Category Archives: network literacy

Can a Smartphone Make You Smarter?

Jay Morse & Heidi Radunovich, PhD

Using smartphones and other mobile communications devices have become a way of life for many of us. As of 2010, there were over 7.000 health applications for mobile devices – and the list keeps growing. Dr. Shore and colleagues have cataloged and prioritized applications for mental health for the military and summarized three leading military mental health projects using mobile technologies [1].

Combat smart phones: 2-1 AD provides feedback on futuristic technology

Mobile Health, or mHealth (using mobile communication devices for health care services), can improve traditional mental health practices by enhancing communication, enriching health information, encouraging engagement, and improving compliance. Mobile technology can be used easily on-base or in the civilian community, is easily accessible (can be carried in a pocket, purse, or backpack), and can provide patient physiological data as well as voice and text communications. A wide range of mHealth applications for the military have been developed or are in development. Some of the projects being developed include:

  • Remote Exercises for Learning Anger and Excitation Management (RELAX): This application collects self-reported information about the emotions of the user and physiological information that is reported to a therapist to assist in therapist-directed feedback to address anger and stress.
  • Remote PTSD monitoring and diagnosis using an automated system: The application uses voice analysis software to screen and identify individuals at risk for PTSD.
  • A Conversational Independent Living Assistant for Cognitive Impairments: This project extends the current Planning and Execution Assistant Trainer (PEAT) to help users in the VA system to plan, execute, and monitor daily activities. The application is planned to have a virtual caregiver who interacts with the user.
  • Naturalistic Neurocognitive Assessment: A video game for smartphones, the application assesses increasingly complex neurocognitive metrics.

While there are many opportunities to develop innovative mobile technology solutions, there is a limited base of mental health literature evaluating outcomes when using these devices. Still in its infancy, the field of mobile technology and of mHealth is fast moving and provides many possibilities for uses in mental health for care providers in the future.


Shore, J. H., Aldag, M., McVeigh, F. L., Hoover, R. L., Ciulla, R., & Fisher, A. (2014). Review of mobile health technology for military mental health. Military Medicine, 179(8), 865-878. doi:10.7205/MILMED-D-13-00429


This post was written by Jay Morse & Heidi Radunovich, PhD, members of the MFLN Family Development (FD) team which aims to support the development of professionals working with military families. Find out more about the Military Families Learning Network FD concentration on our website, on Facebook, on Twitter, You Tube, and on LinkedIn.

Passwords and online safety


In early August, the New York Times reported that Russian hackers had “amassed the largest known collection of stolen Internet credentials, including 1.2 billion username and password combinations and more than 500 million email addresses” This report is but the latest in a string of news stories about the credentials of Internet users being compromised. In the past year, there have been many data breaches including Target, Adobe, Michaels and others.

Typically, when a single site is breached, the advice is to change your credentials for that one site, and any others where you use the same credentials. However, in this instance the stolen passwords and usernames were from many websites, and a detailed list of the affected sites is not available.

This incident and similar ones should be the impetus for you to consider how you secure your identity when using websites for communication, banking, purchasing, social networking, and all the activities we do online. Good security requires sacrificing a bit of convenience, but the peace of mind is worth it.

Password Security
 – your responsibility

Most sites require you to login with a username (often an email address) and a password. Since your email address is most likely public, your password is the “secret” that you are using to prove to the website that you are who you say you are. Creating a good password and keeping it secret are vital to online security.

This article about passwords, from the Network Literacy area of the eXtension site provides information on password usage, choosing a good password, remembering passwords, and two-factor authentication.

Some key takeaways

  • Passwords should be long, complex, and different for each site you use
  • Keeping track of passwords is a key barrier to people adopting a strong password policy for themselves
  • Two-factor authentication adds another component to security, making the compromise of a password less harmful

The World Wide Web was originally developed without much thought given to security – it was a model built on trust. Incidents like this make clear that security is necessary, and that each of us is responsible for protecting our identities and credentials.

Authors: Stephen Judd (@sjudd) and Terrence Wolfork (+Terrence Wolfork, @trwolfork )

This article (Passwords and online safety) was originally published Thursday August 14, 2014 on the Military Families Learning Network blog, a part of eXtension.

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

The Value of Research for Financial Professionals

By Molly C. Herndon

Social Media Strategist 

For financial professionals working with clients in the field, economic research may seem abstract and non-applicable to their daily practice. Our August 12 webinar, Cliffs Notes from the Journal of Financial Planning & Counseling will highlight some of the more relevant articles from the journal and discuss the practical implications and impacts of the research.

Reading by Pedro Ribeiro Simões is licensed Creative Commons.
Reading by Pedro Ribeiro Simões is licensed Creative Commons.

Indeed, measuring outcomes is a significant way we all benefit from academic economic research. The evaluation of the outcomes of projects, programs, and initiatives encourages the improvement of programs to better reach and connect with their audiences. Thus, financial professionals have better access to programs to continue their own education, and a richer well of knowledge to share with clients.

Of course, financial professionals benefit from consuming research as well. By reading journals, financial professionals stay on top of current practices, trends, and can help develop programs that meet the needs of their clients by incorporating empirical evidence.

So make plans to go through some research briefs with Dr. Barbara O’Neill on Tuesday, August 12 at 11 a.m. ET. She will discuss not only the findings of various economic studies, but also the practical application of these findings. More information about this 90-minute webinar is available here. 

This post was published on the Military Families Learning Network blog on August 8, 2014.

Goodbye AleX

The eXtension Network Literacy Community of Practice (CoP) will no longer be tweeting using the @AleXNetLit twitter account.

In a blog post explaining AleX, we wrote:

“AleX NetLit is an experiment. She is a new tool for learning in the changing knowledge and communication landscape. Will she make an impact? We’re not sure, but we will keep trying to use new and innovative tools to help people understand and harness the power of online networks.”

After careful consideration, the CoP steering committee, with input from the broader community, decided that our use of AleX was not making a significant impact, and that our efforts would be better directed elsewhere.

Members of the Network Literacy CoP remain active on social networks and use the hashtag #netlit to signify posts of interest to the community. Please look for that hashtag, or visit our page, where we aggregate #netlit posts from across social media sites.

Where we went wrong

While we firmly believe that using a persona to communicate and help focus our message via social media was a worthwhile endeavor, there are things we could have done better:

  • AleX was crafted to help us think about one of our target audiences – Military Families’ Service Professionals. However, we never gained traction with that particular audience, and are now working to help them get started in social media instead.
  • We rotated the responsibility of tweeting as AleX, but most of us simply channelled what we would normally tweet through her account. AleX never developed her own personality and lacked consistency in style and content.

We’re open to the possibility of using a persona when we feel it will help build engagement and communication with others. Any future use of a persona will be informed by the lessons we learned while tweeting as AleX.


Stephen Judd – UNH Cooperative Extension and Chair, Network Literacy CoP

Bob Bertsch – North Dakota State University Extension, frequent AleX contributor, and Engagement Coordinator, Network Literacy CoP

Peg Boyles - Network Literacy CoP member and frequent AleX contributor


This article (Goodbye AleX) was originally published Monday July 7, 2014 on the Military Families Learning Network blog, a part of eXtension.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

Twitter: Rules of Engagement

keep-calm-and-tweetTwitter is a lot like caring for a goldfish. It doesn’t require the same level of commitment required for a child — or a dog, for that matter — but building a strong Twitter presence requires some commitment, even a daily commitment, if you plan to establish an exceptionally strong presence.

How far you want to pursue this commitment is entirely your call.

What follows is not intended to be a comprehensive guide to Twitter, only a few rules — a few rules of engagement that hopefully will help you articulate your commitment, and along the way to make this initiation into the rather arcane world of Twitter a little easier.

Rule of Engagement #1: You Don’t Have to Engage

Lots of people lurk on Twitter. In other words, they only read other people’s tweets without tweeting themselves.

That’s okay. Some people find Twitter interesting solely for the enormous amounts of dialogue and graphic- and link-sharing that occurs. Twitter has proven to be a great source for professionals and hobbyists who simply want to enhance or refine their knowledge.

Rule of Engagement #2: Find Your Center of Gravity

On the other hand, if you have signed onto Twitter with the goal of building a presence, your first priority should be finding your center of gravity. By center of gravity, we mean the traits that define your place in the Twittersphere — those special passions, interests, insights and skills you bring to the table and that will help you grow your Twitter presence. Likewise, you should reflect on the audience you wish to reach. What is the best way to connect your messages with your audiences? To put it another way, how do you package your tweets? What is the best way to phrase your tweets and what kind of graphics should you use to enhance some of them?

Rule of Engagement #3: Share, Share and Share

Twitter is built on a foundation of reciprocity. You build a successful Twitter presence not only by providing your followers with interesting tweets, but also by retweeting the best of theirs.

There’s a knack to this, one that can be gained only by close observation. Spend some time lurking and observing how others tweet and retweet before you wade in yourself.

Rule of Engagement #4: Build Lists

These aren’t lists of enemies — of people who have snubbed or insulted you — far from it. Lists are essential for managing the immense volumes of tweets generated daily on Twitter. Building lists will help you identify and learn from those on Twitter who are also building interesting and engaging presences. Learn from them. Equally important, use these lists to identify the best daily tweets and retweet them. You will be surprised how quickly your own Twitter presence grows.

Free applications such as Hootsuite and TweetDeck provide convenient means for building these lists.

Rule of Engagement #4: Make as Much Hash as You Can

You can extend the reach of your tweets using hashtags — in other words, marking key words or topics with the #symbol.

Popular hashtags include #followme #happy #picoftheday and #funny.

While it’s important not to get carried away with hashtags, they increase the likelihood that you will connect with the audiences you’re trying to reach. (Note: The Network Literacy Community of Practice uses the hashtag #netlit to tag tweets and other social media posts related to network literacy.)

Rule of Engagement #5: Mix It Up!

It’s a good idea to stick to a general theme on Twitter. But don’t get too set in one’s ways. Mix it up every now and then. Don’t hesitate to venture off topic occasionally. Weave humor and other unexpected elements into your tweets.

Other Twitter users appreciate you more when they realize you are a normal human being with genuine interests and passions.

Rules of Engagement #6: There are No Hard and Fast Rules.

Building an effective Twitter presence is an art, not a science.

Any experienced twitter user will concede that there is no Magic Book of Twitter, no proven way to ensure that what you tweet will gain traction. A lot of success comes from closely observing others and learning from experience

It calls for developing a sixth sense. That comes with time — not to mention, practice and patience.


Author: Jim Langcuster ()

This article (Twitter: Rules of Engagement) was originally published Thursday May 22, 2014 on the Military Families Learning Network blog, a part of eXtension.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

Big Data

This is part of the “Hi, AleX” series — advice to AleX NetLit about enhancing her levels of network literacy through day-to-day personal and professional social networking. AleX Netlit is a fictional persona created by Network Literacy Community of Practice to serve as a guide to Military Families Service professionals, Cooperative Extension educators and others seeking to learn more about using online networks in their work.

@AlexNetLit on Twitter
More about Alex NetLit

Hi, AleX:

In this digital era, there are so many changes swirling around us. At the top of the list is a phenomenon called “Big Data,” a trend with tremendous implications and that likely will have deep influences on the remainder of your career.

La tecnología de big data revolucionará la seguridad de la información
infocux Technologies – Used under Creative Commons license

Big data is a term to describe the colossal amounts of information that are being generated by digital media, sensors, and metadata and that are presenting many entities with all sorts of challenges in the course of storing and assimilating all this data.

In mental terms, it’s almost impossible to grasp just how big Big Data really is. Here’s is a weak attempt at putting this bigness into perspective: If the data now stored across the planet were printed in books, these books would cover the entire surface of the United States some 52 layers deep, according to Viktor Mayer-Schonberger and Kenneth Cukier, authors of a new book titled “Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work and Think.”

What do the implications of Big Data hold for you and millions of other young professionals across the planet?

For starters, it has the potential of providing you with work tools and ways of looking at things that were scarcely imaginable even a decade ago. Within a larger context, it will provide companies and other large entities with a stunning level of clarity about how their clients respond in everyday life and how they relate to the products they provide.

In terms of your work as a professional, Big Data will shed deeper insights into the needs of your clients and your profession that you previously never anticipated. Likewise, your understanding of the wider aspects of your work will grow more refined. You will come to understand your profession less as a something comprised of distinctly different parts, more as a something in which all the parts interrelate. To put it another way, in professional terms, Big Data will afford you a considerably bigger picture.

You will also learn that while your face-to-face interaction with your clients is no less valuable, the time you spend in your office reviewing the growing volumes of work-related data and how it can help you better understand your clients’ needs will be of equally immeasurable benefit.

In time, Big Data will also afford more diversity in the workplace. There will no longer be a cooker-cutter or one-size-fits-all approaches to how people do their jobs. You will notice greater differences in the way you and your peers tackle day-to-day challenges. You will come to appreciate these differences, and in the course of noting and discussing these differences among your coworkers, your career will become even more challenging and engaging.

Granted, Big Data will be no panacea by a long shot. Big data mining of customer Internet surfing and buying habits presents all manner of privacy risks.

Likewise, your intuition — all those insights you’ve gained working for years with clients — will be as vitally important as ever, though you will learn that the information you gain from data will work to enhance these intuitive insights.

But make no mistake, AleX, there is no turning away from the implications of Big Data. It is the new normal in the workplace. To remain a successful professional, you will have to embrace the challenges that it poses. There is no opting out. Failing to rise to these challenges will put you at a distinct disadvantage among those peers who accept these changes with an open embrace.


Author: Jim Langcuster ()

This article (Big Data) was originally published Tuesday January 7, 2014 on the Military Families Learning Network blog, a part of eXtension.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

The Passion Revolution in Learning – and What It Means for You

This is part of the “Hi, AleX” series — advice to AleX NetLit about enhancing her levels of network literacy through day-to-day personal and professional social networking. AleX Netlit is a fictional persona created by Network Literacy Community of Practice to serve as a guide to Military Families Service professionals, Cooperative Extension educators and others seeking to learn more about using online networks in their work.

@AlexNetLit on Twitter
More about Alex NetLit



Hi, AleX:

Two Alabama 4-H educators participating in a networked learning seminar at the Alabama 4-H Youth Development Center in Columbiana.
Two Alabama 4-H educators participating in a networked learning seminar at the Alabama 4-H Youth Development Center in Columbiana.

Pardon this deep immersion in storytelling, but no three accounts better illustrate the kind of world in which we are now living — not to mention, navigating, as 21stcentury professionals.

We’ve already introduced you to Frank Kovac. He is the determined individual whose father instilled him with a deep, abiding love of the stars.  From an early age, Kovac dreamed of becoming an astronomer and planetarium operator.  Unfortunately, taxing college math courses stymied that dream.

Note that I used stymied instead of prevented, because Kovac never let the lack of a conventional educational credential stand in his way of his goal.  You recall the rest of the story: Supporting himself as a paper mill worker in rural Wisconsin, Kovac used his free time to access books and online sources about astronomy as well as the design and construction of planetariums.

In time, he built his own hand-operated planetarium, which he touts as the largest one of its kind in the world.  For all intents and purposes, Kovac is a planetarium director in the fullest sense of the word.  His small facility has even become a local Wisconsin tourist attraction from which visitors not only leave impressed with Kovac’s immense knowledge of the stars but also imbued with a measure of his infectious passion.

Passion: Kovac’s life speaks volumes about what a powerfully emotive force it an be in shaping lives.  Educators are taking note of this essential truth, too.  Some, including Dr. Sugatra Mitra, to whom you have also been introduced, are calling for the end of the industrial age educational model, partly for the reason that it does such a lousy job instilling passion.

As Mitra has learned, passion is the key to learning — actually, it always has been, only now, the power of digital media is underscoring that essential truth.  As you recall, Mitra got his own taste of this after installing a computer in a wall in an impoverished Indian village near the corporate headquarters of a software company where he worked as a chief scientist.

Sugatra Mitra, world-renowed proponent of emergent learning
Sugatra Mitra, world-renowed proponent of emergent learning
What he discovered based on experimentation with similar wall computers within the next few years challenges conventional education but also threatens to drive a stake into its heart.

The children quickly learned how to use the embedded computer.   This prompted more experimentation on Mitra’s part.  A few years later, he uploaded information about molecular biology onto a computer in a southern Indian village.  After informing a group of 10- to 14- year-olds they would find something interesting on this computer, he turned and walked away, not returning until a couple of months later.

During that time, the children not only learned how to work the computer but also were able to answer one in four questions on the computer about molecular biology.

Within few more weeks, the children, inspired by the encouragement of a friendly local, got every question right.

Through all this experimentation, Mitra has gained a heightened appreciation not only for emergent learning but also for the values that underscore it: innovation, creativity, independent thinking and, yes, passion.

These insights have led to something equally significant: a global dialogue about the learning as an emergent process.

Quoted recently in an online version of Wired, Mitra observed that “If you put a computer in front of children and remove all other adult restrictions, they will self-organize around it like bees around a flower.”

To put it another way, “if you’re not the one controlling your learning, you’re not learning as well,” Mitra contends.

Word of these insights is spreading to a growing number of educators around the world, many of whom struggle to reach students in the most disadvantaged of circumstances.

An article published Oct. 15 in the online edition of Wired highlights the efforts of Mexican teacher Sergio Juarez Correa.  Juarez Correa has desperately searched for ways  to reach his students at the Jose Urbina Primary School, an impoverished school located near a dump in a sun-drenched northern Mexico border town little more than a stone’s throw from American schools where tablets, Ipads another other online learning tools are almost taken wantonly for granted.

Until he discovered Mitra’s emergent learning practices, Juarez Correa employed the same hidebound teaching methods as virtually every other Mexican teacher — lectures, memorization and lots of busy work — ones that had secured the same frustrating results year after year: low test scores.

Juarez Correa determined to put Mitra’s insights into practical use in his classroom by allowing his students, in Mitra’s words, to “wonder aimlessly around ideas.” The change that took hold of Juarez Correa’s class not only astonished him but also his principal upon discovering how this new teaching method produced a dramatic turnaround in test scores.

Previous test scores revealed that 45 percent of the class had essentially failed the math section of the test, while 31 percent failed Spanish.  The latest results revealed that a mere 7 percent failed math and 3.5 percent failed Spanish.  Equally significant, sixty-three percent of the class garnered excellent scores while none had in the previous test.

These new insights are not only receiving a receptive ear in materially disadvantaged countries such as Mexico.  For example, the Wired article reports that in the 1990s Finland, in addition to reducing its math curriculum from 25 pages to four and the school day by an hour, also began focusing on independence and active learning.  By 2003, Finnish students had ascended from lower ranks of international performance to first place among developed nations.

Americans classrooms, despite being equipped to the teeth with all manner of laptops, tablets and iPads, should draw a lesson from this dramatic change of thinking.

As the Wired article reports, currently almost a third of U.S. high school graduates are not academically prepared for the first year of college courses.  Equally disturbing, the United States now holds a dismal ranking of 49th among 148 developed and developing nations in the quality of math and science instruction.

Equally significant, the article also reports that the top three demanded skills in the 21st century will be teamwork, problem-solving, and interpersonal skills. We need schools that are developing these skills.

AleX, we have stressed to you before how you and millions of other professionals were trained to think about and deliver information in linear terms — through programs such as lectures, seminars, and workshops, with your students serving more or less as passive recipients of this instruction.

The ways you serve you clients have been defined by those methods for the bulk of your career.

All of this is changing — quickly and inexorably, Alex.  The ways people connect to knowledge — education almost seems too constricted a term to describe what is taking place — has become more open and democratized than ever before.

And, frankly, we should all revel in and celebrate that fact.


Author: Jim Langcuster ()

This article (The Passion Revolution in Learning – and What It Means for You) was originally published Wednesday November 13, 2013 on the Military Families Learning Network blog, a part of eXtension.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

Implications of social media “endorsements” for knowledge workers

On October 11, 2013 Google announced a change to its terms of service that will allow the company to include a user’s (for users age 18 and over) profile name and photo, reviews, and ads they +1’d in advertisements on Google web properties (e.g., Search, YouTube, Play store). These “endorsements” will potentially be shown to the people the user has chosen to share content with.

Example from Google support page (
Example from Google support page (

Users can change the options on the Shared Endorsement setting page to prevent their name and photo from being used in advertisements.

Implications for professionals

If you are using a Google+ profile in your professional work, you will want to consider the implications of your name and photo being used to endorse products and services in Google advertisements. Many organizations, especially Extension, have policies in place which govern employee endorsement of products and services.

For example, the University System of New Hampshire Conflict of Interest Policy as it applies to Extension employees (Section 7.10.1) states:

“Each employee must exercise extreme caution and professional judgment, deliberated with diligent care, when using any brand name in any service, work product, or program resulting from performing the responsibilities of the position of appointment. As a general rule, promoting or endorsing brands of commercial products is prohibited.”

If you are governed by a similar policy, you will probably want to disable the shared endorsements setting.

Google’s handling of change

Google has been very forthright about the policy change and has been presenting users with banner notifications and Google+ notifications regarding the new terms and how users can change their settings:

A banner displays on Google search, alerting the user to the terms of service changes
A banner displays on Google search, alerting the user to the terms of service change
Google+ users receive a notification, alerting them to the terms of service change
Google+ users receive a notification, alerting them to the terms of service change

Other social media networks have similar policies

According to the New York Times:

“Facebook has been aggressively marketing social endorsements, which it calls sponsored stories. For example, if you post that you love McDonald’s new Mighty Wings on the chain’s Facebook page, McDonald’s could pay Facebook to broadcast your kind words to all your friends.

Facebook does not allow its users to opt out of such ads, although users can limit how their actions on the social network are used in some other types of ads.

Twitter also enables advertisers to show public tweets in their ads, but requires advertisers to get the permission of the original author of a message before using it in an ad.”

Understanding how each network can use your information is a critical network literacy skill. It is important to be proactive, and ensure that your information is shared in the way that is most appropriate for you.


Author: Stephen Judd (@sjudd)

This article (Implications of social media “endorsements” for knowledge workers) was originally published Monday October 13, 2013 on the Military Families Learning Network blog, a part of eXtension.

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

Ignoring Networks at Your Professional Peril

This is part of the “Hi, AleX” series — advice to AleX NetLit about enhancing her levels of network literacy through day-to-day personal and professional social networking. AleX Netlit is a fictional persona created by Network Literacy Community of Practice to serve as a guide to Military Families Service professionals, Cooperative Extension educators and others seeking to learn more about using online networks in their work.

@AlexNetLit on Twitter
More about Alex NetLit



Hi, AleX:

You have always been a dedicated professional. Your work has always been about serving your clients, building one-on-one relationships grounded in trust.

British Coffeehouses in the 17th century provided raucous places where ideas could be freely discussed and exchanged.
British Coffeehouses in the 17th century provided raucous places where ideas could be freely discussed and exchanged.

It’s reflected in the way you regard network literacy. Admit it, AleX: Deep in the back of your mind, you still harbor this fear that any significant investment in social media will work to dilute these close relationships.

That’s understandable. Just be warned: By ignoring emerging social networks, you’re imperiling your professional future.

It’s important for you to come to terms with that fact, AleX.

Granted, a handful of CEOs pointing to a clutch of online infographics, some specious at best, stubbornly maintain that networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter are not only eroding the minds of young people but also costing the economy some $650 billion a year.

Don’t buy into it, Alex.

Truth is, the benefits of social networking have been apparent for a long time, a very long time — in fact, for as long as 500 years.

Rudimentary forms of social networking have been traced as far back as 17th century English coffeehouses, raucous places in which people shared ideas freely and openly and that bore an uncanny resemblance to the emerging social media platforms of the 21st century.

Many of the exchanges that grew out of these boisterous meeting places provided the basis for intellectual and material advances that have benefited countless millions of people and that are still being felt today, almost half a millennium later — a theme explored by famed science and technology writer Tom Standage in a recent article in the New York Times titled “Social Networking in the 1600s.

Proponents of conventional wisdom of the day derided these coffeehouses as venues of idle chitchat, much as their 21st century counterparts do with social media today.

To be sure, lots of idle chitchat and gossip occurred in these haunts. Yet, something remarkable happened too. In addition to consuming copious amounts of coffee and indulging in idle gossip, not a few of these coffeehouse patrons read and shared the insights from the latest pamphlets and news sheets, many of which dealt with the prevailing scientific, literary, political and commercial themes of the day.

In a diary entry dated in November, 1633, renowned diarist Samuel Pepys observed that discussion covered such diverse topics as how to store beer, the implications of a certain type of nautical weapon, and speculations about the outcome of an upcoming trial.

Conventional academic leaders of the day heaped scorn on the low caliber of discourse that purportedly prevailed in these coffeehouses.

“Why doth solid and serious learning decline, and few or none follow it now in the university,” Oxford academic Anthony Wood plaintively asked. “Answer: Because of Coffee Houses, where they spend all their time.”

They were misinformed. Lots of serious discussion and learning ensued in these coffeehouses.

Borrowing Standage’s picturesque term, these coffeehouses turned out to be “crucibles of creativity” — environments in which people representing diverse backgrounds and perspectives met and exchanged ideas. Many of these ideas, in the course of meeting and mating, provided the basis for new ways of thinking, which, in turn, spawned new concepts and inventions. Some ended up changing the course of history.

One of the more noteworthy examples of coffeehouse exchanges: Lloyd’s of London, the world-renowned insurance firm, which grew out of Edward Lloyd’s coffeehouse, a popular haunt of ship captains, ship owners and maritime traders.

One coffeehouse served as the nursery of modern economics: Adam Smith passed early drafts of “The Wealth of nations” among his acquaintances at the Cockspur Street coffeehouse, where many Scottish artists and intellectuals of his time gathered.

Yet, why should we be surprised by this? For his part, Standage cites modern research demonstrating that students learn more effectively when they are interacting with other learners.

Coffeehouses provided 17th century entrepreneurs, journalists, scientists and philosophers with highly generative, open-source platforms — foundations on which many of the predominant ideas, concepts and technologies of the modern era took form.

This brings us back to the present-day, AleX. As Standage stresses in his article, the emerging social media platforms of the 21st century are providing us with the same kinds of highly generative platforms — places where people, in the course of exchanging ideas and sparking new ones, have the potential of improving the lives of countless millions of people for generations to come.

Under the circumstances, is there any reason why you shouldn’t join into this conversation, AleX?


Author: Jim Langcuster ()

This article (Ignoring Networks at Your Professional Peril) was originally published Tuesday August 27, 2013 on the Military Families Learning Network blog, a part of eXtension.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

I downloaded what?

As computer users, we often run into situations where we need an additional program to accomplish something, and it often happens at the last minute. Beware of what additional software may be hitching a ride with that nifty little program!

Watch the first fifteen minutes or so of the embedded video to see this in action:


An educator, Chris, wants a copy of a YouTube video to show to a class while not online (we’ll disregard the copyright caveats today). The educator next door suggests that Chris download a YouTube capture program to save the video locally. Being a saavy user, Chris goes to a site like because they screen for malware and are owned by CBS.

Chris finds the program and clicks the download link. Since there’s only an hour until the workshop, Chris clicks that they’ve read the user agreement and accepts all of the install defaults. Chris captures the YouTube video and uses it in the presentation and is quite pleased.

The next day, Chris’ homepage and default search engine have been changed, and there are all sorts of links and ads on pages where there shouldn’t be.

What happened?

When Chris installed the program, the installer included a bunch of “helpful” applications (most in the form of browser add-ons) that modified the browser. These changes result in special affiliate links and ads that generate income for the company that created the installer.

While small software utilities are often “free” to the end-user, they do cost time and money to develop and maintain. Developers realize that users like Chris may not be willing to pay for an application that only gets used a handful of times. So the developer works with a company that packages the installer for their app, and in return gets paid for each download.

Now Chris isn’t happy, and the IT department probably isn’t either. These tag alongs can be difficult to remove and can ruin the user experience on the web.


  • Don’t just accept the defaults, be aware of what other programs are being installed
    • You don’t really need a toolbar, coupon reminder, or the like.
  • Don’t install free applications from the Internet without understanding what else may be installed (if at work – make sure it’s permitted by your organization’s policy)
  • Even commonly used applications (e.g., Flash, Java) may install additional programs – make sure you deselect the option to install the “promoted” apps.

If you already have one of these applications or toolbars how do you get rid of it?

If you find you have installed something you didn’t want, you’ll need to uninstall it manually. The first place to check is the Programs or Add/Remove Programs application within the Control Panel (on Windows). You may also need to look at the add-ons or extensions within each browser and remove from there, and possibly reset your homepage and default search engine if they’ve been changed.

Author: Stephen Judd (@sjudd)

This article (I downloaded what?) was originally published Thursday July 18, 2013 on the Military Families Learning Network blog, a part of eXtension.

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.