Friday, December 17, 2004

e-learning in British Columbia, the grass is very green

Whenever I have a chance, I do some reading and research for the learning technology roadmap I am building for my local school district. I came across these two documents in the last month; “Learning science and technology R&D roadmap” describes the R&D tasks identified to encourage the revolution we need in how we teach and learn. And “The e-learning sector in British Columbia” describes how to grow and market e-learning within our province. This second document also has a great roadmap on the convergence of elearning technologies with some financial projections for the e-learning industry.

Monday, November 22, 2004

LAMP servers gaining traction

The open source world continues to mature. I’ve been a follower of computer and software technology for over 16 years and, for me, the most intriging is open source. The idea of software being built for the good of the world with no purchase cost incurred, makes sense. Our infrastructure should be “free”. We have roads, utility systems, etc… which are essentially free. We pay some taxes, but I get a whole lot of infrastructure for those tax dollars. Why shouldn’t the internet infrastructure also be close to free? It’s a knowledge utility system.

So now open source has grown out of it’s toddler stage and has become a gregarious teen who is more than happy to stand on thier own. This is evidenced by the highly successful, completely open source, LAMP server. If you didn’t already know a LAMP server consists of Linux, Apache, Mysql, and PHP/Python/Perl and its a low cost, high performance altenative for hosting your online business. Let’s see how it all goes through time. I believe we will see a steady growth in open source. I believe that 5 years from now the providers of the technology landscape will have changed where open source will have grown out of being a teenager and into full adulthood.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Innovation in our school districts

I needed to get a reality check on all this thinking I was doing regarding MAN’s, emerging digital technologies, networks and how it is all effecting learning. I met with a friend of mine who is the principal of an elementary school in my daughters school district. I’d also done some work for this principal seven years ago in the area of adult education. Mostly, the work I did was assisting parents get up to speed with computers and the internet. I also called a fellow in the school district responsible for instructional services, he has his pulse on the technology needs of the district. After these two conversations the information confirmed what I was suspecting and what I had read previously. In a lot of areas there exists a growing digital divide and there isn’t much we can do about it without providing ways to educate parents and teachers about these emerging technologies. And really we, as communities, don’t provide the infrastructure to encourage parents and teachers to deepen their understanding “and usefulness” of such things. For learning about these technologies can be expensive and time consuming.

Being hell-bent on trying to help out, I asked where could I provide some assistance. We came back to why we knew each other in the first place. Parent workshops about technologies. Given I have written technology roadmaps in the past I offered to put one together for the school district as a “non-biased” community member. If this roadmap bears fruit worthy of presentation I will create a parent teacher workshop for it’s presentation. I believe John Abbott would be happy with this, for it increases community involvement in our children’s education.

Monday, October 04, 2004

Communities, learning, technology, socializing and anarchy; the road we’re on.

Over the last week I learned a lot. A lot about education, learning, technology, how the brain works and the road ahead. I gestalted. The gestalt came from six primary sources;

First, I have been looking for a career change. Not really a change, more like a consolidation. I am consolidating the skills and knowledge I have from 16 years as a technologist with the 8 years I have as college faculty and technology trainer. I love to teach. Always have, most likely always will. I’m also enamored by technology, I love the wizardry. So, at 40 it makes sense that I bring it all together. So, now I’m networking, reading, talking on the phone, studying, doing what it takes to complete the consolidation.

Second, I read an article in strategy+business by Marc Prensky. (yes, I still read magazines). A great article about the language of people born after approximately 1984, they are referred to as digital natives. You can’t get the actual article on-line, you can get to a pdf on the subject via Marc’s website, it’s found in a paper titled, “digital natives, digital immigrants“. The premise of all this is that people born after 1984 (and access to the technology) have brains that are now hard wired differently than those born before 1984. This change is due to the amount of digital exposure they have had. Exposure to TV, video games, cell phones, instant messaging, email, etc… read the article, it all makes sense there.

, I was attending a workshop in my daughters school district. The workshop was called “What Kind of Education for What Kind of World?”. The key speaker was a man named, ‘John Abbott’, he is a founder of the 21st Century Learning Initiative. He talked about brain development. The very early years, the spirit of the family and close ties to others, how some learning times are better than others, the importance of the adolescent years and mentorship, how learning is also community based. All summarized in the proverb, “Tell me, and I forget; show me, and I remember; let me do and I understand.” All this happens at different times and rates as a person grows up in their community. He talked about technological change and how it is affecting everything.

Fourth, I was talking with a fellow who works for IBM in the Learning Solutions area of their practice. We had a great conversation about learning, technology and what’s next. He mentioned the concept of social networks. Social networks? look it up on google. It’s about how all the information you need can be within two degrees of separation and a whole lot more.

Fifth, the guy from IBM pointed me toward a fellow named Lawrence Lessig. He’s a lawyer / professor and he’s doing a lot of thinking, writing and work in regards to intellectual property laws and copyright. In a nutshell, and I hope I’m not simplifying too much, How do we encourage creativity when there is so much regulation and control?

Sixth, A few months ago I was working as a systems architect and I put together a comprehensive technology roadmap so we could get a better grasp of where we should be taking our financial services products. We needed some insight to what was on the technological horizon. During this I became familiar with the concept of the Municipal Area Networks. Essentially, this is a network which services a geographically contained area (municipality). This kind of network makes sense given we pay taxes so we have infrastructure within our municipality to support our lives and wellbeing. So as the online world becomes more pervasive why wouldn’t we have a network for our municipality. Think globally, act locally.

Ok, so what’s my point? Non-disclosure free zones, built upon the infrastructure of a Municipal Area Network, where all those who choose to participate work freely and without intellectual property concerns toward a stronger, smarter community. All wiki like, all ubiquitous, all with like minds, all in the same geographic community (we should still get out and be with others, it’s good for us). ommm.. can you feel it? You get younger community members who are in their intellectual flow partnered with other like minded people (their digital natives, they will do it anyway), including local experts (some older people who have ingrained knowledge, but want to hang with the natives to better understand the culture), learning, growing, innovating, invigorated… Awesome.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Brothers are great, and the ”Valley of Death"

So my brother sent me an email reminding me of the origin of the expression, “valley of death”. In the context of it being used for startups it really is appropriate.

This is verbatim my brothers email;
Just read your blog, or at least some of it. How much do you know about the Charge of the Light Brigade, a disastrous military engagement during the Crimean War immortalized by Tennyson in his poem of the same name
This poem is the origin of the phrase “valley of death”. Dozens of cavalry soldiers died as a result of arrogant leadership, poor communications and a blind adherence to a plan in the face of the facts.

Thanks, Dave.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Disciplined SDLC and technology start-up success

I’m back to utilizing my proven skills and knowledge again.  I was asked to perform technical due diligence on a couple of start-ups.  What usually happens is I show up and interview a few of the development team members for about 5 hours. I take a look at documentation, code, database schema, and a few other technical artifacts. Then I write a high level report about my findings.  It’s not meant to be detailed, and it can’t be, it’s all done within one days work. These are usually for angel investors who want better insight into an opportunity. During one of the summary sessions, I looked across the table to another technology person and said, “does a disciplined software development lifecycle (SDLC) have an effect on start-up success?”  Or is it all about having the right people with the right knowledge, in the right place at the right time. 

Does having a disciplined SDLC help you across the “valley of death” to commercialization?

Answer: I don’t know yet.  I will.  I read one document about the lightweight methodologies. These methodologies all speak to the importance of experienced developers and having some design and documentation standards. How much you ritualize depends on many factors, ritual can slow things down, yet, it keeps it all healthy. In a number of cases, ritual saved a projects success.  In others, it was undetermined. Either way what I have read so far is anecdotal.  I’ll write another blog entry about this when I find something quantitative and focused on software start-ups.