But we need training!

One of my favorite things about working in the field was going to trainings. For many people, these hours- or days-long events amount to pure torture–being forced to sit still for 2 hour blocks, bad coffee, boring PowerPoint presentations… And while that does describe a few of the workshops I’ve attended, I usually found trainings to be great for both learning and networking.

RPC Network

Oklahoma has a fantastic RPC network. Seventeen sites across the state–all with the same mission, the same goals, the same philosophies. We gathered monthly as members of the Oklahoma Prevention Policy Alliance to discuss policy change and enforcement. We came together whenever ODMHSAS coordinated a training for us, even if it was something as boring as evaluation (JUST KIDDING, Paul Evensen!). Every now and again, one RPC would pull together resources to hold a training that a single site alone would not have been able to afford. We met up at national conferences, we got to know each others’ life circumstances, we saw good preventionists come and go. More than anything, we supported each other and stood united as prevention providers. It’s the one thing I miss the very most about boots-on-the-ground prevention work.

Currently, two of my worlds are colliding: Prevention and E-learning. While much of my time is spent on social media and prevention, a great deal of it goes toward building e-learning courses for a state agency. Most of it is focused on professional development, and it includes creating courses out of webinars, learning collaboratives, and in-person trainings so that the content lives on much after the event is over. More and more, I find myself wanting to completely merge these two worlds and find out what happens. Here’s an example…

This morning, I received two emails–one from Maine, one from Virginia–asking questions related to my content on a couple of social media platforms. The subject of each of their questions strengthened an idea that LaDonna Coy and I have already been toying around with, and that is creating affordable mini-courses for prevention providers. Subjects like “Twitter Basics” or “How to Create Infographics Using Local Data”–these are topics that could easily be packaged within an online course. Instead of spending money on mileage and road time, the learner could be trained on these topics sitting at his or her own desk. For those providers who are unable to attend in-person events due to logistics (I’m talking to you, Guymon, OK and Spokeane, WA!) these kinds of trainings would be available to those traditionally not included.

But most importantly, some of the concepts that could change the way you do community work don’t necessarily require a full day training. Stay with me here… Like I said, I love in-person trainings, but how often have we sat through six hours of content (nine, if you include breaks, lunch, and refreshers/icebreakers) that most likely could have been summarized in two? I truly think the time has come that we invest more in virtual and free range learning opportunities. How much more cost effective is it for an employee to participate in a 4-hour “Using Social Media for Good” online course (conducted at their own pace) than it is to bring in a trainer like myself for a day-long event? Not only do we need to create these kinds of learning experiences, but management must allow staff the freedom to explore these opportunities.

Online training will never trump in-person experiences. After all, the main point of our jobs is to mobilize communities to create change. A huge part of that mobilization occurs in face-to-face conversations. Our network in Oklahoma was strong because we saw each other so often and we knew our colleagues. However, when these real life opportunities are not possible, there are alternatives. Social media combined with Free Range Learning allow us to connect and learn on our own terms. Embracing these technlologies allows us to continue to grow even as our budgets and our time shrink.

I would love to hear your ideas about online social media courses for preventionists. Everyone who answers will be given a free kitten…

Now for your kitten…

It's okay, kitty. We've all been there.

It’s okay, kitty. We’ve all been there.


Mobile Free Range Learning (February 10 Tools Challenge, Part II)

One of the things I’m dealing with when it comes to blogging is the concept of writing things that people want to read. It seems simple enough, but it’s really more difficult than one would think. When the page views and the comments don’t roll in, it can really affect one’s confidence. I continue to remind myself, however, that this blog is still relatively new and that I have a lot to learn. So in the spirit of complete transparency, just know that if you’re blogging for your coalition and you’re not seeing the results you’d like, you’re not alone. But let’s keep pushing through the uncertain times and see what can happen.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled program…

Last week, I blogged about learning more about using the iPad as part of the 10 Tools Challenge. In Part I, I mostly focused on apps while promising to talk about training and learning in Parts II and III. In the spirit of writing things that people want to read, I’m going to skip the training part, as I think I’ll have more insight into that later on. Instead, I’d like to focus on the mobile Free Range Learning opportunities that the iPad enabled me to experience.

The first online course I’ve taken this year (accessing via the iPad) is the iPhone Video Hero course offered by Jules Watkins. I know just enough about traditional video and audio production to be dangerous, but I wasn’t familiar with iPhone/iPad production at all. When I found out that the youth attending my “Using Social Media for Good” training would have access to iPads, I knew I’d have to take what I knew about traditional media and modify it to mobile devices–and fast! Jules’ lessons not only taught me about the specifics of creating amazing audio and video footage using an iPhone/iPad, but it also provided tips about video and audio production in general that I didn’t know prior to taking the course. Priced at only $97, this course is affordable and would definitely benefit any youth or adult coalition. You may not be able to afford a membership for every coalition member, but I can’t stress the value it would bring to those who are interested in creating these kinds of products for your group. If you do decide to sign up, I would be grateful if you use the referral link in this paragraph and on my Recommended Products page.

Much of my Free Range Learning this year has come from a site that most people would consider less about learning and more about time-wasting, and that site would be Pinterest (by way of the iPad app). Yes, it’s easy to jump on Pinterest and get lost in the vegan cupcake recipes, DIY map projects, and sarcastic som(ee)cards, but it can also be used for learning and research. By doing a simple search, you can find pins related to almost any topic–my favorites being Social Media, Productivity/Apps/Resources, and Infographics. On Friday, we even created a specific Prevention Infographics board for those who wish to share and find infographics specifically related to substance abuse prevention topics.  (Contact me if you would like to be added as a contributor to the board.) The great thing about Pinterest, as with most other social media sites, is that you create the content that you want to see. Therefore, if you think Pinterest is all about cookie recipes and homeschooling ideas, it’s because you have chosen to follow people who pin that content. However, with a little bit of research, you can find contacts and boards that focus on your specific interests. Of course, be warned that many of us (ME!) are guilty of mixing personal and professional boards, so be sure to “Follow All” and then unfollow boards that don’t interest you. After all, not everyone wants his or her timeline filled with Doctor Who memes.


“You are the superhero you’ve been waiting for.” ~Chris Brogan

The latest focus of my Free Range Learning project is working through the book It’s Not About the Tights: An Owners Manual for Bravery by Chris Brogan. This book is only available in Kindle format, but for $5, you can’t beat the price. I’ve been reading this on the Kindle app on my iPad. While I know there are those of you who shun e-books for various reasons, this is one of those books that is enhanced by the e-book format. First of all, I have enabled the “Popular Highlights” setting, which allows me to discover what other readers have highlighted in this book. Not only does it give me the opportunity to see what like-minded people find important, but it also directs my attention specifically to meaningful parts of the book. If that isn’t social learning, I don’t know what is! Also, although this book is in electronic format, the reader is encouraged to keep a pen-to-paper “Brave Journal” to track his or her own progress. This combination of the technological side and the traditional side of learning has created a very influential learning experience that I hope to utilize in my own work.

In the process of checking the first box in the 10 Tools Challenge, not only was I able to learn more about the tool, but I also found myself learning through the tool. The iPad, or any tablet for that matter, is a powerful resource that is underutilized and, in my opinion, misunderstood in today’s coalition work. We should proudly and confidently use our tablets to change the perception of it from a toy to a legitimate must-have for increased productivity and for tech-savvy coalition work.

I would love to hear more about how you use the iPad in your day-to-day work, for learning, for networking, or for other tasks. You can email me, leave a comment below, or take it to Twitter. As always, thank you for contributing to the conversation, and let’s go forth and do good things!

iPad, uPad, We’re all mad for iPad! (February 10 Tools Challenge, Part I)

For the longest time, I didn’t see the need to own an iPad. After all, I had an iPhone, a Samsung Galaxy S3, an iPod, a Nook Color, so why would I need yet another gadget? Yes, that’s the old Raye… The Raye who allowed financial frugality to trump geeky gadgetry. And while that Raye still exists (mostly when app shopping), the PreventionGeek side of me finally bit the bullet and purchased the new iPad with Retina Display. My life will never be the same…

Back in January, I committed to Taking the 10 Tool Challenge, which was an idea put forth by Jane Hart. I dedicated the end of January and all of February to the iPad so I could have a reason to play with my new toy. Besides, it genuinely was the most relevant tool at the time.


My month-long exploration into the device can easily be summed up in three categories: Apps, Training, and Learning. I’ll cover Part I today and Parts II and III later on in the week.


By far, shopping for apps has been the most fun part of owning an iPad. Like I said, I am a pretty frugal person, so I’m always hunting for the most economical yet useful version of an app. It’s like a digital treasure hunt for me. I think this frugality has a lot to do with the fact that I have always worked in the fields of education or prevention. There is never enough in the budget, yet we always find a way to make-do with what we have. That’s why most of the apps you’ll see on this list are either free or very low cost (all of the following apps are FREE unless otherwise noted).

Google Drive /Dropbox: Gone are the days when people emails files back and forth. It’s too easy to lose track of the most recent file and it’s too easy to lose people in the process. With both of these free apps, your coalition can share documents in one simple location without those worries. I’m a Google gal myself, mostly because of its desktop live editing capabilities, but I use Dropbox more for photo, video, and audio files.

Evernote /Penultimate: I have not used Evernote as much as I would like, but I do love the simplicity and the organization capabilities within this app. Admittedly, I mostly use it for “to do” lists, but I hope to take it farther in the future. Also, for those of you who like to write/draw notes, Penultimate is for you. It syncs with Evernote, so you can pull up your hand-written notes on any device that you wish. I hope to work with Penultimate and visual notes more in the future now that I’ve acquired a stylus, which allows me to feel more like I’m writing and less like I’m finger painting.

30/30 : Time and organize tasks (and breaks!) to increase productivity.

Trello: This app is what would happen if a flip chart and the Internet had a baby. You know how prevention people LOVE their flip charts. We’ve all been part of an brainstorm session when we write notes/suggestions on Post-Its, arrange the Post-Its on a piece of flip chart paper, and then we start the planning. This is the electronic version of that. Oh, and everyone has access to the flip chart, even after the meeting. Think of the possibilities!

Haiku Deck: This video from The Wall Street Journal explains what Haiku Deck can do far better than I can. While it doesn’t have the customization that Keynote ($9.99) and PowerPoint (desktop) have, it does allow the user to make quick, visually interesting presentations using Creative Commons images.

Calendar Tracker Lite: Tracker allows you to track progress on a goal, providing both motivation and incentive to keep going. Just like a gold star in elementary school, the red checkmarks allow the user to feel a sense of accomplishment for a job consistently well done. This is one free version of the Streaks ($1.99) iPhone app recommended by Chris Brogan (more on him in Part III).

I won’t go into social media much because I think most people are familiar with these apps. After all, Facebook is the most downloaded app, both on Apple and Android devices. The ones I found myself using most frequently were: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, WordPress, LinkedIn, and Storify.

In a fantastic moment of crowd sourcing, the audience at our CADCA training “Social Media and Free Range Learning” workshop provided a huge number of learning and social media apps, resources, and tools that they use in their everyday work. I would like to say a HUGE thank you to everyone who contributed to this list!

In Part II of this blog series, I will talk more about the video and photography apps we used in a “Using Social Media For Good” training, including: Photoshop ExpressColor EffectsSnapseedInstagramFlickrAnimotoYouTube, and iMovie ($4.99).

In Part III, I will discuss more in-depth about my most-used learning apps, which include: Kindle, Newsstand, TEDPocket, and Lynda.com.

Finally, lest you think I am a boring nerd who spends ALL her time focused on work-related tasks, I’ll have you know that I used my iPad for serious slacking off time… I mean, recharging. The iPad allowed me to raise a community of endangered animals with Ice Age Village. I tracked fitness/diet goals with MyFitnessPal. I shopped for an imaginary dream home on Trulia and Realtor.com. I keep up-to-date on the latest alien and conspiracy theories via Coast to Coast AM. And most importantly, I fell in love with a doctor online… Yes, I watched the entire Doctor Who series on Amazon Instant Video.

However, don’t let the recharge activities lessen the value of this tool when it comes to community work. If you see someone pecking away at their iPad in a meeting, yes, they could be using it to play Candy Crush. But why not let your employees and your coalition members know that you trust them to NOT do that. Instead, let’s change the perception and let it be known that we use them to take notes, tweet important parts of the meeting, brainstorm ideas, and connect with people in the community. THEN after all that is done, we watch Doctor Who

The Top 5 Things I Learned From Training Youth About Social Media & Technology

This month, I had the pleasure of spending some time with the Walters S.M.I.L.E. (Students Making Important Life Efforts) Coalition. They participated in a training developed by myself and LaDonna Coy called “Using Social Media for Good.” This training includes creating a social media policy, creating a social media plan, and learning how to develop products that amplify the success of a coalition’s social media presence. Thanks to amazing technology resources at Walters High School, each student was equipped with an iPad loaded with several photo and video apps, which really optimized this hands-on training.


I could go into the details of the training, but instead, I’d like to take the time to focus on a few of the things I learned from them, specifically the differences between training adults and youth. Cue up the band, Paul Shaffer, because here we go…

The Top 5 Things I Learned From Training Youth About Social Media & Technology

1. Youth exhibit little negativity when it comes to using technology.

How many of you have ever attended a training or a meeting that the moment that social media is mentioned, someone begins poo-poo’ing the idea of it? I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard “I don’t have time for social media,” or “I don’t get Twitter, and I don’t really care to,” or “What’s wrong with meeting face-to-face?” My answers to those statements would be: “Yes you do,” and “Then prepare to be obsolete,” and “Nothing. That’s why we use both.” Adults, especially those who might not have grown up in the digital age, will many times joke about social media or passive-aggressively insult it because, face it, the idea of social media is scary if you don’t know what’s out there. It’s BIG! It’s far-reaching! It’s impossible to control! *now cue screaming people running through the streets apocolyptic style* But here’s the great part, curmudgeons. We want you here. We welcome you with open arms! Millennials understand the power of social media, and they want their bosses on board with the idea of allowing them to utilize these tools to the fullest potential. A couple of years ago, we began to see the rise of older adults using social media, and this statistic will grow as Baby Boomers increasingly embrace technology. Instead of grumbling about “kids these days, with their texting and their tweeting and their cell phones,” let’s allow them to show us where we can and should go.

2. Youth do not fear gadgets.

As I mentioned, during “Using Social Media for Good,” we used iPads exclusively to take notes, capture pictures/video, and create products for the training. I provided no paper handouts of any kind. The agenda, presentation, and evaluation were all electronic-based, and I didn’t hear a single word of negative feedback. This is not to say that every artifact from the training ended up on the iPad. We used the whiteboard for harvesting ideas and some students jotted ideas in their own notebooks. Because we conducted a skills evaluation prior to the training, I know that not all of them were familiar with the iPad or the specific apps we used, yet I heard no grinching about technology or about the programs. Like the old fish-to-water analogy, they jumped right in, and each of them created a product by the end of the day. This isn’t to say that adults always complain about these things, but there usually seems to be one or two in a room who do. I think we have a lot to learn from kids when it comes to learning new things–mainly to dive in feet first and see what happens.

3. Youth approach technology and social media with an enthusiasm and sense of optimism that only they can feel.

 Face it, most of us adults are reluctant to change–be it our systems, our professions, or even our coffee creamer. It’s part of the “Been there. Done that. Bought the t-shirt.” mentality. I admit that in the past, I was a “stand back and let some others try it, and if it doesn’t implode, then I’ll do it” kind of person. More often than not, youth haven’t bought the t-shirt yet, so they’re a little more willing to give things a go. It also doesn’t hurt that the internet has been in existence since before they were born, so it’s not a big, scary, abstract plane to them.

4. Youth do not see social media as an additional task but as something to integrate into their work.

I preach this concept CONSTANTLY. I’ve thought about tattooing it on my right arm so it’s the first thing that people see when we shake hands. Unfortunately, I’m philosophically opposed to word tattoos, so instead, you’ll have to hear it incessantly on my blog and in trainings I conduct. It’s a concept called different things by different trainers. Beth Kanter calls it going after small victories. Chris Brogan calls it “small bites.” Rhonda Ramsey Molina (one of my most favorite CADCA trainers ever) calls it “Big A, little a.” But whatever you call it, all it boils down to is that it’s a tiny step within a larger goal. You may not have the time or resources right now to sit down and develop a far-reaching social media plan. However, you can promote an event on Facebook. You can tweet a link to an article about the event. You can take 15 minutes to write a blog post about it (which will help with evaluation in the long run, for the record). You can create some quick infosnaps about your cause to spread your message faster and more effectively through any social media venue that you choose. The kids I worked with didn’t stray from their goals of promoting healthy lifestyles, addressing bullying, or increasing youth leadership. They saw this training as a way to enhance the tasks associated with those goals. So once again I will say, “Social media is not an additional task but something to integrate into everyday work.”

5. Youth do not consider bureaucracy, deadlines, or “worst case scenario” when learning about social media.

None of the points I’ve made today are meant to be negative or positive to any one group of people. They are mere observations about the process. However, this last point more than any of the others exemplifies why youth need adults on their side when considering and practicing these concepts. In a sense, this lack of bureaucratic thinking made it a joy to train them because there wasn’t a single “doom and gloom” prediction. Conversely, because this part of reality is not at the forefront of their everyday lives, they need guidance and assistance to make sure rules are followed, timelines are established, and potential setbacks are considered. With the optimism and enthusiasm mentioned earlier comes a vulnerability that might have the potential to create difficult situations. This is an area where I see how much we can learn from each other–youth learning to set boundaries and adults learning how to stretch those boundaries every now and again.

This list is by no means meant to be an absolute for all adult or youth trainings. It’s merely my single experience in a single point in time with a single group of (AMAZING) kids. Because I’ve trained both youth and adults on and off over the past decade, I knew these differences existed. However, seeing the specific differences when it comes to social media and technology taught me valuable lessons that I think we all could learn from.

I’d like to leave you with a few questions to ponder (and hopefully comment on!) as you reflect on your own experiences:

  • What are the differences you notice when training youth vs. training adults?
  • What are the similarities?
  • What do you think we can learn from each other and what do you think that would result in?

And until next time, here’s a little GenX geek humor for you…


Mobile Blogging–The Preventionist’s Best Friend

You arrive to a coalition meeting 20 minutes early. Traffic wasn’t as bad as you had predicted, so you have 15 minutes of free time. I can’t tell you the number of times I sat in the parking lot of the Bryan County Health Department mindlessly scrolling through Facebook with no purpose. Oh, if I’d only known then what I know now!

Just yesterday, a new friend on Twitter asked me if I ever blogged from my phone. If you’ll recall, back in May, I wrote my first mobile post. Admittedly, for me, mobile blogging is a little harder. The main reason is that my brain works faster than my fingers can text on a phone or tablet. Only on a real keyboard are my mad typing skills truly put to use (Thank you 8th grade keyboarding teacher, Mrs. Mason!). But as I sit here typing these words on my iPad, I realize that this could be a good thing. I must choose my words more slowly and deliberately, and in turn, it forces me to think slower. However, for many, texting comes more naturally than pecking away on a keyboard, so mobile blogging would be much easier for them.

I think that people often feel that posts have to be brainstormed, outlined, and edited before they can see the light of day. And while the former English teacher in me agrees with that, the preventionist who longs for more coalitions to use social media in me shouts, “POST! POST! POST!” As the real social media experts will tell you, there is a happy medium.

The WordPress app that I’m using autosaves as I’m writing. That means if I get pulled away in the middle of a thought (but that never happens in our line of work, right?), everything is going to be right where I left it when I come back. Furthermore, should I decide to pick it back up on my phone or desktop….


…there it is.

So even if you don’t have time to write a full post before your meeting, you can start on a draft and start that story that needs to be told!

I would love to hear your thoughts on mobile blogging. What are your experiences? What apps do you use? Do you, too, like blogging at Starbucks so you can feel like you fit in with all the other aspiring writers?


Now go forth and do good things!

P.S. In the name of transparency and Schadenfreude, I can tell you that while inserting the images in this post, I accidentally deleted the entire thing. Thanks to my advanced IT skills (aka, knowing how to Google), I found out that WordPress not only saves drafts, but moves deleted posts to the Trash, which allows an impatient too-tappy blogger to restore her work.

Quick Tip of the Day 1.28.13

This morning, I had an internal conversation (that happens a lot when one works alone) that went a little something like this:

“I can do that.” 

Oh yeah, well then do it. 

“Okay, I will! 

My internal voices are quite smart-alecky, but it serves them well.

While conducting the daily sweep of infographics on Pinterest, it hit me that I should be creating these myself, not just reading other people’s pins. For the past few weeks, I’ve been a little obsessed with Noland Hoshino‘s concept of infosnaps. Rather than long, data-intensive, page-long infographics, these are simple snapshots containing a single fact or message. Because most people who work in prevention barely have time to high-five themselves as they run in circles, this is the perfect concept not just for my providing information to preventionists, but also for preventionists to provide information to their communities.

Here’s my first attempt at an infosnap–just a quick, basic tip to consider when using Pinterest (the primary social network to which I’ve been connecting as of late).

PreventionGeek QTOTD 1.28.13

Using the free website easel.ly, I designed this graphic in about 30 minutes. I think that once I figure out the intricacies of this program (which is currently in beta testing), the amount of time spent on creating will be greatly reduced. Furthermore, because this site allows one to save projects, the graphic could be used as a template for future projects, further streamlining the time spent by merely inserting new text.

Infosnaps are perfect tools for tasks such presenting data to coalitions and communities, promoting events, bolstering support for policies, publicizing calls to action, and more. LaDonna Coy and I will be discussing this concept and others in our workshop “Social Media and Free Range Learning” at the CADCA National Leadership Forum next week. Hope to see you there!

Taking the 10 Tool Challenge

“Have you ever used video editing software?” he asked.


“Have you ever been involved in designing trainings or curriculum?”


“Have you ever assisted with the coordination of online trainings such as webinars or online courses?”


Seriously, I don’t know why they hired me at my last job. I had exactly zero experience in everything that the job required, yet they hired me anyway. My only guess as to why is because after the list of no‘s, I told them, “I may not know how to do these exact tasks, but I’ve done things related to them. If you’ll give me the time and the tools, I know I’ll figure them out.” It was a bold statement, but I said it because I knew it was true. I love the challenge of new tasks, especially if it’s something in which I’m interested. Had this job been related to analyzing the stock market, I wouldn’t have made that statement (says the girl who barely eked out an A in Econ 101, and only because the final was open-book). However, I had been a teacher and a prevention specialist, so I knew I had the background for the concepts. I was also a closet computer nerd, so the idea of getting to play with software all day sounded like a great idea!

My job at DBHR morphed from one description to another throughout the course of my time there, but the one constant was that I was always given the opportunity to “figure things out.” Even better, my colleagues trusted me and appreciated those things after I figured them out. I went from going in my first day barely understanding Outlook to leaving after posting 10 online trainings, all created from scratch, all using software I’d never even heard of just 9 months before.

With that spirit and excitement, I’ve decided to take on Jane Hart’s 10 Tools Challenge, which I discovered through LaDonna’s blog post about it. (See how that Free-Range Learning ™ works in real life?!) The following 10 tools are in no particular order of importance:


Infographic made using easel.ly

  1. Tweetdeck/Hootsuite–These two are combined because I have toyed with both sites and apps, and each has its own unique perks. Unfortunately, both lack app/desktop syncing capabilities (as far as I can tell), which I’m not a fan of.  
  2. Articulate Storyline–I used this e-learning software to create online courses for The Athena Forum, but there is still so much to discover!
  3. Pinterest–For over a year, I’ve been pinning recipes/funnies/design ideas, but only recently have I discovered the possibilities it holds for nonprofits and coalitions.  Please feel free to follow me on Pinterest, and let’s learn together!
  4. iPad–My iPad is about 2 weeks old, and primarily all I’ve done is watch Doctor Who on Amazon Instant Video. I hope to change that, though, by mastering its functionality as well as apps such as Evernote, Pocket, Flipboard, Keynote, and many more.
  5. Final Cut Pro–This one is a *wish* challenge because in order to learn this program, I must first have a Mac. Hopefully some paying gigs will come my way and my wish will come true!
  6. InfographicsNoland Hoshino (one of my new geek crushes) has some amazing Pinterest boards full of ideas and tools for creating what he calls “infosnaps.” These small infographics are perfect for attracting attention while educating the viewer. It’s my goal to learn more about infographics and these newly coined infosnaps to see how prevention providers can do something creative with all that data we’re buried under!
  7. WordPress–I’ve been blogging on WordPress.com for a while, but I also want to learn more about WordPress.org. I know nothing about building websites, but now seems as good a time as any to figure it out!
  8. Linkedin–The only thing I know about Linkedin is that I seem to get a ton of spammy-looking emails from people who supposedly want me to connect to them. I know there are networking opportunities in this site, and I plan on testing the waters once I receive my copy of Linkedin Log in the mail from SMO Books.
  9. Wikispaces–LaDonna uses this all the time for training, learning, and networking. It’s a fantastic resource that I think is under-utilized in our field (myself included).
  10. Audacity–My greatest challenge when producing online courses from videos and webinars was the audio editing. This is one piece of software that doesn’t seem to come easy to me, so I’ll probably end up going to Lynda.com and YouTube for tutorials.

There you have it! I plan on printing out the infographic above and tacking it to the ol’ vision board. Please join us in the 10 Tool Challenge, or the 2 Tool Challenge, or the 7 Tool Challenge–however many you feel comfortable taking on. After all, Abraham Lincoln** said, “He who does not open himself to Free-Range Learning ™ should not be surprised when he finds himself chasing his tail in a cage.”

**Abraham Lincoln did not say this. 

Getting (and staying) on track!

2013 schedule  so far:

Week 1

  • At-home second grader who wishes to share all the adventures that Christmas break holds.
  • Setting up all the logistics for PreventionGeek Consulting (which is a real thing now) including equipment, travel arrangements, supplies, etc.
  • Continue work on my and LaDonna‘s CADCA National Leadership Forum workshops, pushing myself to abandon old habits when it comes to PowerPoint and trainings.

Week 2

  • Assist husband during a week of convalescent leave due to having PRK (laser eye) surgery.
  • File every paper, electronic file, and scrap Post-it note to try to create order in the home office.
  • Continue work on CADCA workshop, still attempting to abandon old habits.

One of the challenges I have faced is maintaining that work/home balance, both timing and tasks. In the first two weeks, I found myself doing housework during the day and work-work in the evenings and on into the night. By nature, I feel more creative and productive after the sun goes down.

Original image source: Chris Paul Photography--Creative Commons; adapted using PicMonkey because I like creating my own memes

Original image source: Chris Paul PhotographyCreative Commons; adapted using PicMonkey because memes make me smile

However, as much as I like working in the evenings, the fact is I have a family that happens to be off-the-clock during those hours, so I need to adjust to their schedules.

Because I felt like I needed a little help organizing my day, I set out to look for tools that would make me more productive in the 8-5 hours. Some of my favorites so far are:

Tom’s Planner–This handy website allows one to map out long-term projects. So say you’re a coalition working on writing a new strategic plan, this tool could help you organize the timing of each step in the process and ultimately meet deadlines, which have a tendency to sneak up on a person. While the free version allows a single user a wide range of features, for only $9 a month (quarterly subscription), a coalition could collaborate on, personalize, print, and export these schedules. Right now, the free membership is enough for me and my smaller projects, though.

Evernote iconEvernote–I’m a list person, so this app makes me a very happy girl. You can use it to make notes to yourself  that can include check-able To-Do lists (my favorite!), pictures, audio messages, and other attachments that you may need. Then you can organize everything into notebooks for easier access and record-keeping. I think back to when I was working with 4 different coalitions and how this would have been helpful in keeping track of all the details for each group. I also think about how easy it is for me to get “squirrelled,” and this app definitely helps keep me on track.

Google Calendar–If it were up to me, I would stick with the pencil-and-paper calendar because I’m a visual/kinesthetic learner. Unfortunately, a paper calendar on my desktop doesn’t allow for much interaction and collaboration. Google Calendar allows me to create events and invite others, much like any standard calendar (like Outlook). You can also create and share entire calendars with others, which could come in handy to any group working collectively on a project. Most importantly, it allows me to integrate my home and work schedules. For example, because my husband makes quarterly trips to Alaska, I have to consider his schedule, making sure I don’t plan any travel for myself during those dates. When I worked in an office that used a networked Outlook system, I had a tendency to neglect adding personal events to my calendars since I viewed it as a “work,” tool. This led to a few scheduling mishaps, which hopefully will now be avoided.

A Post-It Flip Chart and Markers–Like I said, I’m a visual learner, so it helps me to have goals, deadlines, wish lists, etc. within eyesight. The good, old-fashioned flip-chart-sized Post-It allows me to do this. It also provides me with the satisfaction of posting a big red check mark when a task is completed. Everyone knows there’s nothing better than making a big red check mark!

Granted, most of these tools are pretty basic, and anyone who owns a smartphone has probably used them. However, my purpose in writing this blog (for now) is to chronicle the beginnings of learning to integrate technology into prevention. I’m sure as I get further along down the road, I’ll find more advanced tools to streamline life. But for now, as long as I can get a little help when it comes to balancing work/family time when I’m not punching a clock, then I’m one happy geek.

Going where several have gone before… (But hey, it’s new to me!)

As evident from my prolonged absence from the blog, I am still hard at work fighting the good fight in the great state of Washington. Over the course of the past week, I attended the Washington State Prevention Summit, and then the voters of the state voted to legalize marijuana for those over the age of 21. Needless to say, it’s been a busy week for prevention here in The Great Northwest. Both of those events have inspired me to jot down notes for blog entries, but those will all come later. Today, I wanted to sit down and write about the new adventure that is on the horizon for 2013–creating my own consulting business.

Almost weekly, I browse my “Inspiration” board on Pinterest, allowing the quotes I’ve pinned to continue to motivate me to do something that equally terrifies and exhilarates me. My go-to quote is “Do something today that your future self will thank you for.” One day not long ago, and I honestly can’t even pinpoint the exact day, I decided to to do just that. I’m a preventionist, but more important than my profession, I am a mother and a wife–a military wife. My husband’s MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) requires us to move approximately every 2 years. My career in prevention spans 8 years but includes 3 employers and a 4 year gap, when I was more of an “independent preventionist.” Every time we move, I find myself starting over and telling every potential employer in every job interview that I won’t be around long, but if they’ll give me a chance, I’ll work as hard as I can for them while I’m there. So far, this has worked out well for me. In the short amounts of time I’ve been in various jobs, I’ve managed to obtain CPS certification, acquire training and technology skills that can carry over into any profession, participate in advocacy initiatives that changed our state, and come to the realization that my heart is in trying to make the world a better place, regardless of the pay. And amidst it all, I was also named “Preventionist of the Year” in the state of Oklahoma (my proudest professional moment to date and probably forever!). On the other hand, it’s tough starting over every time our zip code changes. Community work is often dependent on building trust over time and enduring both hardships and celebrations along the way. Because our family chose to make my husband’s service to the country the number-one priority in our lives, one of the sacrifices has been losing the stability that so often goes hand-in-hand with coalition work.

Moving Day, 2011

However, through a series of very fortunate events, I have the opportunity to venture out on my own and give this whole consulting thing a go. If it works, then my career will no longer be so reliant on where I live but instead on how hard I’ve worked. Like I said–both terrifying and exhilarating! I’m finding that one of the most difficult parts is just getting started. How will I handle my finances? How will I find clients? How will I market my services? What if my business cards aren’t cool enough and the business name I choose is awful? Okay, maybe the last one is silly, but this is my pot of worry stew!

I happened upon a quick yet informative blog entry “Starting a Consulting Business? 15 Things to Do Right Now.” First of all, I love lists, so it naturally caught my attention. Most of all, it contains a checklist of really simple tasks that not only give me direction, but these are the tasks that will get the ball rolling and make it all seem real. Part of the how-to covers those financial considerations such as separate checking accounts and credit cards for the business (advice that my brother, the CPA, had already talked to me about). The article also points out logistical considerations like office space, phone lines, and mailing addresses, which is even more important to someone like myself whose phone number area code, home address, and permanent address don’t match! The resources the author provides cover topics ranging from in-person networking to marketing to social media presence. Oh yes, and she also mentions business cards.

Today, I’m taking a shot at #11: Tell everyone you know that you are starting a consulting practice, and that you are looking for projects. I’m sure that a Friday afternoon before a holiday weekend blog isn’t necessarily the best time to put myself out there, but I have the day off, so here I am! Beginning in January of 2013, I plan to dive into the pool of self-employment with PreventionGeek Consulting. My focus will be on providing technology and training services to nonprofit agencies, most likely those focused on the concept of Wellness (including substance abuse prevention, mental health promotion, community coalition development, etc.). I also hold a couple of secret ambitions that center around app development and writing projects.

I have a long way to go. After all, this is a beginning. When I started this blog, my intent was to connect with those just starting out in the world of prevention or those attempting to learn how to merge prevention and technology. As always with my blog, you’ll see not so much a how-to resource manual but more like a diary that will hopefully allow for linking with others through shared experiences and for providing some ideas about how to integrate technology in our work. It would be impossible to explain my gratitude for those who have inspired me to take on this challenge (namely LaDonna Coy and my ever-supportive circle of best friends). Your belief in my abilities will keep me going even more than a Pinterest board could. Full speed ahead!

#PrevChat: My maiden voyage

LaDonna Coy, my professional idol and social media guru, is the member of a team that conducts a bi-monthly Twitter “conversation” called PrevChat. Because of my work schedule and my west coast timezone, I had never been able to participate in a PrevChat session until this week. My foray into this event coincided with a slight change in their format, which made the adventure that much more interesting. Traditionally, the discussion begins with a topic and then several questions related to that topic. The participant responds via tweet by specifying to which question their answer corresponds and using the hashtag #PrevChat. Don’t be afraid if you’re a Twitter novice. It’s easier than I’ve made it sound.

This week, to shake things up a bit, they featured Bruce Waltuck (aka @complexified), to talk about evidence based practices and what exactly that meant. The tweet that drew me in was:

Complex or complicated? What’s up with prevention, wellness (behavioral health)?

Perhaps it’s due to my “simple” roots, but multiple times a day, I wonder why we in prevention attempt to make a lot of things more complicated than they are. That’s not to say that the problems we face are not complex, but we don’t make it any easier with all our acronyms and five-dollar words. I was interested in seeing what other people had to say about this subject.

To participate in PrevChat, one almost has to use a specialized app/tool like TweetDeck in order to keep up. I could see myself getting lost trying to use the standard Twitter timeline. When using Tweetdeck, your desktop will look something like this:

TweetDeck during PrevChat. You may also notice I was simultaneously tracking OK primary election results.

It looks like one would have to multitask to keep up with the conversation, but in reality, it’s quite easy to follow. In the third/right column was the bulk of the conversation. In the middle column, I kept up with those who had mentioned/replied to me directly. And in the first/left column scrolled my regular timeline, where I might have caught a tweet or two in which someone had forgotten to use the hashtag (you must be a follower of the people in the conversation in order to see those, though). All this may seem pretty obvious to those who are Twitter pros, but part of my goal of this blog is to help explain the most basic elements of these “experiments” of mine so others might do a little experimenting of their own.

The most interesting part of this format was seeing not only the answers to the questions that PrevChat provided, but seeing the off-shoot of conversations that would take place down the road from those initial questions. Today at work, I found myself referencing phrases like “culture eats strategy,” which had been discussed in-depth during the course of the chat. I found myself feeling a little giddy when my own words were retweeted by others or when the featured speaker responded to one of my ideas. The hour flew by in a flash, and the nervousness I’d felt about saying something “elementary” had melted away by the time we were prompted to wrap up our thoughts.

In all, my first experience with PrevChat was entirely positive. Like most of the new (and sometimes intimidating) concepts I’ve been exploring related to combining technology and prevention, I found myself wanting to show this system to my colleagues and try to coax them into participating in such an amazing project. There is so much more that prevention has to offer that we sometimes don’t see while pounding away at our keyboards inside our neutral-colored, canvas cubicles. But the fact is, until we begin to make social media an integral part of our jobs, we are missing out on opportunities for our work to take on a life of its own.