I carry a black leather journal with me most of the time ... I use this little analog capture method to take meaningful notes, jot down ideas, and to record things that I think will provide me with some historical perspective (on a personal level). From time to time I actually go back through my journals and play a little game of, "this time last year we were thinking about ..." Yesterday I was having lunch with the instructional design group here in ETS and I pulled out the book to see what we were thinking about and struggling with last year at this time.
One of the things that jumped out at me was something I wrote about in my journal literally on this day last year -- I called it the ETS Innovation Hour. I'm not that keen on the title this year, but it is something I have continued to think about and push ... a monthly computer mediated "show" that would expose people to some of the things we are working on, thinking about, and more. It has evolved into something we've now started calling, ETS Briefings. It hasn't gotten off the ground.
Two weeks ago I was a presenter for an online seminar and I talked about Penn State on iTunes U, our community based support ideas, and some general information on the Blogs at Penn State project. Nothing earth shattering there other than I did it from my office, at my desk, wearing a USB headset over Centra. It was well attended and people asked a bunch of questions at the end. It was honestly the first time I had done something like that. I got me thinking about just moving the ETS Briefings forward, but on my own just to see what would happen.
Would anyone show up if I just started doing these once a month from my office over Adobe Connect Pro? It would be primarily for a Penn State audience as I would be sharing information and insight into the projects we are doing here. My hope is that the University Learning Design Community would tune in and help me think about new ways to engage faculty and students around our projects. About a year ago I was at this same crossroads over an ETS podcast -- can we find time, would anyone listen, would it provide value, etc. If I use that as a model, maybe it is time to just lock an hour every month and see what happens.
I've written about my personal interest in providing opportunities for faculty, staff, and students to engage in the creation of digital media -- text, graphics, podcasts, videos, and whatever else this group needs to use to communicate ideas. One of the things I have been working towards over the last few years is envisioning what a platform for digital expression in an educational environment might look like. I have also written quite a bit about the projects that we've been investing lots of time and energy into here at PSU to power this approach -- namely Blogs at Penn State, the Podcasts at Penn State, the Digital Commons, Streaming Servers, and our Course Management System (ANGEL) to name a few. We've also been spending all sorts of time engineering our processes and programs so that we are more appropriately positioned to attack and create opportunities to engage our audiences around this space. We've created a new way to investigate emerging technologies and trends through the Hot Teams approach, built new models for working with faculty through the Engagement Projects, rethought the way we can use students as part of the adoption and diffusion process via the Technology Learning Assistants (TLA) program, engaged the community through the Community Hub concept, opened the walls of ETS by being more transparent and adopting podcasting and blogging as another way to reach our audiences, and really cranked up our efforts around the TLT Symposium. All of these things are part of the eco-system to support and promote Digital Expression on campus.
Two days ago, Chris Millet and I were having lunch and we were sharing some thoughts in this space. This is a reoccurring theme with us as this work dates back to the time we spent at the IST Solutions Institute and working with Apple on the Apple Digital Campus project. It was in those early discussions that we both made a commitment to exploring and promoting digital expression as a means to demonstrate learning. During our conversation I was telling Chris how I'd been thinking about trying to create a visual representation of how we have been striving to align our thinking around Digital Expression with our new projects, programs, and existing (and emerging) University infrastructure. I sketched some stuff on a napkin or two and when I got back to my office I drew a crude illustration on my window trying to visualize it all. What emerged from that is what I will attempt to articulate below. I am asking for feedback and thoughts about all of this -- and keep in mind, much of it is the product of both a ton of thinking and quick execution.
The images below are my best shot at creating a visual representation of how I have worked to strategically align all of the work in the area of building a leading University example of a platform for Digital Expression.
This is the foundation of the stack ... here is where we can utilize existing enterprise level infrastructure to make sure our platforms can exist. In this case, I have selected our single sign on web access environment as a key ingredient ... identity management is a critical component of all of this and having a powerful access architecture in place is critical. Personal web space is also an important piece to this as it is a University provided service that allows us all to store and manage our content in our own spaces. This also has strong identity ties and provides a basis for much of what we will build upon it. Our streaming environment will become even more important as we supplement the excellent QuickTime Streaming Server with a Flash Media Server. Finally our lab images give us the ability to offer high end software to thousands of faculty, staff, and students in a supported and consistent fashion. This not so basic infrastructure is critical to the rest of the stack.
The next layer is comprised of physical spaces. Our CLC Managed environments give faculty and students environments to tap into the tools that they would otherwise not have access to. Again, through access accounts, identity is playing a huge role here -- everything they do is tied to that ID and the ability to walk in anywhere and log in and see and interact with your stuff is critical. The Digital Commons is obviously a big piece to the whole Digital Expression puzzle. These facilities will provide faculty, staff, and students at all locations of our institution access to the best equipment, software, and expertise to physically interact with digital media.
Our publishing platforms have really come alive in the last year or so ... ANGEL has been a huge part of the teaching and learning with technology story on our campus for quite some time. At the end of last semester we had around 70,000 students active in ANGEL. While those are impressive numbers, we have attempted to create new publishing platforms to share content across our digital environment. The Blogs at Penn State project has, over time, the potential to change the way people publish on the web. The Podcasts at Penn State has already had impact -- through both our use of iTunes U for public and course-level content and via our own platform. No matter how you look at it, podcasting has captured the imagination of a whole new set of faculty on our campus. PSUTube is in the earliest stages of thinking, but could have far reaching potential as a digital media distribution platform. By building it on top of the QTSS and FMS we can create an environment that promotes legitimate sharing of digital content for our populations. The idea is to use the best of social video sites for educational purposes.
Our platforms would be nothing without powerful support opportunities. This may seem obvious, but providing support across multiple layers is critical. For early adopters and awareness we tap into the ITS Consultants. They help educate the PSU environment to the opportunities and provide a first layer of support. ITS Training Services does the same thing but at a second level -- this is when people are getting ready to really use the stuff. The help desk gives us a full on support group to lean on. All of it is critical for so many reasons -- happy users, freedom for other staff to think about what is next, and so much more.
Finally we provide opportunities for communities to form and support to reach a new level of engagement. Engagement is what we are striving to get to ... we want our audiences to be invested in where they are spending their time. I feel if you can get the community to grow up around the opportunities you are providing you have something very powerful. We've started by opening the organization and supporting traditional marketing channels with blogs and podcasting ... this is a much more direct and natural voice and is sometimes easier for people to follow. We've tried to create methods for working together internally and have pushed ourselves to bring in people from the outside to participate through the Hot Teams. There is so much more here, but coupling all of the online activities with real face to face opportunities is also critical. The Symposium has honestly changed our relationship with our faculty audiences. I hope that it all has provided new opportunities for engagement at all levels of the eco-system.
So at the end of the day, the goal is to provide a leading platform to support Digital Expression in Higher Education. Are we getting there? Maybe ... time will tell. I know we've been working hard to make the right decisions (which sometimes makes it all look and feel slow) and we will continue to do that. So, after all that stuff if you've made it this far I'd love to hear your take on it all.
I am an avid Keynote user and have been since it first hit the market. I love how clean and elegant not only the design tools are, but also the resulting presentation files. Let me also say that I use it a ton. A big part of my job is sharing progress, giving updates, giving presentations, and all sorts of other show and tell style events. This means I have lots of Keynote files -- I tend to have four or five that I use constantly for a year or so at a time. I tweak them with each talk slightly for the audience, but for the most part 90% of the slides stay the same. When I do this I do a "Save As" and create a new instance of the slides. This results in lots of very similar, yet slightly different versions of my slides ... This drives me crazy!
What I am really after is something that is just like Keynote, but with the cross-over functionality of iPhoto. iPhoto's new "Events" feature is killer. Why not allow us to store stacks of like slides (not presentations) as Events (or something) in a completely different view of the application -- a content management view. Let me organize each slide as an asset unto itself. I could then use an "photo album" metaphor to drag individual slides onto the presentation stack (or timeline, or whatever) to create new slideshows. Giving me the ability to manage all my slides as assets, just like Apple does for iPhoto, iTunes, and now iMovie, would give me unprecedented control over my content.
So to review, what I want is Keynote as it stands today, but with a new content management view that lets me store all my keynote slides and slideshows in one place. I don't care how the individual slides are stored, but the whole way you can scrub through the events in iPhoto to see the contents of that grouping would be ideal for slides that have very similar information, but might have been changed slightly with context sensitive information. I would then be able to click into that slide event grouping, select the right one for the presentation I was preparing and drop it into a Presentation Stack that I could enter to edit my preso just like I do now. And give me some real ability to store some meta data about each slide so I can search this massive database of content I am constantly creating and tweaking.
Does that make sense? It does to me and I need it!
Day before yesterday my colleague, Allan Gyorke, and I gave a talk to the Instructional Design and Development group at the Penn State World Campus related to Digital Expression. It is a talk I've done before and it really focuses on the platforms PSU has been working to deliver for the last 18 months or so. The talk frames the need by looking relatively deeply at the changing characteristics of our undergraduate resident population -- they are very mobile, very smart, and very plugged into social spaces (read, Facebook). I use a bunch of PSU statistics gathered by our assessment team as well as numbers from the Pew Internet and American Life Project team.
After the warm-up I tend to dive into the tools we are highlighting -- Blogs at Penn State, Podcasts at Penn State, Wikis at Penn State, as well as the Digital Commons initiative and a few others. What made this conversation different was the fact the audience was a group of instructional designer and technologists -- certainly a fun group to talk to. I was struck by how interested most of them seemed to be in the tools and how willing they were to discuss how we might think about using them. I was also struck by how excited many of them got as we continued to talk. It was a very fun hour and a half ... it left me thinking two things -- I would very much like to spend more time with groups of interested designers who are in the midst of creating lots of learning spaces and that I have now done this presentation for about a dozen audiences at Penn State but have failed to deliver it to my own staff. That last point hit me last night as I sat on the back patio with a glass of wine -- talk about having one of those reality check, "duh" moments. That is obviously something I have to do.
The thing about the talk is that it really tries to define one of my core strategies -- enabling opportunities for faculty, staff, and students to engage in the art of digital expression within the context of higher education. One of my goals is to create a platform that provides for supported use of digital tools to not only enhance teaching and learning, but that can creep into everyday life. The other thing it does is illustrates how quickly we are all moving ... two years ago these platforms didn't exist in a coherent way on our campus. The talents of many people have made it a reality.
I am from Bloomsburg, PA ... I was born just down the road in Danville and spent my whole pre-college life there (except for a little while in Lewisburg, PA while my Dad was a professor at Bucknell). When I finished undergrad at WVU and after failed stint at NC State, I returned to Bloomsburg. After several months of painting houses, cutting weeds, and failing to find myself I entered the Institute for Interactive Technologies at Bloomsburg University. I got my masters degree there -- it was the first program that brought together my two main areas of interest -- technology and learning. It was an amazing and eye-opening experience.
These days there is some very interesting stuff still going on at the IIT. One of the big things happening there is revolving around Dr. Karl Kopp. I didn't know Dr. Kopp when I was an IITer, he wasn't there yet, but his work in the serious games for education and training space is getting some major play across the industry. He does some very insightful blogging and from what I know, he is hell of a good speaker. One his great pieces is the video linked to his latest post -- it is essentially a six minute video looking at SecondLife in the learning/training space and how important immersion can be. Well done and worth a look. I am still not convinced SL is anywhere near being the end all be all, but Dr. Kopp makes some interesting points.
Those who paid attention to Apple's latest round of announcements also saw that they released a new keyboard. I am using it to type this post ... let me say that I was/am a big fan of the keyboard design of the MacBook, so when I saw the design of this new number I was excited. With that in mind I plunked down the $49.00 for the new wired version and it showed up today. I have to say I like it quite a bit. After I got my bluetooth Apple Keyboard I thought I would never go back to a wired version, but this is nice. They do have a wireless version, but it is much more like a laptop keyboard -- without dedicated number keys ... it just doesn't do it for me. This is not a review, you can find those everywhere online ... but let me summarize, I like it and you may not.
This thing fits me well. It takes a slight amount of getting used to, but I am really liking the feel. I beginning to notice what a difference it makes to have input and output devices that work for you does. Typing faster means greater productivity when you live in a blogging/searching/writing world ... it is like finding the right mouse, it just helps. I switched to a 24" display at work several months ago and I can't tell you how many cycles that has saved me over a 20". Sounds crazy, but having the right gear makes a huge difference. I can imagine most people see that for someone like Tiger Woods -- having the right clubs makes a huge difference for him. Sure he would kick ass with my irons, but a stroke difference means being Tiger and not someone else. Trust me, I am not comparing us to Tiger, but all I am saying is that having the right tools for the trade helps!
Does this mean I will field requests from people tomorrow asking for 30" displays and faster machines -- probably. Does it mean we'll do it -- probably not. But, it does mean I am all for people making their home setups work just they want them. And that does it for a blog post about keyboard ... jeez.
As a long time Apple Fan Boy I was very interested in what would be released yesterday at the special event. The rumor has been churning for quite some time on new iMacs and Steve did not disappoint. The new iMac is beautiful machine ... great features, price, and performance. I have a 24" iMac and I love it, so I can only imagine how nice the new ones are. Not quite compelling to buy one yet, but really a great all in one machine -- but, let me be clear, if I could justify it any way it would already be on its way.
As an interesting aside, Steve at one point made the comment during the presentation that we live in an all in one world from a computing and digital lifestyle perspective. I tend to agree. For work I switched to being a portable user as my only machine a few years ago ... and if you look at our faculty, staff, and students' technology ownership you see that I am not alone. The vast majority of users on our campus are laptop users -- laptops are all in one. So, for the desktop I still see the notion of the all in one as a very important one. The iMac fills that category better than any machine I know of. When I look at my other technology devices, they could learn a lot from the way Apple makes this stuff happen. The iMac at the hub of a digital lifestyle is very smart -- especially given the way they have worked to align products to cover many phases of that life ... software that manages digital assets and encourages you to create new ones, distribution devices that wirelessly sling content all over the place to devices that allow you to walk around with all of it, or connect to a TV anywhere in the house ... just smart stuff. It is a strategy that has been brewing for a number of years now and seems to be working -- at least in my house.
A few of the other notable things are the enhancements to iLife -- the new iMovie in particular strikes me as being a major step forward in terms of all around functionality. It had always seemed to me that iMovie was sort of limited in that it was a production only environment. I guess in my mind I always felt that iTunes should never have been named iTunes, it should have been iMedia. What I was always after was a place to store and manage all my digital content (raw video clips, photos, music, compiled videos, PDF, etc) that could be manipulated and interacted with either internal to that application or via another one in a media viewer style. The rebirth of iMovie as both a production environment and a repository is very smart. I have perhaps hundreds of hours of digital video that is sitting on mini-DV tapes that I never watch, would not go back and import and compile, and have largely forgotten about. Now, with the new iMovie I can see myself spending the time to import all my video and having it at my fingertips ready to produce some nice short videos for the kids to watch. The other thing I need to do is buy a huge hard drive to store it all on.
The other thing that caught my attention was the overall enhancement to .Mac. I have been a longtime .Mac customer -- back when it was actually free as a matter of fact. I have used the .Mac model as a talking point with lots of people when explaining how we should be making digital services easily available on campus. I am struck by the shift in focus for .Mac -- the photo sharing utility, ".Mac Web Gallery" is very well designed. I spent some time this morning playing with an online example. Apple has brought forth some interesting, yet somewhat incomplete (IMHO), set of social opportunities to the party. Obviously .Mac always gave you a one direction distribution opportunity ... you can call it sharing, but in my book sharing includes some sort of reciprocal action -- not just me post pictures on a web page ... I get nothing in return there. The reason I use Flickr is that it is social at its core -- I have friends, family, and strangers who can look at my pictures and share with me their reactions to them. The new features of .Mac take sharing in a new direction -- one I am very curious to see how it catches on. It gives you the ability to share access to your galleries in a new way -- people can add their own photos to it. It doesn't do comments, which keeps it out of the traditional view of the read/write web, but this whole "add your pictures to my pictures mash-up idea" is really interesting. I see big potential for class activities in that. I also see great opportunities for event sites to spring up with user generated content being added from left and right. I also understand that once you get it all set up, it integrates with the iPhone nicely. At any rate, the design of the finished web site it creates is first rate and the whole change in direction here is a welcome one for me ... adding the ability to comment would be a next logical step.
Finally I noticed that Keynote received the ability to do voice overs in a native form. I don't yet know if the resulting files can be shared as enhanced podcasts -- if so, good stuff! If not, then I give it a WTF! The other notable (and very long overdue) is the ability to easily publish iWeb files to a space other than .Mac with ease. I have been begging Apple for this since before iWeb. I even wrote a whitepaper I shared with them about how the .Mac only publishing is a mistake in the higher education space where we give students lots of webspace to publish in. I am anxious to see how that works. So, yesterday I did something I don't usually do -- I ordered the new iLife, iWork, and the new keyboard with my own dollars becasue I need the software to bang on before the weekend.
All in all some very solid things. What do others think of the new stuff?
That seems to be the general reaction I get from people when I start talking Intranets. Back in the day we didn't really think about how we worked to use the web to influence what was going on inside an organization -- we were so damn busy just trying to build and launch some sort of externally facing site. I recall our first Intranet at Cogence Media back in 1996 ... it was an old Apple FileServer that we discovered we could deep link into via a browser. The funny thing was that we didn't do this deep linking via web pages, we did it from a bunch of individual Word documents that we kept on the shared space of the file server. I embarrassed to say that I was part of the web team and it just didn't dawn on us to use real web pages to manage the knowledge of the organization. But when I really step back and think about it, we were doing the best we could with the tools of the day -- sort of.
The last couple of years that has all changed though -- especially for me. I have become just as interested in the conversations that go on inside an organization as the ones that are directed at customers, readers, audiences, or whatever else you want to call the people you are speaking to on the outside. The emergence of web 2.0, especially in the last year or so has given rise to many new ideas I am banging around in my head related to increasing opportunities for internal dialog. I have started reading more and more about the notion of Enterprise 2.0 (mainly from Andrea McAfee from Harvard) and I have to say it seems to be a perfect blend of my interests in communication technologies, organizations, and people. One of Dr. MacAffe's posts that I have gotten a ton of mileage out of is a simple profile of one organization's use of MediaWiki as a very powerful Intranet tools et. In it, he profiles this organization and the way they are using this site as a hub to both changing internal and external communication. To me it is a fascinating, yet simple study in how to get organizations to pay attention to important internal conversations.
One of the things I discovered when coming to ETS 21 months ago is the importance of an online place for sharing organizational information. This stuff takes the form of posts, stories, wiki pages, travel reports, and all the things that make a medium to large sized work-group go. What I found is that without some sort of hub at the center, keeping up on it all is just too difficult. Once we jumped the hurdle of simply providing a platform and the encouragement for people to participate as a part of the organizational story, we have started to think about how to better organize it all.
I have been working with one of my colleague here at ETS to rethink our Intranet space ... let me say that I feel our local Intranet (it supports about 100 people within Teaching and Learning with Technology) is successful at helping us all share information in a somewhat organized way. We still struggle with architecture, but we are getting better at it. We are also getting better at bringing content from outside sources in ... currently there are dozens of staff who are blogging, tagging links in del.icio.us, and photos in Flickr that are relevant to what we do and we are working on. The goal is to make all that "meta-content" seamlessly integrate with our internal content. It has been fun and an interesting little project. Just today I did a wire frame to share my thoughts on how we could mix the internal with the external to provide access to dynamic and organizationally important content in one location. As it comes to life, I'll share more of it. Now that people are writing as much as they are around here I am struck with the need to have greater access to it all.
At any rate, the real reason I am posting is a cry for help ... I have recently been asked to help with creating a new Intranet strategy for my parent organization here at PSU -- Information Technology Services (ITS). ITS at Penn State is a very large and diverse organization that takes residence in no less than a dozen buildings on campus. This creates all sorts of challenges as it relates to sharing information in an efficient and effect manner. We do a good job, but it is high-touch and requires a ton of work. With that said, we are just too big to get together as much as we should and now that many of us are blogging the discoverablility of content is very low. One thing I would love to learn more about from all of you is what type of Intranets are you using within your organizations? How are you leveraging your understanding of information technology, people, communities, and web 2.0 to create new opportunities for computer mediated communication? I'd like to know more and I'd like to find ways to talk with you and explore what you are thinking and how you feel it is impacting the organization. Any takers?