At Work

Thoughts about things at work—education, technology, data, security, usability, and more.

Storytelling for Innovation at High Desert ESD | Day Three

 Photo credit:  Mark Zuckerberg , by  TechCrunch , a Creative Commons image on Flickr.

Photo credit: Mark Zuckerberg, by TechCrunch, a Creative Commons image on Flickr.

We started a new innovation series in this new year. It's 18 Days to Storytelling for Innovation, a program on theAvanoo platform. (Thanks to Anna Higgins, our Director of Innovation, for leading us.) We watch a short video each day and reflect on it individually and as a group. I'm going to chronicle my individual reflections here.

Day Three—The Social Network

In today's video, we were challenged to draft an innovation narrative that answers two key questions:

  1. Who is the customer for the innovation?
  2. What problem does it solve?

The narrator used an early scene in the move The Social Network as the example. In the scene Mark Zuckerberg is getting annoyed by his friend Dustin. Dustin is interested in a girl and is peppering Mark with questions. It is the moment Mark realizes who his customer is for Facebook and runs back to his dorm room to add the critical "Relationship Status" to the Facebook profile. In an innovation narrative, the protagonist is the customer.

My innovation narrative has a teacher for its protagonist. The problem the teacher has articulated is a lack of a way to discover and organize curriculum resources. Evernote and several other products have attempted to solve the problem, but are missing the mark because they have packed the tools with too many options. The solution becomes part of the problem and the innovation gets put aside. I think about this often as I brainstorm a solution that is simpler and more useful.

Storytelling for Innovation at High Desert ESD | Day Two

 Photo credit:  Woody on is new space on the DVD shelf  by  semihundido , a Creative Commons image on Flickr.

Photo credit: Woody on is new space on the DVD shelf by semihundido, a Creative Commons image on Flickr.

We started a new innovation series in this new year. It's 18 Days to Storytelling for Innovation, a program on the Avanoo platform. (Thanks to Anna Higgins, our Director of Innovation, for leading us.) We watch a short video each day and reflect on it individually and as a group. I'm going to chronicle my individual reflections here.

Day Two—Toy Story

Our first challenge as we journey through the storytelling vignettes is to understand narrative structure, so we can apply it to our own innovation narratives.

Our reflection exercise for today asked us three questions about Toy Story 3:

  1. Who is the hero or protagonist? Woody
  2. What is the hero's motivation? I'm torn on this. Woody is going through the bittersweet transition parents do as their children grow and move on. There's the balance of pride and happiness with the sadness and initial loneliness of the transition. But I think his motivation is less about his changing relationship with Andy (a hope to hold on to things as they were in the past) and more about his love, care, and responsibility for the other toys in Andy's toy chest after they are mistakenly put in the trash.
  3. What is the central conflict? In a classic sense, the central conflict is man against man—toy against toy, in this case. Andy's optimism about the role of toys in a child's life is challenged by Lotso, a toy bear who believes all toys are destined to be mistreated and discarded. This conflict is set in the larger narrative of the toys making their way back to Andy's house.

Storytelling for Innovation at High Desert ESD | Day One

 Photo credit:  Forest Road in Oregon  by Michael Matti, a Creative Commons licensed image on Flickr.

Photo credit: Forest Road in Oregon by Michael Matti, a Creative Commons licensed image on Flickr.

We started a new innovation series in this new year. It's 18 Days to Storytelling for Innovation, a program on the Avanoo platform. (Thanks to Anna Higgins, our Director of Innovation, for leading us.) We watch a short video each day and reflect on it individually and as a group. I'm going to chronicle my individual reflections here.

Day One—The Graduation Speech

Today's video reflection asked us to write down a story we'll never forget and some aspects of it that make it memorable.

I heard the story I'll never forget my sophomore year of high school. The setting was our high school gymnasium. We were gathered together for an all-school assembly. After the athletic letters and academic awards had been celebrated, we settled in to listen to a guest speaker. Normally these were yawners—some muckety-muck visiting to lecture us on responsibility, our future, or politics. That day's guest was different and had our full attention within minutes.

The speaker was an older man. ("Older man" then meant he was probably in his early to mid-thirties. Oh, to be young again.) He was silent and still for the first minute. And then he started:

Three high school boys climbed in their car after a day at the lake last summer. It had been a perfect, sunny day and they had been swimming, tubing, and diving for hours. It was time to start the 45-minute drive home. They had been on the road just long enough for the vinyl seats to stop burning the backs of their thighs when a station wagon came speeding up behind them. The driver, a man, stayed on their bumper for a few moments and then swerved into the oncoming lane to pass. Shortly after he passed the boys' car, he slowed down. The boys cursed, honked, flipped him off, and pulled around him. They joked about never turning into "grandpa drivers."
A few minutes later, the driver passed the boys again. And a few moments after that, he slowed again. This time he was swerving within the lane as he slowed. The boys, even more annoyed, passed him again, flipped him off again, and joked even more. They sped up to leave him behind.
Five minutes had passed when they saw him approaching them again. The boys swerved into the center of the road to block him from passing again. The older driver honked and swerved side to side to find a way around their car. He finally succeeded. He didn't slow down this time, but the boys were enraged. They sped up even more, passed the single driver, and once they had pulled away again, threw on the brakes and stopped with their car sideways, blocking both lanes of the quiet road.
The driver laid on the horn as he approached, came to a quick stop, and jumped out of his car. Before the boys could say a word, he yelled, "My 5-year old son is laying in the back of my car. He was stung by bees and cannot breathe. Let me pass!" One of the boys ran over to the station wagon and saw the young boy passed out in the back and shouted back to his friends. They moved the car quickly, their anger gone, and fell in behind the station wagon to chase him to the hospital.
The other driver's son died en route to the hospital.
I am the other driver. That was my son.
I am not here today to tell you those young boys did something wrong or how you should drive. They thought I was a crazy, annoying driver. I was. What seemed like a crazy driver was a father trying to drive quickly and check on his son at the same time. Each time I passed, I turned to check on my son and inevitably slowed down and/or swerved. They could not see the young boy in the back.
I am here today to tell you my story. You will make your own meaning from it.

At that, the speaker walked out of the gym. We all sat in stunned silence. No one clapped. No one snickered.

The story is still with me, over 25 years later. I think about that station wagon and panicked father when I encounter erratic drivers. I think about all the things I don't know about that driver's story that day. The story has informed both my personality and view on life. I believe I have stronger patience and a slower rush to judgement because of it.

The story is memorable (and was intense at the time of its telling) because of three key aspects:

  1. Its ending was a surprise. I made an assumption in the first few moments of the story that something bad would happen to the teenage boys. I wasn't alone in thinking the story was headed a different direction. 
  2. The storyteller told a story and then walked away. As teenagers, we were used to older speakers lecturing us or telling us the meaning of things.
  3. The storyteller shared the loss of his young son openly, with no finger pointing, blame, or preaching.

On CIOs in K-12 Education

 School Technology Group

School Technology Group

Thanks to Marco Torres for the Flickr Creative Commons image above.

Confession. I am a reluctant CIO. I catch myself swallowing the words Chief Information Officer during moments of introduction in a figurative hunching of the shoulders. I don't have issues with the title or role in general, but have spent most of my working years in education and non-profits where C-level titles were viewed with skepticism. We run lean organizations by necessity, not choice. Until recently, our organizations did not have CEOs or CFOs or COOs or CIOs. We had leaders, but operated in a world apart from our corporate counterparts. We have evolved. I am still adjusting. 

The Need for CIOs in Education

In the spring of 2010, the State of Oregon signed a state-level agreement with Google for the provision of Google Apps for Education to K-12 public school districts. Within a matter of months, the number of Oregon districts adopting Google Apps for Education skyrocketed. I lead the ORVSD training team that provides support and training for Google Apps, in addition to other digital learning tools. During one of our initial trainings, I had my first moment of clarity about the need for CIOs in education. Eric Edens, who was part of the Google Apps Edu team at that time, is responsible. Following a fairly technical meeting about user management and email transition, Eric remarked that schools were challenging the Apps team with scale issues they had not encountered in their business apps rollouts. In our largest districts, we have tens of thousands of users. Even our smallest districts have hundreds of users, which makes them larger than most companies. Our school migrations dwarfed the average business migrations.

I think about Eric's observation regularly. He's right, of course. We address issues of scale each day in our schools. Even with lean budgets, we purchase connectivity, devices, and apps in bulk. We provide training, support, and access. We control technology budgets that aren't tied to increasing corporate growth, but to equity and access. Supporting technology for hundreds or thousands of teachers and students is a serious job, one that requires serious leadership.

The Role of CIOs in Education

In decades past, K-12 technology directors tended to be network operations directors. They were skilled systems engineers who built the first district networks, equipped the first computer labs, and maintained projectors, printers, and email servers. Those are still vital functions, but education is operating in the same, rapidly-expanding technology ecosystem as the rest of the world. The role of technology leadership is expanding with it.

Whether you call them IT directors or CIOs, new technology leaders manage staff, budgets, and infrastructure, like before. Added to it, they are leading the following charges:

  • Integration of technology into learning—and by this, I don't mean computer labs.... I mean getting us out of the way of the user and trying to make technology invisible
  • Transitions to mobile learning environments, digital learning environments, heterogeneous platform environments (bring your own device and/or mixed-platform classrooms and the increased need for wireless)
  • Increasing data and analytics for our users and our stakeholders
  • Virtualization, cloud computing, enterprise and workflow efficiencies

The Future of CIOs in Education

We have several CIOs in Oregon's K-12 districts. Some are Chief Technology Officers. Some are Technology Directors or IT Managers. We are still grappling with the focus shift from technology (network operations and computer labs) to information (data, apps, and users). We are still thinking schools are the underfunded*, behind-the-curve little guy in the technology arena, rather than the leader in optimizing budgets and services. I am still shrugging a little as I say CIO.

As I continue shrugging, the CIO role continues evolving. At least a few of my Oregon peers are already interpreting the title CIO as Chief Innovation Officer. They are driving their organizations' momentum into mobile and digital learning. Joe Morelock is doing this in Canby, Oregon. And the Chief Digital Officer is on the horizon. Strike that. It's here already. The Verge profiled New York City's Rachel Haot earlier this year. It was my first glance at a role that makes complete sense and is rising as quickly as the tide of all things digital. 

There are days it may seem like we're riding the tidal wave, rather than leading. And there are bleak days when budgets don't match needs. We have teachers and students who are making a transition to digital learning. We have administrators relying on us for counsel on student devices, digital textbooks and content, social media, and data systems. Regardless of the title, K-12 education needs information leaders.

*Let me clarify that we really, truly are underfunded—the K-12 system is as a whole in most states. However, ask any corporate CIO how the recession has left them feeling. I suspect the response would sound similar. Constraints are constraints. Our work is to increase efficiency. I am struggling with this idea of efficiency as we slowly work towards sharing technology services in our region. 

Put a Bird on It — Oregon Ed Twitter List #ORedu

 @actionhero and @mrmacnology at ITSC 2012 (now called IntegratED PDX)

@actionhero and @mrmacnology at ITSC 2012 (now called IntegratED PDX)

Corin and I were at the Oregon School Law Conference this week. We laughed our way through Charles Leitch's session on technology and social media in K-12. After years of yelling loudly about Internet FUD, it was nice to sit back and listen to someone else preach it and preach it well....

We backchanneled Leitch's talk on Twitter, of course. Thanks to some creative hashtagging (poundsigning!), we connected with two new-to-us Oregon education rock stars: Adam Howell (@TheDumbJockMyth) and Sam Leach (@Mr_Leach_in_3rd).

Score. I love those moments and connections.

So, Adam, here's my list of connected Oregon educators. Looking forward to growing our #ORedu list... 

already added:

(Note: I have more in my list, but culled anyone who hasn't tweeted in a few months. Let me know if I've missed anyone.)

2012 Training Team — Oregon Virtual School District

I have been part of the Oregon Virtual School District Training Team since 2009. The Oregon Virtual School District is a program of the Oregon Department of Education that provides online curriculum tools, hosting, and resources for the state's public K-12 districts. Steve Nelson, the project director, has been smart about funding support and training for the districts, as well as the large technology stack itself.

Our training group includes teachers, tech directors, and administrators from Oregon schools. During the school year, we meet virtually via Google Hangouts and WebEx. In August, though, we meet face-to-face to plan our schedule and activities for the coming year. We spend some of the time getting to know our new teammates and getting to know the products and platforms we support.

 Group juggling with the ORVSD Training Team

Group juggling with the ORVSD Training Team

This year's retreat included refresher sessions on WordPress and Google Apps. We filled in our workshop grid for October's Oregon Google Summit and mapped out the webinars, workshops, and training events we'll host across the state this fall. We'll also be presenting at state and regional conferences; creating tutorials and how-tos; and traveling to school districts and ESDs for ORVSD training days. It's been a pleasure to help for the past three years.

 The 2012 ORVSD Training Team

The 2012 ORVSD Training Team

Flickr, Creative Commons, and Chick-fil-A (Paging Dr. Lessig)

Last month, Ken Cook tweeted me that one of my Flickr photos was being used. I took a quick look at the article in question, saw that the photo was correctly attributed and put it aside. I thought, "well, maybe he's letting me know someone is using my image in an article I might not agree with...." I was traveling and finishing a database project simultaneously that week and had only one undernourished brain cell left for Twitter and the web, so I added the tweet to my to-do-later list.

Once I was back at home and settled, Cook's meaning settled in.... My Flickr photos are licensed with an Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike Creative Commons license. I had focused on the attribution part in my first glance and had completely ignored the non-commercial part: "You may not exercise any of the rights granted to You in Section 3 above in any manner that is primarily intended for or directed toward commercial advantage or private monetary compensation."

The site using my image was Business Insider, a site that looks like it's certainly commercial.

 My Chick-fil-A photo on Business Insider

My Chick-fil-A photo on Business Insider

Not only is the site commercial, but it was also posting this article just as the current Chick-fil-A controversy was heating up. So, am I okay with my photo being used? Is it a violation of my non-commercial license? I went to my Creative Commons and copyright bookmarks to see if I could find an answer. This issue is not new; I have a Creative Commons bookmark from Fall 2009: Defining Noncommercial: A Study of How the Online Population Understands “Noncommercial Use.” The study is good reading, but it did not provide a clear answer to my questions.

Ars Technica's Creative Commons images and you covered the issue with a little more depth from the users' perspective. On the issue of non-commercial images, the author advised editors, "check with your publisher's legal department on this question, because putting noncommercial Creative Commons images in your articles is a real gray area."

In contrast, the Ars Technica article linked to a 2008 post on non-commercial use by librarian Molly Kleinman. Molly stated the opposite in her examples: "Using a photo on an ad-supported website = Commercial."

So, I'm indecisive for now. When I first decided to publish my photos, blogs, slide decks, and videos with Creative Commons licenses, my intended users were educators and non-profits. I believe in sharing, but I didn't set out to make a for-profit website editor's job easier/cheaper because he can embed one of my images instead of sending a photographer/writer out to Chick-fil-A for a photo. Again though, I believe in sharing and I believe in the sharing culture that has allowed creativity to flourish on the web.

Business Insider is clearly making money (that commercial advantage or private monetary compensation phrase from the Creative Commons license excerpt above). There's a vodka ad next to my photo, for Pete's sake. But, are they making money because of my photo? Most likely not. They're most likely making money from the headline. (Remember the opening of that clause says in any manner that is primarily intended for or directed toward commercial advantage or private monetary compensation.)

Is there a difference between the use of my photo and the overall for-profit status of the organization?

After three weeks of reading and reaching out to experts, I'm still uncertain.

I'm indecisive for now because I want to be consistent. If I ask Business Insider to remove my image, I should also do the same of many of the smaller blogs that have used my images. They may not all have a pricey Ketel Vodka block ad in the sidebar, but they often have Google AdWords or Amazon affiliate blocks.

I tend to lean to the left on this. My thoughts are more in line with Lawrence Lessig than Sonny Bono on copyright issues, so I would rather share than restrict. However, I want to be faithful to the spirit and law of Creative Commons.

I'll take any words of wisdom, either in agreement or dissent.

(Thanks, Ken Cook for making me think this through.)

Chromebooks in Our Schools — One Year Later — The Coda

This is the final part of a series. Part one is here. Part two is there. Part three is here.

1) I've been taking a lot of photos and talking to a lot of our students, teachers, and interested parties this year. I want to make sure it's on the record that I get no benefit from Google or any other company for doing this. I love my job. I love the schools and people where I live. I'm excited about the technology we bring into our classrooms in the right ways and get frustrated when we do it wrong, usually because of short staff, short money, or short time. I prefer to learn from the wrong and highlight the right. That is all.

 Mr. Cochran, Mr. Fleming, Mr. Felton, and Mr. Hisaw.

Mr. Cochran, Mr. Fleming, Mr. Felton, and Mr. Hisaw.

2) I do a lot of talking (quiet, Ryan) and writing about all of this. There are hundreds of people around me who do the real work. Here's a partial list of thanks:

  • The Original Eight (CCMS sixth-grade teachers in 2006 plus Jim Crouch, student teacher) — Heidi Lea, Zach Fleming, Lori Meadows, Les Parker, Ryan Cochran, Vicki Bobbit, Casey Callan, and Sue Simmons — you're the best ever!
  • D.C. Lundy — Principal at Powell Butte School during the initial Intel 1:1 pilot and chief instigator for technology in education, Crook County style
  • Kurt Sloper — Sixth-grade teacher at Powell Butte that first year and my professional development guinea pig (he's now Assistant Principal at CCMS and has continued to be a great guinea pig)
  • Steve Swisher and Dennis Dempsey — CCSD (circa 2006) and HDESD Superintendents, respectively; ones who pushed us to push the envelope
  • Bruce Hahn — The CCSD Director of Technology who makes all our crazy ideas happen
  • Rocky Miner — Principal of CCMS (circa 2006, currently CCHS Principal) and team time champion
  • Stacy Smith — Current Principal of CCMS (Assistant Principal in 2006) who walks the walk each day
  • Andie Sangston — Queen (see part three)
  • Mike Witnauer — 1:1 Program Manager (after I was pulled away for another project) and smart guy
  • Steve Welden, Lance Queen, and Yancey Fall — CCSD Tech and savers-of-the-day for many years now
  • Rachael Huish — CCMS Math Teacher (circa 2011; Rachael is now a school administrator in Southern Oregon) and the original Chromebook cheerleader and just...leader
  • Charlene Walker — CCMS Science Teacher and current, tireless Chromebook team leader
  • CCSD Teachers — wish I could list them all....
  • CCSD Students and Parents — funny, smart, wily, exasperating, and supportive

CCMS Students with Cr-48s (Chromebooks).

Chromebooks in Our Schools — One Year Later — Part Three

This is part three of a series. Part one is here. Part two is there. The coda is here.

(I'm a big fan of unboxing posts and videos, especially this one. But, I always want to know how things are a year or two later.... Did the device hold up? Is it still in use after the shininess and newness faded? Still meaningful? What were the people and machine surprises? This three part series is my effort to answer my own questions.)

Part Three - The Classrooms

One student. One laptop. In Crook County, we have been on the road toward this vision of learning for over five years now. In part one of this series, I wrote about the investment in the people. It's first for a reason. We want to make sure the 1:1 program is a learning program, not a tech program. (Over the years, I have gotten a little more upset each time I've read this New York Times article about 1:1 programs. It's a primer on what not to do.)

In part two, I wrote about prior-year issues that were answered by the Google Chromebooks at Crook County Middle School. The Chromebooks are a great size. They're fast. They require very little up-front attention from our tech staff. They have been a good addition to our classrooms. We take care of and try to protect them (Mr. Fleming's football strategy).

 CCMS students using Chromebooks shortly after unboxing

CCMS students using Chromebooks shortly after unboxing

The Chromebooks have been fairly low maintenance. We weren't sure this would be the case; we have the original Cr-48 test units, not the Samsung or Acer production models.

The biggest issue we struggle with is the wireless connection dropping at random times. We're not sure yet if this is our wireless infrastructure or the laptops. (Andie read this and called to let me know that the wireless issues seem to be resolved. Wahoo!) 

This summer, we also had a large number of machines throw what we affectionately call the frowny face error. Andie Sangston, our technology support person at CCMS, solved this problem with her super genius skills (and some help from the Chromebook gurus at Google).

The students would tell you the trackpads were really flaky at first. Ben Fohner and Andy Warr, Google Chromebook team members, got an earful of that exact complaint when they came to observe last March. Andy's name is still mentioned with reverence in the hallways because of just this issue. When talking with some of the students and listening to their gripes, he ran the latest update on their machines. The trackpad issues disappeared. Most CCMS students still believe he was magic. (Some students and teachers still don't like the trackpad, but we have students every year who prefer a USB mouse over a trackpad.)

Each time we have encountered something like this, Google has responded quickly. We appreciate that. Andie does, especially. She keeps the whole program afloat. Teachers and students turn to her with questions and requests for help.

 Andie Sangston, CCMS tech support, on rollout day

Andie Sangston, CCMS tech support, on rollout day

We have been checking in with those teachers and students regularly. The Chromebooks are used often each day. They are used for traditional tasks like writing and researching, but also for unexpected projects like fitness tracking and stats analysis in PE class. The start-up speed continues to impress everyone. The Chromebooks are ready when the students are. (This is much different than our first years.)

The worries about the laptops being cloud machines, web only, or offline bricks didn't amount to much. I think of them as adult problems (similar to first-world problems). The students live comfortably on the web and in the cloud.

I could write more, but these are already long posts. Perhaps the best way to summarize our experience is that we are buying more Chromebooks. We've bought hundreds more for classrooms across our region. If we could afford to purchase more, we would.

We would buy more not because they're bright, new shiny tools. We would buy more not because we think they will solve all our education woes. We would buy more because of where this all started.... We try to improve our device selection each time we purchase a batch of laptops for students. We want the best match for the classroom and our students. The Chromebooks are it.

 Our most recent rollout day; fourth-grade students in Redmond School District

Our most recent rollout day; fourth-grade students in Redmond School District

Next: the coda. It's here.

Delightful Design and the New, New Delicious - #edcampPDX

Edcamps are pretty cool. They're a low-stress, high-energy day of sharing. My session this month was on design. I'm not a designer, but I know good design when I see it (or something like that). I like things to be pretty and usable. Robin Williams (not that Robin Williams) wrote The Non-Designer’s Design Book. It's like my Elements of Style for flyer creation. I cribbed her big ideas for my slides.

After I did my ten-minute intro, we crowdsourced our favorite design resources. We did it via a Delicious stack. It was totally cool! It was the first time I used the new stacks in a live group. It will not be the last. To quote a friend, "awesome sauce." Nice work, new new Delicious.

Our delicious design stack

P.S. As a long time Delicious user, I was a little concerned with the shaky redesign a few months ago. I'm not any more. The AVOS team has been beyond responsive. And I'm loving the new features.