Consumerization in K-12 Education

Consumerization in K-12 Education

In April, I presented two sessions on Google Apps for Ed at the Southern Oregon Ed Tech Summit. It was a great event, co-hosted by Southern Oregon University and Southern Oregon Education Service District, with support from Oregon Virtual School District.

I had a free hour between Esther Wojcicki’s thoughtful keynote and my first session, so I sat in on The Journey to Google Apps, led by Andrew Krug & Daniel Defreez. The session was a technical one, focused on domain management and configuration options. BUT, the beginning of the story held the spark for this post. And for much of my work this past year and the next.

The beginning of the story…. Southern Oregon University needed a new email system. Their existing hardware and software were due for a major refresh. After the IT department narrowed the options to three solid choices, the university turned this decision out for a campus-wide vote. Over 90% of students and faculty chose GMail. Ummmm…. Plurality.Simple majority.Super majority.Almost unanimous. (By the way, the also-rans were not unworthy competitors or choices.)

SOU tech engineersAndrew Krug & Daniel Defreez

I tweeted this little tidbit and picked up a new term, consumerization. (Thanks, @thesethings.) Before that day, I had heard the word, but I hadn’t put it in context of what I see around me. During the next week, it reverberated through my brain, louder each day. I’ll synopsize the Wikipedia article on consumerization — consumer tech has eclipsed work tech; hold on tight. The phrase was first coined a decade ago, but I think we hit a tipping point in education sometime during the past two years with the confluence of shrinking budgets and the suddenly-ubiquitous iPad.

In April, in another of those freaky convergences, I was transitioning to a new role as the CIO for the High Desert Education Service District in Central Oregon. We provide technology support for the Bend LaPine, Crook County, Redmond, and Sisters school districts. Consumerization is impacting our schools, teaching, and learning. Every day. I see it as an opportunity, but it’s a challenging one from an IT perspective.

When this year’s high school seniors were in kindergarten, there were a measly 50 million users on the Internet. By the time they graduated this spring, over 1.3 billion users were surfing and creating content. Computers evolved quickly during that decade too, changing from the dusty boat anchors in the corner of offices and classrooms to mobile communication tools that fit in a backpack or even a pocket.

We have teachers, students, and parents who are carrying more tech on their persons than we can provide in our schools with our beleaguered education budgets. And we have students who have been using this tech for learning and communication for years before they walk through our door. This changes how we look at K-12 technology at an enterprise level. The IT department is no longer the sole arbiter of useful technology in the classroom. (I would argue that even the idea of an EdTech department is approaching its expiration date, but that’s an argument for another post. This one’s too long already.)

If we are no longer the chiefs, what are we? My hope is that we become the sherpas for our teachers and students in their choices. We still provide infrastructure and backbone (wireless networks in every building is top priority). We still try as hard as we can to keep our students safe on the Internet without stifling the amazing learning opportunities that it presents. We build apps, explore and manage tools in the cloud, and connect our users to the resources they need in the friendliest, easiest way possible.

In short, it’s going to be a messy decade, but one where we get to help address equality of access for our most vulnerable students; policy and safety for all our students; and tech skill boosts for our teachers. The IT department doesn’t become less important or less needed. In fact, I believe it’s the opposite. We make the trek to the summit possible.

Over 90% of Southern Oregon students and faculty chose a tool they were already using in their personal lives. Over 90%. Get those 90% using a tool that they’re already happy with and start tackling more exciting things on the to-do list.

The Pencil

The Pencil

pencils

Okay. I know I write a lot about weird convergences in my life and it’s probably getting boring. BUT, this week….

1) I was with our state K-12 CIOs. We began setting a project scope and timeline for the transition to a new student information system. (See earlier whine about need for new SIS.)

2) I was with an amazing group of people talking about hybrid models for education. Specifically, we talked about using face-to-face and online courses for richer curriculum options in schools.

3) I listened to the Planet Money: Cappuccino Reconsidered podcast on the drive between these meetings.

I read I, Pencil and Free to Choose for my high school senior seminar class (they factor in the Planet Money episode). They’ve informed the way I think ever since (thanks, Mr. Goodwin), although Free to Choose did not turn me into a Republican overnight as it did some of my classmates. Mr. Friedman’s fundamental message made me realize the beauty of a well-balanced system, one which wouldn’t come about at the hands of Republicans or Democrats, or even Libertarians, but a blending of all of the above. The intrinsic checks and balances of multi-party friction are as important as the ones spelled out in our Constitution.

The reason all this matters to me this week is because of our current information needs in our state education system. For schools and teachers, we need usable data systems for the business offices and bus barns and the classrooms. For students, we need better access to information. We need all this in a time of severe budget constraints.

It’s tempting to try to do both by coming together across the state, pooling our resources, and buying one-size-fits-all products for these needs. It’s really tempting. For many reasons. But I drove and listened to the Planet Money guys. And heard the reminder about central planning v. the free market. The pencil story and the cappuccino story have a simple beauty.

All those years ago in high school, I felt the best system was a blend of many. Natural checks and balances. I think I’m leaning that same way in my thoughts about our current project needs. Small pieces that can be snapped together or apart, like Lego blocks, may allow us to achieve greater success than an all-in system.

More thinking ahead….

Gone Google

Gone Google

students at google summit
Sherwood Students at the Google Summit, October 2010

Oregon has Gone Google. We were the first state to provide a state-level agreement for Google Apps for Education. I’m part of the training team that travels the state, providing Google Apps training and support to Oregon districts and teachers. We do things like the Google Summit.

Training is available in-person and via WebEx. We’ll also be presenting sessions at most of the Northwest edtech conferences and events in 2010-2011. Visit the Oregon Apps training site for more info. You can also email to book a training.

Information Implications

Information Implications

Google Summit shirts and magazine Google Android Newsweek Cover I was in Sherwood, Oregon this week for our Google Summit. I pulled onto our lane and stopped by the mailbox after the long drive home. I was excited to see this Newsweek in the stack of mail. The best part of the cover article was this question:
So what happens when most of the residents of planet Earth carry a device that gives them instant access to pretty much all of the world’s information? The implications–for politics, for education, for global economics–are dizzying.
Part of my job is looking at those implications and finding the opportunities for school districts, teachers, and students in our state. My current projects are dizzying. In the best way.
Project Management Workshop

Project Management Workshop

Project Management Workshop

At the High Desert Education Service District, we manage multiple, simultaneous projects. They range from special and early childhood education to technology and building projects. Keeping track of promises, timelines, outcomes, and deliverables is overwhelming.

This half-day workshop, scheduled for March 17, provides an introduction to project management, guidelines for each of the stages in a project lifecycle, templates, and resources.

Great intro for newbies and refesher course for experienced managers. Project materials available on site.