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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.

tights

“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.

10_Tool_Challenge

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.

Apps

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

#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.

Go confidently…

“…if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.” ~Henry David Thoreau

Confidence. It’s an essential trait when working in the nonprofit world. We beg for money, we rally supporters, we organize the masses–all to support something we see being for the greater good. I don’t think I’m alone when I say that it’s easy to access that confidence when I’m wearing my prevention hat**, but sometimes it’s harder to carry that confidence in my personal life.

It seems kind of silly when I think about it. I can stand in front of 2 or 200 people and speak, without even having to picture them in their underwear. I’ve shook hands with businessmen, legislators, and even a governor or two. It seems that one would have to possess a certain level of confidence for that. Yet whenever those events occurred, it was in the name of something greater than myself. Would I be able to speak those words or shake those hands if the reason were just for me?

This past week, I talked to a colleague about taking on a role that *I* could see him stepping into naturally. If someone were to list the qualifications for this venture and then list his personal attributes beside it, the lists would align almost perfectly. However, if appearances were correct (and he wasn’t just trying to be nice and let me talk), he seemed reluctant to even consider this endeavor–for a number of reasons that genuinely made sense in his mind. It was one of those moments that all I could think of was, “If you could see yourself the way everyone else sees you, then you would know that you could do this.”

Prevention is a “sink or swim” environment. I don’t think I know one single person who went to college to become a substance abuse preventionist. Most of us jumped into the water not knowing how deep it was, and we either learned to swim or we crawled onto a lifeboat and headed to shore for a new profession. But should we stay there treading water or should we find a dock and keep jumping in?

My point is that we constantly ask our coalitions and our community members to take chances and to approach tasks which may seem insurmountable to them. Why don’t we present ourselves with those same level of challenges? Maybe it’s opening that Twitter account to take on the world of social media.  Maybe it’s stepping up to a leadership role that seems totally unnatural since we’re so used to keeping things rolling behind the scenes. Maybe it’s showing our long-standing coalition a new technique learned at a training–one that seems exhilarating and terrifying at the same time.

Prevention is one of the most rapidly-changing fields in mental health–just ask anyone who’s been doing this for 20 years. We accept the changes (though sometimes begrudgingly) that we’re presented with year to year, grant to grant, conference to conference, and we make it work. We learn new curriculum, advocate for proven policies, work with diverse populations–and we do it because we are confident in our message and confident in our shared goals. Why would we not be as confident in our own skin? I urge anyone who happens to read this to channel that confidence you exude every day while wearing your prevention hats**. Take on a challenge not knowing if you’ll fail or succeed, because honestly, can it really be a failure if you learn something new?

P.S. For the record, this blog is my own “jumping back into the water again.” My writing skills are beyond rusty, and I second guess every idea out of my head. But I take solace in knowing that only 2-3 people who probably already like me read this–so what is there to lose? 😉

**My prevention hat would similar to a cowboy hat, but with brighter colors. And it would probably shoot glitter.

What is a Prevention Geek?

What’s a Prevention Geek, you ask?

Well, it’s not me. Not yet anyway…

Currently, I work for the Washington Division of Behavioral Health and Recovery as a member of the prevention training team. The goal of our project is to record a series of trainings (both in-person and webinar-based) for prevention professionals so that they can be added to the state’s professional development website, The Athena Forum. Though I love my work and give it my all, many days I feel greatly under-qualified for my job. I have approximately three years in the field as a prevention specialist, but the training and technology side of things is entirely new to me.  The Oklahoma girl in me would compare the experience to being a barrel racer who suddenly finds herself on the back of a bull trying to hold on for 8 seconds.

Last week, I was fortunate enough to participate in four full-day trainings with CADCA trainer (and self-proclaimed Coalition Dork), Rhonda Ramsey Molina. Our technology consultant, LaDonna Coy, traveled to Washington to assist with the recording, uploading, editing, and ultimately the publishing of these trainings. LaDonna is the latest in my series of professional mentors (though said mentors may not realize their role in my mind!), and an all-around shining star in the field of prevention. She’s the kind of person I could sit and talk to for hours if we ever had the time and the means. Some of it is probably due to our shared sooner state roots, but so much of it is about my fascination with her view on not just the history, but the FUTURE of prevention.

At the end of our final day of training while discussing the various means of technology that we had used over the course of the week, Rhonda casually said to LaDonna, “You’ve been a prevention geek as long as I’ve known you–even before anyone else used computers.” Prevention Geek. I liked that. Later on, I tweeted to LaDonna: “This week I learned the difference between coalition dork & prevention geek. I’m aiming 4geek because they have cooler gadgets.” And there, the seed for this blog was planted.

I once heard Dr. Paul Evensen say that coalitions need to be able to tell their stories to secure funding. In turn, I think that preventionists need to be able to tell their stories not only so we can see the evolution of our profession, but also so we can mindfully plan its future. This is the prologue to my story–a wannabe prevention geek who has no idea where I’m headed or how I’ll get there. Let’s see where this story goes!

::Disclaimer::

Opinions expressed on this blog are not a reflection of my employer. These are my own ramblings from my own brain on my own time. 🙂