Autism Twitter Day

It has taken me a while, but I’ve finally joined Twitter.   The catalyst behind getting me to join at this time is an event being organized by Bonnie Sayers called Autism Twitter Day, scheduled for Tuesday 16 December, a week from today.  Mark your calendars!  (Thanks to Kev and his post Autism Twitter Day for the heads up.)

Autism Twitter Day – Tuesday, Dec 16th pacific standard time – 9AM, 12:30 PM and 8 PM.  Prizes will be given out and a panel will be available with information and to answer questions.

This is open to twitter members, specifically those who are members of the autism community, whether it be a parent, sibling or relative.  If you are on the spectrum you are welcome to take part.  Most of the prizes are geared to children and young adults with autism or asperger syndrome.

The hashtag to be used for autism twitter day is #ASD.  This means when you post a tweet that day which is on the topic of autism – positive autism awareness, please use the hashtag, either in front or at end of the tweet.  Open up a window at www.summize.com and input #ASD to follow along with the conversation at the specified times.  Most likely they will run longer than one hour.  Stay tuned here and to my blog for prize and panel info.  http://autismfamiily.blogspot.com

We will be testing your knowledge on autism spectrum disorders, this is how the prizes will be awarded.  Here is an example of a quiz I have on my site

http://www.bellaonline.com/misc/quiz/quizdtl168

If you have any questions about autism, or if you’ve never heard of such a thing as “positive autism awareness” (yes it exists!), check this out.  I think you’ll be surprised at what you learn.

See you there.

Does social media make you more social?

A common misconception about autistic individuals is that they shun social contact, that they are all introverts.  But in many cases it is simply the means – not the desire –  to be social that eludes them.  Face-to-face, real-time conversation can be difficult, but it is not because their there is no interest in communicating.  Enter social media.

To get an idea of what some autistic individuals have to say, check out the autistic bloggers at The Autism Hub.  These individuals have embraced what blogs have to offer in terms of a way to get their ideas out to the world and to engage in conversation with their readers through the comments.  These same people are also prolific users of social networking sites – such as Facebook, MySpace, Second Life, and even their own Ning communities – to connect with their friends.

I’ve been thinking of this in the context of making use of social media in the enterprise.   One of the problems that many implementations of KM had (have?) is its “mandatory” nature:  “you will contribute to the knowledge store, you will reuse, etc. etc.”    As different as SM is from KM, I see SM in the enterprise facing a similar issue. Just because it is available doesn’t mean that everyone will use it.  Just because social media is a good tool, doesn’t mean that everyone will naturally know now, or want to, use it.  If someone isn’t social by nature, giving them a tool that allows them to be social isn’t really going to help.

In other words, social media doesn’t “make” people more social.  Social media simply provides social people an opportunity to better express their inherent social nature.

PowerPoint tip – animation indicator

Sitting through an attempted-murder-by-PowerPoint design review today, one of the presenters questioned whether or not some of his slides had animation builds on them or not.  This most often resulted in him going forward a slide, apologizing, then backing up to where he wanted to be.  It occurred to me that there is an easy way to avoid this.

If you have a slide that has animation builds in it, simply place a small graphic somewhere on the slide that lets you know there is a build coming.  If you have multiple builds, make sure the graphic stays on-screen until the last build for that slide is complete.  That way you know that the next click of the mouse will take you to the next slide.

Interestingly, I’ve been guilty of this in the past as well but never came up with this idea based on my own presentations.  Something about being able to observe from the outside, without the pressure of performance, makes it easier to see the things that can be improved.  This is a good reason for you to conduct your own personal debriefing after briefings or other “performances”.

Work competency, literacy, and mastery

Tony Karrer’s comments to a recent post of mine that discussed the application of a craft work model to knowledge work got me thinking a bit more about the subject. I’ve also been thinking some about the one of the goals of the Work Literacy project, specifically to “help build a foundation of knowledge of methods for knowledge work” (as Tony wrote in comments to Michele’s post Knowledge Workers as Craft Workers).

So instead of apprentice/journeyman/master, which refer as much to an individual’s position within an organization as it does to the individual’s skill level, I’m thinking the more basic terms of competency, literacy, and mastery may apply. These speak directly to the skill level of the individual in terms of the individual’s goals, and is independent of any organization they may be part of.

Obviously, these terms will need to be defined a bit in the context of knowledge work and work literacy to be of use to the current effort. A good place to start is at the basic definitions of the terms:

  • Competent: having suitable or sufficient skill, knowledge, experience, etc., for some purpose; properly qualified; adequate but not exceptional.
  • Literate: having knowledge or skill in a specified field
  • Mastery: command or grasp, as of a subject:

Though competency and literacy seem to be very similar, I see them as distinct in the following way. Competence means that you have the knowledge/skill to perform a given task, without necessarily understanding why it is done or having the ability to adapt of if the conditions under which you learned the skill change. Literacy, on the other hand, suggests that you understand why you perform the task the way it is and that you have the ability to adapt your performance to changing conditions and still be successful.

To re-word Tony’s goal stated above, the question in my mind then becomes, “What competencies are needed for knowledge workers today?”

Here are a couple that come to mind. I’ll save more detailed discussion of these for the comments or future posts.

SUGGESTED COMPETENCIES

  • Technology (hardware)
  • Technology (software)
  • Personal Computers
  • Social Networking (technical and personal)
  • Visual Communications
  • Information Assurance / Security
  • Impact of Globalization
  • Finance / money
  • Interpersonal communications

I’m sure there are more, and I’m sure some of these may not be appropriate. But it is a start.

Games and learning

I’ve had a strong interest in video games on a personal level for many years (see this page for some of my thoughts). More recently, I’ve become interested on a professional level in the potential for games to be used to support learning and other ‘serious’ purposes – hence the name “Serious Games“.

I see the techniques and technologies of video games playing an increasing role in helping to close the work literacy gap. This is especially true as games and systems become increasingly “network ready” and the games become more multi-player and social.

Commenting to a story in the Wall Street Journal, the Educational Games Research blog writes in the post PSP Mini-nets Show Small Group Potential:

The possibilities of harnessing the mini-net features of the PSP are striking. Small groups could be set up with the PSP to tackle a project together in an educational game. Excluding other players from the groups would allow a room full of students working on PSPs to organize into teams working on objectives within the game.

This is obviously a very small-scale, artificial (ie, classroom) situation, but it does show the potential of “social” games to help teach, and to help learn.

Tools do not a master make [redux]

I’ve been catching up on the posts over at Work Literacy (that’s a lot of catching up!), along with discovering new (to me) blogs in the field of learning. This in turn has had me revisiting old posts and ideas of my own.

Joan Vinall-Cox’s post Old Skills and New Know-How, a response to Michele Martin’s post Knowledge Workers as Craft Workers (which, as it turns out, is based on a comment I left to another of Michele’s posts), discusses the importance of understanding the skills that must go into using a new technology.

Re-printed below is a post of mine from August 2006, Tools do not a master make, that explores a similar theme.

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No tool of modern technology is as universally used, and almost as universally reviled, in the world of business and government as is Microsoft PowerPoint. Perhaps most famous of the PowerPoint bashers is Edward Tufte, writer of several books and essays on information design. (I was fortunate enough to attend one of his courses in the late ’90s, his poster of Napoleon’s March to Moscow still hangs on the wall in my office.)

Tufte has described his issues with PowerPoint in magazine articles (such as PowerPoint is Evil in Wired magazine), in a self-published essay entitled The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint, and in a chapter in his latest book Beautiful Evidence. In the past week or so a few others have also lambasted PowerPoint, including Dave Snowden of Cognitive Edge in a couple of posts (Festival of Bureaucratic Hyper-Rationalism and Tufte and PowerPoint) and Scott Adams (via Dilbert).

Don Norman, of the Nielsen Norman Group, has a different take on PowerPoint. In his essay In Defense of PowerPoint, Norman places the blame not on PowerPoint but on those who use it improperly. “Don’t blame the problem on the tool.” Or, put another way – PowerPoint doesn’t bore people, people bore people. Cliff Atkinson is another who believes that PowerPoint can be used effectively. For some great ideas check out the Beyond Bullets blog or Atkinson’s book Beyond Bullet Points.

Of course, this problem is not limited to the world of business. One of the big promises of ever faster and more powerful consumer technology (if we are to believe marketing campaigns) is that everyone will be able to perform like an expert. Take, for example, the following pitch for Apple’s GarageBand software (emphasis is mine):

The new video track in GarageBand makes it easy to add an original music score to your movies. And don’t worry about your musical talent — or lack thereof. Just use GarageBand’s included loops, or try a combination of loops, software instruments, or any previous audio recordings you created.

Don’t get me wrong, I love GarageBand (and the whole iLife suite for that matter, I use it almost every day). It is very easy to create a ’song’ using loops, like my First Song. Once I got comfortable with the GarageBand interface, it only took me a couple of hours to browse through the loops, pull some together so it sounded good, and export it to iTunes. The ’song’ is listenable, but doesn’t reflect any real musical skill on my part. I didn’t apply any knowledge of time signatures, keys, tempo, or anything. I just dragged-and-dropped.

I guess my point is don’t get pulled into a false belief that a tool, any tool, can make you an expert at something or give you expert results. Remember, good tools are nice to have, but in the hands of a master even the simplest of tools can create wonders.

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You may also want to check out one of my earliest posts, Quick example of individual productivity gains / savings based on digital thinking.