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Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

I admit to reading most of the half-dozen-volume diary of Samuel Pepys, the 17th-century British administrator, whose collection was passed on to me in a stack of paperbacks and whose entries often ended with “and so to bed.”

Those few words come to mind with the recognition that the early days of blogging to explore being a modern-day diarist are past. Or, in the words of JD Lassica of Socialbrite at a recent Social Media Breakfast, “No one is going to go home and blog about this”.

Maintaining a lookout for potential topics, however, with the intent of mixing medium and message on a social media platform, has led to a few recent observations to share:

First, I was advising a colleague about selecting effective keywords for AdWords by combining a broad general term with a specific one. Later, I saw someone post that broad + specific = tailored in marketing in general, indicating that observation is not unique to one medium. (Just like finessing headlines was important even before the SEO days.)

Second, someone else was pondering the utility of having a social media presence. Does it equate earned exposure? Not participating is a lost opportunity to cultivate an impression from the standpoint of having a professional persona. Maybe the public portrayal lacks the panache of external validation by, say, a major media outlet. But it also is part and parcel of having a virtual identity in the days when distance is dead, audiences are fragmented, content gets forwarded fluidly, and mass channels are waning.

It can be a milieu for connecting to a constituency directly and developing a climate of transparency, trust, and interaction that sets a tone just like other hallmarks of an enterprise do – from its letterhead and utterances to its location, architecture and reception lobby.

Plus, managing perceptions by intentionally crafting a relatively uniform voice and approach indicates the organization is self-confident and responsive to appropriate opportunities.

In the days of crowdsourcing, people curious about your enterprise may be as apt to check your social media sites, or view posts by avid industry-watching bloggers as they would be to navigate first to your own home page. The validation comes from the crowd.

If you are already accessible and have built a trustworthy baseline, you do have an established path to disseminating information, perspective, and alerts when necessary.

Social media may serve as a resource among a stream of content that is shared, providing a different sort of credibility, esteem, and reach.

While participating in posts and comments may not be your main business pastime, the virtual connections made possible by curating your own content in a digital world still allow your organization to establish its unique niche, count for consideration, and wield a bit of influence at the same time.

The shift in perceived value is reflected in priorities evidenced by business sectors; among a cross-section of organizations, the Center for Marketing Research at the University of Massachusetts reports that universities, followed by nonprofits, are the biggest participants, with large corporations apparently lagging in blogging, at least.

With that, this particular blog will officially draw to a close, while leaving archives up for future browsing.

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Owning success

There is a saying that failure is an orphan and success has many authors. I like the leadership approach that when a task is accomplished, the people say “we did it ourselves.”

Change is definitely a time when the transition cannot be done alone, even if the call begins with a few voices in the wilderness.

In fact, movement may begin from outside your organization. With this in mind, an outside expert may more powerfully explain the need and benefit to the people whose support and participation is needed, while an insider can commiserate with the discomfort and soothe ruffled feathers.

Once the initiative is under way, visible recognition of active participants signals that new approaches are valued. While recognition often helps build toward a new direction, be aware there can be some sensitivity on the part of the recipients in what form of attention is most acceptable to them.

Finally, ideally, your organization will intersperse the periods of upheaval with phases of predictable operations. In the proper doses, a change initiative keeps an organization vital and high-performing. Veering too far toward continual transition can contribute to suspended animation or wheel-spinning during flux and uncertainty. On the other extreme, there is a risk of missed opportunities through inflexibility.

Able leaders will embrace well-advised moves. The following interview sums up much of what I endorse in pursuing wise change – from a leader who is transitioning to a larger campus within the California State University system, moving up from California State University, East Bay (where I have been busy lately) to head San Jose State University.

How transformational leadership takes companies to new heights in any economy | Smart Business.

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I’ve heard it said that change begins by asking questions.

Some early questions may just involve assessing what reactions to a shift may be likely, and why.

Say communications has just become more formal and emphasized. Perhaps there is an instance of someone implementing their own outreach, or another of someone disparaging the aspirations.

Probe and you may find the first person simply didn’t know who to turn to and found it easier to just do it themselves, while the second person tends to strive for new accomplishments and is forestalling dashed expectations.

It’s helpful to recall that different people have different motivations, based on what matters to them.  Since most people are generally just trying to take care of themselves, anticipate a range of reactions.

Culture matters

Your assessment will suggest how to mold and shape the environment to reinforce desired behavior, such as these steps:

  • Link the change to values expressed by the prevailing culture
  • Enlist influential champions to demonstrate support, and
  • Look for chances for a respected leader to mention the new priorities

A soft touch may engender less resistance, and repeated exposure to the idea can help “socialize” it.   Altogether, such measures help percolate the change throughout the organization.

Meanwhile, in individual contacts, ask  questions. That allows people to consider alternatives and shift their position without feeling pressured, as well as providing time to adjust.

There are typically three reactions to new developments. About 10 percent of folks have a propensity to take a negative view. Another 10 percent seize opportunities. The remaining 80 percent are relatively neutral and open-minded.

Emotions behind those reactions must be acknowledged before new information can be absorbed. A few folks will resist out of fear. A few will embrace change early on. Many others will be somewhere in the middle, slightly confused or uncertain.

Recognize the temporary discomfort change causes, and then provide avenues for discussion. This phase could be compared to the hashing-out that occurs during political campaigns, say, by holding a debate prior to people casting a vote.

Use existing channels and new ones, such as dedicated Q&A sessions and email.

People will begin looking for concrete information, such as an explanation of how decisions are being made, the timetable and rationale.

Next: Facing naysayers

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Introduction

I love the outdoors and have learned to not mind much if I don’t reach an ultimate endpoint when weeding. I’ve discovered, as friends used to say when doing dishes, it’s the process, not the goal.

Change communications has a similar rhythm. The need is part of natural cycles, since organizations must adapt and evolve to survive. Sometimes change communications efforts are more intense and concerted, other times they are quiescent but never far off.

Coming up

I’ll be sharing tips I’ve gleaned as a point person during dramatic changes in direction and traumatic retrenching.

It’s helpful to remember that change communications affects behavior, so it needs to win people’s hearts and minds. There are roughly three approaches, that range from subtle to overt, that taken as a whole facilitate moving people forward.

In a global sense, change can be encouraged by shaping the environment and reinforcing desired actions. This effectively coaxes people to new behavior without provoking resistance. Other times, people need to openly air issues in order to adjust and come to terms with new directions.

Meanwhile, advocates will encounter chances to nudge people to do what they know they should. Such gradual shifts can be a bit like performing aikido, where you take the other person’s momentum and redirect it.

The next few installments will discuss these pointers in more detail, so stay tuned. And please be willing to share your change story or challenge. Change can be painful at times. But as a wise adviser to those dish-washing friends liked to say, without pain, how can we grow?

 

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Wrapping up the video production tips and tricks, this post addresses interviewing and capturing an audio feed.

One tip: You can subtly rephrase a question to get the most pithy and clear quote for a final edit — although covering the same material again may seem repetitive for someone who is used to interviewing for print. Along the same lines, when taping a video package, I’ve been advised to gather about 10 times the amount of the final product – including background visuals and cutaways, such as the reaction shots of a listener or audience to splice between quotes.

Approaching the interview

I liked producer Chris Bauer’s advice over at KQED’s QUEST. He sometimes tells subjects, “Your goal is not to impress people, it’s to communicate with people.”

Even kids may feel pressure and clam up, so it is best to spend extra time with them. Interviews may flow better if you take someone aside to a quiet, neutral setting. Away from peers and reminders of the daily routine, a person is more likely to be relaxed and speak in clear, jargon-free terms.

Interviewees can be prepped by reminding them the interview will be like listening to one side of a phone conversation, so it is important to speak in full sentences. To check sound levels while easing into the heart of the interview, a producer may chat a bit, or ask the subject to say and spell his or her name so that detail is captured right on the footage.

Attending to audio

Recordings pick up hum and undertones known as “room tone”. So it’s important to tape 20 – 30 seconds of silence that can be used underneath edits for a consistent transition.

Sound becomes another flavor to mix into the final edit. Natural sound provides ambience, while specific noises become sweeteners or punctuation. In the field, you might tape your own feet crunching in gravel, or a door shutting, and so forth.

Indoors, being conscious of the sound environment includes remembering to take phones off the hook, posting signs to keep visitors from bursting in, and otherwise avoiding noisy interruptions.

Equipment

QUEST’s Craig Rosa recommends a few options for external mics, which are far preferable to on-camera mics for capturing usable audio tracks:

  1. Lavalier mics clip on and can be hidden on a lapel; the versions with 12-foot wires provide scope and capture sound that is less echo-y than wireless.
  2. Shotgun mics can grab sounds from the environment – if it’s windy, use a fluffy, slip-on windsock to muffle the loud whoosh of strong gusts rushing past the mic.

Dual inputs capture audio from these mics on separate tracks, which is helpful when editing.

Rosa recommends plugging an XLR adapter into the camera for better sound. The sound level should be as loud as possible without having the indicator needle hover past the red or zero line. (See more on XLR here: http://videoproductiontips.com/video-equipment/audio-for-video-how-to-use-pro-audio-equipment-without-having-a-pro-camera/, http://www.videouniversity.com/shop/xlr-adapter-and-a-dual-channel-mixer).

Altogether, he estimates that assembling a decent video kit may take about $4,000, although borrowing equipment may also be an option.

The interview

Bauer frequently starts by asking, “Where are we today, and what are we going to see?”

Producers sometimes will forewarn interviewees ahead of time that they may be asked to restate something. Or they may simply ask during the flow of the interview, “That was really good – can you repeat that?”

To obtain an easy-to-comprehend response, Bauer suggests asking the subject to summarize a topic in a couple of sentences, as if talking to a person on the street or to a fourth-grader.

To learn the upshot of a topic, he may ask, “What does it mean to the future?” He also likes to ask researchers, “What’s your most favorite thing about what you do?”

A response delivered with some fire in the belly projects really well on the screen. I once interviewed a mild-mannered scientist who did not have expansive gestures but had quiet zeal. I noticed that glint in his eye seemed magnified on the screen.

Meanwhile, for my friends who decry the state of science literacy, I will add a link to a YouTube piece from earlier in the year that presents concepts in an engaging way, all while keeping minimal, “prosumer”-oriented production values: http://bit.ly/YouTube_EcoServices.

It’s by Hank Green, speaking to his brother, John Green. Together, they formed the so-called Vlog Brothers and committed to a year of non-textual communication – leading, this summer, to organizing the first conference for what they described as smart YouTube content, VidCon.

Finally, a vision of the future – highly portable video kits, with lights and external mics – were featured at the most recent Consumer Electronics Show: http://gizmodo.com/5443853//gallery/gallery/1

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I ran into an acquaintance the other day, Tamara Helfer, who said she is teaching computer animation to fifth-graders. I was fascinated that students that young could master something so complicated. I discovered her spark of inspiration has led to about 200 kids learning everything from lacrosse to Spanish – all in voluntary programs that didn’t exist two years ago.

Her instruction springs from a drop-and-drag program created to teach college students computer programming basics. Being able to offer an afterschool club took her several months of building support through enthusiasm and perseverance at her sons’ magnet school, Sequoia Elementary. Due to drawing carpooling students from all over the district, the school  had been believed to be unsuited for afterschool enrichment  programs.

Now fully a third of the students from the elementary school participate in one afternoon program or another, organized by an enthusiastic parent committee, and she earns a small stipend.

When she started, the school had just opened a lab with 34 new computers. By the second week of her new Imaginary Worlds club, there were 49 students clustered around to learn creative expression through computer science.

On an afternoon visit this spring, students were listening quietly to her brief lesson about modifying graphics. For the next hour, they broke into small groups or worked individually on animated stories – displaying a minimum of distraction after having already spent a full day at their strict back-to-basics school.

My friend moved between groups, guiding the students to come up with solutions. They needed to complete projects in the remaining few weeks left so their work could be screened for the school community.

The first awards night took place during a heat spell in a room with no air conditioning. The multiuse room was packed all the same. Addressing the families present, the volunteer instructor spontaneously remarked she wanted the students, particularly girls, to remember what they have shown they can do.

This software that creates short, animated 3-D stories, Alice, was created at Carnegie Mellon. Its simple drag-and-drop approach ensures a beginner programmer’s instructions will run without syntax errors. (For her thesis, doctoral student Caitlyn Kelleher subsequently created Storytelling Alice, with images that are meant to motivate a broad spectrum of students, particularly girls, to engage in introductory computer science.)

Tamara said afterwards she was drawn to the interdisciplinary nature of the project, since it could appeal to both kids who like programming and others who like storytelling.  Her pursuit of the project was inspired by the Last Lecture delivered by Carnegie Mellon Professor Randy Pausch. (His group helped create the original Alice software.) She sees value in having the students learn logic, and realizes they are excited and fearless because they have grown up playing with computers and electronic games.

I can imagine these kids moving into a future where they operate at ease with multimedia content, perhaps though using simple software services processed in a cloud computing environment.

In a sense, embarking on the bridge to get there can begin as simply as child’s play, much as someone — like her — who recently instructed teachers about cosmology may once have tinkered with a pinhole camera as a child, using an old shoe box to watch a solar eclipse, and fanning an early fascination with discovery in the process.

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