ellohay! West Michigan

Ask a question on LinkedIn and get genuine answers

Posted in feedback, support by forgr on August 9, 2008

I asked: What motivating factors would make a tech support person want to volunteer his services in his free time?

I got 16 answers, and they weren’t cheap, blow off answers either. I was genuinely surprised at the care and time each person took to write answers to this question. Check out the answers here.

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Tech and what makes us tick

Posted in breakthrough, discovery stages, logic by forgr on August 3, 2008

Technology can be intimidating.

Trying to understanding technology by ourselves can be intimidating.

Most individuals avoid people, places, and things that are scary.

Avoiding something is a way to protect oneself from harm.

If we fear technology, we will avoid technology for as long as we can.

Avoiding technology is very difficult, it’s everywhere because it is effective.

Personal computers are very helpful tools.

Many tasks in the workplace, and in our personal lives are computer-based tasks.

If we understand what makes a piece of advanced technology a helpful tool, we are more likely to make room for it in our lives.

Relying on someone else to provide education and support is very common.

Many people who have home computers now, rely on a kind neighbor, relative, or friend to help them trouble shoot and fix their computers.

Most companies have tech support resources at their disposal, and rely on them to troubleshoot or fix computers, but their company pays for the service.

New technology is very complicated to understand.

The fast pace of innovation is difficult to keep up with.

If a person misses out on some new technology paradigm, it is often difficult to catch up later.

Not knowing something that everybody else seems to know is often embarrassing and overwhelming.

It is difficult to avoid technology as it becomes more and more prevalent in our everyday lives.

Many of us use a computer at work.

Many of us use a computer everyday.

New computers are expensive.

Used computers are affordable, but often unreliable.

Affording any computer is difficult, and there are usually other necessities that take precedence.

Computers make our lives easier overall.

Everyone deserves to be on a level playing field.

Everyone deserves the opportunity to have access to common tools.

Many of us, because of our financial status, do not have equal and meaningful exposure to technology.

Those of us that can afford new technology, have an upper hand.

Understanding how to use computers can make us more efficient in our daily tasks.

Abundant information is available online to learn new skills, and understand the world around us.

If we can be more efficient and more intelligent, we can potentially get better, more high paying jobs, and our quality of life will improve.

If we know how to use technological tools, we have a greater opportunity to get higher grades in school, which leads to great opportunities for college and education.

Having access to the internet and the tools to digest the information available online is beneficial to us.

Having access to the internet allows us to research, purchase items, sell items, publish information, digest information and communicate efficiently.

Having access to the internet allows us to communicate with one another in high volumes, in many different ways, over long distances, and at a low cost.

If we are exposed to each others cultures through sharing information on the internet, we can understand each other better.

If we are able to express ourselves through digital means in high volumes, in many different ways, over long distances, and at a low cost, those who did not have a voice previously can now be heard.

Naming, structure, goals, objectives and strategy

Posted in organization, planning, strategy, writing by forgr on May 18, 2008

I’ll be taking a break from posting about meetings and new concepts here for a bit to focus independently on naming, structure, goals, objectives and strategy.

If I get a chance to post here, I will (I greatly value your comments and strong opinions).

On another note, our Fundable drive is at 37%, if you’ve been meaning to contribute, but haven’t had a chance yet, the last day to meet our goal of $240 is exactly 7 days 1 hours 43 min. 40 sec. away. What can just $10 do for this project? Read here.

Thank you, everyone, for your support, and I’ll talk to you soon when I emerge from writing.

Marie-Claire Camp

Digital Inclusion in Grand Rapids, MI Project
(616) 446-3622
forgr.wordpress.com
groups.google.com/group/forgr

‘Laptops for Sixth Graders?’

This is a great article to come across while surfing… I’m actually glad that it was written. I need to hear this kind of stuff.

Take a minute to read an excerpt from this article written back in 2004 titled ‘Laptops for Sixth Graders?’ about a grant offered through Michigan’s Freedom to Learn initiative (FTL), which allocates $68 million for school districts to lease laptops to kids for up to four years:

Placing computers in classrooms is, of course, only the latest educational fad, designed to divert our attention from the real issue, which is what our children actually know once they leave school. Sure, technology is important and students will have to be able to work with computers to be successful in the workforces of today and tomorrow.

But computer skills can be learned without handing out personal computers. They are skills a good percentage of children already know and use on home computers by the time they are in the sixth grade. Bringing any child up to speed who has no computer at home should be a matter of selective targeting, maybe even by giving out a small number of personal computers.

But this should never be confused with measures aimed at improving student academic achievement, particularly when studies have failed to reveal any such relationship. This appears to be another program where money is being spent, simply “because we can.”

Read the entire article posted here on Apr. 6, 2004 by Jeff Steinport

Jeff Steinport is a computer network administrator for Advantage Sales & Marketing of Walker, Mich. and treasurer for the Grand Rapids Board of Education. Jeff is also a member of the Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority board.


Alright, so the challenge is to do what? Make sure that when we design this project, that it’s genuinely good, advantageous to be involved with, different. It shouldn’t stink up the place with poor planning, ill informed recommendations, or inappropriate goals.

The frustration is palpable in this article. It would be a terrible thing to evoke similar sentiments in our future clients.

I’m going to speculate (this is only a guess) of the potential downfalls of this program at this time:

• Potentially, the computers were leased, not donated
• Potentially, there was no curriculum in place to integrate the computer as an effective tool
• Potentially, there was no infrastructure for tech support
• Potentially, the training sessions for teachers, students, parents were not in depth enough, or of limited use
• Potentially, there were no clear goals for the introduction of these tools into this environment
• Potentially, students weren’t using them appropriately
• Potentially, they were intrusive in the classroom

If we’re going to do this right, we need to do some serious homework. We need to know needs, desires, concerns from all parties involved. Our goal should be to make this program as seamless as possible, useful, accessible, sustainable, measurable.

Here’s another article titled “Giving Laptops to Sixth Graders Won’t Improve Their Education

Here’s an article discussing why the “State laptop program [was] erased

And last, but not least, the infamous Freedom to Learn website

What other kinds of things would make a program like ours go sour? What could we go so wrong in our plan so far, that would make you as a potential client feel as frustrated as Jeff was?

Mission and programs, draft

Alright. I’m going to throw this out there onto the interwebs. It’s the newest mission statement along with some of the latest program ideas. I haven’t been sitting on it for long. I’m trying to get some feedback and perhaps fail fast instead of a long, slow death.

Please note, I’m using the placeholder name, “The Tomorrow Project”, it’s not a serious name or anything, just a placeholder until we can come up with something really good.

Here goes nothin’:

The Tomorrow Project utilizes existing resources in the community to provide opportunities for individuals and communities through individualized and focused interactions with technology.

Some of our programs include:

Tomorrow Box
Earn-a-laptop program, 10 hours of community service gets you a laptop computer, orientation classes and general education

Student Tomorrow Box
Earn-a-laptop program, collective of 50 hours of community service from your class at your school or in your community, gets you, your classmates and your teacher, laptop computers, training, education, and tech support

Tomorrow Box Tech Support
10 hours of community service gets you and your Tomorrow Box life-time tech support from a certified Geek Next Door

Tech Support Mentoring
Hands-on mentoring program that matches technology professionals and underserved individuals to teach, understand, and implement basic tech support skills

Geek Next Door Training and Certification
Tech support training for young volunteers and students of the geeky persuasion. Graduates get their own laptop, office hours, a tech manual, business cards, and the opportunity to engage in one-on-one tech support with people in the community

Tech Education
100-Level classes, centralizing and providing a schedule for free introductory classes and workshops from existing community resources.

Thoughts?

Pilot program initial planning (stages, players, events)

So among other things, there’s quite a bit to think about for a pilot program… And yes, we’re planning on a pilot program. Talking with John Helmholdt from the public school district was inspiring. And even if that connection ends up not panning out, there a many other groups that I’m sure would be receptive to the idea. With that in mind, I write this,

Some initial thoughts on serving a small group of individuals for pilot program,

1. Prep 2. Give 3. Support

Within these stages are potentially 8 or 9 groups that we would need to bring together for this program.
• Geeks (for computer gleaning, clean up, open source os installation etc. at the geek-a-thon)
• Audience/clients (who will receive the laptops, get support, orientation, education)
• Forgr staff (will organize, manage and execute the program pieces and parts, provide orientation to all)
• Educators or existing community education organizations (teachers, professors, instructors that will teach introductory level skills to audience in a group setting and/or one-on-one)
• Tech support staff (will be available for audience to trouble shoot any extreme cases)
• Audience administration (school board, program executive directors etc. that will need to determine goals and parameters, and then accept responsibility’s for supporting program within their institution)
• Facilities (venue for geek-a-thon event, temporary education and support workshop locations)
• Piggy-back organization (existing nonprofit organization that will host our initiative, allow donors to give their laptops and equipment with a tax deductible status)
• Potentially parents and teachers of audience/clients if it’s a classroom environment (these would be extended support system and will need to understand the program’s ins and outs as much as possible)

So, with that in mind, here’s a shot at planning for the first stage of the pilot program:

1. Prep

1a.) Establish a planning committee, meet and come up with plan of action for organizing three part program pieces and parts, who what when where why how. Discuss goals, determine how event might be sponsored, how to recruit volunteers etc. Set our success model for the program.

1b.) Secure a venue for geek-a-thon portion, secure a piggy-back organization, determine rough time-line, secure deductible donation status for donors/geeks, discuss process for client group, secure sponsor.

1c.) Prepare to meet with client group leader, write up targeted business plan and executive statement for client group and/or piggy-back organization.

1d.) Meet with client group leader or board, determine hopes, goals for their group, their anticipated trouble spots, stumbling blocks, determine best course of action to proceed, set rough time line for events.

1e.) Submit any agreement documents with group (if necessary), start building community of educators or participating education facilities for education and support base for client group, discuss plan of action for geek-a-thon event.

1f.) Create program around geek-a-thon. Explore ways spread the word about the geek-a-thon, explore call to action for geeks to glean computers, event details, computer tagging strategy. Collect list of participating educators or community education partners. Finalize time line for all events and launch.

1g.) Check in on sponsor, venue, status, dates, client agreement, piggyback organization, donor. Firm up time line and event schedule for geek-a-thon with all pieces and parts, collect email addresses for all educators, geeks, and volunteers. Draft literature for all groups, client instructions, support materials, feedback forms etc.

1h.) Arrange for entertainment, food, music, tables etc. for geek-a-thon. Design email invitations, posters, signs for geek-a-thon. Make sure everything is covered, on track with all groups. Find facilitator volunteers for geek-a-thon.

1i) Send out invitations to geek-a-thon, write press release for event and contact media for event coverage. Finalize all materials for literature for all audiences.

1j) Collect RSVPs from geeks, collect feedback on idea from geeks. Meet with audience administration (weekly?) and hold pre-orientation/round table with administration, (potentially teachers, parents) on upcoming event and program ins and outs.

1k.) Venue prep for geek-a-thon event day or two ahead. Set up, event dry run with committee, hold volunteer orientation, have FAQ sheet available for volunteers. Tie up loose ends before event. Send out press releases, check back in with press to make sure they are attending (if we want them).

1l.) Hold Geek-a-thon event. Hand out kits to geeks. Get volunteers in place. Answer questions, address immediate needs. Announcements. Register laptops and run through clean up, diagnostics, set up checklists. Determine what parts are missing, needs to bring all machines up to standards. During event solicit feedback, have temporary workshop volunteer sign up sheet/email list and sign up for continuing involvement in program. Enjoy ourselves and do something good together. Collect finished machines. Thank everyone for coming and explain next steps. Collect possible donations.

1m.) Send out thank yous and confirmation to geeks and volunteers from geek-a-thon event. Prep temporary workshop space, get wireless networks set up. Tools, parts, and/or the means to gain. Set up volunteer schedule, hotline for clients, tracking system for incoming machines maintenance. Confirm introductory level education schedule. Tie up any loose ends with groups.

2. Give

2150306305_4ec432b4c8.jpg

Photo from flickr-user elemenous for use under creative common license
2a.) If necessary, hold orientation for potential teachers, parents, administrators. Explain their roles, and provide support for them as extended support team. Collect phone numbers, names addresses of their children/our clients.

2b.) Hold client orientation. Introduce program origins, cover who what when why wheres, address, explain all questions. Tell them how it will work. Have all parties sign ‘promise’ agreement and ‘care and keeping of your new computer’ sheet.

2c.) Bring clients their laptops, literature, FAQs, how tos, what ifs, explain hotline. Hold first education session, set up email accounts, provide educational outlets outside program too. Explain feedback plan. Fill sign up sheet for future classes, sessions. Collect email addresses from all clients. Collect donations?

2d.) Let them take them home, and make sure they stay connected to the program by providing feedback.

3. Support

536550986_d6704b735a.jpg

Photo from flickr-user mugley for use under creative common license

3a.) Collect feedback, hold classes, collect donations, fix broken machines, address problems. Change, adapt, support, grow, learn.

3b.) Host lessons-learned session for geek-a-thon, hardware status, determine if program is on track

3c.) Collect and synthesize incoming feedback. Solicit feedback from parents, teachers. Update program if necessary.

3d.) Hold lessons-learned for orientations, education sessions, workshops, volunteers, facility, hotline, etc.

3e.) Scout for permanent workshop location if necessary, build client database, build website, find more volunteers, find donors, send out regular newsletters. Build, grow, learn, adapt, assist, have energy.

3f.) Reach pilot program success, continue to support clients through their growth and ours.

Phew, so what do we think here, too optimistic, would something like this work? We really want to know, what’s missing?Why do we need your help? Because I’m sitting on my couch, at home, in my pajamas with my headphones in and it’s impossible to coordinate something like this a bubble.

If you’re interesting in jumping in, joining us, and joining the pilot planning and execution committee, email me, or call me at (616) 446-3622, (mobile phone number).

If you’re thinking about helping in other ways, we’d love you for that too. Call, email, drive over to my house, send me a letter. Make contact. We want you.

Other related notes:

Determine next steps after pilot

Meet with committee weekly on progress

Have plan for addressing negative feedback at all stages of the game

Have google group for planning committee to post happenings

Have audience discussion group online, get ichat accounts, meet regularly for required education

Provide laptop to teachers?

Hold Fund-raising events simultaneously