Monday, November 1

Thinking Forward: The Digital Classroom

Social Media Class
According to a recent Project Tomorrow survey, access to mobile technology in the classroom has more than tripled among high schools students since 2006. Most of them consider smart phones and other mobile devices critical to learning, but some policies generally prevent students from using the devices in school.

That isn't the case for every school. Some educators have taken to incorporating smart phones and mobile devices into the education platform rather than assuming they will detract from it (and 62 percent of parents say they would purchase a digital device if it were to be used for education). And where they are being incorporated, the results speak for themselves.

"We are beginning to see mobile learning take shape in pockets around the nation where a small but growing number of innovative educators are finding ways to leverage the once banned mobile devices for learning," said Julie Evans, chief executive officer of Project Tomorrow. "Educators have an opportunity to help students learn more effectively and deeply by leveraging students' preferred learning tools and strategies."

The report reveals a shift in thinking by parents and educators who are now beginning to accept the role of mobile devices as instructional tools, in part because they are active users of mobile devices in their own personal lives. At Jamestown Elementary School in Virginia, for example, students use mobile devices to create multimedia projects, improve their writing skills, and collaborate with their peers. We need more schools to take the right step in this direction.

The Digital Advantage For Education.

Working as a part-time near volunteer educator, I've been slowly integrating more digital content into the classroom on my own. I would implement the concept much more aggressively, but the holdback is the surprisingly limited accessibility of WiFi hot spots on campus. Go figure.

Since WiFi is not always readily available, I've employed a transitional approach such as my upcoming Social Media for Communication Strategy this Friday. (The class is from 9 a.m. to noon, in case you are interested). It's less than ideal, but it's a start.

I'll present, speak, and take questions during class. Then, I'll make the deck and select handouts available online for the students. I'll also provide some links where they can learn more, especially any living case studies that might span several posts on this blog. Students are always invited to connect, collaborate, and ask questions after the fact too. Some do, for years.

Imagine how impacting and easier this would all be if everyone had tablets and the schools had the right tools. I would be able to present on the big screen and then electronically push handouts and/or live content to every tablet in the room to augment the content in real time.

I could also feel free to integrate more interactive features that go well beyond the typical counting a raise of hands. For example, I could send out, collect, and compile data with immediate surveys or even spontaneous in-class questionnaires and quizzes. This could help someone like me immediately identify which subject areas require more coverage.

Even in sessions where grades are irrelevant, it could be useful and create opportunities to discuss the outcomes from a peer-to-peer perspective. And, it would open the doors for universities to expand beyond their proximity; password accessed live-streaming video would capture some of what is lost from an in-classroom experience.

The same benefits would apply to high schools, replacing the need for three-ring binders, an abundance of handouts, and lack of take-home textbooks. Even better, when children have to stay at home, they could either watch from home or review prerecorded sessions to catch up. Or, perhaps teachers could host weekly online question and answer sessions after hours. The potential applications are limitless.

This is a direction that could eventually reshape education. At minimum, it might refocus on teaching children how to develop a love for learning as opposed to rote memorization to measure so-called performance. Need another reason?

Project Tomorrow Project K-Nect Results

• Students participating in Project K-Nect have a greater self-perception (61 percent) that they are succeeding academically than their national peers (39 percent).
• More than 90 percent of the students said that they are now more comfortable learning math, and 81 percent said that they have increased confidence talking about math and math problems.
• Almost two-thirds of the students reported taking additional math courses and over 50 percent are now thinking about a career in a math field.
• Teachers involved in Project K-Nect also report that their students are more responsible for their own learning and have developed more collaborative learning skills as a result.

The first step is tablets. The cost? Spread out over an entire education cycle, tablets might mean an investment of $100 per student per year (factoring in for upgrades over 12 years). However, even this cost may come with savings. School districts would save on textbooks, printing, and autodials.

Sunday, October 31

Sharing Stuff: Fresh Content Project

Fresh Content Project
One of the biggest near cliches in social media is "sharing is caring," which has a double meaning. Sharing content created by people who continually provide you useful information is one meaning. But sharing relevant information with the people you are connected to demonstrates some caring too. Quantity does not replace quality.

Social media isn't the only player in the content curation game, of course. Media understands all too well that sharing the right content at the right time is sometimes more important than crafting a good story. I'm not suggesting this is the right path, but sometimes things are what they are. Here are five takes that all have something to do with sharing and its impact on just about everything.

Best Fresh Content In Review, Week of October 18

Braided Journalism And The Future Of Public Relations.
As citizen journalists begin to band together and, in some cases, become embedded, the communication process is a bit more complicated. Valeria Maltoni paints the best case scenario for businesses, offering up that embedded journalists could mean more credibility, transparency, and many more voices. She cites Shel Israel's concept that traditional and citizen journalists intertwined through mutual need, but Ike Pigott also deserves some credit for tackling the embedded journalist issue too.

• Five Ways Social Will Change Journalism.
Interestingly enough, Ike Pigott also penned a post for Social Media Explorer, related to the five cracks in the concept of journalism. Three favorite topics: curation trumping creation, the over emphasis on trending topics, and catering to the crowds. While not all of these trends are good news, it doesn't mean that it all has to be bad either. History suggests when pendulums swing too far in one direction, they often swing back again. However, right now, Pigott is right. The socialization of journalism will diminish its might, but don't mistake these temporary changes as the death of it.

• Sharing Is The Cornerstone Of Social Media Success.
Adding evidence to Pigott's concept of curation beating creation is a well thought-out post by Jason Falls. His one line Twitter strategy is "share good shit." There are several reasons this approach succeeds for many people online. Most notably, the prevailing social media tactic that you have to give to get. And the secondary point, you have to provide value (which is another way of reminding people it's about them and not you). Falls also practices what he preaches. He implemented a new addition to how he shares, publishing the links he shares every day.

• Which Half Of The Ad Spend Is Wasted?
John Bell shares an old advertising adage that suggests half of advertising is a waste, but nobody knows which half. He then applies it to social media in that measuring against ROI alone is a dangerous game online. It is especially dangerous because people do not necessarily follow links through in a specific order. They might search for the company, product, or service instead. They might click on an organic search result. Thus, he suggests that people consider the combined influence of more trusted third-party sources for information, the compound effect of social media on the performance of highly measurable and targeted paid media, and the increasing performance of social as a preferred referral engine. Better than warm.

Information Streams Accelerating the Attention Crisis.
Louis Gray points out the obvious in a post that helps clarify that sharing quantity is not the same thing as sharing quality. People are already overwhelmed by the amount of data being thrown at them. So, Gray says, it might make more sense to be relevant in the selection. And, he also smartly points out, that once the content is delivered, the click doesn't necessarily mean that we'll read the piece let alone be engage by it. He suggests that the people most likely to be the most followed in the future aren't those who blast away, but rather those who continually get it right in terms of sharing relevant information.

Friday, October 29

Treating Halloween: The Seven Deadly Sins Of Social Media

Seven Deadly Sins Of Social MediaThere is no question that social media can work as an important segment of any marketing or communication plan, but it also has a dark side. Why wouldn't it? Almost everything humans do has a cause, effect, and sometimes consequence. And what better way to lead into a Halloween weekend than by taking a quick look at the spooky side of human nature.

Although today's seven sins bear little resemblance to original as found in the Book of Proverbs and are considerably shorter than Epistle to the Galatians (Galatians 5:19-21), the seven deadly sins or vices held onto by modern society do ward people away from thoughts that often produce evil deeds, internally and externally. Online, offline, there really isn't much difference. Boo!

The Seven Deadly Sins Of Social Media.

Lust — Pandering influencers. If you are pandering to influencers by hanging on every word and lusting after their attention, you need a life. And if you're only lusting after them to leverage a faux relationship so they'll promote substandard content, then it's time to revisit your values. Manipulation is an empty outcome.

Greed — Chasing sales. If your only concern in social media is sales, traffic, and assembling a mob of would-be buyers, then your intent isn't grounded in customer concern. Sure, everyone needs money to keep the doors open, but that's not the secret to success. Success almost never chases money; money follows success.

Gluttony — Broadcasting. If you blast a steady stream of links, retweets, and reposts in an automated or near automated fashion, making consumption virtually impossible, you might be overindulging. Sharing is caring, much like cooking. Making too much is too much.

Sloth — Faking fame. If you open a social network account and never answer anyone's questions or engage anyone because you don't have time, consider the other person's perspective. If you don't have time for them, why would they have time for you? Don't buy followers either. Shortcuts don't work.

Wrath — Angry for attention. If your only goal in life is to be continually cast as a David taking on Goliath, pelting big guys with stones for all the wrongs they allegedly did to you, their customers, and the rest of the world, consider forgiveness. Criticism is welcome, but it usually comes with some sort of solution.

Pride — Boasting. If you find yourself celebrating your thousandth follower, publishing traffic stats to prove your worth, or checking your social network "score," your program is all in jeopardy. It's not really about you. It's about the relationships you create. Besides, self-worth works better from the inside out, and people tend to gravitate to it.

Envy — Misdirected attention. There is a flip side to pride that can be just as ugly. If you assume every popular person must be gaming the system or you're overly concerned with how many people read their content, you're looking in the wrong direction. Chances are you have a few dozen or hundred or thousand people who deserve more attention.

There is a flip side to all this evil thinking, of course. The seven virtues include valor (courage and knowledge), generosity, liberality, diligence (ethics), patience, kindness, and humility. It's a much better list of attributes. And it begins by asking yourself who you want to be rather than what you want to have. Happy Halloween.

Thursday, October 28

Setting Example: How Ethics Plays Out, And Pays Out

While I would never encourage someone to seek a position to be a whistleblower, Cheryl Eckard, the former global quality assurance manager of GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), demonstrated a near perfect example of how ethics ought to play out.

It's a lesson more public relations professionals and communicators might learn. As an industry, I sense many are still struggling to get it right. Well, it's more than a sense. I see exams that demonstrate ethics is approaching a crisis stage.

Eckard received $96 million of the settlement paid by the London-based company, which included $150 million in criminal fines and $600 million in civil penalties. The entire story makes an interesting case study in public relations. But for the purposes of the this post, the best lesson is how to approach ethical dilemmas inside a company.

How Eckard Approached Ethics Inside GlaxoSmithKline.

1. Eckard went to the Puerto Rico plant in August 2002 to correct manufacturing violations.
2. She discovered numerous violations, and suggested how those violations might be fixed.
3. She reported the problems to her superiors and the company's compliance department.
4. According to reports, neither the company nor the plant did anything to address the problems.
5. Eckard was eventually terminated, one year later, allegedly because of continuing to report problems.
6. Eckard turned whistleblower out of concern for consumer safety and public health.

The only area for improvement, keeping in mind it isn't clear if the company fired her prior to her realizing the company did not intend to take action, is Eckard could have resigned and still turned whistleblower. Any member of any company has an obligation to warn the public when all efforts to correct a problem internally have failed.

"We regret that we operated the Cidra facility in a manner that was inconsistent with current Good Manufacturing Practice (cGMP) requirements and with GSK's commitment to manufacturing quality," said PD Villarreal, senior vice president and head of global litigation. "GSK worked hard to resolve fully the manufacturing issues at the Cidra facility prior to its closure in 2009 and we are committed to continuous improvement in our manufacturing processes."

Most reports indicate the plant was in violation of safety standards through 2005. The settlement statement reinforces that the company has not received any additional FDA warning letters since 2005. The plant continued to operate until 2009.

Where Public Relations Professionals And Communicators Tend To Trip Up.

From what I have noted, public relations professionals and communicators tend to fall on the opposite extremes of ethics. Either they pounce, reporting and making public any problems (even if there are none) without giving anyone the opportunity to do the right thing. Or, they don't go far enough, following most steps correctly until it becomes time to resign.

Only about 50 percent say they would be prepared to resign. Only about two percent say they would go public after resigning, potentially allowing public safety problems to occur. This concerns me. It ought to concern you too.

While situations might call for variations, ethical dilemmas are best handled by raising the issue with the guilty party, allowing them to correct the mistake and report the problem on their own. If they do not, then the discovering party should report it up to supervisors until one of them takes action. If no one is willing to, then the next appropriate step is to resign, letting the company know you intend to go public. What else is there?

Wednesday, October 27

Making Snowmen: Two Social Media Views

social media snowman
While it is true I live in Las Vegas, I wasn't born here. I was born in the Midwest, where winters were always white and building snowmen is considered a skill set. It might not be a bad skill set for social media experts to learn too. Making even one snowman can teach you a little bit about social media.

How To Build A Social Media Program, Using Snow.

1. Test the snow. Some snow clumps better than other snow.
2. Shape a small handful, slowly adding to it over time.
3. Accumulate more snow, pressing each layer to keep it firm.
4. Repeat for each section, considering which might be a foundation and head.
5. Link your various sections together. Snowmen fall apart without proper links.
6. Be creative because content matters. A banana might make an unexpected nose.
7. Add a hat, scarf, or other apparel to give it an authentic and unique personality.
8. Snowmen aren't uncommon, but people still take time to see an amazing snowman.

Now, if you had some of the same experiences I had growing up, there always seemed to one or two kids who enjoyed taking credit for building snowmen, but didn't necessarily have any passion to do the work. It seemed silly to them to start out with a snowball, when snow covering a ball might do the trick just as nicely. All that air in the ball will add volume and save time.

How Not To Build A Social Media Program, Using Snow.

1. Find a ball or make a cutout to inflate your sections.
2. Pile snow around balls, hiding the artificial surface.
3. Don't skimp on linking. Links are the most important part.
4. Don't worry about being creative. People expect snowmen to look the same.
5. Steal someone else's hat, scarf, and apparel, turning it inside out to make it look real.
6. People will still stop by, and if they take a snapshot, nobody will be the wiser.

For the first couple of days, not everyone will be able to tell the snowman apart from the real thing (especially if the original had time to replace the stolen clothes). But eventually, they will.

Artificial snowmen don't hold up as well in bad weather (or if the days turn warmer). An errant snowball might fracture the poorly constructed surface. And someone might notice the name tag in the hat doesn't belong to the owner.

Social media is only as complicated as you make it, assuming you don't fake it. The general idea is to find the right flakes and help them stick together. That takes time.

You can cut the time significantly by skipping some steps. But if you aim to capture attention with spam links, faux followers, and other tricks, then it might be time to face facts. The crowd that is gathering isn't visiting to join a community. They are visiting to shake their heads at a mess. Sometimes, they might even shake their fists. It's no fun linking to a detour.

Tuesday, October 26

Causing Havoc: NPR's Whack-A-Juan Game

Vivian Schiller
When Bob Conrad first posted his take on the Juan Williams vs. NPR shakeup, I was quick to disagree. Too quick? Yes and no.

Conrad's position is better crafted if you read his take on the dust up, but the summarized version, simply put, is that NPR was within its rights to fire Williams. There is no dispute there.

Conrad also goes on to show the documentation, including the memo sent to everyone who works for NPR and the posting that outlines an entire history for consideration. Within the post is the real reason: NPR didn't like Williams working as both a "balanced news analyst on NPR; more opinionated pundit on Fox." (Minor point: He has been asked to give opinions across multiple outlets for years.)

The postscript might make some more sympathetic to NPR. And for others, the explanation leaves even less to be desired.

That is my contention. NPR may have been within its rights to fire Williams, but the fact that it wasn't satisfied with being within its rights was a mistake. It wants to be right too. And in being right, it wants the public to say it was right too. Too bad.

Being right is often a matter of opinion. And the initial case laid, that Williams made allegedly bigoted remarks, is open for debate.

Were Williams' Remarks Bigoted Or A Mechanism For Discussion?

They were not. You have to watch the entire clip to understand it. I did several times, but I only found a partial clip. He shared a personal experience, qualified on the front end and expanded upon it beyond this video, talking about how Americans must learn to distinguish between radical extremists and non-radical muslims. He also tried to reiterate this in his reaction to the firing.

My first thought for this post was to place this in a different context, mentioning the Confederate flag, which became (to some people) a symbol of slavery and racism. Or maybe it is like the swastika, often considered a symbol of hate.

In this case, Williams taps into the same thinking about "full muslim garb." He is not alone. Many Americans have taken such dress to represent something that it may or may not be. I don't share this feeling (or any feelings like that). But I do understand feelings like that. So perhaps it is better to explain from a personal experience.

Years ago, at the urging of one of my closest friends, I joined the NAACP (which seemed to have a milder platform then than it does today). My intent was to help the NAACP carry a broader and more inclusive message. My supporters in this pursuit were my friend, Nev. State Sen. Joel Neal, and Rev. Jesse Scott.

The first time I had the floor at an NAACP meeting, I was nervous. Rev. Scott had even told me I had every right to be nervous, because many people within the room would look on a caucasian NAACP member with suspicion, especially in a community that had recently been likened to the Mississippi of the West (whatever that means). Sen. Neal had even quipped that I had every right to join, given that the "C" in the NAACP stood for colored. My color just happened to be white. (If I was translucent, he also joked, I would not be allowed to join.)

So, does sharing this public speaking experience, and the fact it made me nervous, make me a bigot? Although I would be hard pressed to feel nervous speaking anywhere today, I think not. At worst, I was ignorant. But ignorance is readily cured with open dialogue, assuming people are open with their feelings. (As a side note, I was also nervous speaking to my first class at UNLV, with a mixed audience.)

Looking back, I never did as much as I wanted to do for the chapter then. But there were several other people that I enjoyed and appreciated meaningful friendships with from that point on.

I would like to think that is where Williams was coming from in his commentary. But, I can understand why those who might have had a much more sheltered set of experiences might not see where he was coming from. His commentary was a bridge to mutual understanding that humanized the story and helped people relate. At the other end of this bridge, was compassion.

The NRP Public Relations Debacle.

NPR has already admitted it handled the situation poorly, especially in that NPR President Vivian Schiller saw no trouble in sharing her personal views of Williams. She has since publicly apologized, which begs the question why the network didn't extend the same opportunity to Williams.

There were dozens of ways NPR could have kept itself out of the spotlight or handled the mess, including not renewing his contract or insisting he apologize (which might have convinced him to resign). But regardless of all of these other options, there is a bigger issue.

NPR is still insisting not that it was within in rights, but that it was right in its decision. This insistence comes well after all its admissions of mistakes and apologies and regrets. And yet, they persist.

What they don't understand is this: Whether NPR is right or not, the network chose to pursue a court of public opinion for validation over the firing. If you pursue public opinion for affirmation of anything, you might expect to be grossly disappointed. And, once disappointed, don't make the mistake of arguing to be right or continuing to whack someone you already fired.

NPR was within its rights to fire Williams, but it fired Williams for the wrong reasons. Period. And until NPR accepts that, all it will do is fan the fire of those who disagree.

If they do it enough, then it is very likely they will be fired too, losing one to three percent of income that comes from taxpayer funding (or perhaps that figure is more). But even if they keep their funding, this is one of the stories that will make it difficult to see NPR the same way again. The New York Times included.

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