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It’s Time to Mobilize Learning–Just Ask RJ Jacquez

Anyone who knows me and has been with this blog for the long haul knows that I really like what m-learning is all about. Even though I haven’t been able to steer my career in that direction as much as I’d like (or at least, not yet), I’ve always been a big advocate for m-learning and what it can accomplish.  For a while now, I’ve been a great follower of RJ Jacquez, and while he and I don’t talk as much as we used to online anymore, I still consider him my number one mentor on m-learning.  He’s always been a very early supporter of the TechCommGeekMom cause!

RJ recently gave a keynote speech for the 2013 ASTD Houston Conference.  While I would have loved to have attended this event, especially for RJ’s keynote address, I wasn’t able to go. (I do have to work, and I went to the 2013 STC Summit, after all!)  For that reason, I’m so glad that RJ shared his SlideShare file for the keynote address online.

His talk was called, “The Time to Mobilize Learning is Now!” Here is his SlideShare slideshow:

RJ has been a prominent leader in promoting mobile, not just m-learning, for a while now, and even without his accompanying talk to go along with the slides, you can get a fairly clear idea of where he’s going with this. Mobile is change, and in so many ways, we have already started to embrace the changes. We need to adapt in order to move forward. His demonstration of the evolution of how we have come to the point of using mobile as prolifically as we do now, and of all the many benefits of using mobile seem fairly clear from this slideshow.

I’m still a big believer in mobile, and this slideshow reminded me of this. It helped to reinforce again my belief that mobile is an important part of our integrated technology going forward. If we don’t adapt, we fall behind, not just with m-learning–which seems to be leading the way, but also with mobile content itself.

Nice job as always, RJ!

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Another one of those 2012 Tech Comm Years in Review? But it’s MINE…

MP900309664It’s December 31st, 2012, and the end of another long year has come. This is the time of year when everyone starts to see the year in review posts and articles all over every media source imaginable. I’m no different– I’ve already posted a Top Ten Posts of 2012 for TechCommGeekMom.  But this post is more about my reflection of the year–and what a year it’s been!

This is not to say that everything has been coming up roses for me this year. Upon reflection, there were a lot of good things that happened over the past year that were never expected and were really great. There were also things that were definitely not so great.

The not as great things included problems that my son was having at school that greatly affected his behavior, me getting pneumonia for a month last winter, losing my full-time job, and being laid off my part-time job. Just those things alone could easily make it a bad year, especially if you knew some of the details of the school problems my son was having.

But there were so many things that outweigh those negatives that for once, I can actually say that 2012 was a pretty good year for me. The first big thing was that I graduated from NJIT with my MSPTC. That was the result of two and a half years of blood, sweat and tears–sometimes literally–to get it finished. It was so much a part of what I did for a while that I actually miss it. The fact that I actually graduated, with honors no less, is surreal. I can’t believe that it’s all finished and done, when I feel like I should still be taking a class or doing something more, like writing up another paper.  I was very fortunate to have made several friends in the program, even through this virtual program, and make connections that I think will benefit me for life. The knowledge I gained from the program will also serve me for life as well, I am sure.  I know that NJIT was proud enough of my recent accomplishments enough to feature me as one of its “poster girls” for the Continuing Education program by featuring me in a promotional video for the school. I’m honored and still surprised that they picked me, but appreciate the nod of approval nonetheless.

The other part of what made this year exceptional was this blog. What began as a combination of a class assignment and something to do on a whim has taken on a life of its own. I don’t think anyone, especially me, would have expected anyone to be reading it with the gathering that I’ve collected over the past year. Social media has truly been key to many of the successes I’ve had this year.  I’m glad that I started to become more involved professionally with Twitter and Facebook especially, in order to connect with other technical communicators. Not only did I seek to learn from other technical communicators in the past year, but I used social media as a means of marketing this blog so that my voice could be heard amongst the many great voices out there. The amazing thing to me is that my voice was heard.

Now, I did have some unexpected help along the way. As I’ve explained in the past, it was an early post in which I vented my frustrations about learning tech comm software that someone heard me very loud and clear.  It was someone at Adobe, who not only heard me, but also wanted to help me.  That person was Parth Mukherjee.  It was very early in our contact that he wanted to help, and offered me a webinar. What, me? A webinar for someone just out of grad school? Yes, crazy as it sounded, that what he offered me and I took it. I’m glad I did. Along the way, I got to know Saibal Bhattacharjee, Maxwell Hoffman, Ankur Jain, and Tom Aldous at Adobe as well, and they constantly provided me with more opportunities and support throughout the year–many more than what are listed here. The biggest highlights of this relationship for me were doing the webinar in June that gained me initial greater exposure, and when I was invited to be one of Adobe’s guests at their “Adobe Day” pre-conference event at Lavacon. For a gal who is still new to the field to be invited to “run with the big boys and girls” was a thrill! I learned so much at the Adobe Day conference, and I had a chance to meet and get to know some of the people that I had not only gotten to know through social media, but people I revered and respect in the field.  There have been so many good things that happened to me thanks to Adobe, and I don’t think I can ever thank them enough. As I’ve also said many times before, I was a big fan of Adobe’s before the connection with Adobe’s Tech Comm team, but now they’ve allowed me to become truly loyal to the company with everything they’ve done for me personally that they didn’t have to do. Thank you so much!

I also had an opportunity this year to express my technical communications knowledge in a different way–I was able to teach a virtual class in business and technical writing to Microsoft Korea through the World Learning Company. It was a unique opportunity to present information not only so the students could understand the information, but I truly wanted my students to learn the information so they could use it more often in their everyday business communications. I got great feedback from the end-of-class surveys as well as directly from the students themselves that I made it easier to understand these complicated language nuances, especially since English was a second language for nine of the ten students I had! It was a great opportunity to flex my knowledge muscles to help other people become better writers, and I enjoyed it thoroughly.

A big part of this year was all the people I met who helped me along the way. In addition to those at Adobe and NJIT, I met SO many individuals along the way that helped me through this first year of being an “official” technical communicator. I’m sure I’ll be missing someone from this list of tech comm and e-learning professionals, as there were so many, but off the top of my head, they include RJ Jacquez, Mayra Aixa Villar, Miriam Lottner, Toby Price, Barrie Byron, Jamie Gillenwater, Sharon Burton,  Christie Fidura, Shay Shaked, Marcia Riefer Johnston, Colum McAndrew, Renaldo Lawrence, Joe Ganci, Sarah O’Keefe, Val Swisher, Jackie Gerstein, Anita Horsley, Scott Abel, Chad Udell, Alyssa Fox, and Karen Mahon. Each person here, and many others whom I met through social media or in person, contributed to my knowledge base and growth not only as a technical communicator and e-learning specialist, but also as a person. I thank each and every one of you for your support in taking me under your wing, but also for your friendship.

I also want to thank Gary Woodill, who is one of the m-learning gods in my eyes, for retweeting my tweet promoting my Whitepaper, thus giving it his understated blessing. That was a big deal to me for you to acknowledge it and deem it worthy of retweeting the link.  Also many thanks to TechWhirl, especially Craig Cardimon, for promoting two of my blog posts in recent editions of the “Tech Writer This Week” feature on TechWhirl.com. For me, that was a huge indication that I have “arrived” in tech comm.

So, as you can see, 2012 was actually a very good year for me. Sure, I didn’t have a full-time job, and I had illness and issues that were beyond my control at home, but for me, this has ended up being one of the best years that I’ve had in a long time. My first full year of being a technical communicator hasn’t been without some bumps along the way, but through this blog, my school connections, and all the new social media connections I’ve made in the past year, I wouldn’t change a thing. What a whirlwind for a “newbie”! I can only hope that I will continue to have the support of all these wonderful people, and be able to truly practice what I’ve learned over the past year in my new adventures as a Web Publisher for BASF in 2013.

This was the year of building, and I’ve gained a fantastic foundation. Now is the time to continue to grow and move onwards and upwards! I’m anxious about 2013, but having this strong foundation, I have a feeling that it’s got the potential to be another great year.

What are my resolutions for 2013? Well, I don’t know about resolutions, but I know that some of the things that I hope to achieve, other than a firm establishment in the tech comm field, is to go to the STC Summit in May (I hope), and maybe some other conference as well, if I can afford it. I want to meet so many more people in tech comm, and absorb the  information given by the best and brightest in the field. This year, I was the new kid on the block, and in 2013, I want to be part of the next generation of technical communicators helping to take the field further.

Thank you to everyone reading this, and have an incredibly Happy New Year!

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2012 Top Ten Highlights on TechCommGeekMom

Woman on Computer2012 has been the inaugural year of TechCommGeekMom.com. What started initially as both a class project as well as a personal project with no expectations other than to get a good grade and have a form of expression has blossomed into something else. Who would have guessed? I’ve been blessed that I’ve gained a lot of support over the past nine months that I’ve been writing TechCommGeekMom. Evidently, the combination of both my original posts as well as my curated posts are seen as worthwhile reading! I truly appreciate the support.

Since this is the time of year when everyone does year-end reviews, I thought I’d list the top blog posts of 2012 here (at least at this writing) from TechCommGeekMom. Just to clarify the selection process, these were based on the posts that I wrote myself, not on any curated content (some of that got high marks as well). It also does not include my home page.

So, here are the top ten posts of 2012:

1) Upgrade Time! PREVIEW of the NEW Adobe Technical Communications Suite 4!
I have to thank Adobe for the “Adobe bump” on this article. This preview of the Adobe Technical Communications Suite 4 package was made possible by Adobe, as they allowed me to sit in on the preview presentations of the product, and subsequently promoted this article not only on the web, but also for some of their print marketing materials later. Thank you, Adobe!

2) Project Tin Can: Good Communication or just a Tin Can Alley?
Project Tin Can was a hot topic in m-learning this year, and I had the chance to listen in on several conversations and learn about Tin Can highlights myself, and was glad to pass this information along.

3) Whitepaper: The Future of Mobile Learning: Empowering Human Memory and Literacy
I’m especially proud that this particular article was among the top posts this year and that it was so well received. It was originally a paper that I wrote for one of my grad school classes, and I was encouraged by Mayra Aixa Villar (who was my editor for the paper as well as one of my references) to either present at a conference or publish as a Whitepaper. I chose the latter for the sake of ease and time, and really happy that this was so well received.

4) What Hurricane Sandy Taught Me About Mobile Technology and Social Media
Mobile technology is what got me through the hurricane, and got a lot of other people through the hurricane. This kind of technology wasn’t available when Hurricane Katrina hit greater New Orleans area, but it made a world of difference when Hurricane Sandy hit and its aftermath. If anything, hopefully both weather events have taught us how we need to upgrade what we have for continued better communications so that we can minimize all damages.

5) The Meaning of Graduating with a Masters in Technical Communication
This was a big year for me in technical communications, especially because I finished earning my credentials. It took two and a half years of hard work in between both full- and part-time work, running a Cub Scout den, and being a mother to child with Asperger’s, but I did it. Graduation day was a big event in my life. I still miss going to school, and it seems surreal that I’m not still studying, but it was all worth it.

6) Being a specialist or a generalist? Which is better for a technical communicator?
As is often the case, this blog has often been a place where I would explore some of my own concerns about my career as a technical communicator, and I was glad to see that the conundrum I had in this article was relatively universal in the field. I also appreciate TechWhirl promoting this article, because I think it’s something that should be addressed as technical communications continue to change.

7) What did you do to get that Tech Comm job?
This recent posting was the result of everything that’s been done thusfar on this blog and more. I did my best to outline the pointers that I felt would help others, and in the process helped me obtain the new job that I’ll be starting in a week. It was also featured in TechWhirl.

8) Be a warrior with Technical Communications Suite 4!
This was a post that promoted the new Adobe TCS 4 package and subsequent webinar done by my friend, Ankur Jain. I guess a lot of people were excited about the new software to have clicked on it so much!

9) Digital Tablets for Kids–Child’s Play, or should we take it seriously?
My perspective of digital tablets for children and review of some of the latest tablets made especially for kids made this post a popular one. This was an occasion to flex my GeekMom muscles more than my TechComm muscles.

10) My response to RJ Jacquez’s question: Will Tablets replace PCs?
RJ Jacquez, tech comm blogger extraordinaire and m-learning revolutionary, is one of my earliest followers as well as someone who I consider one of my mentors. The sign of a good teacher is having one of your “students” challenge or discuss ideas that have been put forth by the teacher, and that is what this post reflects.

Honorable Mentions:

There are so many more posts that also got some great traffic, but these were all the top ones for this year. I appreciate that so many of you have come to visit this site or follow this site regularly. Please enjoy reading–or re-reading–these posts, and feel free to peruse through the rest of the archives. There are almost 240 posts on this website at this writing, so there is plenty of content to read and enjoy–or hopefully learn and share!

As I’ve mentioned before, with my new job starting in about a week, I’m hoping to be able to keep up with posts when I can, and hopefully the new job will incite ideas for new posts in the next year to come! This blog has literally taken me places I’ve never expected to be, and I hope you continue to enjoy the trip as much as I have. More on my reflections about the year soon.

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My response to RJ Jacquez’s question: Will Tablets replace PCs?

Recently, due to the upcoming release of Microsoft’s Surface machine, RJ Jacquez released two blog posts promoting the idea that tablets, in time, will indeed replace the PC as we know it, and that Microsoft is going in the wrong direction with this Surface device. Between his post titled, “For the sake of ‘Mobile’ I hope Microsoft Windows 8 and the Surface Tablet fall short” and Tablets Will Replace PCs, But Not In The Way You Think, he says that he feels that Surface is not taking us forward because it embraces the idea of adapting our devices to old software, instead of moving forward with mobile devices and rethinking how to create new productivity software for these new tablets that can make users more productive.  After paraphrasing several articles that have been out in the press that claim that productivity apps such as Microsoft Office, Photoshop, and Final Cut Pro (to name a few) are items that need to be addressed by the tablet industry, he counter argues,

Personally I think that most of these articles miss the bigger point, namely the fact that most people think that Tablets replacing our PCs will require a 1:1 task-replacement approach. I don’t buy this argument….In other words, we are currently shaping our mobile tools and soon these amazing devices, along with the incredibly creative apps that accompany them, will shape us and redefine every single task we do from here on out, including learning design, image editing, web design and yes every productivity task as well.”

I understand what he’s saying. If I’m interpreting him correctly, his argument is that devices like Surface should not be adapted to run bloated “power” software that needs the extra storage and peripherals to work, thus making the devices less mobile, but rather software should be streamlined to become more efficient so it can run in a tablet like an iPad which doesn’t need extra storage because it relies on the Cloud nor does it need any other peripherals to function. Some of the other “power” apps that RJ mentioned that critics think would need PC power include Photoshop, Microsoft OneNote and Avid Studio.

Well, I do have to agree with RJ insofar as I think that mobile is the future, and it is forcing us to really look at software and its limitations, and it’s making us think about how to streamline processes and our needs. mLearning is in the midst of a huge revolution due to that mindset right now. And actually, there are tablet versions of Photoshop, MS OneNote, and Avid Studio available for tablets that cover most of what users need. So it’s not like these kinds of software can’t be adapted for most people’s uses.  The average user does not use Word or Excel or Photoshop or other apps the same way as a power user, so streamlined apps are fine.

However, I think there may be a need–at least for a little while longer–for PCs to still exist for other kinds of “power” uses. The first thing that comes to mind are apps that are not as mainstream as the ones mentioned so far. Tech comm apps like Framemaker, RoboHelp and Flare are the first ones that come to mind. Now I know that Adobe is working to put just about all of their major software products on the cloud, so that’s a move in the right direction. I have no idea if Flare or the other leading tech comm productivity software packages are moving that way as well. The same thing with e-learning software…again, Captivate is part of Adobe’s cloud-based Technical Communications Suite 4 right now, but what about Lectora or Articulate or other instructional design software packages?  These are all software programs that aren’t quite ready for tablet use yet, but for the sake of mobile productivity, it might not be a bad idea to move in that direction. But for now, staying as desktop apps is probably fine.

There’s an app called Cloud On that has the right idea. It’s an app that’s available for both iOS and Android use, and essentially it provides a means of accessing full versions of Microsoft Office on tablet devices, and then saving documents in a Dropbox, Box or Google Drive account. No short cuts here! Full functionality of the software, on the go!

So, why aren’t the all the big software companies jumping onto the bandwagon with this? Apple already has by creating tablet versions of their iWork and iLife apps, but what others? Some companies have taken baby steps, or are working on it, and others…well, I think they are not keeping up, or are in denial that having a lean version of their software is needed.

I can say, as I mentioned, that I’ve used Cloud On, but I’ve also used my iPad’s Notes app. I used the Microsoft OneNote app on my iPad heavily last year during grad school, as I would start my homework assignment on my iPad during my lunch hour, and then sync it in my SkyDrive account so I could access it from my laptop at home to finish an assignment. I recently used Photoshop Touch on my iPad when I was too lazy to power up my laptop one night to fix a photo for a friend.  When I’ve made movies or did any digital photography projects, they’ve been done more on my iPad than on my laptop due to more affordable choices that meet my basic needs for editing.

So, my answer to RJ’s question is that I feel there will still be some apps that will need a PC to do much bigger jobs. Desktops and laptops are our workhorses right now, and you wouldn’t ask a pony to do the work of a Clydesdale horse. The PC isn’t going away anytime soon, and it will remain the hub of business and other work for some time to come. But, I agree with what RJ said, that in looking forward to the future, we need to continue to think mobile and how we can make it work so that much of these workhorse products can be made more lithe and flexible to our needs.

One last thought to put the mobile/tablet point in perspective–if you are a Star Trek fan like I am, you will have noticed that everyone carries portable devices–the size of a tablet, e-book or smartphone– to access huge databases and information, and to do much of the “heavy” information lifting for anyone aboard a starship. This was depicted on the shows well as much as 25 years ago, before the advent of tablet devices and smartphones. Think about how the various characters on the show used their devices. They would tap into a main computer device on the ship–much like we would access a network or the Cloud–to obtain information and make various calculations as needed.

It would seem to me that we are getting closer to that kind of scenario in reality, but we’re not quite there yet. We’re getting close, though!

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Flash Technology gone in a mobile….no, wait–that’s not quite right…

In the mobile technology warsit’s been a war between the technology of Adobe Flash versus HTML 5. This has been a long going–at least in Internet years–battle royale that has been going on for a while, but it appears that a break has finally happened.

Recently, Adobe made the decision to end the support of Adobe Flash in Google’s latest Android OS, aka “Jelly Bean.” The significance of this is huge.  To some, this is a surprise. To others, it is not.

Flash has been the driving force of web animation for a couple decades now on many websites globally. It is a huge part of Adobe’s repertoire, and yet… Flash has had a difficult time making it into the mobile realm.  Just in the desktop/laptop realm, a Flash player can be rather unwieldy. There seemed to be only one flavor of Flash made for 32-bit machines, and not for 64-bit machines (like my own) which are becoming more commonplace.  Flash programming is an art unto itself as well. As much as many employers want people to have Flash backgrounds as technical communicators, I’ve also been told by developers to not bother learning it unless I really was dying to know, because it was rather complex even for the experienced developer to use, and developing Flash was time consuming.

This was all brought to the forefront about two years ago by the late Steve Jobs who said that Flash would not last, and that HTML5 was the future. He believed this so much that all of Apple’s new mobile products supported HTML5 from the get-go, but not Flash.  Aaron Silvers reminded me of this when he posted this article from Business InsiderSTEVE JOBS WINS: Adobe’s Ditching Flash, today on Twitter. It’s been a huge deal as iPhones and iPads proliferated with HTML5-friendly browsers, and didn’t support Flash, while other browsers for other tablets, like the Kindle, Nook and other Android-based tablets and phones did.

Adobe’s had a hard time with this, as far as I could see. Just for the record, I love Apple products, but I also love my Adobe products as well, so it’s been a tough debate to follow. I actually wrote a case study about it just several months ago about it, entitled, A Case Study: HTML 5 versus Flash, which discussed the history of this debate and what actions I saw Adobe–as a company–trying to make to work within this new environment that was pushing HTML5. At the time of the writing, Steve Jobs had just passed–literally within days of when I wrote my first draft and final draft of the paper–and so much was out in the media about the great Steve Jobs and how he was the mastermind that he was. I still love Steve Jobs, but after all, he was still human and fallible,  so I wanted to show how Adobe countered his attacks against Flash. In the end, the conclusion at the time was that HTML5 was the future, but it wasn’t completely NOW (or at that moment). HTML5 needed more development, and in the meantime, Adobe would adjust with the HTML5 revolution with its work on the Adobe Edge product and bringing that capability to its development products, but in the meantime, Flash was still working on most of the machines in the world, and there was no reason to stop working on that as well.

The way I saw it, Adobe’s point was that you don’t just abandon a long standing technology that’s worked so well overnight, just because the next best thing is starting to come along. It’s like abandoning DVDs just because Blu-Ray disks are out. There has to be some sort of legacy transition, and until HTML5 was more mature and used by those other than the developers at Apple, it didn’t make sense to abandon Flash altogether. But in the meantime, time needed to be taken to start working with the new medium and figure out the best way to move forward.

Fast forward to now, about six to eight months after I wrote the case study above. Mobile technology continues to explode on the market, and the race is on to be the dominant technological mobile device with new tablets and smartphones being introduced.  RJ Jacquez posted this article that came out today on Twitter: Adobe: Web standards match 80 percent of Flash features. Arno Gourdol, Adobe’s senior director of Web platform and authoring, was quoted at the Google I/O show, referring to HTML5’s capabilities at this stage, “I think it’s close to 80 percent.”  Seeing the writing on the wall, it’s obvious, after reading the rest of the article, that Adobe has been making efforts to keep up with HTML5, and make forward progress on using the web standard. Adobe’s not quite there either in keeping up, but it seems that it’s starting to make significant progress in this direction.

So, where does this leave us in the mobile learning world? As I see it, this is another means towards single-sourcing for learning. Flash has been good, there is no doubt. Some of the most interactive e-learning and m-learning sites (depending on your device’s capabilities) have been Flash driven, and so much has been Flash driven for years that Flash capabilities and interactivity are expected. In speaking with my e-learning developer husband about the topic, he said that Flash, while complicated at times, was easier to develop than HTML5, because HTML5 depended not only on new HTML5 coding, but also javascript and jquery much more than before to have content play the same way–or at least similarly–to Flash. From the sounds of things, those similarities are getting closer and closer. How soon will HTML5 be a true standard in the same way as standard HTML has been all these years? Probably sooner than later, but I see it as a big step towards that single-sourcing solution that will help eliminate the idea of problems with BYOD (Bring Your Own Device). No one will have to worry whether something will work on an Android, Windows or iOS device. It will just work because they all use HTML5.

This is an important issue to follow, because it’s not the mobile technological devices that need to be watched as much as how they will be programmed and used. Flash isn’t gone yet, but seeing what will happen with it, and where and how HTML5 progresses will be a hot issue for some time to come–so keep on top of this!