Monday, December 30, 2013

My New Year Resolutions

The tradition when facing the New Year is to reflect on that will help take you to the next step, and to consider the things you'd like to get done. The New Year Resolution is really just a marker in time; there's no reason you must make resolutions at the start of a calendar, but after having reflected on my previous year, now is a good time for me to evaluate the things I'd like to improve next year:

1. Write more often
When I first started this blog in 2008, I used it as a new way to communicate and keep everyone informed, following a realignment in the Office of Information Technology when my organization suddenly became much larger. I posted occasional announcements and kudos, and a few encouraging notes on leadership development. Over time, I shifted the focus of my blog to leadership and vision in IT and higher ed, and posted more regularly, about once a week. But the more I write, the better I get at writing. I'd like to expand on that, and try writing new posts at least three times a week. That's an ambitious goal, but do-able. I may eventually work my way to every day, but for now I'll aim for new posts every Monday, Wednesday, Friday.
2. Exercise my Do
Like many of us who work in IT, I got my start by doing some "hands on" work with technology. Some of this was learned in a professional setting, some skills were picked up on the job, and others were self-taught. I sometimes miss that part of IT, and I just need to recognize that while I need to balance Lead-Manage-Do at work, it's okay to exercise my Do on my own time. I do a lot of work in open source software, and that's where I expext to apply most of my Do time. It's a good outlet, and I find it lets me focus more on Lead and Manage when I'm in the office.
 3. Graduate
As you may know, I am currently in a M.S. program in Scientific & Technical Communication. My capstone project is "The Usability of Open Source Software" (follow me at Open Source Software & Usability). This program has been a wonderful experience. To be sure, it's sometimes been difficult to balance classwork and home life with my full-time responsibilities as IT Director, but I have learned a lot from it and thoroughly enjoyed many of my classes. I will graduate in May, 2014. Wish me luck!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Enjoy your work-life balance

Sure, we work in a support organization where we often remain available to respond "24/7." But when not "on call," we need to be able to switch out of "work" mode when we go home or we risk burning out. It's important to have work-life balance.

As we head into the holiday season, take an honest look at your work-life balance. Find ways to "unplug" when you are at home (and not on call) to enjoy the other half of your life. If you are like me, you'll become more focused when you return to work, and more relaxed when at home.

Monday, December 16, 2013

2013 Top 10 - bonus

I sometimes like to find leadership lessons in unusual places. Looking for leadership lessons through the lens of unexpected sources can be interesting and insightful. This year, I shared a few lessons that carry great leadership lessons, or viewed technology from an original perspective.

Leadership lessons from zombies (January 28)
Zombies are almost a staple in Halloween lore, and now a popular Internet meme. And oddly, that leads me to a few leadership lessons from zombies. I sometimes like to look at things from different viewpoints to see what we can learn about leadership. Zombies provide an excellent lens for leading teams and building momentum behind your vision.
The King's Toaster, part 2 (February 4)
You may remember my post from a while back, about the King's Toaster. I related a funny story that made the rounds on an early Internet discussion board in the 1990s, about a powerful king and his two advisors. The king asked the advisors how they would add a computer to a toaster. That may be a silly story, and we all laughed 20 years ago. But I point you to two "breakfast food cookers" that you can find today in stores.
Leadership lessons in building relationships (March 11)
An important part of leadership is building your relationship network. Relationships are currency—you sometimes need to use your relationships to make deals, smooth over conflicts, and generally just get things done. Do not overlook this part of your leadership development. And My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic is all about how to make friends and build relationships.
Leadership lessons from Land of the Lost (April 1)
Maybe you noticed that I posted the article on April 1.
Leadership lessons from a Navy SEAL (May 17)
Brent Gleeson is the co-founder and CMO at Internet Marketing Inc, and a Navy SEAL combat veteran. Gleeson wrote in Inc about leadership lessons gleaned from his SEAL training. From the article, Gleeson's four leadership values.

Monday, December 9, 2013

2013 Top 10 - part 2

The continuation of my "top ten" list of favorite posts from this year:

Faculty use technology when they need it (July 22)
Technology is fairly new to the workforce, and that includes faculty. Remember, the PC was only introduced to office desktops in the 1980s (unseen mainframes in server rooms don't count). If people enter the workforce in their 20s and retire in their 60s, that's a 40-year work generation. So computers have only been part of the workplace for less than a work generation. There are still a lot of people out there who remember doing their work without technology. For faculty, their job is teaching and for that they have relied on a chalkboard (or whiteboard) for pretty much their entire careers, going back to their years as an undergrad. Even Powerpoint was a stretch for most faculty to learn, but Powerpoint isn't much more than a "captured" version of their whiteboard talk, so many faculty eventually warmed to Powerpoint as a means of delivering lectures.
Active learning classrooms (August 19)
In short, Active Learning Classrooms (also Technology-Enhanced Active Learning Classrooms, or Flipped Classrooms) changes how students and faculty interact in the classroom. In an Active Learning Classroom ("ALC") work previously done in the classroom is now done outside the classroom, and activities traditionally done outside the classroom now occur in the ALC. Students learn in a more engaged model on their own, typically through recorded lecture or interactive media, then return to the ALC to interact with a cohort of other students to exercise what they have learned. Through ALCs, student performance is often improved, students are more engaged, and students have direct access to their instructors. It's a topic I returned to later, in discussing the post-lecture classroom.
The future of technology (September 2)
Can you predict the future? Even Jedi Master Yoda could not, claiming it was "Difficult to see. Always in motion is the future." But in shaping our own future, we can imagine what promise the future might hold, then work to achieve it. In technology, we are the drivers of future progression. In campus technology, we are the ones who help shape what is to come. Our job as campus technology stewards, therefore, is to find the new technology that can best benefit our campus, and work to make it happen.
What's your focus? (September 9)
We only have so much time in a given week. How you divide your time is up to you. But where should you provide focus? Think of your available time as a "pie," and how you divide your time as "slices" of the pie. That's your time for the week. You can't make the pie any bigger, unless you want to work through the weekend. How do you spend this available time? Start by considering the types of duties you perform each day: lead-manage-do. In October, I also shared an example of my lead-manage-do journey and a similar reminder on Relative Importance.
Tweets from the future (September 16)
At Morris, we designed a mobile webapp that answers the question "It's after dinner, what can I do?" We focused exclusively on current on-campus students, and looked for only the information that would interest them. Instead of separating events into "categories," we utilized a coherent "timeline" view starting now and looking forward into the immediate future. Students visiting m.morris.umn.edu effectively see "tweets from the future" about upcoming events and activities: weather, events, arts, sports, and news.

Monday, December 2, 2013

2013 Top 10 - part 1

As the year draws to a close, I like to look back and reflect on my favorite posts of 2013. This year, it was pretty hard to narrow down to just my favorite ten posts. I've covered a range of topics this year, from MOOCs to new learning modes, and lead-manage-do to what's coming up next in technology. Here is a selection of my favorite posts of 2013.

Learn something (January 14)
I generally encourage everyone to learn something, no matter where they are.  It's helpful to occasionally take a step back and look at your career highlights. We refer to this as a leadership journey. To start, a leadership journey should be distilled to just those events that hold the greatest meaning. These moments can be either "negative" or "positive". You may find that your leadership journey changes as you gain new perspectives throughout your career and life experiences. And that's okay.
MOOCs as a disruptive innovation (March 18)
This week's post is co-authored by Rex Wheeler II, my partner in the Office of Information Technology at the Twin Cities campus. For years, higher education seemed immune to upheaval. While individual topic areas changed over time, such as the introduction of Computer Science as a new science in the liberal arts, higher education has always been based on an instructor with students in a classroom. But as the saying goes, change is the only constant. This proves true even in today's higher education with the introduction of electronic learning (e-learning) and massive open online courses (MOOCs).
How technology changes entertainment (April 8)
Technology changes all the time, and those changes are driven by us. However, it's interesting to consider how technology changes us, how technology changes our perceptions of culture, of art, and of entertainment. It's not just about technology will change the platforms artists (of all types) use to create, produce, publish and distribute their work—but how technology might even replace the artist him/herself. I suppose it's only a matter of time before someone at a music label gets the bright idea to combine data analytics of what people are buying, CGI avatars, and vocaloids to create a completely synthetic pop star, sometimes called an idoru.
Going behind IT's back (April 15)
It's a symptom of the consumerization of technology, where faculty and staff bring technology into the campus on their own terms. Sometimes they work with IT on the new technology, and that's great when they do. At other times, they try to hide it from IT, and that's not good. We need to face up to personal devices entering the campus network; it's naive to assume this will be a passing fad. IT departments need to embrace BYOD. We need to stop saying "no" to customers, and find ways to say "let me help you."
The future of the helpdesk (May 31)
In the face of "BYOD" or "Bring your own devices," helpdesks need to transform to remain relevant. The helpdesk is the most visible technology support function. Students, faculty, and staff look to the helpdesk for all kinds of technology support. The helpdesk needs to be continuously available to everyone on campus in order to be most effective. I will add that a helpdesk that offers 24x7 support would add huge benefits to higher ed. Most institutions' helpdesks operate in "office hours," or 8:00-5:00. That's fine if you are supporting on-campus staff and faculty, but it's not a great support model for students who often stay up to late hours while working on homework and projects.

I'll post the second half of the list next week.