Good morning! It’s always exciting – and somewhat daunting – to provide the closing keynote. This will be your final impression of this year’s ASBOA conference.My goal is to weave together some of what you’ve heard over the past two days, and to provide you with some very practical technology-related advice that you can take back to your school jurisdictions.Before I jump in to that, though, I’d like to tell you a little bit about what the school technology branch does.
Our work is about supporting students, educators, leaders and the Ministry by understanding how technology can advance learning and teaching. We do this by:Connecting the you, your colleagues, and the ministry on technology mattersIdentifying emerging technology and researching how it can support education, andMaking technology more accessible to all students in all schoolsMy work is primarily focused on identifying good practices and building leadership capacity to make technology decisions (IT governance), manage IT service, and manage technology-related risks in Alberta’s school jurisdictions.These things are increasingly important in complex times like those in which we are working.
Two documents serve as the book-ends to our present situation.Inspiring Education sets out an ambitious vision for Alberta’s education system. This vision is the response of the people of Alberta to some of the issues and opportunities presented by Todd Hirsch on Monday morning, and is setting the education system on a course of transformational change. If Alberta is ever going to up its game in terms of creativity, innovation, risk taking, entrepreneurialism, community and environmental stewardship – we must move forward toward creating this vision.
On the other hand, we have the fiscal constraints associated with Budget 2013.Some would say that we are expected to do more with less.But last week, Dr. Sharon Friesen pointed out that the change described in Inspiring Education is not intended to be additive. We will not truly achieve transformation if we simply take what we currently do, and apply a layer of “new” stuff on top. We can’t just sprinkle technology like cloud, mobile and social on education and call it a day.To achieve transformation, we need to shift. We need to shift our culture, mental models, ways of doing things, and our investments.
But shifting our time, effort and investments away from what we currently do and toward something else is not an easy thing. As we shift from our existing ways of doing things, some work will stop and there will be an accompanying sense of loss.It’s a basic human response to move away from pain and toward pleasure. Let’s face it. Starting new things is fun and exciting! Stopping things is not.But what we are called to do now – in some cases – is to do something counterintuitive: move toward pain and make difficult choices – in the face of increasing complexity, rapid technological change, abundant information, limited knowledge and competing interests.
But let’s talk about technology.For many K-12 leaders in this province, technology is a black box. Many have a limited understanding of what IT is, and what IT does. They don’t really want to deal with IT – or IT personnel. Some leaders look at IT and see money, time, people, and resources going in. New services come out…and so do new risks and problems. Some people look at IT and see a barrier to educational transformation, and others see a tremendous opportunity.If we are to successfully transform the education system, then we need to make a few shifts.
First, we need to shift how we think about IT investments and budgeting.
I keep hearing from everyone about how expensive technology is. And in some respects it can be – but let’s put IT spending into perspective. Gartner’s 2012 IT key metrics data found that IT spending as a percentage of revenue in Education is 4.7%. Here in Alberta, I’ve heard figures as low as 1.9% of revenue.Keep in mind that this 1.9-4.7% of revenue supports 100% of the technology needs of your organization.When we put IT expenditure into context, IT isn’t actually that expensive.
Run grow transform explanationIf these numbers hold true in our board that spends 1.9% of its budget on IT, then 0.2% of its revenues are being directed to transformational technology investments. This increases to 0.7% of revenues in a board that is on the high end of IT spending. The blinding flash of the obvious here is that we need to shift spending from Run and Grow to Transform.But how do we do that?Well, let’s look at this another way.
With this kind of data coming from the IT budget and financials, it’s very difficult to determine what we’re buying. Very often, the budget looks like a variation of this – hardware, software, human resources, network infrastructure, contracted services.From this, it would be very difficult to determine where to reduce or increase investment levels, and it’s not at all surprising that leaders are challenged to make good decisions.
Thank you to those of you who came to the IT budgeting consultation session on Monday and contributed your thoughts to the categories represented here.This is a fictional representation of the future we’re trying to create.In STB, we think that leaders who see IT expenses represented like this are going to engage in a fundamentally different – and better - conversation.
IT departments need to shift how they communicate the services they offer and their associated costs to provide leaders with greater insight into IT and support better decision-making.We have started work on a standard service portfolio that can be used in any jurisdiction in Alberta. We’re basing this on the premise that the vast majority of services offered are the same.How can you help? Participate in the development of the service portfolio, and particularly in costing the services.We want to encourage strong partnerships between you and the IT leaders in your school jurisdictions. I encourage you to take your IT leader out for a coffee and have a chat about how to improve budgeting.
We have devices. We have google. We’re ready to go to cloud.WiFi at Tim Hortons, where few people will use it is not the same as WiFi in a school that is a physically large space, with hundreds of concurrent users. It’s much more complex to set up – each building and network is unique (no boilerplate installs), and orders of magnitude more expensive. And if Tim Hortons wants to increase its WiFi access, all they have to do is tack an extra five cents on to your large double-double and it’s as good as funded.WiFi installs in schools are critical, and have to be funded appropriately.
The school technology branch has started publishing technology briefings. Each briefing will address a specific technology topic – providing an overview of what the issue is, the opportunities in education, the costs, the risks, and finally a set of discussion questions.We find reliable sources of information, adapt information for the Alberta K-12 education context, and summarize the issue into a concise document.These are written in non-technical language, and are very brief – no more than 4 pages. (Our goal is 2 pages.) The cloud computing briefing distributed last week. The next briefing is on Digital Citizenship and will be distributed in October.Our goal is to distribute 4 briefings per year.How can you help? If you have a topic you’d like covered, please submit it to Susan and she’ll pass it along to us. Also, please discuss the topic of the briefing with your jurisdiction’s technology leader and senior leaders.
How technology decisions are made are largely influenced by the governance model in place in the school board. There is no right or wrong decision making model – there is a time and a place for centralized decision-making and site-based decision making. Both models can go awry.Examples.But it doesn’t have to be this way. We need to think about how decisions are made in a more sophisticated way. There is no right answer, no single solution.
An intentional approach to designing and delegating decision rights can save everyone a lot of grief.We can trip ourselves up by trying to apply one-size-fits none decision-making processes to technology.Governing systems of innovation that teachers want to use in the classroom the same way that you govern your SIS is a short road to misery.
Spend less time thrashing aroundwith policy decisions, while also covering the risks.Often, we distinguish decision types by function – is it an educational decision, a financial decision, an IT decision, an HR decision?But in complex environments, decisions often cross functional boundaries, and collaboration is needed.Take BYOD. Very often, this is a decision that’s treated as an educational decision. A principal will decide that this is a desirable direction for her school. Great.But there are technology, financial, and community implications associated with this decision. BYOD is a strategic decision that involves many stakeholders, and therefore requires a higher degree of stakeholder engagement to cover the associated decision risks. Assess the decision before making it to ensure that the right stakeholders are engaged.
Give yourself some wiggle room for technology decisions.Developing a million rules that have a right or wrong answer (standards good, diversity bad…or custom developed applications bad, commercial off-the-shelf software good) can and does create negative unintended consequences and can result in poor outcomes.
The ultimate goal here is better decisions – better decisions result from better conversations that engage people with an interest in the topic, and information to contribute. Give yourselves the power to turn the knobs to get the best outcome, rather than flipping a switch.
Since 2010 we’ve offered consulting services and workshops for school boards upon request. This process has been continuously refined. In the past, we’d show up, provide a workshop and be done with it, but that wasn’t getting the desired outcomes.Now, we engage in a longer-term effort. We take the time up front to listen to what your challenges and goals are, and collaborate with you. We bring a breadth of expertise to bear, including deep expertise in IT decision-making, IT service management, and information security management (and all of it relating to how these things are done in educational settings), coupled with consulting and facilitation expertise. That’s what we offer.What you can do is if you think this would be beneficial, engage in conversations in your board to clarify what you want to achieve, contact us, and then commit to working through the process.For the jurisdictions that do engage in this work, the payoff is better quality and faster decisions about technology. Two boards have reported that they adapted the work we did with them for IT to the broader jurisdiction governance process.
The New Normal
1. Connecting2. Sharing knowledge3. Increasing accessWhat we do:
“Leadership is a scary thing. There are many people that want to be matadors,only to find themselves in the ring with 2,000 pounds of bull bearing down onthem, and then discover that what they really wanted was to wear tight pantsand hear the crowd roar.”- Steve Farber, Extreme Leadership
Free and Open Source Softwareare cheaper and just as good.
We’ve got devices and Google – we’regood to go digital.
What are we doing about it?http://bit.ly/cloudbriefing
Ask questions• Why should we do this?• Who is it for?• What will they notice when we do this?• What are the intended outcomes?• How will we know if we’ve achieved those outcomes?• How long will it take to realize those outcomes?• How much will it cost to implement? To sustain?• What are the risks of doing this?• What are the risks of not doing this?• What are other ways we could achieve the same outcomes?
• Cost effective/Economies ofscale• Consistent implementation• Implementation at scale• Equitability• Shared risk• Organizational learning• Efficient decision-making• Meets local needs• Implementation at speed• Rapid innovation• Limited risk scope• Short planning cycle• Bureaucratic• Local needs not fully met• Slow implementation• Higher planning overhead• Higher change managementoverhead• Slow to identify and respond tochange challenges• Cost inefficiency• Pockets of innovation• Innovation does not scale• Inequity• Inconsistent implementation• High local risk• Broader implications notconsidered• Pockets of learning• Redundant activitiesDownsideUpside UpsideCentralized Site-BasedDownside
• 1 week to 1 year• Not integrated• Narrow scopeSystems ofInnovation• 3-5 years• Gets data from core systems• Broader scopeCommonSystems• 5-10 years• Many systems connect to it• Very broad scopeCoreSystems
• Broad strategic impact• Linkage to legislation• Significant risksStrategicPolicy• Broad, long term operational impact• Impacts jurisdiction, not community• Internal consultationAdministrativeProcedure• Narrow, short to medium term impact• Describes how IT does somethingOperationalProcedure
What are we doing about it?94%97%6%3%0% 20% 40% 60% 80% 100%I have a better understanding ofwhat to doI have a better understanding of ITissuesAgree Neutral
Contact us!Angie TarasoffSenior Manager, Technology Planning and Managementangie.firstname.lastname@example.org(780)427-0253 toll free in Alberta by calling 310-0000 first@angietarasoffhttp://newernormal.blogspot.com