Stepping into the audiences’ mind…Audience-Centric

I was hanging out on Twitter the other day chatting with a few friends, and the conversation kept towards audience. Well, trying to fully get into the mind(s) of the audience(s), to fully understand their view-point. Why do we do this as communicators, so we  can clearly communicate our message. I do this mainly because I cannot produce any piece of creative for a “client” until I fully understand the audience.

I look at the communication relationship with the audience like ballroom dancing. You know, you will have people watching your every move, so you have to be in complete rhythm  with your dancing partner. You have to know the next steps, the next twist, the next move and you have to do this completely anticipating your partners movements. In-order to do so…it takes practice, communication, and trust. To eloquently dance across the floor with complete fluid movement, you have to know the person you are dancing with…it is a relationship.

When I create a presentation, a video, a graphic, or any piece of creative…I have to know my audience. I have to completely feel that I am seeing their respective view-point. This has to be done in-order to create a message that is effective and efficient. I have to know what makes them tick, what makes them look away, what engages, and what distracts. It is more than demographics and hard numbers, it is the subjective pieces of information the defines the passion behind their inner being.

This takes time and research. Many times (to begin the dance), I just get out an ole piece of paper and draw a simple triangle…a perfect triangle. You know, a triangle that has equal lengths on all three sides thus creating equal angles. At each point I write three different words: Audience, Purpose, and Delivery. In the center of the triangle, I write Context. I do this each time I begin a project. I define the audience(s), the purpose behind the project, and the method(s) the message will be delivered.  From this, I write a mission statement that yields context. By defining the purpose and delivery of each piece of communication, it takes us closer to understanding the audience and how/why we are communicating the message.

Each piece of communication is delivered on some platform whether via print, web, video, email, radio, etc. But this is the theatre for our performance. Our audience(s) are sitting in the seats. The goal is to engage the audience with the piece of communication. We want them to dance with us! We want them to forget their peripheral vision and interact with the message.

Before we can dance with our audience, engage them with the message, we must know them! We must be able to look through their eyes, hear with their ears, feel their tendencies, and understand their pre-dispositions.

It is Video Time using DroidX and iPhone4

So I spent some time looking at the differences in video recording and displaying on both the DroidX and the iPhone4. So here are some thoughts…I going to break them down according to the device. I explain a little more in the iPhone4 description, but this is where I define some terms for the rest of the write-up.

iPhone4 Thoughts
1) The video quality is great especially since it is acquiring the image at 720p – 30 frames/second. This means that the video image is 720 lines across the width of the video display. It uses a progressive scan where the image is displayed line but line from top to bottom across the page. There is a debate  whether  progressive or interlaced is beter, but a progressive scan provides less visual artifacts and less motion blurring.  Here is an article about progressive (the “p” in 720p) and interlacing (the “i” in the 720i). I think that the actual resolution of the iPhone4 is a little better than the DroidX camera, with less visual artifacts, but does not have the chroma in outdoor settings as the DroidX.

2) The back camera focal length is 3.85 mm with f-stop of 2.8. This is essentially equal in focal length with a 35mm SLR camera with a 30mm lens. This is a pretty wide angle lens with a wide range of view. It is a pretty good camera, but for people like me…I want the original file. If you email the file or upload it to FTP site/YouTube, it compresses the video. So, I have to dock the phone to retrieve video in the most native format. Great articles by Ars Technica and Falk Lumo about the camera.

3) When recording the video from the camera, you are not allowed to zoom. You have to use your body to zoom by walking closer to the subject.

4) Displaying on an monitor, you have to purchase the PC adapter for the iPad. This allows you connect to a monitor that has a PC (VGA) input. This will not allow you to play the sound on the monitor, you have to connect the earphone out to the monitor or speakers using a mini-plug. The PC (VGA) connector is $29 on the Apple.com website. But you will also need a PC (VGA) cable to complete the connection.

5) Controlling what is displayed on the external monitor is tricky. It only will display pictures/video from camera or video form the YouTube application. Displaying videos from the camera can be tricky. Sometimes if you select to play the video, it might not immediately display on the external monitor. The same with pictures, you have to be in a slideshow mode to get the monitor to recognize the images.

6) It has two cameras! This is cool, one on the front and one on the back. This allows the user to record videos or take pictures using either camera. The front camera also allows the ability to do face-to-face video phone calls. You can just touch the screen to select which camera to use to record. I have actually used the front camera to record a video and it gives me a frame of reference for what I am recording. It allows to frame yourself properly without lots of mysterious room above your head. The back camera is the one with the flash for taking photos in low light.

DroidX Thoughts
1) The video quality is great with the ability to record in 720p. It has great image quality but when displaying the video on a Flat Screen HDTV, I noticed some artifacts in high contrast areas. Basically, when you watch the video on the HDTV and walk up close to the screen, you will see block like images around high-contrast areas. But, the DroidX had better chroma quality than the iPhone4…the video did not look as washed out.

2) The focal length of the DroidX’s camera is a little wider than the iPhone4, giving the ability to capture more landscape. I had to back up some with the iPhone to capture the same image as the DroidX. Also, since I am a Mac user, I can connect the DroidX via the USB cable and navigate to find the video files. This allows me to download the native video files to edit.

3) You can zoom with the video camera on the DroidX, very cool.

4) Displaying on a monitor is done with an HDMI mini-D to HDMI cable. This can be purchased for $39.99 at a Verizon Retail store or $24.99 online at Verizon.com. Yeah…$15.00 extra bucks to purchase in the store! Not Good!

5) Controlling what is displayed on the external monitor is a little tricky but a great idea. Once you connect the DroidX via the HDMI cable to the external monitor; you can select a picture or video and the media plays on the external monitor screen. Then the DroidX turns into a remote control. Great idea and neat interface.

DroidX is in the HOUSE! My Overview!

OK…after many requests…here are my initial thoughts of the DroidX! I do have to give a shout out to Robin Blackwood at JDPR for letting me play with this toy!

Well…watch the video first of all. This video covers the apps I use, the Mobile Hot Spot feature and a few other details.

One of the big questions from a lot of developers is whether the DroidX can be rooted. Basically to get to the core of the code. If this is your cup of tea…here is the link to the Engadget Post –> CLICK HERE or watch the video below!

I have a new video coming comparing the video playback of the DroidX and the iPhone4. Good stuff and I am using the cameras from the phones to show the difference in the video quality.

One of my close friends (Brian Lindenmeyer) recently purchased the DroidX and has been working on a document with his review of the phone (Below). I think he has some great thoughts and even slams my beloved Apple iPhone4, but I like his points overall.

Device Overview by Brian Lindenmeyer (@lxadoz104)

Awaiting the update to fix some Wi-Fi signal issues, corporate sync issues, and battery meter issues.  Overall, this device is more than I could have ever imagined.  Lots of this love for the Droid is based on the simple, but robust, integration to Google services.  We’ll cover this under applications.

UPDATE 7/20/2010 (9am) – I got the update from Verizon – so far things are definitely improved.

Couple other things:  I think the built-in launcher is fine, but did like Launcher Pro (may try it again).  I also didn’t find that any enhancement to the SMS messaging was needed.  Lastly, I do set up Twitter and Facebook as I like the contact integration, but the Twitter app that is built-in only supports one account, so grab another one if you have two…I’m still looking.

Platform/ROM/Built-in Apps

Not that I need to given the RAM, but I am looking forward to ROOTING this device to removes some bloatware (Amazon MP3, Blockbuster, CityID, etc.).   Otherwise, the first thing any Blackberry converts like myself need to realize is:
1.      Android manages memory much better
2.      Instead of folders to remove or arrange icons on the main screen, you have desktops to do this.  Your “cabinet” or folder of applications is more like an iPhone.

Aside from the bloat (and l lack of rooting/custom ROMs – we’ll skip that at the moment) – this phone simply rocks.  If you aren’t a Google Fan, you better be if you use this.  The integration to Google services is without a doubt the best integration of any device – and I’m including the MobileMe Apple garbage.  REMEMBER – Apple charges for that – Google doesn’t.

Must have – The Google Additions:

I’ll start with the Google Apps (or tightly integrated to Google services):

Google Voice:  If you don’t have a google voice number – get one.  The ability to use this phone as a secondary number is fantastic, along with the ability to call international at low rates.  But what is the best part is free visual/transcribed voicemails.  Yes, you can even text from your Google Voice number (although I’ve never done this, since I only text my friends who have my cell phone number – no need to confuse the less-technically savvy.  Fantastic launcher replacement with tons of options to tweak and lots of great features.  I still like LauncherPro Beta better (see below), but this one is a very close 2nd.

GTasks:  This app/widget allows you to enter tasks into your Google Task list and syncs with the server.  This task list is integrated into the Google calendar online.  Only issue is that Google Tasks doesn’t support reoccurring tasks, so for that I suggest you make reoccurring events on your google calendar.

Google Listen:  I thought the worse thing leaving my Blackberry behind would be losing PodTrapper – which I used to automatically get podcasts delivered to my device OTA so I could listen on planes or when driving.  Enter Google Listen.  This app is integrated to Google Reader (the RSS application Google has) and allows you to subscribe to RSS podcast feeds.  The only issue is that it doesn’t queue the podcasts automatically, but I have found that it downloads them quickly and allows for offline listening.  PERFECT.

Google Maps/Navigation:  Built-in, better grab the update that’s available from what was loaded just to be sure.  By the way, I gave my wife my Garmin Nuvi…this GPS is better.  Only issue is that the ETA is a bit off, even after calibration.  I guess Google is trying to be green and tell me to slow down.

Google Shopper:  Simple app that allows image, voice, or type searches on products to give you local and web pricing on the item.  This is just like going to shopper.google.com, only it’s built for the phone and has the voice and image search.  I took a picture of a RedBull Sugar Free…and instantly found the lowest price locally near me (KMart) and of course some online vendors

Google Talk (GTalk):  Since I lost BBM (Blackberry Messenger), I’ve had to get back on GTalk.  Well, the beauty I forgot about is that GTalk can save chat history in your GMail so that you can search for it later.  Great when sharing links with friends, etc. or you just want to refer back to the thread.  Use “is:chat” in the GMail search…and yes, you can also do this from the GMail phone app!

SMS Backup: OKAY – I know this isn’t a GOOGLE app, but folks, this may be the best FREE app there is.  Simple and does what the title says – backs up your text messages to your gmail account. This is a must have since this makes it easy to search texts (They get automatically labeled as SMS).  SIMPLY AWESOME.  I will pay for this app if/when needed.

Market Apps I use:

Quick Settings: Quick access to all the essential settings (ringer, brightness, wifi, bluetooth, etc.) with an easy to use UI. You can select from many different settings to display on the main dialog, and can even add a shortcut to it in your notification bar.

Pandora: Great app as usual

Slacker Radio: I have this in addition to Pandora as I don’t have a ton of custom channels on Pandora – and if I want to just listen to 80’s, Slacker has all the channels pre-configured.  While Pandora is my bread-n-butter, this is a close 2nd in terms of streaming radio/media.

Amazon App:  Look, I’m a prime member, and I basically order everything from Amazon.  Great app, just as good as it was on the Blackberry, only now I have a huge screen to look at the stuff!

Kindle App:  Again, I had this on the Blackberry, but now I have a much better screen.  Who needs a Kindle when you have a Droid X that can read just fine!

ShopSavvy: Great for comparing prices by scanning UPC codes. It will search online as well as nearby stores (if you let it use GPS). This also is a built-in QR Code reader as well.  Worth keeping just for that.

TempMonitor: Keep an eye on your battery or cpu temps by sticking it in the notification bar.  Since I have the cardock, the device can get hot running GPS up near the window.  Good to monitor this.

Facebook for Android: Syncs pictures (not flawless, but works), and is a decent app.  The widget is the main thing, but the fact is that I use the web / touch web interface.  I do use the social network app/ widget built-in that gives you a feed of twitter and facebook in on view.

Twitter for Android:  Yes, this is on my device because all other apps over this past weekend (7/18-7/19) didn’t work due to API issues.  I will go to Touiteur or Tweetcaster.  I like Tweetcaster since it is Free and supports 2 accounts (it does have ads on the bottom).  But I may drop the money on Touiteur since my buddy on a Droid swears by it.

Adobe Reader:  While OpenOffice is built-in for viewing, I like the Adobe Reader app as it has more functionality and I get a ton of pdf attachments via email.  Enough said.

HomePipe:  Access files on your home PC directly from your phone.  You can also stream your mp3s to the built-in media player.  Great app for basically connecting all PC’s you have that are on and running the PC-based app.  Not completely cloud, but still cool

QuickDesk Beta: Lets you access your most used programs from anywhere, without having to minimize anything you’re working on.

SyncMyPix: This app actually stores the Facebook photos in your Google Contacts, whereas Facebook for Android only matches the photos up so they display in your Contacts on your phone.  If you don’t want people’s Facebook profile pics stored in your Google Contacts, don’t use this.

Bubble:  Simple bubble app and leveler.  While the bottom of the device isn’t completely flat, still cool in case the wife asks you to hang some pictures!  Works on all sides.

DirecTV Scheduler: Great app for those with DirecTV and DVR’s.  Search, browse, and schedule recordings from your phone for any of your DVR’s.  Supports single or season recording.  Was using it when it came out for Blackberry, glad to see it’s here on Android.

FitDeck Mobile (Bodyweight):  I travel and this is a great app for bodyweight exercises I can do in the hotel room.  The also have a Pilates, Office, and Stairs program.  I own Pilates, and will be buying the other two soon.

iHeartRadio:  Yes, in case Pandora and Slacker aren’t getting it done, I can switch to iHeartRadio (Clear Channel).  Not great, but still worth checking out.

NotePad:  Since Google Docs, and the integration in general, doesn’t have a replacement for Outlook notes, I use this.  Doesn’t sync, but still a nice app.  If need be, I just create a task (with no reminder) on GTasks, or I go to Google Docs via the browser.

ScoreMobile:  Great score app  (alternatively I’m trying out SportsTap as well…both are equal, but I like ScoreMobile since I’m used to it from Blackberry days)

USAToday:  I read it when in the hotels, now I get it on my device.  The news feed widgets are preconfigured for USA Today feeds so this may be a bit redundant.

Other Apps recommended (but I haven’t tried), compliments of Rbb Christie (@ronx):

TripIt: If you use TripIt online, this is a must-have. Gives you quick access to your travel itineraries in an easy-to-read format. The TripIt service is pretty cool. You can email confirmations you receive from airlines/travel services/hotels to the tripit email address and it will automatically add all the info to your account.

IMDb: App for looking up movies, showtimes, trailers, etc.  I use the website all the time on my PC, so this should come in handy.  Just recently released, so I haven’t had many chances to use it yet.  Good chance this will move into my must have list once I start using it.

Communicating beyond the boundaries…true friendship!

Steve Hartman is probably one of the most gifted storytellers on the planet. He not only has a way with words but has the incredible ability to seek out the stories with layers, ones that are the most relevant.

I do not need to write anything about this video other than, these are the types of stories that define the very fabric of our natural being, What it means to cross all boundaries and find true friendship. Here are two creatures different in so many ways: size, type, and even communication. But they find a way connect…WOW!

We should only hope to achieve.

We should feel so blessed!

We should feel fortunate. We should feel blessed…because everyday we have an opportunity to get up and chase our dreams. Times are tough right now. Everywhere we look, more and more stories of foreclosure, layoffs, cutbacks, indicators or slow economic times. Families being forced from their homes, men and women looking hopelessly for work.

We should feel blessed…I know I do. I wake up every morning with a roof over my head and the God given ability to generate income. I shed tears every time I read an article about a family not able to pay their bills, no work in sight, no healthcare…tears. We live in the United States of America…land of the free. What is so wrong with access to health care and a quality education. What is so wrong with the humanity of sharing with the common man.

I am self-employed, blessed everyday that I have the ability to serve my clients. They have been so good to me….damn I am blessed! I get to express my God given, creative talents at their expense. What an honor. This creative enterprise pays my mortgage, my healthcare, and the food on my table. I should be so humbled.

When is the last time we have exercised the ability to say thank you! Thank you to those people that have made our successes possible. There are so many people who “have” and so many who “have not.” I hurt for those who “have not.”

So tomorrow…I will wake up and say my prayers, be thankful I have someone wonderful to share life with daily, and remind myself that everyday is a blessing. Let us be passionate about what we do, how we do it, and thankful we have a platform to exercise that creative energy.

Teaching is fun…especially when NetworkBash is involved!

I have a few passions in my life, my lovely wife, my family, teaching, and telling stories. The semester is about to begin at Clemson and I teach Business Writing. It is listed by the registrar as English 304 and housed in the Department of English as an Advanced Writing class. This is actually kind-of funny, I enjoying writing…creating a story that resonates with an audience. But I am not the most technically/grammatically proficient when it comes to articulating my thoughts. I get emails all the time from people reading my blog criticizing the way I write. Well…I write in an conversational tone, mainly as a stream of consciousness. I write to articulate my passion…passion is the key word.

Regardless…I am getting excited. Extremely excited. The semester is getting ready to begin. I get to put away business twice a week, and work with the next wave entrepreneurs. ENGL 304 is set-up to help students articulate thoughts and ideas using business communication to tackle the business world. If you look at the boiler-plate syllabus, we are supposed to teach students how to write proposals, memos, resumes, emails, etc. But…this ENGL 304 instructor will be working with students to learn how to use these tools to become business leaders. I am teaching how to become thought leaders and build business relationships using these tools.

My ENGL 304 class also has the sole responsibility to execute three events this semester,  NetworkBash 2010: Ignite, Excite, Engage! Three events strategically planned to allow students to build career relationships. Three events:

NetworkBash 2010
Ignite: September 8, 2010
Excite: October 6, 2010
Engage: November 4, 2010

Three events, three opportunities, three great ways for students of ENGL 304 to build a great connection point for other Clemson University students, engaging and having real conversations with potential employers. We have partners both financial and strategic. We work with the Michelin Career Center, Clemson Alumni Association, and the Advanced Writing Program. Our financial partners are to come, but last year we worked with the Consortium for Enterprise Systems Management, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, CH2M Hill, Immedion, and Tiger Properties.

So the point…each event will have an individual theme, bringing students and employers together to build relationships. Not to talk about a resume, but to learn more about each other, ultimately helping students learn the value of connections and relationships.

NetworkBash: Ignite (9/8/10) is designed to prepare students for the Career Fair put together by the Michelin Career Center on September 15, 2010. Students will interactively learn interview skills, how to pitch themselves, and ultimately how to get beyond the resume.

NetworkBash: Excite (10/6/10) is designed to allow students to learn how to use different Social Media techniques and technologies to build relationships.  This will be a discussion around different Social Media(s) and how they can help each of them open the door to career relationships.

NetworkBash: Engage (11/4/10) will be coordinated with the Clemson Alumni Association the Thursday before the NC State Football weekend. Alumni can can come into to town a day early (before the football game) and spend time with students networking, sharing how they built the relationships that helped them professionally.

The best part about these events, ENGL 304 students helped design and will help execute these events. They will use Business Writing as the fundamental technique to put on an event that ultimately will benefit their long-term goals.

This event was a product of a group of students in the Spring of 2009. One day I was teaching the class how to use Twitter to create a clear and concise elevator pitch (take their pitch and write it in 14 characters). One student looked at me and said, “this is great but I need to get a job and I am not sure how to get in front of the right person to use these skills.” So we decided to begin putting together an event where students and professionals could come together and network. Not just using the typical resume interaction, but really network and have a conversation that build a relationship. Here we are and this will be the third iteration of NetworkBash. I am excited! I am passionate…this is why I teach.

“Follow Me” just does not work?

There is this big trend that has been going on for a while, especially when promoting our Twitter accounts, asking people to follow you. You see it on CNN, on blogs, in marketing collateral…it is the common jargon when asking individuals to join the community.

I guess it all started with the fundamentals of Twitter with “Following” and “Followers.” But are we a community of leaders. Following suggests we are leading the pack, heading in a direction and the people in our community are right behind us as we dive through our social conversations.

Are we really followers or we just a part of a community of social exchange. When you are interacting in your social communities, do you choose to follow someone. Think about it for a second. Let’s say you go to the grocery store and meet your next door neighbor for the first time. You have a conversation and realize you have something in common. Maybe it is a football team or your kids are in the same algebra class. You choose to continue the relationship, choose to get to know the person. Are you clicking the follow button? Or are you joining a community of conversation that is ultimately building a relationship wrapped around trust.

Twitter has created a discourse wrapped around “Following.” It is a community of fun conversations, interactions, and relationships. But there are many who have chosen to take on the “Follower” discourse as literally as many interpret the Bible. It is the golden truth. We as marketers even leverage the discourse as we build campaigns for our clients. The goal of this literal discourse, create a “Thought Leader.” We build these accounts, set-up blogs, create fan-pages, develop YouTube channels to become “Thought Leaders.” But who are we leading?

Are we really thought leaders in this wide approach to social media communities. Do we really have followers? Is it necessary to tout that we have so many followers? Is it really ego driven and not about community? Do we let it get to our head so much that it has become a pecking order, like the high-school popular crowd. It almost builds a dichotomy, a distinction between the haves and the have nots as we watch individuals/organizations rack up big “Followers” numbers. Or is it really about sphere of influence. We want to increase our followers so we can influence more and more people with our message.

It can be addicting, where everyday we click to see if our numbers have changed. Is it mass media or is it a definitive way to measure success. We use the numbers as a ROI metric which helps marketers calculate value for the dollar. Followers…and interesting choice of words.

Have you sat back and really thought what it means to have “X” number of followers on Twitter. I kind of like Facebook’s approach to the whole thing…”Friends.” We have connected with our “Friends” and we have an exchange of conversation. We get to sit back and watch our friends enjoy their day, and we just say hello or even “Like” something when it strikes our fancy.

Building a community of conversation is not about followers, it is about like minded individuals that chose to engage with one another. The discourse of “Followers” will always be there but we should interpret the language in a different way. We should “Engage.” We should rethink how we interpret the number of “Followers” and “Friends” in our social networks, remember it is a community of people and they are humans.

If these social networks are supposed to be the digital metaphor of our human, social interactions…would you walk up to someone, shake their hand, share a story, then ask them to follow you? Maybe if you are politically minded. Instead you would listen and try to find another time to meet and chat again. To bad we have to chose online to “Follow.” I still like the idea of clicking to find a “Friend.” It makes more literal sense.

Why not take the Dalai Lama approach to our constituency bases and and let them lead the pack?

Because an educated world is a better world!

Have you read the words to the script from the video above. If you have not watched the video…you should. Ignore the fact it is a University of Phoenix promotion, but look and listen to the words and the pictures. Seriously, take 60 seconds and watch and really listen…focused listening.

Now…read the words:

it is 2010 and everything is different
different jobs
different challenges
different opportunities
so why would universities stay the same
what if an education could adapt for the time we live in
and i am not just talking about 2010, but beyond it
adjusting curriculim to serve ever changing job markets
hiring faculty who are still working in the fields they teach
and using new technologies to enhance learning
if an education could adapt to the way the world works today
could that same education help the world to adapt
to work better tomorrow
university of phoenix
because an educated world is a better world

Now…watch the video again! It is 2010 and we are faced with so many challenges, right here in our in our neighborhoods, right here in our states, in this great nation. We are in a place where we are trying to find new ways to innovate, and it is finally that time! We can really invest in our educated future. Yes, I said our “educated future.” It is that time, to find new ways to invest in the next wave of entrepreneurs.

University of Phoenix has figured it out. Now I have heard many seasoned, accredited academics look at the University of Phoenix and critique “quality” of education. But, let’s burn down the ivory tower and let’s talk about education that is going to retain and sustain tomorrow’s leaders…today.

It is my prediction that Clemson University is going to essentially become a private institution within the next five years. Now I know that Clemson will not be able to claim it’s private nature, yet over 90% of it’s funds will reflect private dollars. Universities like Clemson are going to have to become more market driven. The funding arms that will keep the doors open will demand talent driven success and a return on their investment…human capital.

It is time…it is time to invest in initiatives and programs that are going to innovate and inspire the next wave of entrepreneurs, the next wave of leaders, the next wave of human capital. Look at the initiative of the Consortium of Enterprise Systems Management, “To facilitate and create a pipeline of talent that will support the future of IT.” How? Change the discourse in the world of K-12 and higher education that the world of IT is cool.

Look at the Call Me Mister Program, with the sole initiative to empower African American males to become elementary education teachers here in South Carolina. These are the goals and initiatives it takes to create a pipeline of talent for tomorrow’s demands. We not only need to continue to empower those who will teach our children, but those who will pave the path for our smarter communities.

How do you write? How do we educate?

I was walking through a little thrift store today and noticed something…and it struck me. A pencil sharpener…remember those days? I remember when I was a kid and it was this time of the year. Mom would load us up in the car and take us to the store for school supplies. We had a list of items from our school sent home informing the parents what supplies we will need for the coming year. Notebooks, paper, pencils, crayons, etc. created havoc in the local store where moms and dads were loading up children’s school bags.

I remember getting those brand new pencils. They were freshly packed and un-sharpened. They came in all different types of colors; red, blue, yellow, and green. Sometimes you could buy them with your name on them, especially if you had a common name like Bobby. Remember the first pencil you pulled out of the pack and you could go sharpen the pencil for the first time. It was more fun to sharpen the pencil than actually take part in the classroom exercise. I even remember some of my teachers started the day with the whole class in line, sharpening our pencils before starting the lesson.

Do they still have pencil sharpeners in classrooms? Some schools, maybe…if the buildings have housed generations of students. They are still probably on the walls or bookshelves, well because they have become nostalgic reminders of our yester-years. Public education is changing faster than the technology that is leading the way. Dollars are decreasing, teachers are being laid off, classrooms getting crowded, and some of the best and the brightest are loosing site of the age ole testament…education shapes our future.

Just a few months ago, I bought an iPad from Apple. The new wave of the future when it comes to personal and business computing. It is not only a computing tool but a business class communication tool. As a college instructor at Clemson, we are being challenged to find innovative ways to engage our students and still conserve if not cut costs. I have made a vow to try to teach the whole class this coming semester using just the iPad. I am not sure if I can execute this plan, but I am going to try.

Today’s teaching tools are technologies that are shaping the way we teach and the educational process of our future. At the end of last semester’s class, I asked each student to write a thank you note  to one person that has shaped their future. I asked them to hand write the note, with their signature, and hand write the envelope. Some students were perplexed with the assignment, either not understanding the purpose or the means to execute the assignment. The hand written note is so much more powerful that an email. Think about those hand written notes you receive in the mail. I am hate throwing them away, so I have a place for each one that I receive.

Writing a hand written note takes time, effort, dedication, and thought. If you are writing a two page letter and it is pen…you better chose your words carefully. It is hard to go back and fix something. We now are surrounded by spell check and other grammatical word fixing mechanisms…you know the red and green lines under a word or sentence. They use those colors so we feel annoyed until we fix the error. But they become our crutch. I am a poor speller; by the mere fact that I am not only an educated individual, but one that depends on technology.

So what is the balance? How do we still teach our next wave of leaders, our new knowledge economy how to think like practitioners and not as technicians.  How do we teach them to evolve with the technologies and not be so dependent upon a tool. How do we teach to creatively write and allow the tools to facilitate the process instead if dictating the process.

If we are going to have a bigger and brighter knowledge economy, we have to compete on a fundamental level…in our education system. Yes…it takes dollars, but it also takes a commitment to tomorrow and knowing our past. There are days where I wish I could have a pencil sharpener again, bringing the fun back into the creative process. But I sure do like the iPad as well. But, we have to find the middle ground between age old technology and new innovation to set the stage for tomorrow. We can’t just go lay-off old teachers just because they are going to retire eventually, but we can’t just lay-off the new teachers because of seniority. We need to be selective in who is teaching in our public schools, ones that are going to inspire the next creative class of human capital.

I will leave you with this…have you ever heard of the Call Me Mister Program, housed at Clemson University? The sole purpose of this program is to empower and educate young African-American males to be elementary school teachers here in South Carolina.  To put more African-American males in leadership roles to become role models for our young students. Imagine the opportunity to change the face of South Carolina by changing the image of African-American males from the years of oppression this state has witnessed. Now that is innovation. It did not take technology…it took vision.

Protecting our name & online accounts from being hacked!

So I get this email below from my father this morning…I have been hacked! Oh yes, someone has broken into my email and hacked me. What have they done, sent out emails (from my contact list) including some weird link that leads them to a place of no return. BLAH…

Almost a year ago, I was hacked in a different way. I had someone break into my car and steal some very expensive items from me. Yes, I was hacked (well robbed) here as well. I am convinced this situation was predicated by someone learning my location based on conversations on Social Media sites, broke into my car in the middle of the night, and steal my stuff. That is why I am weary about some of the geo-location, social media technologies (Foursquare, Gowalla, Google Latitude, etc.)

We are being hacked everyday from our new, digital lives. Whether it is a email account being hacked, houses broken into, social security numbers compromised, bank accounts with malicious charges, or Twitter accounts being used on our behalf with contradicting messaging. Look at the gulf and the BP situation, “Terry” created @BPGlobalPR to spread off color messages about the gulf situation, BP’s brand was hacked! Or was it really?

College coaches everyday deal with someone using the college coaches name to maliciously sell advertising to make a buck. Hackers are on so many levels compromising our very core of our own brand identity…so we are forced to squat. Seriously, go out and find all the digital domains, acquire them, and hold them so no one else will use them maliciously.

I wonder if Coach Steve Spurrier knows if his name is on this site, using Steve Spurrier’s brand equity to sell ads for someone else’s benefit? Are they hijacking his name or is it Coach Steve Spurrier’s fault for not knowing how other’s are using his name online? Maybe Coach Steve Spurrier knows about this site and is benefiting from the traffic? I know this…I am not clicking any of the links on this site until I know that Coach Steve Spurrier is benefiting from his brand equity being used, or any Steve Spurrier for that matter.

So let”s back up and think more about the main reason why I am writing. First of all, one of my accounts was compromised. Some person or person(s) used my email account to email a group of my contacts (my sphere of influence) to market their “product.” Yes, this is a technology inconvenience.  My mother called me and said, hey you should just delete all the contacts and close account. Let’s think about this for a second.

Yes, I have logged into this account (which is an old hotmail email account) and deleted all of the mail in the inbox, outbox, folders, sent, etc. I also deleted all of the contacts in the address book. I even went ahead and changed the three year old password. But, I am not going to delete the account. Why? Because it is my name, my brand, my face. The email account is BobbyRettew “at” hotmail.com…if deleted, someone else can open a BobbyRettew “at” hotmail.com account and begin emailing using my branded name.

Why do I care, because I do not want some other person using my name to communicate a message that I cannot control. Now it would be different if I was JohnSmith “at” hotmail.com, but I have a unique name. There are very few Bobby Rettew’s out there, and I would like to make sure I protect the branded name I have worked so hard to build. I do not want someone using this email account for reasons that could potentially “hack” my brand equity.

Leason I have learned: continually change my password. Yes, I am squatting on this email account…but that is my choice. Our name is everything to us…it is our branded image, even our email accounts.

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