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Saturday
Feb042017

BFTP: Who are we missing when doing tech training?

For years I simply shook my head and sighed because our district-level secretaries insisted on using WordPerfect or MicrosoftWorks long after the rest of the district, including students, had moved on to Microsoft Office.

"Some people just can't change," I concluded.

It was only while moving our staff and students from Office to GoogleDocs that it dawned on me that our district office clerical staff, unlike our building secretaries, has never had the opportunity to participate in any technology training opportunities.

I revised my conclusion to "People can't be expected to change if they aren't helped with the process."

This year our department is offering regularly scheduled training opportunities for these secretaries. So it only took me 20 years to figure this out - better late than never.

What I've been wondering about lately, however, is how many other groups I've neglected as Tech Director in planning training in our organization. If we truly want to move to a more paperless, collaborative and transparent workplace, might these work groups also need some help with some tech skills?

  • Custodial and maintenance staff
  • Community education workers
  • Paraprofessionals and aides
  • District administrators/directors
  • School board members
  • Parent/community volunteers

I can certainly see the need to do training for all these folks in e-mail, online calendars, and GoogleDocs (as we use it for an increasing number of templates replacing paper forms). How many may need real basic kinds of skill in using a browser? How many could use more information on policies related to Internet use in the district? How to use our VOIP phone systems?

When teachers and building administrators comprise the bulk of your staff, you tend to focus on their training needs. But we've got to start thinking about everyone.

How does your district address the tech training needs for these important, but too often overlooked, workers?

Original post Nov 28, 2011

Thursday
Feb022017

Encouraging autodidacts

I ran across this wonderful work in a reading not long ago. To tell the truth, I had to look up its meaning since I don't see the term often enough to have its definition firmly implanted in my weak brain. Learning the definition make me think I about my left thumb.

The nail is nearly grown out after whacking it with a hammer pretty good a couple months ago. I was trying to loosen a firmly stuck faucet cartridge that needed replacement in my bathtub. Using YouTube as my guide, I pretty much knew what I was doing with the plumbing. Well, except for the pounding my thumb bit.

YouTube has become my go-to teacher for a lot of stuff - hanging blinds, figuring out water filter cartridges in my fridge, eliminating garage door squeaks, and other small repair stuff. No class or classroom. No F2F human teacher. Project-based learning and competency-based assessment. All good.

Autodidactic learning is not just for the person too cheap to hire a repair person. I've needed to learn, of course, for my job over the years - computer programs, educational theories, new technologies, teaching strategies, etc. and few competencies have come as a result of traditional classes.

The true autodidact is intrinsically motivated. Self-assessing. Needs driven. What I would consider qualities of the ideal employee (or entrepreneur).

Our students are entering a workforce in which one will be increasingly expected to be self-taught. I hope we are encouraging, not discouraging autodidacticism in our classrooms.  

Tuesday
Jan312017

Micro-management

Image source: Death by Micromanagement: The Zombie Function

... are you a micromanager? If you demonstrate any of these seemingly admirable qualities, there's a big clue that you might be making zombies.

  1. Do you pride yourself on being "on top of" the projects or your direct reports? Do you have a solid grasp of the details of every project?
  2. Do you believe that you could perform most of the tasks of your direct reports, and potentially do a better job?
  3. Do you pride yourself on frequent communication with your employees? Does that communication include asking them for detailed status reports and updates?
  4. Do you believe that being a manager means that you have more knowledge and skills than your employees, and thus are better equipped to make decisions?
  5. Do you believe that you care about things (quality, deadlines, etc.) more than your employees?

Answering even a weak "yes" to any one of these might mean you either are--or are in danger of becoming--a micromanager. And once you go down that road, it's tough to return.  Kathy Sierra - Death by Micromanagement: The Zombie Function

As I reviewed my old blog posts last week in preparation for writing the second volume of Machines Are the Easy Part; People Are the Hard Part, I ran across the clip above about being a micromanager.

Despite the fact that I have been "managing" people since my first job as a school librarian in 1979, I still have work to do. My basic law of successful supervision has always been: Hire people who don't need to be supervised. For the most part this has worked well. To make it work even better, though, I continue to find that I need to improve the clarity of my expectations. Tough sometimes when working in an area like technology in which deadlines, budgets, and buy-in are all rather, shall we say, flexible

Resisting the urge to micromanage also is more difficult in times when staffing is lean, expectations are high, and the expected rate of change is fast. The old observation "it all flows downhill" kicks in - when the boss/the board/the parents/the public/the teachers, etc. want something done - now.

Being a good manager is akin to being a good teacher - you empower, you help problem-solve, you provide resources, and you help light a path. "I am here to help you be successful" should be the mantra of every manager and teacher. (See The Role of the Plunger.)

As Keillor suggests in the quote below, competent management is probably an oxymoron. But I will keep working on it. For the sake of those whom I "manage."

A lot of us who would have been happier as mechanics went into management. With auto mechanics, there is such a thing as competence. With management? I don't think so. Garrison Keillor