Why I now loathe going to get the mail

November 7, 2018 Leave a comment

I remember being a little boy and loving to go get the mail for my parents, much like the way my own children do now.  I’m not sure what made it fun.  Was it the fact that I could do something for my parents or that I got to do something that grownups do?  Who knows?  As I grew older, getting the mail became commonplace, although there was still something that did bring a little joy each time I got the mail.

I’ve been lucky enough to have my own mailbox for as long as I can remember, so never thought much about having to go to a common or shared box.  I did stay in an apartment for a short time after I graduated from college and now living in a townhome community make my way to the common area that has all of our boxes.  Sometimes it’s a place to just get the mail and sometimes it’s a place where you meet, see and speak to your neighbors.

Last night, after I got home from work, I went to get the mail.  It was no different from any other time, so I thought.  But it was different last night.  I’ve gotten used to the “Oh, you live here?” questions, especially at the mailbox.  Those guised and coded words, may seem like a harmless question to anyone else.  My canned response flows off the tongue with ease, “Yes, I do” and typically just keep going or after assessing their reaction may go into some small talk.  Last night was different.  Could it be because it was dark as the time changed?  “Oh, you live here?” was peppered with awe, spite, and aggression as I opened my mailbox with my key just as this lady was doing.  My thoughts were – well if I didn’t live here, how the hell am I opening this locked mailbox? The canned response lost itself as I immediately said, “Yes, do you?”.  Her response was “Where do you live then?” and I immediately thought of all of the alliterated names that have come across the news and social media calling the police on people, who look like me, minding their own business.  I responded with the same tone “Where do you live?” and at the same time remembering that I’d met this same lady months ago in our neighborhood.  For a quick second, I did wonder if the police would be called on me.  In that same second I wondered if she would follow me as I walked home from the mailboxes, or if she remembered that we’d met before.  I also wondered why I was not only mad, but also not surprised.  It’s not something that I should get used to experiencing, hearing or seeing.

I’ve learned a long time ago how to decipher subtle and not so subtle meanings of interactions like this.  I’ve also learned that not everyone, even people who are close to you will understand or even recognize those same subtleties. I typically keep stuff like this to myself, but felt compelled to write a bit today. I’m not sure why, I just know last night was different. Unfortunately, getting the mail just isn’t the same as it used to be and now I loathe it.

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Dinner Conversations PoCC/SDLC 2016

December 9, 2016 Leave a comment

Volunteering to blog about PoCC was a no brainer. This is my second year attending this wonderful conference sponsored by the National Association of Independent Schools to talk about diversity and inclusion.  How lucky am I to be able to attend an event such as this? Extremely. I’m also lucky to be chaperoning a group of enlightened, talented, and “woke” kids.

“I will continue to work to fulfill the dream for such a time as this” was one of the many powerful messages received during the opening session. Being in Atlanta, one of the prominent places of the civil rights movements, the dream reference is very applicable.  Last night as I was sitting in a diner with the students from my school I couldn’t help becoming an observant and quiet sponge absorbing and learning from this group of teenagers as they started discussing topics such as ethnicity, affinity, equality, and gender spectrums. Proud, hopeful,  and amazed are a few of the emotions I felt. I hope others will have dinner conversations such as theses so that all people start to understand that different does not mean dangerous.

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I can see the future

How many people do you know who can see the future?  I mean really see the future.  If someone told you that they are able to perform such a magical feat, what would you think?  As an educator I get to see the future everyday during an academic year.  Each student contains a part of the future in their being.  I have the special and unique privilege to see a window into the future through these students.

I worked in the corporate environment as a programmer and IT Project Manager for 17 years and it’s hard to believe that I’m now reflecting on my first year as an educator.  You may say wow, that’s a big jump.  Yes, but not as big as you may think.  I get to teach Computer Science, which was my college major and what I did everyday in some respect prior to teaching.  There were several things that were missing for me as a professional prior to this past year.  For all the things that were missing in my previous positions I found that I was able to have them fulfilled as an educator.  The big question is – What drew me to teaching?

  • Working with students is something I’ve always been passionate about.  I’ve been a tutor, mentor, and a coach before and truly believe in serving our youth.
  • The environment is so dynamic.  Everyday is different, which requires adaptability.
  • The work is so fulfilling.  You never know how a small interaction may impact someone.  You’re always an advocate, whether it be academically, emotionally, or socially.
  • My school environment is one of true community.  It’s almost familial – the faculty/staff, students, and parents. Yes every family has its problems, but you work through them together.
  • Our leadership is actually interested in who we are, what we want to contribute, and how they can help you.  From my experience that is extremely rare.
  • There is an abundance of opportunity and a constant focus on continued improvement with support for professional development.  I’ve had more meaningful professional development opportunities in my first year as an educator than I’ve had in the past 14 or 15 years prior.

Those last three points actually sold me on leaving the business world and becoming an educator.  Ravenscroft School must be doing something right, because if you know me – I’m not swayed easily.  I know I have a long way to go to become a great teacher, but I’m committed to my school’s focus on creating citizen leaders who will make significant impacts in the world.  When I say that I can see the future, believe me that what I see is phenomenal.

Coaching, Mentoring, & Preparing Leaders

While reading an article entitled ‘Say You Want an Evolution’ in the May 2011 issue of Chief Learning Officer I found an interesting quote in relation to leaders and leadership.  The vice president of training and development at Chick-fil-a was quoted as saying “Leadership is like an iceberg. . .Ninety percent of a leader’s capability – his or her character – is below the water line.  The other 10 percent – their skills – are visible and easier to identify but they’re not ultimately what makes a successful leader.”  We should be taking a closer look look as to what is underneath the water line. Individuals possess many different traits that can be beneficial in many different areas so it is important for those who are in a position to cultivate potential, new, and emerging leaders to assess the skills and traits that are not readily apparent.

This made me think about the types of things that ‘leaders’ do to help encourage the growth of up and coming potential leaders of tomorrow, specifically in the world of business and education.  There are many types of support given by higher ups such as teachers, managers, coaches.  Some of the actions that immediately came to mind were as follows:

  • telling them what to do
  • showing them what to do
  • a combination of telling and showing in addition to providing feedback
  • there is also a responsibility of the person who is in the learning position to take any information provided and apply it constructively to their current situation in order to grow

In a conversation with an old friend from work who had changed jobs a few years back he mentioned that he was now a manager.  One thing that I found very interesting was the statement that as a manager at his new workplace there was no formal training on management available to the employees.  This lack of training led to learning on the fly and seeking out information concerned with the intricacies of his organization and management in general.  One implication of this was trying to learn about the best ways to support his team in a meaningful and tactful way that produced good working relationships and working results.  This was in stark contrast to our previous shared place of employment that does offer formal management education and mentoring for managers in various stages of their career.  One special thing to note is not all managers are required to take this training so there are instances in both organizations where managers only have that title in name and have not been given the formal training required in order to be efficient and productive managers in the eyes of both their employees and higher-ups.

If we are trying to prepare and cultivate leaders should we not ensure that those who are currently in leadership positions receive the type of training, development, and experience that allows them to give back and help grow the future leaders of tomorrow?

Do we all need the same resources?

April 18, 2011 Leave a comment

Do you ever wonder how and why some are able to successfully navigate through the muddy waters of the educational system with little to no resources, no support, and low expectations?  Better yet, do you wonder how and why those that have any resource imaginable available, all the support they could ever need, and expectations so high those expectations are almost perceived as a privilege or a right can move through that same system unsuccessfully?  With the integration of technology into the educational system these are questions that come to mind.  Technology is often perceived as a tool that is a save-all.  Once we have technology A or technology B our students will be able to do this or do that.  An interesting point is that there are students who come from environments where they do not have support or even the latest and greatest technology who can be labeled as successful.  The successful label is of course relative, but they do exist.  The number of students coming from this type of environment who are successful may not be comparable to those coming out of the best of environments, but the fact is that they do exist.

Some of that success may be attributed to self-determination, confidence, and work-ethic (which should definitely be present) but as a student there seems to be someone within the system who is showing and teaching them how to successfully navigate.  Regardless of the resources available these students have the ability to take the resources available and perform a higher level of thinking in order to solve a problem or create something new.  They are able to do this as well as if not better than those who have had everything handed to them.  In reading a few articles concerning studies that measure the success of technology usage in education some interesting points were highlighted.  Bebell, O’Dwyer, Russell, and Hoffmann contend that many studies simply focus on technology and access where they should be focusing on the use of the technology (2010, p. 33).  Thinking back to some of my school days as a kid or even in classes that I take now the tools introduced never mattered as much as the concepts and the things learned while using the tools (I remember when it was cool to watch a filmstrip in science class).  Ultimately it was the way that the teachers engaged me and challenged my thought process that made me a better student.  The tools were used to extend my knowledge, acquire skills of operation, and develop the frame of mind to continue learning (Plowman, Stephen, & McPake, 2010, p.99).

Ultimately the answer to my self-proposed question is yes!  The same and equal resources afford the same opportunities for all involved.  How those resources are used (both from an educator and student point of view) and taken advantage of often determine future successes.  That does leave the question of how these successful students of ‘disadvantaged’ educational environments persevere.

References

Bebell, D., O’Dwyer, L. M., Russell, M., & Hoffmann, T. (2010). Concerns, Considerations, and New Ideas for Data Collection and Research in Educational Technology Studies. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 43(1), 29-52.

Plowman, L., Stephen, C., & McPake, J. (2010). Supporting young children’s learning with technology at home and in preschool. Research Papers in Education, 25(1), 93-113. doi:10.1080/02671520802584061.

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Distance Teaching and Learning Assignment #3 – Development Project

February 21, 2011 1 comment

Objectives

In general the objectives will be similar, but will relate to the different business functions that the fulfillment process supports and the basic set of data that flows through each process.

  • Participants will demonstrate their ability to navigate through an Order in the fulfillment process
  • Participants will demonstrate their ability to navigate through a Delivery in the fulfillment process
  • Participants will demonstrate their ability to navigate through an Invoice in the fulfillment process
  • Participants will demonstrate their familiarity with data structures, specifically idocs, within the fulfillment application
  • Participants will demonstrate their ability to show the relation between Orders, Deliveries, and Invoices
  • Participants will demonstrate their ability to apply business processes to the fulfillment process model

Malcolm Knowles’ theory of Andragogy can be used to describe the relevance of the course content and the motivation behind team members supporting having such a construct in place.  Merriam describes the five assumptions underlying Malcolm Knowles’ theory of Andragogy as follows:

(1) has an independent self-concept and who can direct his or her own learning,

(2) has accumulated a reservoir of life experiences that is a rich resource for

learning, (3) has learning needs closely related to changing social roles, (4) is

problem-centered and interested in immediate application of knowledge, and (5)

is motivated to learn by internal rather than external factors (2001, p. 5).

This suggests that team members would understand that having such a tool at their use would enhance, improve, and support both their career and personal interests as they relate to supporting the business application. Having a support system that provides education, albeit informal, on the processes and applications that team members actually work on would provide more value than generic courses that may or may not cover any material relevant to someone on the team.  Even though there will be some form of moderation where the project managers engage the team members on certain topics, many of the items will be self-directed or on an as needed basis.  Wikis provide a suitable technology that is easy to use and allows interaction amongst team members.  The amount of feedback from the project manager will not necessarily be in relation to how well they are doing in the course, but may relate to their responsiveness to activities, participation in the wiki activities, and interaction with other team members through the wiki.  The intent is to build upon the vastness of experiences from the whole team.  The information presented will be valuable to the different roles that are scattered across the team and should be immediately usable.

Although primarily self-directed the learners will need some type of guidance.  This will be performed primarily by the project manager to begin with and then may be extended to others within the team.  This guidance will come in the form of how to use the wiki, periodically driving topic discussion, and ensuring that everyone participates in some form or another.  One anticipated issue with this plan is that learners will not always have time to participate in learning experiences that are led by the moderators due to other issues that may arise such as being out for formal education, meetings, higher priority work (fixing defects or meeting development deadlines).  The way around this issue is that the learning is designed to be self-directed where applicable so team members can go through the material on their own and pick up the items that were missed during any moderated exercises.

Those who are taking on new tasks or roles should find this type of information and education very useful, while those who are more seasoned may take the educational tool for granted and not see it as valuable as others.  At any rate the information will be available for all development team members.  On item for consideration is that there will be a constant change in the framework of the education as there will be new team members and needs will change based on the requirements that are placed on the team (Molphy, Pocknee, & Young, 2007, p. 714).

Making sure that the education provided is of good quality will be integral to the success of the endeavor.  To get more team member buy-in a pre-assessment can be performed before the official rollout of the wiki to determine what types of things the team members would like to see to combat one of the conclusions of Compora where he states that institutions and organizations aren’t often practicing what they are promoting.  Compora states that “[p]rograms are often implemented in the absence of a needs assessment”  (Moore & Kearsley, 2005, p. 202).  Post-assessments can also be done at the end of each release from team members.  The current schedule calls for 4 releases in a year typically at the beginning of a quarter (January, April, July, and October).  Each post-assessment could be held a month after the scheduled deployments.  A management assessment will also be instituted as the managers are supposed to keep in tune with what the team members are working on, how they are performing within the team, and provide any information or recommendations on how to improve the working conditions (whatever they may be – in this case education) for the team in general.  I believe the overall result of these assessments will improve the experience for the team members and help them to understand different processes and give them an instrument to further engage each other.  With that in mind if team members have a better overall understanding for the processes and data this should lead to reductions in development defects for the application itself.  This item is of special importance when trying to sell this idea to the team, customer, and management.

Because of the locale of the team members there are those different geographies who speak different languages and have different cultures.  The one common language is English, although due to translations or understandings of certain words and phrases things may have more than one perceived meaning.  From my experience written communication between those who speak different languages tends to work best even though there will still be some miscommunications.  This is also supported by Moore & Kearsley as they state “foreign students usually feel more comfortable and engage in more dialogue by the text-based, asynchronous communication methods. . .”(2005, p. 225).  Another item that will help close the transactional distance will be the relationships that currently exist between team members, especially those who share a similar knowledge base.  These team members will typically communicate and have stronger relationships within their teams, as the teams are subdivided by functional area, but there will also be closer relationships based on locale.  Typically each group has one standard location where team members may be located within the same office building. Molphy, Pocknee, & Young state that successful communities of practice are able to share information appropriately based on the relationships more so than just the shared want to obtain knowledge (2007, p. 711).

References

Merriam, S. B. (2001). Andragogy and Self-Directed Learning: Pillars of Adult Learning Theory. New Directions for Adult & Continuing Education, (89), 3. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Molphy, M., Pocknee, C., & Young, T. (2007). Online communities of practice: Are They Principled and How do They Work? In ICT: Providing choices for learners and learning. Proceedings Ascilite. Singapore (pp. 710–716). Accessed February 15, 2011, from http://www.ascilite.org.au/conferences/singapore07/procs/molphy.pdf

Moore, M. & Kearsley, G. (2005).  Distance Education: A Systems View (2nd ed.) Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing Co.

Merriam describes the five assumptions underlying Malcolm Knowles theory of Andragogy as follows:

(1) has an independent self-concept and who can direct his or her own learning,

(2) has accumulated a reservoir of life experiences that is a rich resource for

learning, (3) has learning needs closely related to changing social roles, (4) is

problem-centered and interested in immediate application of knowledge, and (5)

is motivated to learn by internal rather than external factors (2001, p. 5).

Distance Teaching and Learning Assignment #2 – Development Project

February 7, 2011 Leave a comment
  • Overview – Business Transformation / Information Technology Customer Fulfillment Business Process in Cross Brand Solutions SAP environment
  • Objective – Team members will be able to identify the different business areas supported by the application, recognize inputs and outputs of business processes, describe release enhancements that have been integrated into current business processes
  • Procedure – Team will provide description of release enhancements via wiki to designated wiki section, descriptions will be provided in a template format so that all descriptions have the same feel and look, reviews held will give approval on information provided in release enhancement descriptions

The following technologies are under consideration to fulfill this distance education requirement:

  1. Audio/video recordings:  Audio or video could be utilized to give a “voice” or a visual to different materials.  People have different learning styles and may need some type of audio or video reinforcement.  The audio provided could be a summation of the online material, while the video provided could be a visual view of the data or business process being discussed along with audio to further explain it.   The disadvantage of this type of technology would be the sheer effort it would take to implement.  The work for this educational endeavor would be done by the same resources who are providing the support of the application itself (ie writing design documents, writing functional specifications, coding programs, providing support during test phases).  Without a dedicated team with the time to record audio and setup or create video the team would have to spend extra time in addition to their normal work responsibilities to produce these items.
  2. Teleconferencing has been done before when doing team education sessions.  It does provide the advantage of allowing live interaction amongst participants either on the phone or within a webconference.  Many team members have teleconferencing phone numbers and/or web accounts that allow participation via the phone or online.  Some conference numbers even allow the moderator to record the call.  This can be used if someone is not able to attend the call and would like to listen to it at a later time.  The main disadvantage or constraint here is that the team is geographically dispersed.  Finding times that allow all members to meet and talk or participate online for long periods of time is difficult.
  3. Web based learning
  • Learning Management System would be great.  Different business processes could be divided into subcategories.  There could be discussions groups   where questions and answers are recorded and maintained for future reference.  Maintenance and setup constraints, who maintains it
  • wikis would allow for the content to be updated as new enhancements and project releases are promoted into the production user environment.  Wikis would also allow for the documentation in one centralized place to describe the change of processes or data that come with new requirements in project releases.  Godwin-Jones argues that Wikis can serve in this manner as knowledge repositories (as cited in Beldarrain, 2006, p. 142).  Maintaining the wiki may be seen as a disadvantage. Although part of the design deliverables could be to update the wiki as we currently have deliverables called scripts which are a description of how the new requirement fits into the business process.  Instead of putting these documents into one off word documents the wiki could be updated with the new information.  Another disadvantage could be ensuring the information put onto the wiki is reliable, although our development process ensures that the design is approved by business users so it should be at least from their point of view correct.  Their understanding of how things work could affect the correctness of the design.

Using Bates’ ACTIONS model I determined that a wiki should be the technology utilized (as cited by Moore & Kearsley, 2005, p. 94).  Wikis are easily accessible from the web.  We could have a restricted site for the team members and they would be able to access it from anywhere in the world provided they had access to the company network.  The costs are minimal in terms of setup.  All employees have access to internal means of creating and accessing wikis.  There may be some cost  incurred to the client in order to provide time for team members to work on the wiki itself.  The wiki would allow for team members to learn about certain aspects of the project on their own.  “. . .[W]ikis help create a dynamic, collaborative learning environment where learning happens through open discussion and exchange of ideas and opinions, collaborative construction and sharing of knowledge, and active participation” (Su & Beaumont, 2010, p. 418).  No changes in the organization need to occur.  The change would come in the development process itself.  When detailed designs and scripts (all descriptive writings about new processes and function to be put into the system) are created the content should also be put into the wiki.  Information can be updated very quickly with the click of a button.

If teleconferencing is used any phone calls would required that the participant have access to a phone or some type of voice over internet protocol and web-conferencing would require access to the internet and company network.  Because of the mobility of our team having access to a phone is not always a given, although web access should be attainable.  There are departmental costs associated with having a phone conference number and the costs vary depending on the provider and type of number one has.

A Learning Management System would need to be accessible only on the company network.  This could be attained.  The cost of an LMS for an informal type of learning not sanctioned or organized by the official learning group of the company could be hard to justify.  Costs can range from free open source to $111,630 per year assuming a one year license that is installed locally behind a company firewall (Nantel, 2009).  The approach behind teaching would be more of a self-directed approach which could be provided by the LMS.  The types of interactions would be based on the LMS chosen, but discussion groups, real-time instant messaging, and file sharing are some of the options available (Cavis, 2011, p. 23).  The organizational would not have to change as with the other technology tools.  This would just be a different method for storing knowledge, team member interaction collaboration, and education.  Users would have to learn the intricacies of the LMS which may be difficult.

The following is a first draft of the design.  This design could be viewed as a study guide as well as the different section headings for the wiki.  Initially there would be work to setup the basis of the wiki as the general process, inputs, and outputs generally remain unchanged.  The release specific portions would be the sections that contain any new enhancements of the business process.  These enhancements equate to the new requirements per release.  Part of the development process includes completing a document that has the design to meet the new requirement.  There are also reviews in place to ensure that the design meets the needs of the requester.  After the design has been approved another required deliverable is a higher level non-technical version that is meshed into the existing business process.  These non-technical versions have limited visibility, are only available to certain people, and are not easy to follow – so this wiki environment would become the replacement that is available, visible, and usable to all.
Business Information/Information Technology Fulfillment Process

Order Fulfillment Process at a glance

  • Order Management
  • Scheduling and Delivery
  • Invoicing and Billing
  • Data flow through 3 main process areas
  • Order Management
  • Process
  • Inputs
  • Outputs to Scheduling and Delivery Process
  • Release specific changes
  • Scheduling and Delivery
  • Process
  • Inputs from Order Management Process
  • Outputs to Invoicing and Billing Process
  • Release Specific Changes
  • Invoicing and Billing
  • Process
  • Inputs from Scheduling and Distribution Process
  • Outputs from Invoicing and Billing Process
  • Release specific changes

In using the wiki as a knowledge repository there is no instructor per se as this will be a self-directed type of learning.  The project manager (me) will have the responsibility of ensuring that the process remains the same, but the tools used for the description of the enhancements now becomes a tool for educating the whole team instead of a select few.  This can be categorized as Learner-Content Interaction and my role will be to refer the team to the wiki and encourage and support the continued use of the wiki itself so that the users are the ones creating the content and knowledge (Moore & Kearsley, 2005,  p. 140).  There will be very little Learner-Instructor interaction unless there is a dedicated session of review (ie new team members are being trained and time allots for all team members and/or project manager to participate).  With using a wiki others are able to provide feedback and edit items that may be erroneous.  This  type of Learner-Learner interaction will occur in groups and amongst individuals since the team is divided into teams that general support specific business functions.  The interaction will occur as usual in meetings, design sessions, and various reviews, but a new form of interaction will develop in forming and defining this information on the wiki.

References

Beldarrain, Y. (2006). Distance Education Trends: Integrating new technologies to foster student interaction and collaboration. Distance Education, 27(2), 139-153. doi:10.1080/01587910600789498

Cavus, N. (2011). The application of a multi-attribute decision-making algorithm to learning management systems evaluation. British Journal of Educational Technology, 42(1), 19-30. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8535.2009.01033.x

Moore, M. & Kearsley, G. (2005).  Distance Education: A Systems View (2nd ed.) Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing Co.

Su, F., & Beaumont, C. (2010). Evaluating the use of a wiki for collaborative learning. Innovations in Education & Teaching International, 47(4), 417-431. doi:10.1080/14703297.2010.518428

Nantel, R. (2009, June).  Price Ranges for Learning Management Systems in 2009.  Retrieved from http://brandon-hall.com/richardnantel/2009/06/01/price-ranges-for-learning-management-systems-in-2009/. (2011, February 7).

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