Monday, June 29, 2015

10 Days Without Email- Only 20% Matters

In my continued efforts to cut back on digital distractions (see my 2015 New Year's Resolution and other past related posts), I recently had the opportunity to step away from my work email. I was on vacation for six work days, so I turned off work email on my devices and didn't open it until this morning. It's a simple as going to your settings for email as pictured and turning off the specific email account(s). I know some people even do this on the weekends. I haven't yet. I think turning off email and alerts on weekends/holidays would be a nice added feature in a future operating system.

In the past I've wondered how much email is truly important and needs my attention. This brief hiatus actually gave me the opportunity to tally up my inbox and discover that 20% of my emails really required my attention (31/157=19.7%). Below are the details.

If teachers and students were in school right now I realize that these numbers would look different. Also, my colleagues knew I was gone and didn't send me messages. I know I'd have more emails that mattered and required action/attention if I had run these numbers in September instead of the end of June. But I also know I would have received even more sales spam, newsletters, and would have been cc'd on many more messages. So perhaps the overall totals would all increase but the percent that truly matter wouldn't change much.  

As I look to ways to decrease distractions, I'm thinking of unsubscribing to even more newsletters and bloggers. I want to stay on top of some things and be aware of news and events, but each time these hit my inbox they become a potential distraction. I'm also considering setting up email-free times to focus because I know that even reading the subject line of a message takes away my attention from the tasks at hand. Knowing now that only 20% of the emails I receive really matter will help make this easier to do.

*Spam numbers listed only include emails that made it to my inbox. A review of our school's spam filter shows that I 
received an average of ten additional messages per day over the last week, bringing my total to an additional 100 emails if I were to include those. 

Monday, June 15, 2015

Coming Soon: MiPhone X with a Conscience Helps You T.H.I.N.K. Before You Post

MiPhone X with a Conscience
Helps You T.H.I.N.K. Before You Post

We're fortunate in Minnetonka to have very talented and creative staff and students. One of these individuals, Andy Smith, is our A/V Production Specialist. Part of his job is to produce messages for the high school morning news show, including messages around Digital Citizenship. His most recent creation to get our students to T.H.I.N.K. Before They Post is about the 
MiPhone.  The MiPhone is a futurist smartphone with a conscience that helps with posting appropriately and keeps its owner from getting into trouble or having digital regret.  The video does a great job of getting students to reflect on what they digitize and communicate in a humorous way.

The video first appeared on the high school morning news show at the beginning of June 2015.  The Beyond 140 series is a regular feature of the high school principal, Jeff Erickson, who with Andy's help, uses video to deliver messages to the 3,000 Minnetonka High School Students that go beyond the limitations of 140 characters of his Tweets. The student actor in the video is Eric V., a talented senior who just graduated. 

Find more resources about Digital Citizenship here.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Managing Change- Stakeholder Communication Matrix: Level of Initiative Support & Ability to Influence Success

Although the need for support on a project is obvious, meeting the needs of each stakeholder group and understanding the important part each person/group plays may get overlooked. Last week I was part of an EdCamp with our Teacher Instructional Coaches and Instructional Technology Staff. It was a great opportunity to get together with colleagues and share ideas on topics of like interest, teaching and learning from one another.

One of the things discussed was the Stakeholder Communication Matrix pictured. A colleague had us work in small groups to think of a project we were currently working on that involves a big change, and then list all of the people and groups that were part of this change. For example, the small group I was with focused on the expansion of our 1:1 iPad program in Minnetonka to grade five classrooms at our elementary schools next year. We will then use iPads 1:1 with all 6,000 grade 5-12 students this fall.

We listed all the different groups involved in this project on a separate Post-It Note, such as the teachers, parents, students, administrators, school board, tech department, media specialists, instructional technology staff, and even the custodians. We then placed each Post-It Note on a quadrant on the chart pictured. On the X-axis, we rated each person or group from low to high on the level of support they would provide the project. We did the same on the Y-axis, plotting their ability to influence success of the project from low to high. 

As we considered each individual and/group, I found the conversations extremely beneficial. It was also a great reminder of the importance of taking time to step back from any project and consider how all people are affected by it, the roles each person/group plays, as well as what you should do as project leaders to keep everyone informed, engaged and satisfied. 

Today is the last day of school for students, and this summer there will be a lot of work we do to get things ready for next year. Even though we're just finishing up the fourth year of our program and things seem to be running smoothly, taking time to do this prior to the start of that work will help things go even better in the fall.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Crystal Knows, Digital Footprints, and Personalized Learning

Last week on WNYC's Note to Self podcast (Formerly the New Tech City Podcast), host Manoush Zomorodi focused on a service called Crystal Knows, which I found pretty fascinating. Crystal Knows is an email "coach" that (who?) gives you suggestions on how to best respond to an individual based on their personality type. It determines this by scanning the Internet to look at public profiles and other online content. It then uses algorithms to determine that individual's personality type. This data is then shown to you as you are composing your email, and Crystal also coaches you as you write your response, letting you know whether or not your email is being written in the best possible way to have the biggest impact, make the sale, get your point across, etc.   

On the podcast, one of the individuals Manoush interviews mentions that a similar proprietary personal detection technology is used by some banks to determine whether or not to give an individual mortgage. Manoush observes that 
"every footprint we leave online is like a note in a dossier about us." 
This is yet another great example of why we all need to leave positive footprints online and think before we digitize anything.  When I speak to students about this, I always tell them to only post things their grandma would approve.  

Cyrstal Knows is using information it finds to automatically determine an individual's personality.  I'm sure it will only be a matter of time before there are other programs out that that will determine an individual's likely success in a college for admissions, employability for an HR department, or determine our medical and life insurance rates based on our profiles- where we eat, what our friends do, etc. Of course, all of this probably exists and is already in use, I just haven't heard of it yet!

They discuss how this sort of technology can be creepy to some, as well as whether or not an individual using Crystal Knows should be required to disclose this fact to a recipient. These are certainly intriguing questions to ponder... 

I'm optimistic that as more algorithms are created to categorize humans in all areas, we will better be able to personalize learning in education, too. The more a computer knows about an individual, the better it can target and tailor the instruction to each specific learner.  Already we have the seen the benefits of tutoring programs that can adjust the level of the content and questions to each individual learner.  I'm sure that programs like Crystal Knows can also be used to aid the method of instructional delivery to better know how to reach and encourage each student. It will be exciting to see the next tech thing in this area!