Tag 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.

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 https://www.rebelmouse.com/NetworkLiteracy/, 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.

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 (https://support.google.com/plus/answer/3403513)
Example from Google support page (https://support.google.com/plus/answer/3403513)

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 download.com 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.

Farming Lessons for 21st Century Professionals

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 several previous communications, we have used real-life examples to illustrate how online media are changing the workplace.

As far back as three decades ago, futurists such as Alvin Toffler warned of the challenges people would face wading through and making sense of all the data being generated by computers and other technological devices.

Many professions already are at the front line of these challenges. In fact, a sector of the economy that many people would seldom associate with fast-paced technological change — farming — is undergoing sweeping change. This wrenching change is not only affecting farmers but also a group of professionals long associated with farming — Cooperative Extension agents and other educators.

The data generated by technologies such as precision farming is challenging farmers in a way they never expected. There are lessons here for all 21st century professionals.
The data generated by technologies such as precision farming is challenging farmers in a way they never expected. There are lessons here for all 21st century professionals.

Within the last generation, farmers have increasingly begun to rely on highly sophisticated technological devises, such as yield monitors and light bars — devices attached to their tractors, sprayers and other equipment — to make pinpoint applications of things like fertilizer, insecticides, and herbicides.

Why are these pinpoint applications so important? Because these enhanced levels of accuracy not only save farmers money but enable them to become more effective stewards of the land by reducing chemical applications required to grow their crops.

But farmers have discovered something else. These technologies generate data, lots and lots of data, much of which they have not even begun to assimilate.

Like a growing number of other professions, farming increasingly is about data management, not only collecting and managing the immense amount of data associated with every facet of farming but also determining how all of this interrelates.

“Basically, it all boils down to this: How do we take all this agronomic data and process it and, by gaining knowledge from it, make informed farming decisions,” asks Dr. John Fulton, a precision farming expert and Alabama Cooperative Extension System professional who has been on the frontline of efforts to help farmers cope without this new data challenge.

“Right now, data management is the challenge — about the biggest challenge we face,” he adds.

This pretty much expresses the challenge for Extension professionals.

In the past, Extension work was mostly about quickly responding to their farmers’ needs. But this new data issue is challenging them to reassess the ways they interact with their farmers.

They’re learning that while quick response is as important as ever, so is the need to help farmers to see the bigger picture— to understand farming not only as a system of interrelated parts but also to anticipate trends before they morph into full-grown crises.

This has challenged Extension professionals to become more multidisciplinary in their thinking. Increasingly, their in-service training explores the linkages among all facets of farming, such as insect and weed control and plant and soil science.

They’re also developing a keen appreciation for how their work is best served through building strong social media presences among their clients.

There is a lesson here for you, AleX, and for legions of other professionals. The flattened knowledge landscape that forms the basis of professional life in the 21st century has also created a special set of opportunities for those professionals astute and enterprising enough to sieze on them.

To put it another way, this new information order is crying out for professionals with a special set of skills: people capable of drawing big, overarching pictures of their professions and showing the people they work with and serve how to make sense of all of it.

It underscores the value of two skills we’ve discussed on earlier occasions, AleX: aggregation and curation, namely learning how to gather and organize information in ways that your audiences can derive practical use from it.

But remember, AleX, this involves more than simply aggregating and curating information.

As many Cooperative Extension professionals are learning through experience, the most effective 21st century professionals will be those who learn how to use social media to focus and refine online discussion and, when the need arises, to help correct faulty information.


Author: Jim Langcuster ()

This article (Farming Lessons for 21st Century Professionals) was originally published Wednesday July 10, 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.

Online advertising influenced by offline activities

Wiertz Sebastien - Privacy used under Creative Commons license - http://www.flickr.com/photos/wiertz/6092000030/
Wiertz Sebastien – Privacy used under Creative Commons license  http://www.flickr.com/photos/wiertz/6092000030/

When I wrote last year about Online privacy, the message was that our perceptions of online privacy revolve around the use of information we consider private or personal in a context we weren’t expecting. This post will take a look at how our offline behavior and information is being used to influence the advertising we see online – in particular, ads on Facebook.

Your first reaction may be that there’s no way that your Facebook identity can be connected to your offline activities, but that’s not correct. There are a large number of companies, called data brokers, that gather information from a variety of sources, and link that information to create a profile of an individual. Once these data brokers have an email address linked to an individual, they can use that to create targeted advertising campaigns through Facebook.

What kinds of information do data brokers collect?

To understand the kinds of information that data brokers collect, it’s instructive to take a look at the company Acxiom.  According to their document, Understanding Acxiom’s Marketing Products, Acxiom has both household and individual data, including name, address, telephone, email, gender, education level, occupation, voter party, date of birth, marital status, number of children in household, children’s age ranges, household interests, home owner status, home purchase date, home loan amount, home market value, and much more. This data comes from a variety of sources, including public records (marriage licenses, property transfer and tax records, etc.), self-reported survey information, purchase information, etc. Axciom then uses this information to provide services to its customers including targeted or addressable advertising. Axciom states that they don’t share sensitive data, that any individual record contains only a subset of data that they collect, and that data may be combined to create “inferred elements.”

How can this information be connected with my Facebook profile?

The Electronic Frontier Foundation EFF) recently wrote about the details of how data brokers are able to partner with Facebook to show you targeted ads. In brief, data brokers provide Facebook with a hash (a hash is derived summary of an original value that is not reversible, so the original value is obscured) of an email address for each user they’d like to see a particular ad. Facebook then compares that hash to the hashes of the email address of each Facebook user. When there is a match, the two parties can be confident that it is the same person, even though they didn’t share the actual email address with each other. Facebook is then able to present the purchased ad to the user. In turn, Facebook provides information back to the broker about the success of the ad and aggregate demographic information about the viewers.

A simple, contrived example

It may be easiest to get a sense of what’s happening through a fictitious example: A data broker would like to advertise dog food on Facebook, but only display that information to dog owners. In their dataset, the broker has stored publicly available dog license information and associated that with particular individuals whose email addresses they have also determined (through surveys or commercial entities.) The broker gives Facebook a list of hashed email addresses (they don’t share the actual email address) and Facebook compares that list to their own list of all hashed email addresses associated with Facebook accounts. The dog food ad is displayed to each user who is on both lists. So, even if a user has never posted about their dog on Facebook, they could see ads that are targeted to them based on offline information.

So what?

Is this a privacy violation? It likely depends on your perspective. Data brokers would contend that the information they gather is publicly available or shared by the individual. Facebook would contend that the resultant ads have greater relevance to the user, and are more desirable than displaying random ads to each user. The individual may find it creepy that Facebook appears to “know” about things that they did offline and did not intend to share with Facebook. The user may not have thought that licensing their pet would lead to them getting pet supply related ads on Facebook.

As technology makes the sharing and combining of this sort of data easier, we can expect to see more examples like this. I remember a conversation from 15 years ago with a friend that sold life insurance. He would hire a college student to go to the county records office and get the information on marriages and births, so he could send the people letters offering his services.  Now that large companies are combing through and digitizing these records, they are public in a way we may not be thinking.

How can I stop it?

The EFF article has information on how to opt out and what that really means. Unfortunately, there is no central clearinghouse where you can opt out from all data brokers at once, and opting out does not mean that data brokers will stop collecting your data. Opting out only affects how the data broker will use your data.

Sign of the times

Many people have had the experience with physical junk mail, of suddenly receiving a flood of mail related to something they’ve done, like receiving extended warranty offers after purchasing a car. It appears that online ads have become the analog of junk mail, targeting you based on information gleaned elsewhere. As long ago as 1999, Scott McNealy, then CEO of Sun Microsystems, was quoted, “You have zero privacy anyway…Get over it!”

The only things that are truly private are those things known only to you. Once others know our actions, behaviors, or information, it is no longer private and we are confronted with how that information is used and in what context. Controlling our expectations and how others use the information we leave scattered in our wake is a challenge we will continue to face.

– An excellent explanation of the technical aspects of the data broker / Facebook relationship – Security Now podcast Epsiode 404 with Steve Gibson from the TWIT Network.

Author: Stephen Judd (@sjudd)

This article (Online advertising influenced by offline activities) was originally published Tuesday May 21, 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.


Opening Your World with Social Media

Canadian Astronaut Chris Hadfield will be long remembered as one of the most visionary and perceptive users of social media to advance space exploration.
Canadian Astronaut Chris Hadfield will be long remembered as one of the most visionary and perceptive users of social media to advance space exploration.

Canada’s top space explorer, Chris Hadfield, has been described by Forbes magazine as the “most social media-savvy astronaut ever to leave the Earth.”
He returned recently to earth to well-deserved fanfare.

Hadfield has sparked a passion for space exploration across Planet Earth through his social media presence, even while living and working more than 200 miles above it as commander of the International Space Station.

All professionals can — and should — draw inspiration from what he has achieved with social media. Hadfield has accomplished something that NASA has struggled to do for 40 years: re-ignite a sustained, passionate interest in space exploration among ordinary people. He has done it using common social media tools such as Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and Reddit, though with additional help from an onboard digital camera.

How did he do it?

He’s Personalized His Message

For starters, Hadfield struck an effective balance between the mundane and the sublime aspects of space exploration.

As one of his sons, Evan, who was quoted in the February 22, 2013 online edition of the Guardian, described it, “Dad wanted a way to help people connect to the real side of what an astronaut’s life is— not just the glamor and science, but also the day-to-day activities.”

His YouTube appearances dealt with all sorts of topics related to living in space — for example, how to brush one’s teeth and shave in space; how to clean up spills; and how to make a peanut butter sandwich in zero gravity.

By highlighting the routine aspects of his job, he’s humanized his message in a way that enables ordinary people to relate to him.

He Democratized It, Too

chris-hadfield2Hadfield also democratized his message by inviting an active dialogue with thousands of people across the planet.

He organized an “Ask Me Anything” session on Reddit that drew almost 7,800 comments and followed this with the first Google+ hangout from space, answering questions via a live downlink from space.

Words with Pictures

Hadfield also understood the value of visual imagery — telling his story not just with words but with pictures, often stunningly beautiful pictures.

His daily posts feature not only natural phenomena such as rain forests, deserts and polar ice caps but also of the world’s major cities, captioned with verbally picturesque descriptions: “a somber spring night in Boston,” “Manila in the night, like a vase full of flowers,” and “Paris, well-named City of Light.” (Small wonder why Hadfield has been credited with possessing a poet’s turn of phrase.)

Hadfield carried his visual passion into his YouTube presentations, many of which generated hundreds of thousands of views. Almost all of these presentations were accompanied by visual props, whether these happened to be his sleeping compartment, his toothbrush, or his razor. He strove to be visual in all facets of his social media work.

The Art of Simple but Concrete Messaging

Hadfield, while keeping his messages simple, also was careful never to deviate beyond his core theme. Borrowing a phrase from Chip and Dan Heath, authors of the New York Times bestseller “Made to Stick,” he mastered the importance of “discarding a lot of great insights in order to let the most important insight shine.”

Virtually all of his messages were also anchored in what the Heaths term concreteness. In one of his YouTube presentations, for example, he not only discussed the challenges of maintaining dental hygiene in a weightless environment but also demonstrated it by brushing his teeth. While discussing what it’s like to sleep in zero gravity, Hadfield donned his Russian-supplied pajamas, floated into his personal cubicle and zipped himself into his sleep bag.

Takeaway Lessons

While earth-bound professionals may not live and work in as glamorous environment as the International Space Station, we can still learn a lot from what Hadfield has achieved.

Personalize and Democratize!

The title of an old hit song from the early 1960s, “Welcome to My World,” first popularized by Jim Reeves, could be readily applied to the success Hadfield has acquired through his social media efforts.

Hadfield has succeeded spectacularly partly by identifying his strengths, namely his passions, interest, training and unique professional perspectives, and packaging them in an unusually compelling way through social media. But in addition to capitalizing on these strengths, he also found a way to personalize his message — to welcome people into his world — that has resounded with hundreds of thousands of ordinary people across the globe.

We should be asking ourselves: What are the talents, personality traits and expertise that set us apart from others, and how can we use these to build our own social media presence?

Likewise, we need to give more thought to how we can personalize and democratize our messages more effectively. With the right amount of forethought and planning, we can learn how to weave both the mundane and remarkable aspects of our work into social media products that our users not only find entertaining and enlightening but also highly useful.


Canadian Astronaut Chris Hadfield spacewalking outside of the International Space Station.
Canadian Astronaut Chris Hadfield spacewalking outside of the International Space Station.

For better or worse, pictures increasingly trump text in this social media-driven age.

Hadfield understood this. Virtually all of his postings dealt in some way with visuals, whether these happened to be tweets of images from the earths’ surface or the expert use of props in his YouTube presentations.

We should be actively searching for ways to anchor our messages in compelling imagery. Most of us, if we think about it, are equipped with all sorts of visual imagery that we can weave into our social media narratives.

Be Concrete!

Borrowing a page from Hadfield, we should strive to ensure that all our messages our simple and straightforward and, equally important, as concrete as possible — and, when possible, enhanced by images that help convey the point clearly and succinctly.

Parting Words

Granted, in both a literal and figurative sense, we may never reach as high as Chris Hadfield. Even so, let’s not forget that we all possess a unique set of training and insights that potentially could be shared with people from many different backgrounds.

We, too, have compelling stories to tell. The sooner we envision ways to personalize, democratize and visualize our stories, the better equipped we will be to reach out to our audiences, whoever they happen to be.


Author: Jim Langcuster ()

This article (Opening Your World with Social Media) was originally published Monday May 16, 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.

Etiquette for Web Conferencing

Over the last several years, I’ve taught hundreds of classes online and been a participant in many classes and other web conferencing sessions. Here are what I would consider some basic ‘rules of etiquette’ for participating in an online conference or webinar. There are times when it would be okay to break any of these rules, but be aware of the implications when you do.

All of these rules could be summed up with one rule: “Act as you would in a face-to-face meeting”. If you were meeting with the others in a face-to-face meeting or attending a class, would you walk in late? Would you start balancing your checkbook? Would you take other calls? If it’s worth your time to attend, give it your attention. If you had to travel for this meeting, you would be away from your desk and work for a lot longer than just the length of the class or meeting.

Guidelines for Participants

Before the session starts

  • Clear your schedule for the entire webinar time frame.
  • Let your coworkers know you are not to be disturbed. If possible, close your door and/or let your co-workers/family know that you will be unavailable.
  • Turn off your cell phone. and remove any other potential distractions.
  • Come prepared. Read any related material before the session starts.
  • If calling into the session via phone, do not put your phone on hold if doing so plays music or a message.
  • In most cases, headsets are best. If you are using your laptop’s built-in microphone, realize that any typing you do will be heard by everyone. It will also pick up your speakers and everyone but you will hear an echo of everything coming from your speakers. Some software does a much better job of noise cancellation than others.
  • If you will have the opportunity to interact, a microphone is much better than typing in the chat window. If you don’t have a microphone, everyone has to wait for you to type.
  • If it is a video conference, have a camera. If you are the only one without a camera, your input will have less impact and influence. It’s much easier to talk to a face than a blank screen.
  • Connect early enough to configure your microphone and speakers. If this is the first time using the software, connect at least 20 minutes before the start of the conference. There may be software required for you to install. If it only takes you a few minutes to connect and get setup, feel free to do something else until the meeting starts. Just leave the conference window open.
  • If someone else is in the conference early – ask them if your sound level is okay and to say something so you can verify your speakers volume level.

During the session

  • Mute your microphone when you are not talking so your breath, background noise, etc. is not being picked up.
  • Use the chat feature to ask questions or make comments without interrupting the speaker.
  • Keep chats on topic. Remember that everyone can see the public chats.
  • Give feedback. If you don’t have a camera on you, all the speaker knows is that you are signed in. They are assuming you are keeping up with them and understanding everything that is said. They can’t see you yawning, falling asleep or walking away from your computer or your body language. You have to let them know if they are going too fast or have lost you.
  • If you have to leave early, type something in the chat window (private chat if possible) to let the speaker know why you left. Otherwise, they won’t know if you were mad, disinterested, confused or had an emergency.
  • Stay engaged! Resist the temptation to check your email, surf the net, balance your checkbook, etc.

Guidelines for Moderators, Presenters, and Discussion Leaders

Before the session starts

  • Know how to use the web conferencing software you will be using and how to configure your microphone, speakers, and how to use any features you will be using.
  • Practice using the features of the software.
  • Connect early to configure your mic and speakers and make sure everything is loaded properly.
  • Connect early to help others with technical difficulties. If you don’t feel confident enough to answer basic technology questions invite someone  to help you.
  • Change your screen resolution if you will be sharing your whole screen or resize the window to the smallest size that will show what you want to show if sharing just a window.
  • Have the windows you will be sharing open and sized correctly.
  • Turn off IM, auto email notifications, and any other possible interruptions – especially if you will be sharing your screen
  • Have a helper who can alert you to problems such as audio or desktop resolution issues or chat questions/comments you may have missed.
  • Welcome people as the join the session.

At the start of the session

  • Start and end on time (people usually don’t mind if you end early).
  • Make sure the attendees can see your screen or slide before you start.
  • Let everyone know if you are recording the session.
  • Set the ground rules for the session. Explain how you want the participants to participate. Will you be taking questions via chat as they come in or at the end?
  • Be aware that the participants may not have a screen with the same resolution as yours and they probably have only one monitor.

During the session

  • Go slow. Slower than normal, especially when showing content on your screen. Often there are latency issues that cause your audience to be a few seconds behind you.
  • Keep an eye on the chat discussion.

At the end of the session

  • Thank the participants for coming.
  • Tell where the recording will be found if there is one.

What ‘rules’ would you add? What are your pet peeves when attending or leading a conference?

This post was published on the Military Families Learning Network blog on March7, 2013.

The Frank Kovac Effect and What It Means for Your Future

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,

This may strike you as an odd question: What does a middle-aged Wisconsin paper-mill worker possibly have to do with your professional future?

Short answer: everything.

The worker’s name is Frank Kovac, and a few years ago, he did something extraordinary. 

From a very early age, Kovac dreamed of becoming an astrophysicist. Difficult college math courses ended this dream, but it didn’t stop him from building his own planetarium in his free time — a facility he proudly describes to his visitors as the “world’s largest rolling, mechanical globe planetarium.”

In fact, the Kovac Planetarium, located in the tiny, unincorporated northern Wisconsin community of Monico, has become a popular tourist attraction.

Kovac has demonstrated that in terms of knowledge empowerment, people no longer have to wait on someone else — a teacher or a mentor, for example. They can tap into the enormous generative capacity of the Web to educate themselves.

Call it the Frank Kovac effect.

This holds major implications for you, AleX, because in spite of all the passion and commitment you pour into your job, people no longer have to wait on you. Thanks to the enormous generative capacity of the Web, they, like Frank Kovac, have the means of empowering themselves.

Granted, your passion and commitment will always be key professional assets — that’s the good news.  The part you need to worry about is how you’ve been taught to conceive and deliver your products.

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. Your work has been defined by those methods for the bulk of your career.

The problem is that a growing number of people around the world no longer want to acquire knowledge this way. Thanks to the technological advances that have occurred within the last generation, they don’t have to anymore.

In this respect, your methods are quickly rendering you obsolete.

Yes, there is still a place for these methods. The growing numbers of people learning to empower themselves still like to enhance what they’ve learned with occasional face-to-face interactions with similar-minded people.

Consequently, face-to-face interaction will always comprise a facet of your work. But make no mistake, AleX: Traditional face-to-face interaction will largely be supplanted by these emerging forms of learning.

Pretty soon, you and everyone else will be challenged to think and work in ways that reflect the new, flattened information order that prevails in the 21st century.

We’ve talked in the past about how acquiring networking skills will enable you to aggregate and curate vast amounts of online information for the benefit of those you serve. (I’m reluctant to use the term client because in this new information order, the people you serve are not clients in any conventional sense. They are equals — “co-learners” who are now equipped to engage in two-way dialogue with you and to collaborate on the design and distribution of your end products.)

No doubt about it: Aggregating and curating information will be valuable skills in the future, but in this new information order, you will be valued even more for the role you serve in contributing to networks — virtual spaces where people can exchange information and, equally important, where ideas can meet, mate and morph into even bigger, more innovative ideas.

Some Net experts and others prefer to describe these new virtual venues as ecosystems rather than networks— take your pick.

The people who master skills and who see themselves as both co-learners and contributors to these networks will be the most highly valued and successful professionals of the 21st century.

This is your professional charge, AleX. Good luck.


Author: Jim Langcuster (@extensionguy)


This article (The Frank Kovac Effect and What It Means for Your Future) was originally published Thursday September 6, 2012 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.