Monday, February 28, 2011

Dreaming of iPad with Thunderbolt (Updated)

What would you say to an iPad with a Thunderbolt port?  Both high-res video and high speed data transfer.


Well March 2, 2011 came and went, the iPad 2 didn't get a Thunderbolt port but did get HDMI output.  Looks like they've made the iPad 2 too thin for a Thunderbolt port.  Didn't see that coming.

UPDATE:  But wait, perhaps a redesigned iOS connector would do the trick.  This is what some think is coming to the iPad and iPhone.

Thunderbolt coming to iPhone and iPad

 

Saturday, February 26, 2011

And they called it Scrum (iteration 5)

[Why iteration 5? Just because I wanted to see what would happen if I iterated toward a finished blog post.  I learned that I do not consider blog post to be finished works of writing, the better the post the more I wish to iterate on it. ]


I'm sitting here drinking a Big Orange and thinking about Scrum.  How much does Andy's monologue, What it Was, Was Football sound like your management or C-level?

Why did they call this lightweight process (that later became know as an Agile process framework) Scrum?  I don't know - but allow me some revisionist historical fiction, and I'll tell you.

Scrum by definition is a play in the real sport of Rugby.  I think Jeff Sutherland (roots of Scrum) may be a Rugby fan.  Being an observant guy and noticing the similarity to software development and the true game, it hit him one day in the midst of a game (it was most likely a legal hit, as there are few illegal hits in Rugby - this ain't Football).

Scrum - in Rugby:  a play that commences after a pause in play (and we ain't goin' stop for just anything - this ain't Football) where the two opposing teams discuss in an orderly fashion the true possession of the ball.  The outcome of this play is the start of a complex (perhaps chaotic) plan by the possessive team to reach their objective and score a goal.

Now why does software development even resemble this game?   Well we do sometimes pause during development.  Well not the really good teams - just the nanzy-panzy teams.  But it is the beginning teams with which we must work first.  The paws of which I speak are the daily breaks we take for the dog walking and the spouse's honey dew list, and resetting the alarm clock to 6:00 AM after the cat unplugged it again (rather that default to 12:00 - wouldn't 6:00 AM be a better default - wonder what their Story Test script has in that spreadsheet cell).

So how do we restart the team after a pause?  One technique is a stand-up meeting where we gather around in a lose circle and focus upon the first objective, who has the ball?  Then we make a plan (maybe we call an audible play) we break and execute the plan.  In the mean time we would like a referee (preferably wearing an embarrassing shirt) to be watching the group, to make sure we don't inadvertently violate some rule of the game.

Now just for the edification of American's who think they know all about Football (the world snickers - oh, you mean American Football - that nanzy-panzy game).  Why not call this new lightweight process Football?  It has much more planning and the teams pause at very defined regular intervals to re-plan.  They have more people in funny looking shirts running all around blowing the whistle on violators.  Much better analogy - right?  Well yes, to the old way of doing software development - waterfall.  In waterfall we did a lot of planning, and then executed the plan.  In Football, they spend more time in huddles, than running the plays.  Jeff must have considered this.  Did he wish his software developers to spend 4 hours to complete a project (wall clock of a televised game), when the actual time running plays was some small fraction of the official 60 minute game clock?  Small fraction you say - what?  Well, yes the plays take 10 - 20 seconds, but the huddles take up to 25 seconds. A Wall Street Journal study found only 11 minutes of play in the game.

That equates to less than 20% of the game in true action.  Not to mention the overages to total project duration caused by advertiser (stakeholders) request to pause the game for their special agenda item of interest (commercial breaks) which delays the value (win/loss) to the customers.

Hey, Jeff, good call on the naming - Football sucks!

What about another sports analogy?  I just saw one in my office this week.  "It ain't over till it's over"-- Yogi Berra.  This baseball reference was made as an analogy to Scrum's definition of done.  Why did Jeff & Ken not think to use such a rich treasure trove of language?  Well for one reason, that is a reference to a feature bound game.  It requires 6 outs and 9 innings to end a regular baseball game, however they can last forever (record 8 hour game with 25 innings).  Baseball is great -- but not a great metaphor for a lightweight time bound process -- Scrum.



What it Was, Was Football (YouTube).
Andy Griffith's famous 1953 stand-up monologue about college football. It has become one of the most beloved comedy recordings of all time. The illustrations used in this video were drawn by George Woodbridge, a Mad Magazine artist.

Listen to Andy (what Dialect is that?) mentally map Football to Scrum.

I grew up in the shadow (plus 85 miles) of Pilot Mountain which is in very Surry county of North Carolina.  But I don't sound like it unless I've had a few beers.

If you are a fan of Sheriff Taylor's management style - you will enjoy this article by Donald E. Gray: 

Managing in Mayberry: An examination of three distinct leadership styles



Just found this video of Jeff Sutherland on the evolution of the Scrum process framework.


Related posts:
And they called it Scrum (iteration 1)
And they called it Scrum (iteration 2)
And they called it Scrum (iteration 3)
And they called it Scrum (iteration 4)

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Innate Scrum - we are born with it.

It would appear that humans have innate ability to do empirical process control within a very difficult domain (language) right from birth.
At TEDxRainier, Patricia Kuhl shares astonishing findings about how babies learn one language over another -- by listening to the humans around them and "taking statistics" on the sounds they need to know. Clever lab experiments (and brain scans) show how 6-month-old babies use sophisticated reasoning to understand their world.

I'm a typical American, I only know one language.  I also have a bit of a impediment in hearing some sounds.  I was born and raised in the south (North Carolina) so according to the dialect maps I pronounce the words: pin, and pen the same.  I also pronounce the words: hill, heal, heel the same.  May be it's just me and not my dialect from Stanley County, NC.  I also had a speech impediment as a child and with the help of parents and teachers I over came the impediment - I normalized.

I did the typical statical mapping as a toddler (6 -12 months) and fine tuned my audio cortex to distinguish certain sounds and ignore my ability to distinguish other sounds.  Now I cannot distinguish those sounds.

This was pointed out this week with a training class, in which I could not pronounce the names of some of the participants.  They were very gracious.  But no one likes to have their names butchered.

So it may be easier in the future when we are all assimilated into the Borg, and we all just get a GUID (Global Unique IDentification) number.

In this class I used a technique of Fail-Successfully to address my poor ability to spell words correctly.  I draw a "spell check" button on the board and explain that when I click it, they are to instantly make the corrections in their heads.  People laugh at this subtle trick and for the rest of the workshop they allow me to be a very poor speller.  By failing early in the session, we get beyond it and are on our way toward the bigger picture success - learning.  Perhaps I need a similar trick with a babel-fish.

Ref:
Map of American English Dialects
A National Map of the Regional Dialects of American English

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Pair Chess Game Exercise

Some years ago I designed this exercise for a Pair Programming simulation using the media of the game of chess.  The idea was to have a pair on each side of the board, they would work together to finish a famous game against their opponents (a pair also).

 Chess Game Pairing Exercise Instructor.PDF

I never used the exercise because the developers I was working with didn't know the game of chess, and didn't seem interested in the simulation.   If you use this please let me know how it works out.




Game 1 (after 31 ... Bxa2)
Garry Kasparov (White) vs X3D Fritz Computer (Black)
Man-Machine World Chess Championship 2003

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

How did I drive up my reader stats?

What will increase your web-blog traffic the most - getting aggregated into a well known site like All About Agile  or pictures of dogs?

Well it may be too early to tell for sure.  But here are some early stats.

Daily stats for the week that my site was added to All About Agile some time Saturday.  I see traffic up about 100+ page loads.  That's great - wonderful.

However that's just one data point, and one aspect of the study.  What drives traffic to a blog?

I have another data point.  In late November I added about 12 dog photos on a post about story estimation.  How has that effected traffic?
Here we see monthly (not daily) page load counts.  That spike in December, 90% is the dog story from Nov 28th.  Below are individual pages, my site sees a few hits a day per story - until aggregated with All About Agile, then it bounces into the 20 - 35 range.  But nothing compares to pictures of puppy dogs!


So go ahead... I know you want to look at the dogs.

Dog Grooming Exercise

Practice story estimation techniques with this exercise in dog grooming.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Which will you choose - the 2 step or 4 step?

When it come to being a messenger - we all should receive a Kevlar vest.

So you have bad news - you feel that the upper management will not like to hear about it.  Here are two options.

The Harvard Business Review recommends a simple 4 step process:


  1. Describe. Provide a general overview of the problem, and explain the impact. Be sure to position this in terms of what matters to your manager.
  2. Identify a solution. Recommend a specific solution or approach, along with alternatives.
  3. Analyze your solution. Share the pros and cons and explain the implications. Be prepared to discuss the risks or barriers that may be of concern to your boss.
  4. Accept responsibility. Let your manager know that you are willing to take the responsibility for the outcome of your proposed approach.

Or you could use the Two Step:


  1. Lift carpet. Find somewhere to put the problem out of sight - out of mind.
  2. Sweep. Keep sweeping the carpet out of the bosses sight line.

Which is going to be the easiest.  I question which method will become the de facto standard if some other forces are not at play.  What might those other forces be?

What would happen if your management gave you a 3rd option?  Simpler than the first two options.

Just make it Visible.

Simple - one step process.  Then we decide what to do.  We use group processes to identify multiple solutions before converging to "the one solution."

Saturday, February 12, 2011

What's the worst bug ever?

If you've had beers with a few programmers, sometimes the conversation gets around to a one-ups-manship game of who's faced the worst bug.  One story I retold just the other day was about the IT department that was truncating long running connections at the firewall for security.  Silly programmers, we had written our applications to assume that a TCP/IP connection could last as long as the application needed it to last.  While it didn't take long to discover the bug, it did take weeks to clean it up - policy decision are the hardest to change.  Policy is not software - it is ink & paper signed in blood-ware.  Much harder that hardware.  Capable of withstanding krypton drills and sharks with frigin laser beams.

Here's a picture of the first-ever computer bug.
"One of the primary programmers for the Mark I was a woman, Grace Hopper. Hopper found the first computer "bug": a dead moth that had gotten into the Mark I and whose wings were blocking the reading of the holes in the paper tape. The word "bug" had been used to describe a defect since at least 1889 but Hopper is credited with coining the word "debugging" to describe the work to eliminate program faults."
-- John Kopplin - An Illustrated History of Computers

The Starbucks Test

I'm just making this up today (Feb, 2011); so pardon me if it could be better.  Or better yet, comment below on how you can help me improve this idea.

What is the purpose of the Starbucks Test?  To indicate to me, a Fluent Digital Immigrant, the likelihood of happiness when engaging with a new an unknown organizations.

The premise:  When one walks into a Starbucks one expects to increase their happiness.
Either by making a "fair" exchange for a coffee with lots of options, and the opportunity to speak in riddles (order: I'll have a tall, skinny, why bother) to the happy staff that deliver value in a very predictable and expected way.  Or to not exchange any of my hard earned money - and just soak-in the cool (or warm) air and spend some quality time using their wonderful space to think, chat, or while-away some hours.

The exchange is fair because you both agree to it. It is not the best price that a fair market should trend toward. But there are so many externalities that keeps this best price from being reached. One externality is that the free WiFi does cost them money weather you buy coffee or not while checking your email at the UPS Store next door.

The Starbucks Test - what's my likelihood of happiness engaging in a relationship with this company?
  •  Does the organization support a Digital Native's expectations of ubiquitous connectivity to the world (all apps that work in Starbucks also work in the organizations e.g. they do not block common sites or ports)?
  • Is the culture team-oriented (or command and control)?
  • Does the culture nurture fellowship?
  • Is learning one of the organizations core values (is it just a platitude like - "people are our most important asset" or worse they believe people are assets)?  An outcome of a learning organization is a safe to try and fail mind set.
  • Do I feel safe in the environment?  Will trust flourish?
  • Does the culture support making problems visible (even when one doesn't present a known solution to a ignored problem)?
  • Does the C-level view their role as "Servant Leadership" (or to be served - how do they draw the management structure; pyramid or tree)?

Define: Digital Native - see Marc Prensky's papers (he coined the term).
"Digital Natives. Our students today are all 'native speakers' of the digital language of computers, video games and the Internet."

June 2014 -Your local coffee house has just become the largest Student Union on the planet.  Starbucks offers to pay last 2 years tuition to Arizona State (ASU online program) for their baristas (Seattle Times article).

Steven Johnson's TED talk explains the power of the coffee house in the industral reveloution in his talk 'Where good ideas come from'


The first organizational chart was a tree form describing the people and roles of the Erie Railroad with the executives at the bottom.


Examples of similar test:

The Nokia Test
If you have been around in the Agile world then you may have heard of the Nokia Test.  A simple 10 question test of an organization's (or team's) ability (or readness) to become a high performing Scrum team.

Where did the Nokia Test come from?
Jeff's latest version in PDF.

Bas Vode (CST) developed a small test for teams he was coaching at Nokia, it has been called Nokia Test.  In 2008, Jeff Sutherland adding a scoring system and referred to it as the "Scrum But" test.

My list of Agility assessments.

The Joel Test - 12 Steps to Better Code
Another example is the Joel Test.  I read and used this back before Danube introduced me to this Agile thing.  Joel said: "I've come up with my own, highly irresponsible, sloppy test to rate the quality of a software team. The great part about it is that it takes about 3 minutes."  Here it is (circa 2000) - The Joel Test.  From Joel Spolsky, or Fog Creek Software and Stack Exchange API.


The Turing Test
1950 - Alan Turing proposes the Turing Test for artificial intelligence.

Related to happiness and the pursuit thereof...
Blindsided for Happiness - Would you make the Sandra Bullock trade?

See Also:

HBR: Design Offices to be more like Neighborhoods a look at 21st C. office space design that encourages collaboration and interactions - by design.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Will Mash-ups start happening outside of software?

Just watched this video about Lean-Agile process being used by WikiSpeed to build fuel efficient cars (100+ MPG).


Wikispeed is using Agile and Lean to manufacture parts, components and assemblies - generating very fast innovation.

I then watched this video about eRocket Bike - you still peddle but the bike is assisted and goes about 50 MPH!  Move over Lance Armstrong.

So what would happen if we mashed these two startup innovators together?  We do this in software all the time.  I worked with some guys that mashed Fit/Fitness with Selenium and out poped StoryTestIQ.  Could we all be peddling our cars in the future?

See Also:
Ricardo Semler: How to run a company with (almost) no rules



Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Digital Generation: Teaching to a Population that Speaks an Entirely New Language

A paper and presentation at The Chair Academy, April 1 - 4, 2008 in Denver, CO.
THE_DIGITAL_GENERATION_v2.ppt (PowerPoint presentation)
Did You Know video by Karl Fisch & Scott McLeod.  Join the ShiftHappens conversation.
THE_DIGITAL_GENERATION.pdf PDF

Authors Info

Tracy L. Gibson, Ed.D.
Assistant Professor Organizational Leadership
Chapman University -Bangor

Mark Van Den Hende, Ph.D.
Vice President for Academic Affairs & College Dean
Waycross College
University System of Georgia

David A. Koontz
Agile Coach

Introduction
 
Traditional aged students today were born in 1987 and according to the Beloit College's Mindset List for the Class of 2009, “they don't remember when "cut and paste" involved scissors. They learned to count with Lotus 1-2-3. Voice mail has always been available. They may have fallen asleep playing with their Gameboys in the crib. Bill Gates has always been worth at least a billion dollars. Pixar has always existed. Digital cameras have always existed. Time Life and Warner Communications have always been joined and they have always been challenged to distinguish between news and entertainment on cable TV”. These are the “digital native”.

The term “digital native” and “digital immigrants” comes from Marc Prensky a writer, speaker, consultant and inventor in educational games and learning processes. In coining these terms Mr. Prensky is drawing on the analogy of natives to a homeland and in this case we are talking about the digital land or those who have always known the internet and the immigrants are the ones that are coming to this new land, some kicking and sreaming and others eagerly exploring and learning the new skills, language, and culture needed to travel in this digital world (Prensky, 2001). In this new digital land the natives have an advantage over the immigrants. This advantage stems from the immigrants lack of cultural context with which to judge, and perceive experiences, while the natives grew up in the new land and have assimilated to the environment. The natives have subtle differences in speech, social interactions, and are fluent in the digital communication forms that are prevalent in the new land, whereas the immigrants are perceived as having an accent. This accent “can be seen in such things as turning to the Internet for information as secondary source rather than their first source, or they will want to read the manual for a new program rather than assuming that the program itself will teach them to use it” (Prensky, 2001). Digital natives will be confortable using neologisms. A digital native will be so familiar with the Wikipedia that they will be comfortable with the word used as a verb. A digital immigrant on the other hand may well ask what is a Wikipedia? Wikipedia is an online multilingual, encyclopedia project, which has been created by a collaborative effort of hundreds of thousands of volunteer contributors. For example one may hear a digital native say, “Just a minute, while I wiki that”. The native is implying that they will search for the topic of conversation on the Wikipedia web site, and then include information found into the conversation. What may surprise the digital immigrant is that this referencing the web site and searching for information will happen in parallel with the continuing conversation, perhaps with very little interruption of the conversation. This ability to multitask a conversation with individuals (verbal communication) and a conversation with a web site (textual communication); perhaps over a mobile device with a screen and keyboard that fit within the palm of your hand, is one characteristic of the digital native. The Digital natives are accustomed to rapid change, and perhaps even thrive within this environment. The immigrant on the other hand may cling to stagnant eddies in the flow of innovations. Innovation that may appear to the immigrant as high-tech, such as email, but be perceived by the digital native as old and tired.
 
In this paper the focus of emphasis is on the Digital natives and their learning styles and what this means for the digital immigrants who work with and teach these digital natives.
These digital natives, the students and youngest of the workforce today born in 1987 have never known a world that did not include the World Wide Web (WWW).
 
Four generations of the Work Place
 
Currently there is generally considered to be four generations in the work place. These generations are named and classified in various ways. Linda Gravett classification names the generation as:
1.    Radio Babies: born from 1930 - 1945; they are characterized as conservative, loyal and fiscally responsible.
2.    Baby Boomers: born from 1946 - 1964; they are ambitious, highly educated, having a strong work ethic.
3.    Generation Xers: born from 1965 - 1976; they are independent, resulting from dual- income families and a high rate of divorced parents, very self-sufficient.
4.    Generation Yers: born from 1977 - 1990; they are accepting of differences in race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc., socially conscious. (Gravett, 2007).
The newest and youngest generation, those born after 1990 are the Millennials. This term to define the generation is more inclusive than the term Digital Native. It may be argued that not all the people who are in the Millennials generation are digital natives.
 
Other generational classification use different years to distinguish the generations, for example, Oblinger notes that Millennials are born in or after 1982 (2003). This eight year difference may be significant in some situations, however the general trend is much more important to recognize than to squabble over the details.

Oblinger (2003) characterizes the Millennials this way: 
They gravitate toward group activity and social networking; they identify with their parents’ values and feel close to their parents; they spend more time doing homework and housework and less time watching TV; they believe “it’s cool to be smart”; they are fascinated by new technologies; they are racially and ethnically diverse; and often (one in five) have at least one immigrant parent. (p. 2)

The focus of Gravett’s work is to calm the troubled waters of intergenerational communication break down in the workforce. To that if there is a generational problem in the workforce there must also be a problem in the education environment. Some examples of how the different generations are using different technologies and the internet to support this are as follows.
 
Generation Yers spend 12.2 hours online every week, which is 28 percent longer than the 27- to 40-year-old Gen Xers and almost twice as long as 51- to 61-year-old older Boomers. The Gen Yers are also much more likely to engage in Social Computing activities while online. For example, they are 50 percent more likely than Gen Xers to send instant messages, twice as likely to read blogs, and three times as likely to use social networking sites like MySpace. Some more eye opening results are that 41 percent of North American households now have broadband Internet access at home, up from 29 percent at the end of 2004. Seventy-five percent of North American households have
mobile phones, and almost half of them make the bulk of their long- distance phone calls on these mobile phones, and more and more household no longer have a landline phone. Forty-five percent of Gen Yers, 27 percent of Gen Xers, and 17 percent of 41- to 50-year old younger Boomers who have a mobile phone use it for data services, led by text messaging, ring tones, and games. Gen Yers, for example, are 73 percent more likely to research online and shop offline today than they were in 2004. Ninety-one percent of online households use a search engine once a week or more. For online Gen Yers and Gen Xers, Google attracts 62 percent of searchers, and 25 percent limit their searches to only Google (Forest Research,2006).

An example in my work place where there is a mixture of Baby Boomers and Gen-X and Gen-Y the younger workers are early adopters of technologies. They are very comfortable with using instant messaging chat session to exchange information, to ask questions both personal and work related. These chat sessions are real time conversations of a group in text based form. It is quite daunting to enter this space with out a guide. So much of the information stream is slang and abbreviated phrases, local conventions and even customizations to the actual chat program and command set used to conduct the sessions. There is no manual to read, no guide book; only via experience and usage will a new person be able to learn the norms of this social group. An immigrant may wonder why everyone in the room, each diligently working alone at their computer would simultaneously break into laughter. A joke or pun told over the instant messaging system is an excellent example of how connected these digital
natives are. To get the joke, one must be connected, plugged-in, in the context of the conversation that has been developing. If one is not plugged-in it can be unnerving to be the only one in the room not laughing.
 
Jason Frand (2000) wrote of the Information-Age Mindset. In this paper he describes ten attributes of the new students he has observed enrolling in our educational institutions.
These attributes are: computers are not technology; the internet is better than TV; that reality no longer real; doing rather than knowing it better; Nintendo over logic; multitasking is the way of life; typing rather than handwriting; staying connected is a high priority; there is zero tolerance for delays and the consumer and creator roles are blurring (p. 16)
Frand’s attributes are describing the values and behaviors of these digital natives. These students value the ability to get things done in today’s world, rather than the accumulation of knowledge. The industrial-age view of knowledge was set in a time when the life of information was rather long, compared to today’s, the digital native’s measure of information life span is months and sometimes years, not in terms of decades. In my field of software development, we see new technologies appear every month, some catch on and become the defacto-standard, however this standard will be usurped in just a few short years by a newer technology, one with greater levels of abstraction, and fuller feature rich capabilities.
 
Instructional Methods preferred by the Digital Natives
 
What distinguishes a Digital Native from others when it comes to learning styles? The native prefers to receive information very rapidly. They are typically processing multiple
forms of information media concurrently. Prensky said, “they like to parallel process and multi- task” (p. 2). It is telling that we use computer science terms to describe the native’s information processing techniques. For example, using email, instant messaging (IM), audio (telephone, recorded media, etc.) all at the same time is a common occurrence for many young people. They are multiprocessing information. In a conversation with a digital native, a digital immigrant might find it rude if they have a computer in front of them following an IM chat and an ear plug in one ear and talking to a coworker, but the learning path of a digital learner is such that they may be able to concentrate and do all this simulatneously.
 
In Boomers, Gen-Xers, and Millennials: Understanding the "New Students" Diana Oblinger described the learning preferences of the Millennials as tending toward teamwork, and the use of technology in experiential activities. The cooperative learning styles preferred by these new students are telling. These students are digitally connected to a large network of friends in constant communication. Although it may appear to an older person, their parents or teachers that these students are not engaged in social activities because they are not behaving as these Digital Immigrants do in social situations. In fact these students may be more social than their parents and previous generations.
 
Investigating the environment of the native may lead to an understanding of their preferences. A typically Millennials will have music playing on an iPod while sending and receiving SMS messages on their mobile phone and perhaps even using a computer to play a game or surf the web. Games such as Pong, Tetris, Pac-Man, etc. are simple exercises in motor coordination and pattern recognition. There is virtually no plot line, no story that evolves, and no narrative. The video games that a Digital Immigrant may be familiar with are a far cry from the modern games -- Massive Multiplayer Online Game (MMOG). These games are full and very rich virtual worlds. The gaming industry has not stood still in the last 40 years of the computer revolution, they have leaded the charge. The gaming industry has pioneered the video processors of our modern computer, leading to the ability of the computer to display 3- dimensional shapes with such fast rates as to make full motion video possible on all modern computer equipment.
 
Used as an alternative to more traditional forms of teaching, games and simulations have been used in education for a long time and it is know that they can increase student motivation, help students retain knowledge and promotes problem-based learning and have a positive impact on learning outcomes as well as motivate the students to become more engaged in their learning. An ideal environment for game playing is one where open discussion and willingness to take chances are encouraged while the educator guides the group, without rigidity, toward achieving the learning outcomes. The ability to render realistic 3-dimensional models of a virtual world has lead to the ability of game designers to incorporate the player (the computer user) into the game in the form of an avatar, an on-screen representation of the user. A player may customize the avatar with clothing, hairstyles, skin tone and physique. The inclusion of an avatar in the social setting of the massive multiplayer on-line game creates a first person reality that lends itself to a fuller experience. With this higher bandwidth of communicational experience, the opportunities for leveraging this game for learning situations increases.
 
Many early adopters of these technologies have already recognized the opportunities for education in such virtual worlds. One of the most popular of these virtual world is Linden Lab’s, Second Life. Second life is a virtual world that is built entirely by its residents. It has
and an economy, virtual land and community encouraging the social networking with discussions, sports, entertainment, games, education, arts and culture, charity and support groups. Second Life has a number of resources for educators to use the virtual world as an environment for teaching.
 
In Everything Bad Is Good for You, Johnson (2005) argues that it is not the content of the video game but rather the form and structure of the game that stimulates the brain and produces the reward. “If you create a system where rewards are both clearly defined and achieved by exploring an environment, you’ll find human brains drawn to those systems, even if they’re made up of virtual characters and simulated sidewalks. It’s not the subject matter of these games that attracts- if that were the case, you’d never see twenty-somethings following absurd rescue-the-princess storylines like the best selling Zelda series on the Nintendo platform. It’s the reward system that draws those players in, and keeps their famously short attention spans locked on the screen. No other form of entertainment offers that cocktail of reward and exploration” (p. 38).
 
This “cocktail of reward and exploration” is one of the learning styles that the Digital natives have come to expect and it may be that their brains have been wired to need this level of stimulation.
 
Digital natives recognize that there is value in learning to play a video game, however many of their teachers will not recognize this value. This is because video games and books represent different kinds of learning, vastly different learning system are employed by the participant. While playing a video game, and here we are discussing modern video games such as a MMOG and not Pong, the participant must learn a social network of characters their interactions and interrelationships. They must evaluate on an ongoing basis the objectives of the other characters, and make subjective judgments of the other characters. These skills are very real world skills. This is an example of collateral learning. Collateral learning is just as important as explicit learning.
 
Our education systems have been based on explicit learning, learning facts and figures. These same educational systems have been heavily influenced to provide workers for the economies that support the systems. Do the economies need change faster that the educational systems can adapt? Does the modern economy of the United States, based in the information age desire workers that can site data or generate information from that data?
 
Even the card games of the Digital natives have elements of a social network. Where the older card games such as Harts, Rummy, or Canasta have a well defined set of rules and order of play, the more modern card games have much more complex situational rules, and include aspects of role playing games. An example of the modern card game is Bang! released by Mayfair Games.
 
Impact of the Learning Styles on the Educational Institution and Workplace
 
Technology and the media that children use during their formative years influence how they process information, and how they prefer to learn. Because of the fast change in technology and the ever growing velocity at which this change effects our generations the generation gap may be widening. In general, students are using technology at a much more rapid pace than their teachers, they have are already mastered and adopted into everyday use and many teachers are highly fearful of the technologies that the students take for granted.
What impact will the workplace and the classroom feel from the changing learning styles of the digital natives?
 
“It’s very serious, because the single biggest problem facing education today is that our Digital Immigrant instructors, who speak an outdated language (that of the pre-digital age), are struggling to teach a population that speaks an entirely new language”. (Prensky, 2001, p. 2). It is not the role of the teacher to be a master at all the new technologies but to know about the technologies and how they can be adopted into the curriculum. It is the student job to do the work and produce things in these technologies and media. The student – teacher flow of knowledge need to go both directions, the teacher asking for help with the technology so they don’t ‘look stupid’ struggling with something the students have mastered and the teacher does what they are masters at, they need to help the student apply the technologies wisely to real problems, and to reflect and search for the deeper issues that the technologies raise, and to bring up and discuss these issues with the students (Prensky, 2007).
 
In designing appropriate learning experiences, teachers need to recognize that learning comes from passion not discipline and a sound learning process involves the learner’s career and personal aspirations, prior learning and experiences. “The twenty-first century is all about creating, inventing, and sharing those things with an increasingly connected world” (Prensky, 2005, p. 64).. It will take the digital natives and the digital immigrants coming together to recognize the different ways things can and will get done and create new best practices and ideas for the workplace and in education.
 
References 
Beloit College. Mindset List 2009. http://www.beloit.edu/~pubaff/mindset/2009.php
Retrieved on October 25, 2007 Forrester Research (2006, July) North American Consumer Technology Adoption Study
2006 Benchmark Survey [Electronic version] Retrieved on October 25, 2007
http://news.ecoustics.com/bbs/messages/10381/254105.html
Frand, J. (2000). The Information-Age Mindset: Changes in Student and Implications for Higher Education. Educause Review, 15-24.
Gravett, L., & Throckmorton, R. (2007). Bridging the Generation Gap: How to Get Radio Babies, Boomers, Gen Xers, and Gen Yers to Work Together and Achieve. Franklin Lakes, NJ: Career Press.
Johnson, S. (2006). Everything Bad is Good for You. New York, NY: Penguin Group
Prensky, M. (2001). Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants On the Horizon (NCB University Press, Vol. 9 No. 5.
Prensky, M. (2003). Digital game-based learning. Computers in Entertainment, 1(1). Prensky, M. (2005). Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants. On the Horizon, 9 (5) Prensky, M. (2005). Listen to the Natives. Educational Leadership, 63(4), 8-13. Prensky, M. (2005). "Engage me or Enrage Me" - What Today's Learners
Demand. Educause Review, 40(5), 60-64. Prensky, M. (2007). How to Teach With Technology: Keeping both Teachers and
Students Comfortable In an Era of Exponential Change. Emerging Technologies for Learning, 2, 40-46.
Oblinger, D. (2003). In Boomers, Gen-Xers, and Millennials: Understanding the "New Students" Educause Review, 37-47.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Agile Coach -or- Transition Guide to Agility

A good dialogue on what it means to be an Agile Coach on Quora - http://www.quora.com/What-is-an-Agile-Coach

Buckminster Fuller wrote in his 1970 book I Seem To Be a Verb:

"I live on Earth at present, and I don’t know what I am. I know that I am not a category. I am not a thing — a noun. I seem to be a verb, an evolutionary process – an integral function of the universe."

Much of the coaching I enjoy doing is about being a "Transition Guide" toward Agility. My thinking on this is that I don't want to have to wear the Kevlar vest of the Change Agent. I prefer to model the behaviors of the best guides I've had the pleasure of knowing - the community of Outward Bound guides I've learned so much from.

These are people that can not afford to spend money on a car (they drive clunkers across deserts) but have the responsibility to protect the life and limb of the participants on the trip. Work 24x7 (get up in the night to search for the person that got lost returning from the grover (potty)) and smile in the morning. They teach a group of paddlers to stroke hard to move away from danger (the big rock with undercuts) all the while waiting for the last responsible moment to put in the pry (one type of stroke) that shoots the raft into the current of safety.




On a related but tangent note: see Bobservation #3761  Architect or Circus Clown.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Organizational Change Models

A short little comparison of Organizational Change models.

There is Kurt Lewin's 3 stage model:  Unfreezing, Change, Freeze.
See: Frontiers in Group Dynamics (1947).
A change towards a higher level of group performance is frequently short-lived, after a “shot in the arm”, group life soon returns to the previous level. This indicates that it does not suffice to define the objective of planned change in group performance as the reaching of a different level. Permanency of the new level, or permanency for a desired period, should be included in the objective. -- Kurt Lewin
Then there is the most well known:  John Kotter's 8 Steps model.
  1. Establish a sense of urgency.
  2. Create the guiding coalition.
  3. Develop a vision and strategy.
  4. Communicate the change vision.
  5. Empower employees for broad-based action.
  6. Generate short-term wins.
  7. Consolidate gains and produce more change.
  8. Anchor new approaches in the culture.
These were developed from Kotter's study of failed organizational changes.  He found these typical failure modes:

  • Allowing to much complexity
  • Failing to build a substantial coalition
  • Understanding the need for a clear vision
  • Failing to clearly communicate the vision
  • Permitting roadblocks against the vision
  • Not planning and getting short-term wins
  • Declaring victory too soon
  • Not anchoring changes in corporate culture
From:  “Force for Change: How Leadership Differs from Management“  by John Kotter.


Another model is the ADKAR model for individual change management by Prosci. This is a 5 step model.
  1. Awareness – of why the change is needed
  2. Desire – to support and participate in the change
  3. Knowledge – of how to change
  4. Ability – to implement new skills and behaviors
  5. Reinforcement – to sustain the change
Described in Jeff Hiatt's (2006) book ADKAR: a model for change in business, government and our community.

Comparing these 3 well know models we see a pattern.  Change is hard, people are the resistance force and the driving force for change.  The number of steps in the model are less important than the full understanding that change is a process.

One of the best models for understanding that change is a process is William Bridges's book Managing Transitions: Making the most of Change.  In his model we have: The Ending, Neutral Zone, New Beginning.  The key is viewing change as a transition process.

Time to Market - not sufficient reason to transition to Agile.

If your number one reason to switch to Agile software development is - Time to Market - you should come up with a better reason. Dig deeper. Ask WHY this is important to your customers (not just your companies bottom line).

In "The 12 Key Reasons Companies Adopt Agile" by Mike Cottmeyer notes this as reason #1. While I agree with his list of reasons, I don't agree that those reasons are always sufficient to motivate people to change.
1. Faster time to market – Lots of folks that decide to go agile are pretty fed up with 18 month delivery cycles that quite often deliver the wrong products to market… one’s that our customers just aren’t interested in buying. The idea of two week delivery cycles and quarterly release cadences is pretty appealing. Our markets and our competition are just moving too fast… we’ve got to get better at getting working product out the door faster.
If the best reason your CEO can come up with is to increase the rate of product deliver, then ask what that Change Announcement is going to sound like to your development organization.  The announcement will come across as the typical down sizing platitude "We need to do more with less."  Are they going to understand the compelling reason for change?

For two decades or more, John Kotter has been the world's foremost authority on leadership and change.  Harvard Business Review continually reruns his articles illustrating how the best organizations approach and execute change. In Leading Change by John Kotter he talks about his 8 steps to Organizational Change. Step one is Urgency.  People need to understand the reasons underlying the change if they are to internalize the change and make the transition successfully.

You could get the Harvard Business Review's symposium "Urgency: How to Make Real Change Your Company's Top Priority."

Now, with A Sense of Urgency Kotter digs deeper into the issue that is the most pressing for global managers and leaders today, the need to create a high enough sense of urgency among people to set the stage for making a challenging leap in a new direction. In this interactive session, participants will learn the clear distinction between constructive true urgency and destructive false urgency and will emerge armed with tactics for creating the right kind of urgency within their organization.
Is Time to Market your rational for Urgency?  Is this not the same as saying "Hurry it's urgent!"?  I suggest you use the Five Whys technique to get to the root reason that time to market is important to your company.

In The Telegraph's article "Think Tank: Have you ever asked yourself why you're in business?" by Dan Pink, he covers this aspect of discovering the WHY.

While I believe that this is an important aspect gained by an Agile Transition, I also believe that if it is the primary goal there may be deeper issues to be uncovered when your business starts to deal with organizational impediments that the transformation will expose. One benefit of Agile is the ability to deliver a Minimal Viable Product to market early. But to make customers happy one will need a path to enhance this product. To be successful with this strategy one will have to be using many Agile practices (Lean in the product vertical segment, Scrum at the team level, XP at the engineering level).

One needs to glean the reasons why time to market is important to your customers - I'm sure there are good reasons, those are your reasons for urgency.