Thursday, June 29, 2006

What's the difference in a wind-up toy and a laptop?

Re: Educators First to Text Negroponte's $100.00 Laptop Prototype from eSchool News

I know a lot of folks are going to talk about the $100.oo laptop, and I know it is a terrific stride toward reduction of the digital divide. There is no doubt that is a fabulous first step. Unfortunately in my opinion, it is only going to work in a small part of the world economy. One Hundred Dollars in many parts of the world is an amount that would make one almost rich. It would not matter in those places whether the lovely wind-up (actually the hand cranked power generator has been removed from the current $140.00 iteration) computer was $100.oo or $10.00, it would still not be an affordable educational expense. And yes, I am still talking about the same places where the device was intended to be employed. Take a look at the names of some of the countries already in line to buy such devices: Brazil, Thailand, Egypt, Cambodia, Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Tunisia, Argentina and Venezuela. How many developing African or Middle Eastern nations are on that list? Similar devices have been tried before and the economics of the world just didnt provide enough stimulus for production ( see Simputer
- $130-$240 USD depending on the size of screen - , in India or the Dragon Dream - about 100 pounds english - in China).

I think it is great that a bunch of engineer got together and built this device for such a low cost. Now I wonder if I could get them to work on the internal combustion engine. Truth is, I think the money that has been sunk into this project/contest would have been more wisely spent in developing cellular phone technology that would have made smart phones cheap enough to put into the hands of really poor people.

Or perhaps it's all a moot point. Perhaps, just perhaps, the very thing that we are sitting around talking about is already occuring and we are just not noticing.

A few weeks ago, I had the absolute delight of hearing from a blind man who teaches in a refugee camp in Southern Sahara. He joined my regular Sunday morning get together with the Webheads in a Skype powered internet broadcast from WorldBridges. Take a few moments to listen to his story. Afterwards ask yourself what effect the $100.00 computer will have on this man and his efforts or if he will even be able to get his hand on one. I think you will be surprised at his comments.

Toward the end of another interesting weekly EdTechbrainstorm hosted by Doug Symington, we were joined in the public skypecast by Albert. As it turns out, Albert was skyping in from a refugee camp in the African desert of Western Sahara. where he is a "blind hippie, teacher, Sufi political dissident".

For the next 2 and 1/2 hours, the handful of us left in the webcast were captivated by the life experiences and insights he shared. The first few minutes are a bit tech related, but by minute 8 Albert begins painting us an amazing picture of his life. I usually have a difficult time providing a clear answer to the questions "What is Worldbridges?" - to me, this this conversation is Worldbridges.

Conversation with Albert - Part 1
Download mp3 ( 56:28, 25.8MB)

Conversation with Albert - Part 2
Download mp3 ( 40:58, 18.7MB)

Part 2 of our conversation wtih Albert, a "blind hippie, teacher, Sufi political dissident" who was skyping in from a refugee camp in the African desert of Western Sahara.

Personal reflections on Module 4

Chapter Nine appears to be the final piece of the IT Consulting Framework around which the textbook is centered. In fact, it seems to me a sort of list of final thoughts about things that need to be attended that didnt fit elsewhere in the framework. Thoroughness, Documentation, Security, Maintenance, and Training are all listed as things that need to be addressed in the consulting proposal and process. Making sure that the client is satisfied, checking real results compared to our original visualization of results and finally documenting the clients satisfaction, are all wrap-up processes that need to occur before we can call the project finished. I think that all of these seem to be items that have been alluded to in earlier modules, and this is a last checklist before we can start looking at the add-ons that can create value beyond the project for the client. Just doing excellent work, is not always going to get a consultant to the top of the list of potential consultants to be considered for future projects. So what else can we add to the consulting process to make us more memorable, or more identifiable for future consultative jobs.

That is partly where the second chapter in this module comes in. In fact, Chapter 10 is in a segment of the text, titled "Developing Superior Consulting Skills". Ok, so you have that consulting framework down and you have found ways that you can apply your skills and traits into the framework and come out with not only an acceptable consultation but a good or maybe even great consultation. You can now rent a billboard and announce to the world that "I Did IT", but that is not likely to get you a future job. And for a moment, let's assume that most potential good clients all already have a great list of consultants that can do just as good a job as you. How do you work it so that you rise to the top of that list every time? You could wear a clown suit to final implementation review meeting. You could take your client dinner and get them drunk on Champagne. You could even hand the consultant a post card with a picture of him with his arm around your shoulders congratulating you on a job well done, and your contact information on the reverse side. But the truth is that none of these things are going to add VALUE to your consultation. I don't like to think of these as "freebies" but as "additional benefits" that come only with your consultation. They are almost like bonuses. These are the kinds of things that are going to keep you in your client's roladex or Outlook Address Book. These are the kinds of things that cause your client to hand your business card to other associates that may be looking for great consultants. This chapter discusses some ways that the consult more or less embeds themselves into the project. Breifing the client on how the consultation affects parts of the client's business beyond the immediate scope of the project. The book identifies this as addressing depth and breadth of the project. We need to make sure that they understand that one change is likely to lead to another, and by making them aware of some of the things that have potential to change due to our consultation, we are really making them aware of future consultant opportunities between them and us. The book also suggest offering support and maintenance services. These are a great way to keep us aware of the client's work environment and provide us additional opportunities to pitch other consulting proposals in areas outside of the scope of the original consulting proposal. I really llike the idea of providing documentation to the companyat the end of the project. It is one thing to get the job done but handing the client a manual of how it was done and how to keep it up from your perspective, can save them tons of time, and make sure that your consulting efforts have a long life in the client's environment. Asset management was also mentioned, though I have a bit of trouble understanding what the authors mean. I did note that one suggestion was to make sure you let them know people they could outsource elements of the project to. Thomas Leonard, the creator of coach training at Coachville, used to suggest a list of experts that we use. Not only would we put our list of experts that we used together, but we would share the list with anyone who we added to it. The theory was that if I considered a service good in one arena, the same sort of satisfaction would apply to other arenas. Additionally, if they were satisfied with my service, then they would likely be satisfied with services of others that I used. It was a great way to create a network of involved clients who not only liked my service but also liked the kinds of services I liked. The added value was that it saved the client a lot of time, regarding many different areas of their life, and it kept me at the top of the list of consults who did memorable extra things for them. These kinds of additional elements added to my consultation keep me within the clients awareness whenever an additional consulting possibility comes up.

The "Putting It All Together" article mainly reiterates the need to bang our own drum by using a technique called the "Elevator Speech". Short and too the point, the speech is like a verbal business card intended to make sure a potential client will remember you when a need for a consultant rises. But it also needs to go further. It need to titillate the interest of the client enough to have them contact you before the need for consulting arises. In fact, ideally, the potential client's response to this speech should be something like, "I find that a very interesting thought. Let's get together sometime and discuss this in more detail." Which should lead you to establishing the date and time of the meeting. At that point the door is open, and it took less than three minutes to do it. Elevator speeches need to be finely tuned things. I tried to adopt my personal ElderCoaching speech into the elevator speech that would be presented to personnel from UTB regarding the needed changes to the Ed Tech Web Page. The one thing I kept finding myself missing was feedback. I like to "try it out" on a variety of peers, before settling on a final version, and even then I have tried to keep mine flexible enough that I could slightly vary it depending on the kind of environment or client I am introducing it to. I use mine as my tag line on my letter heads and on my web site and emails. I am glad to see this as part of the course.

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