Got Rats, Go Online

Those rats won’t know what hit them! They never knew how imperiled their world would become with the advent of the Internet. Here in the nation’s capital we have finally solved one of our major urban crises without having to pass an act of Congress. Just go online to reach the D.C. Departments of Public Works and Health and officials there will gladly respond to citizens’ inquiries. I am not guaranteeing that they will solve all constituents’ rodent problems, but their advice is free, and may involve some very simple solutions, such as cleaning up dog poop!

So technology to the rescue once again, and maybe some people will think online advice is better than any other advice they have received in the past via the telephone, letter, or face-to-face conversations. And I think there is still one more resource that we haven’t tapped yet.

Remember the Pied Piper of Hamelin?

Ray Myers

Technology Comes to Rural Japan – Hooray!

So we all know that Japan has been a world leader in producing technology that has changed our modern lives. And of course we probably all think of Tokyo, Osaka, and other Japanese urban centers as the leading metropoloses of the 21st Century in forging such technological change. I was fortunate enough to have spent an academic semester in rural Japan, north of Osaka in the fall 1997, and made frequent return visits to all parts of Japan over the first decade of this century. Many innovators in the Japanes schools were sure that educational technology would be adopted by the Japanese Ministry and find its way into the Japanese schools as seamlessly as was the case in the U.S. This was not to be true in Japan, for a variety of reasons, but perhaps most importantly that a centralized Ministry of Education in Japan was still in control of curricular and instructional decisions across the country. Individual teachers and other educational leaders certainly championed the advantages of educational technology at all levels, but making such “official” changes rested with the Ministerial officials, many senior career bureaucrats.

Now it seems that technology may be changing the very life styles of many young Japanese professionals working in tech-related industries. They can work in a more relaxed rural setting not so much regulated by the ticking of the clock but much more by the sharing of time with colleagues and families in a less structured urban setting. Similarly, these families also seem to enjoy the collaborative community aspect of working there which already seems to support more creativity in their professional lives. Technology becomes the tool that they use to make their lives and work more meaningful. They are not tied to the ticking of the clock and the timing of the trains in their urban commutes.

Please know that I feel that the Japanese culture and people are to be commended for their generous and innovative spirit. We too have much to learn from them, and technology can help us learn more about more of what Japan has to offer outside of its urban centers too.

Ray Myers

Living in our New Tech World

Just a short post as you enjoy your Memorial Day holiday. I read a couple articles the last two days that reflect on how we use and think about technology in our daily lives and in our expansion of online learning anytime, anywhere. Are we just rushing headlong into the techno-revolution in learning without the benefit of studying our own history over recent centuries?

Or are we actually using technology to make our teaching more relevant, imparting those skills needed on the “art of living in the world today?

Ray Myers

Time and Tech and Remembering

Monday will be Memorial Day in the U.S., and we are all reminded to take time to remember those who are no longer with us, and perhaps spend more time with those who are the most important in our daily lives.  Perhaps the title of this blog deserves some explanation in this respect.  “TechtoExpress” is not only intended to reflect an “express” mode in the rapidity of our dealings with others.  It surely has that capacity in terms of how quickly we can communicate on any topic with anyone in the world.  Technology also empowers us with many more tools to “express” our thoughts and emotions using new powerful digital tools.  More expressive opportunities are now available for more people, who may become the new “artists” of a new century.

Happily we can also now connect with family and friends even when we are not able to be with them personally.  Such tools as FaceTime and Skype enable us to do that in real time.  So let’s always remember those we love and those who loved us and now live in our memories.  And be grateful for the technology that enriches our daily lives so that we can “be” with those we love in so many ways.

Many worry that technology is rapidly accelerating our loves so that we have less time to spend with our closest friends and family members.  I don’t think it has to be that way.  Do you?

Happy Memorial Day Weekend!

Ray Myers

Global Learning in the Heart of America

I know I posted earlier this week about MOOCs and online courses at Arizona State University, and I am going to comment on higher education again and one university’s initiative on global learning. There is clearly a difference in this school’s approach to enrich their curricula and expand students and faculty’s ability to collaborate and learn globally. In this case, Missouri S&T appears committed to developing a longer term strategic plan that combines distance and online course delivery rather than offering online courses as simply alternatives to on-campus attendance. They have also instituted an award system for faculty whom excel in teaching online.

For the past academic year, nearly two dozen faculty received Teaching Excellence awards for either outstanding or superior (commendations) performance. I think this is a clear and powerful message from the university’s leadership that they are committed to expanding their global reach through their online and distance learning capabilities.

This is a great paradigm for learning in the 21st Century. Using the power of technology in the service of greater global knowledge and partnership.

Ray Myers

The MOOC Mantra and Higher Ed in the U.S.

What a concept – Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)! Let’s make higher education available for all through use of all the online accessibility that technology has brought us. Hmmmm, looks like this “technological fix” may be the very thing that is threatening the viability of higher education in the U.S. Arizona appears to be one state that would like to reduce its higher education costs by offering more online courses in place of the traditional classroom setting. Arizona State is now offering their incoming freshman class the option of taking all of their courses online. These courses will come with reduced tuition fees in order to earn college credit.

How can you resist the basic notion that we will now have more for less since technology now makes this all possible. But are we really offering the same service or quality of learning? Maybe we are simply increasing the affordability of college for many more learners. They will be getting what they can afford to pay, and it may be just what they need?

For example, the most significant impact to date appears to be that older and more professional students are more satisfied with the MOOC/online approach. Perhaps the biggest benefit is that higher education is no longer limited by a specific time and place in one’s life.

Ray Myers

Let Facebook Be Your Guide

I know I have been posting frequently about Facebook’s role in the social media world, but they are truly becoming the leader in shaping your reading habits. Or should I say making you more comfortable in just subscribing to the news you want to read. Other tech companies are also competing in this contest of becoming subscribers’ gateway to the digital world; such as Google starting a social network, Amazon making a phone, and Apple helping you shop online.

Now what’s wrong with that? I guess that’s something we all have to decide, but a couple things come to mind as possible pitfalls in self-selecting the news or information we want to receive. When the protests were happening in Ferguson, Missouri, there was little commentary on these events on Facebook. One advertising website recently reported that just three years ago, forty percent of traffic came from search engines and fourteen percent from social media. Today, social media has outpaced search engines as the preferred gateway to that site.

I may be overreacting but I hope that we will all maintain some autonomy in the use of our digital “guides.”  Let’s be careful that they don’t become our “Big Brothers.”

Ray Myers

Social Media for Seniors in Times of Need

Many people may feel that the youthful obsession with social media is excluding our seniors who may be increasingly isolated in their own homes or in some restrictive elder care facility. It now seems that social media itself may be the the most viable virtual link for family members and friends to stay in touch. In may in fact repreent the most readily accessible nurturing and caring community path at our seniors ever had.

I am not sure that Facebook foresaw how their social network would so readily become the communication tool of choice for so many elderly citizens. Blogging also seems to be a popular venue for seniors who may prefer a different method of communicating. In any event, some of tyhese social media platforms have also become resounding financial success by taking advertising, or by eventually selling their sites to online businesses with a substantial senior clientele.

This creative use of social media certainly gives new meaning to the old adage of “never too old to learn,” or maybe it should be “learn new tricks!”

Ray Myers

Facebook and the Decline of Partisanship?

So in the new age of social media do we really get opposing views on any one site (e.g., Facebook). This is clearly not a new question since it has been debated since the advent of civilizations reporting on reliable sources of information. Do we really expect objectivity on what is now reported in our modern times since we now have Internet connecting us online from anywhere in the world?

Regardless of what research may prove, I think that the whole question of ensuring objectivity in online reporting, be it Facebook or any other “crowd sourced” internet platform, is in itself a contradiction in terms. What we may actually have now is the 21st Century version of the “vox populi.” To expect that somehow we can now feel comfortable with a self- regulating objectivity is patently delusional. The Internet may be many things, but it does not ensure a balanced unbiased world view.

We now seem to mistakenly believe that our ability to connect with anyone at anytime will lead us to a new Age of Enlightenment. I think that this is what they also may have thought about the printing press!

Ray Myers

Room With a View and Wi-Fi

Well maybe you really don’t need both if you are going to stay in a high-end hotel in midtown Manhattan, but that’s what really seems to be in demand these days. Busy business travelers (and others) must have speed and reliability in their connectivity to be competitive in today’s business and social worlds. And I guess that has become a necessity for us all in our daily business and social worlds.

Ironically with all this speed at your fingertips you may become mesmerized by your own ability to be virtually anywhere at anytime even in the midst of a city like New York. From my point of view, don’t become so attached to these digital devices that you miss the opportunity to “take in” all that NYC has to offer to satisfy any visitor’s interests.

Start spreading the news . . .

Ray Myers

We Know Where You Are!

Well I know we all love our cell phones and the convenience of having them by our side whenever we need them or wherever we may be. FYI, when using these devices you may also be sharing your whereabouts with a lot of other people you may not want to have this information.

Thanks to a recent U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling, federal investigators do not have to obtain a search warrant to obtain cell phone records stored by a “third party” telephone company. The reach of this ruling has many legal scholars concerned with how this interpretation could be applied to the world of online business and social media that store data as a “third party” to such transactions. Your Facebook posts, Amazon searches, Internet search history, perhaps even the documents and pictures you store in the cloud could be obtained without a search warrant in the future.

There will surely be much more litigation with subsequent appeals and perhaps eventually reaching the Supreme Court for some final determination. In the meantime, just be advised that some other “third party” may be watching?

Ray Myers

Nepal Recovery Effort Challenges

Last week I posted the disastrous news about the earthquake in Nepal.   I think it will be a long recovery period for the Nepalese struggling there.  Unfortunately, the irony of such an overwhelming immediate response by the world community is that too much arrives too soon.  Some of the latest reports cite many of the massive relief efforts as clogging up the minimal capacities of the Kathmandu airport to handle such an influx of humanitarian aid.   It will take long term persistence and perseverance in order to restore some semblance of the tranquil life the Nepalese once had.

Let us continue to be mindful of the human needs there and remain committed to supporting this brave nation’s resilience and recovery.

Ray Myers

Social Media and Wall Street

Maybe Wall Street just expected too much from social media. Initially very eager to invest in some of the Internet darlings, e.g., Twitter, LinkedIN, Yelp, they are not seeing the positive financial returns they eagerly expected.

I am really not sure what all of this may mean for the future of social media, but investors who are looking for a return on their stock portfolios will assuredly be looking elsewhere. I don’t believe this will have an immediate impact on the usage and attraction of social media for current and future generations of the Internet Age.

Perhaps in the longer run we will find a return to more face-to-face interactions, but in the meantime we always have FaceTime and Facebook!

Ray Myers