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Limit the Triggers February 3, 2017

Posted by stewsutton in business intelligence, Collaboration, Communications, Education, Fitness, Social.
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Our brains are wired to feed on information.

So its a good idea for us to be in control of how that appetite gets satisfied and not let social media companies decide when they should tempt us.

We can start by turning off app notifications on our phones, tablets, and computer, particularly ones for live video broadcasts, whose see-it-while-you-can alerts are designed to engender a fear of missing out (they are stored so you can come back and watch later if/when you have time).

To further stem the temptations, try the social media news feed diet: Do serious work only on tech that was available before the year 2000.

Make your main work devices completely off-limits to social media so distractions aren’t even possible. Don’t log into Facebook or even install the app. (For extra help, try the News Feed Eradicator for Facebook browser plugin.)

Hide your phone when you’re working, driving or doing important socializing.

Studies have shown even the presence of a phone, on silent, can cause poor academic performance or less-meaningful face-to-face interaction.

It’s time to take your attention back!

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Computational Knowledge February 4, 2014

Posted by stewsutton in Architecture, Big Data, business intelligence, Collaboration, Computational Knowledge, Economics, Education, Knowledge Management.
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Right now we have a serious need for more students to fall in love with all of the STEM subjects, which fall into the categories of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. We know these fields fuel economic growth, so training a STEM workforce has been recognized as a key goal in education policy. And yet, there is an enthusiasm gap in these subject areas, and nowhere is that more evident than math. In the United States, students don’t think they’re good at math, so they become quite adapt at hatting it. Many students it seems would rather eat broccoli than do math homework (and that is within a culture raised on fast-food where the concept of broccoli is viewed as utterly disgusting). Not surprisingly, these students are significantly underperforming. So how do we change this?

The way we teach math needs to be reinvented!

In a nutshell, “students need visual and interactive curriculum that ties into real life.” Nowhere is the power of how good mathematical instruction better demonstrated than within the environment of Wolfram Mathematica.

Properly teaching math breaks math down into four components:

1. Posing the right questions
2. Turning a real world problem into a math formulation
3. Computation
4. Turning a math formulation back to the real world, verifying it.

We spend perhaps 80 percent of the time in math education teaching people to do #3 (computation by hand) — This is the one step that computers can do better than any human after years of practice. Why are we doing this?

Instead, let us use computers to calculate. After all, that’s the math chore we hate the most. It may have been necessary to teach this skill 50 years ago. There are certainly a few practical examples of how hand-calculation can be useful today.

The goal of the Wolfram technology is to collect and curate all objective data; implement every known model, method, and algorithm; and make it possible to compute whatever can be computed about anything. We see this technology achieving some pretty spectacular levels of performance in Wolfram|Alpha and within Mathematica as well. Integrating this form of computational knowledge within classrooms is going to have a powerful multiplying effect on student performance and understanding as they orient themselves to solving real-life problems with the power of computational knowledge.

New Roles within Enterprise IT April 13, 2013

Posted by stewsutton in Architecture, business analytics, business intelligence, Cloud, Cloud Computing, Collaboration, Communications, Education, Information Technology, Knowledge Management, Software.
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Talent within information technology is adapting to new roles as the work environment changes over the next five years (2013 to 2017).

  1. Collaboration and Social Media Evangelist – Responsible for understanding drivers of collaborative behavior and creating, managing, and developing a collaboration and social media strategy.   The person is likely to have a background in business, marketing, communications, or behavioral science, such as anthropology, organizational behavior, or psychology; more likely to be found in a consultant or other specialized role than in a corporation.  Their job responsibilities include:
    • Analyzing user behavior to understand workflows and collaboration needs
    • Establishing collaboration and social media strategy
    • Encouraging adoption of relevant collaboration and social media tools and techniques
    • Advocating for adoption of collaboration tools
    • Creating and delivering end-user awareness and training programs
    • Establishing collaboration and social media usage policies and procedures
  2. Information Insight Enabler – This role helps the IT organization drive employee productivity and help with equipping employees with competencies and not just tools.  They are responsible for supporting business unit heads, service managers, and knowledge workers with insight, business intelligence, and management reports for effective decision making.  They are likely to have a background in market or financial research or in analytics or statistics.  Their unique key responsibilities include:
    • Understanding the decision-making process and the workflows of business unit heads and service manager
    • Identifying knowledge worker’s information needs
    • Representing information in a user-friendly manner
    • Identifying trends and patterns; generates insight for business units and senior leadership
    • Developing frameworks and processes to analyze unstructured information
    • Performing market and customer research and analysis, and creating dashboards and scorecards
  3. Cloud Integration Specialist – This role assimilates cloud services—for both Applications and Infrastructure—into the existing IT environment.  They have experience in developing, deploying, and maintaining integration solutions; most likely to come from EAI or middleware implementation background, such as EAI/Integration developer.  Key responsibilities for this role include:
    • Collaborating with business unit leaders, service managers, and technology brokers to evaluate new cloud service offerings and determine integration needs
    • Coordinating with enterprise and information architects to ensure new cloud services align with technology roadmap
    • Working closely with business process analyst to ensure integration activities improve business processes
    • Coordinating testing efforts to identify and resolve any cross-functional integration issues
  4. User Experience Guru – This role collaborates with service managers and end users to understand and improve user experience and workflow for new and existing applications.   They are likely to have a specialist background in behavioral science, graphic design, or product design; more likely to be found in a consultant or other specialized role than in a corporation.  They will design and configure user-centric interfaces for in-house and cloud applications, allowing end users to access, visualize, and navigate information and analytics with ease.  Some of their key responsibilities include:
    • Analyzing business and functional requirements
    • Creating user-centered design
    • Improving the user experience
    • Visualizing and presenting information in a user- friendly manner to end users
  5. Technology Broker – This role is responsible for managing spend with all providers in a given category, such as Infrastructure or Applications.  They are likely to have a background in sales or business development at a technology service provider; alternatively, may have a procurement background or extensive experience managing programs that relied on external providers for delivery.  They will introduce new technologies and vendors to business units, the services group, and the remaining IT organization.  Their key roles include:
    • Understanding business needs and translates those into technology capabilities
    • Identifying new and existing technology offerings available in the market or in house
    • Negotiating contracts and manages relationships with multiple vendors for a category of IT spend
    • Creating and maintaining a catalog of technology services
    • Defining service level agreements to monitor vendor performance
  6. End-to-End IT Service Manager – End-to-End IT Services Packages all the technologies, processes, and resources across IT needed to deliver a specific business outcome while hiding technical complexity.  They are responsible for defining and delivering end-to- end IT services and is the primary owner of one or more services.  They are likely to have experience in IT service delivery, direct business engagement, technology sales and marketing, and financial plan development; more likely to be sourced from account manager or business relationship manager, solutions manager, architects, or infrastructure manager roles.  Responsibilities for this role include:
    • Collaboration with IT–business relationship managers to develop the end-to-end IT services strategy
    • Developing annual IT service delivery plan and negotiates delivery expectations with business partners
    • Providing information to business partners about service improvement opportunities and collaborates with them to drive down business costs and effectively support business capabilities
    • Guiding the service review process to drive continuous improvement efforts for services

Too much digital (pods, pad, phones…) bad for you? January 2, 2013

Posted by stewsutton in Collaboration, Communications, Education, Humanity, Information Technology, Learning, Social, Wisdom.
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The brain retains a certain amount of plasticity throughout life — more specifically, the way we think can be reshaped. Thus, if the brain is trained to respond (and enjoy) the faster pace of the digital world, it is reshaped to favor that approach to experiencing the world as a whole. Soon, it comes to crave that experience, as the body increasingly craves more of anything it’s trained to respond to favorably.

The problem it seems is in relationship to deep-thinking critical thought that accompanies the reading of a longer narrative. The slow contemplation of ideas, concepts, possibilities, and consequences derived from consumption of material composed within a longer narrative may be an endangered species if there is an an attractive, visually appealing, shallow construction of “similar” material competing for our limited attention.

So can the rush toward mobile digital content consumption be a threat to our ability to think properly? Clearly there are examples of where the digital mobile world is introducing positive benefits to education and the workplace. And while some would favorably represent the actions of content skimming and filtering made possible by mobile devices, favorite apps, and a nearly infinite Internet-based “library”, the very action of rapid movement through content is what serves to rewire our brain.

So maybe its better to lay off the “apps” on our mobile device and take the slow road of thoughtful consumption via eBooks and similarly formatted content.

Tablets in the Classroom December 10, 2012

Posted by stewsutton in Education, Information Technology, Learning.
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The Center for Digital Education estimated education spending on IT reached $19.7 billion in 2010-11 and it’s expected to rise again in 2011-12. Despite school budget cuts, officials are spending more money on tech than ever before. Traditional educational publishers are devoting more attention and budget to the digital world. Project Tomorrow reports that 27 percent of middle school and 35 percent of high school students use digital textbooks. On top of that, the Pearson Foundation reports that 58 percent of college students prefer a digital format for textbooks. Tablets and e-readers are the ideal windows for that content. In McAllen, Texas, public school officials have opted for iPads over desktop PCs and plan to distribute 25,000 iPads over the next few years. The total spend of $20 million in the McAllen district covers the cost of the iPads and also the Wi-Fi network and training needed to support their use. The program includes iPads for third grade and upwards and iPods for pre-kindergarten up to second grade. San Diego distributed 26,000 iPads to students this year and Chicago public schools have around 20,000 iPads. Are tablets really the answer for education? Possibly so, but the truth is that touch devices are so popular right now that they’re being touted as the answer to everything. A few years back, before tablets burst onto the scene, there was a push to equip students with netbooks, but it was met with mixed results. Having an entire school filled with tablet-equipped students has obvious benefits, but cost and device management are serious hurdles to overcome.

Digital Education Instructional Techniques December 9, 2012

Posted by stewsutton in Education, Information Technology, Learning.
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  1. Recordings for “short reviews” of previous learning to rehearse and connect knowledge from previous lessons
  2. Micro-lessons that present new material in small steps and allow students to practice after each step
  3. Interactive simulations that allow active practice for all students – especially to engage visual learners
  4. Easy-to-navigate digital libraries that provide interactive models of worked out problems

The Flipped Classroom December 9, 2012

Posted by stewsutton in Education, Information Technology, Learning.
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The flipped classroom has become synonymous with using videos to have students view lectures at home while in-class time is used for applied knowledge. However, educators can begin by asking how your in-class, face-to-face time is best used. For some instructors, that is pre-recording lectures and doing hands-on activities in class. For others, it is presenting information and then supplementing the more difficult aspects of the lesson with videos.

Characteristics of a Distance Education Learner December 7, 2012

Posted by stewsutton in Communications, Education, Information Technology.
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The following are some common characteristics that must be considered in planning educational services to the increasingly mobile and schedule-compressed learner…

  • Distance Education students must coordinate the different areas of their lives which influence each other: families, jobs, spare time, and studies.
  • Distance Education students reasons for taking courses may be motivated by obtaining a degree to qualify for a better job, to just take courses to broaden their education without interest in completing a degree.
  • In Distance Education, the learner is usually isolated. The motivational factors arising from the contact or competition with other students is absent. The student also lacks the immediate support of a teacher who is present and able to motivate and, if necessary, give attention to actual needs and difficulties.
  • Distant Education students and their teachers can often have little in common in terms of background and day-to-day experiences and therefore, it takes longer for student-teacher rapport to develop.
  • In Distance Education settings, technology is typically the conduit through which information and communication flow. Until the teacher and students become comfortable with the technical delivery system, communication will be inhibited.

Are the Economics Viable? December 23, 2011

Posted by stewsutton in Communications, Economics, Education.
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There are enormous changes taking place in many businesses and across multiple markets.  One need only look at a newspaper article or magazine or web-based media to see this rapid change.  However within the rush to become more cost effective in how we execute our business, we should also carefully consider the implications of making reductions – sometimes significant reductions in areas that appear to be non-essential.  Even that phrase non-essential has a rather strange ring don’t you think?  It sort of implies that when we are doing good, we can waste resources in areas that are non-essential and its only when things get tight, we must be realistic in our allocation of resources.

At some level its as if we need to go on a resources diet based on a season or two of overindulgence.  This is a cycle that seems to repeat across all industries and throughout history.  We never seem to learn from our past – even with its record being so clear.  A couple of examples come to mind that will illustrate the poorly planned cutting taking shape within two distinctly different industries.

The first example is within the banking industry.  One of the nations leading banks is making some dramatic adjustments to its allocation of internal resources (in the form of staff reductions) where the role and function of this staff is directed squarely at the quality of the banks communications.  That is to say, in the spirit of increasing the potential for more profit, the bank is going to reduce the clarity of its customer communications.  Now this is the sort of stuff that typically does not make headlines and it certainly would not be a candidate for communications to the customers of the bank – ironically because those individuals will no longer be there to write this correspondence.  Some would argue that smart people in the bank’s workforce will just add corporate communications to their list of existing tasks, but when was the last time you considered that your bank’s correspondence was not long enough – too short a narrative to really matter.  The well known objective of writing the short letter requires work – no matter what the profession.  So the customers of this bank can soon expect to see some longer letters, or if the letter is short, it may lack some clarity in its intended purpose.

Another example of misplaced economic choices is within the collective set of campuses that comprise the University of California system.  Once considered an incredible value, now each dollar spent on a UC education is increasingly consumed by layers of administration that seek to assure that the delivery of education meets all of the criteria set by another group of administrators.  Gone are the days when the educational dollar paid for faculty, facilities, and supplies.  We now live at a time when the layer upon layer of politically correct bureaucracy takes priority to that service for which the bureaucracy is subordinate.  Its not the quality of what we teach and the value of that instruction in relationship to a persons skills and value to an employer upon graduation – but rather the more important priority is that we have internal reviewers, compliance administrators, and a significant percentage of the university budget directed toward being compliant to a way of delivering education.  This overhead raises educational expenses and take the attention away from learning.  So students get less value and it costs them more. Where is the sound economics in that prioritization?  And could sound economics even be possible within an educational institution where the administrative component setting the priorities would need to diminish itself to achieve a more effective solution.

Other businesses are going through similar difficulties.  Many organizations will make strange choices when confronted with reducing budgets and increasing operational costs.  Will R&D be sacrificed because its benefits are not immediate?  Will processes be restructured in a way that diminishes a connection between the provider and the customer of the product or service?  Will we rely too heavily on technologies like social media to establish and maintain a connection where other options should be given priority?  Keep your eyes on the choices taking shape in your workplace and speak up if things seem to be drifting away from basic common sense.  Everybody has potential to offer perspective on the more viable solution that follows sound economics.