Social tech takes more than tidy

The “tidy queen”, Marie Kondo, may offer transformative wisdom for houses and offices, but her methods failed me when I tried to apply them to my unwieldy collection of social media apps and tools. Her method “…encourages tidying by category – not by location” and she exhorts her many Youtube followers to “discard items that no longer spark joy.” But my collection strongly resists categorization and sometimes the changes in terms of use, pricing and functionality make a a tool unusable – even if it does spark joy!

A case in point – Flickr. Once one of my almost daily ‘go-to’ places (since 2004!) and the source of much joy, became an issue for me many years ago when Yahoo bought it. Their unwieldy handling and then outright neglect made me step away but I couldn’t quite make myself cancel my account. Then, a year or so ago, SmugMug bought it and immediately made some fairly significant changes. I had some concerns about the ownership terms and conditions and didn’t have time to dig into them for clarity. So, I stepped back again, downloaded and backed up my photos. I’ve gone back recently and found that so many people complained that SmugMug adjusted some of its new terms to address the biggest concerns – new storage limits for free accounts. Now I have to think through whether I want to find an alternative social photo sharing site, give up on social photo sharing and just share selected images on my blog site, or ? See, not so simple Marie Kondo!

But I didn’t give up on the Kondo method right away. I stepped back and thought again about categorization. I’ve collected free or low cost drawing tools, image editing tools, and presentation tools. Maybe they would be more straightforward to tidy up than a more complex social tool like Netvibes or Evernote? At least they fit (mostly) into separate categories. If I started from the goals or objectives I had for the use of each tool? And, instead of handling each one to think about whether it gave me joy, I could look at the functionality, the possibilities, and what I had actually created or done with each tool? But there are always additional factors to consider. Was I planning on using the tool for my teaching, writing, daily life? Did I have hopes that a tool would prove useful to other instructors I worked with or taught? Could it support creative methods of engaging students? Or was it simply a way to have some fun while traveling or waiting in line-ups? I need a tool for analysis – maybe just a simple table?

Factors1 Joy2 Happy3 Good4 Blah
Useful – teaching or writing
Useful – other instructors
Useful – personal
Stable ownership / development
Well-designed (ease of use, functionality)
Multiple options for sharing, saving
Free or low cost to use
Reasonable terms of use
Total

A KonMari approach to digital downsizing?

I’m a self-confessed (or is that self-professed?) digital hoarder. I have six printed pages (in 10pt Arial Narrow) of Web2.0 and mobile app accounts location and login information! I had two extensive del.icio.us and Furl bookmarking accounts and still have two Diigo accounts, a Netvibes account with 25 pages of topic-organized bookmarks, and Evernote on all my devices! I have tab saving/syncing setup on my Firefox and my two favourite mobile apps are Pocket and Feedly. I maintain five separate cloud storage accounts that give me a total of 20 Mb of free storage and tuck away documents and files and images in sporadic flurries. Does that sound familiar?

Along with so many of us, I have come to a point in my life where I’m stepping back and reflecting on whether I’m still going in directions that are important to me. I know that I no longer need the plethora of digital files, multimedia, social media and other digital stuff that I’ve collected over 20 years of teaching, coaching and developing courses and workshops. I’ve gifted myself with a professional refocusing time that involves exploring new options but also requires that I declutter my digital life and becoming more disciplined about how and when I dive into the fascinating, time-sucking social media streams.

I tried various approaches but after two months realized that I’d simply deleted some stuff but added a whole lot of new, interesting digital bits. Obviously I needed a better approach. I asked around and my sister suggested the magic of the KonMari method. Apparently I was one of the few who had never heard of this popular author and Youtube video maker, Marie Kondo, a Japanese organizational consultant who advises only keeping what gives you joy or at least pleasure when you see or handle it.

I was intrigued at the enthusiasm that people expressed about her methods. I watched a few videos and read a few articles. I wondered how learning how to fold a t-shirt with love and to ensure that it could stand on its own (??) could be applied to my digital downsizing quest.

Where to begin? Well, at the beginning. In a starter video, Tidy Up Your Home, Marie Kondo says to start by gathering all your clothes into a pile. She suggests that you not put anything away until you have review each item. By review she means handling each piece and reflecting on your physical/emotional response to it. If it is positive, “joy” is her term, keep it. If it isn’t, thank it and get rid of it (feeling appreciation for each object seems a bit weird but I like the concept).

In another video, How to Tidy Your Office Desk, she asks that you “..think about your ideal lifestyle…” or goal. That’s where I hit my first block – I’m not sure yet what my lifestyle goals are/will be. If I interpret her advice figuratively, and modify it for my particular digital downsizing goal, I will develop some broad categories of digital resources and begin collecting them together. Hopefully reflecting on each item will help clarify my goals? Stay tuned for digital dogpiles ahead.

Other reading:

Learning about inclusive design with Josie Gray

February was Inclusive Design month for BCcampus! Josie Gray, Coordinator of Collection Quality for Open Education, facilitated all four sessions and left us with a rich collection of ideas, tips, examples and guidelines of how we can all improve our practice when preparing / delivering / sharing information and ideas in our teaching or instructional design efforts. Check out the BCcampus video channel Open Education http://bit.ly/2HutAen

I reviewed Part 1: Inclusive Design webinar in some detail in a previous blog post as Jess Mitchell of the Inclusive Design Research Centre at OCAD was setting the context for the series. The remaining three sessions focused on: Presentations, Pressbooks and Inaccessibility.

Part 2: Presentations webinar was reported on by Michelle Reed from University of Texas at Arlington – see Presentation Recap http://bit.ly/2NXoqc6. Josie’s webinar recording (http://bit.ly/2u2xPGg) in the Open Education channel of the BCcampus video collection includes links to the resources she used to ground her exploration of four main elements: Slide setup, Slide content, Inclusive presentation strategies, and After the presentation. One of my personal “I didn’t know that!” moments was learning that text boxes are NOT accessible and, in fact, should always be accompanied by an ALT text description. Lots of other helpful tips and tools are covered by Josie Gray during the session.

share written version of keynote
provide multimodal options

I found Josie’s example of Robin De Rosa’s before- and after-sharing really inspiring! Robin shared a written version of her talk (http://bit.ly/palakeynote) via Twitter before she delivered her keynote. The written version included image slides with written descriptions for screen readers and her video of the talk included captions. And Jess Mitchell also makes a practice of sharing her presentation slides with slide notes and a transcript through her Slideshare channel (http://bit.ly/2UsiBpj). Something to strive for – I often feel that I just don’t have enough time when it’s a new presentation or topic.

Part 3: Pressbooks demonstratede Josie’s expertise with the tool as she provided sevveral constructive ways to approach the complexity (from my perspective) of Pressbooks publication requirements. As a newbie to Pressbooks, I found it helpful but can only suggest you watch/read Josie’s presentation (http://bit.ly/2Heu0pZ) yourself before you start your next Pressbook’s publication!

Part 4: Inaccessibility began with a design thinking approach as Josie challenged participants to think about making an OER inaccessible. The resulting suggestions demonstrated that her audience had been listening during previous sessions (or were very experienced with issues of accessibility.) Some of the challenges the group suggested:

  • Money/cost – find OER to reduce the barrier
  • Limited access to digital devices – provide multiple formats
  • Limited access to Internet – design learning events that limit the time students need to be connected
  • Varying levels of digital literacy – demonstrate/teach about ways to utilize basic tools like pdfs – help them to navigate, highlight important features of course environments, provide access to alternative formats
  • Language-comprehension – use key terms, glossary lists, avoid jargon and figures of speech, structure topics, highlight main ideas, provide audio

Josie reminded us of Jess Mitchell’s advice to go beyond checklists for accessibility and to try to think ahead to challenges that the next presentation, course, book or any activity might cause. If we could think of disability as relative, subjective and dependent on context, we would be more likely to ask more questions, to be curious, and to try different solutions.

Thanks to BCcampus for offering such a meaningful professional learning opportunity, and to Josie Gray for her clear explanations and examples.

Helping us see differently – Jess Mitchell

BCcampus, launched an important webinar series on Inclusive Design in February…and I missed all of them (sigh). But because the folks at BCcampus are digitally-aware and focused on openness and accessibility, they provided recordings of each session so I’m digging in to discover what I missed. If you are curious, here’s a brief overview of my take-aways from the first in the series: Inclusive Design, Jess Mitchell, Snr.Mgr, IDRC webinar recordingSlideshare presentation slides

Inclusive design means changing how you see; you need to take the time to reflect, to look around, to see what doesn’t work and think about why? Inclusive design works best when it happens before something is designed but, even afterwards, you can strive to make your course, your teaching, your presentations, whatever you create – more inclusive. It seems that, from Jess Mitchell’s perspective, it’s about the “why and the try”.

Inclusive Design is design that considers the full range of human diversity with respect to ability, language, culture, gener, age and other forms of human difference.

Jess Mitchel, IDRC,

Why should you try? Some of the benefits that Ms Mitchell shared (of using an ID approach to solve complex problems):

  • solutions have better = longer shelf life
  • solutions work better for more people
  • solutions address the gaps

Often the changes we make to support inclusiveness benefit unexpected or broader groups than we first think about. Jess pointed out the ubiquitous curbcuts that were a simple and widespread change that made navigating city sidewalks easier for people with mobility impairments. People thought it was just for the wheelchair bound but it makes it possible for moms w/strollers, elders with canes or pulling wheeled grocery carts, young kids delivering newspapers w/little red wagon – lots of people benefited.

It’s not just about accessibility – it’s about providing equivalent experiences. So the folks at IDRC talk, think, research about how to help everyone have a good experience – whether learning or working or just doing. She talked about making presentations and information multi-modal – and acknowledged the challenges of doing so – but encouraged us to try. She reiterated the power of taking the first step, and committing to the try.

Disability is a mismatch, between an individual and their goals and the tools they have available to them in their particular environment or context.

Jess Mitchel, IDRC

Thinking about disability – Jess pointed out that it might be more useful to think about mismatches. Walk around your environment and look for what doesn’t work – try to identify why? Talk to the people you’re designing for – “I find it helpful and important to ask…” Often disability is created by a non-thinking choice in the design phase; always think about how you can make your product, process, teaching accessible/digestible/navigable by more people.

Table as a metaphor
  • who isn’t at the table?
  • who can or can’t use this table?
  • is the table welcoming to all?
  • have people been at the table before?
  • when you invite somone to the table, do they know the culture of the table?
  • do they know how decisions are made at the table?
  • do they know how to have their voice heard at the table?
  • is the environment at the table safe and welcoming and open for everyone?
  • how is listening going to be captured at the table?
  • do these tables give people real ways to have an impact?
  • are people empowered to act on what is discussed at the table

There’s lots more – watch the screen recording – browse the slide deck. A great launch to a series on inclusive design. Thanks to BCcampus and Jess Mitchell.

References mentioned during presentation

Mapping connections 4 learning

Mind maps (the term is attributed to Tony Buzan although the idea is much older) are a useful tool to organize knowledge visually and deepen understanding. When drawn on a piece of paper or whiteboard, the maps are easy to create and change, yet provide a clear and shareable record of thinking about a subject.

12Apps of Christmas graphicWhen the maps are developed using an app or web-based service, mind mapping becomes even more powerful and portable. I’ve used various apps over the last few years and thought they might be an interesting addition to the annual BCcampus 12apps for Christmas event. But how to choose an app?

The 12apps event has a simple set of attributes:

  • free (or at least an option to try for free so everyone could try it easily)
  • cross platform (iOs or Android – bonus if it works in a web browser too!)
  • has potential to support teaching and/or learning.

I added a few additional characteristics to help me choose:

  • visually attractive (without a lot of fussing)
  • easy to save or share (even if the saved version couldn’t be edited in other apps)
  • clear terms of use and help to get started
  • collaborative (a big bonus and only available with some)

I chose SimpleMind first as I thought it scored reasonably well and I had used it in the past as an iPad app and liked it. But after initial testing and review of features, I found they had restricted what I felt was an essential attribute of free use – you could no longer save your mind maps in any way – not even with a screen capture!

So I went back to check out Bubbl.us, Freemind, Mindomo, Mindmup, Mindmeister, Popplet, Lucidchart (not technically a mind mapping app). Some were open source and required installation on a server (or didn’t have an app option for mobile devices; other apps had a free or trial version but were expensive (comparatively) if you wanted to continue and expand your use.

I finally settled on Coggle – it was cross-platform, easy to use, produced visually appealing maps without a lot of fuss, and could be used collaboratively. Although the free version had limitations, the price for a basic subscription was in line with other apps.

example mind map - lasers

Coggle Gallery: Lasers

Mind maps are useful for various knowledge building activities and Coggle makes it easy to use to engage learners in online classes:

  • creating a visual map of course themes, topics and learning objectives to help students manage their learning or to help an instructor develop or refine a course;
  • creating collaborative maps to summarize highlights of a week’s forum postings or to share final reflections on learning as a course draws to a close;
  • for individual learning as a way to take meaningful notes during presentations or while reviewing research reports;
  • to support collaborative knowledge building activities by having small groups create and share mind maps of their research and analysis of a relevant topic; and,
  • to support a blended learning activity beginning from individual to small group discussion using a paper-based graphic organizer to capture and refine brainstorming (face-to-face) and then moving tChristmas mind map with Cogglehe discussion into an online session where small groups shared digital mind maps of their analysis to contribute to a final summary of critical perspectives on an important theme or issue.
  • And I had some fun by completing my own “What about Christmas?” mind map!

There’s not been too much participation (at least visibly) in this year’s 12apps event but the daily app blog posts will stay visible throughout the year so you can easily refer back to find a new app to try.

If you’re curious to learn more about the potential of mind maps and other visual organizers and analytical approaches, check out some of these articles: