This is a continuation of my "top ten" favorite posts from 2012. Here is the rest of the list, in no particular order:
I posted a survey, asking IT folks to respond to a series of questions about the work they do, where they fit in their organization, and (most importantly) to rank the "relative importance" of four qualities: Technical, Interpersonal, Strategic, Financial. This was not a simple 1-2-3-4 ranking exercise, but rather I asked people to consider the importance of each quality relative to each other and rate them on a 0-10 scale so that the total of all four was also 10. (This was a followup on an earlier survey.) I found these results very interesting! There's a lot to learn about leadership at different levels in an IT organization. Some thoughts:
- The vanishing value of Technical.
- The balancing act of the Team Lead.
- The drop in Interpersonal at the CIO level.
The challenge of CIOs everywhere is how to make technology a good "fit" with the business. When you think about it, technology is a relatively recent thing to businesses. In the last 30 years, computing has evolved rapidly, from individual desktop computers to desktops connected via a "LAN", to client-server intranet, then Internet ... and today, "Cloud" on desktops, laptops, and (increasingly) apps on tablets. That's why the CIO has such a tough job. At the same time, you need to maintain the existing IT systems, look ahead to the "next new thing", and respond to new demands. The successful CIO also needs to balance the above with "politics"—building relationships, helping others understand how IT works with the organization to help advance the institutional goals. In other words, it's about staying relevant.
In her article "Envisioning a Post-Campus America" at The Atlantic, Megan McArdle contemplates what the college system would look like if distance learning becomes the norm. She makes 12 predictions about the future of online education, but I'll list only a few here:
- Education will end up being dominated by a few huge incumbents.
- Professors (course developers) will be selected for teaching instead of research.
- Young job-seekers will need new ways to signal diligence.
- The economics of graduate school will change substantially.
- The tutoring industry will boom.
And while McArdle doesn't include it in her list, online education also means changes in the bookstore: shifting more materials to ebooks, a more "Amazon-like" experience, and increasing textbook rentals.
One project that I've been following with great interest for some time is the Raspberry Pi project. (That's "pi", as in the Greek letter π. Cute, eh?) Raspberry Pi is a small computer, with a circuit board the size of a credit card. Only $35, it's powerful enough to do lots of interesting and useful things. At the end of the semester, I presented our Computer Science department with a Raspberry Pi for them to experiment with. I see great potential in the Pi for teaching: imagine issuing a Pi to Computer Science students for them to work on throughout the semester. Classes could include operating system architecture, computer design, and special projects. At the end of the semester, if a few Pis don't make it back due to damage or loss, it's only $35 to replace them. I'm very excited to see how the Raspberry might fit into our pedagogy!
Occasionally, it's important to take a step back and recognize the great work that we do. Computing Services has worked very hard to bring new improvements to the campus, without affecting what you do. I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge some of the work that Computing Services has done for the campus. A few projects we identified early this year:
- Google+ and Google Apps
- NEH technology grant
- Zimride online ride-sharing board