“The Official Sponsor of Birthdays”

morebirthdays_blogbadge3The American Cancer Society has branded its self, in part, as “The Official Sponsor of Birthdays.”  Here at the National Home Office in Atlanta, Georgia we’ve known this was coming since December 2008 and many of us have anxiously awaited this launch with sealed lips. A new website, morebirthdays.com, went live yesterday and a few new ads were uploaded to YouTube.


So what is all of this about? For some people birthdays are a struggle. I have a family member who has been celebrating her 39th birthday for at least 15 years. Despite the challenges of aging, as we morph into something far different than a twenty year old body, I hope we can all agree that birthdays are a good thing. A very good thing. A birthday means you’re here. This may appear trivial, it’s no revelation, and I’m not saying anything new. What is important to know is that there is an organization that exists to ensure that you and I and everyone else continue to live healthily lives year after year.


Our vision is a world free of cancer. I’ve never worked for an organization that is as focused and driven to fulfill its mission than the American Cancer Society. From the epidemiologist here in Atlanta to our National Cancer Information Center in Austin, Texas the commitment to help people stay well and get well, by finding cures and fighting back is at the heart of everything we do. The same can be said for the volunteers and employees I’ve worked with across the nation. Their commitment is tangible.


I have found no other organization with the resources, knowledge, and skill that can compare to the American Cancer Society in this field of work. As a fully entrenched social networker I’ve been please to see that the Society has kept up with the new media of a web 2.0 world.  We’ve integrated ourselves with Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, and Second Life and we will continue to reach out where ever people are to share our resources and our message of hope.


Our sister organization The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) in Washington, D.C. has been successful working with lawmakers to fight against Big Tobacco in the United States. It was no coincidence that in his February 24, 2009 address to Congress President Obama called for health care reform to include a “new effort to conquer a disease that has touched the life of nearly every American by seeking a cure for cancer in our time” (April is National Cancer Control Month, by the way).


Nor is it a coincidence that a Bill was passed by the US House of Representatives granting the “Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authority to regulate the manufacturing, marketing and sale of tobacco products”. These things don’t happen without the voice and support of the people, and many organizations are coming together to ensure that our voice, your voice, is heard.


Living a life free of cancer is something for everyone to celebrate. Eleven million cancer survivors are celebrating birthdays because of our progress. Countless others have avoided cancer for the same reasons. As the old saying goes “knowledge is power.” Knowing how to get well and stay well is priceless.


So… Now that my lunch hour is coming to an end, it’s time for me to get back to work.

Matthewrlee.com: Expanding My Online Identity.

Two days ago I purchased the rights to three domain names: matthewrlee.com, matthewrlee.org, and matthewrlee.net. Currently they point to this blog.


Any content related to these three URLs prior to 08/26/08 belonged to someone else. For next decade anyone who visits these sites will find, me.


To all the other Matthew Lees, Matthew R. Lees, and yes even Matthew Russell Lees out there, I have an interest in your name. We have a shared identity. As I work to separate my identity from yours, I wish you all the best in defining your own virtual persona.

“Let’s take a five minute break.”


These six words can invite chaos into the classroom. Whether you’re teaching online or in a more traditional setting, getting adults back to class after a five or ten minute break can be a challenge.

A few years ago I came up with a simple remedy. When it’s time to take a break I start a simple PowerPoint timer I created that counts down from five minutes to zero, accompanied by a song that is just under five minutes. Everyone can see how much time is remaining and when the music stops, people tend to find their seats.
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Here are links to five and ten minute versions:
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You’re welcome to use, share, or modify them, just don’t try and sell them. They are free for everyone. To start the timer open the presentation and click on the first slide. It’s that simple. If you want to add more slides for a longer break, remember that only the first slide is set to begin with a click.

Choosing the right song is up to you. I’ve used music by Vince GuaraldiHenry ManciniElizabeth Mitchell, and Big Audio Dynamite. Music is powerful messenger so choose carefully.
Regardless of whether you use music or not, see if these timers (Or others) can make a difference in getting people back in the room and focused on the content.

To Wiki or Not To Wiki?

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Can Wikipedia be trusted? This is not a new question. It should be asked of every encyclopedia.

Encyclopedias are touch stones, introductory references, telescopes peaking into much larger worlds. Sometimes the lenses of our printed guides are blurred. Ink alone does not endow words with factual authority. Printing and binding only guarantee a higher delivery cost. The entries may be factual, but good luck verifying the sources. If you have access to the sources you probably would not bother looking it up in an encyclopedia; unless that encyclopedia is Wikipedia.

If you know a subject well, the best place to begin is Wikipedia. If the First Barbary War is one of your specialties, go to Wikipedia and see if the article is accurate. If it’s not, make corrections (The current article does not meet Wikipedia standards). As a contributor you can clear the way for other observers.  

Here is an example. I’m familiar with the events surrounding the murder of Joseph Standing in 1879 and Wikipedia had a stub (A short article marked for expansion) about his life. In July 2007 I made a major revision of the article. I adhered to Wikipedia’s three content policies; maintain a neutral point of view (NPOV), provide verifiable sources, and do not use original research. Since my revision there have been around 30 minor edits, made by other users, and with only two exceptions every edit has been an improvement.

This kind of real time editing can not be done in the world of paper. I recently found two errors in a history book that has been on the market for over a decade. I submitted corrections to the publisher earlier this week and while they were pleased to receive accurate information, it will probably take a year or more before the book is updated.

As Erin McKean says, sometimes paper is the enemy of words. The book is not the best shape for an encyclopedia. At the same time, I’m not yet converted to belief in a paperless world. I simply love books. Well referenced, indexed books. But from my non-neutral point of view Wikipedia and its volunteer army of Wikipedians, of which I am one, are headed in the right direction. Now let’s Wiki.  

100 Years of Interactive E-Learning

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E-learning is not new. It’s been around for a hundred years, only for the first 90 years we called it “radio.” Now we’ve added slides, lost the bumper music, put it online and it’s become a mystery. Suddenly everyone seems to have forgotten the power of story telling and few have been successful at making driveway moments into desktop moments. Driveway moments; those moments when stories on the radio are so compelling you stay in your car and listen. Moments when the learner really does ignore incoming e-mail, instant messaging, and the temptation to surf the web.

So leave the bullet points behind and focus on capturing what been right in e-learning for a 100 years. Focus on true connectivity.