Staying connected on the go

I recently took a trip out of state. I packed everything I needed in my car; cash for the tolls, coffee cup, clothes, umbrella, and my many devices: laptop, iPod, phone, GPS and tablet. I had all the necessary items except what was keeping me connected. At the hotel with a dead phone I realized I forgot the wall adapter that charged my phone. Silly me. With each electronic  having a separate battery and charger, it’s easy to lose track of all the USBs, mini USBs and various car and wall chargers.

Here are a few things I bring on a trip to keep connected:

USB/Mini USB Flash Drive
On some devices a USB 3.0 port is customary, where a mini USB is now the universal connection for tablets and most cells.

Mobile Hot Spot
If without WiFi, the hot spot allows me to pick up a connection through a designated access point.

WhatsApp
A cross platform instant message service to send text, pics and videos, this is available for iOS and Android phones.

Apple’s Airport Express
Because everyone likes free stuff and most travelers hate having to pay for recurrent internet charges at hotels… Apple came up with a solution to set up your own WiFi connection in a box.

USB Wall charger/car charger (extra)
For those times when I thought I packed everything, but didn’t.

iPad rollout Phase I: #FAIL

Epic Fail. Let’s consider this our Agile retrospective. A few things went right, but mostly things went wrong.

What went wrong?
– The first iPad launch for Los Angeles (see previous post here) school districts cost $1 billion dollars. Each individual tablet given to each student costs way more than retail price, $678 to be exact. With the Chromebooks costing roughly $250, you can buy two laptops for that price.

– Professional development: training and support for students, teachers and parents was an afterthought, leading to the failure of this launch. You cannot possibly deploy a new product without offering training (and follow-up support) for users, especially the relative size of this audience.

– Let’s give these students the tools they need to become well rounded individuals. Yes that means harnessing creativity and encouraging STEAM exploration. And yes this means giving them a device with a keyboard. Writing skills (even if that includes QWERTY) on the back burner, who would have thought?

What went right?
Isn’t it obvious? Hopefully with this deployment a few kids learned something aside from phishing for unapproved content. The main goal was delivered: technology supplementing instruction for every student.

Teacher-student privacy Best Practices in the BYOD classroom

How do teachers monitor privacy in a BYOD classroom? With so many schools now adopting a bring your own device policy allowing students to access material the way they like in the classroom, an idea of privacy is addressed. Is a teacher able to access too much information on their student? Are online safety boundaries and precautions being dismantled from this shift in policy?

Over the years in various software development roles, I’ve observed how users interact with a product and developed documentation and a dynamic user experience around what I’ve learned. Many technical communications best practices can be applied to other fields as well.

Here are a few ways teachers can practice good privacy awareness in the school:

Establish a teacher-student written agreement
In business we call it a contract and in software, we call it a software license agreement. The SLA is a written agreement acknowledged by both parties and enables the end-user (in this case the student) to agree to the terms set by the licensor (the teacher). For example, a teacher could enforce a classroom BYOD etiquette document reminding students of regulations that she/he sends out at the beginning of each year. What better way to establish a set of rules between teacher and student while also educating about business relationships and contractual agreements?

Remind students of password protection
Single sign-on (SSO) allows end users to access data by signing on with one recognized key. You no longer have to keep track of a half dozen different password combinations of numbers, lowercase letters and special characters. Remind students of password rights and the importance of keeping data safe.

Model a student walkthrough for in-class tablets
As a technical writer we try to simplify steps for an end user, ensuring that following a predefined sequence will eliminate the chance of the user deviating off course, getting lost or confused, or just throwing away the manual (that we’ve slaved over) and/or product. A teacher developing a workflow or a set of steps for the student to follow may stop unwanted use of other tablet applications and distractions.

Initiate a help desk portal
When designing end-user documentation that addresses multiple topics, we develop context-sensitive help which is content chunked into themes and accessible by hyperlinks in the table of contents or at the beginning of each section. This makes it very user friendly so we all don’t have to sift through a multitude of irrelevant topics to get to the desired content. In the classroom find a way to display frequently addressed questions and a help section so students can send security issues instantly to the product’s customer support. Involve parents by creating a separate portal so they can monitor their own child’s mobile device privacy and connect to help desk support.

Push new content and system updates at once
Any good documentation makes note of changing requirements under versioning control. We want to make sure the user understands what fixes have been made since the last release and if any updates effect usability. You can apply the same standard in a classroom environment. When there is a new software release of an application, administer this content all at once to your student’s tablets. You will have greater control of their usage and specifically will be able to wipe data if all in sync.

Set user permissions
When developing documentation for different audiences or setting up a content management system for different roles, you want to create a unique experience specific to the needs of a user. So we add permissions. We apply standards indicating who can use what app or see what content. In the classroom, you can also monitor a student’s usage and therefore privacy through remote take over and blocking. Geofencing is another access control tool that can be used to restrict certain applications according to location with internal GPS. 

Note: Incorporating a discussion with your parents will be a great way to receive feedback on how the student is using the application outside the classroom. You want your parents to be just as excited about the power of tablets as you are. The kids are an easy sell and heck, many know how to use a tablet with greater ease than most. But getting your parents involved in their child’s enrichment at home is the most important – whether that is through a tablet borrowing program for parents or a parent-led focus group to build awareness and privacy best practices.

Approaching the 50th Anniversary of JFK’s death brings a new play?

What better way to recognize the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s death this November than to toast to his accolades with theater reprisals? Well, not really.

For one month only, Bryan Cranston, lead star of hit TV show Breaking Bad will be playing Lyndon B. Johnson in All the Way, a theatrical production at A.R.T in Cambridge, Mass. The portrayal of the new president on the eve of the assassination is a harrowing tale. LBJ, our stand-in hero attempted to guide us through a time of uncertainty, fear, and vulnerability; a time when many of us lost faith in those leading us (current gov’t shutdown eerily relevant); a time when our nation was divided about wars at home and unnecessary involuntary action in the East. This Texan politician very frankly led us back on our feet after turmoil and the death of a trusted figure.
This play is not just about the successor, Lyndon Johnson and the last few days of November 1963. Rather, it’s a story of the leader who started great things (Medicare, AmeriCorps, the beginnings of the Civil Rights Act) and the one turning these accomplishments into legacies. In all my research of the Kennedy administration, I’ve always come across literature describing LBJ as stubborn, old-fashioned, brute. But because the play shows a vulnerable side of Johnson on the crux of failure, I see him in a new light and can commemorate the leader who made his presidency possible.

The American Repertory Theater’s production of All the Way ends Oct. 12th. You can check out details here.

This week’s cleaning house – Technology Highlights

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[Interact with my Presumé here]

Prezi showed me how to create a resume that stands out.

LA county students hacked their district’s iPads. Makes you wonder if they should have built a privacy app that was child proof.

Never miss a word with Livescribe smartpen, a Bluetooth compatible writing device. It makes lazy writers (like me) never have to use a computer – they can send their scribbles with the click of a pen.

Evernote is doing some great things like integrating with Salesforce and starting an online marketplace, but does not garner my attention with a statement like this: “[We want to] eliminate the stupid uses of paper.” I say NO: preserve our love for books and neon post-its.

Starting October 5th in Durham, North Carolina, you, me and grandma will be able to try Google Glass first hand. This traveling roadshow with LIVE demos and Q&A will be on tour before releasing to retail next year.

And crowdfunding kicks off with Kickstarter campaigns and bitcoins; fictional online currency to exchange goods.

Visually Inspire Communication

Create adaptive learning environments with your coworkers  – illustrate data with infographics and share a story with an interactive presentation.

Scenario #1: Create infographics using Piktochart
My objective is to make static documentation interactive. An infographic enriched with color, easy-to-follow data and hyperlinks to wiki content and videos or GIFs was the best choice.

Identify audience and the best way to present ideas to the user. How should users interact with the information? Determine what content to use; often times statistical data can be represented as charts or simple graphics. Keep in mind less is more, so chunk content with different colors or blocks to separate text like shown here:
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You want a natural flow of progression when reading the document. Try to make eye-popping designs with little distractions to esthetics. Incorporate themes, embed graphics, videos and map plugins to engage users. In the end, you will have an infographic that is dynamic, appealing and promotes communication throughout the organization.

Piktochart is a free application available for download on my native PC. This program enabled me to choose preloaded templates or start a project from scratch. I enjoyed the user-friendly interface.

Use Also: visual.ly, infogr.am, Snag-It

Scenario #2: Create interactive presentations using Intuilab
Think Powerpoint2.0. Business presentations are no longer boring slides with lame animation or remote clickers with lazer pointers. Instead, presentations are interactive and reinventing communication.

Convey a message by guiding your users through a digital experience that tells a story. Interact with the slides; maximize the screen, highlight, swipe and draw over images.
Deliver and collaborate amongst coworkers in the cloud. Build presentations and distribute across multiple platforms and devices.

Intuilab appealed to me because of its touch screen capabilities. I also was able to learn this software quickly providing “if, then” statements that replaced code. Pros: All access sandbox. Cons: Compatible only with Windows 7 & 8; HTML release by the end of 2013.

Use Also: swipe.to, prezi, mural.ly

Mapping TED’s Ideas Worth Spreading

TEDTalks duo ecologist Eric Berlow and physicist Sean Gourley questioned how to connect TEDx ideas – some 24,000 video clips in a content library in the cloud. Identifying patterns, they developed an algorithm, or mathematical structure to correlate relationships of this data.

Things to know when watching:

Natural language processing (NLP) – for speech-to-text translation to extract key concepts of an idea

Meme-ome – mathematics that underlines an idea, the results from NLP

Interestingly, tags do not generate ideas, but rather a network structure of network IDs. These architectural complexities are examples of creative synthesis, central topic points or bridging of ideas.

We constantly try to make connections in our lives from those with people and events that shape who we are. In this blog I try to make connections and with the beauty of tagging, you can see those keywords at the end of each post.