#Cybersecurity Isn’t Just a Firewall #infosec

I’m disappointed when I hear leaders speak about security and they mention a firewall first. Is it essential to your infrastructure? Of course! But you don’t throw in a Palo Alto or Fortigate and call that your security initiative for the year. Security is about diligence. It’s about connections and empowering people to make better choices.

To me the diligence comes in on the technical side. Patching and updating are essential to keeping your infrastructure and end points secure. If you have 30 updates waiting to be run on your database server, someone isn’t doing their job. If firmware on your switches hasn’t been touches in some time, again someone isn’t doing their job. In multiple organizations I’ve seen users grumble about the updates pushed out to their computers, but its another essential piece to the puzzle.

That brings me to connections. Users squawk about updates because they likely simply see it as an impediment to getting their work done. Education is key, because the security aspect of running updates is likely the furthest from their mind…and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s our role to educate.

Educating your colleagues on other aspects – identifying phishing schemes, building good passwords and the advantages of two-step authentication are all things that help both the organization and the person. Those pieces are part of helping to secure the human, as SANS calls it. The human is the most important part of the equation because they make choices everyday that we have no control over, and we shouldn’t want to lock things down to exact our control. Empowerment with knowledge is THE target for those of us in charge of IT in organizations. Without knowledge in people’s hands, the best cyber appliances in the world won’t do us a lick of good.

Mic drop statement from @leanenterprise_

“If we had one superpower it would be to magically appear whenever a problem or new opportunity was under discussion. Our mission would be to prevent anybody from commencing a major program to solve the problem of pursue the opportunity until they do the following:

  • Define the measurable business outcome to be achieved
  • Build the smallest possible prototype capable of demonstrating measurable progress towards that outcome
  • Demonstrate that the proposed solution actually provides value to the audience it is designed for”

Buy the book – it’s well worth it!

https://www.amazon.com/Lean-Enterprise-Performance-Organizations-Innovate/dp/1449368425

 

Blast from the past – high school library as quiet study location

The district I work at is trying something different. After flagging test scores we’re looking to create spaces where quiet study is a norm. For us, the library will be that place in 2017-2018. Classes that come in to work with faculty will be there to collaborate and use flexible work space as need be. During our flexible learning periods (opposite of lunch and at the end of the day) the library will be the quiet sanctuary for learning. This is a 180 that I’ve been fighting against since 2003, but we need to try something new. When wifi is ubiquitous, each student has a device and flexible learning spaces are everywhere, the library isn’t the sole gate keeper of technology and collaboration. From my PoV the library needs to new differentiate.

The only thing I know for sure, if there is an issue the organization has to try something different. Insanity is expecting different outputs form the same old inputs. Maybe some in libraries will think I am in insane for going along with it, but we’re going to see how it goes.

#AI in the Classroom

I have no doubt that AI will be able to do great things in the classroom with the right data, tutorials and privacy configuration in place. The future is bright in my opinion. On the other hand, I read this piece from MIT Technology Review and it got me thinking of requests other school technology leader have gotten…

https://www.technologyreview.com/s/608430/growing-up-with-alexa/

…I want an Amazon Echo in my classroom…or I want Google Home.

My question is “what’s the point?” Other than to act innovative or wanting to make IT look like the bad guy with network shackles, I fail to see the reason we want something in the classroom kids and blurt out questions to and (maybe) get an answer. As the MIT piece opens with, my kids also like to ask Alexa to play Raining Tacos…but for learning. I’m not seeing it. Answers to questions are a question in Google away. The need for AI assistants in classrooms isn’t a legitimate learning need. It’s a gadget in search of a problem to fix or need to meet.

Wisdom (hopefully) and Realizing Your Passion

This guy (down and to the right) thought he had it all figured out. It was year two as an administrator and with a few grad school classes he’d be on his way to being a business manager and then a superintendent. Being a tech director was a means to an end. The end was a step up in the administrative food chain and more money. Yes, money was a motivator. A big one. I know how messed up that is now. That next nickle here or there was just a DPI License away….

Except I realized I didn’t like the other work that would be necessary. Passion for managing business office functions? Passion for understanding the 50 different accounts for Wisconsin public schools? Interest in managing insurance providers might have piqued some interest, but that was only one part of the job. Negotiating with teachers when all you can give is cost of living raises?

All these things are important duties, overseen and executed by great people. But none of these things have anything to do with what I’m actually passionate about. I’m passionate about support systems, helping people, solving complex problems and building teams that people want to be a part of. And yes, learning technologies, information technology, databases, cybersecurity…those are things I have a natural passion for. I drop everything to read up on them. I like talking at length with anybody about them. This is what I love to do. Heading into year five in my current role, this guy (to the right) now understands that.

Hopefully after four full school years I’m more than a little wiser than I once was. And hopefully my wisdom will lead me to better decisions in the months and years to come to help support my organization. One thing I’ll be doing for sure is fully embracing the Bill Belicheck “art of saying nothing”.

Happy start to the start of your 2017-2018 school year everyone!

Service – Be the Paper Valley

Appleton WI hosts my favorite downtown area in all of the state – College Ave. It’s the hub of culture and night life in the Fox Valley (I consider the Fox Valley to be from Kaukauna south to Oshkosh). Most of College Ave is bars and restaurants save for the beautiful Performing Arts Center and the locally well-know/famous to NFL franchises – Paper Valley Hotel.

This month Slate featured an article about The Paper Valley and why NFL teams choose to go their year after year. According to Google Maps, the hotel is just a hair under 30 miles away from Lambeau Field. Why, when there are closer, more posh accommodations right in Green Bay do teams keep going there?

Service.

“We’re not as sexy as those hotels,” …To get the Vikings and Lions and Bears to keep coming back, he says, he needs to provide the best customer service in the NFL. “One of the things I preach to my staff is, we don’t take anything for granted”

You can read more from Slate on the amenities, but I can tell you from experience it’s a decent hotel, but nothing special. Their service to NFL teams is what keeps them coming back – and that service was recognized by the NFL as the Most Valuable Property award in 2009.

The topic of service isn’t one that is currently catching much attention in the national Ed Tech spotlight. In my opinion softer terms are getting thrown out there that are easy to fake. Service is something tangible that impacts your organization on a cultural level – your issue is important and we’re working on it.  A new LMS, shiny new Macbooks, the initiative dujour will never touch building culture like service does.

I’m fine with not being flashy (as I type this in my storage room office), but I want to continue to be and continue to strive to be like The Paper Valley. The team I work on it told frequently that our service blows other IT service experiences out of the water. The feedback is great, but improving service is constant endeavor and the process is the reward. I often think of Wisconsin’s patron football saint Vince Lombardi when reflecting on service and continuous improvement –

We are going to relentlessly chase perfection knowing full well we will not catch it because nothing is perfect. But we are going to relentlessly chase it because in the process we will catch excellence.

Are we going to make everyone happy all the time…solve every problem that same day? Nope. But we’re going to try to.

It’s all about service

I think a lot about why I do what I do. How did I end up in technology services in the field of educations? Was it because I knew how to show teacher how to use ctl+alt+delete in 1997? Was that foretelling my career path? At the end of the day it’s all about service for me. When I was younger it was about having a big audacious vision and being an expert in all things Ed Tech. Then I grew up. Everyday I strive to build and sustain systems that support all our staff members. There is no “sorry to bother you” for me…I’m here for YOU. What metrics are the most important to me? For one finding good solutions quickly so staff can rock it with kids – be it as a teacher, a health technican or a grounds keeper. What can we do to help people excel?

If that isn’t your aim…then what’s the point?