Getting people to use your technology: Thank you but no thanks

Thanks but no thanksRecently when I was in West Africa, I was chatting with someone who is the head of a local organization about technology project.  The project would benefit agriculture in a rural community.  The organization’s solution is good, she was saying, “So how do you get people, in particular the BBCers (born before computers) to use it?  How do you convince them that this is efficient, faster, easier?”

“You don’t,” I said.

She tilted her head to one side, looked at me questioningly and reiterated, “It is a good technology.”

“I am sure it is.  But here you are talking about behavior change.  You are not talking about technology,” I replied.

Again, an inquisitive face looking at me.

“Ok, so you mean like when the iPod came out and people didn’t know that they wanted it. Then they saw what it could do.  Now the iPod, iPhone and iPad are part of everyone’s life?”  I asked.

“Yes, something like that.” she replied.

“Well, that depends on many things. Is the need really there? Why would they want to use it?” I continued to ask for more information.

She responded, “Because it will help them.  It is a problem that they have, and we have a solution to address it.”

This organization uses human-centered design, does focus groups and testing.  The stuff that you are supposed to do when designing a product.  But the issue still is why would someone use it, even if it is faster and easier?

Let’s say that these people check it out. It’s ok.  They may adopt some but not the whole thing.  That’s because with these other things, it works just fine the way they do it. Why change?  Noone is going to change because someone else thinks it is the best thing ever.

I tried to explain the law of diffusion to my new acquaintance. Like others, I learned first about it on the Simon Sinek’s  TED talk on Why Great Leaders Inspire Action.

Early adapters – Who is using it now? Anyone?  Why?  Find out why they like it.
Use them as a starting point.
Influencers – Chief/head of a local community.  There always is one.  Who is that?  Have you talked with them?
Government – Do they get it?  Are they supporting it?  Who are the district people in that community?

You say that the technology is faster, easier and more efficient.  What are those reasons?   Confirm with those early adapters.  Ask them.  I bet that many of the ways that you think are more efficient are ones that they think are foolish.  They also probably have ones that you would have never, ever thought of.

Support those early champions however you can.  Be there for them.

What’s in it for me? Why should I change?  If someone has been doing something for a long time, why do you think that I should change?
Price – What is the price?
Effort – How much effort is to learn?
How does it effect usual habits?  – Is it one small tiny change? Does this one change affect the way I do things before and after it?  Do those stay constant so that there is only one change? People can only manage one small change at time.  Otherwise, it is too overwhelming.  At least to start with.  Add others over time.

Teachers started to see the value of technology because with Excel they can, with a click of the average function, take a column of student scores and find the average.  They didn’t have to find a calculator, the few that may exist at the school, or even now with everyone has a calculator on their phone.  After typing the numbers into Excel, their grades are done.

It is not about using the technology.  It is about changing behavior.   There is a whole generation that grew up always have a smartphone.  They can adapt easily to using a new app but think about the 1000s of apps our there now.  How many are used? How many fail?  Even if it is an incredible resource.

Stop trying to convince people that this is good.
It will evolve if it is good, but it takes time.
Work on the early adaptors, get to those early users.  It will happen if it is a viable product.

Also, it may not happen in the timeframe that you think it should. Timing is key. I was working on an education portal for teachers in 2009 in Zambia.  In 2014 when I met with education officials, one of the first things that they said that they wanted to do was build an education portal.  We were too early.  In 2009 when project funding ended, I saw that it was shifting.

I put that into my final report: timing.  In Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World, Adam Grant has a chapter called “Timing, Strategic Procrastination and the First-Mover Disadvantage.”  Zambia is now trying to do something that we were telling them about 6 years prior.

Realize and accept that some people will never change. That is ok. It is the law of diffusion.  The laggards – the ones that may have to change because their old way of doing it no longer exists.

How do you get people to use the technology?  Only if they want to. The people who are facing the problem that you are ‘solving’ know better than any of us what works for them.  Not because it is good technology.

Technology AND People is GREATER THAN Technology MINUS People

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You hear alot that people want to use technology in learning to reduce costs of face-to-face learning.  It is true.  We do have to decrease them for a range of reasons: costs too much to bring the people together, takes away from their work, people can’t remember everything that they learned when it is all taught at the same time, etc.

The thought usually is, like most edtech companies have, that the technology product will replace or simplify or make more efficient or get good data in regards to learning.  Technology Minus People.

Why can’t we think about what the technology can do AND  the people who technology is “replacing?”  Why is it always about the technology can do WITHOUT the people? In several posts I read, they asked a similar question especially as technology scales.

So what about technology plus/minus people?

In The Primary Problem with Educational Technology David Wiley recently asked “Why must we replace opportunities to interact with teachers and tutors with artificial intelligence and adaptive systems?  Why are we so excited by the prospect of care, encouragement, and support giving way to a “Next” button that algorithmically chooses what a student should see next?”

George Siemens is saying good-bye to edtech: Adios Ed Tech. Hola something else. He wrote about how “Both Udacity and Knewton require the human, the learner, to become a technology, to become a component within their well-architected software system. Sit and click. Sit and click…Automation treats the person as an object to which things are done. There is no reason to think, no reason to go through the valuable confusion process of learning, no need to be a human. Simply consume. Simply consume. Click and be knowledgeable.”

Yes, computers are replacing humans in many instances and the trend, of course, will continue.  David Brooks in  The New Romantics in the Computer Age notes, “As Geoff Colvin points out in his book “Humans Are Underrated,”computers will soon be able to do many of the cognitive tasks taught in places like law schools and finance departments…Computers can already go through millions of legal documents and sort them for relevance to an individual case, someday allowing one lawyer to do the work of 500. Computers may soon be able to cruise through troves of data and offer superior financial advice. Computers are not only getting smarter at systems analysis, they are improving at rates no human can match.”

Click next. Automation.  Not having to think.  The focus is on what the technology do and how it replaces tasks that humans do and make faster and better. Few bring people back into the equation.

Can’t we ask what is possible with technology AND people instead of what is currently being done when people are taken out the equation? Is it possible? What needs to shift? Why isn’t that happening more?

Well, Brian Sletten says, Caring Doesn’t Scale. (The title of post that says alot in and of itself.)  He makes the analogy of network of people we know and systems.  “The sad reality is, we cannot care equally deeply about everyone…The same is true in distributed systems. Our software can establish highly intimate, shared relationships with other schemas, services and software. It takes time to establish close relationships whether it is between friends or distributed sources of information. Anything that makes us care prevents us from scaling in terms of diversity of participants. We have to decide what systems are worth the coupling. What information is worth the cost of integration.”

He summarizes about connecting systems: “The languages and technologies you use to implement these systems are independent choices based upon your needs, client requirements, staff, legacies, and projected future.”

The people have to make decisions about the systems.  No matter what there is people in the equation.  Maybe it is not with or without but HOW?

Instead of asking what jobs computers can do, David Brooks writes “… You should instead ask, What are the activities that we humans, driven by our deepest nature or by the realities of daily life, will simply insist be performed by other humans?”

And he says that “Those tasks are mostly relational. Being in a position of authority or accountability. Being a caregiver.  Being part of a team. Transactional jobs are declining but relational jobs are expanding…Empathy becomes a more important workplace skill, the ability to sense what another human being is feeling or thinking”

Caring.  Empathy.  Relationships.  In my post about empathy in the world, I quoted an article in which a business leader says the most important skill a person can have is empathy.

As Eric Westendorf writes in Teacher and the Machine,”Machines will not replace the intuition, the creativity, the role-modeling, the sparkle-in-the-eye, or the look that communicates, “I believe in you,” that only humans can bring.”   .

So what about technology AND people?

Westendorf continues, “We ought to harness the power of machines to improve our schools and classrooms. But instead of thinking of machines replacing humans, we should think about machines supercharging humans. How can machines supercharge teachers to more effectively connect, understand, diagnose, and support?”

When David Reilly applied Caring Doesn’t Scale to edtech, he believes that: “Digital, networked technologies can also be leveraged to design tools and pedagogies that augment, extend, and improve a teacher or faculty’s capacity to care. That is, educational technology can help us be more generous with our care, encouragement, passion, and support. Educational technology can help us come to know, care about, and genuinely support a much larger number of “identified students” than we ever could without its help. But precious little of the activity in the edtech market is focused on achieving this goal.”

In an article about “Never Send a Human to do a Machine’s Job: Correcting the Top 5 Edtech Mistakes,” by Yong Zhao, Gaoming Zhang, Jing Lei and Wei Qiu, their conclusion is reinstated: “The transformation is not about technology, but about more meaningful education for all children.”  Technology doesn’t make it meaningful.  People do.  Connections do.

Technology + (plus) People is > (greater than) Technology – (minus) People.

The question is not only about making technology replace or achieve something  but but what it can do to “supercharge humans” and be leveraged for a “teacher or facility’s capacity to care” and transform into a “more meaningful education.”

“Off It” – Making content available offline

offswitchWhen I lived in The Gambia, to ask someone to turn a light or anything off, people would say “off it.”

I thought of that expression when I was writing this post. What about “off-it” referring to the internet? Either people have been so consumed with being online, they need to “off it” to come back into the a non-virtual world or people are “off it” implying that the internet is not accessible or not available to them or too expensive to be online.

For the latter “off it” situation, devices filled with content are being distributed to schools, facilities, agencies, etc. to make content available offline. I love it. But then I wonder about three things:

  • Hardware: What about the devices?
  • Content: Are the resources on them relevant and up-to-date?
  • Search: How is the content organized and is it searchable?

This post is mostly about options for hardware to put collections on. What works for what audience to disseminate what information?  Microcomputer like a Raspberry Pi?  Access via satellite or a 12 volt server?  Make your own with a router and USB?  A licensed product?

I was explaining offline solutions to someone recently and provided some examples for devices. Many of you would have heard of them.  Maybe some you haven’t.  These are several options I found:

Microcomputer:  Raspberry Pi and Banana Pi
Raspberry Pi  is “low cost, credit-card sized computer that plugs into a computer monitor or TV, and uses a standard keyboard and mouse.” It’s pretty cool and is being used quite a bit to store and access content. A few examples:

Rachel (Remote Areas Community Hotspots for Education and Learning) makes available educational content to places with no Internet connectivity or bandwidth is unusable.  Most of the content is what I see in other educational offline solutions: Wikipedia for Schools, Khan Academy(KA)-Lite described further below, MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia, Infonet-Biovision, Great Books of the world, UNESCO’s IICBA Electronic Library, etc. A basic,nice selection.

IICD is using Raspberry Pi in Peru. In Peru the One Laptop per Child programme (OLPC) provided thousands of XO laptops. IICD used Raspberry Pi to store content and as a local server for teachers to download content for use with the XO laptops.

Open Learning Exchange Ghana has used Raspberry Pi  in their Basic e-Learning Library (BELL) as a server for their Learning Management System and content.  (I work now with the guy in the video who describes how they built it!) They designed and implement a process for technology into schools which includes content development, using technology in lessons, training and mentoring.

What about Banana Pi?  Difference with Raspberry Pi? All I understand is that it is similar in design to Raspberry Pi but with different components.  SPELL, Solar Powered Educational Learning Library, an initiative from the California Polytechnic State University, is using Banana Pi for their microcomputer. As part of the package, there is also solar panel, rechargeable battery and peripherals. Content  has been curated in a 32GB SD card that is clearly organized into subjects for educators in Pacific Islands.  It is wonderful to see curated content like that.

Stand-alone Product
Endless Computer says it is “a tool for offline information and education” that is “as simple as a tablet, as powerful as a computer.” They built their own computer that runs on its own OS, Endless OS. It “comes preloaded with a full encyclopedia, educational lectures, recipes, health information, and over 100 other apps that work well without an internet connection.” I am not familiar with the hardware and am curious what those 100 apps are.

Critical Links C3 is “designed to provide education cloud type services to a school, or classroom, with limited, unreliable or no Internet connection at all.”  The device works as content server, can work as learning management system and can work on batteries.  Although I have never used this product, I have used other Critical Link products successfully.  I don’t know how much this has taken off, but the product has what it is needed for an offline solution.

Do It Yourself with a router and USB drive (or buy the product)
LibraryBox v2.0 is “a combination of a router (a variety of hardware will work), USB drive, and software that, when combined, gives you a small, low powered webserver. The webserver acts like a portal and delivers files that are stored on the USB drive.” LibraryBox is a product, but the code is available for individuals who want to make their own.  The end result seems similar to a Raspberry Pi.

Access via Satellite
Outernet broadcasts content via satellites rather than through the internet. To connect, they have devices that they developed or you can do it yourself. One device is Lighthouse which stores the information it receives from Outernet on its internal drive.  Teachers and students can connect to it wi-fi to access the content. The device can also be connected to an existing school server and wi-fi or LAN network.

You can build a library with the content that you want to broadcast and/or access the educational content that list on their site.  Many are similar to what others have: Wikipedia, Khan Academy, Project Guttenberg, MIT Education Consortium and World Possible who created RACHEL.

eGranary: Full-sized server OR a 12-volt server OR stand-alone USB
eGranary  is the one that I am sure most of you are familiar with it. It is usually the one that immediately comes to mind to recommend.  It is ” an off-line information store that provides instant access to over 32 million digital resources for those lacking adequate Internet access.” I think it is great.

They, first and foremost, focused on the content.  Then developed the technology to make it searchable and accessible. Sure, some the content is out-dated and not so great, but some of it is fabulous. You are never going to find something that has perfect content, just like you find tons of ucky stuff on the internet. It is all about curation.

They have 3 solutions to access the content: “1) a full-sized eGranary server optimized for rugged conditions; 2) a 12-volt server than can be run on battery; and 3) a stand-alone USB drive that turns any Windows computer into a server.”  They are also working on 12 SD card pocket libraries with curated material on specific topics.  Lots of choices for dissemination.

I’ll add one example of an offline content collection: Khan Academy Lite is “open-source software that mimics the online experience of Khan Academy for offline situations.” It is not just making the videos available but the whole experience.  I will leave more examples of collections for another discussion.

You can ‘off it’ by accessing content via satellite, USB, microcomputers, 12volt server or build it yourself.  I love having options.  The choice, as with anything else with technology, depends on what people who do not have internet access want to do and what is appropriate for their environment.

Icons made by Freepik from www.flaticon.com  is licensed by CC BY 3.0

Visioning a Learning Process and System

Learning Process and VisionI think about learning.  A lot. I look at learning as a process.  I think about the system that is needed to be in place to make learning happen.  The sketchnote is my attempt to visualize how I am currently thinking about learning. (Yes, I drew it.)

All the pieces of the vision exist not a holistic system.  Let me explain.  I look at the process and system in three main areas: content, system and data.

Nos. 1 and 2 are about content.
Nos. 3, 4, 5 and 6 are about the system.
Nos. 7, 8, 9 about data.

CONTENT 1, 2
1. Creating content for all devices
People have access to desktops, laptops, smartphones tablets or feature phones.  Although we know how fast the use of smartphones is growing, the majority of people that we work with and need the most access to information have feature phones.  As we develop learning materials and adapt print and face to face materials, we have to adapt them to use on multiple devices.  It is a tremendous amount of work, but if we want to reach the greatest population at this point in time, we have to do that.

Content is developed and adapted for different devices and then…

2. Loading content onto the system
Learning platforms to disseminate materials exist for each device. But is there one system that connects all of them?  If you are working with the same group that have different devices, wouldn’t it be great to load the content and disseminate the course to everyone even if they are accessing it on different devices?

Content is loaded onto a Learning Management System and then…

SYSTEM 3, 4, 5, 6
A system is needed to manage the content and track learnings.  It is what a Learning Management System (LMS) does.  I am calling it a LMS  because it is common terminology.  It may be another type of system.  It doesn’t really matter what it is called.

3. Accessing the content
The content is disseminated through one platform.  Learners receive the content and access activities through the different devices as described in No. 1.

The learner accesses and does activities and then…

4. Tracking the learner
We want to capture the experiences of the learner for a number of reasons. We first want to see how people are doing, if people are doing anything, where there are stumbling blocks, where people need help.  Second, on the learners’ side people love to see what they got right.  Third, everyone else besides the educators and learners these days wants to track learning.

How do you track if learning is happening? An assessment, yes.   It can also be in gathering information, interacting on social media, watching a video, achieving milestones in games and simulations, performed work tasks and outputs, participating.  Tracking these experiences that are part of learning adds more value in looking at how learning is taking place.

The system has the capability of tracking learning experiences and then…

5.  Storing learner’s experiences: Learning Record Store
The learner performed an action.  “I did this.”  An event took place.  These events can be as simple as “accessed a resource”, “watched a movie”, “played a game”, “passed a test” or “visited a location”.   These actions are collected into a Learning Record Store (LRS).  A LRS is essentially a database where each learner’s experiences.  It provides an overview about what and how people have developed their knowledge, skills and competences.

The system captures and stores the learning experiences and then…

6. Awarding open badges
Once the learner completes the course, the LMS has a record of completing the course. Certificates are important.  We know that. What can digitally represent those pieces of paper?  They are called open badges.  They recognize the skills, knowledge and competencies that the learner has achieved.

Badge has been issued, then…

Data
7.  Interacting with other health data systems
We now would like to tell other health systems that the health worker has received a badge for meeting certain competencies or other job-related tasks that they have done.  It can be the national association or ministry, for example, who gives licensure for health workers.  We want to inform them that the health worker has completed the training.

The LMS will inform other health systems…

8. Sending data: Health Interoperability Layer
How does that institution receive that information?  Think of a badge now as data.  Data can be transferred and exchanged from one system to another.  Open HIE is the architecture which data is exchanged between health systems.  Each system has to build a layer, the health interoperability layer, within in their own system that allows the system to then exchange data with other systems.

The LMS has a layer built into the system to share and exchange data with other health systems and then…

9.  Receiving learning data
Each country has a different system that registers health workers and/or keeps track of in-service training and/or provides licensure or certification.  It may be the health worker registry or a ministry or a national association.  If the Health Worker Registry, for example, had a field for education, it would be shared with the Health Worker Registry.  Under education, the badge would indicate that health worker has the necessary competencies.

The health worker has completed their learning, and it has been recorded at the national health system level.

And that’s my vision of a learning system and process.

Not how? or what? but why? @ Coders4Africa event

My First Sketchnote

I had a conversation this week with a colleague from Africa who talked about creating videos to demonstrate specific skills and showing them on tablets.  He described it as innovative.  I had to break the news to him that videos on tablets is not innovative.  What is innovative is why the technology is used, how it is used and what is value added.

I recently attended an event of Coders4Africa on August 9, 2014.  Sessions were on tools, content, entrepreneurs, jobs.  What I Ioved most was through all the sessions – and remember, the majority were technical people – was that they always referred back to why? they were using the technology.  Even the few sessions on what were latest tools and technologies , the how? part,  came back to the why? and/or what?

Simon Sinek spoke about “How great leaders inspire action.”   They inspire action due to what he calls the “golden circle.”  Every organization knows “what?” they do.  Some organizations know “how?” they do it.  Very few organizations know “why?”  they do it.  Making money is a result.  It is not why you do it.  It’s a purpose, cause or belief.  It is why the organization exists.

Why do some organizations exist?  In the talk by David Ross on UX, he shared with us Freckle’s manifesto:  “Good software is cheerful software: it behaves cheerfully, and it leaves you cheerful, too. ”  Freckle knows why?   There must be smiley faces everywhere there.

Let’s apply the golden circle to technology.  People may know how? to use the technology.  People even know what? tools to use.  But do people know why? they are using the technology.  For what purpose?  What value does it add?  What problem are you solving?

The following are my random thoughts, concepts and ideas that I took away from the event in regards to what? how? and why?

Ali Kone:  What is  the intersection of business, design and technology?  What is the intersection of what is viable, desirable and feasible?

Kwane Andah: Think of digital analytics as what? people are doing vs. why? is it happening?

Amadou Daffe: There are problems that we are trying to solve in Africa but what is actually adding value?  Coders4Africa has the .org side to support and train coders and grow a coders’ community. Once they found the developers, the .com side now builds software that provide practical solutions.

With money from Google, they worked with girls in Senegal.  Sure , they taught them Python, Android, HTML, but first, the girls had to identify a problem and then they learned to build a solution for it.  Why?

Aaron Sanders: Technology is just a way to solve business problems.  Focus on solving the problem.  An innovation economy is about solving problems.

At the end of the day, if noone uses what you created, it did not solve a problem. You will want to change or if  ideas that don’t work here, maybe they could be disruptive in other places.

As a corollary, I would add it could be a problem that people did not know that they had.  Now where have we seen this?

Technology and Content Relevant to Africa panel: What motivates people is how you define the content.  If you want change, people have to react to what you are doing. Why would people want to use it?

Senam Beheton:  What is it that we bring to market to help people and change lives locally?

Startup Deep Dive panel:  To begin, have enough resources to add value to a few customers.

Sir Fazle Abed, BRAC’s 78-year-old founder and chairperson, explained in a NY Times article, The Power, and Process, of a Simple Solution, that management and monitoring systems have to be in place before scaling up:  “Some NGOs don’t have processes and systems.” Organizations have to be “effective and efficient and then you expand.”

It applies to businesses, too.  People want to attack a huge space, but they don’t have enough resources.  You only need enough resources to add value to a few customers to start.

Chika Umeadi: Competition brings innovation.  Vet your idea against others.
Ask other people if they fall in love with your idea.

For me, it goes back to the golden circle.   Technology is simply a tool to solve a problem.  Why would people would want to use the technology?  Why should that product, idea, content exist?  What is its purpose?  What is its value?  That is where to begin.

Gender, Women, Information Technology, & the Web

Bumper sticker from http://www.jinx.com

In January 2013 the U.S. Secretary of State’s Office of Global Women’s Issues and UN Women had the first International Forum on Women, ICT, and Development (WICTAD) . Maybe these two organizations are having their first forum but people have been involved with women, ICT and development for years. Technologies have changed but issues remain the same. At the conference Intel released a report Women and the Web, a “groundbreaking report” unveiling“concrete * on the enormous Internet gender gap” in the developing world and the social and economic benefits of securing Internet access for women.

How groundbreaking is it, I wonder.

The first report that I recall reading about technology and gender within the development context was Gender, Information Technology, and Developing Countries: An Analytic Study. (Ironically, serendipitously or just plain weird, it was produced under a USAID contract with the organization that I eventually went to work for.) It was written by Nancy Hafkin and Nancy Taggert, published in 2001. Nancy Hafkin who has been inducted into the Internet Hall of Fame (how cool is that?) has been working for years on technology and gender and contributed to Women and the Web. When I read that study, Women and the Web, I thought about the first report I read about gender and technology over 10 years ago.

A random observation, thought, note, and an “interesting” take-away from re/reading them…

Observation
Statistics on gender use are in urban and peri-urban areas. The statistics in both reports are within urban and/or peri-urban areas. That is useful but only to a point. How do we take the rural populations more into account?

Thought
Benefits on use of tech: No need to keep extolling on how wonderful technology is for access to information, learning, economic empowerment, social participation, etc. DUH!

Instead, share great stories. Focus on how. Mentor. It is wonderful when a teacher that you used to work in Zambia years ago asks to friend you on Facebook or now sends you a link to great teaching resource. I used to say that I wanna be a tech person. (At one time I carried a crimping tool around with me.) Now I wanna be an AfrixChix, a group of women technologists in Kenya. I am in utter, total awe of them.

Note
The Women and Web report called them barriers. The Gender and IT report called them obstacles.
• Literacy/Language of the web
• Education
• Digital, Information & Media Literacy Skills
• Social and Cultural Norms
• Cost
• Access: devices/infrastructure/safe points to access
• Policy

The bottom line? The more things change, the more they stay the same. The work continues…

“Interesting” Take-Away
The most fascinating statistic in Women and Web report for me was that with 600 million women and girls empowered to be online within three years it predicted a market opportunity of USD 50 to USD 70 billion in new sales of Internet accessible devices and network plans.

More demand, more business. I get that. But what will really be the sales? And how do you disaggregate the sales of data plans and devices by gender? Are the sellers in the market disaggregating their phone sales by male and female?

In any case as more women and girls use technology and the web, they will not be using their boyfriend’s, husband’s, brother’s, friend’s device or phone.