What is your digital grid?

As consumers of digital technology do you not get the sense that the pace of change is increasing and impacting us with little time to sit back, watch, take things in, and try to make sense of it all.  Nowadays digital devices and digital environments tend to suddenly show up almost invisible to our awareness and quickly become an integral part of our digital landscape. The consumer acting, to often, as a passive bystander and paying little attention on how this impacts our lives.

Recently I was invited to set up Google Drive and realized this was one more service that I work and live by tied to one flavor of a digital grid. We as consumers of the internet navigate within a variety of digital grids which are the framework of our digital ecosystems. A digital grid is the interface we log into with a username and password that in return provides us with tools, information and services all within the confines of one brand, organization or company.  These digital grids have become essential to our communication, collaboration, creative output, and ability to share information in our professional and personal lives. A digital ecosystem are all the connections, hardware, switches, wires, boxes and components which tie us to the services and tools these digital grids provide. Common digital grids are for example Google, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft to name a few. Some dominate our digital ecosystems more than others. This market dominance is critical to these organizations and companies managing our digital grids.  This dominance translates into power and control over large groups of users’ information which generates huge incomes and profits for these companies and organizations. The price of this convenience, seamless integration, and menu of powerful tools and services at ones fingertips is being locked into a single organization’s/companies’ digital grid.  Millions if not billions of users like you and me live in these digital grids and cannot function without them.

There is immense motivation for the organizations and companies delivering these services to make the experience more unified, seamless and a one stop shop for all our needs.  In developing these architectures as digital grids the companies and organizations are provided with limitless information, access and control of personal/professional habits, relationships and behaviors of their users. The more diversity of mediums, tools and services delivered, the more users they get, the more information they generate resulting in income and profits. As our digital lives evolve in interacting within a limited number of digital grids out of convenience, ease and habit what is the long term impact to us as individuals?

Looking at the different privacy policies (here paraphrased on this link) of cloud data storage services for individuals for Google Drive, Microsoft Skydrive and Dropbox  provides us with significant evidence of the change in ownership of personal/professional intellectual property and information. As our off line lives blend more and more with our online lives, all within a limited digital grid, organizations and companies suddenly have access to all the aspects of our lives.

For many of us the convenience of the digital grid out weighs the reality of having a third party, organizations, and/or companies access, track and own all our personal/professional online information. Unfortunately if one chooses not to work within certain digital grids ones options to interact with other users both professionally and personally becomes quite limited and in some cases even impossible.  Try to disconnect for a week, and not use  your most commonly used digital grid. What would your work week look like, what would your socializing look like, what would your personal and professional communication look like? Yes it is still possible at some level to live outside of the larger digital grids and try to use a mix of different tools unconnected to each other.  For most of us the effort, time, knowledge and logistics would require an immense amount of patience and skill to pull this off. At the end of the day the sheer convenience, seamlessness and variety of services the common digital grids provide us make opting out an impossible task for most of us. This reality has re-framed what personal and professional privacy is in our lives.

So, what digital grid do you live in?

John@https://beyonddigital.org/

No privacy, please.

We are in a world were our communication, information , search, entertainment, creation, and content are done with some form of digital device with access to the internet. This dynamic intricately tied to our personal and professional lives : privacy both online and offline is being transformed.  Some of this is within our control and some out of our control. This combination generates discomfort when people have time to sit back and reflect on this change we all are witnessing on the sidelines passively. Can we do anything about this? Do we need to?

There is nothing like the convenience to work and live with digital devices that provide you everything at your finger tips seamlessly 24/7. Google’s integration of mail, documents, sites, video, blogs, maps, online shopping, music storage etc…. is an example how the integration of a digital platform with one username and password provide users with powerful consumption and creation tools for free! Google is not alone, other examples: Apple iTunes, iCloud, and its growing selection of products via its own digital devices, Facebook and its growing menu of services and tools all available to you whenever you wish with any device that has an internet connection.

The pay-off is that the services and companies facilitating seamless connectivity and convenience 24/7 get unlimited access to all your online information. Our online information, habits and behaviors are available to them.  This is the hidden cost of using these environments, often without our specific consent or knowledge. Let us be honest, how many of us spent the time reading the information Google shared out once it changed its privacy philosophy with users of its suite of products. Does it matter? This is a matter of personal choice. Living without these services makes functioning in a digital world quite challenging.

The meaning of the word “privacy” has changed. The days of being anonymous, and having no digital footprint, are gone. We have adopted these conveniences in our eagerness to keep up with the changing world, and partly by the success of digital environment and device companies marketing. We have been convinced that we need these digital environments and devices to function in today’s world. The reality is that there are few alternatives.

What next? The dependency for 24/7 seamless connectivity is only increasing with the proliferation of digital environments and devices for communication, information gathering/sharing and content production. The algorithms digital companies are currently using to track, analyses, synthesis and control our personal online information will only get more sophisticated and intricate. Our own control of how much gets tracked and analyzed will diminish as the connectivity becomes more invisible.

The concept of privacy as we might have understood it in the past has changed. Our online lives are attached to an intricate digital trail on everything we do. This trail available to governments, companies and organizations controlling/managing our digital environments and devices. We as individuals need to re-frame what privacy means to us.

As an educator I am already witnessing some concrete evidence of students and adults coming to terms with this, as they manage their own online environments. There are students who are deleting their Facebook as they get ready to apply to Universities. They understand the timeline of events, and photos which often where started when they where in middle school are maybe not what they wish to showcase or allow folks to have access. With this a growing appreciation of having a clear division between your professional digital footprint and your personal footprint. Google (ing) your name on a regular basis, and trying to manage/control what is available to search engines by better managing your privacy settings. Developing a deeper understanding of what the different privacy controls mean, and how to best manage your online digital footprint with these controls.

We can no more expect to work in a world where privacy is something we control or have options to function under the radar. We live in a connected world, where everything we do, leaves a digital narrative. This digital narrative used, shared, and built upon by third parties often without our knowledge.

It is through an understanding of these new frameworks, tools and environments that we can to a certain level choreograph our own digital footprint. I believe that the literacy of online privacy needs to be part of our curriculum and learning for both adults and students. No privacy is the new privacy.

John@ http://beyonddigital.org

Where is the manual?

where is the manual?

When is the last time you opened up the manual from some device  you purchased, sat down and went through the pages to become familiar with your purchase? The chances are a long time ago. To be honest nowadays often items do not come with a manual at all.

This last week we had the pleasure of having Jason Ohler visit our school and work with our parents, students and faculty. One statement that stood out during the day was Jason‘s reference that a sign of intelligence is not how much knowledge you have, but one’s adaptability to learn, unlearn and relearn.

Our students often have a lovely capacity to sit down and just click around a device or software and through persistence, trial and error work things out gradually using the learn, unlearn and relearn strategy at an accelerated pace.

With the sheer volume of online videos, online FAQ, reference sights and web resource available at the click of a mouse it is still surprising to see how many adults need to filter their learn, unlearn and relearning through another person. Somehow for many in the education world, we are quick to engage with the idea that students should be independent learners, work things out on their own, and be able to breakdown complex tasks and create understanding from this process by troubleshooting independently. But then when it comes to us, we seem to loose the capacity to engage with these same attitudes. I witness daily adults confronted in having to work out a problem or go through steps to understand a process or procedure automatically looking to another adult for support.

There is no doubt that the culture of learning many of us have as a frame of reference is one of the sage on the stage, and the expectation and need for all our knowledge and learning to go through such a filter. Granted often it is easier to ask someone to find the answer for you then take the time to do it yourself.

Why?

I believe that many adults are not equipped with the tools or skills to be able to take advantage of  the rich mix of resources and mediums available via the internet 24/7 to  learn, unlearn and relearn.

The reality we face not only in our schools, but globally is there is a dramatic shift in what skills and jobs are pertinent for the new global economy. The tragedy is that for many who have worked and lived in a world where they were able to survive on one skill has disappeared. The throngs of unemployed around the world will not be finding the same jobs as many pundits keep reminding us. The only option, and the challenge both emotionally and logistically, is how does one engage with this bitter reality of being jobless, and find the capacity to engage with the learn, unlearn and relearn concept.

It is not really our students that need the mentoring with this, they have got it to a certain extent.  They have grown up in a world where there has been no manual for the devices and online environments they live with. If they are not sure they go to either Youtube, or click around till they bump into enough things to construct their understanding.

The concern is if we have a generation of adults currently who are adverse or not sure how to go about learning unlearning and relearning, mentoring our students and peers we are setting ourselves for some tough times. The world has moved on, and to sit and always expect your company, school or organization helpdesk to have the answers to everything is avoiding the reality that each one of us has to become our own helpdesk. This needs to be the non negotiable under current in our own professional learning communities.

John (beyonddigtal.org)

this carton shared by pgreensoup from Keith Ferrell

while I was waking up…

This post is dedicated in memory of Gil Scott-Heron.

Connectivity, seamless integration, multiple digital devices all connected to my habits and likes. The seamless options to integrate my blogs with my social media accounts…..all provide wonderful opportunities. They simplify many tasks and interactions I deal with on a day to day basis. At times these can get messy and I understand that many of these integrations between the digital devices I use and social media platforms I interact with are still trying to evolve. I believe the future of this convergence of digital devices and communication platforms will only get more seamless and effective, that is exciting. For users the potential is huge in leveraging  these tools and opportunities into our social and professional lives.

and now……

I am noticing something, and it seems in the last few months all this seamless integration of digital devices and social networking media is generating some caution by a few. For me the first odd event was when Facebook suddenly decided without asking me (actually they never asking me anything especially if there are changes) that it would only feature in my news feeds the friends I interact with on a regular basis and not the  friends who I just interact with rarely or periodically…. my news feed narrowed in its diversity of people I could see. Good news you can change this, and I did. The issue is who should make the decisions for us?

I also am noticing with my search results (Google/Bing/Yahoo) that they tend to be little different when I search the same topic as my wife and kids….. the search algorithms seem to learn my likes and dislikes and then provide me with information which falls into my previous search patterns and within my opinion and interest range. Diversity of opinions or information which I do not agree with seems slowly to be pushed away from me, I am reading only what I want to believe .  This seems to be a growing trend as explained in an excellent: TedTalk Eli Pariser: Beware online “filter bubbles”

The Apple Developers conference again showed how our devices, operating systems and virtual worlds are now taking on more tasks without us having to be involved, as a way to increase our efficiencies. Now you do not need to save in OS Lion, if you have iCloud there is sinking of content between different devices automatically without you being involved. Your digital devices in the Apple environment now can be independent of your desktop or laptop, giving these devices the ability to do all the necessary tasks right there and now. These are exciting changes and definitely provide the user with more seamless tasks which we do not need to be involved with. This in someways is pushed even further with the IOS5 function that if you have list or tasks to do there is a geographic locater embedded so when say you drive by a grocery store and in your IOS5 device you have a shopping list it will pop up and remind you of the list and the option of doing this now as it has located a grocery store.

The list goes on…. our technology tools and environments are being equipped with algorithms and (spiders and robots) automated tasks which are becoming more intelligent, and at a level are given more independence to make executive decisions to enhance tasks in reaction to our online behaviors and habits. This is a huge shift, and with this a whole set of philosophical questions and dilemmas arise which delve into privacy, who has ownership, who gets to decide what these tools and algorithms do, and how much independence should they have? I am reading and seeing more evidence of this change, where we are asking our technology tools and systems to think for us and help make decisions. At this stage it all seems useful, helpful and harmless. Who minds having something save everything without you having to remember. Who minds having their devices do in the background of our awareness, updates, sinking, and analysis ? At this time it is useful and a time saver….and to be honest this has been going on for a while with a variety of technology tools. An example is commercial aviation which has been relying on automatic pilot controls for a large percentage of tasks related to flying. There are definitely huge advantages, and at many levels these make the processes we rely on more efficient and seamless .

As we move forward with our digital evolution:  our tools, operating systems and devices are given greater independence to manage our lives. The question I currently struggle with is at what point do we feel comfortable giving up control and let many of these devices  have complete autonomy of certain tasks, decisions, and information we get to have access too. To what point do we let convenience and efficiency erode potentially our own independence to make decision ourselves with these digital environments. There is no doubt that for the companies behind these tools, devices and operating systems, this control and information is becoming a critical commodity to generate information databases which leverage a greater capacity to target products, habits and behaviors effectively to the user. This then generating profits for the companies behind these devices, software and operating systems.

I am like many, I love the seamless integration, the fact that more mundane tasks are being taken over, and me not having to think about them. But when is too much, and when will we suddenly wake up and realize so much has fallen over to algorithms and (spiders and robots) automated tasks that we have lost control and now are having many of our decisions and tasks dictated by others who we have little input with.

As Gil Scott Heron says so aptly ” the revolution will not be televised

John@https://beyonddigital.org

organizational shrapnel

This post is dedicated to Joshua R. and Andrew H., thank you for your conversations and mentorings…

…as with any end to a international school year there comes moments of reflection and looking back that generate ideas and new perspectives. This year has been a challenging one on many levels due to a host of odd circumstances and situations in my department and school that effected us all in the IT Department, and required the team to face up to serious challenges. We all pulled together, and hats of to the team for their outstanding capacity to deal with everything that came to us. This has had me thinking about something I like to call “organizational shrapnel” things that fly in your face unannounced from corners you would not expect things to come from. Sometimes I even refer to these as “drive by shootings” were suddenly you are confronted with a situation unexpected and most often you are not prepared to deal with, but react and deal with in the best of your own ability.

Organizational Shrapnel is a state which generates a lot of inefficiencies, frustrations, errors, in-competencies, and slowdowns in accomplishing tasks in an organization. It is the event, moment, action or process where people look around with some confusion and try to point fingers and there is no clear evidence or concrete event that you can associate to the inefficiencies, frustrations, errors, in-competencies, and slowdowns.

Why should this be an issue? I believe that organizational shrapnel and the level of it in an organization can make or break a good team, group or organization. I believe that when groups/organization engage in a task or project, for the objective to be met you need to be able to trust and know that the different players are all going to accomplish their respective tasks, and that the framework of resources supports accomplishing the task, project or action.

This process of teams collaborating and accomplishing a task together in any institution is complicated and quite complex, we all experience this and it is no surprise to most of us. I feel if organizations, and teams can better understand the causes of organizational shrapnel and address the road blocks this tends to set  the stage for a more effective and smooth collaboration of a groups within any organization.

So what are examples of organizational shrapnel? These are broad in scope, and come in all shapes and shades.

  • A team works together and defines group agreements, but a member continually does not abide by these.
  • A decision is made and agreed upon, but there is no clear implementation plan, or process for feedback and evaluation.
  • A process or procedure is implemented within the organization, some stakeholder decide to follow it, others decide to not use it and use an alternative in isolation of the rest of the organization.
  • A collaborative group works together, but all the actions and follow through are continually done by a few, and others play lip service to the work but are not participating actively and tend to block movement in the meeting setting
  • An event, or task is organized and one of the stakeholders makes an error but does not report it, or share this out so others can support in correcting this.
  • Not following through on things
  • Looking at a situation within one perspective, and expecting others to follow through

…and many more, generally the pattern is that organizational shrapnel are small things which fall through, not completed tasks/steps, ignored agreements, tasks done inadequately, or where there is a lack motivation, drive by the players involved in completing the collaboration or task.

The frustration if organizational shrapnel becomes a habit and people accommodate to it, it can quickly become part of the organization’s culture and norms. The reality is all organization have a level of this, and the challenge is what environments and understandings can be shared to decrease it’s presence in any group or organization.

Organization, groups and teams who have a high capacity to understand and concretely deal with their organizational shrapnel create an environment where there is a greater motivation by the stakeholders of the organization which results in a sharp increase in creative flow generating innovation in moving forward.

John@beyonddigital.org

the conversation we are not having maybe…

at the airport in Frankfurt on my way to Rome for a days work with Marymount International School and their faculty on 1 to 1 Laptops. Time to reflect in the waiting lounge about the ECIS IT Conference in Frankfurt last week, a wonderful reminder that it is not about IT but learning. The conference days a good blend of keynotes: Jamie McKenzie, David Warlick and Scott Klosoky, workshops, and informal sidebar conversations. The event and conversations have spiked some good reflections for me. It has been very hectic and intense year, and the last week were at times my tech support team was down to one person from the original 5 due to illness, injury and recuperation from hospital. It is maybe when you are down to one technician that suddenly you are reminded again how critical the systems, and services we set up, monitor, maintain and develop as an IT Department have become to the day functioning of an international school. Information Technology and its associated services that support the day to day functioning of most international schools, have now become mandatory.  Then this sudden shift to an unwritten expectation of 24/7 services and connectivity. Many International Schools have so many of their day to day tasks/work flows tied to IT systems that the non stop functioning becomes a non-negotiable. This topic came back in many of the conversations I had with fellow IT Directors from the ECIS region attending the conference. One thing which is becoming quite clear to me as I have these conversations IT Directors and IT Staff are being stretched more and more as new systems become a non negotiable critical part of the school day. With this a growing cultural expectation of the users and school of  access: anywhere, anytime. There is a developing cost to this for IT Directors and their teams. One is that you start juggling more and more tasks, your team which in many schools tend to be quite small, has to be able to deal with a wider variety of complex issues and integrated systems. A common case especially here in European International Schools, as systems get added, new programs or hardware, no extra people are brought in. So the task lists gets longer, the job description for many of the Technical Support team changes by the minute and somehow extra resources in humans and money tend to be elusive. This too often not by fault but by necessity were International Schools work with small budgets and have often little flexibility to add people. There is a danger that can develop that you start having over stretched IT Departments providing 24/7 services but no organizational structure to support this growth, and then all your eggs are in one basket, hoping the IT Department small as it maybe can sustain and support the pressures and demands long term. Is there a breaking point? Is it sustainable?

I have no clear answer but what I am realizing and in conversations with others, IT Directors are starting to feel the stretch and strain. This comes in a mix of pressures that I personally feel has a cost to the health and well being of the person. As new systems get added, expectations become greater, connectivity and seamless availability of services 24/7 all add up to an intense mix of tasks and workload to sustain. This then becomes the responsibility of the IT Teams and the task of IT Director’s leadership to manage and facilitate these pressures. The IT Director who has to provide guidance, rally the tech. support folks (often under paid and under valued), creatively deliver solutions with tight budgets, and juggle the emotions, personalities and tensions often associated with the change process of integrating or introducing of new systems. procedures or hardware to different stakeholders.

The solution? Each international school has such unique dynamics that I do not think there is one simple solution and answer. The start is maybe having honest and candid conversations with the schools leadership teams and clearly articulating the expectations of services and up keep of systems that support the school day. Thinking strategically what support systems can be developed to ensure if new systems, hardware and 24/7 connectivity and delivery of services are expected how this plays out with your current set up and staffing. Looking for creative solutions to shift services to the cloud, or put more responsibility on the users to independently manage the devices and services they use to support their work day. This of course then becomes an important conversations regarding what professional development support will be provided, expectations of skills and managing a significant cultural expectation of who is responsible for what.

At some point the IT Team and IT Director need to also unplug and regroup, which for many of us is a challenge and near to impossible. Even when we are off campus or away the systems have to be managed, maintained and serviced, and we need to be connected to the various stakeholder groups we support, there is this growing expectation.

…as with any challenge engaging in a conversation, defining the expectations explicitly to all, and being willing to think beyond our own walls and perspectives can be the first step. This then tied to a long term strategic understanding that however essential and critical our schools services are, connected to this is a group of people trying to juggle a more and more complex set of dynamics and expectations.  We need to engage in an awareness that over stretching folks can have a negative impact on sustaining your own systems and anywhere anytime connectivity. I believe there is a potential for a better balance for all.

Let us have this conversation…………..

unlearning learning

Years ago I had the opportunity to work with Jamie McKenzie and we were chatting about change, and how in institutions change agents within the organization often have the most challenging time. He said “There are no prophets in your own backyard.” to this day, as I myself have been involved in facilitating and leading change in schools and organizations, this phrase has stuck to my mind, and often I have found solace with these words. A couple weeks ago our school hosted John Davitt, writer, teacher, software developer and mentor. He spent a few days working with my IT Team, our faculty, students, parents and administrators.  John at many levels surprised our community, even though a software designer, information technology advocate, and gadget user, his focus, interactions, conversations, and emphasis over the three days was always on learning. For many who expected someone so closely involved with information technology and software development to be very IT focused.  His pace, lens, perspectives and conversations he facilitated continually revolved on what environments do organizations need to leverage with adults and students that makes learning both engaging and meaningful. With any change this process is critical, and to focus on the tool or mediums is an error. John provided us with the opportunity to re-frame our own evolving understanding of integrating information technology in schools. We  had been trying as an IT Team to engage our faculty to this understanding but we are not sure folks are always hearing us. It is only about learning! John from the outside of our backyard provided the push and shift for others to understand this.  Engaging with this understanding is what will provide the meaningful change for any organization. The tools and mediums will come and go, but learning is timeless and in whatever context or environment you live in, without this key “verb=learning” nothing changes or evolves.

I think we as schools and organizations are at different levels coming to terms with these dynamics and structures that facilitate engaging and meaningful learning. I am not convinced we have yet come to terms with, as schools and organizations,  the unlearning required  before we can relearn or learn new concepts and essential understandings that our digital world and economy are now requiring us to engage with.

I know for myself I am much better at learning something new, than trying to unlearn something, and then have to from scratch re-learn or learn. Today with the volatility of our world and the realities that surround us all, many of the learning we have adopted and been carefully groomed with will not sustain us long term. For a significant change to occur and allow us to re-frame our understandings of learning, we will be more successful if we equip our schools and organizations with environments which support unlearning in a compassionate and meaningful way.

Okay I am not saying everything I have learned is useless, no!  I believe when trying to re-learn or learn, to often my previous learning pigeon holes me into a mindset that prevents me from engaging with fresh, uncluttered perspectives and an open mind to all learning possibilities.

The days ahead of us, will be different, very different, whatever we may hope and believe. For schools and organizations to ensure that we are equipped to engage with these challenges, we need to develop a clear set of structures and pedagogy that provide us with meaningful and engaging environments to unlearn….. because through this process all of us will be better learners.

John@beyonddigital.org

shadows..

Three years ago my department’s Network Manager was killed in a tragic car accident with his child. The event was traumatic for his family, friends, everyone in my department and the larger school community. He had worked at the school for 10 years, and had created a robust network, and daily supported many innovations and changes I was facilitating. He was an integral part of the day and  a true leader with the long term IT vision. Life’s bitter realities can be overwhelming and a challenge to synthesis. The coldness of life in many ways.  The event marked me as an IT Director and friend profoundly, and to this day still is a reminder of the frailty of life.

From this event, I came to realize how vulnerable my department was (at that time 1 Network Manager, 1 technician, myself and a Database/Web Coordinator for 500+ machines). The structure we had was normal:  everyone had specific jobs, responsibilities, tasks and goals closely tied to their role and title. We collaborated as a team, used each other expertise to fill in the gaps, and had point people with our team who managed specific tasks associated with their title. It worked well, and we had a close team spirit and dynamic which complemented each member in a positive way.

Suddenly we had this huge hole in our knowledge and team expertise which vanished over night. We had been working on writing all procedures and systems down, and actually had done a pretty good job of having a paper trail. This to be honest was okay but when suddenly a key player with 10 years of institutional knowledge disappears you suddenly come to realize the huge gaps. The bitter reality is however tragic his death was, combined with the impact and emotion associated with the event to my team, I came to realize (a cold realization and something that took time to digest) that the school, systems, servers and support needed to continue. We as a school had transitioned quite quickly to 24/7 services, and expectations by all. Peoples memories are short.

By coincidence and good fortune, my technician who had worked closely with the Network Manager had gained a fair amount of expertise, and with the manual of procedures and systems,  under immense stress, we were able to continue to run things. We got additional support with the help of an outside contractor to get things to a place where we could run, maintain and troubleshoot things. My technician was promoted to being a Network Manager. We then hired two other technicians (we now had almost 650 + machines) and thanking the stars and good karma where able to continue and then engage in new developments and innovations.

A story that ends well….. unfortunately not, today this Network Manager is in the hospital after an appendix operation which developed huge complications and is at this stage indefinitely out. Positive vibrations to him daily.

We as a team again feel stressed and somewhat bewildered at our luck.  Again I am faced with a abnormal situation (par for the course maybe in someways being a school administrator and  IT Director)  and now even more of an expectation of 24/7 services, a one to one laptop program Grade 6-12, a 2-1 one laptop cart program in Grades PreK-5 plus a million, web based services, plus the other things which just eat up all your days in an IT Department.

As a result of my first experience I had started developing a full program with my two technicians, database/web coordinator and Network Manager of shadowing. The goal was and is for the team to have enough expertise with each others roles to be able to stand in for the other in case of an emergency. This process has taken a good solid year. The first step was to clearly define each person’s current role, revisit the job descriptions (how often do we read these 🙂 ) and then pair the team up to shadow each other. My Network Manager was and will continue to be shadowed by one of our technicians, my Database/Web coordinator is being shadowed by the other technician. We have been tying this new responsibility to each person’s job descriptions, and then having weekly meetings in tandem with each persons smart goals. It has been a slow process with plenty of challenges but has generated new conversations about team collaboration at  a level we had not had time to do.

Some of the players

  • Control: the challenge has been for the folks with the key knowledge to share, open up and be able to present information in a way the shadow understands it and can actually act upon it.
  • Ego: As the gate keeper of all knowledge for your role, how to give this up, and still feel the key player when you are sharing your skills to another. This closely tied to culture, expectations and comfort.
  • Time: finding a downtime when two people can actually sit down, isolate themselves and learn together.
  • Learning: Understanding and supporting different learning styles.
  • Support: Critical to this dynamic is the PD, time, motivation and guidance that is provided.
  • Is it working: The evaluation and assessment of the process by all involved
  • What is important: Defining the essentials pieces of knowledge, and then ensuring they are worked on in the shadowing relationship.

It is a work in progress, somewhat on hold temporarily, but now more than ever a realization how important it is to have a sustainable shadowing system within your department to ensure continuity of services. One thing that has come to the forefront is that having a clear paper trail in a format and venue which allows someone to step in is not enough . The reality is that today our international schools expect and work with a 24/7 connectivity and if these services are down, then at some levels international schools do not function. A reality of the working world.

to be continued……….

….can we do all

this is a cross post from the following blog I manage and facilitate  http://ecisitcommittee.edublogs.org/
…in the last week there has been an enormous amount of traffic regarding the effects related to multitasking and student learning. The issue and variables associated with this topic are huge, and pending who you read it seems to go from the world is about to end attitude to hey it is no problem and live with it. I think the reality is that with the new technologies and internet access we all have access to we are somewhere in the middle in our understanding of the impact of multitasking on our own lives. I believe our students are not learning better or worse but differently. This as a result of the 24/7 access each user has at their finger tips and in tandem the incredible power to be content creators. Naturally with so many choices come many decision to be made and this I think is where we as educators can support, facilitate and mentor many of our students in being mindful of the implications, impact and importance of taking a balanced approach to the idea of multitasking and interacting with so many different powerful tools. Here I share three of the articles which come with different perspective on the topic:

In tandem with this topic comes the bigger issue, the fact that there needs to be significant paradigm shift in education. For educators, parents and students to be able to engage with the rapidly changing world some significant changes are due. I think collectively we understand this but how do we move forward is the bigger challenge. No better person to share this topic than Sir Ken Robinson with the follow wonderful animation and potential conversation for us all.

at workshop… for me, them or us

Part of my responsibility as an IT Director is to engage our parent community in a dialogue and information sharing on many of the IT- Media programs we facilitate here at school.  The workshops which I do a few times a year, in different formats: half day weekend sessions, evening sessions, and this year starting to do 2 hours morning sessions. This semester the focus has been Privacy and you, and Information Overload. These sessions provide a bridge to our own Digital Citizenship program. I feel strongly that if our parents are given the venue to share, discuss and become web 2.0 tool aware including online privacy one creates a shift in the relationship they start having with their own children’s online lifestyle at home. It becomes a leveling of the playing field where they can actually engage with their kids not as experts or novices but more equal partners.

Why? I think many parents come into these sessions with often limited information, misconceptions or fragmented understanding on how much you can control your online life, the positive power of these tools, and creative potential for ones digital life style. The combination of dialogue, group work and hands on components provide a platform for them to feel more engaged, self-confident and have a better understanding how things work.

For the school, it suddenly provides us with collaborators who can revisit the conversations we have in our own Digital Citizenship classes with the kids. This weaving a collaborative loop in the learning experience of all involved.

is it not about learning unlearning and relearning?