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Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

Big Brother is Watching Me Surf

October 25, 2007 5 comments

I was mid-read of Matt Berseth’s blog this morning and was greeted with our filter’s cheerful message:

You cannot access the following Web address:

http://www.mattberseth.com/

This site is blocked under the filtering policy. If you believe this site has been blocked inappropriately, send a request for a site review to {email removed}. In order for your request to be processed you must include the address of the site you would like reviewed, your name, and the educational application of the site in question. Please contact your site STS or Customer Service at {phone removed} if you have additional questions.

The site you requested is blocked under the following categories: Malicious Sites

So, I contacted with a serious WTF question.  Lately, more and more blogs, forums, and community sites—which are key resources to modern developers—have been blocked. 

The answer I got: Send in a formal request, it will be reviewed by the curriculum department to ensure it’s safe for children.  If it’s not, then it will remain blocked.  Coding sites are considered malicious because they teach potential hacking skills to children that could endanger the stability of network systems.

w.t.f.

I haven’t even responded yet.  I don’t have anything nice to say that will keep me employed.  And, for now, I don’t have to worry… because THIS blog (my blog) is blocked too… tomorrow, maybe Google will be blocked because we don’t want children to find anything “bad”.

Thankfully, I can still RDP into my home computer and WORK.

Note: I’m not saying Internet filtering and such are bad; but due dilligence of staff/parents/etc. should make up for some of that—and educating children what they should and shouldn’t access will make it less taboo.  Oh, and separate filtering policies for the MIS Department and the kindergarteners, kthx.

[Update 12:45pm: I now have an ‘understanding’ of the full process.  An email to a monitored address, a response, a form to fill out, a few committee or individual, a response with further questions, an email back, and finally it’s opened up.  I’m tempted for two things: a) just continue RDPing out because that process took almost 1.5 hours, b) send in 100+ of them at one time.  And yes, my blog is still blocked—RDPing home to post.]

The Teaching Bug

August 31, 2007 2 comments

Over the past month, I’ve been offering internal training to my department to prep them for an upcoming Java/AJAX/Web Design class we’re all attending.  I’ve covered topics of both C# and Java development, basic OOP programming concepts, test driven development, domain driven development, and we even did some Java Swing (seriously, the stuff makes me cry inside) work.

It’s brought back some memories of when I started with my current job and used to teach evening and weekend classes on *cough* Windows NT 4.0 network administration, PC troubleshooting, Office 2000 usage, and… heh… using Publisher to do flyers and such.  I’ve always loved teaching—from creating curriculum to the light of recognition and understanding in the eyes of participants to the contineous improvement based on feedback.

While, after these few weeks are over, I won’t be doing a lot more, I plan to make it a goal over the next year to get back into speaking and teaching more—whether formally or simply as a guest at some of our local community colleges.  While I used to love teaching hardware and software, development and programming is so much fun because it’s ALWAYS changing and there’s new and exciting things to show people and get them excited in.

Personally, it’s also a great excuse to take the time to really learn new technologies for myself.  

Technology is a tool for education, not a replacement

August 13, 2007 1 comment

<rant>

It’s a constant battle to fend off those who want to use technology as either a replacement or implementer of policy.  Technology is awesome—and those of us who are programmers are at a point in time when we can do almost anything we can imagine to empower people; however, many forget the EMPOWER part.

Technology is a tool used to augment a human’s value.  In the classroom, technology allows teachers to better instruct students, better assess their progress and redirect where necessary, and better communicate with parents—but it is not a replacement for a competent, well-educated teacher.  If we want computers teaching our kids, why would we need teachers?  Because they add value—they can apply human emotions, understanding, and life experiences to educating our youth.

Unfortunately, many try to use technology to ‘fix’ everything—assess the students a few more times, rework the results until the results demonstrate what we want, and then repeat.  If something isn’t right, the common answer, lately it seems, is to use technology to fix it, not the teacher.  Teachers are left out of the picture (and many seem to want it that way—it’s less work) and place the students in front of a computer for assessment.  The computer then prescribes (ala prescriptive teaching) what the student should learn and everyone goes about their business.  A teacher who steps up and “prescribes” something different with a gut feeling or understanding of the student, they are simply told that they are wrong.

If a teacher cannot teach, but is simply a facilitator of prescribed curriculum, then what value do they add and why should parents send their children to school when they could receive the same education (sub the social effects) using the new “online” schools?

The only real reason I have continued my education is for the educators—the teachers that I’ve met over the years.  I honestly can’t say that I’ve been affected by a book I’ve read or a lesson taught out of a manual, but I can attest that the personalities, the humor, the life experiences of some of my teachers and their passion for teaching will forever live with me. 

To me, to go through nearly 20 years of school with a drone reading a lesson plan and not providing any human value, would be a horrid, horrid experience.  I pity today’s children who are locked in this psychological box.

</rant>

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Categories: Education, Politics, Standards

GSA & SharePoint 2007 Shortcut Keys

July 31, 2007 Comments off

I’m attending the “Great SharePoint Adventure” today… a core developer course focusing on SharePoint 2007–-everything from building features to rolling out custom AJAX to security.  Looks to be an interesting week.  I’ll try, starting tomorrow (kinda running late today), posting up the high points and nuggets.  If you like what you see, talk to your local training providers and get the course.

The one thing I did want to post up was shortcut keys.  The instructor showed off CTRL-K to resolve names on the fly, so I did a bit of hunting and came up with the “official” list of all hot keys in SharePoint.  VERY helpful ‘cause SharePoint is very mouse-oriented without it.

http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/sharepointserver/HA101733621033.aspx

 

The Changing Role of Techies

We’ve discussed this a bit in my MBA program, but mostly focused on all sectors, not specifically the “geeky” of us.

“Talking to people is good.”  Now, say it with me.  That’s right, it didn’t hurt did it?  This little discussion is initially prompted by Information Week’s story of “Stay Ahead With Soft Skills”; however, while project management and such are great skills—especially in agile development, the most important skill is communication.  Second, of course, I fall to education and learning.  Soft skills, such as project management, do matter, however, I believe they come in a close third because they are more culture based than skill based (and that they are encapsulated by other principals, such as agile development).

Communication

In the days gone by (or so I’m told), programmers truly did fit the stereotypical mold: they sat in a room, were handed specifications, and typed code into a computer.  When they a) ran out of time or b) ran out of requirements, the application was complete and then given to the user.  There was, for the most part, very little interaction between actual developer and end customer.

Yeah, well, that doesn’t work anymore.  Software developers1 cannot work in a vacuum without interacting with the customers—the customers, as stated in the eXtreme Programming practices, is part of the team.  We’re no longer locked in a closet and force-fed requirements; we have a duty to sit down, understand the customer needs and wants, and solve problems (not simply code software).

Education

I’ve discussed a few times that I’m a huge advocate for life-long learning.  There is, however, a difference between education and learning. In my mind, education is the external process, learning is the internal process and they are mutually exclusive.  For example, I can sit all day in class (whether it’s a seminar at the local training company or a university course) and be educated.  I can memorize facts, figures, procedures and go about my very way.  However, unless I internalized it, created associations between what I was taught and what I knew, and applied it; I didn’t “learn” it.

Modern developers must continue learning—taking in the wealth of new information (languages, procedures, principles, soft skills) and transform that information into knowledge (think of it in terms of an analyst taking data and turning it into information—relatively same concept).  Without constant self-development, it becomes impossible for developers to grow and adapt to the ever changing technology and still enjoy it and be passionate about what they do.

Project Management

Okay, so project management is an excellent skill.  The ability to take a quick SWAG when a customer has a request or question and have it somewhat correct because you have an a) understanding of your infrastructure (current projects, upcoming projects, resources), and b) and honest understanding of yourself and your abilities is extremely powerful.  Our organization is finally moving from a reactive development model to a more proactive—working with customers to anticipate needs and develop pseudo-SLAs to ensure that their needs are handled.  It’s quite the paradigm shift and I’ll admit that it seems that not everyone is wanting to “shift” along with us.  That’s too bad and I’ll be sure to get a card when they leave the organization.

1Pet peeve, I suppose.  I loathe the technical term of programmer.  My dad is a programmer—he can program the VCR, the TV, and the cable box if he gets wild and crazy.  Software developers take concepts, ideas, and workflows and create solutions to problems—they develop something that didn’t exist (at least in this new form). 

 

 

Categories: Education

Can you learn from 2,000 pages of reading?

July 17, 2007 Comments off

<soapbox>

I have four classes to go in my Masters.  The course I’m focused on right now is Executive Leadership.  It came with this cute little book, First, Break All the Rules, which I do admit is a pretty decent little book of theories.  The examples are interesting and the authors have a humorous way to present things. (Oh, and it’s short at 271 pages). 

But, beyond that, this class is a killer.  We have something like 2,000 pages of articles (if we’re gutsy enough to read them all) to review and present on over the next couple weeks, a second book to read (I picked up Leading in a Culture of Change, it came recommended by my boss, for my report), and about 30 pages in reports to write.  And this class is only worth 400 points total. 

*twitch*

So, I wonder—what value does all this has?  Over the next few weeks, I’m going to spend so much time trying to take in EVERYTHING that I’ll assimilate NOTHING.  For something as frilly as a leadership class, I realize there’s a broad range of topics and theorems, but wouldn’t it make more sense to focus on a few of the “good” ones—or even pick out a few business sectors that we’re each in and find leaders in those?

If the college thinks they are providing value to us by inundating us with information, then I believe they are grossly mistaken.  Personally, I’d rather be given the tools and empowered to do my own research with a knowledgeable executive leading the class (which, I think we have… at least it seem that way), rather than just mindless reading that I’ll flush the moment I doze off at my desk.

</soapbox>

 

Categories: Education

Work uncontrolled!

June 28, 2007 Comments off

We had a discussion the other day regarding passion in your work and striving to be life-long learners—and whether or not that’s what you WANT for a career.  To some, constantly learning is what makes life.  I cannot fathom staginating and just doing the same thing everyday, I’d get twitchy and it’s be messy.  Others are more comfortable doing the same thing, every day.  And finally, those who fear doing something new, or even the same thing a different way.

I do admit though, I have things that I prefer to do everyday (besides just shower) because it’s routine, but there aren’t too many things I fear doing a new way… I tend to shake up my schedule, drive to work different ways, code different ways or such just to try new things and try to constantly learn new techniques.

Anyway, what brought this up was a dialog box that I laugh at from SourceSafe… just the wording, but none-the-less.  To me, “working uncontrolled” means, when approprate, going out and finding new, better, more exciting ways do “work”… not being tied down to the same thing.

Though, I’m sure Microsoft is just angry that I forgot to map my drives…

How does everyone else “work uncontrolled”?  Is the trade off for “learning” worth the cost spent (by developer) to learn something?  I’m quite lucky that our organization allows “learning on-the-job,” even though I spend a great deal of time at home researching, coding, and figuring things out for work…

 

Categories: Education