Friday, September 10, 2010

The Beauty of Gray

First, welcome back to a new school year everyone! It is always an exciting time to be back at school.

This year, we have made many changes to the technology we have available. Many of our teachers have new laptops. We are implementing wireless throughout our district. We have moved to Active Directory from Novell. This has led to some password changes. Then there are the little changes along the way. We updated MOODLE to the latest version. We have migrated our data to a new data mining software.

These changes can be frustrating. When you come to work ready to go through your class lists and make name tags only to find out you can't find your class list because it is in a new place, this is frustrating. When your new machine has a new image with different stuff in different places or your archived files haven't been put back where you expect them to be, this is frustrating. When you try numerous times to log into your webpage to update it and you can't get in because you have a new password, this is frustrating.

Many of us have gotten used to operating in the gray area that is technology. However, I do run into people who don't like the gray. They want all problems resolved before anything goes live. They don't want any errors or glitches. It got me thinking about what might happen if we did that.

First, we would only make one change at a time and we would test it to the point of making sure that nothing could possibly go wrong. This would of course take months for each implementation so those nice new laptops wouldn't be ready to go out until we tested every application, every change to the image... Your laptop will be ready for you in 2013. Your student response systems? We'll get started on those as soon as we get your laptop done.

Of course, by then, the technology we are using today will be outdated so we will just toss your laptop and other tools and start over.

If we are going to realize the potential of the technology we have access to, we are going to need to learn to embrace the beauty of gray... and I don't mean the gray hairs we get as a result of all this change. I mean that we must learn to accept that with rapid change will come unexpected issues and unresolved problems. We must be flexible enough to make use of our tools as best we can given these issues and be ready to change again as the issues get fixed. The people I see who are successful (by successful I mean both good at doing their job and personally fulfilled in do so), seem fluid in dealing with change. They don't get too bent out of shape about the inevitable glitches that come up.

My wish for all of you for this new school year is that all of you can learn to appreciate the beauty of gray! Good luck this year!