When it becomes about the process and not the events

In the not to distant past I was all about attending conferences. I was all about being on professional association boards. To me at that time it was all about being seen, it was all about getting name recognition around my state in ed tech. Then I started noticing something. There were a lot of folks who had done that for 20ish years and don’t have a darn thing to show for it in their districts. No major achievements to speak of. Not depth of knowledge to bring to a discussion on the state of ed tech leadership. Just lines, buzz words and saying hi to several hundred people you don’t really know.

In the words of Frank Constanza in “The Strike” (of the Festivus episode), “There had to be another way!”

There is. Good, deep work with your team in your district. I realize now I was using my addiction to conferences and boards as an escape from my day to day struggles as a leader, specifically some of the day to day struggles I was having with staff under my supervision…I thought, enough of this rigmarole, I want to go pretend I’m a budding thought leader for 2.5 days.

Part of the change has been bringing in people who are great team members. Now I’m enjoying the daily process of providing good service and an environment that allows for innovation to happen daily.

Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with conferences and boards. Those are needful pieces to help move people’s learning from where it is, to where it needs to be. It’s necessary infrastructure. My point of view on it now is, everything in moderation. I was way too into it and it was a coping mechanism. I’m glad I’ve left that behind. The real work is at home in your school. The real prizes are in making it work for teachers and students.

I’m very happy I’m enjoying the process again.

#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.