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Want to be a cutting edge technophile? Here’s one way to do it…

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TeslacoilI’m not a normal mom. I’m a geek mom— a techcomm geek mom, to be more exact, but I was a geek mom long before I was into tech comm. While I liked my girly things as a girl, I always had the geeky side too. For example, there’s hardly ever been a Christmas where I didn’t get at least one item that was electronically powered. As I’ve gotten older, I haven’t wanted traditional mom gifts of jewelry or a sweater, but I’d rather have something that I can use with my laptop or iPad. Yeah, I’m like that.

So when I discovered in the past year or so that I could not only possibly obtain the latest technology–be a first user for something–AND encourage entrepreneurship for someone trying to make a small business work, it sounded like a cool plan. Or, similarly, if I saw a worthy cause that supported technology issues, I was going to support it if I could.

TeslaMuseumprojectlogoIn the past twelve months, I’ve contributed to three such fundraisers. The first one was mentioned several months back. It was a fundraising campaign to help buy the original Wardencliffe building in New York that Nikola Tesla owned during his life, and turn it into a Tesla Museum. Having a child who is interested in electricity and loves to watch a Tesla coil, this seemed like a natural one to choose. I’ve only been a “member” of one other museum, and that was the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, so this was a natural fit as well. This one was funded through I thought it was a cool idea to support this endeavor, so I contributed to it what I thought I could afford.  It reached its goal and then some, so things are underway to continue to purchase the property and get the project underway. To learn more about this project, go to the Indigogo “Let’s Build a Goddamn Tesla Museum” website.

everpurseThe next project I decided to invest in was a little more “girly”, but not that much. It’s actually something a lot of people could use. The project was to make a small clutch or purse to recharge your phone when you aren’t using it. It’s known as Everpurse: seamlessly charge your phone all day. Everpurse is another one that gained great support and found its full funding. The idea is that rather than put one’s phone in a pocket or purse where it would just lose power while waiting to be used, the phone–either an iPhone or Samsung Galaxy S3–could be recharged inside this particular little clutch without any wires. Supposedly there’s enough charge in the recharger in the clutch to take your iPhone from 0% to 100% twice over! What person couldn’t love that? I don’t normally carry a purse, but a little clutch seemed just right, and one that would recharge my phone would be worth the money. So, I contribute to that fund as well. If you’d like to learn more about this little device, check out the Everpurse-Kickstarter website.

commbadgeThe last project that I decided to invest in, just before I wrote this post, was a CommBadge. Yes, you read that right–a CommBadge. Okay, it’s not quite the same as the one in the Star Trek franchise, but it’s pretty close! It’s a Bluetooth device that can be clipped on your shirt so that you can use your iPhone or Android phone hands-free without having to put on one of those Borg-like ear pieces. I don’t know about you, but I only had one of those earpiece thing because they annoyed me–they didn’t feel comfortable on either of my ears. This seems like a much better solution! It even works with Siri and the Google equivalent of that (whatever it’s called, which I don’t know since I don’t have any Android products personally). Looking at the funding prices on Indiegogo, they seem to be priced equivalently to several regular Bluetooth hands-free devices, so I figured, why not? They are still looking for funding for this project–they have 23 days to meet their goal, and it seems like a really good item to have. To contribute and get one of the first CommBadges ever produced, check out the CommBadge-Indiegogo website.

These are just three examples out of MANY that are found on Kickstarter and Indiegogo. Some technology project sound good, and some sound…well, they need work. I encourage you to go to the sites and check out what’s there, and support those projects that you can when you can. I think it’s important to support creativity, imagination, and small business when possible, and there are plenty of projects that offer access to early technological innovations. Helping to fund these projects is similar to a PBS television fundraiser. “At the $X, we’ll send you these gifts to thank you for your contribution”-type of marketing is done on the campaign pages. It works, as there’s usually plenty of things at different price points.

As a geek mom, I feel good not only helping some people realize their dream, but I feel good knowing that I’m encouraging creativity, innovation and technology in some small way, and can be an early reaper of the benefits.

See what other gems in the rough you can find, and contribute when you can!

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m-Learning and Single-Sourcing Aren’t The End of the World

Does anyone remember all the hype about 13 years ago about how life as we knew it was going to be destroyed merely by the fact that most of the computing machines running around the world weren’t programmed to go beyond the year 2000 because it would reset itself to start back at 1900 again? Do you remember the mad rush to make everything “Y2K” compliant?” I do, and remember being in the thick of it. I even remember secretly bracing myself mentally, just in case Armageddon did happened. Nowadays, people are thinking about this supposed Apocalypse that will happen on December 21, 2012– about 8 months from now. Is it going to happen? And what does this have to do with m-learning and single-sourcing?

Here’s my take on it, having lived through that time from an IT perspective: nothing happened, and nothing will happen. Well, nothing catastrophic happened or will happen. If anything, the Y2K crisis brought to the world’s attention (or at least the IT world’s attention) that details are important when creating and developing software and web development. Y2K made the IT world take notice that it had to get its act together better, and if the world needed reliable, safe, easy-to-use products, then that attention to detail has to be put in from the beginning. The same thing happened with the tragedy of the attack of the US on September 11th, 2001. There was a realization that email and other digital means of communication could be used to circumvent security, and it caught everyone’s attention enough that the IT world had to step it up.

Think about how many strides have been made in since that 2000-2001 time period in the digital world! Smartphones and tablets were developed and constructed over this decade or so, and now we are a much more mobile society than before. I mean, seriously, in 2001, could you imagine yourself walking around with a tablet in your messenger bag just to read a book, do your email on the go, write papers, watch a movie, have video chats with friends around the world, or just to instant message/text friends that quickly?

When I had my first cell phone around the time of the turn of the century, it could do simple SMS messages and make phone calls, but nothing more. My iPhone is WAY more sophisticated than even my first desktop! We’ve actually gone beyond the imagination of what the Dick Tracy wristwatches of yesteryear intended to do– and then some!

We are in a really critical time in the development of the digital world right now. It’s as if nothing is impossible, especially with the huge chances that made us think about all those details around us. But that’s also the point– we have to make sure that we actually pay attention and heed the warnings of the past to make sure that all those details are included.

This brings me to m-learning. Right now, we are in a very exciting time with m-learning due to the great strides that have been made with technology in recent years. We have huge opportunities to reinvent the way things are done in e-learning on mobile devices, mostly because the medium is different than anything we’ve had before. It’s not just putting up pages and pages of content, but reformatting and rewriting to make it accessible to a wider audience. Cloud technology and wireless technology makes m-learning not only something that is portable due to device size, but accessible anywhere, anytime. Think about it– it’s a big game changer.

This brings me to the idea of single-sourcing and m-learning. It’s something that’s been on my mind lately, because as I try to learn more and more about m-learning and getting involved in m-learning, I realize that flexibility is something I need. In other words, while I am attached to my Apple products for my digital mobility, there are others who are strong devotees of Android products and there will be those who will be signing the praises of the Windows 8 mobile system soon enough. In the end, it’s three of a few of the different OS systems that will need to be able to receive the same information, but be able to communicate to each other clearly and cleanly to each other as well.

Many years ago, the Portable Document Format or PDF was invented by Adobe with the intention of inventing a common format that any OS system could read with the proper viewing tool. Today, PDFs are still used, and additional single-sourcing formats such as MP4 and MP3 for video and audio and ePub for publications are coming to the forefront. Heck, even as we speak, Flash is starting to slowly retreat in favor of a more common HTML5 format, even if all browsers and devices are not completely on board with that. I attended a great seminar the other day put out by Adobe and hosted by Maxwell Hoffman about how to use the Technical Communicator Suite–especially, in this case, RoboHelp 9 to help create ePubs for mobile devices like tablets. The main idea behind this seminar was to help users of Adobe’s Tech Comm Suite see how they could get on-board with this idea of single-sourcing through the creation of e-Pubs using the TC Suite.  Even though I don’t really know how to use RoboHelp at all yet, it was evident that this was a hot topic from the way it was presented and the questions being asked. I felt empowered to get started on trying to master this piece of software, because Maxwell made it look so easy to do, and his emphasis was not only on any particular device, but rather that this tool would be good to help develop for just about any device. Understanding how to create ePubs is an excellent stepping stone to bigger and better things! I’m sure that other companies are also realizing that single-sourcing is the way to go to connect with as many users as possible.

m-Learning is about reaching as many learners as possible in a way that’s user-friendly as well as compatible with the technology, while still being engaging. There are so many devices out there, that it’s really important that programmers and developers, as well as instructional designers and other technical communicators really take the time to care about those details so that we can truly have single-sourcing. Even just between my iPad and iPhone, I don’t always feel that apps available have the same functionality as they do on my laptop, and vice versa. Going between devices–whether mobile or stationary–should be seamless. It’s been mentioned that some companies are already on the right track with this thinking, such as Kindle. You can open up a book at one spot on your phone, then switch to where you left off on your Kindle device, then pick up again where you left off on your laptop. Much of this is done through the cloud and wireless connections. This is definitely the right idea, and going in the right direction. For me, it’s even the functionality. My Twitter doesn’t work the same way between my iDevices and my laptop, and that’s not right.  It should work the same exact way on all my devices, and Android users should have the same experience as I do. This is a really important concept for m-learning. You want to make sure that the deliverable presented is the same for everyone who comes to a course, and that’s a tricky thing to do right now.  This is why discussing and creating new standards for m-learning are so crucial. The single-source perspective is truly needed in e-learning and m-learning universally, so that the same quality of content is delivered to ALL universally.

So will I be jittering in my boots when December 21st rolls around? I don’t think so (unless there’s news of an asteroid bigger than the moon is hurtling directly towards us). If anything, I’m thinking that December 21st will be a day when it will start a new age of enlightment, and m-learning and single-sourcing will be a big part of that. We are already on our way, but perhaps there will be something on that day that will be a big boost towards a positive path.

Maybe that day will be as monumental as First Contact Day.