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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.

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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

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!