The Top 5 Challenges CIOs Will Face In 2013

This is the time of year when every blogger puts out a "Top 5", or if they are prolific... a "Top 10" list of the top issues / challenges / opportunities / predictions / opinions that we bloggers feel is important.

This is my list.

These are the things that I believe should be at the top of my "Pay Attention" list, and I'm bold enough to say that they should be on yours too.

But before I get to it, let me go on the record with my problem with lists of this type.


Are you Engaging or Enraging your Users?

I am still amazed at the number of CIOs and Technology leaders I run into today that think their job has something to do with technology.

It doesn't.  At least not in this century.

As a technology leader, you should spend much less time on actual technology (that's why you hire and empower smart people) and spend much more time on how your user's interact with the technology "solutions" your team provides.

When I first started in this industry (a loooooonnng tine ago), computers started arriving in offices as the realm of computing was liberated from the air conditioned room in the basement and distributed to various desktops across the enterprise.

Quickly following the arrival of computers on desktops was the following cartoon... faxed between frustrated users of the new technology.  (There was no email in those days...)

Press Any Key to Continue...

I don't know who created this cartoon, but it certainly summed up the frustration we were introducing into people's lives.


The ‘P’ List for IT Project Management…

Occasionally my brain starts a thought that just keeps going.

Like it did when I started jotting down some ideas around project management for software projects.

Each of these thoughts are key considerations in each and every IT project.

So here they are in no particular order of importance.

See if I've left any out.  I'd be delighted to hear from you in the comments section.


iPads in the Classroom, An Unintended Wrinkle

If you ask whether we are a PC based school, or a Mac based school, my answer is always the same.  We are a "best tool for the job" school.

Image: FastCompany.co
We love the interoperability of shared OneNote folders for our students and teachers (yet another post), the use of SharePoint to create individualized Connected Learning Sites for each student with access by parents / teachers / other students automatically controlled by Active Directory.  We also love the rich ecosystem of apps that are only available on the Apple side of the table.

We've been piloting creating an environment in the classroom where pen based tablet PC's and Apple iPads can co-exist simultaneously and without unnecessary complexity for the teacher.

In short, teachers had to be able to connect to the projector and display both the PC and iPad without changing inputs on the projector, and switch back and forth between the devices as easy as falling off a log.

We experimented with using AppleTV, but found that aside from switching the video input on the projector (consuming valuable teaching time) those wonderful little remotes (about the size of a stick of gum) would easily be misplaced.  Setting up the school's wireless network to support AppleTVs in adjoining rooms securely was achievable but somewhat complex.  If it was set up on a shared open network, you just knew it was a matter of time before some student (usually an adolescent male) would discover that you could display certain kinds of images in class...

iPad screen on a PC via AirServer

We were delighted to find a product that solved all of these issues.  Enter AirServer (www.airserver.com) This utility is both highly affordable (less than $10 compared to the $100 / classroom for AppleTV) and simple to use.  It effectively turns the PC or Mac connected to your projector into an AirPlay compatible receiver, and you can easily mirror both the desktop as well as play media.  Our initial findings are incredibly positive, with one exception, which is the real reason for this post.

As it turns out, AirServer mirrors everything that happens on the iPad screen... including the keystrokes you enter whenever you are asked for a password.  Add the iPad's design (as it is with most touchscreens) and the characters of you password are displayed for the whole class to see.

When you consider that many people (and you know who you are) use a derivative of the same password for almost every online account, this can become a problem.

I'm not sure about you, but this is a real issue for me.  Am I the only one who sees a security hole here?

I'm surprised at how little I've heard of this problem in all I've read about iPads in the classroom.  A Google search will bring some articles to light, but I was surprised more people haven't caught on as yet.

So... while this won't stop us from bringing the iPads into the classroom, it certainly changes how we guide our teachers in their use.

By all means... go out and get AirServer... it's a great product.  This issue is Apple's to fix.  

Have you implemented iPads in your school or business yet?  Is this a potential issue for you?

I'd love to hear from you.


How to Bring Lasting Change to Education Through Technology

This posting is slightly different from the others.

I was reviewing a document I had written in 2009, and thought this portion would be very appropriate to share with you, my readers.

This could be construed as proof that I don't always insert bad humour into my writing... that I can be serious at times.

More importantly, it succinctly covers my observations over the years about bringing lasting change into the educational sector.


What is "Invisible" Technology?

With the wonders of site analytics, I was led to a site for educational librarians that referenced my blog, TurningTechInvisible in a comment. While I enjoyed the discussion, there was a misunderstanding (at least I felt there was) around the using the word "invisible" to describe technology. Many of the commenters preferred "transparent", and even the author of the post felt that "invisible" meant "absent".  I felt I should weigh in for clarification around the concept of "transparent" vs. "Invisible".

Image: Mojo40.com
I derived the name of the blog from reading Jim Collins' book Good To Great.  All of the companies profiled leveraged technology heavily, but NONE of them would attribute technology as the key factor for their success.

When you combine this thought with the changing face of the world we work in, the tried and true business models for the delivery of technology are being impacted by forces that will make IT departments obsolete, or cause them to adapt to be of value.

So I began a quest to "get technology out of the way", to make it "invisible like oxygen", critical for life, ubiquitous, but not thought about much until it isn't there...

That meant creating an IT organization where technology ceased to become the perceived gatekeeper, killer of great ideas, and controller of all, to a group of people who understood the needs of the organization and could actually provide high value for the organization to do things better, or do new things they couldn't do before.  I took the focus off technology, making it invisible, and put the focus on the delivery of strategic services.

There is no sense fighting for the old model.

The people that approve budgets won't fund what they think is unnecessary.

They will fund things of value (as defined by the organization, not IT).  So as an IT leader, I needed to frame the value of my organization in terms of value they would understand.

Has it worked?  I've been able to secure operational budget increases in the double digits over the last 3 years.

My sense is that libraries are being impacted by many of the same forces as IT.  I've blogged about it in a recent post "Why School Libraries are More Important than ever".

So, my message to school librarians? You have a lot of work ahead of you, but your success is dependant on your ability to adapt.  Just like IT.

Thanks for hearing me out.


The Question You Need to Answer as an IT Leader

I have a theory.  

OK, I have many theories but today’s theory has to do with a medical mystery. 

I believe there is a very small blood vessel that runs through the ring finger of every male’s left hand.  This is a critical vessel, since it supplies blood to the part of the brain that allows a male to discern whether or not the clothing he is wearing actually matches.

Once you constrain this blood vessel by installing a wedding band, the male’s ability to dress himself completely vanishes, creating the situation where he is confronted on the way out the door with THE question… “You’re not going out like that, ARE YOU???

This is what is known as a rhetorical question. There is only one right answer, which is determined by the asker of the question, not the recipient.  The wrong answer means you are doomed.

Right now, all the married men are nodding in familiar recollection.

But I’m not here to discuss how you dress.


Can You Trust the Reviews?

Please Note: This is an edit of a previous posting I did when RIM Playbooks and Google Chromebooks first came out.  With the advent of Windows 8, Windows Surface and now Windows Phone 8, I thought it was timely to revisit this topic.

I drink my coffee black.  I didn't always take it this way. When I started, I was like many who would enjoy a Timmee's DD (This is a Canadian colloquialism, it has nothing to do with cup size), but then I dropped the sugar.  Then the cream.

When I first decided to drop the cream, (to preserve my lean, lithe, pantherlike figure) I hated the stuff in the cup.  This was not coffee, it was more like a mixture of motor oil and camel spit.  (Not that I was speaking from experience, but I do have a vivid imagination.)

It took weeks for me to start appreciating the rich aromatic flavour of a good cup of coffee.  It got to the point where coffee with cream tasted bland, and there is no way I would ever go back to cream in my coffee.

So what does this have to do with hardware and software reviews?


Churn Happens

If you've ever managed people, you are familiar with the little tap on your office door, followed by "Got a minute?"

Even if you have an open door policy and this person is in your office regularly, you've come to recognize the slightly hesitant tone in their voice, the awkward, uncomfortable silence after they settle into the chair.

You know what's coming next.

"I've accepted a job offer at another company."

Your inside voice says "Sh*t!!" because this individual is one of your better performers and it's a busy time in the office.  Your outside voice says "That's interesting! Tell me about it!"

I remember once reading that 20% of your team is either in the first year of their employment with you, or the last year of their employment with you.  You know which ones are in their first year.  It's not so easy to predict those employees in their last year.

Employee turnover, or churn, is inevitable for a number of reasons.

I'm not talking about the people who leave because you un-hire them, or those that quit because the work environment is toxic, but those employees that outgrow their position, and you can't provide the next step of challenge.

In small teams, advancing would mean waiting till someone died before a position came open.

So they start to look elsewhere.

Not because they want to.

Because they have to if they don't want to stay in the same position, at the same top of classification pay rate for the next several years.


The Secret to Creating a Strong Password

Are you on LinkedIn?

Are you worried about the recent hack?

Should you be?


And when you are done worrying about your  account being hacked, then get ready for an even scarier thought.

Consider this quote from Tom's Hardware blog:
"Last year, a major security breach at RockYou.com resulted in the release of 32 million passwords. With such a large data set available, security firm Imperva Application Defense Center (ADC) analyzed and found that, when given the chance, most users will choose a simplistic password."


Things You Learn From Those You Love

Gilda Radner was a favourite on Saturday Night Live some years back before her life was tragically ended by cancer.  Before she passed on, she wrote a book called It's Always Something.

While I haven't read the book, there is a story in it that has circulated, and I was recently reminded of it again.  As such, I thought I'd share it with you along with the musing that came to me.

Here's the excerpt.  (Dibby was Gilda’s housekeeper):


10 Critical Survival Skills for Today's IT Leader

I'm cheating today.

This isn't a new post, but the links to the posts in a recent series I did about the 10 critical competencies that today's IT leaders need to adapt, or risk becoming organizational road kill...

Image from Man vs. Wild TV Show

The good news? You don't have to eat bugs like in Man vs. Wild.

The bad news? You are likely going to have to change the way you do things.

I would encourage you to read the posts, then let me know what you would add to the list.  This is the essence of an upcoming presentation I'm preparing and would dearly love your feedback.


Beating the Odds for Average CIO Tenure

I'm fast approaching my third anniversary in my job.

Should I be looking for a career change?

If I want to hold to the average tenure for IT leaders (CIOs and senior directors), then I have approximately 13 months to get myself settled in a new organization.

I've been wondering about this lately.

I'm not considering leaving my current position, but I wonder why there seems to be a trend for the CIO to constantly be the "new guy (or gal)" on the team.

According to Gartner Research in this Computerworld article, the median tenure for the CIO is 4.1 years.  Which is actually up from a few years previous.  There is a lot of evidence available to show this is a very real trend, but rather than bore you with proving it, let's think for a bit about why it happens.


The Secret to Getting Support for Your Projects

Photo: K.Pashuk

This took me a long time to learn.

Hopefully this will help you learn it quicker than I did.

Perhaps an object lesson will speed it up even more.

Go outside and find a very small rock.

Something gnat sized.

Now remove one of your shoes and insert the tiny rock into your shoe, and put the shoe back on your foot.

That's it.

Now wait a while.


10 Simple Rules for Success in the IT Department

In 2003, I put together a brand new team to build the infrastructure for a brand new medical school in Northern Ontario.

It was a heady, exciting time.  We were in a full tilt run creative mode for two years.

There wasn't any time for the extraneous.

No time for things that waste time like creating long policy manuals that nobody read.

No time to be derailed by silly things that would detract from our mission.

So I came up with a list of 10 Simple Rules that covered most every situation I've ever encountered in IT.


Read on...


Why Your School Needs a Sandbox

Image: MS Office Imagebank
Check out the desks of your IT department.

I'll bet there are more gadgets per square inch than Best Buy, and likely more screens than your local movie theater.

Why all this technology?

The "official" reason is that we are doing research, and have to know how to support all of these new upcoming devices and operating systems.  The "real" reason is that we like gadgets, but don't tell anyone I told you or I'll lose my membership in the IT nerd club.

Once we are no longer enamored by the BSO (Bright Shiny Object), it finds its way into a cupboard or desk drawer never to see the light of day again.

And we go on to the next gadget.

Do you think I'm making this up?

This may not be true in 100% of IT departments, but my experience bears me out.  If you want to know about the latest in gadgets, someone in IT will likely have played with it, if not be able to pull one out of their pocket.

Do you see something wrong with this?


Back to Class... for me.

Image: MS Office Imagebank
Sometimes I wonder if I have something against the concept of any free time in my life.

It's not that I don't enjoy down time, but given a chance, I'll keep my calendar full.

And I've done it again.

If you've read this blog for long, you will know that I am as equally passionate about the leadership required for delivering effective IT as I am for the process of delivery.

You also know that I strongly believe that if you are going to lead others, the more you know about yourself as a leader (and follower) enhances your ability to lead others.

With that in mind, I've signed up for a seven week course in Leading for Results presented by Willow Creek Association's Leadership Institute for Transformation (LIFT)


No New Tech in Our School!

What? Wait? What did you say?

"No New Tech in Our School!"?

I thought this blog was about technology (among other things)?

It is.

And it isn't.

Let me explain in my usual roundabout way.


How to make a bad decision.

It started with a humour book (or humor book for those who don't spell correctly).

I've recently discovered A.J.Jacobs' new book - The Guinea Pig Diaries - My Life as an Experiment. In the book, the author performs some absolutely inane experiments on himself, and then writes about it.

Let me provide an excerpt from Amazon's description:
"In the Guinea Pig Diaries, Jacobs goes undercover as a beautiful woman. He outsources everything in his life to India, from answering his emails to arguing with his wife. He spends two months saying whatever is on his mind. He lives like George Washington. Plus several other life-changing experiments—one of which involves public nudity."
Now tell me honestly you aren't intrigued.

This man had me laughing out loud several times - until near the end of the book - where he got my brain spinning around the concept of cognitive biases.

According to Wikipedia, (the website we don't allow our students to reference):
"A cognitive bias describes a replicable pattern in perceptual distortion, inaccurate judgment, illogical interpretation, or what is broadly called irrationality. They are the result of distortions in the human mind that always lead to the same pattern of poor judgment, often triggered by a particular situation."
I then scanned the long list of biases in the article and realized that I've applied a few of them over the years. I've even written about one of them in my post: We are Our Own Worst Enemy.

It became very apparent that every leader should be aware that these biases can (and likely do) affect their decision making. Being forewarned is forearmed, and as such let me present a few of your new enemies.


Homogeneous is Good for Milk, Bad for Schools

We want to be the best.

Who doesn't?

If we just wanted to be good, my organization doesn't need a strategic IT leader, it could get by with a manager.

Someone who delivers IT services at the lowest possible cost.

Nothing new, nothing exciting, nothing differentiating.



Easily managed.

(Sound like much of IT delivered now, doesn't it?)

And one of the key tools of Safe IT leadership, is the concept of standardization, or homogeneity.

Homogeneity is the state of conformity. Milk from various sources is mixed together to become homogeneous so that every sip will taste consistent.

Now before you jump down to the comment section and furiously type what's going through your mind right now, I'm not against standards... but the concept of universal application of technology to the lowest common denominator so that everyone gets the same level of service, or everyone has the same equipment.

This works well with milk because everyone who consumes milk has pretty much the same requirement from the stuff.  Not so with technology.


My Latest, Favourite Learning Technology

Image via: denablizzard.brinkster.net
Something happened recently at our school that thrilled me to no end.

We introduced some new technology into the classroom that supercharged the energy in the room, got the kids up out of their seats, and had them excited about the lesson - which happened to be economics.

I don't know about you, but when I was in high school, an economics lesson wasn't exactly where I'd go for excitement.  I would put it right up along licking the paint off a house in terms of the wow factor.

So what exactly was the new technology? And what does a picture of a toddler drawing on the wall have to do with this post?

Read on, dear reader to find out.


Renting a Motorhome, and Other Bad Vacation Ideas

When you think of a family vacation in a motor home, what comes to mind?

Joyous cruising with happy children playing board games, with lots of leg room and a fully stocked fridge close at hand?

That's the image we had envisioned when we rented a motor home a few years back to take our family camping (yes I know... a motor home isn't exactly roughing it) in Near-Northern Ontario, about 5 hours north of Toronto, Ontario Canada. (Can you tell I'm getting more International readers?)

Image: WeDiscoverCanada.ca - Who we SHOULD
have consulted before renting.
We rented a big one, since our older kids were joining us, paid the deposit and waited for the big day. We were told we could pick up the beast at 9 in the morning.

Here's a very important bit of advice...  If you are going to rent a motor home, do it from a large reputable firm, or one that was recommended to you by someone you trust.  The company we rented from did not fit into either category.

When we showed up to get our vehicle, it wasn't there.

The owner's son had given it to a group of his friends to take to Daytona.

That is Daytona. As in races. And week-long parties. And kegs of beer.

The friends had promised to have it back in time.

I suppose drinking all that beer made them bad at keeping promises.

They were late.

They pulled in at around 1 pm.

If this group of young gentlemen had been a group of grannies, we could have likely topped up the tank, got in and driven off in a spic and span coach.

Instead, what drove up could only be described as a portable frat house that had just been to Daytona for a week.

Faced with the prospect of losing our holiday, or waiting till they cleaned up the unit enough for us to take it, we opted for the latter. This holiday was important to us.  I sent my wife on ahead in the car, and my sons and I decided to wait.

Ninety minutes later, it was mostly done, with one small issue.

These monster motor homes have very large tanks that hold "grey water" until you can get the vehicle to a dumping station.  For those of you who missed my post Grandma's House, Hockey and Sh*t Disturbers, "grey water" is what is produced when you flush the toilet.

Given the volume of beer consumed on the Daytona trip, the toilets had been flushed. A lot.

The grey water tanks were full and it would take at least an hour to get them drained.

We could take the unit as is, and they would give us a discount for our troubles.

Given that we had already chewed through most of the first day of our holiday, we elected to take this option.

What this meant is that we started our vacation inheriting a motor home tired and abused, shined up but still dirty, and full of someone else's sh*t.

Much like the situation new leaders can find themselves in when they move into a new organization.


You Don't Whack a Gnat with a Bat!

Every summer, the air vents in our office do something particularly strange...

They act as a superhighway for hoards of extremely tiny flies, which make up for their diminutive size by stretching the boundaries of annoying to a whole new level.

MUCH bigger than life Gnat Image: Wikipedia
They are gnats, and I found a picture of one on Wikipedia in order to see what one really looked like.  In reality, they are much like small specks that suddenly appear in your peripheral vision screaming "I'm about to fly up your nose!!"

I don't know about you, but I have trouble ignoring a kamikaze bug, no matter how small.

Dealing with these flying vermin typically involves one of two methods... the one handed scrunch (it works better if you are a trained Ninja), or the two handed clap of death. (if you don't kill them, at least they're now deaf).  To an observer on the other side of the room, either of these methods make you look like someone who has lost their collective marbles... waving your hands wildly in the air and clapping at nothing.

If there are enough gnats, then one can be tempted to use something more lethal than bare hands... like a baseball bat.  I would personally not recommend it.  Not only would the gnats get off undamaged (unlike the furniture in your office), the person watching from across the room would likely call the authorities.

A baseball bat you see, is an overly complex and highly inefficient solution to the problem.

Much like much of the technology solutions IT departments tend to implement.


Work / Life Balance - and other Fallacies

There is much information available today on work / life balance.  I've tried for years to achieve it, and came to the conclusion that sitting in the middle of this continuum is a grand exercise in futility.

The problem for me is that there are so many more facets who I am and what I do than what I do at my work and what I do when I'm not at work.

So being the introvert who over-processes most every conundrum that comes my way, I've come up with a model for a balanced life that has worked for me for a number of years.

I got the idea from a fun, but very unreliable automobile.

Years ago, I acquired an Austin Mini (not the new sexy ones made by BMW, but the original Mr. Bean variety).  The car was affordable, but came with a particular temperament that required me to be under the hood (or bonnet) on a regular basis.

Not my Mini, but you get the idea...
It was a very simple car, and so my marginal mechanical skills were sufficient to keep it going. It was also the most poorly designed car from the point of view that the distributor (the part of the engine that decided which spark plug would fire when) worked best when dry and sheltered from the elements.  The engineers must not have been thinking well that day since this bit of the engine was positioned pointing out to the front, right where all the rain would come through the radiator grill.

It was a mystery to me why a car would be designed this way, especially when it came from a country where it rained more than it didn't.  This design of the engine ensured that when it was raining, the engine misfired terribly, and sometimes I would limp home running on two of the four cylinders.

When the distributor was dry and all the cylinders were firing, the little engine ran as smooth as silk. Which gets me to the point of this post.


Feeding your inner geekness. You are welcome.

Occasionally, my geekness escapes.  I'm normally good at containing it, but when I see something like the interactive web site below I just can't help it.

What if you could put everything (well a lot of things) in the universe next to each other to see the relative size of things... from Quantum foam (the smallest) to the measurable Universe (the largest)?

Carey and Michael Huang have figured out an elegant way to do so.

Here's the YouTube video showing their creation in action:


Here's a link to the full interactive version:

Visit Carey and Michael's site www.htwins.net for more of these wonderful tools.

Here's to your inner geek!


Blowing Up the IT Department.

U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Aaron Peterson.
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

It's not everyday you get the opportunity to blow up your organization.  Metaphorically anyway.

At an offsite strategy meeting recently, I was given such an opportunity.

The opportunity didn't come out of the blue.  It was a long time in the making.

But everyone in the room knew it had to happen.

We'd spent the better part of the year imagining great and wondrous things that we wanted to do.

We set some lofty objectives.

We knew the things that needed to happen in order for us to accomplish them.

But one thing was very clear.

IT needed to change.

And I wasn't upset in the least... in fact, I was thrilled.


Gramma's House, Hockey and Sh*t Disturbers

When I was a kid, i loved visiting my Grandma, up to a point.

My grandmother fit every stereotypical thing you could say about Grammas. There was lots of love, us kids were the most important thing in the world, there was a ton of food, and she had lived in her house for ever.

Now in those days, the idea of modernizing houses (especially in rural areas) didn't mean a 70" LCD with satellite.  It meant indoor plumbing... as in toilets.  My grandmother's house was of the vintage where things like electricity, running water, and toilets weren't available as options when it was built.

Which meant for a number of visits, when nature called, it called you out to the little house in the backyard, best known for being cold, dark, and odorous... just the kind of place where Shelob, the giant spider from Lord of the Rings would hide out waiting for prey, or at least a million or so of her smaller (but just as deadly) relations.

To my imaginative over active 8 year old mind, this meant that I would do ANYTHING (or in this case refrain from doing anything) that would require me to visit Shelob's house of horrors.

You can imagine my relief when my grandmother's house finally got modernized.

Perhaps your grandmother lived in a town or a city (or you are too young to share this childhood trauma), but you suffered the same trepidation when you went to the cottage or camping.  To those of us in the survivors of childhood outhouse trauma support group I say "God Bless indoor plumbing!"

Which gets me to my next point.


Canadian schools behind in online learning. Should we care?

I'm a news junkie.

When the news is about technology enabled education, I take notice.

Last week, the Globe and Mail published an article entitled "Canadian schools falling behind in online learning, report says".  It described the loss of leadership in online learning, web enabled learning and distance education.

Kate Hammer's article laid out a lot of facts, but it had a significant gap... To me, it seemed to describe the delivery of education using technology as a separate and distinct process from the classroom delivered experience.

I just had to comment.

I suggest you read the article (link is here), then read the comment I submitted (which earned 15 likes and 4 replies).

Some people disagreed with me, but that's fine with me. I don't claim to have the right opinion, but I certainly have an opinion, and love the dialog.

Building the Perfect Computer for Today's Student.

It's that time again.

We get to buy several hundred computers for our school.

At our school we are in the enviable position of having a pen-based tablet computer for every student and teacher.  It's been like this for 12 years.

Image: MS Office Imagebank
The students use the computers to get their assignments, do their assignments, and submit their assignments.

They work them harder than any business person I've ever met. When one manufacturer told us they simulate extreme use by opening and closing the lid 30 times a day, we laughed.

That typically happens by noon for our students.

The machines starts at 7:00 am when the student checks their messages for the day, and is shoved into their backpack several times, and generally is shut off after homework (or Facebook if we are being honest) after 10:00 pm.

In cowboy terminology "They's rode hard, and put away wet!".

Ours are leased on a two year cycle.  Even with accidental breakage warranty, on-site warranty repair, and a cupboard full of loaners, the computers are OLD at the end of the two years.
Extreme Damage

For most of them, they are like the ax that has been in your family for five generations... it's only had 2 new heads and 5 new handles (but it's the same ax).

The point is... when you implement a 1:1 computer program in a school, and if you expect them to actually use them, then these things will break.

After all, even with the rigorous use, it is still kids using them.  Kids can be, well, a bit goofy - particularly 14 year old boys.

We've seen computers kicked by horses, computers that have been retrieved from the bottom of a pool, computers that have had all the keys removed (purposely), computers with strange liquids and food stuff inside, computers used as baseball bats, and in the case of the picture above, a computer that argued with an SUV, and lost.  The bag was left in the driveway.  Why you ask?  Before you get too judgmental, remember how your brain was working in your teenage years.

If you put computers in your classroom, you need to make the commitment to keeping them running. One of the most important things you can do is get the student back to class as quickly as possible when their computer breaks.  In our model, no computer = inability to participate in class or do homework.


What's on my Bookshelf? (Part 1)

All readers are not leaders, but all effective leaders are readers.

If you are in a position of leadership, you should have a bookshelf.  It shows you are open to new ideas, to learning, and to input from others.

Your bookshelf says a lot about who you are... and want to be.

So... I thought I'd take you on a tour of my bookshelf... one snapshot at a time.

Once I'm done with the physical books (which I am still a rabid consumer of), I'll post a screen shot of my eBook libraries.

Here goes with picture #1...


Don't Confuse BYOT and iTextbooks with Student Engagement

Some days I get up, look in the mirror and say "You sir, are a closet Luddite!"

Image: Frame Breaking 1812 Wikimedia Commons
It's not that I don't like progress, (as some mistakenly think Luddites do... for the actual explanation of Luddite, go to my previous post - Beware! Lest you turn into a new Luddite!".)

What I'm having issues with is the propensity of press that describe BYOT (Bring Your Own Technology) as THE solution to technology assisted education.  What better way to offer choice? Get technology in the classroom? (And if we are honest) Offload the technology costs to the parents of our students?

Schools without technology see this as a way to get technology into the classroom, and we all  (I'm doing air quotes) "know" that technology in the hands of the student means an engaged student. Right?

On a related note, Apple Computer just made a "breakthrough" announcement for the education sector.  They are getting textbooks out of the 16th Century metaphor (Bound Books) and making them more interactive, more "engaging" and more affordable... (as long as you have an iPad to read them on).

Now both of these concepts delight me... I'm the world's biggest proponent of how technology can be leveraged to do things never dreamed possible... that with educational technology properly implemented, teachers can squeeze more into a 45 minute class than they ever could before, or what student or school board hasn't winced at the price we pay currently for textbooks... but at the same time I can't help but feel we are sending the wrong message when we promote BYOT,  or now... iTextbooks.


How to avoid becoming IT road kill.

I had the delightful experience today of being interviewed for an upcoming article in CIO Canada magazine.  The topic of the interview was about hiring and recruiting for IT, including the skills I was looking for, the expectations of today's hires vs. 5 years ago, and most interestingly what a new employee could do in their first year that would make me excited.

I can't give away my full response here, but there is one area in my response that has been rolling around in my ponderbox since getting off the phone.  (You DO have a ponderbox, don't you?  It's the place in your mind where things roll around until you come up with an answer, or are distracted by something more perplexing.)

The question dealt with the changing career path of IT employees.

I'm not sure the interviewer expected the answer I gave him.


I fell off the planet... and survived.

The holidays have come and gone.

While I had a thoroughly enjoyable time eating, visiting family, eating, skiing, hosting family, eating, playing games, finally fixing all the little things around the house that have been loose, burnt out, broken or just plain annoying, eating, hiking, visiting friends... and did I mention food (there were 2 turkey dinners)?

Image: MS Office Imagebank
The one thing that didn't happen, despite all my best intentions, is to get the time to add much to this blog.

It's like I fell off the blogosphere, and was banished from the Twitterverse.

Did anything interesting happen while I was gone?

I'm back in the office now, and the frenetic pace we all love has started up again, and surprisingly, so is the flow of ideas that gave muse to all my other postings.

For me, the writing is an instrument that allows me to organize my world.  I'm really beginning to see that now.

Blogging is part of my survival in the fast pace of "getting much done".