Monday, 9 April 2018

The Meaning Of Life

What is the meaning of life, the universe and everything ... as far as we know humans are unique in thinking about this and its been one of the major motivating forces in our history shaping art, religion, politics, philosophy, science as well as being behind many conflicts and wars.

“The Ultimate Answer to Life, The Universe and Everything is...42!” ~  Douglas Adams

Success, fame, fortune, love, happiness ... winning, getting ahead .... the answer to the meaning of life is as varied as the people who ask it but the meaning of life is less about knowing the answer than in being able to ask the question at all.

"So remember when you're feeling very small and insecure How amazingly unlikely is your birth" 
~ Monty Python - Galaxy Song

In many ways life is like a game but its not a game to win or lose it's a game to appreciate  - its taking part that matters ... don't let it be that "life is wasted on the living".

“The meaning of life is whatever you ascribe it to be. Being alive is the meaning.” 
~ Joseph Campbell

“Live each day as if your life had just begun.”  
~Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Stephen Hawking: Our Guide To Life The Universe And Everything

"We are all time-travellers, journeying together into the future. But let us work together to make that future a place we want to visit. Be brave, be determined, overcome the odds. It can be done." 

We project ourselves onto the world ... we create gods in our own image, we create the world in our own image and we create the future in our own image. Good vs evil, love vs hate, generosity vs greed - we have choices ... Stephen Hawking is a positive inspiration let him be our guide to life the universe and everything and the future we create.

Be curious, be optimistic and keep trying

“Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious. And however difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at. It matters that you don’t just give up.”

Be playful and have a sense of humour

"Life would be tragic if it weren't funny."

"I am just a child who has never grown up. I still keep asking these 'how' and 'why' questions. Occasionally, I find an answer."

"Keeping an active mind has been vital to my survival, as has been maintaining a sense of humour."

We are not perfect ... be humble, be open and be willing and able to change.

“One of the basic rules of the universe is that nothing is perfect. Perfection simply doesn't exist.....Without imperfection, neither you nor I would exist” 

"Mankind’s greatest achievements have come about by talking, and its greatest failures by not talking."

"The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.

"Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change."

Be enthusiastic and have romance and passion  

"Science is not only a disciple of reason but, also, one of romance and passion. "

And most of all ... love

"If you are lucky enough to find love, remember it is there and don’t throw it away.” 

"It would not be much of a universe if it wasn't home to the people you love."

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Why I Don't BETT

That's me presenting at BETT in 2014
"Why I don't BETT" ... its not totally true ... I've been 4 times 1985, 1993, 2013 and 2014 .... but its only the first one in 1985 when it was called the “Hi Technology and Computers in Education Exhibition” at the Barbican Centre that I really chose to go to.

Back in 1985 microcomputers were new and young and so was I and so was BETT. The 1980s were exciting times in computing - microcomputers revolutionised computing - where once computers were the size of a room and cost millions of pounds now they could sit on your desk and cost just hundreds of pounds .... £125 in the case of the Sinclair ZX Spectrum. 1985 ... this was way before we had access to the Internet and we had to rely on a few computer magazines and papers for our IT news and I used to soak it up like a sponge. I remember going to the Barbican to see first hand and get hands on with some of the new stuff all in one place. The BETT show in 1985 was like the microcomputer scene at the time - hobbyist in nature and full of DIY type electronics interfaces and programming ... it was less about solutions and more about DIY and potential. 

In 1993 the BETT show moved to Olympia - it was just 10 minutes walk from where I worked so it wouldn't take too much of my time to just drop in and take a look. Almost 10 years on from my first and last visit to BETT I can remember how much bigger and more professional the whole thing had become ... it had become a trade show and Microsoft had a big presence. I remember visiting the Microsoft stand with its classroom of computers and trainers and being shown Windows For Workgroups .... it was all very slick and I even got a T-shirt ... something that did come in useful as a rag for DIY jobs later.

Even though BETT was just 10 minutes walk from where I worked I only went there once in10 years ... it had become a trade show peddling solutions ... it was all about business ... BETT might as well stand for the  Business Education Technology Trade show and I was no longer interested.

The size and weight of BETT distorts reality and as an IT manager I used to brace myself as staff returned from BETT with requests for the latest must have tech solutions for their teaching ... usually just tech equivalents for what they were already doing ... like students putting their hands up to answer a question. I remember having to buy, setup, support and maintain costly and complicated voting systems that literally never got used in a real classroom ... stuff like this seemed like a dream at BETT but were a nightmare in real life. 

After 1993 the Internet arrived and I could find the information and discussions about tech I wanted on-line - I had always preferred to use real world technology rather than the edtech stuff that was specially designed for education ... its seemed better to me for people to use the things they would find in the real world rather. 

And so it went on the gravity created a monster and BETT couldn't fit into Olympia anymore - in 2013 it had to move to the industrial warehouse of the Excel centre and that's when Google asked me to present about my work with the Cloud.

So, 20 years after last visiting BETT at its first show in Olympia I went to its first show in Excel to present in 2013 and 2014.

A slide from my presentation at BETT in 2014

I spoke about the problem with education technology ... that it is costly, complicated, scary and frustrating. Sometime during the naugties I remember attending a presentation by Microsoft at their Reading centre about the latest version of Sharepoint ... the salesman said told us that it was complicated but not to worry as they had an ecosystem of support partners and consultants. This summed the whole thing up for me .. edtech was a gravy train for the industry ...  a complicated thing that locked you in, put you on a treadmill and made you dependent - its enough to make you want to pull your hair out. Compare edtech to consumer tech like Facebook or Whatsapp today .. its designed to be simple and easy to use .. consumer tech isn't designed to need consultants and support. It's as if edtech is stuck in the last century .. the glory days of the late 90s before digital tech became common place and everyone carried a super computer in their pocket - edtech still hasn't got its head around mobile tech and that students can do so much more with their own tech than schools and colleges can do with theirs.

I spoke about Bring Your Own .. where students and teachers could use whatever tech they felt comfortable with - not just hardware but software and applications as well ... as an IT manager I didn't want to control what could or could not be used - I wanted to facilitate people making use of the stuff they felt comfortable with .. and most of it could be had free or Ad supported and was much better than the education sector had to offer.

Education is a huge sector ... its no wonder that technology capitalists are trying to capture it. Next to BETT 2013 was a huge amusement trade show with a load of "one armed bandits" (slot machines ) at the entrance ... it could almost have been the BETT show itself and I talked about this at my presentation. I spoke about tech dependency and how the edtech capitalists are like drug pushers .. "get em while they are young" and "get em hooked" by giving it away at first. "Get em dependent" and "get em on to the hard stuff" by pushing samples and trials that lead to needing more and more.  

Edtech is a business of self interest ... a complicit gravy train ecosystem of news, conferences, awards and trade shows pulling and pushing those in education to hop onto the platform for a good milking and even some fleecing on the treadmill. Its good business, the edtech fanboys love it, make a living from it and aren't going to bite the hand that feeds them and teachers can walk away with the latest tech charms, talismans and snake oil solutions.

Ultimately BETT is a good day off for most people and when they get back to work they will need to justify the time away in some way - BETT is so large you must be able to find something there, anything will do. 

BETT reminds me of some sort of religious pilgrimage .. an annual edtech journey to listen to the profits (I mean prophets), partake in the rituals, find meaning and significance and confirm your faith in the edtech for solutions. I used to be an edtech fanboy but even I have only been to BETT 4 times in 33 years - I'm not a believer.

Monday, 8 January 2018

I Used To Be A Tech Fanboy

That's me in the naughties ... incredible shrinking tech and the mobile years :)
I used to be a tech fanboy

I'm not sure why but I've been interested, excited and good at tech for as long as I remember and have been lucky enough to have had a career in education technology all my life ... for most of my life my job has been like a hobby - during the earlier years I would have won millions on the lottery and just carried on doing what I was doing ... I was on a mission thinking blue skies and rolling across green fields. 

I used to be a tech fanboy - here is my story and why I have changed.

Mainframe years

I first used computers at school in 1974 using punched cards to program an ICL 1900 mainframe at the University of Kent using Algol 68. The punched cards were input to the mainframe via post and a week later we received our output via post on line printer paper. It was amazing to be able to do this .. for school kids to control a multi-million pound machine at a university .. maybe the equivalent today is when school kids video-conference with Tim Peak in the space station and I hope experiences like this inspires kids today in the same way using a computer inspired me in the 1970s. "May the force be with you".... inspiration is the soft but powerful invisible force in education ... so often ignored by educational managerialism and the obsession with hard data today but more on that later.

I went on to study psychology and anthropology at university and then computing and education for post graduate studies. In computing I worked with an engineer to build a voice controlled robot arm called "big ears" to play chess - I wrote the voce recognition software and the engineer wrote teh mechanical control software. In education my main project was around Ivan Illich's ideas in "Deschooling Society" and the potential for computing in future learning. Combining social science, computer science and education has given me a very different perspective than most of my colleagues in IT and education - most of whom seem to have specialised in one side or the other but not both. Like a fish out of water I would argue the importance social\cultural factors to IT people and to educationalists I would argue about the engineering factors of IT - combining the language to the different audiences is harder than it seems. Over time the common ground for communication between IT and education became the the language of business and management but more on that later.

PC years: the first golden age of IT

I started teaching IT in 1982 - combining IT, social science and education was a real joy and there was real excitement and new developments in all three areas that came together in what I come to think of as the first golden age in education technology during the 1980s. I taught with both mainframes and PCs but in the PC world there was a real revolution going on - there was a Cambrian explosion of diversity ... I remember Apple, Acorn, Atari, RM, Commodore, Sinclair, CP/M, MS-DOS, Wordstar, Wordperfect, Word, Visicalc, Lotus 123, Logistix, Excel, dBase II, GEM, Windows. In the world of teaching there was a revolution going on too - I remember teaching with LOGO, Turtles and the constructionist ideas of Seymour Papert as well as game based learning, lateral thinking, heuristic methods and various non-directive, project and resource based methods. I wrote a PC based Dungeons and Dragons style game that teachers could populate with scenarios to use with numeracy and literacy in game based learning. Way before the Web I wrote a graphical hypertext system I called "Hyperway" that teachers could populate to use for non directive teaching methods .... the logo for my program was a jigsaw piece ... the same style Microsoft used later for Office. I remember participating in inter-department project based schemes and ran one on the local environment involving science, technology, maths, language, performing arts and IT ... scientist and technology made radio sets and we broadcast and received the performance of a script written by the students. Large inter-disciplinary projects like this are so difficult today ... but more of that later.

During the 1980s we didn't have many computers but we did a lot with them. In 1982 I typically had to teach a class of 30 or more with just three BBC micros ... we had to be very skilful in designing activities for small group work for before, during and after using the computers. Through the 1980s and into the early 1990s the number of computers and the number of computer rooms grew steadily. We didn't have IT technicians or any form of IT department and increasing amounts of my time was spent doing IT support work - at first in my spare time but later with greater and greater amounts of remission and in 1993 I was offered the new role of college network manager to look after PCs, software, servers and of course the network. I can't remember how many PCs we had by 1993 but it must have been several hundred and all were networked. The diversity of IT in the 1980s was a challenge to manage and with my IT hat on I started to standardise on Microsoft - the promising new boy on the block for .. well ... everything - network, operating system and applications. People used a variety of applications - the most popular (best of bread) being Wordperfect and Lotus 123 ... I remember challenge of persuading people to change applications and use those from a single supplier. I remember the persuasions necessary for secretaries to switch to Word ... fast touch typists at the time preferred to use keystroke combinations to get things done and didn't want to take their hands off a keyboard to use a mouse thing. Standardisation wasn't in the users best interest but IT support just couldn't manage the number of applications involved and we would be able to move faster if we did less ... in a sense this was the beginning of the end ... but more on that later.

Network and Web Years: the second golden age of IT

Since the earliest days of PCs I had networked them in some way. I networked every computer in every computer room but the local area networks (LANS) were isolated. In the mid 1980s we started connecting our LANs together in a sort of local area internet that I described to college management as a "Total College Network". In 1996 we had the opportunity to connect our college network to the Internet and go "cruising on the super highway" and I took to the Internet like a duck to water. I designed the architecture and support structure that enabled six London colleges to connect their networks to the Internet and the support structure became the JISC London RSC (Regional Support Centre). I set up a college "Cybercentre" with 12 PCs connected to the Internet and enthused to teachers, staff and management to try the Internet and the web and to use it in their life and their work. 

1996 was for me the beginning of the second golden age of education technology - a period that came to fruition at the start of the 21st century and ran through to the mid naugties. It didn't take long to get web services going and by the end of the 1990s we were using email and had staff, student and college web services in operation. Our DIY web services were way ahead of the time and way ahead of what the network could cope with at times ... I remember Christmas 1999 when the college secretariat put a reindeer animated gif on the staff web server and how this brought the wide area network between our sites across west London to a standstill. Our student web service later became known as a VLE and later still an MLE, our staff web service later became known as an "intranet", and our college web service later became known as a college website. Around 1998 I remember switching from Pearl to Microsoft ASP 2.0 and writing web based help-desk pages for departments around the college and introducing the MIS department to the wonders of the programmable web.

I fell in love with the web ... it was a panacea for all the problems mounting from the previous generation of IT - the ever increasing number of complex local programs that had to be installed, secured, maintained, updated and supported. With the web we could have it all ... a single simple local application could give people access to an "infinity" of information and applications anytime, anywhere and from any device ... PC, Mac, Linux and even the early PDA "smartphones" people were using. With the Web clients could be "thin and light" ... web servers could do the heavy lifting. In 1999 I became head of IT systems and shortly afterwards head of IT services and I was on a mission to promote the use of mobile, wireless and web - this was the future and I jumped in feet first ... unplugging and stepping away from a desk and a desktop PC to use only a wireless laptop from 2000 onwards and designing everything for the open web for access anytime, anyplace like Martini :) 

By 2005 we had pervasive Web and WiFi across one of the largest colleges in the UK -  all staff had either their own or a shared wifi laptop\tablet to use for admin and teaching and we had many laptop only teaching environments. This work was featured in a JISC "Vision and Infrastructure" case study "Changing to a Wireless World

"At any point in the building, anywhere I am, everything is instantly accessible to me. As a senior manager, it’s an invaluable tool.” John O’Shea, Division Manager 

By 2007 we had over 5,000 computers and 28,000 users and the Web was not enough.  Local servers to support this scale of IT were increasingly expensive, complicated and numerous - we needed a revolution for IT infrastructure in the same way the web revolutionised the local PCs and software.

That's me in the naugties ... all blue skies and clouds

Social, cloud and mobile years: the third golden age of IT

I started experimenting with "the cloud" in 2006 and started a grass roots college experiment with Google apps in 2007 - when people showed anxiety about cloud apps I simply asked them how long they have been using Webmail like Yahoo, Hotmail or Gmail for.

Just as with networks and the Web I took to the cloud like a duck to water - the Cloud turned computing into Martini ... any time, any where, any device. I used to compare being an IT manager with one of those cabaret acts spinning plates ... spending more and more time running around keeping systems running  - installing, upgrading, securing, patching etc etc ... with the cloud I could focus on the use of IT rather than IT itself.  My vision for local IT infrastructure was server-less,  invest in the network because with the cloud "the network is our computer".

Web, cloud and mobile... "I love it when a plan comes together" - the late naughties was a golden age in IT - it seemed like "the future is already here – it's just not evenly distributed". I was an evangelist for the new era of web 2, cloud and social - leading by example and initiating, supporting and participating in so many projects with teachers and learners .. you can see my video blogs here for example - talking with teachers teachers and students about the new tech and with IT people about the changes to make this happen.

There was an IT revolution happening .. staff and students were bringing their own IT into the college in their bags and their pockets. The 1980s One computer Per Desk and "one computer in every home"  had become one computer in every pocket. Bring Your Own Device was another piece to complete my jigsaw for IT as "the network" .. we could reduce the number of college PCs and eventually simplify IT to just the network - protecting cloud based systems and providing access as needed anytime, anywhere, any device ... we just need a network. With your own device computing can become properly personal - you can install and use whatever applications you want and with just a web browser you can access personal, work and learning systems as needed anytime, anywhere. Web, Cloud, Social, Mobile, BYOD ... the tech revolution could revolutionise the way we do IT and the way we work, learn and play. In 2008 I re-engineered the college network and systems for Web, Cloud, Social, Mobile, BYOD - changing the Internet routing and firewall, installing a new WiFi system with a large scale guest WiFi system and started a large scale shift to cloud applications. 

By 2014 we had several thousand daily users of our guest WiFi network, everyone was on Gmail and we had millions of documents on Google apps. This work was recognised and featured by Google and the national IT press and in 2015 my IT strategy was shortlisted for an Inquirer Tech Hero award

"Martin is a passionate facilitator of projects that explore the potential of new methods and technologies and has been developing an oblique approach to strategy that aims to inspire, facilitate and support holistic IT responses to a new environment where IT is easy, diverse, pervasive, personal, social and connected."

I used to be a tech fanboy
Mainframes, PCs, networks, Internet, Web, Cloud, social, mobile and "tech hero" - I've seen each cycle run its course and lead to the next "big thing". My approach is to look into the future early, distribute it in the present and "make hast slowly" ... getting an early start and making continuous incremental changes rather than big bangs. The future is always ... the future - it is always out of reach and something to strive for and technology never stops trying to take us there. However, during the mid 2010s the gears of the technology cycle seem to have jammed and we are left standing on the platform waiting for the next big thing, wondering what's going on and watching the chickens come home to roost. We are losing the Internet, losing the Web, social networks are used for mass surveillance, fake new and lies, smartphones are used to hijack our minds and the security of our devices and systems is like going to sea in a sieve ... leaking our privacy and letting in waves of hacking and malware.
Rather than cycling to the future, technology is a treadmill recycling history into the present.

That's me in 1976 holding Balzac's "Lost Illusions"

Lost Illusions

I have always looked to technology to help people ... to give them freedom and to make their life, work and play better but technology doesn't happen in isolation .... it is part of human social, cultural and economic context. The leading edge of technology is always refreshing and exciting ... rolling across "green fields" under "blue skies" in a land of milk and honey but the revolution always comes full circle when it "crosses the chasm" to the real world of politics and power. Using technology becomes a faustian pact promising freedom and equality when in fact it seems to do the opposite - used for manipulation and control to reinforce wealth and power and widen inequality. At best digital technology helps a yuppie have a nice day and sell you stuff you don't need, at worst it becomes a utility for control and management. Yes, we have all this amazing access to an infinity of information to binge on but this "fast food" is unhealthy - polluted by noise, lies and fakery and pushing our buttons for attention it threatens our physical and mental health and wellbeing ... is the quality of our lives really any better?

Techno determinists are treated like prophets but their prophecies are more about profits ... technology is not a charity .. it is created by companies with an agenda and a profit in mind. I am concerned about the tech capture and technologisation of everything - shifting and centralising power and capital to tech capitalists. I've seen this in education for example ... where teachers might once have created used and "owned" their own teaching resources like skilled professionals they now operate as part of a managed learning environment quality and control surveillance machine ready to turn teachers into semi-skilled labourers ripe for automation and replacement by robots in some not too distant edtech capture drive for productivity and results. I think about the opportunity cost and the opportunities lost as so much educational capital gets sunk so determined into technology. 

"Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it." ~ George Santayana

Yes there always seems hope ... there is always the excitement juggling gadgets riding on the front of a tech cycle but remember that what goes up must come down and there always seems to be a down side or an unintended consequence. I still love riding the front of the tech cycle but I have no illusions any more ... technology alone doesn't change things - people do. 

There is plenty of new tech around: AI, robotics, 3D printing, mixed reality, augmented reality and virtual reality  My current work with inspireNshare is still with technology but its about developing the value of people and focuses on what I call Citizen Tech - simple, friendly accessible and cost effective tech that encourages participation, play, creativity, re-mixing, invention, exploration and experimentation. My aim is to share with and inspire people and like the butterfly effect little things can make a big difference - I've lost my illusions about tech changing the world but it can change people and people can change the world.

Friday, 29 December 2017

Orange or Juice ... Slow Down

I never had time for oranges .. all that fiddling around and mess skinning and eating them just didn't seem worth it -  just pour juice and drink - job done!

This Christmas I "got it" ... by slowing down and taking the time to skin an orange and eat it I came to appreciate how better to enjoy the fruit but also how better to enjoy life as well.

"Live fast, die young." ~ Ed Westwick

Life in the material world is "fast and furious" ...  "faster is the new fast" for competitive advantage and there is a "need for speed" to "move fast and break things" and get ahead in the race.  We live in a cult of speed ... do more, have more, get more, consume more but we only have so much time and the only way for more is to do it quicker to fit more in ... more, more, more .... quicker, quicker, quicker.

I remember hearing an interview on the radio with hearing Frank Bruno where he told a joke that like much good humour works on many levels.

"I'm getting better at sex ... I managed to finish in under a minute" 
~ Frank Bruno

"Speed is fun, sexy, an adrenaline rush. It’s like a drug and we are addicted. At the same time, the world has become a giant buffet of things to do, consume, experience – and we rush to have it all. The modern workplace also pushes us to work faster and longer while technology encourages us to do everything faster and faster.

It’s reached the point of absurdity. You can now do courses in Speed Yoga or attend a Drive Thru Funeral. A magazine in Britain even published an article recently on how to bring about an orgasm in 30 seconds!"  Carl HonorĂ©

"Drive slow and enjoy the scenery - drive fast and join the scenery". 
~ Douglas Horton

Producers of consumer products encourage us to binge for pleasure, while it might make us sick and consume the planet, trumping quality with quantity turns over more stuff and gives the industry a healthy financial turnover and keeps the economy ticking over - there is no profit in the 3Rs (Re-use, Renew, Recycle). Fast-life binge consumerism turns the bucket list into a sick bucket it can turn you into a basket case and kick the bucket.

“It is a mistake to think that moving fast is the same as actually going somewhere.”  
Steve Goodier

Has it always been this way ... I don't think so. I remember how people talked about "the rat race" in the 1960s and The Good Life TV series in the 1970s but the race then had only just begun. In the 1970s we imagined the 21st century as an age of leisure supported by machines and technology. Instead technology has turned us into machines in a rat race on a treadmill going nowhere faster.

"Slow down and enjoy life. It's not only the scenery you miss by going too fast - you also miss the sense of where you are going and why." 
~ Eddie Cantor

Carl HonorĂ© described slowing down as "a cultural revolution against the notion that faster is always better. The Slow philosophy is not about doing everything at a snail's pace. It's about seeking to do everything at the right speed. Savoring the hours and minutes rather than just counting them. Doing everything as well as possible, instead of as fast as possible. It’s about quality over quantity in everything from work to food to parenting." 

Beth Meredith and Eric Storm describe slowing down as "structuring your life around meaning and fulfillment. Similar to "voluntary simplicity" and "downshifting," it emphasizes a less-is-more approach, focusing on the quality of your life. ... Slow Living addresses the desire to lead a more balanced life and to pursue a more holistic sense of well-being in the fullest sense of the word' .

“There is more to life than simply increasing its speed.”
~ Mahatma Gandhi

In "Going Slow" Tom Faber explains that "Ancient Greeks had two words to talk about time. Chronos is clock time, measured in seconds, minutes and hours. It means much the same as the word ‘time’ does now. Kairos, on the other hand, is a trickier, more seductive concept. It is time measured qualitatively, a moment of indeterminate duration in which an event of significance happens. Kairos is often used to describe moments of perfection, where one briefly steps outside of the passage of time. The early proponents of the Slow Movement sought to reintroduce kairos to the world, suggesting that a hasty, meticulously-planned life forecloses the possibility of these moments of perfection.

In typically Greek fashion, both were personified. Chronos was a wizened old man carrying a scythe and an hourglass, a forerunner to the Grim Reaper. Kairos was a handsome young man with wings at his heels, the back of his head shaved so that no one could grab his hair and hold him back. Once the opportunity of a perfect moment has passed you by, it’s gone forever."

Bill Powers discovered "that being “Slow” is not at all Luddite. It means cultivating positive qualities - being receptive, intuitive, patient, reflective - instead of the fast qualities so common today: being busy, controlling, impatient, agitated, acquisitive."

“Slow down, you move too fast, You got to make the morning last” 
~ Simon & Garfunkel  (The 59th Street Bridge Song)

“Life's short enough as it is without rushing” 
~ Terry Wogan

So often "less is more" ... slow down and pay yourself in time and take time to do things properly and enjoy them more. Instead of just going faster all the time try fasting ... try leaving things out and going without. Don't just use technology to go faster but try a technology fast and step away from the computer and the screen and focus on the real world and people around you.

There are times when there is a need for speed and there are times when there is a need to go slow - life is in the balance.

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Don't Drive ....Motivate

"Driven" ... I hear this more often now than ever ... why is this and what does it mean.

I see this as a symptom of our captivation with technology .. our tech capture and the "technologisation" of people by data ... the need to measure and control ... to drive ourselves and others as if we were machines.

Today leadership and management is about data management and people (if there are people) are driven via data. People are nothing more than resources ... a set of KPIs on dashboard dial and driven as if they were automobiles. There is no soul in a machine ... a dashboard dial doesn't have an inner life, it's simply a dependent variable indicating responses to management stimulation. 

Data has reduced people to laboratory rats - 
soft machines ready for replacement by real machines as soon as possible.

Leadership and management has been replaced by technique and technocrats more comfortable with "well oiled machines" and data than they are with people - algorithms and data are a convenient comfortable way to make decisions without judgement

The problem with being driven by data is that its like doing makeup while driving using a rear view mirror ... it might make you look good and its great at showing you where you have been but its no use for showing you where you are going or where you want to go ... it's dangerous.

Data driven behaviouristic leadership and management is only skin deep - if you treat people like machines then they will behave like machines ... "jobsworths", working to rule only capable of what they have been programmed to do - expect and get nothing more.

The problem with data driven leadership and management is that people aren't machines, they are more than simple dependent variables - they have their own minds and it is their independence, diversity and autonomy that makes valuable.

Treat people as people and they will behave as people ... they will "go the extra mile", they will be flexible, creative, imaginative, excited and inspired. Don't drive people but motivate them .. inspire them with vision, passion, enthusiasm and excitement and they will give this back.

Leaders and managers - if you behave like a soulless machine then you deserve to be replaced by a machine and you will be - for the good of your people and for yourself ... be a person.

Thursday, 7 December 2017

10 years With Social Media

What a year 2007 was ... there was a Cambrian Explosion of technology or better still a sort of Great Ordovician Diversification Event (GOBE) - there were so many different things emerging from the bubbling web primordial soup. Where the Internet had connected computers now the web was connecting people - revolution and change was in the air there was a big explosion of social networks.

"The Web does not just connect machines, it connects people" ~  Tim Berners Lee

After more than a decade of mundane and mediocre Microsoft monopoly there were new kids on the block - there was a lot of experimentation and IT was getting exciting again. I was buzzing with excitement and joined Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Linkedin and Youtube as well as Blogger, Flickr, Delicious, Second Life, Netvibes and Page Flakes and a whole lot of other things like Google Docs, Google Pages and Zoho Docs and somehow managed to do all of these things at the same time.

That anyone could write the web and not just read it was a revolution - I felt empowered and I loved the freedom and openness of it all. 

I published my IT strategy openly on the web as a blog for comment - Miles Metcalf commented from China that I use the word change rather than re-engineer ... using engineer just showed my IT background but I totally "got it" and understood the change. I started a work related IT services Twitter account, Google Page and Facebook Group for IT Services.

I started video blogging on Youtube blog and started re-engineering our network to accommodate guest devices and social media. "The Network is Our Computer" was my philosophy and my mission - the computer network had support computers and people.

I was an evangelist for the new era of web 2, cloud and social - initiating, supporting and participating countless projects with teachers and learners.  I was the head of IT promoting social networks for teaching and learning arguing against the staff trying to block Facebook from classrooms. "Use their weapons against them" was the unfortunate phrase I ended up using with teachers who wanted to block Youtube .. as I could see how effective the "weapons" of social media could be.

I am a psychologist, a teacher and a technologist - all these things came together with social networks and education and I experienced first hand by teaching students how powerful social networks are in engaging students - using blogs, Youtube, Tumblr, Twitter and Facebook instead of essays to engage students. Teaching, learning and education became exciting ... when lessons ended students wanted to carry on with what they were doing - making blog pages, Google pages, Facebook posts and Youtube videos. Rather than just "stand and deliver" we could flip learning and develop peer learning - having students research and create content on-line anywhere and use social nets to peer review work. I remember one project where business students were asked to research the impact of the "front of house" on a business and then make Youtube videos for peer discussion in class - students went off in groups and created all sorts of format from Fawlty Towers to Newsnight.

2010 ... student using his iPhone and mini PC in class

We engaged everyone and all subjects, it was inclusive - higher education, special needs, foundation and pre-entry, ESL - social networks were especially useful for students outside the college such as those on work placement. An especially effective technique was the student eAmbassador and what I call "true flip learning" ... social networks were a thing for young people and it was empowering for them to teach staff how to use it - students felt important, it boosted their self esteem but it took open and confident teachers to do this.

Student eAmbassadors working with  staff on better ways to communicate with learners
Web, social and mobile were coming together at speed in a combinatorial explosion of possibilities. In 2004 Tim O’Reilly described the changes taking places on-line as Web 2.0, and in 2009 there were a new set of changes taking place but the term Web 3.0 just didn't capture it so Tim O’Reilly and John Battelle coined the term Web Squared for the exponential change "when web meets world". This was the future, it was changing fast and it was exciting. Oh how we marvelled at the exponential growth in Facebook users and Youtube hours uploaded every minute - Facebook was the size of nation states and it would eventually eat the world.
These were the innocent and happy childhood days of social networks and while we would love to stay childish forever it is the nature of things to change. Rather than the web meeting the world the world met the web. Social networks "crossed the chasm", went mainstream and social networks became social media platforms - stages for all human life both good and bad to play out along with big business, politics and power.

There was a revolution and by 2012 the wheel had turned full circle - we were back where we started.

In 2008 Jonathan Zittrain saw the writing on the web walls and wrote about "The Future of the Internet" and by 2012 Anil Dash talked about "The Web We Lost" and Bruce Sterling said It Stopped Making Sense to Talk About 'The Internet'.

The land of milk and honey had started turning sour - the network was being monetised to sell people and weaponised by those in power.

The crunch time came in 2013, Edward Snowden showed us "the dark side of the moon" and the extent of "big brother" surveillance and in 2014 Tim Berners-Lee warned "How the web lost its way – and its founding principles"

A new generation of the web and social networks went underground into the dark and new diverse explosion of personal, ephemeral and encrypted communications tech became "the new thing" - Gimpse, Blink, Wickr, Signal, Telegram and Snapchat for example. The open web was disappearing behind walls. At the same time established social networks became . well established ... colleges and employers were using them and using them to "spy" on students ... why would students want to use Facebook now anyway.
Clay Shirky was a long time advocate for students to bring laptops, tablets and phones into class and use them, the web and social media at will but in 2014 he told students to put them away

"Allowing laptop use in class is like allowing boombox use in class — it lets each person choose whether to degrade the experience of those around them."

This was a real wake up call for me and I had to re-examine my whole philosophy in light of how the web and social networks had changed.

I was on the rebound from technology - from being one of the "hyper-connected" I appreciated, enjoyed and advocated being off-line and off-grid - it was refreshing. Leading by example gave lessons, presentations and lectures without tech at all - I used to quote John Hagel "I must apologies for not having any Powerpoint slides" :)  By putting away my own tech I found a new engagement with students - there was more interaction, discussion and questioning ... it was like rediscovering teaching all over again.

Disconnecting from the virtual world let me connect with the real world ... we get so busy having to take a share a photo or video for on-line presence we lose presence in the real world. I often went out deliberately "naked" without tech  ... just old fashioned cash, no smartphone or even a watch - I was on the rebound, like a an alcoholic not wanting to touch a drop. 
Don't throw the baby out with the bath water 

There is a need for balance, "don't throw the baby out with the bath water" there is a lot of good in social media but  given the way it has changed Howard Rheingold's Crap Detection 101 is more useful now than ever.

Technology today is different from that of 2007 ... smartphones are not as intrusive as PCs and laptops and used in the right way they are super effective in education.  Stepping away from the education tech capture of "stand and deliver" "death by powerpoint" or the back to teacher face to the machine of the standard IT suite and into a less tech intrusive environment with mobiles is quite exposing but super refreshing and helps facilitate multiple forms of pedagogy and a more Socratic method if you like that type of thing. 
Here I am in a mobile only tutorial
So, here I am in 2017 .. 10 years on from the last major tech revolution and waiting for the wheel to turn again and history to repeat ... will there be a "next big thing" and what will it be? Old technologies never die ... they just fade away ... all the old technologies are still part of my life - mixed up together. I have seen the early users of social networks jump ship looking for "the way we were" ... many going to Medium and the blogger community there, many others going to Mastadon (Like Twitter, Except Way More Civil). The openness of Twitter causes problems but I still like it.

I have always treated my on-line presence as a singularity - I put everything into Twitter and feed this automatically into  Facebook using the Facebook Twitter app and post the most of the same items into Linkedin. I have been treating each social network the same all these years and don't really want to change but I may get more out of them if I use them differently. I will keep putting everything into Twitter. I have been trimming my network on Facebook to those people I actually know - I'm thinking of breaking the link to twitter and using Facebook as a social network ... there is more conversation on there than Twitter anyway. Linkedin is the most civil and professional but less interesting and rather self aggrandising ... I might start "mis-behaving"  and put more political and controversial posts into it just to see what happens :) G+ is a bit of a ghost town ...  I mostly only post things about Google into it these days and I'm seriously thinking of not bothering but a few people I know use this and not other networks so its useful to keep this going at least a bit. Because no one uses it much G+ is a good social network for education ... there is no worry about it getting mixed up with personal life and it links well with Google's education stuff.

I'm not sure if there will be a social media\network next big thing ... I think all the variations on this have been played out and that we have to use what we have but probably change and adjust how we use them - we have woken up we just need to #staywoke.