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Limits of influence

"He was one of those men who think that the world can be saved by writing a pamphlet." - Benjamin Disraeli

"I really feel like when people ask me to do a keynote or a general presentation that my job is to inspire, cajole, provide some cognitive dissonance or start conversations." - Will Richardson

Right in the middle of my final presentation of 2007 last Tuesday, I had a thunderclap of a flashback: I was arguing for the SAME DAMN THING in 2007 that I was arguing for in 1994 at the same conference - that kids need to have access to Internet resources. In 1994, it was general Internet access adults were nervous about; today it is Web 2.0 tools they worry about.

It just makes a fellow wonder what he's been doing for the past 13 years or so. Just spitting in the wind?

Tuesday's talk went fine. Participants (many in the group were my colleagues here in the state) seemed engaged and were polite. But then folks in our area tend to be that way whether you are deserving of courtesy or not. We even have a term for it: Minnesota Nice. Over all, it's been a pretty good year for me in my side-line of speaking and doing workshops. I had about 18 jobs, working at conferences, with school districts, and for intermediate service agencies with really positive feedback about the work. And while the travel gets to be a bigger PIA every year, actually doing the workshops gets more and more fun for me. And next year's calendar is starting to fill up already.

In the blog entry from which the quote above was taken, Will Richardson angsts about his effectiveness in doing "drive-by" workshops. Maybe I should be more concerned as well, given that I don't feel I've made much of a dent in the world of education or technology. But then I long ago decided that one's influence changes, the further one moves away from the classroom.

  • Classroom influence (Classroom teacher)  Daily interaction with students -> HIgh impact on 20-150 students -> High evidence of impact -> Rapid change
  • Building influence (media specialist or building tech coordinator) - Weekly/monthly interaction with students -> Medium impact on 300 - 1200 students - Medium evidence of impact -> Steady change
  • District influence (District supervisor or director) - Little to no direct student contact -> Less visible evidence of impact -> Slow change
  • State/national influence (Speaker/writer/association leader) - No student contact -> No visible evidence of direct impact -> Imperceptible change

teacher4.jpgIn a nutshell, you have less and less influence on more and more people the farther you get from the classroom. And the more removed from kids you are, the greater the leap of faith one needs to believe one is making a difference. I'd agree with Will that a conference presenter's job is to "inspire, cajole, provide some cognitive dissonance or start conversations," as well as give direction, suggest trends, describe best practices, and even give some low-hanging fruit type applications. And be engaging.

Were it not for the very kind people who on occasion speak to me at conferences or send me e-mails saying that they were moved by an article I wrote, tried an idea I'd presented, or changed their thinking about something because of something I'd said, I'd just stay home. 

I just wonder what I will be arguing for in 2020 - student access to virtual reality equipment, intelligent systems, chips that augment brain functions???  I just hope it is not Internet access.



See you in Anaheim and San Antonio

I've had workshop/session proposals accepted for both the annual ALA conference in Anaheim and NECC in San Antonio.  (I just hope I'm not speaking at the same time as Kathy Schrock - I hate missing her session!)

ala_head.jpgALA - June 27, 2008 - Anaheim CA
Eating Elephant 2.0 One Bite at a Time: Using the Read-Write Web in Classrooms and Libraries, workshop
E-Books, E-Kids, E-Flat! 3 Trends Schools and Libraries Will Ignore at Their Peril, workshop





 NECC - June 28 to July 2, 2008 - San Antonio TX
Are You Punishing or Preventing Plagiarism in Your School?, Workshop, June 29
E-Books, E-Kids, E-Flat! 3 Trends Schools and Libraries Will Ignore at Their Peril, Workshop, June 29
Policies 2.0: Rules for the Social Web, Session, July 2

See you this summer! 


Another OLPC follow-up posting

Update: more people are receiving their XOs! Thank goodness! 

First, my bad, that I have not gotten to mess with the XO as much as I would like to or that I am not a Linux geek. Like I said yesterday, this machine could have gone to a much more deserving person. I had a meeting last night so didn't get a lot of time with my new baby. I have not read as thoroughly as I should the XO wiki, but intuitively, I so far have not yet fingered out how to do this these things with the XO:

  • FInd the stylus
  • Use the pressure sensitive pads (with a borrowed stylus). I've only tried in the paint program, to be fair.
  • Use this as an e-book. The pdf I downloaded took forever to open just the first page. When the machine is in the tablet mode, only the game controllers, screen display mode (portrait/landscape) button and power buttons are accessible. I couldn't figure out how to save the Gutenberg .txt file to the computer's memory- yet.
  • Save a bookmark in the browser so it is there the next time I OPEN the browser.
  • Figure out how much storage I have remaining, what how much RAM I am using, etc.
  • Find any built-in help screens.
  • Configure any sort of preferences.(I did see instructions on the Sugar Control panel. Yeah, right.)
  • Register using the "register command" under the main icon on the home page. It seems to just hang.

I did successfully install two new apps -  a direct link to gmail and SimCity. Navigating is getting easier (mastering the Activity, Browse, View commands.) Remembering that programs are not apps, but activities. Adjusting to the keyboard. I found a new online resource for OLPC info: the FYX US OLPC XO Forum <>.

Here once again are comments and answers to your questions from yesterday:

Unfortunately, for you, I was shown how the display worked while trying out a prototype at PyCon last year. For better or worse I think almost all the useful info is going to be on the OLPC wiki. It will be a good object lesson on the strengths and weaknesses of wikis.

Regarding some of the questions above about extensibility, what OS's work on it, etc. Applications need at least some modification to work with the XO's UI and security model. The changes will be easy for some applications and hard or impossible for others. Getting some other Linux distros and eventually Windows to boot will come along, but it will be a lot of work to get them to take a advantage of the XO's advanced features, some of which the XO's OS itself isn't really taking advantage of yet (e.g., power consumption will improve significantly with software upgrades). Tom

Thanks, Tom. I am also wondering just how far the 1G of storage and 256M of RAM will get me when I try to add more programs. Like I said before, I can't figure out yet how to check these sorts of stats. There is a list of software on the OLPC wiki (where I got SimCIty and Gmail). I am guessing "power users" will store files figure out how to pimp their machines with extra RAM, use external flash memory, etc.

Also, if in your findings you discover that the wireless range is longer than normal, let us know, as that is one of the most touted features. Reg

The signal strength is only indicated as a graphic rather than a percentage on the home screen (as far as I can find). We have one wireless transmitter in the old brick building where my office is located (on the second floor). I had to go to the basement before I completely lost the signal. I think that is good, but haven't compared it to my Mac. One mysterious thing is that when I click on the "Neighborhood View," I always seen 3 or 4 "mesh" network connections - other folks trying to propigate a network, probably unknowingly.

How is the security worked for the GetOne models??? I just read the transcript of the Mary Lou Jepsen on a podcast, talking about the Bitfrost security arrangement, and wondered if we will get a USB key or if  the security is turned off. Tinktron

What security? I've not yet figured out how to turn any security on, add more users, etc. I did see somewhere you could register for a key to get access to the OS programming, I believe.

I'm hoping to get mine in time to take with me for a business trip to Silicon Valley next week. I bought mine for several reasons The primary reason I bought the OLPC OX is that I am a major klutz, so it's durability is number one. I'm hoping to watch tv shows that I prerecorded using Freevo on my Linux box. I also plan on downloading a bunch of books from the Gutenberg project to read on long trips and train rides. I also plan on taking it with me to the bookstores (Yay, free T-mobile hotspot) and library on Sundays to catch up on my periodicals. It will be great to immediately be able to go online and research something about which I've just read or sample the music of an artist whose review I've just read. I have already bought a roll-up USB keyboard for the long emails I might have to write when I take it on the road. Just turn the display around and it should be perfect. Thanks to Mike Lee's great posts over on, I've already got an iGo auto/air power 40 adapter that has tip that fits the OLPC XO perfectly. It was only $20 on clearance at Radio Shack. I'm disappointed that Potenco didn't have the pull chagers ready to purchase in tandem with the G1G1 promotion. I'm hoping to show off the OLPC XO to as many people as possible before the G1G1 promotion ends and the pull charger would have been great to have for these demonstration even if it meant taking on an extra $20 to the order. And I also plan on letting my numerous nieces and nephews play with it when they come to visit for the holidays. con

Rugged it seems to be. At least cat-proof. But then, I've not dropped it yet either or put in an oven or bathtub. External mouse and keyboard seem to work fine, but the right mouse button doesn't have any functionality that I have found so far and the escape and Fn keys do nothing on the keyboard. Flashdrive stick recognized (use Journal to see contents). JPGs open with Paint. PDFs open with Read (but very, very, very slowly). Word doc with graphics (Mac 2004) opened using Write. Tried to open a .mov, but it seemed to just hang. One thing that is frustrating is that the Journal view of documents doesn't show documents' file extensions.

I plan to let my grandson experiment with the XO as well and watch his reaction. He may already be spoiled by using his dad's PC.

Don't know if this was the problem, but according to this support page: "the cursor sometime jumps erratically due to a miscalibration error—you can recalibrate the touchpad by doing the “four-finger salute”." Documentation of the fix to recalibrate the touchpad is here: Reg

Having already tried the one-finger salute many times without effect, I did try the four-finger version. There was no visible sign that it did anything, but I will see if it helps with the cursor jitters. Thanks!

Does the directional pad to the left of the screen depress in only 4 directions or will it depress in 8? Is this essentially another set of up,down,left,right keys on the keyboard? Many of us will want to put MAME on this machine via USB stick or SD card when we get it. The gamepad would be a great feature for this but will essentially be usless for many MAME games unless it depresses in all 8 directions, and the driver is written to allow this. --Phil

The pad LOOKS like it should support more than four directions, but I have not found anything yet on which to test it.

You seem to be handling your fame quite well. It can't be easy to have hundreds of geeks suddenly looking to you for news, info, and hints of coming rapture. Just for fun, do you have any stats on what happened to your blog traffic after you announced your olpc? I know I looked around. Great job! koaziji

My visits (according to ClusterMaps) jumped from around 500 to 1500 per day over the past couple days. No big change in Technorati rank. But thanks for the kind words. I feel so, so ... inadequate. (Oh, and I do know my work productivity and spousal satisfaction rating are at all time lows.) I am still trying to figure out how much of my frustration comes from my lack of skills (or child-like perspective) and how much is due to this machine still feel very Beta-like.

I guess that is it for now. I plan to do deep OLPC wiki reading as soon as I can.

And FedEx. PLEASE deliver some other folks their XOs. The pressure here is getting to me!

 Note: April 2008. This entry has become a target for spammers so I am turning off the comments. If you have them, you can email me directly at doug0077 (a)