Monday, September 30, 2013

7 tips to make your employees happier, more creative and productive

In an era where higher ed budgets become tighter, we're probably all familiar with more "crunch" time at the office. That may be "okay" for work requiring rudimentary cognitive skill, but for IT workers who need to bring creativity and imagination, this "treadmill" of work can drain us of our energy.

Minnesota Public Radio recently discussed this in their piece, 7 tips to make your employees happier, more creative and productive. In the article, Teresa Amabile, professor of business administration at Harvard Business School, says "Companies are trying to get people to do more... Fewer people are doing the jobs of what used to be done by many more people... This is actually counterproductive because when people are constantly on the work treadmill, they don't have time to think, they don't have time to actually be creative in solving problems or coming up with new ideas, and they lose their energy. Put simply, they stop being as engaged in their work, they're less productive, they're less creative."

The article gives 7 tips to make your employees happier, more creative and productive:

  1. Managers should stop and think about the day-to-day experience of their employees.
  2. Encourage and make time in the day for breaks.
  3. Let your employees surf the Internet.
  4. Give employees meaningful deadlines to inspire creativity and protect them from distractions.
  5. Allow employees to work some of their hours away from the office.
  6. Sit down with each employee and discuss his or her workday.
  7. Look to Google and SAS for examples of workplaces that foster creativity.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Big Block of Cheese Day 2013

Fun Fact: In 1837, President Andrew Jackson's supporters gifted him with a wheel of cheese weighing 1,400 lbs. Jackson put this cheese in the Entrance Hall of the White House and invited the people of the United States to eat it, and thereby meet the people who represented them in government. According to White House history, the cheese was consumed in two hours, and the White House smelled of cheese for weeks.

I mirrored something like that today. I provided a 12 lb wheel of cheddar cheese, and invited the campus to the Student Center to eat it. It was a great opportunity to talk about campus technology. As an added "draw," and because of my Scottish ancestry, I wore my kilt.

It was tons of fun, and lots of students, faculty, and staff turned up to have some cheese and talk about campus technology! We talked about the wireless network upgrade, Zimride, and other topics.

I'd like to thank everyone who helped in making Big Block of Cheese Day a huge success.

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Post-Lecture Classroom

A recent article in The Atlantic discusses "The Post-Lecture Classroom" and asks "How will students fare?" As an example, the article references Russell Mumper, Vice Dean of the University of North Carolina Eshelman School of Pharmacy. Mumper uses a flipped model in his classroom:
At home, before class, students watched brief lecture modules, which introduced them to the day’s content. They also read a textbook — the same, introductory-level book as in 2011 — before they arrived. 
When they got to class, Mumper would begin by asking them “audience response” questions. He’d put a multiple-choice question about the previous night’s lectures on a PowerPoint slide and ask all the students to respond via small, cheap clickers. He’d then look at their response, live, as they answered, and address any inconsistencies or incorrect beliefs revealed. Maybe 50 percent of the class got the wrong answer to one of these questions: This gave him an opportunity to lecture just enough so that students could understand what they got wrong. 
Then, the class would split up into pairs, and Mumper would ask them a question which required them to apply the previous night’s content, such as: “Given your knowledge of the skin and transdermal delivery, describe how you might treat this patient who had breakthrough cancer pain.” The pairs would discuss an answer, then share their findings with the class. At the end of that section, Mumper would go over any points relevant to the question which he felt the class failed to bring up.
Yes, this is Active Learning Classrooms. In short, Active Learning Classrooms (also Technology-Enhanced Active Learning Classrooms, or Flipped Classrooms) changes how students and faculty interact in the classroom. In an Active Learning Classroom ("ALC") work previously done in the classroom is now done outside the classroom, and activities traditionally done outside the classroom now occur in the ALC. Students learn in a more engaged model on their own, typically through recorded lecture or interactive media, then return to the ALC to interact with a cohort of other students to exercise what they have learned.

Through ALCs, student performance is often improved, students are more engaged, and students have direct access to their instructor when working through exercises (instead of having no one to ask when working alone, or when working in late-night study groups). However, ALCs are not a panacea in education. In an ALC mode, students must complete the prep work before class, faculty must restructure courses to support flipped classrooms, and institutions must provide spaces suitable for ALCs. Access to technology may also be a hindrance, both in the classroom (when faculty must work through technical glitches on their own) and in the dorm (students must have a computer to watch the recorded lectures).

The article from The Atlantic covers a study of the effectiveness of Active Learning Classrooms:
A three-year study examining student performance in a “flipped classroom” — a class in which students watch short lecture videos at home and work on activities during class time — has found statistically significant gains in student performance in “flipped” settings and significant student preference for “flipped” methods.

The study examined three years of a foundational pharmaceutics course, required for all doctor of pharmacy (Pharm.D.) students attending UNC. In 2011, Mumper taught the course in a standard, PowerPoint-aided lecture format. In 2012 and 2013, he taught it using “flipped” methods. Student performance on an identical final exam improved by 2.5 percent between 2011 and 2012—results now in press at Academic Medicine—and by an additional 2.6 percent in 2013. Overall, student performance on an identical final exam improved between 2011 and 2013 by 5.1 percent. 
Students also came to prefer the flipped model to the lecture model. While 75 percent of students in 2012 said, before Mumper’s class, that they preferred lectures, almost 90 percent of students said they preferred the flipped model after the class.
At Morris, our faculty are beginning to use Active Learning Classrooms, although adoption is currently limited. I'm excited to see our experiment with ALCs at Morris. Nancy Carpenter (Chemistry) took a year sabbatical to restructure her lectures to use an ALC. Plant Services, Computing Services, and Instructional & Media Technology worked in partnership with the Division of Science & Math to rebuild one of our Science classrooms as a flexible Active Learning Classroom. The new space uses whiteboards throughout the room, two projectors, tablets, and flexible-use tables to create a flipped classroom - which can also be used as a traditional lecture room by other faculty who are not ready to adopt the ALC mode. We'll use this ALC for the first time this Fall.

Working independently, the Instructional & Media Technology group also has re-imagined one of the studios in the Humanities & Fine Arts building as a Technology-Enhanced Active Learning Classroom. IMT hopes to see this new space used by faculty this year.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Campus Codefest 2013

I wanted to share this item from a colleague in the College of Liberal Arts:

Campus Codefest is an recurring University of Minnesota staff event where participants work together for a couple of days on stuff that matters to them.

The primary goal of the event is to grow the UMN software development community bringing people together and giving them an opportunity to collaborate. It is also intended to facilitate the dissemination of new development technologies and approaches and get everybody to think about IT concerns beyond their own organizations.

The first CCF event took place in August 2013. There were 80 attendees from 21 departments. Out of 32 project ideas submitted, 14 were selected and worked on during the event.

Congratulations to Campus Codefest!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Tweets from the Future

The University of Minnesota Morris is situated in a small town, a little over 5,000 people and about an hour from the nearest Walmart or Target store. We have a single-screen movie theater, a few bars, fewer restaurants, and a coffee shop with limited hours. Like many rural communities that harbor a university, there isn't much of "downtown" Morris to attract students. I jokingly advise incoming freshmen that they won't "party in the neon glow of downtown until the wee hours of the morning," because most shops and restaurants tend to close up by 9:00 p.m. So with a dearth of entertainment options in Morris city proper, the University of Minnesota Morris needs to find innovative ways to alert students to activities happening on campus.

The campus has much to offer our students. We regularly feature live bands, art exhibits, musicals, plays, and visits by celebrities and politicians. Our challenge was to effectively communicate these upcoming events in a compelling way to our 1,900 mostly-residential students. While we have a campus events mailing list, our students rarely find this information to be timely enough. Students do not plan their social calendar very far in advance. Often, students decide on the spur of the moment: "It's after dinner, what can I do?"

In a listening session conducted in 2012 on campus, a major concern from our students was how to access campus events and activities from their mobile devices. With a single voice, our students demanded that we develop interfaces that support iPhones and Android phones. They want access to campus events and activities via their mobile devices.

The answer is a modernized mobile events portal. The platform has to be mobile in order to succeed. Even as recently as two years ago, most students preferred laptops for their personal computing device. Slowly, a few students began to bring iPads, smartphones, and other mobile devices into the classroom. Today's internet devices are trending smaller. The widespread adoption of these devices means today’s students are increasingly untethered. This creates a problem for IT, both in terms of support and strategy. We used to say that mobile is coming, but clearly, mobile is here.

In November 2011, Nielsen reported that a wide majority of mobile phone subscribers owned a smartphone capable of displaying web pages, including half of those aged 18-25. This increasing trend to mobile has practical effects on higher education. According to a 2012 Noel-Levitz report, over half of surveyed students use a mobile device to interact with their campus. At Morris, we estimate about two-thirds of our students have smartphones (a figure that is inline with a projection from Nielsen) and expect to view campus information via their mobile devices.

Many universities have a mobile website that focuses on events. One common reference is the University of Wisconsin’s which advertises arts, athletics, film, music and public lectures. Other institutions (including the University of Minnesota Twin Cities, at have mimicked this mobile site design, presenting calendars of events in "categories," often alongside unrelated links for maps, alumni information, and social networking.

Via this design, students can view upcoming activities by clicking into each category. As they do so, students must build a mental map of which events are happening now, soon to occur, or scheduled in the future—for each category they visit. While breaking up events by topic may make sense for a narrow range of students who only want to see sports events, or only wish to attend art presentations, the Morris students we surveyed found these "categories" too unwieldy to effectively inform them of available upcoming activities. Students did not want to mentally "juggle" the calendar to figure out what was happening around campus; they wanted the calendar to present timely information about things to do.

At Morris, we approached the problem from a new direction. We focused exclusively on current on-campus students, and looked for only the information that would interest them. Instead of separating events into "categories," we utilized a coherent "timeline" view starting now and looking forward into the immediate future. Students visiting effectively see "tweets from the future" about upcoming events and activities: weather, events, arts, sports, and news.

By narrowing the intended audience to smartphones, we dramatically reduced our development time. In total, it took us only a few months to assemble the "Morris Mobile Events" web app. And of that, most of the time was spend evaluating and tweaking the design. One web developer created the prototype in about a week, and finalized the project in about two weeks. The web app is designed first for a smartphone display, but it "scales up" to tablets and desktop browsers.

A key element in our fast turnaround was how the web app accesses the event data. We use these RSS feeds to populate the Morris Mobile Events web app. Campus units don't update anything in Morris Mobile Events itself. Rather, the web app simply fetches data from existing systems and display that information conveniently to students. For example, if an organization adds an item to the campus events calendar, that event will automatically show up in Morris Mobile Events.

Over time, we plan to expand Morris Mobile Events with new feeds. While today we can only display event data from the campus events calendar and sports calendar, in future we hope to add menus and specials from the Dining Hall or Turtle Mountain Cafe, or movies at the local theater.

Mobile is where our students are at, and I am glad we could bring the Morris Mobile Events web app to them on their tablets and phones. I hope everyone enjoys being able to see what's happening on campus.

Friday, September 13, 2013

New Leadership in Higher Ed?

I'd  like to share this article from my friend, Helen Norris, associate chief information officer at California State University, Sacramento. The new president of the University of California system, Janet Napolitano, is a lawyer-turned-administrator—not an academic. Is this the start of a new trend? Will we will see more leaders like Napolitano in higher education?

New Leadership in Higher Ed?
Council on Library and Information Resources

In late July, the Regents of the University of California nominated and confirmed Janet Napolitano to lead the university system. This is simply stunning. To say that she’s non-traditional is an understatement. Most university leaders are scholars-turned-administrators. She is a lawyer-turned-administrator. She has no background in academia (although I understand her father was an academic) and no Ph.D. She has a highly political background, complete with baggage. She certainly has experience running large bureaucratic organizations. I can’t imagine how tough it is to run the State of Arizona or Homeland Security. And perhaps the challenges of running a university will seem less daunting than, say, running the manhunt for the Boston Marathon bomber.

My theory is that this is the beginning of a trend and that we will see more leaders like Napolitano in universities. This begs some interesting questions. Why the move in this direction? How will leaders like this do? And as leaders in universities, how can we support these new colleagues to help ensure their success?
Read more»

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Institutional effectiveness and efficiency

The Midwestern Higher Education Compact recently shared a report on the Effectiveness and Efficiency of Post-secondary Institutions in Minnesota (PDF). My institution, the University of Minnesota Morris, fared very well in the report, and I'd like to share the results with you.

From the report:

Graduation rates are frequently employed in rating the effectiveness and efficiency of colleges and universities. The use of graduation rates as performance indicators can be observed in state and federal accountability measures, accreditation regulations, and institutional performance reports. Graduation rates are typically conceptualized as the percentage of degree-seeking students in a first-time, full-time cohort who graduate within a specific period of time, such as four, five, or six years. Graduation rates are sometimes refined by taking into account transfer students or program length, but a raw graduation rate of some sort is typically used in institutional and state comparisons. However, numerous factors beyond institutional control strongly influence graduation rates, especially students’ pre-college academic preparedness. Consequently, variation in raw graduation rates may better reflect differences in such factors as admissions selectivity or institutional mission rather than whether institutional practices and programs are in fact conducive to student success.

The results demonstrate the potential value of using a measure that adjusts for institutions’ structural, demographic, and contextual characteristics. Low graduation rates may in fact reflect institutional practices that are satisfactory or better. For instance, while a seemingly low proportion of students in degree-seeking cohorts graduate within four or six years in Ohio, the rates are higher than predicted and thus merit the “Very High” effectiveness rating. Moreover, states with nearly identical graduation rates may have dissimilar institutional effectiveness ratings due to different types of institutions, student populations, and institutional contexts. The average graduation rates for public four-year institutions are quite similar in Indiana and Mississippi, but the overall institutional effectiveness ratings differ, “Low” and “High.”

Among public two-year colleges, Rainy River Community College is the most effective and Anoka-Ramsey Community College is the most efficient. Among public four-year institutions, University of Minnesota-Morris is the most effective and the most efficient (based on the six-year graduation rate). Among private four-year institutions, Northwestern College is the most effective and the most efficient.

Monday, September 9, 2013

What's your focus?

If you ever find yourself short on time, over-stretched while doing too many things, today's coaching button is for you.

We only have so much time in a given week. How you divide your time is up to you. But where should you provide focus?

You may be familiar with the concept of lead-manage-do. It's a somewhat simplistic way to say "You can't have it all." The "lead-manage-do" concept helps us to understand the focus we need to put into our work. To be the most successful, one person really should concentrate on (at most) two of the "legs" of this triangle: "lead-manage", "lead-do", or "manage-do". While it's not impossible to do all three at once, doing so reduces focus in your other areas. For example, directors are often expected to provide leadership within their teams, and to meet with staff and perform other HR duties, but don't have logins to the computer systems their teams manage. Or, line managers may provide day-to-day management, while providing hands-on assistance with a project, but do not generate long-term "vision" or strategic direction.

Think of your available time as a "pie," and how you divide your time as "slices" of the pie. That's your time for the week. You can't make the pie any bigger, unless you want to work through the weekend. How do you spend this available time? Start by considering the types of duties you perform each day:

Tracking trends, anticipating future needs, developing vision and strategies to achieve goals, engaging others.
Working to organize, allocate, and coordinate people or processes. Drafting goals and operational plans, allocating resources, budgets, assigning responsibilities.
The "hands-on" activities: collecting data for a report, providing help of a routine nature, developing basic business processes, dealing with day-to-day email and phone calls.
We all do at least some of each category; even a university president responds to email and phone calls, for example. Someone who was equally divided among all three areas would look like this:

Providing an equal balance can lead to trouble. That implies someone who provides effective leadership, manages efficiently, and still does the day-to-day hands-on work? It's really hard to do the work, all of it, and do it well. A person who claims to be equally divided among lead-manage-do may be short on time, over-stretched while doing too many things. Sound familiar?

The path to success starts with balancing these focus areas with the work that you do, and your role in the organization.

For example, some large companies have a technology architect role who develops new technology and provides leadership for using that technology effectively. This kind of architect is both "lead" and "do." In contrast, other organizations use working managers. These managers are typically responsible for running their department, but also provide some hands-on assistance with technology systems (such as database administration or systems administration.) These managers are in both "manage" and "do". The working manager remains focused on the day-to-day running of the department, not to mention the systems, and does not provide much leadership for the "next generation" of what they do. They may push for more automation, or to make things easier, but rarely are able to focus on dramatic changes that take their organization to the next level.

These people divide their time differently, focused into specific areas, depending on what is important for their role in the organization:

Consider how you need to spend your time, and what types of duties are important to the work that you do. Do you need to provide "vision" or "leadership" for your area or organization? Try to exercise the most focus in "lead" and find balance in "manage" while limiting the "do." Or, is your job function to support a technology or service? Then you might focus on "do" while minimizing "lead" and "manage." Some may give so much attention to one area that the other areas might be zero, and that's okay too. How you divide your time may depend on where you are in the organization, and how you contribute:

But where should you provide focus? We only have so much time in a given week. If you decide to give more time to one area (for example, "do") you must balance the remaining time in the other two areas ("manage" and "lead). How can successful leaders divide their attention to be most successful?

Reflect on what you need to accomplish as part of your role in the organization, and use that to guide your time. Do you know your top priorities? Spend time only on the important things, not just the "immediate" items. If your focus needs to be "manage" or "lead," reduce the amount of time spent "doing" by handing some of these tasks off to others (delegating.) If your inclination or natural tendency is towards "do" and your role is "manage" or "lead," look for ways to exercise "do" outside of work, without drawing attention away from your responsibilities (I contribute to open source software). Be decisive, use defensive calendaring, avoid multitasking, organize, reduce the time spent on email, use meeting time wisely.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Let me share a vision of the future

I've been thinking about the future of technology, and specifically the convergence of mobile devices and laptops. Some vendors have experimented in this space, with mixed success. It seems a matter of time until someone strikes the right balance, and this new device becomes the next "must-have" technology that displaces even the iPad.

While I'm not a particular Apple fan (I run Windows and Linux at work, Linux and Mac at home) I do believe Apple will be the first to find the "right recipe." They have the right mix of customer base, brand loyalty, and the engineering to do something truly remarkable in this space. But I also believe Apple is currently less engaged in innovation, so will require three incremental steps to get there. Let me share a vision of this possible future path:

1. The iPad as desktop accessory (2014)

Apple releases a new "interactive trackpad" accessory, about the size of an iPad Mini. Similar to the current Apple Magic Trackpad, the "Interactive Magic Trackpad" has a video display like an iPad Mini, but no storage and minimal internal computing technology. It's not intended to be an iPad; it's a new kind of mouse trackpad for Mac desktops and laptops. The "Interactive Magic Trackpad" links wirelessly with your Mac—or connect via Apple's Thunderbolt if you need to charge.

With the "Interactive Magic Trackpad," users can still move the pointer using tap, point, and swipe gestures. But now the "Interactive Magic Trackpad" can display interactive images—such as a menu of options or other actions—if your Mac software supports it. The trackpad can even play sounds like an iPad, which is a useful enhancement for user feedback. People who do a lot of photo manipulation via Photoshop immediately fall in love with the ability to move images, pinch to zoom, twirl to rotate … and the ability to put shortcuts to commonly-used tools on the "Interactive Magic Trackpad." The Apple faithful quickly make this the new "must-buy" accessory.

2. The iPhone becomes an iPad (2015)

Building on the success of the "Interactive Magic Trackpad" accessory for Mac desktops and laptops, Apple creates a new way for people to people to bond with their iPhone. Released at the same time as a new-model iPhone and iPod, the new "iPhone Surface" is similar in size to the most popular iPad model, but has no storage and only minimal internal computing technology. Pair it wirelessly with a new-model iPhone, and the "iPhone Surface" becomes an interactive remote touchscreen. You're still running all your apps on the iPhone, but the touch input and audio & video output goes through the "iPhone Surface." You can even make Facetime calls via the new "iPhone Surface," or you can use your phone for voice calls while using the "iPhone Surface." If you don't have an iPhone, you can still pair the surface to a new-model iPod.

This new "iPhone Surface" device doesn't become a new i-device by itself, but becomes an inseparable accessory to the iPhone or iPod. The iPad still remains a popular tablet for many users, but an increasing number of Apple faithful ditch their iPad in favor of doing everything on their iPhone and new "iPhone Surface." Within a year, people wonder why we ever carried two devices that were effectively the same: an iPhone and an iPad.

3. The iPhone becomes the computer (2016)

If an iPhone can act as the computing device that powers an iPad-like display, why can't it be the computing device that powers a keyboard and mouse, like a Mac? The iPad or "iPhone Surface" is great for consuming content (videos, photos) and light content creation (updating Facebook, responding to a few emails) but tapping your fingers against an unforgiving, hard, glass surface is too much for all-day work. So Apple releases a new iPhone/Macbook hybrid (let's call it the "Macbook Micro") for on-the-go users.

Most of our applications run in the Cloud (think Gmail) and very little actually needs local computing power to run. Look at what programs you use everyday; most of your time is spent in a web browser, and probably less than 25% using a traditional desktop application. In the Apple universe, "power" users are the only people who need to run big applications like Photoshop that require huge amounts of RAM and CPU. The rest of us mostly need a device that connects us to the Internet using a keyboard and mouse to do our work via a web browser.

The new "Macbook Micro" is designed to accommodate this market. Pair your iPhone wirelessly with the "Macbook Micro" and your iPhone becomes your computer. Connect via Apple's Thunderbolt to use the Macbook Micro's built-in battery to power (or charge) your iPhone while you work. You're still running all your apps on the iPhone, but the mouse & keyboard input and audio & video output goes through the "Macbook Micro." Disconnect the iPhone, or just wander out of range, and your data and apps go with you. Your laptop is essentially "in your pocket, on your iPhone." Reconnect the iPhone to "Macbook Micro" to bring up your apps right where you left them. You can pair your iPhone to multiple "Macbook Micros" (think "home" and "office") but you can only connect to one at a time.

The magic of the "Macbook Micro" is in how the iPhone manages the display. With the previous "iPhone Surface," the iPhone's iOS interface looks the same on the surface and on the phone; the only thing that changes is where it displays. Connected to a "Macbook Micro," the iPhone's iOS interface should adapt to suit a keyboard & mouse setup. iPhone apps (web browser, iTunes, etc) should use an API that recognizes a "Macbook Micro" connection and changes their interface to one with the familiar Apple menu bar when connected to a "Macbook Micro." Apple is capable of making this work. The look-and-feel of MacOSX and iOS aren't worlds apart; Apple has taken great care that they should should look and act similarly but not identically. Microsoft hasn't learned this lesson yet with Windows 8 and Metro: people use a tablet or phone differently than how they use a keyboard & mouse.

With the release of "Macbook Micro," Google's hugely successful Chromebook gets pushed aside as an "also-ran." No one wants to carry around a phone and a laptop, unless they are essentially the same.

While the market seems unwilling to adopt this device today, we may in a few years consider it obvious that our computer fits in our pocket, as a phone, ready to be docked to a keyboard and monitor for more traditional "desktop" computing.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

End of an era

Did you ever use a kiosk to check your email, or visit a website?

In years past, it was common for students and faculty alike to use Internet kiosks to check email or to visit websites. Like a telephone booth, users could stop by the Internet kiosk to visit websites, or to check their email. The kiosk was a self-contained unit, with display, keyboard, and trackball-mouse. These venerable stations have seen a lot of wear and tear, but have stood up to countless hours of use.

But like the telephone booth, the era of the Internet kiosk is coming to a close. The age of the laptop, ubiquitous wireless networking, and the smartphone have overtaken the Internet kiosk. Our students have access to our wireless network virtually everywhere on campus (and in places where wi-fi is less than great, we are working to improve coverage). And some students forgo our wireless network entirely, choosing instead to bring in their own smartphones and tablets that carry 3G or 4G cellular data plans, so they can literally connect wherever they are.

The Internet kiosk, once an indispensable part of the campus, isn't relevant to the current generation of students. And it's time we retired them. Last year, we reclaimed the Internet kiosks from around campus. They just weren't being used. And today, we begin to recycle these devices or give away the empty particleboard-veneer shells.

It's an end of an era. Thanks to everyone who worked to bring these devices to campus and to support them over their lifecycle. Good times.

Monday, September 2, 2013

The future of technology?

Can you predict the future? Even Jedi Master Yoda could not, claiming it was "Difficult to see. Always in motion is the future."

But in shaping our own future, we can imagine what promise the future might hold, then work to achieve it. In technology, we are the drivers of future progression. In campus technology, we are the ones who help shape what is to come. Our job as campus technology stewards, therefore, is to find the new technology that can best benefit our campus, and work to make it happen.

Start with this exercise: In your mind, what will technology look like in the next year? That may be somewhat easy to figure out, as one year isn't that great a time, so you can imagine an iterative improvement from today's technology. It's probably safe to estimate that next year's technology will continue to thrive on wireless and mobile devices. But will Google Glass, Apple's rumored "iWatch," or some other "wearable" technology become dominant?

What about five years from now? How will technology inherit the future? What devices will we use at that time? The convergence of mobile devices and laptops seems likely. Some vendors have experimented in this space, with mixed success. It seems a matter of time until someone strikes the right balance, and this new device becomes the next "must-have" technology that displaces even the iPad.

While the market seems unwilling to adopt this device today, we may in five years consider it obvious that our computer fits in our pocket, as a phone, ready to be docked to a keyboard and monitor for more traditional "desktop" computing.

Now consider ten years from now. What is the shape of that technology horizon? While we may not be able to describe that future with great accuracy, we can make informed guesses. Turn your mind to what's possible and work to bring that imagined technology into reality.

Maybe you find it impossible to imagine the shape of technology ten years in our future. But in 1993 and 1994, AT&T did just that in their series of "You Will" television ads:

The video is three and a half minutes long, but worth watching to see an informed vision of the future—from an era when all movies were on VHS tape, phones had cords, offices ran Windows 3.11 for Workgroups, Apple computers were plain beige boxes (and Steve Jobs didn't work there), no one yet knew what a "web browser" was, and few people had heard of "email." Yet AT&T considered what the future might bring, and released this visionary ad campaign designed to bring customers into their version of the future. AT&T's ads introduced us to concepts such as electronic books, car navigation, video calls and video conferences, online education, online shopping, streaming instant video, digital music, Apple's Siri, wearable computers, and more.

Of course, AT&T envisioned dedicated devices to do each of these tasks. In 1993, AT&T couldn't have predicted the smartphone innovation, enabling you to do everything from a mobile device that you carry in your pocket. Your mobile phone also happens to support electronic books, GPS, video chat, and mlearning. You probably also use apps on your phone to shop, stream videos from Netflix or Hulu or YouTube, listen to music, and search for things. And on the side, most people are busy sharing pics on Instagram, updating Facebook, tweeting their dinner, and taking photos of their cats.

What's your vision of the future of technology?