About Me

Education, the knowledge society, the global market all connected through technology and cross-cultural communication skills are I am all about. I hope through this blog to both guide others and travel myself across disciplines, borders, theories, languages, and cultures in order to create connections to knowledge around the world. I teach at the University level in the areas of Business, Language, Communication, and Technology.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The reason for not blogging lately: the olympics

Okay, so I admit it. I am a winter Olympics junkie. Having grown up doing all the winter sports (skiing, skating, tobogganing, and even having tried curling and bobsledding) not far from the 1932 and 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid, I always was engrossed in the Winter Olympics for as long as I can remember.

The first Olympics I remember watching as a child was the one with Peggy Flemming, I think in Grenoble. Later in college, I visited the Olympic sites in Grenoble, Oslo, and Innsbruck. I remember watching the Olympics live for the first time from Sapporo, Japan. As a child, it was strange to realize that we were able to see what was going on half way around the world, AS IT WAS HAPPENING. Occasionally the satellite would cut out and we would loose the picture, but it was amazing to have.

So for the last week, I have been watching the Olympics from Vancouver. My only complaint in the coverage came today. Rather than showing the US-Canada hockey game live on network TV, it was shown on cable. In addition, while I was able to access live streaming via internet from Beijing, I now am not allowed to do so as I do not subscribe to cable. This means I miss out on a number of events, including curling. I find this disturbing and misguided on the part of NBC. I would be more than willing to sit through a number of internet ads in order to have seen the US-Canada game or curling. I wanted to see the entire ski-cross...not just highlights and would have watched the advertising if I could have accessed it on the internet.

In fact, tonight was the first night I watched something else or clicked through the ads shown on the Olympics. Someone wasn't thinking, because I am sure there were a number of others that would have watched the US Canada game. NBC lost a lot of revenue tonight. I hope they will reconsider their media mix and offer better coverage through the internet.

In the meantime, I'll post again when the Olympics are done!

Friday, February 12, 2010

A disturbing trend: access to information

As I've mentioned before, I am teaching international marketing, one of my favorite courses to teach. Since the first time I have taught this course, in 1990, the way I teach it has changed extensively. By the turn of the millennium, my focus on this course went from finding information about international markets and making decisions with limited information, to learning how to filter and pour through the amount of information found on the internet about any given international market.

However, this year (it has been 3 years since I taught the course), I have discovered yet another trend that will impact how I teach this course. As part of the course, I require my students to write a feasibility study on an assigned country. Using all of the countries of the world, excluding those that an American company would be allowed to trade with (i.e. Burma, North Korea, Cuba, etc...), my students are randomly assigned a country to research (they pick it out of an envelope). This year, as my students began to investigate their countries, I noticed:

  1. there are more resources from within countries about their markets, even those that have traditionally been difficult to find out about (e.g. south Pacific Island nations, Indian Ocean island nations, East Timor, Viet Nam, etc...)
  2. Most English language resources can be traced back to one or two of the same sources (CIA handbook or BBC country profiles)
  3. There are more diverse non-English resources
  4. Most English resources outside of the two free ones I mentioned require payment to access the information

The last trend is part of a growing trend which I find especially disturbing. 4-5 years ago I could access information for free. The major barrier was knowing how to find the information. However, once found, it was fairly easy to access it.

Now, I am limited even in the information that I can access through our library and databases. Older material is available, but updated material is not. In addition, there are restrictions on what I can pass on to my students due to copyright laws. Some websites require that information that they have posted cannot be duplicated (copyright laws) OR LINKED to other websites without permission. This linking to other websites limits access to information. But I can understand how an owner of a website might not want to be associated with other websites due to possible misunderstanding as to the relationships between the two.

However, Harvard Business Review has the following restrictions:

It is not intended for use as assigned course material in academic institutions nor as corporate learning or training materials in businesses. Academic licensees may not use this content in electronic reserves, electronic course packs, persistent linking from syllabi or by any other means of incorporating the content into course resources. Business licensees may not host this content on learning management systems or use persistent linking or other means to incorporate the content into learning management systems. Harvard Business Publishing will be pleased to grant permission to make this content available through such means. For rates and permission, contact permissions@harvardbusiness.org.

In other words, I cannot require the article (even if I don't upload a copy, but make the students access the reading). I was shocked when I read this. That an academic institution would restrict access to academic information is disturbing. I find that the current climate of "intellectual property" laws will decrease the potential for the world economy, the US economy, and innovation. The countries that have survived the global recession are those that had open access to information. It is surprising that a country that has prided itself on its "democracy" and "innovation" through a free market economy, allows for the individual hoarding of information. We might find this can lead to our down fall unless we open up access to information.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Have there been waves of immigration to the internet?

Gina Minks had an interesting post using a time line to identify what generation might be considered digital natives.

Many divide baby-boomers between "early" (the ones who get all the glory) and "late" (in fact, the largest population born in the US until the 1990's). I was a late baby-boomer, who grew up as technology was being developed. As technology is always changing, the question is (as you so aptly put it) when would there be a generation of "natives"? While the technology might be different, those of us in the late boomers grew up in the age of computation (electronic calculators, mainframe computers, the logic of electronic computation, flow charts). As we have grown, so has the digital landscape. But is there a parallel time line for those that were not part of the electronic age (i.e. the loss of technology which forces people to move to other tools, such as the end the lazer disc, the floppy disc, the manual type writer, the console, the mainframe computer)? This would allow you to see the gap between digital natives and digital immigrants (i.e. the waves of immigration).

I'm with Karyn Romeis about using the imagery of digital natives or immigrants: I'm on the fence with it. That said, I wonder if, like waves of immigration to the US and Britain, if there have been waves of immigration to the digital environment that then impacts technology and programs.

The first wave might be at the advent of the PC and Mac in which the computer was now in the home, which led to word processing and financial software. The next wave was the development of the internet which led to such programs as email ( remember when it was all done in code) and the world wide web. As more people bought PC's and Mac's to access information through the web, more web based programs were developed, leading to another wave of immigration to access information, communicate, and conduct commerce on the web. High speed web integrated with phone and tv service meant that another wave of immigrants entered the digital landscape to access entertainment, videos, tv, music (ipods, mpg players).

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

A peak into the future: Just in time learning

Tony Karrer and Harold Jarche have written a lot lately on the process of finding information for a knowledge worker's needs. This semester, I am fortunate to have two classrooms which have allowed me to observe how upper-class (the 3rd and 4th year) university students access information that they need.

Last week, I had students in my group communication class work at tables to do some problem solving. They were given an fact sheet about a country (including population, capital, official and second languages spoken, currency name, etc...) and they had to figure out the name of the country, the continent, and the surrounding countries. They then were given another country with the same data, but they had to accomplish the task while sitting with their backs to the other group members.

What I found interesting was when they were face to face, some students pulled out their cell phones and searched for the country, first by the name of the capital, then locating it on google maps. By the second task, all groups were doing this, even if someone knew the answer. The "expert" in the group's answer was verified on line. What is interesting is that I have done this exercise for the same class twice before and this was the first time students were able to complete the task.

I also teach international marketing at a private university. I was lucky enough to get the market research lab for this class, so my students each have their own computer. During one of my "lectures", I asked students the difference between code law and common law countries, based on an online module they were supposed to have watched. Well, needless to say, the majority of them had not done their homework and when I called on specific students to question them about the two different legal systems, the first few were like deer in a head light. However, I also noticed that many of the students were busy on the internet. I thought that maybe they were looking at the module (although I don't think they'd be able to access it and get the information in the amount of time that I could call on them). As I started to walk through the class, still asking questions, I noticed a number of them had the wikipedia post on Code and Common law on their computers.

My conclusion is that:
  • students will not spend time doing the home work if they feel they can access the information when they need it.
  • These same students will not learn anything work related until they need it (just in time learning)
  • students are very good at finding information using technology and "experts"
  • Experts will always need to be verified by the internet, but internet sources will not have to be verified by experts
  • These students are very good at looking to others for the processes they use in problem solving and replicating those processes if they think it will give them results
  • Students are very good at "shallow" learning, not necessarily understanding an answer they have received as long as it fits the need
  • Many students don't understand the information they collect, nor are they interested in doing so as long as it doesn't hurt their work