Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Creating an IT Service Catalogue

Before I dive into this tricky little topic, let me tell you about what I did Saturday.  9 of us climbed Golden Ears in Maple Ridge, BC, Canada.  It’s a grueling 9-11 hour round trip covering 24km in distance and 1.5km up and down vertical.  DSCN1945 This picture shows our destiny in the background.

At this point, we’re just over an hour from the top.  It’s a scramble, we encounter a significant ice field that we have to navigate around (it’s steep, sketchy).

Here’s some of the crew at the top (about 1700m) chillin’ and taking in the 360 degree view.  We could see to Whistler, Vancouver, Mt. Baker, etc.  DSCN1950We relaxed for about an hour before making our way back down.  Most of the group had never been to the summit so it was pretty inspiring.  By the way, my legs are still killing me…

So what does this have to do with creating an IT Service Catalogue?  Well, I’ve never done it, I’m finding it quite a challenge, and I’m in un-charted territory (for me) – kind-a like a first timer on a serious hike.  Creating the catalogue is one of my department’s goals for 2010-11 to serve as a communication tool with our executive and our customers (teachers, principals, students, support staff, business staff, etc.).  I also intend to implement it as an interactive online catalogue for users to find and request services they need and have the requests feed directly into our service desk system.

To get started, I’ve gathered examples from BCIT, Surrey School District, and read numerous threads in the Service Catalog and Service Portfolio Community LinkIn group I belong to for this topic.  I encountered many a debate about what should go in the catalogue.  Questions about whether there’s a technical version, a business version, or is there just one.  Should it be a document or an interactive tool customers use.  Not a clearly marked trail like I was able to use on Saturday’s hike.  I’ve decided our catalogue will be a business version – primarily designed and written for our user community.

I came up with an index by working mostly with our phenomenal service desk staff who seem to know what it is we actually do for our customers.  I borrowed heavily from BCIT and other examples to create a template. If you wish to see my draft work on this, you can view the index and the described services for Network Access Services here.  The entire work will be reviewed by various committees as well as my staff as it progresses to ensure we have agreement on the contents and purpose.

The catalogue, when finished (before Christmas), will be presented to our executive for their endorsement.  Next I will publish it as a document for communication purposes.  A subsequent task will be to develop it into an interact tool for our customers to acquire services from us.  This will be a formal step for us to have full transparency into the services we are committed to provide and their characteristics.  Finally, we will undertake a gap analysis of our staffing compliment and the services and service levels we’re committed to delivering – this will inform requirements for staff resources.

I would really appreciate feedback and advice on the draft work and any examples people can point me to that I could liberally borrow from.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

A Technology Agenda for K12 Education

It’s amazing how time seems to speed up as we accumulate more personal history.  I find the seasons and yearly cycles to be coming up faster now then they did 25 years ago.  School start-up is just two weeks in the future.  September is a chaotic period in general for those in the school system and the parents of our students.  Specifically though I would like to ponder the technology agenda for the next year or so.

I just read an article in FastCompany “How TED Became the NEW HARVARD”.  It tells the store of TED.com which is quite fascinating.  I love their mission “Ideas worth spreading”.  It is described as an educational platform.  The best minds and ideas are shared for free with the world.  TED used to be an insular conference, a closed system.  But has, through effective use of technology, transformed itself into a platform for spreading creative ideas.  I wonder how K12 can learn from this approach…

In our District we have a number of initiatives looming.  I wrote a post Laptops for Teachers are Essential Tools for the 21st Century about us providing 1/3 of our teachers with a laptop this coming year.  We will be defining our “Print Agenda” with the aim of replacing core printer/copier/scanner devices in our buildings while improving our environmental and energy impact – I’d like the purpose statement to be “Printing is not meant to be convenient” or something like that.  We have to plan, research, and test a major upgrade of our my43 portal platform (based on Microsoft Sharepoint) that runs our District, school, teacher public websites and our District, school Intranets, and virtual classrooms.  We also want to expand the capabilities of my43 to more deeply support teaching, learning, and administration.  My post Digital Tools and Social Responsibility introduces some work begun last year to address the exponential growth in the use of our school networks, often in inappropriate ways – this coming year it will be critical for us to address this in meaningful ways with technology, process, policy, and education.  We are designing new elementary, middle, and secondary schools – the opportunity to design-in technology in transformative ways are huge.  From a pure IT perspective we have all sorts of systems to upgrade, Windows 7 roll-outs to do, servers to replace, etc.  I was just at a seminar put on by Citrix that has intriguing potential to improve our management of computer labs and possible personally owned device (POD) access.  I know some people are really focused on open source, cloud computing, the latest edtech tools, etc.  I could go on about this initiative and that initiative but one might be tempted to say “so what”.

I think it is important to ask ourselves what one technology innovation or change will make the greatest difference in the lives of our students.  Will it be the effective integration of interactive white boards or 1-1 laptop projects or 1-1 ipod/ipad devices or online learning tools or collaborative online writing or leveraging social networking or providing teachers laptops or…  I suspect there is no “killer app” or one innovation that makes a difference.  Each of these technologies have value but a variety of options for teachers to experiment with to support curriculum is essential.  But if I were to pick one, I think the best bang for our buck is increasing teacher access to personal technology.

Teachers are still central to connecting K12 students to learning and curriculum.  They should be personally engaged with technology, experimenting with the various options, and designing their teaching and students learning using the options they find beneficial.  For sure we want our students to leverage technology and use it in their learning – without it, they are disadvantaged today.  However, most students left to themselves will primarily use technology for social, entertainment, and in many cases harassment purposes.  But teachers need to be able to guide them to use appropriate technology effectively and responsibly.  To do that, teachers need personal access when they need it and where they need it.  They need to transform their planning, preparation, activities, and assessments.

Okay, I’ve put it out there.  The agenda, I think, needs to be about teacher access to technology this coming year.  I’m sure others have their own opinions on this.  What do you think should be the focus this year?

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Futuring – A Challenge for your Students

A few months ago I read an article “Roadmap to the Electric Car Economy” (by Michael Horn) in March-April 2010 issue of The Futurist.  Essentially the writer advocates for shifting to an electric vehicle (EV) economy away from one powered by gas (and oil).  He lays out a roadmap and suggests how it might be accomplished.  If you believe the writing about peak oil (2020-2030) and think about how much money is invested in obtaining oil, processing it, protecting it (wars), dealing with the environmental fallout, it runs in the trillions of dollars.  Our education system had better be ready to prepare millions of young people to tackle problems like this – our future success as a society depends on it. 

In the July-August 2010 issue of The Futurist, I read an article “Sustaining Urban Mobility in 2010” (by Ryan Chin, PhD student in Smart Cities group at MIT Media Lab) that talks about how cities and cars should be redesigned to minimize the impact of transportation.  Cars in cities should be smaller, lighter, have shared ownership, electric, autonomously driven, etc.  Imagine a tiered system of rapid mass transit between cities and small efficient cars in cities.  For example, someone living in Maple Ridge and working in Vancouver could hop on a high-speed train from Maple Ridge to Vancouver, get off, grab a small electric car as part of their City Car subscription, and drive to their office.  They park the car in a nearby City Car spot, the car immediately begins recharging.  Anyone who subscribes can take any City Car to in-city destinations.  Only clean electric fuel would be used.  Interesting.

I just reviewed a presentation by Lester R. Brown that summarizes his book imagePlan B 4.0 Mobilizing to Save Civilization”.  He writes about Hunger on the Rise (1.2B people by 2015), Soaring Food Prices, Food Scarcity Geopolitics, Food Supply (diminishing cropland, falling water tables, over-allocated rivers, erosion, deforestation), Climate / Energy stresses.  A gloomy picture… but he then proposes “Plan B”.  He proposes universal primary education and elimination of adult illiteracy as two key actions to take.  I’ll leave the rest of the story for you to pursue through his presentation and/or book.  But, I’d like to highlight that education is key to developing sustainable solutions.  We need more people educated and people with more education if we are to create the innovations needed to address our globally complex problems.

I propose a challenge.  For the educators reading this, perhaps you could weave into lesson plans for this next year an assignment for your students that involves “futuring”.  Create an assignment where they research / read some background information about key global issues and trends and then in small groups develop their own future scenarios and their own solutions.  If you are a student, challenge your teachers to take up this challenge.  I think students need to be engaged in future studies and techniques ‘cause we need more people working on our problems if we are to solve them well.

If you do take up this challenge, please post information about it here as comments or blog about it and post the url for it here. I’d be really interested to learn about what your students come up with.