Saturday, March 24, 2007

What does "I don't have time to try this" really mean?

A few days ago I was reading Will Richardson's post The Next Generation of Teachers on how often "yeah, but" excuses can be heard from young, still to-be teachers when it comes to the usage of educational technologies. I think this isn't common just among educators (young or old), but it's something we often have to deal with when presenting a new technology/service/tool to somebody. One of the very popular excuses in these cases sounds something like this: "Yeah, it sounds great, BUT I don't have time to try this right now". How often did you heard that reply? From colleagues, friends, family that you were just trying to help by presenting this really amazing new tool that you find soooo useful and is making part of your life easier, more enjoyable or more efficient. Sure, sometimes we just are too busy to even know our own name, but I often get the feeling that not-having-enough-time is just a handy excuse to avoid the usage of a new tool. Being busy is always an acceptable way out, right?
So, I often wonder what "I don't have time to try this" really means - especially when the presented tool isn't so demanding that it would require weeks of intensive training, but perhaps just an hour of a person's time, and especially when the tool at hand is really intended to save time (for example RSS feeds). Let me share with you three (in my opinion and experience) of the most popular hidden meanings of not-having-enough-time and some ideas on how to avoid getting the "I don't have time" excuse or on how to deal with it:

When I say that I don't have time to try the tool you're presenting, I in fact...

... don't understand why I should use this tool.
Translation: The person you are talking to doesn't see a personal benefit in using the tool you're presenting; therefore he/she sees the tool as a waste of his/her time.

Possible solutions: When trying to get somebody hooked up on a new tool because you just know he/she could greatly benefit from it, use some empathy. Get to know the person, his/her needs, problems with similar existing solutions and use that knowledge during your presentation. Show the features that are relevant to the person you're presenting to. (example: If somebody presented Second Life to me as just a new game, I wouldn't be interested in checking it out - instead I decided to join because I read articles and personal reports from educators about how SL can be used for education.) When presenting listen to small clues (often hidden in questions) that might show that you're not presenting the tool in a relevant way.

... think I understand what this tool is about, but it seems so hard to use.
Translation: The person can see some of the benefits of the tool you're presenting, but to him/her the tool just seems too difficult to use; he/she thinks he/she doesn't have the appropriate skills to be able to use it or that getting to know the tool would require a lot of training - therefore a lot more time the person is willing to dedicate to get the benefits of the tool.

Possible solutions: When presenting the tool also present the steps required to get started with the tool. Show the person simple (and if possible support) tutorials that can be used for beginners. If possible offer personal tutoring and support for the initial steps (example: "I'll help you create an account on Flickr and we'll upload your picture together"), but try to make the person comfortable in using the tool on his/her own or you might get called each time the person will need the tool ;) (example: "See, it's easy. Now you can try this on your own. I'll help you if needed.")

... don't want to change the way I'm doing things at the moment!
Translation: The person is most bothered by the change the new tool might cause in his/her life. One of the fears might also be that the new tool will demand more of a person's attention; therefore it seems easier to say one doesn't have time to try doing things another way. Why change if the way I'm doing things works just fine?

Possible solutions: This case is perhaps the most difficult to solve. You might be dealing with a person that just doesn't like change - period. In some cases resistance to change might be a symptom of insecurities. In this case you could always try to present the tool in a relevant way and offer your help (just as described above), but that might not always work. In these cases it is perhaps better to retreat. After all, not every exciting new tool is meant to be accepted by everyone. But if the time comes when the tool you failed to present successfully becomes so popular that it can't be avoided anymore, you can always come back to the person and use the strategies presented above to help the person make the change.

In my opinion the keywords when dealing with new tools are relevance and support. Try to find what the person really needs and shape your presentation according to the person's needs. We aren't very good at changing our habits because somebody tells us to, but we are willing and capable of great change when we decide the change is needed and know exactly how to make it happen.

Finally, I would really like to hear your opinion on the not-having-enough-time excuse. How do you deal with it when you can tell it's just an excuse with a hidden meaning? What are in your opinion other common hidden meanings of this excuse? And what do you do to help people find the time to try something new?

Note: This is just an archive post. The blog has moved to a new home at, where you will also find a copy of the entire blog.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Digital Ethnography group on YouTube

Remember the Web 2.0 ... The Machine is Us/ing Us video that presented the Web 2.0 concept under 5 minutes (I also posted it on my blog)? It got a lot of (deserved) attention in the edu blogosphere and recently the final version of the video was posted on YouTube. As it seems, we can expect more great videos like this from the Digital Ethnography group, guided by Michael Wesch at the Kansas State University. They've just released a new video: Introducing our YouTube Ethnography Project, in which the students and their professor present themselves and invite all of us to interact with them through YouTube. Take a look:
A visit to their blog is also suggested.

I think their project is a really interesting one - not just for the fields of ethnography and anthropology. For educators that are exploring possible uses of technology in education this project is a great example of what a powerful tool Web 2.0 has become. These students are now able to interact with a global audience and get valuable feedback on their work from all around the world in different media formats. Wow! All I can say is - thumbs up for the Digital Ethnography group! I hope to see (and also participate in) more projects like this in the future.

Note: This is just an archive post. The blog has moved to a new home at, where you will also find a copy of the entire blog.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Another thought about the 3D Web...

After my previous post on my thoughts about the future 3D Web, I got some really interesting comments. We were also wondering who the next big player in the 3D virtual worlds game would be and guess what? The first video I see this morning is a trailer from Sony about Home, a new community based service for the Playstation Network (thanks Trevor for this one). Take a look by yourself:
Looks familiar? Yep, it's their version of Second Life with some great features to connect gamers. And it does look soooo pretty. But what it doesn't look like (at least from this trailer) is an open environment. It is limited to a single console and my first impression is that it is a very sterile environment. Maybe a bit too much.

Anyhow, I take Sony's Home community as a sign that virtual 3D communities are getting big and that that the digital natives of the next generation will probably will be very comfortable with virtual worlds and the ability to travel between different worlds - just as today's natives are comfortable with MySpace, FaceBook, YouTube and Flickr. However, I do hope that more open alternatives (Croquet and Ogoglio are worth mentioning again) will be available on the market. It is also up to us - the users, consumers - to support open source projects and demand more open environments. Let's not just settle for the first cute thing that comes around; we can and should have so much more!

Note: This is just an archive post. The blog has moved to a new home at, where you will also find a copy of the entire blog.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Thinking about 3D Web - or is it Web 3.0?

I've been doing quite some thinking about virtual 3D worlds recently. Second Life and different MMORPG games are getting an impressive amount of coverage in traditional media and that in my opinion is a sign that something important is going on. That is also why I've decided to write a short piece on virtual worlds and virtual economies for students that will be taking the E-business course this year. Virtual worlds are growing and shouting for attention, and we just can't pretend they don't exist anymore.

The edu blogoshpere has been noticing virtual worlds for quite some time now. A few days ago Vicki Davis wrote an interesting post The frontier of education: Web 3D that looks at virtual 3D worlds from an educational perspective. She did a great job when identifying some of important potentials of virtual worlds for education:
    • You can overcome stereotypes
    • Student Collaboration
    • Authentic Assessment / Project Based Learning Possibilities
    • Role Playing
    • Potential for group synergies
    • Storage, Legacy, and Global Audience
    • Scenario Simulation
    • Digital Storytelling
She ends her post with the question What do you think? and in this post I'd like to share some of my recent thoughts on the development and future of virtual worlds.

From my experience, a great potential of virtual worlds is also the greater presence of non-verbal forms of communication. That is perhaps the feature of virtual worlds that I personally find very attractive. It's what (at least for me) makes the virtual world seem almost real. I love the way avatars get bored if you leave them standing on one spot, I love the way they look busy while typing and the fact that you can make your own gestures and poses is not only entertaining, but also very real-life like. Virtual worlds can in my opinion to some extent also be used to learn and practice non-verbal communication.

I also think that the therapeutic potential of Second Life is very important. People with different forms of autism are finding Second Life very positive (read the article Virtual world teaches real-world skills), Second Life is also used to fight agoraphobia (fear of open spaces) and it can also help us understand each other better through simulations. A few days ago I ventured into the Virtual Hallucinations building that simulates schizophrenia. I must say this experience had a huge impact on me and Imy perception of this disease (if you can't or don't want to visit the place, you can read this personal account of the experience on Second Life Herald).

I definitely agree with Vicki that virtual worlds have great educational potential and that they will play a big part in our future. However, I do share Sean FitzGerald 's reservation towards Second Life - I hope Second Life as it is will not be the future of the web or the core of Web 3.0.

Here are a few things I think need to be done for a better user experience and a move towards a 3D Web or Web 3.0 that can be accepted by a greater number of users (and of course educators):

Open protocols and standards
Just as Sean pointed out, I also hope that we'll have more open standards that the whole community has decided on. The Web 3.0 is supposed to be about open technologies and open identity - I hope we manage to integrate that in virtual worlds. I think it'd be great if your avatar could shoot movies in Second Life and directly upload them to YouTube, or take snapshots and upload them on Flickr. Basically, I think that we need better connectivity among all our virtual worlds and social networks.

Better accessibility
Last night I wanted to go into Second Life to take some snapshots for the study material I was preparing for my students and guess what? I couldn't log on, the grid was shut down due to some maintenance (without prior warning). This is also what happened when I first tried to enter Second Life. Not a very warm welcome, right? In Second Life they have scheduled maintenances at least on a weekly basis (usually sometime on Wednesdays). Yeah, it's great that they take care of the grid, but I these downtimes are too disruptive. In real world you don't get kicked out of your classroom once a week because the maintenance guys need to fix the classroom. The Second Life environment isn't very stable, and at the moment it is still often buggy, which is a problem if you'd want to use it for education.

Cross platform support
Moove, Kaneva seem like great worlds, but I can't yet get in them. Why? Because I'm on a Mac. I'd really like to be able to choose between different virtual worlds, but I'm stuck with Second Life for now. That is why I also think it'd be great to make virtual worlds work in web browsers. Some great projects that are trying to achieve that are under development - Croquet and Ogoglio. I just watched some screencasts about Ogoglio on YouTube and I must say I'm really impressed. (The world is still quite crude, but it looks very promising. The way it displays pictures and text from other websites through XML looks amazing - especially when compared to Second Life!).

Better Web 2.0 support

Second Life may look like the next generation of Web, but when you really think about it, it lacks some Web 2.0 features that we all came to like. Some things that I miss: a more powerful search (where is Google? :) ), the ability to tag objects (and people), I'd also love to see recommendations for places and objects (users who bought this also liked..., users that visited this place also enjoyed...). You do have some sort or a rating system, but here is what the official Second Life site has to say about that:
"Ratings have no functional effect on your Second Life — they're vanity numbers, and some Residents prefer to do other things with their L$ than rate, such as uploading (from File menu) new media to use in their inworld creations.

Tip: if you wonder how someone came to have ratings in the high hundreds of even thousands, it's likely because they're an older Resident, from a time when ratings cost L$1 apiece."
Great. Ratings have no functional effect and you have to pay to give them? Hm, doesn't really sound like Web 2.0 to me... I sure hope the Web 2.0 features and values will not be forgotten or lost in the Web 3.0!

Improved mobility

Soon we'll be able to use virtual worlds on our mobile phones, but I also hope that more virtual world will provide the ability to do some work offline. We do have all sorts of mobile devices that can get us online, but the Internet isn't available everywhere, especially when we travel. Just like I can write this blog post without being connected to the Internet, I think it'd be cool to be able to, for example, edit your avatar offline. (Moove already supports this - I hope it becomes a standard feature in virtual worlds).

So, these are just some thoughts about potential improvements of virtual worlds. I already wrote some thoughts about the potential future of 3D virtual world in my introductory post about Second Life. I like the idea of a 3D Web future, but I agree with Vicki - we need to support further development of virtual world that will be safe, enjoyable, user friendly and easy to control in educational settings. As educators I think we should talk about potentials and problems of 3D world and encourage our colleagues to try out new technologies. You don't really fully understand a technology unless you try to use it and really experience it first hand - as Vicki puts it: "second life learning is first person learning". I hope all these discussions we are having will motivate more educators to explore virtual worlds and share their personal experiences. I find personal accounts of Second Life adventures and explorations much more valuable and interesting to read than official manuals. Do not be afraid to try out virtual worlds and if you think you can't handle it on your own, ask for help! I'm more than willing to give you a short introductory tour, and I know that so are many other educators that are working in Second Life.

And now is your turn dear reader - what is your opinion about virtual worlds? Do you think we'll be able to use the potential they are offering us? Are we ready for the shift into virtual 3D workplaces?

By the way - some interesting resources for those interested in virtual economies:

Note: This is just an archive post. The blog has moved to a new home at, where you will also find a copy of the entire blog.