I know it is only Wednesday, but I feel like I’ve earned this glass.
I bought a Mophie Juice Pack in Philly last week while in town speaking at the Middle States conference. My relatively new iPhone 4S was struggling with lasting even a three-quarter day while on the road. The case itself is a little bulky, but it saved my bacon everyday over the weekend in Tampa. I’m not sure it is a daily case, but when on the road it is a must have.
I just got the following from my friends at flickr …
Turns out it is time to re-up for another year of flickr pro. But it might not be. I have been a member since February 21, 2004 and used to absolutely love it, but with the rise of instagram, tumblr, and (yes, even) Facebook my use of flickr has really dropped. It used to be a vibrant community where I enjoyed sharing images and connecting with my friends all over the planet. Then that community moved and the web changed. The rise of really good cameras in phones coupled with apps that let you transform ordinary shots into compelling images has challenged what flickr has stood for. At least for me … one thing about bailing is that I still find flickr an amazing place to consume creative commons images for use in my work — I hate the idea of not giving back.
The question I have is if it is important to keep photos in a place like that anymore? I like the workflow of an app like instagram where I can shoot, edit, transform, and share quickly across a host of networks — none that I really own or control however. At the end of the day I don’t really have real control of my photos at flickr or the service, but perhaps I’ve been fooled by the fact I’ve been paying $25.00 a year since 2004. It could go poof tomorrow just like any of the others. If I had time to really make this happen I would figure out how to get my photos out and into this space, but that isn’t going to happen in the next 14 days. Any advice from the Internet?
About one year ago I started negotiating with Yammer to bring the enterprise edition to Penn State. In the past year we have had a Yammer implementation team working to make that a reality. I met with the project manager, Heather Huntsinger, this morning in our monthly update meeting and we had a very interesting discussion. One of the things she asked was now that we are winding down on the implementation phase, how do we move this into the “product” phase … essentially closing out one project and starting another one that looks at Yammer as a product/service going forward. A great question and one that made me step back and look at the service in general … are people adopting the platform? Who is using it? How are they using it? Are things trending in the right direction? Having access to both the Yammer analytics and our own Data Warehouse allowed us to get a sense of where all this is heading.
The first thing I will mention is that Yammer has significantly changed my workflow and communication approaches. Within TLT, we make very heavy use of Yammer for ongoing discussion. In the past year we have moved nearly all of our organizational conversations to a series of private and open Yammer groups. TLT is made up of several units, each with its own proviate Yammer group so those local units can have conversations. There is a larger TLT private group for larger conversation and we have a TLT Leadership Team private group for ongoing strategy and operational conversations. I even have private groups that are just for my direct reports. In the end I have eliminated hundreds of daily emails for myself and am able to stay on top of so much more in a much more streamlined way.
But this is more about who is using Yammer at Penn State — I was shocked at what the team was able to discover. The data is about a week or two old, so the numbers are a bit lower than the total user count as of today, 4,695. People use their Penn State user ID to log in, so we can look at various attributes by mashing that data against what we know of people via data warehouse … based on what we pulled, there are 4420 user IDs in the Yammer user list. Taking out 62 unknown users, we retrieved information of 4358 users from Penn State Data Warehouse. Among these users, 481 of them (11%) are faculty members, 1948 of them (45%) are staff members and 1929 of them (44%) are student members. What blew my mind was the student number … I expected staff to be another 2,000 and have students be about 500, but that is not the case.
It gets more interesting as you look across the Penn State system — remember we have 24 campuses across the state of Pennsylvania. There are 2970 users from what many people used to refer to as our main campus, University Park. Among them, 325 users (11%) are faculty members, 1687 of them (57%) are staff members and 958 of them (32%) are students. There are 1386 users from other campuses. Among them, 156 users (11%) are faculty members, 259 of them (19%) are staff members and 971 of them (70%) are students. For example, there are 271 student users from World Campus.
What is striking to me is how differently the user base is at University Park and the Campuses. At campuses, about 70% of the users are students versus 32% at University Park. And the difference in staff use is staggering to me. The next set of questions need to address what are driving these differences and what is going on differently here at UP versus across the Commonwealth.
Part of what makes what I do so interesting is the interconnectedness of the moving parts of the organization. My group, Teaching and Learning with Technology (TLT), has many moving parts and a handful of groups within it that all do different, yet similar things. Our Classroom and Lab Computing (CLC) team focuses time on our physical spaces and the infrastructure that supports them. Education Technology Services (ETS) is a different type of organization in that they not only evaluate, test, and recommend technology solutions for faculty, staff, and students but they also look to unpack the affordances of those technologies. ITS Training Services spends most of their time designing and delivering training to faculty, staff, and students but also manage big projects that deliver all sorts of other services. WebLion is a team that focuses intensely on the overall processes inherent in the design, development, and deployment of large organizational websites. What amazes me is that each of these groups are all part of a larger value chain of sorts that serves our University very well.
They also all produce lots and lots of data. Some of that data comes from the services that we offer, while a whole bunch of it comes from the questions we ask of our audiences. A couple of examples of service level data might be stuff that our Adobe Connect service collects for us, or the data we get each time a student prints in one of our labs, or each time an application is launched. With this kind of data we don’t know what happens in an Adobe Connect meeting, or know what the application does once launched, or the contents of the pages printed (we’d need to do a different kind of analysis to get at that) but we do get clues that help us ask better questions that presumably help us make better decisions. From where I sit the days of, “I betcha …” planning are long gone.
To this end we’ve embarked on trying to make sense of the data we have in new ways — visual ways. A small team in TLT has been working at using the Roambi platform to do just that, visualize otherwise flat data tables to help us make better sense of what is being gathered. The unfortunate thing about this blog post is that you can’t get a sense of what it is like to not only see your data, but to be able to touch it and manipulate it in real time. The screenshot below is a simple representation of the percentage of overall pages printed during the 2011 academic year (Spring, Summer, and Fall) from the College of the Liberal Arts faculty, staff, and students using our managed lab environments.
Now taken by itself this is an interesting piece of information that lets you see that we print quite a bit still in total and that the College of the Liberal Arts prints about 15% of the total number of pages here. But if you take that data and mash it up with our ability to look at it from the departmental level you can begin to make sense of how to address it as a problem to be solved. Printing is expensive and while we do all sorts of really great things to be eco-friendly, it isn’t the best thing for the environment. When you look at the drill down at the departmental level you can pinpoint specific programs that print much more than others. When you do that you can work at a level where some sort of intervention can be applied.
This is where the organizational integration starts to really become powerful. Having the printing data and the departmental data mashed together I can sit down with the unit level directors and begin to construct a strategy to change the overall behavior in a positive way. I can now work with instructional designers in other parts of TLT to construct a workshop for faculty on digital assessment strategies, create learning opportunities for students to understand how technology can be used in the writing process to eliminate passing drafts around, and look at new software that enables new workflows between those audiences. Then we can easily measure the pre and post states to see if our intervention might be working.
Another example that happened not too long ago … we had a meeting to discuss changes with one of our smaller public labs on campus. Essentially we were asked what the impact of moving this small lab might have on students. This happens all the time — construction needs to happen for all sorts of reasons and typically they are good reasons. Well the meeting started and I was able to quickly show just how intensely popular this out of the way location really is. Needless to say the person we were meeting with was blown away and offered new space to better meet the needs of students. It is hard to pack this much information into a readable spreadsheet. The visualization below shows all sorts data represented in an easy to read format … I snapped a single day that represents 3,917 unique userids that logged into the machines in this small out of the way location. By having this kind of data available and readable we can instantly see trends in use and share that in a meaningful way.
We are just at the beginning stages of this approach and haven’t figured all of the details out. But as we go forward we know that using our data in this way could be truly part of a transformative way to get at the future states of our services, our spaces, and the ways we plan for them.
Let me start by saying that work has not been all that much fun lately. And that is a terrible thing for someone to post on the Internet for the whole planet to see … I say that fully knowing that no more than say 100 people will actually take the time to read at this, so I’m probably safe. That’s perfectly fine with me for the simple fact that at some point this week I decided I needed to start getting back to what is professionally important to me — having fun at work.
Thinking, talking, and sharing are all critical pieces of the puzzle and up until this week I had forgotten that I hadn’t done any of it in more than half a year. Writing is one of those things and I find that I use it as a way to balance my thinking with the insanity that is the daily grind. Doing that has been quite literally impossible for me for quite some time. I’ve written only two times since October … that has to stop. And just to track my own past half year or so I need to write some of this stuff down. So, read on if you want, but the rest is really for me.
You see, I work at Penn State and I’m not sure if you’ve read about the happenings at our great Institution over the last four months but if not, just type the words “Penn State Scandal” into your little google box and read up on it. It has been a horrible time to be a part of the Institution for so many — the news out of my adopted hometown has rocked this entire community to its core … and it isn’t over. I am an administrator here at Penn State and while that doesn’t make it any more painful for me to deal with the issues, it has certainly made the work I do much more complicated. The people I work with here are unbelievably strong and resilient, but biting the bullet and being that way for months at a time takes a toll on people at every single level of the Unviersity. Our students are still reeling, our staff are still searching, our faculty are still trying to come to terms, and our administration is still just trying — just trying to make sense of it all and what it means to us all going forward.
Did you notice I haven’t mentioned football? Well, since I just did let me say that we know this isn’t about football. In some ways it was, but the reality is something that can’t be boiled down to a game. While ESPN tries to tell us all what it is and isn’t about, the fact of the matter is that this tragedy is so big, so complex, and so painful for everyone connected to this great place that it sometimes makes things easier to just go with the simple answer. The problem in that thinking is that it may work for a headline, but it certainly does nothing to shed light on the way my students, colleagues, and all of those connected to PSU actually feel. I really hate to say this, but if you aren’t a member of this community the bullshit commentary and rhetoric of ESPN and the media at large mean absolutely nothing. Nothing. Sorry, that’s the truth. I’ve listened over and over again to people tell me what is really going on from the outsider perspective and I have had to learn to just sit quietly and listen. You see in a way, we feel like we’ve earned that spot of shame, not because a single one of us did a damn thing wrong, but because we have, since I have been here, all looked at ourselves as different — a place where we knew we were doing things the right way. The fact that we didn’t is the shame. The being a part of the community is the great part. But when those people talk, I don’t have anything to defend. How does one defend the inexcusable actions of the few? I can’t and I wouldn’t try.
Are things getting back to normal in Happy Valley? No. There is still so much lingering pain and confusion throughout all ranks. To be a little cliched, that day in November when the news broke was truly the day the music died. What we were prior to the breaking of that story is history, a thing of folklore. All of us are now focused on what we will become. We are actively trying to become something new, something better, and I can tell you from what I see, something much stronger. I’m not sure if you’ve seen that Chrysler commercial where Eminem is driving through the streets of Detroit and the voice over says something to the effect of, “from the hottest fire comes the strongest steel,” well that is us. We are crushed inside because the place we have and continue to care so deeply for has been wounded in a terrible way. But from the intensity of that pain is coming a new strength. A strength that cries out, “we are” with a new sense of purpose. A purpose that I firmly believe will guide us towards a new beginning. In that is where I begin to find a strength I never thought I had. Tomorrow my family and I will go to the Bryce Jordan Center to visit our students at THON and we will see that strength and in a very real way we will realize that we are growing stronger from this.
In September, my hometown of Bloomsburg, PA was nearly destroyed by record setting floods fueled by Tropical Storm Lee. An event that changed me forever. The day I got to may parents’ house that had nearly five feet of water in it, my Mom fell into my arms in a way that one never wants to feel. The intensity of the pain everywhere is depicted in the photos I took, but the real sense of loss and rage were emotions that I had never felt. In one weekend so much was taken from so many in a place that is my true home. It seems like forever ago now, but the days, weeks, and months that followed taught me so much about the human spirit and the power of community. If you’ve never seen much of your history be taken to a make shift dump in your hometown, you can’t understand the aggregate damage. On the tennis courts I learned to play on as a ten year old I got to see the possessions of hundreds of families, the pile representing decades of love, memories, and importance lost.
The flood reintroduced me to friends all over the US that I had forgotten decades earlier. Friends that have helped form the foundation of The Bloomsburg Daily and the Flood of Silence projects as well as raise thousands of dollars and donations for families all over town. The flood helped me to connect to colleagues here at Penn State who wanted to show how much they cared about what had happened. The flood made me listen to new music and decode messages that I had long forgotten how to do.
Each day during those early months I threw myself into both my on and above campus work. I don’t remember much from September and October — no sleep, no rest, and certainly very little joy. But I did it and I don’t think I destroyed anything or anyone along the way. I just sort of found a way to be, but again it wasn’t with joy that I did my work — and I mean the work of the Unviersity and the work of The Bloomsburg Daily. It was a grind that needed to happen on both fronts.
If I haven’t lost you by now, the last thing I need to document here is in reality the worst of the past few months. The health of my Dad took an incredibly unexpected turn in early January. While hitting a golf ball he heard a pop in the Humorous bone of his left arm. It turned out that he had a malignant tumor eating its way through the bone and the weakened arm finally gave way. Bone cancer. I hate that word — it has taken so many and so many close to me in the last few years.
I went to Florida and spent a full week with he and my Mother trying to help him get the kind of care he needed to stay alive and healthy. Here’s the rub, my Dad is my best friend. He means so much to me on so many levels. It hasn’t always been that way. When I was a kid there was a distance there that was probably caused mostly by me, but it was there. But sometime around 14 or so, things changed and he went from Dad, to hero, to best friend. We talk all the time about our beloved WVU Mountaineers — and honestly while he sat in his chair in FL with a severely fractured arm with a tumor in his body we watched an epic Mountaineer basketball game and laughed and cheered together. It was so emotionally draining that at the end of the game we both cried a bit. I was quietly praying it wouldn’t be the last one.
It won’t be. We went to one of the best cancer centers in the Country and at the moment we have a good prognosis. He had the tumor removed in tact and ended up with a full shoulder replacement, but he kept his arm and he is in amazing spirits. While we haven’t sat down to watch a game together I fully expect us to do just that next fall back in Bloomsburg is his rebuilt home. I bet we even give each other a high five on that rebuilt left arm. I need to just write the following words down so I can express how I feel right now and how much everyone who sent prayers, positive wishes, and energy to me means — thank you. And thank you doesn’t even do it, but it is what I have.
The shit of it is that I know my darkest days aren’t over. Hell, they’ve only just begun, but what I do know is that I can make it through them. I have an incredible family, incredible friends, and am a member of two amazing communities in both Bloomsburg and State College. So I will find time to read, reflect, talk, and share. I will find time to write and be a better member of the communities I feel connected to. I will be a better friend, husband, Father, Brother, and Son. I don’t have any choice. The past six months have changed me, but not in the ways that I would have predicted. I have no bitterness or anger. I have a new sense of resolve and strength. I finally get it. I am the luckiest man in the World.
If you know me you know I use my iPad quite a bit and have really since the device came out a couple of years ago. I even gave my laptop up for a month to just focus on understanding how the iPad could fit into my workflow. I have written several times about what I’ve learned, but wanted to dive into how functional it has become for me all over again in the last few days.
I have stayed away from getting a stylus as I felt like I wasn’t going to go against the intended design of the device — remember Steve hated the idea, so naturally I listened to him. But, I’ve been watching friends and colleagues switch to working with the iPad with a stylus and felt it might be time. What pushed me over the edge was a post by my old friend (and still my goto edutech blogger and idea man), D’Arcy Norman who wrote about his own iPad note-taking workflow … and just like I have for nearly a decade, I listened.
My biggest challenge with the iPad has been around its utility as a note taking device. I have tried to make Evernote my home as well as the built in Notes app. Neither really worked. I am not going to switch to one of those keyboard cases that so many people like — I already use an 11″ MacBook Air so I don’t need a setup that looks and works almost just like that. I am good at typing on the onscreen keyboard, but I find typing to be only a very small part of what I need to do on my iPad. I need to be able to grab screenshots and quickly annotate them, I need to draw interface ideas, I need to draw graphs and other representations of data, and I need to make sure I can find it at a later date. From D’Arcy’s post …
I had a bit of a holy crap moment the other day, in a vendor demo. I was taking notes, and wanted to capture a diagram that was on the screen. So I grabbed my iPhone and snapped a quick photo of the screen. I waited maybe 5 seconds, and then clicked the “insert image” icon in noteshelf. I went to my iCloud photostream, and there was the photo I had just taken on my phone. I selected it, and it was in my notes. Holy crap. Couldn’t do THAT with my old notebooks…
So when I read D’Arcy’s post I figured it was time to break down and try a new way of interacting with my iPad. Quite frankly, I have been floored by how well it supports a whole new level of my workflow. I bought a super cheap Pogo Sketch pen to see if I would like this approach … and while the “pen” isn’t up to my standards, it was an $11 investment into moving towards a new workflow. I will probably quickly switch to the well liked Wacom Bamboo Stylus as I move forward.
Here is an example of how I was able to instantly take advantage of this new approach … I am teaching Disruptive Technologies graduate course again this semester with colleague Scott McDonald and we are engaged in a project that I really need to share more broadly called, “Occupy Learning.” The idea is that teams of students go to specific classrooms on campus and occupy them for a couple of weeks to document the overall affordances of the space — what kinds of practice does it support, what are the limitations, how do faculty use it, etc. The idea is that they will produce an integrated artifact that is published on the web. Well, yesterday the two teams shared their first efforts … they were good, but the students wanted more guidance on what the actual outcome or artifact should be.
Since the room we were using has a killer Steelcase Mediascape system in it, we can have a whole bunch of machines easily connected to a huge display at the same time. Switching from my laptop, to Scott’s laptop, to a student laptop, to my iPad is a matter of tapping the switching puck. Well, with my new stylus I was able to show everyone in class what the artifact might look like … easily drawing and highlighting the difference between embedded media and original text. Being able to effortlessly do that within the flow of sitting around and having a discussion was a serious “ah-ha” moment. It was in that moment that I realized just how powerful these types of technologies can be to alter and support discourse, engagement, and workflow.
While the sketch itself isn’t much, it was an amazingly simple way to make the point in the moment in as natural a way as I could think of. Moreover, the sketch and the simplicity in which it was produced created a framework for the right kind of conversation around the ideal way to present such dynamic content. It also pushed us down the path of deeply considering the notions of audience (administration, faculty, students) and purpose (build awareness, help drive decisions, creation of a long term repository of outcomes) in ways that wouldn’t have emerged by trying to draw the picture in their minds with words alone. A simple example.
I have now gone full D’Arcy and started using Noteshelf for note taking and the combination of drawing directly to screen and the ability to insert any picture to annotate now gets me to where I need to be. If I see something I want to describe I can snap a photo with the iPad and annotate it. If I have an idea about something we are working on, I can do a quick screen capture and mark it up. Then I can instantly push it to Evernote for longer term curation, post it to Twitter, or send the old fashioned way via email. Really simple, but really very powerful and what a joy when our tools actually go beyond just supporting our workflow towards enhancing it. Thanks, D’Arcy (again).