Sunday, November 7, 2010

Innovation is in the use

Andy Rathbun's article on innovative technology in Snohomish county classrooms gets the front page treatment in today's Everett Herald. Andy highlights a number of new gadgets in use including interactive white boards, document cameras, sound systems and clickers.

I had a chance to see the the white board in use last week at the kick-off meeting for the Mukilteo school district's professional advisory committee for business and technology. As if a teacher's job isn't difficult enough, the white board wasn't working right.  But then, which of us hasn't been in that position before?

While I am really happy to see these tools making their way into the classroom, slowly breaking down barriers to technology adoption, I find it hard to consider this innovative. It feels like the early 90's adoption of information technology in business. Putting leading edge technology to use cutting paychecks was automation, not innovation.

Real innovation comes with changes to the system, to decision making, afforded by the technology. Take the use of the clicker described in the article. Automation of assessment has been going on for decades: multiple choice tests, mark sense forms, learning management systems. In a sense, the clicker is just one more step in that automation path. What's innovative about that scenario is that the teacher will adjust the instruction based upon that real-time feedback.  Similarly, we saw the Everett school district's remarkable turn around in graduations rates as a result of the innovative, real-time use of student grade and attendance data.  The collection and consolidation of data isn't innovative, but the personalized intervention based upon that data is.

I don't mean to discourage or disparage the adoption of technology as described in the article. Instead I hope we can lift up our vision of innovation in education.  Let's use the Flat Classroom Project as an example of this bigger goal.  Founded in 2006 by Vicki Davis (aka Cool Cat Teacher) and Julie Lindsay, it uses web 2.0 tools to break down the classroom walls. Students across the globe work together on learning projects. Realize, however, that the technology didn't change the learning environment, Vicki and Julie did.

The lesson education can draw from business is that information technology affords you the opportunity to change, but it does not compel you to change.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Sometimes a hyphen is just a hyphen

I had to smile as I read a recent post by Alfred Thompson on validating character input strings for name. In it, Alfred walks through a number of ways to test for valid alphabetic characters while not limiting it to only the 26 letters of our English alphabet.  Most options did not return the results he had hoped for.

You see, overly aggressive character validation was one of the reasons my wife became a programmer. Early in our marriage, Mrs. Advisory Bored used a hyphenated maiden/married last name. Most computer systems would not accept "maiden-married" as a last name. At some point she figured she couldn't do any worse than those programmers and she changed careers. 

I seriously doubt these businesses had a policy that said we don't want women with hyphenated last names as customers, but that's what they implemented.  It is important that programming students understand they aren't implementing code, they're implementing the business.  The implementation can't (properly) occur without the business context. 

And that's a lesson that is just as important as the return value from the isLetter function.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Teachers, unions and the Geo Prizm

Mrs. Advisory Bored and I both broke into the IT world as employees of Electronic Data System (EDS), a whole owned subsidiary of General Motors (GM). That honor bought us a one-way trip to the suburbs of Detroit, MI.  While there, we bought ourselves a new car, our first "new" new car.  We weren't really interested in an early 90's GM product, but that was neither the time or the place to buy Japanese.  Fortunately GM had opened a joint venture with Toyota to learn lean manufacturing techniques so we bought a Geo Prizm, Chevy's version of the Toyota Corola.  We owned the car for 17 years and logged plenty of memorable trips in the East and the most important one, moving back home to Seattle.

This joint venture was called New United Motor Manufacturing, Inc (NUMMI) and was located at the site of the old GM assembly plant in Fremont, CA.  What was so interesting about the NUMMI facility was that it was staff by former workers of the Fremont plant, generally considered to be among the worst workers in the industry producing some of GM's worst vehicles.  Re-energized and re-trained in the Toyota Production System (TPS), however, the plant lead by Toyota management started to produce a range of Toyota-designed products starting in 1984 until last year when the plant closed after GM pulled out of the partnership.  The lesson to be learned was that while the UAW did itself no favors, union workers were not the problem. It was a change in leadership, a focus on quality, a top notch design and radically re-envisioned assembly model that made the difference.

It is well worth considering this lesson as we attack "bad" teachers and their union.  When bloodletting is finally done, all you may be left with is a group of demoralized employees futilely trying to assemble a model that is ill-conceived and out-of-date, handed down to them by a bunch of bean counters more concerned with the numbers on the paper than the product on the street. If, as happened at NUMMI, we identify a new, better way of working first, the problems that need to be fixed may well fix themselves.

Just sayin'.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Abundance, the mother of purchase orders

Good friend of the Advisory Bored blog, Paul over at Last Great Road Trip, is at it again. He's been busy playing around with the technology. When Paul isn't giving some one's data center an extreme makeover, he's either roaming the trails in a Toyota FJ or blogging about roaming the trails in a Toyota FJ.

In a recent post, Paul decided to build himself a good old fashion mobile GPS command center out of inexpensive or free parts.  A second-hand laptop, some open source software and an inexpensive GPS receiver makeup his system (I'm guessing the nice vehicle mount for the laptop described in a subsequent post cost more than the rest of the system put together).

All of which reminds me that resource constraints aren't always a bad thing. Sometimes we forget that a little tinkering, some kludging, a roll of duct tape and a bit of ingenuity can lead to some pretty interesting outcomes and some really powerful learning (which is, after all, the only outcome of any real importance). More money doesn't necessarily improve learning.

Certainly you can plop 30 students down in a lab, each with a copy of "Google Maps for Dummies", but does that really make for more compelling resume entry than the experience of "building a mobile GPS command center, including configuration of the hardware, operating system, mapping software and integration with freely available online map information for under $75.00"? Do you really think the former learned more than the latter?

Remember, necessity is the mother of invention. Abundance is the mother of purchase orders.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

If it ain't broke, re-envision it

I've been reconsidering my If I had a hammer post this week because of some discussions I've been having about the redesign of our "broken" web site.  I've tried to steer folks away from terms like "broken" and "fix" when dealing with changing requirements, but the average person isn't so concerned about the semantical differences. I found myself having to be much clearer in my reasoning than I was in the blog post.

Now I don't really care to engage in pointless arguments over semantics if I don't have to, but our words do matter a great deal.  The language we use drives our thinking and, consequently, drives our behavior.  When you say something is broken, you are inherently saying that the system in question - whether a simple appliance or a large social institution - is fundamentally sound and still capable of producing the outcome you desire, if you can fix the one malfunctioning part.

Saying that a system is broken puts you into troubleshooting mode. Think about troubleshooting for a moment. If a user says "my computer won't work", what's the first thing that comes to mind?  Does it involve the electrical outlet or perhaps you want clarification on the current status.  Either way, in troubleshooting mode you immediately move to the beginning of the process and work forward asking a series of yes/no questions looking for components that aren't functioning or are not functioning to standard.  That's how we are trained.

What if, instead, that user said "I have all these new job tasks and I can't find the tools to help me get them done. This computer won't work for me."? Your attention is immediately focused toward the end of the process and the outcomes. Your questions are open-ended and probing for understanding. You are in requirements mode. Imagine the look you would get if your first response to this second question was "Is the computer plugged in?".

In a recent post, "Who's Asking", Will Richardson advises leaders in educational reform that they must some how satisfy the complaints of the school-is-broken crowd without losing sight of real need, which is a re-envisioned education system focused on 21st century outcomes.  In my mind, however, there is only so much that reformers can do until the question is rephrased from "what's wrong" to "what should we do". This is pretty much the same thing I said in this rant 2 years ago in response to a Scott McLeod post about building community backing for 21st century skills.

I think IT leadership is (still) uniquely positioned to help educational reformers, but not until we are clear in our own minds that we must first redefine the goals of education before we change the structure and funding of education. Let me recommend this post on Redesigning Education in Fast Company Design as a starting point.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Tag, you're it

This week I was investigating QR Codes and Microsoft Tags when I came across this article from EDUCAUSE . As a quick background, QR Codes and Tags are types of matrix or 2 dimensional barcodes that contain information that a reader on a smartphone (using the built in camera) can use to route users to a website, add contact information to an address book or make a phone call.

For instance, the image you see here is a Microsoft Tag with the web address of the Advisory Bored blog embedded. If you had a smartphone with the free tag reader you could point your smartphone camera at the image and it would launch the browser and navigate to the Advisory Bored blog. Now imagine if the image were on a business card, placed in a newspaper ad or printed on the side of a bus. (I was researching the idea of printing a Tag on those big white land use signs that go up whenever there is a new building development or a zoning code change.)

It was not, however, the use of QR Codes in particular that most interested me in the EDUCAUSE article; it was the cross-discipline student project highlighted on the first page.  The project has at least four major aspects.  First, there is the biology, compiling the information about the plants.  Second, the team members had to deal with technological issues like information access and user education/training. Third, there was the information management challenge to make sure the content presentation was sensitive to different technologies (phones vs PCs).  Finally, there was a myriad of logistical issues from coordinating with the docents to printing the QR Codes to staffing the guest booth.

More and more, work is characterized by this type of team project in which different people from different areas of the organization (and across organizations) must collaborate to accomplish a goal.  It is my sense, however, that educational assessment, particularly in secondary schools, is still focused on individual performance.  On more than one occasion I have heard from teachers that group projects present significant challenges for student assessment.  That's unfortunate, because those are precisely the skills the workforce of today and tomorrow need.  

An example that's a little closer to home is the Western Washington University V45 project team for the Progressive X Prize competition, a $10 million dollar challenge to build production-capable cars getting 100 MPGe.  Look down that participant list.  You've got business students, materials sciences students and vehicle design students all working toward that prize.  (The V45 was eventually eliminated, but did an outstanding job getting to the finals.)

So what's the take-away?  I'll toss out four, just to get us started:

  1. project management and collaboration skills are essential and should be fostered even at the high school level
  2. projects that cross areas of study and extend out beyond the campus are far more interesting and potentially more educational
  3. teachers will need to develop curriculum that is team-based and be prepared to address all the issues that teams present (such as the ability for teams to "fire" members who aren't participating)
  4. advisory boards need to be clear and indicate if they think a program should emphasize "team project work" or "individual project work"

Sunday, June 20, 2010

If I had a hammer

Suppose I asked you to join two pieces of wood, two 2 by 4's, three feet long.  I need you to join the boards at each end and in the middle.  I give you a hammer and you walk to the right end of the boards where you find a nail already started.  Somewhat tentatively you take several swings before finally driving the nail in.

You take a step to the left and at the mid-point of the boards you find another nail.  More confidently, you take a couple of really good swings and drive the nail home. Finally, you take another step to the left and at the left end of the board you find ..... a screw.

My question to you is a simple one. Is the hammer broken?

The obvious answer is no and most people would be smart enough to either get a screwdriver or replace the screw with a nail. A few truly creative, out-of-the-box thinkers, such as myself, would simply pound in the screw with the hammer, although I don't recommend it for finish work.  (Oh please, that revelation didn't really surprise you, did it?)

Still, there are those that must bring work to a complete halt so they may blame the task master, the hammer, the screw or the over-reaching federal government seeking to nationalize the construction industry. 

It is this question, is the hammer broken, that I come back to again and again as the battle over educational reform rages on.  For far too many people, the current educational system can't merely be a tool that successfully met the challenges of the past, but is not design to meet our new requirements.  It must be broken and someone must be to blame.  However, as Gerry Weinberg reminds us in his wonderful book The Secrets of Consulting:
The chances of solving a problem decline the closer you get to finding out who was the cause of the problem.  (Spark's Law of Problem Solution)
The challenge then, is for us interested in the education of the IT professionals of the future to wade into the debate with our required outcomes in hand.  We must continue to press for a discussion of the what and why of education, while steadfastly refusing to be drawn into the debate of how and who.  Most of all, we must resist the temptation to play the blame game.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Time for an IT apprenticeship

A recent New York Times (NYT) article, Plan B: Skip College, examines whether a vocational alternative, like apprenticeships, needs to be offered to students for whom college is not a good fit. In it, author Jacques Steinberg says
A small but influential group of economists and educators is pushing another pathway: for some students, no college at all. It’s time, they say, to develop credible alternatives for students unlikely to be successful pursuing a higher degree, or who may not be ready to do so.

Regular readers of this blog know that I favor having many different paths to the skills, knowledge and competencies required of IT professionals (see 2+2+2 = Bachelor of Applied Science), so I won't bore you with my understanding of the article.  You can read it for yourself, along with some interesting commentary here.

Instead, I want to get a sense from local IT managers if there is a place for something like an apprenticeship for IT staff and if there are openings available to those with less than a bachelors degree.  Specifically, I am focusing on corporate/government IT, not high-tech companies of the Microsoft variety.  These are positions like help desk, email administrator and programmer at banks, retailers and insurance companies.  I ask, because I know a lot of the jobs out there seem to carry educational requirements that leave many capable people out of the running. There's not much value in an apprenticeship if you won't hire the participants after they complete the program.

So I have a few question for all you IT leaders out there:
  1.  Do you have or would you be willing to add an entry level IT position in your organization whose educational requirements would be fulfilled by vocational education at the high school or community college level?  What types of position would that be (help desk, email administration, business analyst)?
  2. Are there any IT certifications in particular that you would consider as replacing education requirements in your hiring consideration?
  3. Would you be willing to be part of an apprenticeship program, some sort of public/private partnership to ensure training and work opportunities?

@advisorybored: Advisory Bored on Twitter

Well I finally did it, I officially launched the Advisory Bored Twitter feed, @advisorybored.  I've been using Twitter myself for a couple of years now and really enjoy the interaction that takes place there (your mileage may vary).  When I started the Advisory Bored blog I also snapped up an email account and Twitter account under the same - it's a branding thing. I haven't been ready to leap into the extra maintenance, but with continued enhancement to my Twitter application of choice, TweetDeck, I feel like I can branch out now.

So, if you are a Twitter user yourself, please feel free to follow @advisorybored for links and updates on blog posts.  If you're not a user, then you will find a list of my 5 most recent tweets here at the blog in the right-hand column. 

Sunday, May 2, 2010

EvCC adds more 4-year degrees

Did you catch the story about a new 4-year degree in nursing to be offered at the University Center at Everett Community College (EvCC)?  The Herald reports that the Governor signed the law that allocates $158,000 to enroll 25 students to earn a bachelor of science in nursing.  The program is offered in conjunction with the  University of Washington Bothell (UWB), which has a similar program at their campus.

This is the second new B.S. degree in as many months.  In March, Saint Martin's University announced a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering to be offered at the University Center.  That gives the University Center over 20 undergraduate and post-graduate degree programs.

Given the current budget situation in is hard to image that just two years ago we were debating the location for a proposed 4-year university campus here in Snaohomish County.  I was blogging against the idea at NoSnoU, characterizing the effort as a grab for construction dollars with little consideration for education.  In the end, neither of the two competing sites would give up and we ended with nothing - which suits me fine.  These additions to the University Center prove that we can expand the education opportunities in the county without lots of physical infrastructure.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Skeptic 101: The history of current events

Skepticality is the official podcast of Skeptic Magazine, or so they say .......

No, seriously, they really are the official podcast of Skeptic Magazine and one of a just a couple of true podcasts (not a recording of an over-the-air radio show) that I listen to regularly. Recently I've been listened to some episodes I missed last summer and came across an interview of David Cullen author of Columbine, a book that looks at what we know, or think we know, about the 1999 school shooting in Littleton, Colorado.

Co-host Swoopy opened the interview with this:

.... what we were told was a group of students possibly involved with a gang called the Trenchcoat Mafia, in retaliation for bullying and gay-bashing, had started shooting their classmates as punishment for the ridicule they had long endured. The two outsiders, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, were cast as the perfect villains who were part of the goth subculture, worshiped Hitler and listened to Marilyn Manson. They were dark, brooding kids typical of the kind who would snap and start killing those they thought deserved their wrath - jocks, African-Americans and Jews. They would reportedly ask their victims if they believed in God and shot those who professed to believe. The problem is almost none of that is true

In the interview Cullen identifies many of the myths that exist to this day, the most notable being that Columbine was a school shooting when the evidence shows their intentions were to blowup the building and kill everyone in it. Cullen also discusses the role of the media in creating the popular myth and their failure to correct it. I haven't read the book yet, but the interview was certainly a good use of an hour.

Leaving aside the specifics of this particular incident for the moment, the theme that the media needs to do a better job of covering these big incidents and correcting errors is a consistent one in the era of media self-flagellation. Granted that needs to happen, but at some point don't we need to acknowledge that this type of news coverage is error prone in the best of situations and we, the media and general public alike, must adapt our understanding or beliefs to match the evolving truth.

The answer to that last question is, of course, yes so I propose a class called Skeptic 101: The History of Current Events. Instead of analyzing the event, the class would analyze the general understanding of the event at different time perspectives. It would be like a history MRI, analyzing little slices of understanding over a sustained time period. This would give the student the opportunity to see how truth emerges (or fades) over time and its effect, if any, on popular understanding of the situation and our reaction to it.

What, you might ask, does this have to do with IT education? You may remember that in earlier post like The Great Debate and The Data Model of Dorian Gray I discussed teaching foundation skills as a preparation for later teaching career-specific skills. In the Great Debate post I said:

As more work becomes analytical in nature we need to have programs that help students develop those capabilities in general even when we aren't training them for a specific job.

A class like the History of Current Events can surface the analytical strengths needed in most IT and business jobs while not necessarily preparing students directly for any one career. For instance, a Business or Systems Analyst is required to think critically, to question what is known in an area of the business and to re-evaluate what is held to be true over and over again. While high school might be a bit early for a requirements gathering class, it isn't too early to learn foundation skills they will need when they do take a requirements gathering class.

So what do you think?

Saturday, February 27, 2010

At cross purposes: funding vs. attendance

At the same time that we are cutting education budgets, especially for post-secondary education, we are also encouraging attendance at those very same institutions, whether though worker retraining dollars or exaggerated claims of job marketability.  Our educational funding mechanism is so convoluted and disjointed that perhaps this contradiction really does make sense, but I doubt it.

In particular, I think of those students back at the community college who need or want new skills, but not necessarily a degree.  As we know, or should know, our education system is structured to encourage and reward the granting of degrees.  Education is only a means to that end, not the end in itself. 

These student I refer to, however, work in areas where degrees or certifications aren't important or who already have degrees or certifications at a higher level (community college student with a Bachelors degree).  Is there a more effective, flexible and cost effective way to help them identify and gain the education they need?

You may remember sometime back in a post called Basic Cable I floated the idea of the community college as career health club.  When you sign-up you get a counselor to help you define your goals and then establish an exercise plan to help you reach the goals.  The "club" is always open so you can drop in and use the equipment whenever you need to.  In addition, you may team up with other clubmembers to push each other to be better.  What the fitness counselor doesn't do is prepare the gym for you before each session.  She doesn't stand over you with every lift and tell you how good you're doing.  She does not declare "you are healthy", give you a piece of paper to confirm that and send you on your way, never to be seen from again.

And that, to me, seem to be the problem. We can't run more people through the system because we can't get more instructors or because the existing instructors can't handle the increased load.  Or can they?

Let me change metaphors on you for a moment.  The Theory of Constraints says the organization's ability to achieve a goal is limited by one (or a very few) constraining factors.  The only way to achieve more is to maximize the throughput through the constraint.  In education, the instructor is the constraint.  I don't mean this in a bad way, it's just that there is only so much course creation, class prep, lecturing and grading one instructor can do.  If you wanted to double or triple the students through the class you would need more instructors or more TA's or .... a different mindset. 

What if education, not degrees were the goal?  What if the content was already freely available? What if the class was not time-bound or geographic-bound? What if certification was available from an independent entity or wasn't required?  As we know, those are all true.  Class materials and tutorials on hundreds of subjects are readily available across the web for the instructor to select from.  Both vendors and independent organizations offer certifications. Podcasting and learning management systems allow teachers to break the boundaries of time and place. Freely available wiki's allow cohorts to collaborate and share the learning.  Books 24X7 and other online library resources provide access to many books that don't fair well on the library shelves (in technology where change is frequent and constant). 

Could an instructor who now is limited to teaching 30 students, instead facilitate the education of 90 students with the same effort?  I don't know, but it hard economic times it might be worth some consideration.

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Sunday, February 14, 2010

21st century computer literacy

In the last month I have attend two advisory committee meetings for career and technical education for local school districts and in both the question of computer basics classes came up.  One district had canceled their basic computer skills class, the other about to.  Somewhere along the line someone - student, administrator, parent, upstanding citizen - decided the millennials were born knowing how to use a computer (my take on that in my post Digital Naivete).  One district appears to be getting a basics class back because it is can be taken for University of Washington credit while in high school (see iSchool in the high schools). 

The point of this blog is to carry on the advisory committee discussions beyond the two-hour meeting and to gain more feedback from a broader audience.  So I'm looking for those of you out in the workforce or teaching post-secondary to share your wisdom with instructional staff on the topic of computer skills for all students (not just those interested in technical fields). 

Let me get this started with a few thoughts of my own on a standalone computer literacy class in high school.

  • It's never to late - I would agree that high school students shouldn't need a basic computer literacy class, that they should have gained those skills before they reach high school. If, however, they don't have those skills then high schools must have a remedial class, just as they do for Math or English. Otherwise the problem, and the costs, just gets passed to colleges or employers.  By the way ... let's stop debating whether digital natives know everything about computers or not.  Someone needs to establish a baseline skill set, develop an assessment and make all students take the test.  If they fail, welcome to Computers 101. I'm tired of arguing about the measurable.
  • Evolution of essential skills - As with the broad-based adoption of any technology, what you needed to know to use computers ten years ago is different than what you need to know today, and what you'll need to know ten years from now will be different still.  If a Computers 101 class is teaching config.sys files, well it is irrelevant and should be dropped.  
  • Computer drivers license - To carry the last point a step further, we want to teach the computer equivalent of Drivers Ed, not Auto Shop.  The general computer user needs to know how to responsibly use the computer (anti-virus software, cyber-bullying, file management) and how to use applications.  The don't need to know how to rebuild a transmission. 
  • Information literacy - As we move away from teaching the hardware and internals, aren't we really focusing on information literacy instead of computer literacy?  Let's use file management as an example.  We need to teach creating directories and maintaining files, but that's just the mechanics.  If you look at any hard drive, particularly a shared network drive, you will see a complete disaster.  People can create directories and copy files alright.  What they can't do is categorize information so that it is retrievable.  Categorization is an information topic, not a computer topic. 
  • Teach in context - Finally, it seems to me that those skills - responsible use, applications, information literacy - are best taught, practiced and evaluated within the context of other types of coursework, not in a standalone computer class.  In my post What's the Word I suggest ten things everyone should know about MS Word.  It's my opinion that those ten items should be taught, practiced and evaluated in a language arts class, not a technology class.  I learned to write with a pencil in an English class, not in a pencil class.
Okay guys, what are your thoughts?  What are the basic computer and information skills everyone needs?  Is high school too late for that class? Should we use a standalone class or should it be embedded throughout the curriculum? 

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Saturday, January 23, 2010

Business' case for teaching with social media

We finally got going with social media at work this year. Nothing earth-shattering mind you, but we rolled out our first Twitter feeds to update people on construction delays and city news, as well as our Facebook page. Of course no good deed goes unpunished, so adopting social media created it's own set of problems. The record management types freaked out because a public record might be created. Information technology (IT) people like me get freak out over information security and bandwidth consumption issues. Finally, management in general freaks out 'cause staff maybe watching YouTube videos instead of doing work.

One option is to restrict and monitor staff's access to social media sites. Unfortunately, that requires both time and money from the IT department, resources that could be better spent on other projects. It also keeps people away from useful tools for work, whether for information gathering, training, communicating or collaboration. YouTube, for instance, has a wealth of helpful training videos and presentations. Many companies post their training materials out there instead of on their own servers. So if we restrict access then we will need to have exceptions for business need. That requires even more IT resources. It also turns IT into the bad guy.

If we look deeper, however, we will see that the adoption of social media tools in business is about more than software. We are talking about a fairly significant change to the work environment - the types of work, our roles, our relationships to customers, peers and managers. Work is more collaborative and information intensive, but that information isn't necessarily known in advance. Further, the boss or team leader is no longer responsible for uncovering new information to share with everyone else. In addition, communication across the organization and outside the organization is far less structured and hierarchical.

What this means is that business needs individuals who can use social media tools outside the firewalls of the business without spending two hours watching videos of water skiing squirrels or posting the design specifications of the company's newest product for everyone to see. Now if we just had some sort of societal institution that could prepare young people for this new world in work, academic and civic life.

Oh, right, school.

So there you go school reformers, there's your business mandate for reform. I need employees that can work collaboratively to gather information and share knowledge, that get their job done without me detailing every step and communicate effectively with customers and the CEO. And they need to do it using social media tools all without stopping to check out the newest OK Go video.

I'm going to expand on this topic with your help in the coming months, but I'd like to leave you with a few last thoughts:
  1. Don't socialize, collaborate. For most people social media implies "fun" instead of "with people". As a result, social media is a non-starter merely because of the association with playtime. Business tool vendors position their toolsets as collaborative, not social, and school reformers should consider doing the same. Further, our discussion of collaboration shouldn't begin and end with Facebook and Twitter. We should be discussing Wetpaint, Ning, Delicious and Diigo instead.
  2. Structure is instructive. The structure of school - roles, relationships and rewards - teach us as much as the content of any given class. Ever take a class titled "Make your boss happy and you'll get a raise"? No, but you learned the lesson didn't you? It is not enough to adopt collaborative tools within the current structure. The very structure of schools must be changed. (Did you notice the title of this post was "teaching with social media", not "teaching social media".)
  3. Give 'em enough rope. Should classrooms be built without windows since students can look out and daydream instead of their math assignment? Okay, no is the obvious answer. We build classrooms with windows and discipline students with, among other things, bad grades if they don't do their work. Unfortunately, teachers, like many business executives, want to place to the burden of student/staff online misbehavior at the feet of IT. Do the student a favor, if they spend all day on Facebook, flunk them. Just leave the internet turned on for everyone else.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Mapping education news

Okay, I know it has been awhile since I last posted, like August, but there have been some family matters to attend to. 2010 is going to be different and while I put the finishing touches on a few new posts I thought I would try something different, just to see what you think.

Instead of a list of links, I thought I would map the links. Try to give a little context to where the news and interviews are being made, or perhaps where the impacts are being felt. Let me know what you think.

View Education in the News in a larger map