Media Illiteracy prevails, and the adults aren’t off the hook

As our modes of communication grow smarter, we seem to be doing a shoddy job of using them. This is not just about the misuse of Twitter, of which dumb tweets are legion. Such as a Time correspondent firing off a tweet wishing for a drone strike on Julian Assange in 2013. This is about young people who have too powerful publishing tools at their disposal. If you like to know more, you will love this compilation!

This week, six High School students in Arizona got themselves and their school into serious trouble, using SnapChat. They got a picture of themselves taken wearing shirts that spelled out a racial slur. They learned, too late, that an app’s ability to ‘communicate’ should not define the message. (If none of them had data-enabled mobile devices would anyone have even bothered setting up the shot?).

An editorial in the Arizona Republic asked how students who have gone through a curriculum that probably included close reading and discussion of the civil war era, could have been so crass.

It’s hard to imagine these girls got this far in school without reading the ugly chapters in American history about the enslavement and oppression of Black people. Did they fail to pay attention? Did they fail to connect the dots to real people?

Let’s not get parents off the hook. How much time are we spending with young people to inform them about media use? It’s easy to be tool literate and media stupid.

Here are some thoughts for parents who may be considering giving a teenager (actually pre-teens, now) a mobile device:

  1. You pay for the phone and the data plan. You own the device; you set the rules. A phone is not like a pair of shoes, it doesn’t have to belong to the end-user.
  2. You better decide on the apps that get on the phone. Don’t complain later when a kid is spending too much time on Insta-brag or Brat-chat. I mean Instagram and Snapchat.
  3. Like your car keys, devices not owned by a child should be stored outside of bedrooms at night.
  4. It’s possible for homework assignments to be completed without digital devices. Really!
  5. Make sure your child makes every effort to not be in a video taken by a fellow insta-bragger.
  6. Finally, make sure your child’s school has a policy that has been updated to match the ubiquity and speed of shared media. It’s no longer valid to call it a ‘social media policy’. It’s a device use policy.

Technology in schools. Love it or hate it?

IMG_0302

Touch screens and Robotics. My classroom this yea

In my upcoming July technology column I analyze the pros and the cons of Technology in Education. A few in my network have asked me about my thoughts on this ever-changing topic. (In Oct 2014 I did cover it – “Disrupting Education)

Here’s a summary of what’s to come. As you and I witness the discomforting transition from text books to tablets, from hand-outs to videos-as-homework, from sequential ‘lectures’ to disruptive (noisy) small group activity, it’s easy to fold our hands across our chests and fight it. But there are some compelling arguments on both sides. The Wall Street Journal, and the International Association of Technology in Education almost in the same week ran Pro and Con arguments about Ed-Tech. I get both sides! In my classes I argue against the inane use of social media for the sake of ‘publicity’, but I encourage thought use of digital media with real, and real-time audience participation.

‘Hall and Stevens’ Vs Khan Academy. In my younger days, I had to thumb through Hall and Stevens, the geometry ‘bible.’ Today’s kids are learning geometry from a guy called Salman Khan, founder the free online learning portal for mathematics and science. (Fun sidebar: ‘Hall and Stevens’ is available as an eBook; flip the pages as if it was a real book, here: https://archive.org/details/schoolgeometry00hall

Screen Time vs Think Time. I am a big proponent of virtual and augmented reality, especially if it could bring in ‘distant’ experiences (Civil War, 3D models of engineering, space science etc), but I also aggressively advocate limited screen time. Odd isn’t it? That’s the dilemma we educators and parents face. Augmented Reality

Your son or daughter probably goes to school with a device in her backpack with more processing power than the rocket that took men to the moon, and this child wants to be… an astronaut? You’ve forgotten how to log into your son’s school website to download his missed homework, but… he’s found a way to ‘jailbreak’ your cell phone? There are ‘teaching moments’ in all of these.

Sal Khan speaks of the “fundamentally dehumanizing experience” in education. And he was not talking about teenagers and even pre-teens staring at their phones and not talking to one another. A real, ‘digital citizenship’ crisis, right now! He was referring to children packed in a classroom! Hmm!

Love it or hate it, technology is gate crashing our class rooms, just like ball-point pens or calculators once did. Are you ready for it?

Sochi’s ‘Teaching Moments’ through social filters

How to teach social media, without actually calling it social media?

That’s one of the challenges I run into, now and then. To many young students –and I am talking those elementary school to whom “hash tag” means something else entirely–, there is no big distinction between media variants. Newspapers, photo albums, television, encyclopedias etc all belong to one blurry category.

You will probably hear this often – schools are really anxious about (social) media behaviors and the flood of tools that enable them. I take what might seem a contrarian approach: It’s better to prepare students for responsible use of digital media, than ask them to check them at the door.

Yesterday Feb 5th was Digital Learning Day, so it was a good day, as any to address some of these topics. Since this week also happens to be the opening week of the Olympics, I tried to pull these two strands together. As always there was a lucky collusion of opportunities.

  • Padlet - OlympicsTo bring this all together in a classroom experience I began experimenting with a website another teacher referred me to: Padlet. It lets a student import content into a page in a variety of ways – from PDF to QR code, to an embed link – as you could see here. or via this QR Code it generates.

Some of these open the door to what we educators like to call Teaching Moments. To deal with topics such as:

Copyright. What does that mean in a link economy, where someone could embed a video or link to something without violating intellectual property rights? Even the International Olympic committee has had to spell out its SM Policy about blogging and tweeting. Even grown ups need to abide by an event or site’s rules – such as this, below that says one cannot ‘assume’ a reporter’s persona!

Olympic_SMPolicy

Collaboration: The connectivity students take for granted (the always-on wi-fi) makes it possible to have a close conversation with a total stranger, and learn from him/her, but at the same time, sharing personal information with someone on a public channel could be dangerous.

Old media that was decidedly one-way, locked down, or expensive didn’t allow some of these opportunities, but it also protected us from the torrent of meaningless discussions, and TMI. Maybe there’s a lesson in that too.

If you’re curious about Padlet, here’s what the page looks like:
Padlet_SRE_Olympics

http://padlet.com/wall/m2iy0fn1fy.

With so many social media ‘ninjas’ (and mavens and gurus), you’d think we cracked the code

I did a search of books on social media, and there are (get ready for this) 286,797 books out there on Amazon. That’s about 119,000 more people than the population of Tempe, Arizona.

No shortage of experts, too, in this vast field of social media.  B.L. Ochman, writing for Advertising Age recently noted that there are 181,000 Social Media ‘Gurus,’ ‘Ninjas,’ ‘Masters,’ and ‘Mavens’ on Twitter.

She rightly suggests that we are on guru overload.

“The fact remains: a guru is something someone else calls you, not something you call yourself.”

I cannot agree with her more, and made this point when I was speaking in Sri Lanka earlier in June. The media like to call anyone who address an audience as a guru and I had to debunk the notion, much to the alarm of some.

You would imagine that, with so many experts and gurus, we ought to have found the perfect recipe for using social media. But we haven’t. And will never quite get it, for the simple reason that the goal posts are constantly being moved. There are no seven golden rules. There is no no lost manual

I address this because whenever I am asked what Chat Republic is about, I could come up with a pat answer that might fit onto the back of a business card, or make a nice elevator speech. But I try to resist this. I’m sorry, I don’t give that elevator speech, because:
(a) That would imply this is a one-size-fits-all book
(b) That something as wide –and murky–as social media could be given the Cliff Notes treatment, or be condensed into 140-characters

If someone is looking for that, I could refer that person to an afore-mentioned ‘ninja. There are plenty of them to outnumber the population of Belgium, Portugal and Greece combined!

Launching Chat Republic – Today in the US

Angelo Fernando - Chat RepublicIt’s finally happening. My book, Chat Republic, launches today at an event in Arizona.

Venue: Gangplank, Chandler

Time:   6 – 8 pm

A panel discussion on social media.

Chat Republic - Panel Discussion at Launch - Gangplank, Chandler ArizonaWe will be live streaming the event here:

Updated: Panel discussion on privacy and over-sharing in a social media era.
Panel:    Dan Wool, Len Gutman, and on my left, Derrick Mains

http://www.ustream.tv/search?q=chat+republic

Live streaming video by Ustream

Chat Republic – Galley Proofs today!

The metaphors for describing what one goes through when writing a book are inadequate.

Suffice to say it’s been a breathtaking learning process.

Chat Republic (Cover)_APR252013

But it’s finally coming down to the moment of truth. Here’s what the cover looks like. I wanted it to be minimalistic, but communicate in an instant what it’s about.

Chat Republic, though a crowded place, is also about a call for more space – space between the noise, space between the rapid, vapid statements we send out and are inundated by.

Some see this is as a ‘country’ –a map– populated by loud mouths. I see it as this giant speech bubble, we could all be sucked into (if we don’t make some sensible choices).

Let me know what you think of the cover!

Update on my book: “Chat Republic”

It’s official, and I’m now ready to announce the title of my book, which is in its final stages.

It’s called Chat Republic.

Angelo Fernando, Chat RepublicI’ve been covering the intersection of technology and business; technology and culture for more than 18 years. More recently, I’ve focused on digital media and our social media-centric lives, and I wanted to put my ideas into perspective.

Chat Republic is more than a fictional country. It’s about the spaces you inhabit.  Those online and offline communities you move in and out of: conference rooms, Google Circles, IM lists, Facebook, online forums. I think of it as a ‘country’ whose fluid borders take the shape of a giant, invisible speech bubble.

The conversations and opinions pouring in and out of our republic, in real-time, are what make our communities more civil, more vibrant. Our chats are certainly not friction-free! But absent these conversations we would be one dimensional citizens, won’t we?

As of today, I am planning to launch the book in two time zones, in June.

Some specs:

  • 25 Chapters – Divided into 3 sections
  • Case Studies from the U.S. and Asia
  • Interviews with non-profits, tech companies, activists, chief execs, editors, citizen journalists, PR consultants, podcasters, government officials

More information here at ChatRepublic.net

Healthcare, now a social, not private affair!

Time was when someone would keep his/her healthcare concerns under the hood, so to speak. A health complication would be kept within the family; the unwritten doctor-patient privacy act was upheld.

Now? We seem to be ready to blab more about it. or, to put it another way, patients are more than ready to take to social media to discuss health-related issues in the open. Some examples

This latest report by PwC recognizes this, and gives you a more granular look at how the private concerns of those seeking healthcare have become closely intertwined with their social media behavior.

For example:

  • Nearly a quarter of people in the US (24%) post something about their healthcare experience.
  • 16 % share health-related videos and images!

It gets more interesting, in the face of concerns about invasion of privacy and health information.

  • Some 30% of people are willing to share their health-elated information with other patients, using social channels.
  • Also, 80% of 18-24 year-olds are likely to share health information through social media. 80 percent! You could find out more here at the PwC site.

This ought to have huge implications for healthcare companies, and even medical practitioners who have been concerned that their connecting with patients could run afoul with health information privacy, or HIPAA, laws. Physicians have been behind the curve. Sermo, their online community, has just 130,000 users, but one study found that while 87% of physicians use at least one social media site at a personal level, only 67% are using at least one site for professional reasons.

Wanted: A new formula for PR!

FT Online, Angelo Fernando writes a Bi-weekly column

FT Online | Bi-weekly column

I don’t think there’s a single waterer-proof formula for PR.

No matter how much we love the Social media Press Release, (basically an enhanced press release, with some great links and embedded media to create a richer story), it seems like too much work for companies to build these.

Then there is the quest for that secret sauce of Public Relations that might involve a more integrated strategy. Translated: the PR agency works with the ad agency which works with the promotions company. Good luck with that!

So in a bid to stir up things I came up with my own formula for PR. Here it is in a nutshell. C + C + E = Tn.

Got it?

You need a decoder ring for this one, so here it is. Context plus Content plus Engagement equals Trust to the nth degree.

Continue reading…

This was the subject of a newspaper column, in a series I have been writing on, published in FT Online. Until the web site has been updated, this is a link to a PDF.

How to fly (through social media turbulence)

Airlines frequently fly into turbulence –not always the kind they are used to.  Just ask United. Better still, just ask Southwest Airlines. Over the years since they began embracing a slew of social media tools, Southwest has done a grand job of listening and responding. Sure, they’ve made their mistakes, fixed them fast, and moved on.

There may be a huge difference between an airline and an airplane, but I thought of juxtaposing them because of some common lessons they have for all of us –not just people who communicate about objects with wings.

If you missed this case involving Boeing, it’s worth a second look. The setup:

  • Child draws lots of pictures of airplanes.
  • Child sends one drawing to Boeing.
  • Corporate office sends him a standard letter saying it does not accept unsolicited designs, and has destroyed the letter.

Sad? Legal? Damaging to brand? All of the above?

The boys father was crushed/confused. He writes a blog so he asked his readers what to do.  Word got out. People came up with creative answers (including one that suggested writing the letter Boeing should have sent his son!) Boeing was forced to join the conversation at the late stage, and respond.

There are many lessons here. The first is about a canned response and a genuine response. So easy to do the former. But it’s out-of-place in a world where we make a huge din about being better at communications, great at listening yada yada.

To cut to the chase, Boeing Corporate (which uses this Twitter account that’s different from the one that talks of its engineering stuff) responded with aplomb, and thanked everyone for ‘supporting’ Harry Windsor, the child artist/airplane designer. “Supporting Harry,” as you might suspect is code for Punishing Boeing. Loosening them up. Humanizing them…

But we all live and learn. Boeing is a great company. They may have never in their wildest dreams of crisis planning imagined an eight year old would teach them a rapid lesson in communications. Neither do many organizations. So here are my takeaways from these two examples:

  • Plan  for the unplanned: Social media adds a lot more turbulence, often the kind that cannot be anticipated by the most sophisticated ‘tracking’ tools on board.
  • Know your audience’s audience: No matter who your end-users or customers are, your audience –and your ‘followers’ are always larger than you thought.
  • Put humans in charge. A professional response is not as good as a human response. Many of us/you are trained in the former. Don’t check your humanity at the door when you walk into your office.

Social media is nothing special. It has no secret ingredient. It is nothing more than humanized communications, for a world that has done an awful job at it.