Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Beginning Of A New Beginning...

As an adult educator I love this time of year. The weather is nice, although it has been a little hot and humid lately (sorry my Canadian predisposition to complain about the weather just reared its ugly head), everyone is recharged after a summer off, faculty are back on campus, and we await a whole new class of learners. It really is a great time of year, of new beginnings.

This year is really a new beginning for me. For those of you who have read my updated profile, you will know that I am now an academic chair at the NSCC, and for the first time in many years will not be in the classroom. It really is the beginning of a new beginning for me and I'm looking forward to the opportunities and challenges of the new position. I will still be contributing to the education and learning that happens at the College, just on a different stage and in different ways.

I have been asked by many people if I will miss the classroom, and to be honest, I don't think that I will - I love the classroom, but I also like the idea of being able to contribute to the College on the larger stage. I will still be interacting with learners, but in a different way and I will also be involved with faculty and staff; again in a new role.

It really is the beginning of a new beginning and I can't wait for next week and the return of learners...

Sunday, August 19, 2007

I Have Seen The Light... And It's A Mac!!

I have seen the light and it's a Mac! In fact it's a shiny new Apple MacBook Pro. I have wanted a Mac for a long time, but was always put off by the price, the need for new software, and many other reasons that escape me now that I own one.

I've had my Mac now for almost a month, and let me tell you - OS X is everything Vista should be. I find it far more intuitive and easier to use. It's certainly easier to find things. I now prefer the Dock to the menu and taskbar model of Windows, and as a lifelong hater of touchpads, let me tell you the Mac's touchpad is simply well - amazing. I have an Apple Mighty Mouse (Bluetooth BTW), but I only use it in Second Life - I actually find the touchpad easy to use (and I never thought I would say that).

For those of you who are still saying yes, but Macs are more expensive, check out this article from IT Business.ca - "Mac vs.PC cost analysis Part 1". As for the software costs - there is an awful lot of Web 2.0, freeware and shareware out there at little or no cost for the Mac. If you absolutely must have that windows app then get a copy of Parallels Desktop or VMWare Fusion and get the best of both worlds.

Now when I need to replace my desktop, might it be an iMac? Hmmm...

Saturday, August 18, 2007

E-Mail Is Dead! Long Live ??...

This post "Is E-Mail On The Way Out?" from the Adaptive Path blog (you should add it's feed to your RSS aggregator ASAP), got me thinking again about the use and lifespan of e-mail. Is e-mail dead? Not yet, but I think it is starting to not feel so well. I still run my life with e-mail, it's my main form of business communication certainly, but there are other tools and technologies creeping in and my e-mail clients should be worried.

If I take a moment and look at all of the tools that I am using to communicate and share with people in my personal life, e-mail is probably now the least used tool - I use Twitter to update my comings and goings (but I need to get better at it), Facebook for just about everything that is me, Skype to stay in touch and communicate visually and by voice, Blogger to express and share my thoughts, Google Docs and Spreadsheets and Google Groups to collaborate, and many other tools and technologies as the mood strikes.There isn't any room for e-mail in my personal life anymore.

And to top it all off I get most of this information pushed to me, not to my computer, but to my cell phone - I am truly mobile.

Now I am not actually saying that e-mail is dead - it is still the tool I use and most people use for business communication, and I don't see that changing anytime soon, but as an educator I have come to see learners who don't use e-mail regularly if at all anymore (just ask them if they read that important announcement sent to their College e-mail account if you don't believe me). Learners are telling me that e-mail is dull and slow, that it's not immediate enough - they prefer IM or Facebook, or some other more immediate form of communication.

I asked a first year IT class to make a choice - do without e-mail, or do without Internet access - it was unanimous - 100% offered to give up their e-mail on the spot. Today's learners see e-mail as an old, tired technology; one that is not agile or immediate enough for their needs. As educators we need to be where are learners are, and to get there we need to embrace the changing technologies and engage with them - and you know I have - and they are right - e-mail is old and slow! I actually can go for days not checking my personal e-mail account, but I am on Facebook every day - it's one of my home page tabs...

So if e-mail is dead - what will replace it? Well whatever it is, I think it will be more open and social than the closed system of sending a message to a finite number of addressees. It may be Facebook or its successor, or twitter, or a combination of more than one tool. Whatever it will be it will be accessed more on mobile devices than computers, that I know for sure. The only thing that I haven't quite got my head around is how confidential matters will be handled, so maybe there will always be a small corner in the room for e-mail or its closed successor. Hmmm...

(Photo - "Tools of the Trade" by tim_d)

Festival of Learning

I have the distinct privilege and honour of belonging to the most amazing learning organization - The Nova Scotia Community College. This past Thursday the most amazing event took place at our Truro campus. The College celebrated its first Festival of Learning, a day to share and celebrate the learning happening at the College. Colleagues presented on what they had learned, how they had learned and the transformations that occurred through their learning. The presentations were diverse and amazing in their power and quality.

I was asked to participate in a "Learning Market", where various presenters set up in a market stall sort of fashion and presented what they had done over lunch. My presentation was on my experience with conference blogging at STLHE 2007 (see my June posts).

What is conference blogging you say? Well it's blogging a conference while you are there - I find it to be a great reflective tool and a good way to share my conference experiences. When NSCC sends someone to an event or conference, they return to the College and share what they have learned - by blogging while at the conference, I find it more immediate and relevant, and the sharing begins before I even get home!

But enough about me - the festival was amazing - I have never seen so many engaged, energized, and passionate learners in one place - and the very cool thing is that as a presenter I learned more than most of the people who dropped by my display - I got to explain and contextualize what I did and got some great ideas on how to make it even better - so cool.

The other major event of the day was the graduation of the CCEDP (Community College Education Diploma Program) class. CCEDP is NSCC's staff and faculty development program and it is absolutely transformational. I have a MEd in Adult Education and Training and I learned more from the CCEDP program that I could actually use in the classroom than I ever did from grad school. There were 40 grads from the program. Here is a picture of those who attended the convocation. Congratulations to all of you!

New faculty orientation was also held this week in Truro, so 33 new faculty members from all across the College came together for a week of orientation and introductions. To all of you, welcome to NSCC, you have made a great choice - I look forward to working with all of you.

What an amazing day! As educators we so rarely get an opportunity to get together and share what we do, and what an opportunity the festival was, and perfect timing too - now we can take all of that energy and enthusiasm into a new academic year - the possibilities are endless!

I'd like to thank all of those who organized, setup, managed, ran, facilitated, presented, attended, and made the festival such a success, but I really want to thank my friend, my mentor, my colleague Libby for asking me to be a part of such an incredible day and Bobbi for all of her creativity and vision in making such an amazing day happen. Thanks Libby!! Thanks Bobbi!!...

Saturday, August 04, 2007

I Speak Therefore I Am - Or Am I?

The latest version of the Second Life (SL) client has brought voice chat to the virtual world. There has been an amazing amount of debate (check out the SLED mailing list) about the use of voice in Second Life and what voice will do to the experience of using a virtual world where users are represented by an avatar that may have little or no connection to who they are in the "real world".

Will voice enhance or take away from the SL experience? It will certainly change it - I guess it will be the users who will determine the effects of voice chat. One thing that it has done already is caused interface changes in SL, which took some getting use to (my God I am a creature of habit!!). Many people are of the opinion that voice will add to the educational power of SL because users will be able to engage in conversations that are voice driven giving perhaps a better idea of who you are talking to and what they really mean. Just as many feel that it will take away from conversations and learning - I mean if you are talking to a beautiful female avatar who sounds like Jimmy Durante when they talk, that might have an effect on the conversation and the message.

All this debate about voice in a virtual world has me thinking about voice in the real world. The other day my best friend told me that I had a great "radio" voice - that surprised me because the voice I hear in my head when I speak doesn't sound like that to me. What are the implications of using voice to communicate? Much of my day to day communication these days is text-based - e-mails, chats, Facebook, instant messaging, text messages and so on. One of the complaints about text is that you can miss the nuances or intent of the message. Does voice get rid of this issue or add another layer? Is voice our preferred method of communication? Do you need to see the person(s) you are talking with so that you can see their body language to get the full meaning of what they are saying? Do any of our ways of communicating - text, voice, sight, sound individually give us the full meaning of a conversation, or do we need them all together to really understand a conversation?

These questions have great implications for us as educators, particularly as we move away from traditional classroom-based delivery where we have the full meal deal of voice, text, and sight, to alternate and distance delivery methods where we will probably have text, may have voice, but probably not sight. Can you really know someone who you have only texted with? I hope so, because I have people that I have met online and consider friends, but I have never actually spoken to them or seen them. This will become more and more common in the future.
So are these people whose voices we never hear less important or less relevant than those whose voice we do? I don't think so - ideas and points of view can be expressed without using voice, but we will all have to become better at expressing ourselves non-verbally, or we will lose the opportunity of meeting some pretty amazing people.

So if I never hear your voice, do you exist? Hmmm...

(Photo - "Elephant Talk" by gin_able)