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My book Machines are the easy part; people are the hard part is now available as a free download at Lulu.

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Saturday
Apr262008

Disillusionment Curve

discurve.jpg 

The graph above represents my imperfect remembering of a concept I learned once upon a time - early 90s, I think.

The theory is pretty simple: the higher your expectations of a thing, the deeper your dissatisfaction/disillusionment when experiencing the thing itself. The lower your expectation, the less disappointed you will be. And the less deep your unhappiness, the sooner, easier and more likely your return to satisfaction.

I am sure there is an official name for and far better explanation of this concept. It's similar to Moore's Adoption Lifecycle or Gartner's Hype Cycle, but I believe it pre-dates either of these. If anybody can supply a name and more authoritative source, I would be much obliged.

A number of things brought the concept to mind this week:

  • I finally got a chance to study Jeff Utecht's Stages of PLN adoption on the Thinking Stick. I like that he adds perspective and balance to the path many take in learning and using social networking tools for professional growth. (He did forget denial, anger and bargaining ... oh, that's Kubler-Ross's stages of death. Never mind) Jeff's is a good "adoption" model.
  • Spring was here. My expectations for the weekend were very high. But there was an inch of snow on the ground this morning, it's now 28F at midday, and the winds are gusting up to 30mph. My satisfaction level will be rising very slowly.
  • My department has been pitching pretty hard all the benefits of the new student information system we're implementing next school year. How does one establish a balance between over-selling and working up real enthusiasm for change?

And for some reason, I woke asking myself: "What should be our technology department's priority: Making people happy or making people productive?" I recognize there is a correlation. But do we make people unhappy in the short term for productivity increases that eventually result in greater happiness?

As if I really had that much control anyway... 

Tuesday
Apr222008

"Machines are the easy part" now a free download

machineslulu.jpgI suppose we could call this an Earth Day tribute. My son's and my little book, Machines are the easy part; people are the hard part is now available as a free (paperless, non-polluting, environmentally friendly) download from Lulu.

You can also buy a print copy, but I haven't seen it yet, so no guarantees. Watch the shipping charges - the default setting is very expensive.

The book was a joint project for Brady and me during his senior year of high school four years ago. It was a genuine labor of love. I don't always understand my shy, talented son, but I appreciate him.

I've sold or given away about 1,000 copies since the book came out. Being the astute businessman that I am, I sold the book that cost me $14 a copy to publish for $12. So I figured every time I gave one away, I was saving $2. 

Brady was smart - getting paid for his art work up front.

A few notes about publishing on Lulu:

  1. The text was easy to format and submit to Lulu. I still can't quite figure out how to do a cover I like. Creating a cover just seems harder than it needs to be.
  2. Lulu allows you to place a Creative Commons license on the work. The site says "Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0". It's really 3.0.
  3. I've already spotted a few typos in the Lulu edition that weren't there in the earlier print version. Yes, folks, I do know when to use "its" and when to use "it's." I just can't seem to see the mistakes in my own work. What is up with that? (Now I am still confused about "lie" and "lay" and substitute other words whenever possible.)
  4. I really like how you can set your own price, give electronic copies away, and revise the work as needed. No cost for publishing either.

Anyway, Brady and I hope you enjoy our effort. I think we need to start another book once he graduates from college this summer!

Happy Earth Day. 

Tuesday
Apr222008

Artichoke and the hard questions

Artichoke in New Zealand has a terrific post about "Things you seldom hear discussed at an (e) learning conference."

First, he suggests a TED video by long time educational technology skeptic Clifford Stoll. For many years, Stoll has had the courage to ask what sort of message we send to children when we plunk them down in front of a piece of machinery rather than spending personal time with them.

“...kids love these high-tech devices and play happily with them for hours. But just because children do something willingly doesn’t mean that it engages their minds. Indeed most software for children turns lessons into games. The popular arithmetic Math Blaster simulates an arcade shoot-’em-down, complete with enemy flying saucers. Such instant gratification keeps kids clicking icons while discouraging any sense of studiousness or sustained mental effort. Plop a kid down before such a program and the message is, “You have to learn math tables, so play with this computer.” Teach the same lesson with flash cards, and a different message comes through: “You’re important to me, and this subject is so useful that I’ll spend an hour teaching you arithmetic.” (Stoll, Clifford, “Invest in Humanware.” New York Times, May 19, 1996.)

I have always enjoyed reading the hard-eyed look at educational technology by critics like Stoll, like like Jane (Failure to Connect) Healy, like Larry(Over Sold and Underused) Cuban, and especially like the Fools Gold and Tech Tonic reports by the Alliance for Childhood.

Even better than the Stoll link, Artichoke begins a response to the late Neil Postman's Five Things We Need to Know About Technological Change in which he succinctly summarized the concerns Postman often addressed in his longer works:

  1. ... all technological change is a trade-off. ...  culture always pays a price for technology.
  2. ...the advantages and disadvantages of new technologies are never distributed evenly among the population. 
  3. ...Embedded in every technology there is a powerful idea, sometimes two or three powerful ideas. These ideas are often hidden from our view because they are of a somewhat abstract nature. But this should not be taken to mean that they do not have practical consequences. 
  4. ...consequences of technological change are always vast, often unpredictable and largely irreversible 
  5. ...When a technology become mythic, it is always dangerous because it is then accepted as it is, and is therefore not easily susceptible to modification or control.

OK, this is a teaser. Read and comment over on Artichoke. He raises some outstanding questions about technology in education based on the Postman's ideas.

Oh, for the antithesis of Postman, check this out by Ray Kurzweil - "Expect Exponential Progress":

Yet as powerful as information technology is today, we will make another billionfold increase in capability (for the same cost) over the next 25 years. That's because information technology builds on itself – we are continually using the latest tools to create the next so they grow in capability at an exponential rate. This doesn't just mean snazzier cellphones. It means that change will rock every aspect of our world. The exponential growth in computing speed will unlock a solution to global warming and solve myriad other worldly conundrums.

Thanks to its exponential power, only technology possesses the scale to address the major challenges – such as energy and the environment, disease and poverty – confronting society.

Technology - bane or boon to our world? How educators use (or don't use) technology with students will be the determining factor.