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Tipping Point for the Supertanker June 12, 2009

Posted by davidit in Uncategorized.
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Tipping Point

Tipping Point

Image by: Steve Wampler http://www.flickr.com/photos/sgw/

It has been a while since I have updated the Supertanker’s heading and you will see that we have made a 50 degree change since the last update.  The Supertanker has been making excellent headway in 2009  and this large jump reflects that fact and in addition reveals the  alarming fact that the heading was last updated in July 2008!  What has happened?  Has the captain been sleeping at the helm?  The answer is no, just busy!

What is clear from the actions of the crew on the Supertanker is that like all Supertankers, our change in direction is gathering tremendous momentum.  This is fantastic news,  there are some really interesting developments happening on the Supertanker.  Change is occurring as a result of a perfect storm of three initiatives all started in 2008.

The first was the Supertanker embarking on its ICT PD cluster oddessy.  We are now in our second year of the cluster, we have three facilitators of which I am one and responsible for ICT.  The pedagogical  input from our other facilitators has created a natural platform for integrating ICT into the classroom.  Now the cart and the horse are in the appropriate alignment and the crew are  starting to really experiment with the potential for ICT to be used as a tool to enhance student learning outcomes.

In 2008 we changed our tech support team. With our previous model of support we were in a regime that thwarted creativity and stifled initiative, in 2008 we threw off that cloak and embarked upon a more open and freer model.  It has taken time for the crew to recognise that fact and to spread their wings and experiment with the possibilities.  They now have the power to experiment with tools that they have discovered and wish to use, they can give things a go instantly.

The final strand of the triumvirate has been investment in infrastructure.  We have strived to create a level playing field in all classrooms in an attempt to mitigate ‘the grass is greener’ envy that we had before.  In previous years, old equipment or a range of different performing equipment between classes and even within classes has been used as an excuse not to use ICT tools or to even try.  With a level playing field, every class has a minimum of three computers and a digital camera, staff no longer feel as though they are a poor cousin and are just using the tools.  We have also streamlined our server room.  We have consolodated the core switch cabinet, pulling together all the various coms equipment that had previously been scattered all over the Supertanker.  We have also increased our storage capacity.

The nett result of these three initiatives is that the staff have the freedom to experiment, the pedagogical rationale and space to store stuff.  As a result we are going places, a sleeping giant has been woken, the Supertanker could yet well morph into lithe A class off shore racing machine!

Has this rapid change been hassle free?  Well the answer has to be no!  The new found freedoms have now presented me with a range of new issues to deal with and in conjunction with my IT support team we are constantly having to manage the new challenges posed by the momentum.  The first issue has been our data growth, this finds me in an enviable position.

Our data growth is currently 7 Gb per day!  This is fantastic news and I can not complain about it.  It is a very crude indicator that staff and students are using the stuff that we spent so much money and time putting into place.  It means that the digital cameras are being used and some!  It means that the microphones purchased the video cameras purchased are all being used, as the data growth is due to the explosion in multi-media files.  It also means that our 1 Tb drives purchased last Christmas are now looking decidedly small!

The other and potentially more difficult issue to manage is the lag between staff enthusiasm and staff savvy.  It is a quotient that I starting to call TCoF (Total Cost of Freedom).  Having been set free from the constraints of the previous support model, staff are now experimenting and innovating, which is exactly what I wanted.  There is a price to pay for this, and we have.  For the majority of this term we have been battling a trojan on our network that is replicating, it has been a bit like fighting the Hydra.  We are now in control and the Hydra has been slain.  What is clear is that as MS tightens up its notoriously sloppy code, the hackers are looking elsewhere for their attack vectors.  The recent Adobe security compromise is a good example, as is hijacked web sites.  Both of which dupe an unsuspecting user into downloading something that they are not expecting.  It is this savvyness that unleashed users now need to develop, but it can only develop through mistakes.

Therefore as the Supertanker continues to gain momentum, my issues and focus have in their turn changed.  I have moved  from having to cajole reluctant users to use the stuff to working with individuals to plan great integration strategies.  I have also to cope with the mistakes of enthusiastic innovators and manage a rapidly increasing data storage and back up headache.  I now have to balance momentum and enthusiasm with protection that is not draconian and restrictive.  I have to manage data and lots of it,  juggle resources and move stuff about in order to cope.  Hallelujah!

We are truly Turning the Supertanker!