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Saturday
Dec312005

Life-long Learning

I still have a big lump in my throat after waving good-bye this morning to my daughter and family who have spent the week with us. They are heading back to Fargo which is located exactly four and a half hours too far away from Cleveland, MN.

As a last hurrah, we spent yesterday at the Minnesota Zoo, where I was left with 3-month-old Miles Benjamin while the rest of the group troopemileszoo.jpgd off to see some exhibits for about half an hour. While the others looked at exotic critters, I took a very close look at this baby. One of Miles's major tasks right now seems to be figuring out what these two strange things are that sometimes appear in front of his face and give him a great deal of comfort when inserted in the mouth. During the week he was with us, his hand-to-mouth accuracy rate seemed to go from about 30% to about 60%. He is learning. (At left, Miles is enjoying either the dophin show or his toes.)

With much less patience, Grandpa Doug has been trying to learn as well. While I've had the fingers-in-the-mouth thing down pat for a few years,  I'm on a steep learning curve with Moodle. Current frustration involves inserted graphic files going into the summary field instead of the contents area. Like Miles and his fingers, I will get it eventually. I hope.

What is more than a little scary is reading a posting like this one from the Thinking Out Loud blog about MoodleBug

The Elgg gang have recently announced their collaboration with Catalyst IT to develop “seamless interaction between Moodle and Elgg”. How cool is that? I’m a big fan of both platforms, and I really think there’s a huge strategic advantage for both in this, since there’s currently both resurgence of interest in Open Source learning platforms and the political imperative for institutions to start considering their e-portfolio options.Catalyst IT is already a Moodle Partner, and hopefully the iron-clad FOSS credentials of the team behind them - NZOSVLE, will calm the Open Source communities concerns about previously small Elgg team. 

I have absolutely NO idea what Andrea is talking about.

I only hope I can demonstrate Miles perseverance, optimism, and patience when it comes to learning.

Wednesday
Dec282005

Plato quote again

From USA Today, 12-18-05: This is the Google  Side of Your Brain. Another view of the threat of technology destroying a human capacity. Explored before in The Blue Skunk.

Wednesday
Dec282005

Management blues

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

It's been a quiet week here Lake Woebegone - make that, the office.  Time that I had thought I would be able to spend figuring out Moodle has instead gone into updating job descriptions. It's salary negotiation time for non-affiliated employees and current job descriptions are needed. Amazing how roles in this department change in a very short time as new technology-dependent projects begin, others mature, and some die. (And it seems like only yesterday the Corvus networks needed trouble-shooting.)

I tried using the discussion forums in Moodle to aid in the job revision process. I learned that I have hired a bunch of comedians.  Good grief. There is potential in using some form of online collaboration, however, and we will keep at it.

Management and supervision is something I've learned though the college of hard knocks and it's nothing that's come naturally to me. I like the planning, coaching and mentoring part; I dislike the tough guy, deadlines, get-yer-ass-in-gear bits. Although I've found I'm pretty good at conflict resolution. Not that we ever have conflicts here ;-)

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.

I was delighted to read in the Creating Passionate Users blog (one of my favorites), a piece by Kathy Sierra called Death by Micromanagement: The Zombie Function Sierra asks:

Do you have a micromanager?
Or 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.

I am blessed to have a boss, Ed the Superintendent, who displays none of these characteristics.  I am a little shakey on a couple personally.

Any tips for successful management you'd care to share?