Leadership Perspective: Reading and Reflections

From my July 14th blog post … I am reading What I Learned From Frogs in Texas by Jim Carroll which I picked up at the Leading Learning conference in May 2009. The first section of the book captured my interest with a couple of insightful thoughts. First, the notion of ‘aggressive indecision’ and secondly ‘lost momentum’…

I have finished reading the book and thought I would share a few comments. The core message in the book challenges us to look at the preparing for change and the future with the right approaches. While many of the examples are business oriented, it is not much of a stretch to see how these ideas can be mapped to many of our educational systems.

Every organization, business or educational, needs a strong long term plan to maintain strength, vibrance and critical function in today’s rapidly changing world. The long term plan must be clearly stated, sustainable, achievable and good for the long haul. There is nothing strategic about a plan that keeps changing every few weeks or months.

Highlights and Challenges

Culture – what is the culture of your organization? Do you have a culture that embraces change and explores new opportunities? Or perhaps you are stuck with indecision – no momentum, or perhaps the avoidance of decision making all together. Is risk taking minimized to the point of ineffectiveness?

Innovation – is critical to the future success of any organization. My translation to an educational setting: invest in strategies that keep enrollment up, produce meaningful results in student learning, prepare students (and staff) for the future and find efficiencies.

Gen Y workers/students – this group of people is used to change, and used to multitasking. After all, as Jim points out, they have lived through through 5 generations of gaming technology already. How do provide for them in a business environment? How do we keep them engaged and focused on their work? AND, before we get there, how do we keep them fully engaged in a learning setting? Big questions!, and important ones looking ahead to future success. Based on trends, the Gen Y group is poised to be a more mobile and transient work force where the focus will be more strategic than tactical.

Leadership – Organizations must sift through the management and/or/vs. leadership question. Bottom line – forward thinking leadership is critical for success. No organization can stay the same in today’s world and remain equally effective.

Lastly, tying back to organizational culture, it is important to make decisions. This is the way in which leadership teams send the signal about moving ahead, and is part of fostering a culture of innovation.

I found the book to be well worth the read. Jim made a lot of solid points which were illustrated with excellent examples. It certainly stimulated me to keep thinking about how to keep improving my skills as a leader and having a positive positive and future focused impact on my organization.

Enjoy the reading and thinking!

~ Mark

Web Brings Solar Eclipse ‘Alive’

I have always been fascinated with the eclipses. A major eclipse will happen tomorrow (July 22nd, 2009) and will be notable due to the length of time the event will take.  These eclipse events have become more tangible, and I would argue personalized, with the advances of web based technologies.  In particular, our ability to broadcast live events through streaming technologies is a significant step forward in bringing significant events to our global community.

I have pulled together a few links related to the eclipse event this week. I hope the web enhances your solar eclipse experience!

Backgrounder Mr. Eclipse

NASA TSE 2009

Wikipedia Article

Facebook repost from Mashable

Enjoy the eclipse!

~ Mark

WX5 – First Impressions

I finally had some time to sit down and spend a block of time with the Yamaha WX5 MIDI Wind Controller. There are some first time configuration tasks to complete before you can jump into make music mode. Most of the steps are fairly straight forward, but I did learn a few things about the device by actually reading the instructions (unlike me :-]).

 

WX5
WX5

 

 

Setup & Configuration Options:

Power – batteries or AC adaptor – I chose the AC adaptor. It is worthwhile noting that the unit does not come with the AC adapter when purchased. I was a bit surprised by this but did pick one up. I imagine that batteries may be best suited to a performance situation, but that will come farther down the road.

Mouthpiece – recorder or reed style – I choose the reed style as I anticipated this would be more like a clarinet/saxophone which is what I am used to playing.

Tone Generator – Yamaha VL70-m MIDI module or alternate MIDI module – The WX5 does not actually produce any sound on its own. It needs to send MIDI data to another device to create the actual sounds, much in the same manner as a number of MIDI keyboard controllers on the market. The VL70-m unit is designed to work with the WX5 and has a special connection port for the WX5 cable. The VL70-m unit comes pre-populated with 2 banks of 128 preset voices and has additional space for voice editing (6) and user created variations on internal voices (64). I will be using the VL70-m unit to start, but I do have other MIDI modules that would be interesting to try as well. 

Setting the sensors: The lip and wind sensors need to be adjusted to your own playing. The manual guides you through this process quite clearly. The factory default settings were quite accurate, so that minimized the work in this area. 

Fingering Mode Selection: There are 3 variations on saxophone fingering patterns and one flute option. I selected the saxophone ‘a’ setting which is similar to playing a tenor saxophone. 

There are other more advanced features which I decided to leave alone for now. Time to play!

Most of my first session was experimental to see what the unit could do and how it responded. Playing a few scales oriented my fingers to the note patterns on the unit fairly quickly. The air pressure required to produce a sound is quite light – certainly less than playing a clarinet or saxophone. There are additional adjustment in this area which I expect to explore as I think I would be more comfortable with a little more air resistance. Octave changes are executed through a series of 4 different left thumb buttons (-2, -1, +1, +2). This will take some getting used to, but many selections easily fit within a 2 octave range, so the current octave with a +1 option will handle these. I also experimented with many of the present sounds in the VL70-m unit – some very cool choices, and more to go.

So far, so good and FUN!  I am looking forward to trying some melodies played against some midi accompaniments done with Band in a Box (software). Stay tuned for a future update. Maybe I will record something simple and post a sample. 

Off for more WX5 time.

~ Mark

Facebook and Canadian Privacy Laws

One of the eye catching news items this week from my point of view was the release of the report on Facebook and Canadian Privacy Laws. As I cruised through a variety of related news releases and postings, I thought I would share some of the links that I thought were worthwhile in today’s blog post.

Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada view website

Overview: Facebook needs to improve privacy practices see overview

          Related links on the site:
          – findings
          – backgrounder
          – Remarks by Jennifer Stoddart, Privacy Commissioner of Canada
          – Remarks by Elizabeth Denham, Assistant Privacy Commissioner of Canada

Facebook’s offical response to the report: response

From CBC: There are some great links on the CBC site to related news stories, perspectives and videos.  view reports

From The Globe and Mail: (Video reports)

Privacy commissioner raises Facebook concerns: CP video report

BNN speaks with Elizabeth Denham, Assistant Privacy Commissioner: BNN report

How to deactivate your facebook account: click for instructions

~ Mark

Social Networking in K-12

I was cruising through my Twitter listings last night and found a reference to a Social Networking article by Marcia Connor at THE Journal (http://www.thejournal.com). Of course, curiosity won, and I had a look at the article. The ‘snip it’ below (as received when you select email me a copy) will give you the flavour of the article.

:::::

Beyond Social Networking: Building Toward Learning Communities

Much has been written recently about the impact of social networking tools in teaching and learning and how educators can build on the skills of their students in using these tools. But if educators only integrate the ability of students to connect and socialize, deeper points of learning will be missed. While good teaching and learning rests on effective relationships, in an active learning community, those relationships should evolve into actual idea exchange and knowledge construction.

Among those listed by Connor (quoting from MIT and other sources) are skills in:
• Simulation: the ability to interpret and construct dynamic models of real-world processes;
• Collective intelligence: the ability to pool knowledge and compare notes with others toward a common goal; and
• Negotiation: the ability to travel across diverse communities, discerning and respecting multiple perspectives and grasping and following alternative norms.
:::::

Once at the site, I was interested in the BiWeekly Poll in the sidebar which poses the question: Does your district ban social networking sites?

The currently listed stats show:

No ban – 17%
Yes, banned district-wide for students and teachers – 69%
Yes, banned only for students – 13%
Yes, banned only for certain students – 0%

There is an interesting message in these statistics, and it has got me thinking about the discussions around this very issue we had at our Technology Steering Committee meetings this year. Certainly, there are many aspects to this discussion of access. Some of our discussions included:

– digital citizenship
– embracing it as a way of ‘doing business’
– alignment of content filtering with resource selection policies
– grade appropriate content filtering
– alignment with Acceptable Use Policies
– what needs to be changed?
– what is the process for change in this area?
– how do we achieve a significant change in our systemic approach?
– risks and challenges
– educating not only the students, but teachers, administrators and parents too

I think many of us have a clear notion of where we need to get to, but the path is not necessarily an easy one at the system level, at least in the education field. I believe this is an area the needs to be changed more aggressively and that the positive educational results are with the risks.

At the moment I am thinking big on the change front and pondering strategies.

If interested, the complete article I referenced, is available online at:
The Journal

Happy pondering!

~ Mark

ISP Rant

A friend, fellow blogger and educational colleague recently made aware of a blog  on a new meme asking bloggers to identify four posts from their blog in the categories of:

  • Rants
  • Resources
  • Reflections
  • Revelations

As a newcomer to blogging, I don’t have posts that would address all of these categories, but I was intrigued by the idea of the 4 R’s and have decided to post a rant based on a recent experience with my ISP. 

As an educator and IT professional, I realize this scenario is likely common, and easily arguable from the troubleshooting rigor needed to sort things out. None the less, it is very frustrating and made me painfully aware that online activity has clearly woven its way into the fabric of what I (and my family) do. 

My RANT:

– Saturday storm > internet outage
– call to ISP helpdesk
– all the usual pretest stuff … router/no router, reboot, drivers blah blah blah ….
– finally,  its not me, sending a tech out
– tech says its not here, finds a problem in an unmanned bldg
– internal work ticket created
– finally we can get back online
– BUT, the performance was brutally slow – no throughput
– 3 days of calls with the techs and back to the pretest stuff
– no change, they keep insisting their gear is fine
– then I find out they configured our setup to the previous end user package we had, no tech records of my upgrade 18 months ago – this must be part of the problem
– I locate a copy of the email I kept confirming the upgraded package I signed up for
– I call customer service – they don’t have that package anymore
– I bite the bullet, pick a new service from the current suite
– they livened up the new package last night
– finally things are working as they should, and faster, for close to the same price

Great to be fully back on line! – a happy me and our whole household is no longer going crazy from online withdrawal symptoms!!!

~ Mark

MIDI Wind Instrument

I have started to turn some of my attention to preparations for our summer computer technology & leadership forum for our staff – CATC By the Water. CATC (Computers Across the Curriculum) has literally become a word in our Board. As a member of the planning team and on site lead team during the event, I look forward to this annual summer event. It has a long history of success and I expect the same excellent results this year. The CATC By the Water wiki is now online (see links section) if you would like to learn more about it. 

Based on the Open Space Technology concept, each camper (teacher) comes with a self directed project to do. I too will bring a project to work on when breaks from official camp duties permit. Typically, I end up working on something in music technology area.

This year is looking as exciting as ever as I will have the opportunity to use some new to me amazing technology. I will be bringing a MIDI wind instrument to camp – a Yamaha WX5 to be more precise. The WX5 interfaces with standard MIDI sound modules as well as Yamaha modules designed specifically for the WX5. The unit requires some set up – mouthpiece style (recorder or reed),  breathe control sensors, sensitivity and key select mode (sax or flute). 

 

Yamaha WX5
Yamaha WX5

During the next few days I will have a chance to work through the setup and try the unit in more depth. In particular, I will be interested to see how the unit works with the Band in a Box and Finale software packages that are licensed for use in Ontario school systems by OSAPAC (www.osapac.org).

Stay tuned for an upcoming report on my experiences with the WX5 MIDI wind instrument.

~ Mark

Connect, Learn, Reflect, Share: Make a Difference Today

%d bloggers like this: