Sunday, January 27, 2008

Links and Resources: January 27th, 2008

  • What not to do with PowerPoint - Electrical engineer turned stand-up comedian Don McMillian will you help your students avoid major PowerPoint errors in this short, hilarious video clip.
  • AACU 2008 Business Leader Survey - Association of American Colleges and Universities surveyed business leaders and found, among other things, that projects and internships were a better way to assess learning than multiple choice tests (well, duh). The web site Inside Higher Ed offers additional commentary here.
  • Is there an IT skills shortage? - The January 12th edition of InformationWeek featured a debate between believers and the skeptics. CIO Insight weighed in on the believers side. I am on the side of the believers, if only because I believe there is going to be a skills shortage in all fields as baby boomer retirements start rising.
  • Computer knowledge undervalued in UK - Microsoft seems concerned that a poll of 500 UK business managers put IT skills #7 in a list of top business skills. I'm not so sure that IT skills deserves to be any higher, the first six are pretty important.
  • CSTA Podcasts - The Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) is an organization of K-12 computer science and computing instructors sponsored by the Association of Computing Machinery (ACM). They just released a collection of podcast where leaders, students and practitioners talk about their passions in IT.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Blogging <> Browsing

Initially I didn't care much for blogs. It struck me just one more person with an opinion. I've had a change of heart over the last 18 months and it's because I came to realize that blogs are not just another type of web page. Blogs are an extended conversation - a conversation between the reader and the author, between authors of different blogs and between readers. In this post (that's what a blog entry is called) I'd like to share with you why I changed my think and how I think you can get the most of your blog experience (assuming you aren't already an experienced blogger, in which case you are free to leave).

Let's start, however, with a short video 3 minute video called Blogs in Plain English from the Common Craft Show. Click on the big "play" button in the middle of the image below and, assuming your school doesn't block everything useful on the web, you'll see a quick explanation of blogs in the browser window.

So, like I said, I had a change of heart about blogs. In the summer of 2006 my wife Eva was teaching a week-long class in Web2.0 tools for teachers at Bellevue CC. One night she brought home a book called Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and Other Powerful Web Tools for the Classroom by Will Richardson. She plopped it down in front of me and said "I need to review this by tomorrow, when can you start reading". (Nearly 30 years ago I typed a couple of her term papers for her and I've been paying for it ever since.)

Working through the examples in the book forced me to blog right. I read Will's blog and then followed the links in his blog roll to other related blogs that he reads. I set up a RSS feed reader account so I received notice when new content was available and added several of the most interesting blogs to the feed reader. And while I did not immediately start posting comments to any of the blogs, I did start discussing them with friends and family. Today my feed reader has about 30 news feeds, half that I read regularly and a quarter that I am "trying out". Often I read my blog on my internet-enabled cellphone while I'm killing time. And now I have my own blog and I am introducing you to blogging.

It was a pretty big change in a relatively short time, but I am finding that if you don't fully embrace the new tools of the web and cellphone then you won't really be able to assess their usefulness to you. So if you are ready, I'd like you to try getting into blogging, at least for a month or so. Here's what I'd like you to try:

  1. Comment on a blog. At the bottom of this post you will see my name, the time I posted this entry and the number of comments. Click that link and leave me a comment. Tell me what you thought of the video clip or the color scheme or your previous experiences in blogging. Generally you want to follow a blog for awhile before you start commenting, so this will give you a safe experience for posting a comment. However, your comment will be read by everyone, so don't me about that troublesome rash or give me your home phone number.
  2. Share a blog. Once you're done with your comment, go back to the same area of the post and you will see a little envelope icon. Click it and you can email a link to a friend or co-worker. Add a little comment so they know what you are doing or send it to yourself for practice.
  3. Visit sites in my blog roll. My blog roll is a list of blogs I read, enjoy and respect. It's in the white section of my blog on the right-hand side under my bio. Navigate to a couple of the blogs on my list and then try linking to some on that author's blog roll. Don't forget to read some of the comments too. I would recommend 2 Cents Worth and Dangerously Irrelevant for those thinking about education at more general level. U Tech Tips and Cool Cat Teacher are written by folks in the classroom every day. Marketing and business instructors might want to try Micro Persuasion. Fellow board members in the business world might find Kirkland-based or the Long Tail interesting. If you like the newest toys try Engadget and if you wonder how those cool maps are made try Google Maps Mania. If none of those sound interest you can go to Technorati and search for your favorite topic. You might be surprised how many blog posts there are about chindogu.
  4. Use a RSS Feed Reader. Okay, this one you don't have to do right away, but a RSS feed reader reader improves the experience because you don't have to remember to return to each site and you don't have to figure out what's new. I use Bloglines, but many people like Google Reader. You don't need a gmail email account to use Google Reader, but if you do have gmail you might find it the easier to setup. Liz Davis has created three videos, or screencasts, on using Google Reader which you can find at her professional development YouTube playlist. Once you have the reader setup, come back to Advisory Bored and at least two other blogs to your reader (for now).
That's it - time for you to start reading. I'm going to start posting regularly, weekly I hope, so if you don't have time for item #4 then just navigate back to the Advisory Bored every so often until you have time to work with the RSS feed reader. Please post a comment if you have a question.

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Thursday, January 17, 2008

XP or Vista: Teach the transition

If you are teaching IT, particularly at a community college where course content needs to be aligned with business, you should be adding Vista training to your programs now because corporate America isn't embracing Vista at this very moment (article 1, article 2, article 3, article 4).

Oh, you heard me right. I'm suggesting you need to add training for a product that isn't being widely used and which many are actively resisting. Let me explain.

The primary reason to teach Vista is that while corporate IT did not want to jump in with both feet upon initial release, they will eventually upgrade to Vista. The planning for Vista migrations will start in earnest in 2008 with actual implementations running through 2009 and into 2010. So organizations will need Vista-savvy staff in the very near future to handle the assessment and planning phases of the project.

Read that last sentence again. Corporate IT needs people who are familiar with Vista and can help them survive the conversion. Simply put, you should be teaching the transition. That would included methods, tools, project management and analysis (finally a tangible reason for general CIS students to take systems analysis).

I manage application development, so I'm not an expert in desktop management (please jump in with comments if you work the desktop), but it is my experience that it would be extremely valuable to have staff that could, among other things:

  • prepare an organizational readiness assessment to determine if and when in-house and vendor applications; hardware and peripherals; and the user community are ready for Vista.
  • describe and use new Vista features that might offer a real benefit to the organization (BitLocker, widgets or Windows Defender) so that the whole conversion isn't done solely out of fear of "falling behind".
  • use tools that simplify the assessment, testing and implementation process. These would include, but are not limited to, the application capability toolkit (ACT), Virtual PC and SMS/Operations Center.
  • create a business case for either moving or waiting, weighing organizational needs against the costs of migrating (both time and money for the migration and the opportunity cost of projects not done because of the migration).
I will also suggest that these classes might target working professionals who see their company's Vista migration as a great professional development opportunity for themselves. These young professionals may not need a degree, but a couple of classes or a certificate might be a nice fit. Consider a lab class to provide them the chance to get hands on with the tools in a safe, non-production setting (something hard to come by in many small and medium sized businesses).

Let me close by going back to the beginning. If you want to align your educational programs to my business needs, then transitions are the name of the game. In addition to XP/Vista, we are dealing with SQL Server 2000 to 2005, Office 2003 to 2007; SharePoint Portal Services to MOSS and SMS to Operations Center. Those institutions that are ahead of the curve - prepared with programs as the need emerges - will be able to deliver a valuable educational experience for their students.

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