Friday, August 29, 2008

VPT show on Snelling e-State Symposium online

Vermont Public Television has added the Public Square show about the Snelling Center e-State Symposium to their website. The show aired on VPT on August 21. If you weren't able to catch it, now you can watch it online.

Let us know what you think!

Monday, August 25, 2008

VPT Show Librarian Comments

The VPT show garnered quite a few comments about the role of libraries in a connected age, many from librarians. I have re-published them here. Thank you everyone for sharing your thoughts!

written by Marti Fiske, Director-Dorothy Alling Memorial Library, August 19, 2008
The internet is a boon, for those who can afford it. That's where public libraries are helping. Public libraries across the state offer free access to computers for internet access and document writing. Last year the public computers in Williston's library were used almost 10,000 times. That is in Williston alone! Librarians are also training people how to use the internet and computer programs. Increasing e-access in Vermont doesn't only help those who can afford it in their homes. It also provides access through public libraries. It's time for the small rural Vermont libraries to have faster, more reliable connections to help their residents break the barrier to internet and computer access too.

written by Martha A. Penzer, August 20, 2008
As a librarian, as Marti Fiske, I observe the role of public libraries in extending e-technology to one and all. This is sharing resources at its best.

If we are serious about democracy in this high-tech age and including everyone in the conversation regardless of his/her capacity to own a P.C., this requires greater support to libraries and librarians.

written by Penny Pillsbury, August 20, 2008
Written by Penelope(Penny) Pillsbury-yet another Librarian.
I feel we need to get all the libraries, but especially public libraries' resources linked together with a single ONLINE catalog,so all Vermonters can find out where the resources are. A blessing to all is the we now have a real live Martha Reid a Public Librarian as State Librarian. Support and communicate with Martha Reid, State Librarian. As it stands now, each library has to pay for software to create a database, wouldn't it be a great deal more cost effective to have one system for the entire state. It exists in West Virginia, another mountainous state. It would level the playing field for rich and poor.

written by Paula J. Baker, August 20, 2008
Libraries USED to be private, the domain of the wealthy. With the rise of public libraries in the last century, the community has enlarged and to the benefit of all. I can't say it strongly enough: Librarians daily assist the elderly who wish to connect with their grandchildren across the continent, aid workers looking for jobs in a tighter economy (often without keyboard skills), work with students whose home internet connections are either nonexistent or very, very slow, and the list of needs goes on. Many of us also offer full-text databases 24/7 through our websites, a valuable tool for a rural environment. Libraries are or should be key players in all discussions regarding community and access. What state agency is open nights and weekends? Cost effectiveness dictates many of those restrictive hours, but libraries do it locally anyway. We should be thinking about connectivity and access not only for residents but between agencies which ultimately serves all Vermont citizens and visitors.

written by Karyn Vogel, August 20, 2008
I am so glad librarians are participating in this discussion. I agree with Paula - librarians should be key players in discussions about technology, equity and access. One of the biggest concerns about our increasing dependence on and use of technology is the fact that some have access to it and some don't. Lack of access can take different forms: some can't afford the hardware, some can't afford to pay for connectivity, some don't have broadband options, some just don't have the computer skills they need. Or a disability may prevent them from easily using a computer. Libraries are doing such important work to help people use technology. I'm interested in what librarians are saying about how we can support their work and make them a part of our becoming a successful e-state. It would be good to hear from library patrons as well, especially those who rely on the library for technology access and education.

written by Anne Lezak, August 21, 2008
These comments by librarians point out the vital role that libraries play in extending Internet access to those who would otherwise be left behind. And they underscore the need for state support to enable libraries to continue to play this key connecting role in our rural state.

Our library board (I am a trustee) is very much aware of the importance of computers and technology to our users. Our computers are in use all the time, every day, usually with people waiting to use them. We know that this is the only place many folks can go to get online, do the research they need, connect with others, and have at least a short time to take advantage of the technology that those of who can afford it consider a necessity.

Vermont is one of only 9 states where libraries receive no state support. Providing some state funding to enable libraries to maintain and expand their ability to provide access to technology for all must be a priority if we are to truly become an e-state.

written by Stephanie Chase, August 21, 2008
Yet another Librarian comment! Here in Stowe, we too see such a wide variety of folks coming in to the Library to use our computers: visitors to our state, local folks popping in, residents without high-speed access or computers at home to access the Internet or our online resources. Our public access computers were used nearly 15,000 times last year!

Providing high-speed access across the state not only allows our residents, whether at home or through their schools or public libraries, access to the resources of the greater world; to compete in the work environment by staying current with technology; to acquire new skills; and to keep up with "what's happening," whether in popular culture, news, or even the Olympics! It also allows us to move towards a "greener" life, where resources are not replicated from organization to organization, and where we can obtain reliable information without paper. As Penny mentioned, it also allows us to collaborate on projects to provide equity to all our residents -- whether through a single online library catalog to find books and other materials, or through resource sharing as we have with the Vermont Online Library ( collection of databases or the downloadable audiobooks available through Listen Up! Vermont (

written by Zelda43, August 21, 2008
Libraries are struggling to meet the demand for public internet access and are doing a pretty good job when it comes to providing such within the physical library building. But...libraries are also beginning to embrace technological methods to delivery library resources. Accessing the Vermont Online Library is a tedious and frustrating task for those who do not have high-speed Internet. If we are moving toward making audiobooks, DVDs, etc. available only through downloads we will effectively prevent many from enjoying them. Internet access is critical, but it is high-speed Internet that's needed. Pretending that access is provided through a phone-modem is out of touch with reality.

written by Martha Reid, Vermont State Librarian, August 21, 2008
We cannot talk about economic development in this state without including the need for high speed internet access. Vermonters in every demographic group need access -- students, job seekers, businesses, retirees, youth, parents, teachers, local and state government, etc. Expanding broadband capacity throughout the state is key, but access for all Vermonters is also essential. Any discussion about "building community in a connected age" must also include recognition that there is a "digital divide" between those who can afford computers in their homes and businesses and who are well trained in using them and those who do not own computers or do not know how to use them. Vermont's system of public libraries offers free access to computers and internet access. Librarians are trained and available to help people use those computers; many of Vermont's libraries offer one-on-one assistance in using computers, as well as free computer classes. Of the 175 Vermont public libraries that submitted statistical reports to the Vermont Department of Libraries for 2006-07, 93% reported that they offer free high speed intenet access for the public. For the same period Vermont ranked #2 in the nation for the number of public access computers in libraries per 5,000 population. But Vermont libraries cannot sustain this level of access and service without financial support: for hardware and software upgrades, additional computer workstations, staff costs (including training for staff), connectivity charges, database subscription costs, etc. Vermont is lucky to have such a fine system of libraries already in place to support Vermont in becoming a true e-state. To make this library network viable for the long term, however, we need to make sure that our libraries have adequate financial support. [To see the complete statistical report about Vermont's public libraries, go to: ]]

written by Meris Morrison, Librarian Moore Free Library,Newfane, VT, August 22, 2008
We even have internet users when our Newfane library is closed. If they have a laptop they can access our high speed access anytime from their cars or sitting on the porch. This is true of other libraries as well. What a boon to our rural communities!

VPT Show blog comments

Living in a rural state, Vermonters have a strong sense of place and a tradition of civic discourse. As we move toward becoming an e-State, how will we master emerging technologies to unite and strengthen our communities?

written by Technologyisgood, August 19, 2008

As Vermonters we should embrace technology! It offers endless options for us to communicate with our friends, neighbors, and legislators. You can send an email to a friend, use an online forum to check out what's happening on your block, or express your concerns to your elected officials.

written by Left Behind, August 19, 2008

One of the challenges facing Vermont is a lack of connected-ness among certain demographic groups such as the elderly and those from lower income families. The Internet is becoming a primary resource of information, news, resources etc... Where does this leave the segment of the population that is not connected?

written by Mr. Mischief, August 19, 2008

We are such a small state. To me it's unbelievable that it is taking so long to provide across-the-state access for all Vermonters. The regional disparity results in an unfair "connection-gap" that hurts rural Vermonters.

written by Michael Wood-Lewis, August 19, 2008

While many folks rightly focus on the issue of getting more Vermonters connected in "a connected age," the broader question on the table is "how do we enhance the sense of community within the State of Vermont while the landscape is changing with the growth of the internet, cell phone usage, cable tv, etc.?"

Some argue that all of this technology is stealing our attention away from our local communities and focusing it on entertainment, issues away from our hometowns, etc.

Some great panelists appeared at the conference. Here's a link to my presentation...

Thanks to all who are helping stimulate this larger discussion. I'm looking forward to the VPT show and discussion. -Michael

Michael Wood-Lewis
Front Porch Forum

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The democratization of the news

I just read a good article by Joyce Valenza in School Library Journal about a new site called NewsCred. NewsCred has aggregated credible online news sources so you can get the best information quickly and easily. They provide a mix of mainstream newspapers and blogs.
What is a credible news source you say? NewsCred has made an initial selection of online newspapers and blogs based on several factors you can read about on their site. Then, in true Web 2.0 fashion, NewsCred lets users rate sources and customize the site to display the sources they prefer.

As time goes on, the data for each article, news source, and journalist will grow as more readers give them the thumbs up or thumbs down. Who can predict who will come out ahead? What criteria readers will use to make their judgments? And how will these ratings feed back onto the way content is being produced? This is the democratization of the media.

And, as Valenza aptly notes, NewsCred is an excellent tool to use for teaching students how to be critical consumers of news. She suggests reviewing NewsCred’s analytic algorithms with students and asking them to decide if they agree or disagree with the methods being used. Students can also review the user rating data to look for trends and come up with their own criteria. The possibilities are endless and the result is a compelling curriculum that can truly prepare our young people for the world they are entering.

Take a look at NewsCred yourself. Remember to weigh in!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Questioning "March Toward Total Screenlife"

Scott Heiferman of offers interesting quotes on his blog... several of which seem apropos to the topic of this blog and in line with our experience of hosting Front Porch Forum in Chittenden County...
Andrew Mason: "Inaction stems from a pragmatic judgment that participating doesn’t matter. Not apathy."
So how can we use our new and pending connectedness in Vermont to make participation matter to Vermonters?
Daniel Goleman: "While there are certainly arguments for staying connected to those we care about while we are at a distance, there is always a trade-off with the distractedness this wisp of an information stream induces, drawing our attention from people in the here and now."
So all that Facebooking with distant old pals means there's less of me available for my local community? Go figure.
Jeff Pulver: "twitter... is the platform I go to when I am in a mood to communicate with others... "'s shocking that this piece was written without even a nod to the absurdity & risk of our March Toward Total Screenlife. Real-time communication is free & easy, so why have "real-enough time communication"? When you want to say 'good morning' or are in a mood to communicate with others, why not arrange your life so it's F2F (eg. a workplace, people you live with, a breakfast club, ?)? Are the people within X miles not good enough? As I quoted the other day, "The physical world is very high bandwidth."

VPT Public Square: Add your comments

Vermont Public Television will be broadcasting a show about the Snelling Center e-State Symposium on Thursday, August 21 at 8pm. They are hosting a live, online chat as well. You can add your thoughts and comments right now by clicking here. I encourage you to participate and make your voice heard!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Vermont slowing down :-(

Ouuff... this is not good news... from Dave Bradbury at VCET... released its 2008 State Internet Speed Survey findings.....In 2007, Vermont ranked 21st fastest in the US for Internet speeds and in 2008 (drum roll please), we sank to 38th fastest place (or, 12th slowest place in U.S. depending on your outlook). Whether or not these surveys pass statistical muster or not (They seem too), it is still the best survey on Internet speeds that I have come across. And unfortunately, it feels about the right results too.

And folks, here is among the saddest results: Vermont was one of five US States whose median download speed actually declined in the year over year survey. Yup, we got worse along with North Dakota, Minnesota, North Dakota and Hawaii.

Could your town's website get a date?

An interesting article mysteriously appeared in my in box this morning (perhaps Glenn?) It's exciting to see how much experimentation is going on among local and state government folks. In Missouri, they created a job kiosk in Second Life (virtual world). Wonder what kind of applicants it's attracting? In Delaware, the human resources director fretted that her town's website would get very few dates on, so they redesigned the site.

Friday, August 8, 2008

How to add a comment to the blog

Here at the Snelling e-State Blog, we welcome your comments. Did you know you can add a comment to any of the blog posts? I'll walk you through it.

For example, I am going to add a comment to Sue McCormack's post about Vermont's aging population. Here's is the post.

In order to add a comment, I am going to click on the words "0 comments".

When I click it, I will get a new page with a blank text box. I type my comments into the box.

Below the box, I need to show my identity. If my name appears already, it is because I am already logged in with my google account. No need to change anything. Just click the Publish Your Comment button.

If my name isn't already there, I can choose Name and then just type my name in the box that appears. Then click Publish Your Comment button. Here's a picture.

Voila! Comments are the wonderful part about blogs. We want to hear from you! Please try these steps to add a comment and let me know how it goes... By adding a comment to this post, of course! If you get stuck, email me at

Economic and Workforce Development Action Team

I am proposing to hold the first meeting on Thursday, September 18th. The location will depend on where the interested parties live or work; it may be in the Burlington area or somewhere in Central Vermont.

Since this team is just getting organized I can’t really say right now what level of commitment may be required. We may find that there is a lot to do (holding some meetings in various parts of the state in order to create more involvement is a possibility) or we may find that there are a number of initiatives already underway and our job could be as simple as cataloging those efforts and trying them into future work of the Snelling Center E-State Initiative. Or the folks may have a completely different idea of how this should come together. There are no pre-conceived notions other than there appears to be a need to come together and see what there might be to do.

I hope that you will agree to participate on this team. If you can commit to a meeting on September 18th, please let me know. If that time is out of the question for you but you want to propose a different time to meet, I’m happy to consider that as well. I can be reached by Email at

But if you can commit to at least one meeting, please let me know. Thanks!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

VT population aging, diversifying - e-state implications?

How do you think these trends will affect the way we use our increasing connectivity? What are the opportunities? Challenges?

Education action team meeting

Last night I attended the first meeting of the e-State action team focused on the topic of Education. Ellen Thompson, Director of Instruction and Information Services for the Essex Town School District hosted us at the district offices.

We had a great group and some interesting discussion. See Ellen's meeting notes as well as some thoughts from a few folks who couldn't make the meeting on the Snelling e-State wiki by clicking here.

One of my takeaways from this meeting was that there are many promising projects, ideas, and initiatives happening around the state related to technology and education, including right here where I live in Essex. We'll be working to connect the dots and providing opportunities to share and collaborate.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Should our next President be tech-savvy?

Yesterday I was reading the print edition of the Sunday New York Times and came across an article called “Hail to The Twitterer” by Marc Leibovich. Online it is called "McCain, The Analog Candidate". Not sure why there are different titles.

The article is about how John McCain can’t use a computer and whether that’s OK. He’s trying to change his image—he says he reads emails now when his staffers show them to him. I’m not sure if that should count as technological literacy.

Of course, not everyone needs to embrace technology. But there are certain jobs (President being one) where it would be helpful. White House staff can handle the email and Google look-ups, but if the leader of the country has little direct experience with the technology that is transforming our world it could have serious implications.

What do you think?

The author even harkens back to Abraham Lincoln, who apparently was an early adopter of technology. He was out there chatting with his Civil War generals via telegraph when others were still hoofing it. I will include the NYT excerpt from Abe's “Discoveries, Inventions and Improvements” (1859) lecture here, because how many opportunities will there be to quote Abraham Lincoln on this blog?

The great difference between Young America and Old Fogy is the result of Discoveries, Inventions and Improvements. These, in turn, are the result of observation, reflection and experiment. For instance, it is quite certain that ever since water has been boiled in covered vessels, men have seen the lids of the vessels rise and fall a little, with a sort of fluttering motion, by force of the steam; but so long as this was not specially observed, and reflected, and experimented upon, it came to nothing. At length, however, after many thousand years, some man observes this long-known effect of hot water lifting a pot-lid, and begins a train of reflection upon it. He says “Why, to be sure, the force that lifts the pot-lid will lift anything else, which is no heavier than the pot-lid. And, as man has much hard lifting to do, cannot this hot-water power be made to help him?” He has become a little excited on the subject, and he fancies he hears a voice answering “Try me.”

Friday, August 1, 2008

Knight Foundation's big impace on local democracy

Steven Clift, writing on the MediaShift Idea Lab, shares a summary of "e-state-like" activity undertaken by the Knight Foundation and then offers some advice:

The Knight Foundation is beginning to make some waves in local democracy circles. And I am not just saying that because they fund this blog.

Earlier this year they hosted a conference with community foundations on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy, then they announced the Knight Center of Digital Excellence focused on universal access to the "digital town square," and most recently announced a commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy and $24 million in matching funds for community foundations (see my collection of online civic engagement resources for community foundations referenced in a Council on Foundation's e-newsletter).

These investments represent the largest basket of resources I've seen to date on e-democracy/citizen media in the United States focused at the local level. What comes of this matters.

Click here for the advice...