise of "Web 2.0" and social media? Great question! I think the seeds of the future are here, in front of us.

One of the ideas I collected when I was an MBA student at the Simon School (excellent program, by the way!) was that notion of information costs. Information costs mean that decision making is more effective when it is executed closest to the place where the question arises because detail and meaning are lost in the transfer of information. For example, let's say you own a big retail chain that caters to the 20 something crowd. And you aren't a 20 something. You are a 50 something who has money and business experience, but not the life that is typical of your typical customer.

When you are deciding what merchandise you should stock, you are probably doing a lot of things like asking representative samples of your customers their opinions and using statistical analysis to determine what you are selling. Those sorts of things are what people do to answer the question, "How many pairs of skinny jeans should I buy this quarter?"

But the 20 something salesclerk in your shop knows that people try on your faded and ripped jeans but they rarely buy them. She knows that they like the edgey look but they hate the fact that the waist band is just a smidge too tight. She knows that if the waistband was, say 1/8" bigger, people would be buying those faded and ripped jeans every time. And since your biggest competitor doesn't offer them, you would be selling them to everyone who wanted them.

So the 20 something salesclerk who you pay a little over minimum wage, actually knows more about your business than you do. Why? Because she is closer to the place where the customer is making the decision about what pair of jeans to buy. If you could somehow empower that 20 something salesclerk to actually order the stock for her store (oops, I mean YOUR store!), you might actually do better than you are doing now.

What does this mean for eLearning? That most efficient decision for what to learn is the one made by the student.

The World Wide Web is becoming more and more democratizing as it develops. Where content was more or less controlled by subject matter experts or webmasters in the past, now we see content being developed by unlikely individuals (like me!) and groups of people. Now we have blogging and crowd sourcing. Anyone can be located and linked to or friended. Universities are making their teaching content available for free. Search engines are incredibly powerful. This means learners will be able to and want to direct their own learning. They won't be looking to anonymous experts in text books, or for Grand Poopbas of Learning to tell them what they need to learn and in what order.

So we are now in a time when the efficiency of learner-directed learning can be combined with easily located and rich content. And here's another factor. Employers are asking their teams to actually create knowledge. Unless you want a job that uses the phrase, "Do you want fries with that?", that's what you are going to be asked to do. Most of the other kind of jobs, the jobs our fathers had, have moved to other locations where labor is cheaper than it can be here.

So what changes to our eLearning does this demand?

It is critically important that we give our students a framework for evaluating their own gaps in skill, experience, and knowledge. If they don't have a way to determine those gaps, they can't accurately determine what they need to learn. I don't think I can ever think of an instance where a course or a class started with a methodology for the student to self-evaluate. Either the instructor assumed that if I was in the class I need to know the material, or the instructor managed the evaluation process and owned the results. This is going to have to stop. I predict that students will simply not participate in learning experiences that don't include this element.

Additionally, our content needs to be chunked in to smaller bites and indexed so that learners can locate the specific piece they want to find. Learners need an easy way to build on existing content, to make connections with others and to vet the expertise of their fellow collaborators. That's what the future of eLearning will look like.

Friday, May 07, 2010

If this has happened in the last twenty years, what will the next twenty bring?

It's amazing to me how fast the social web has unfolded.

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Sunday, May 02, 2010


This morning I was reading over the job postings for positions on LinkedIn. (Not to worry - I'm not going anywhere! I just like to stay on top of what is requested/expected for folks in my line of work.) I saw a position that looked really interesting -- a consulting job for an Instructional Design Manager in India. That is, it looked interesting until I got to this line:

Client follows the ADDIE model of Instructional Design and Development.

People, people, people! ADDIE isn't anymore an instructional design model than "lather, rinse, repeat" is a design model. ADDIE, for my non-instructional design peeps means Analysis, Design, Develop, Implement, and Evaluate. A design model that has "Design" as one of it's phases -- that's not terribly helpful. A design model should give me guidelines on how to design -- how to decide what's in, what's not,  to chunk, order,  present content. Seeing this statement tells me that whoever wrote the job description, and likely whoever is the hiring manager, has no idea what it takes to make good, instructionally effective content.Working for these people would be a nightmare because I would be continuously struggling to educate management/the client on what the heck we were trying to do.

Likewise, when I'm interviewing candidates and I ask them "What instructional design model guides you most?" and they reply, "The ADDIE model," I know they haven't a clue. Take a few minutes and simply scan the results of a search on "instructional design" and then you can at least toss around names like Merrill and Clark. Otherwise, I can guarantee you - we won't be chatting at a second interview!

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Turning a Corner

One of my goals for 2010 is to continue to develop my ASL competency. I have to attain a level of "Intermediate" by July 2010. I just got the results back from my lasted evaluation and I am at "Survival Plus" which is the step right below Intermediate. So I have move thru five levels since I started studying two years ago.

And that is very wonderful. But I had two things happen this week that help me to understand that I really am getting better at this. First, a kid who has been working for our department for six months came in to tell me that he was leaving, that he appreciated the opportunity to work in the department and he is moving to Washington DC to take a job at a company that a friend of his has started. And he said all that in ASL and he said it only once AND I understood it! And I didn't have that minute of panic and "oh no, he's signing to me!" feeling -- I just understood him!

Second: I have been looking at youtube videos of jokes told in ASL. Up until today, I couldn't understand anything, but today, I got the joke! Whoo hooooo! Here's the link if you are interested in it!

I tell people all the time that if you keep working on something, if you don't give up, that you will get better and better. It sure feels good to see the evidence in my own life!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

What's on My Reading List?

I love to read, and always have. One of my earliest memories was when I was about five years old, staring at the newspaper, wanting to know what it said. Now I read constantly and a little bit anxious if I don't have my "next book" stacked up and ready to go.

Here is what I'm looking forward to reading next:

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larrson.
I really loved the first two books in this trilogy, and was excited to find that I could order this from Amazon.UK and not have to wait until the middle of May to read it. There is a queue of my friends who have asked me to pass this to them when I finish. Here's what Publisher's Weekly said on about the book:
"The exhilarating conclusion to bestseller Larsson's Millennium trilogy (after The Girl Who Played with Fire) finds Lisbeth Salander, the brilliant computer hacker who was shot in the head in the final pages of Fire, alive, though still the prime suspect in three murders in Stockholm. While she convalesces under armed guard, journalist Mikael Blomkvist works to unravel the decades-old coverup surrounding the man who shot Salander: her father, Alexander Zalachenko, a Soviet intelligence defector and longtime secret asset to Säpo, Sweden's security police. Estranged throughout Fire, Blomkvist and Salander communicate primarily online, but their lack of physical interaction in no way diminishes the intensity of their unconventional relationship. Though Larsson (1954–2004) tends toward narrative excess, his was an undeniably powerful voice in crime fiction that will be sorely missed. 
(Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.)

Beatrice and Virgil: A Novel by Yann Martel.
Honestly, I resisted the Life of Pi and didn't read it for a long time. Once I did (on a trip to India) I loved it and recommended it to everyone. Here's the Publisher Weekly review:
Megaselling Life of Pi author Martel addresses, in this clunky metanarrative, the violent legacy of the 20th century with an alter ego: Henry L'Hôte, an author with a very Martel-like CV who, after a massively successful first novel, gives up writing. Henry and his wife, Sarah, move to a big city (Perhaps it was New York. Perhaps it was Paris. Perhaps it was Berlin), where Henry finds satisfying work in a chocolatería and acting in an amateur theater troupe. All is well until he receives a package containing a short story by Flaubert and an excerpt from an unknown play. His curiosity about the sender leads him to a taxidermist named Henry who insists that Henry-the-author help him write a play about a monkey and a donkey. Henry-the-author is at first intrigued by sweet Beatrice, the donkey, and Virgil, her monkey companion, but the animals' increasing peril draws Henry into the taxidermist's brutally absurd world. Martel's aims are ambitious, but the prose is amateur and the characters thin, the coy self-referentiality grates, and the fable at the center of the novel is unbearably self-conscious. When Martel (rather energetically) tries to tug our heartstrings, we're likely to feel more manipulated than moved." (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. 

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot.
I participate in a neighborhood book club (The Ladies of Irvington Road) and a couple of our members actually don't like fiction ( I KNOW - what's wrong with them!) so we are always looking for good nonfiction to read. This is going to be one of my picks for nonfiction. Here's what Publisher's Weekly has to say:
"Science journalist Skloot makes a remarkable debut with this multilayered story about faith, science, journalism, and grace. It is also a tale of medical wonders and medical arrogance, racism, poverty and the bond that grows, sometimes painfully, between two very different women—Skloot and Deborah Lacks—sharing an obsession to learn about Deborah's mother, Henrietta, and her magical, immortal cells. Henrietta Lacks was a 31-year-old black mother of five in Baltimore when she died of cervical cancer in 1951. Without her knowledge, doctors treating her at Johns Hopkins took tissue samples from her cervix for research. They spawned the first viable, indeed miraculously productive, cell line—known as HeLa. These cells have aided in medical discoveries from the polio vaccine to AIDS treatments. What Skloot so poignantly portrays is the devastating impact Henrietta's death and the eventual importance of her cells had on her husband and children. Skloot's portraits of Deborah, her father and brothers are so vibrant and immediate they recall Adrian Nicole LeBlanc's Random Family. Writing in plain, clear prose, Skloot avoids melodrama and makes no judgments. Letting people and events speak for themselves, Skloot tells a rich, resonant tale of modern science, the wonders it can perform and how easily it can exploit society's most vulnerable people. (Feb.) "
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. 

Shadow Tag by Louise Erdrich.
I will admit that I have a hard time reading Louise Eldrich. I never am able to stick with her. But I keep trying, and will give this book a go. I recently discovered that Louise Eldrich and I are both from the same band of Ojibwa (Red Lake and Pembina) and our progenitors were both present at the signing of a treaty with the US government. So I kind of feel like she is a relative and I should be supportive of her work. Kind of silly, I know, but there it is.
Here's what Publisher's Weekly has to say:
"Erdrich's bleak latest (after The Plague of Doves) chronicles the collapse of a family. Irene America is a beautiful, introspective woman of Native American ancestry, struggling to finish her dissertation while raising three children. She is married to Gil, a painter whose reputation is built on a series of now iconic portraits of Irene, but who can't break through to the big time, pigeonholed as a Native American painter. Irene's fallen out of love with Gil and discovers that he's been reading her diary, so she begins a new, hidden, diary and uses her original diary as a tool to manipulate Gil. Erdrich deftly alternates between excerpts from these two diaries and third-person narration as she plots the emotional war between Irene and Gil, and Gil's dark side becomes increasingly apparent as Irene, fighting her own alcoholism, struggles to escape. Erdrich ties her various themes together with an intriguing metaphor—riffing on Native American beliefs about portraits as shadows and shadows as souls—while her steady pacing and remarkable insight into the inner lives of children combine to make this a satisfying and compelling novel."Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. 

This Time Together by Carol Burnett.
Carol Burnett represents a time of innocence to me, a time when none of the sad or bitter or disappointing events of my life had happened yet. Here's what Kathleen Hughes of Booklist writes:
"In her second book, comedy legend Burnett looks back fondly on her long and successful career in short, easily digestible chapters that part the curtain on her private life. Told in a chatty, intimate way, the stories encompass the star’s childhood; early days as an actress doing bit parts in New York City, appearing on game shows and various variety shows; her 11 years hosting The Carol Burnett Show; and life after the show ended its run. Readers will enjoy the comical reminiscences included, such as how she once used her famous Tarzan yell to disarm a mugger, funny interactions with fans who recognize her on the street, and the origin of famous scenes from the show, such as Scarlett O’Hara in a curtain-rod dress. Burnett doesn’t shy away from sad subjects and occasionally touches on personal losses. She also dishes about her famous costars and friends, including Jimmy Stewart, Lucille Ball, Cary Grant, Julie Andrews, and, of course, Carol Burnett Show regulars Harvey Korman, Tim Conway, Vicki Lawrence, and Lyle Waggoner. Fans of both the show and the actress will enjoy this mostly lighthearted though sometimes poignant look back at Burnett’s career."

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Need Some Perspective? Watch this!

Everything *is* Amazing!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

New Free or Almost Free Tools

I just returned from TechEd 2010 in Pasadena, California. I heard about some really kick-ass technology tools, new to me and maybe new to you. Definitely worth checking out. This batch is all free, so there is nothing to loose in trying them.

Here they are in no particular order:

Jing - Jing has been around for a while, but they sure have souped it up. You can capture anything on your desktop (including a video or photo from somewhere else) and add call outs. You can record yourself clicking on software and record a voice track with it. You can upload the result to a shared location Jing makes available for you, or anywhere else you want. And it is FREE FREE FREE. Jing Pro gives you even more and it's only $14.95 a year. Uh huh. I know -- you can only make videos that are five minutes long, but I think that's actually a feature. Longer videos make my eyes roll back in my head. Say what you need to say and stop.

Sky Drive - Sky Drive gives you 25G of storage for FREE. And it's up in the cloud where you can share it with anyone. I'm thinking of a project that I'm working on where I need to make a variety of files available to people all over the world. I'm going to throw them up on Sky Drive.

Google Websites
- Am I the only one who didn't know that Google makes a really easy, slick, cool website creator available for FREE? FREE! And the templates are like they were hanging around listening to my innermost desires. Well, ok, not my innermost. But pretty close to there! That project I mentioned earlier? It's going to live in a Google website.

Irubric - Irubric is a rubric creation tool that is FREE -- and it is a pretty good looking program too. I saw a presentation that the creator of this product gave, and I honestly don't understand why the guy is giving this away but I am very glad he is! I am hoping to develop a rubric to use for performance evaluations next year, and this will be the product that I use to do it.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

TechEd 2010 - Pasadena, California or Lift Up Your Eyes

My head is buzzing from my trip to California to attend the TechEd2010 conference. This was my first time attending, and it's not surprising that you have never heard of this little jewel of a conference. The conference is put on by the Community College Foundation, which sounds like it out to be a national organization. And for community colleges. Since NTID is "the nation's community college" I was hoping that the presentations would be targeted to the same audience that we serve. But it seems that the conference is actually only marketed to schools in California. And the economy (especially for public schools in Cali) being what it is, there weren't that many people there. One of the presenters told me that he is on their board of directors and the conference is loosing money. When I suggested they might want to broaden their view and go after community colleges outside of California, he just sighed wistfully. It made me think how often we actually keep ourselves from succeeding because we don't raise our chins and look towards the horizon rather than at our feet. I know I was guilty of that for a long time.

But a couple of years ago I realized that I could actually do whatever I wanted to do. If I could conceive it, I could reach it. All that is necessary is to have the gumption to actually move and the discipline to not stop moving until you reach your goal. And you will have some failures, maybe a lot of them. So what? It really doesn't matter. Just take a step back and look at the situation and move forward. It really breaks down into four steps:

1. Decide where you want to be.
2. Start moving there.
3. If you stumble, stand up and keep going.
4. Don't stop till you get there.

I have about 4 more blog articles to write about the cool products and software I saw at the conference. So I'll get off of this philosphophical jag. But this was maybe the most important lesson of the conference. It's one I have to be reminded of regularly.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Sign Language Proficiency Interview

Today I took the SLPI -- the Sign Language Profiency Interview -- for the third time. As a condition of employment, I have to attain a rating of "intermediate" by the end of my third year.

Here are the ratings:

Able to discuss with some confidence routine social and work topics within a conversational format with some elaboration; generally 3-to-5 sentences. Good knowledge and control of everyday/basic sign language vocabulary with some sign vocabulary errors. Fairly clear signing at a moderate signing rate with some sign misproductions. Fair use of some sign language grammatical features and fairly good comprehension for a moderate-to-normal signing rate; a few repetitions and rephrasing of questions may be needed.
Survival Plus
Exhibits some intermediate level skills, but not all and not consistently.
Able to discuss basic social and work topics with responses generally 1-to-3 sentences in length. Some knowledge of basic sign language vocabulary with many sign vocabulary and/or sign production errors. Slow-to-moderate signing rate. Basic use of a few sign language grammatical features. Fair comprehension for signing produced at a slow-to-moderate rate with some repetition and rephrasing.
Novice Plus
Exhibits some survival level skills, but not all and not consistently.
Able to provide single sign and some short phrase/sentence responses to basic questions signed at a slow-to-moderate rate with frequent repetition and rephrasing. Vocabulary primarily related to everyday work and/or social areas such as basic work-related signs, family members, basic objects, colors, numbers, names of weekdays, and time. Production and fluency characterized by many sign production errors and by a slow rate with frequent inappropriate pauses/hesitations.
No Functional Skills
(May be) Able to provide short single sign and 'primarily' finger-spelled responses to some basic questions signed at a slow rate with extensive repetition and rephrasing.

My last rating was Novice plus I think -- but I am hoping to score in the Survival ratings this time. When I get nervous my fingerspelling gets horrible. Today, I spelled my name "Clari" -- what the heck!?! E and I aren't even similar! My tutor suggested that I be sure to use longer answers -- not brief answers -- and no one has to tell me to talk MORE twice! So hopefully that will help my score.

I do wish I had had the test after my morning class. I definately notice the need to warm up first. IS this something that happens when you learn other languages? At the beginning of the day, or the first person who sighns to me, I'm like all "Huh -- look -- he's signing" and don't get what he is telling me at all. After that, it seems to be less of a problem.

I won't see my results until the end of the quarter -- about the middle of May.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Social Media for You/Your Business/Your Cause

I seem to be having coffee with a growing number of people and giving them some advice on how to use social media to promote themselves, their small business or their favorite cause. So I am constantly out on the web, trolling for ideas.

This week I came across and article by Mark Hayward that included these pointers. His article included 30; I'm sifting out my favorites for your reading pleasure. If you want to read the entire thing (well worth it!), you can find it here.

3. When used properly, a small video camera like a Flip and a standard digital camera (or just an iPhone), can be like having your own marketing department.

4. Instead of trying to be everywhere in the social media space, determine what online activities work best for your business and focus your attention there.

5. Search Engine Optimization(SEO) is important but it needs to be combined with a well distributed plan for Search Engine Visibility (SEV).

6. Conceptualizing and then defining your social media goals can help to keep you on track.

8. Get to know the online influencers in your small business niche, as well as, the social media pros.

10. Uploading well titled and tagged videos to YouTube and photos to FLICKR can drastically improve your Search Engine Visibility.

12. Technology changes daily. Read often.

16. Spamming and jamming your business down the throats of potential customers only drives business away.

17. Not everyone is going to like you, so be prepared to get flamed and read negative reviews.

19. Your backstory matters and weaving it into your online business persona is important.

23. When starting your social media marketing efforts for your small business you will get frustrated. Try to keep a long term outlook like six months to a year.

24. Don’t discount the power of niche forums that are related to your small business.

26. If you are using social media as a customer service tool, when something goes wrong (and it always does!), being sincere, humble, and apologetic will be greatly appreciated by your future potential customers.

27. Utilizing free email lists like Help A Reporter Out (HARO) can help you find valuable public relations and news opportunities for your business.

28. Social media in the short term does not work. You must be in it for the long term and be persistent, consistent, and committed.

29. Anyone who owns a small business can ‘do’ social media, but NOT everyone ‘does’ it. (And that is your true competitive advantage.)