Returning to the Hot Team

The Hot Team concept is one that I brought to Education Technology Services (ETS) at Penn State in 2005 as a way to get small groups of people together to do a quick assessment of an emerging technology, trend, or approach. The concept is based loosely around a methodology the design firm, Ideo uses to do very quick designs for products or services. In a typical situation, our implementation of the Hot Team looks like this … a team of around five people is given a set amount of time to collaboratively investigate, discuss, model, and create outcomes based on several predetermined questions. The goals of a Hot Team project are to encourage various individuals to come together on a related task and to create a set of deliverables that can be shared. Typically, a digital white paper is produced and shared openly to help inform decision making on the use of what was being investigated.

Digital White Paper

Digital White Paper

The Hot Team concept was born out of the need to quickly evaluate an emerging technology or approach and to assess its viability for use in an educational setting. In a general sense, we should also interested in creating a set of resources that we as educational and instructional technologists can share with our primary audiences — faculty, staff, students, peers, and project sponsors.

Each Hot Team can be assembled based on a recommendation from a member of the staff, from an organizational need, from outside interests, or for the purpose of informing ourselves. Typically, Hot Teams should not exceed six people. It is important to keep the group small and agile so that deliverables can be created within a short time frame. I always liked to see deliverables no later than one month after a charge is given.

All Hot Teams are made up with a set of people with diverse backgrounds — instructional designers, multimedia specialists, technologist, faculty, etc can be asked to participate together. Having multiple perspectives tends to yield stronger results.

Hot Teams can be formed in several ways. Staff can self organize around a technology or approach, they can also be formed by a project sponsor based on understood interest, team member skills, and other factors.

Typically, a Hot Team would be given three to four weeks to produce a short white paper. The final draft of the white paper should be made available within five weeks of project initiation. A presentation of the findings can be scheduled as soon as the paper is complete.

The white paper the Hot Team’s findings will be made available via as a digital publication at either the organization’s website, via Yammer, or at a specific project blog space. The purpose of the work is to provide organizational insight into the technology or approach being investigated and to create shareable outcomes for our primary audiences. The white paper should answer the following questions and should utilize the following section headers:

  • What is it?
  • Who’s doing it/Who’s using it?
  • How does it work?
  • Why is it significant?
  • What are the downsides?
  • Where is it going?
  • What are the implications for teaching and learning?

In addition, white papers should include at least one short scenario that provides a contextual example of the item being investigated. In lots of cases, papers and presentations aren’t enough to fully understand the technology. In that case, short videos, podcasts, or other multimedia objects can be created and embedded into the final digital publication.

This post is really just to capture the work we did in the past and as a potential road map to new thinking within DoIT at Stony Brook.

SBU DoIT Update and Thinking

I had the chance to address University Senate last week for the first time here at Stony Brook. It gave me a chance to share my strategic priorities and observations from the first 80 days here at SBU. I included a screen shot of the five strategic priorities I am targeting in a post prior to the meeting, but have since added one other for us to consider. I thought it would be a good idea to share the six priorities with a little more context. Here are the six areas of focus for DoIT that I am proposing and that I discussed at Senate:

  1. Construct a world-class teaching and learning with technology organization and an appreciation for learning design.
  2. Create a competitive research computing infrastructure and services that support the needs of faculty across the research community.
  3. Provide a consistently safe, secure, and compliant information technology environment for Stony Brook.
  4. Provide services that greatly enhance the work of our faculty, staff, and students.
  5. Enhance a culture of operational excellence at Stony Brook.
  6. Encourage an agile, flexible, and forward facing staff who are leaders in their fields.

It is important that I take a minute to share at least a few sentences about each of the six items I am setting as priorities. I should also say that Stony Brook has made tremendous progress to date in several of these areas, but they are areas that I am interested in investing more organizational time, energy, and funding to strengthen. Below you can read some of my thoughts as they relate to these priorities. I could go on and on about each, but the better approach is for me to be lean in my remarks and encourage discourse … face to face, email, or via comments below.

Construct a world-class teaching and learning with technology organization and an appreciation for learning design.

This is something that I care deeply about and is one of the reasons I really wanted to come to Stony Brook. There is already an active investment in supporting teaching and learning with technology on campus and a culture that is embracing the value it brings. What I have come to see are the many opportunities for us to extend the incredible foundation that is in place. We live in a world where both faculty and students want to have more opportunities to engage in new forms of pedagogy, appropriately utilize new technologies in and around their classrooms, teach and learn in new modalities from hybrid and blended to fully online and MOOCs, and they want a place that can give them the courage to take risks. I believe that we have the potential to create a truly world-class set of services and offerings that can engage, enrich, challenge, and support the faculty and students of this university.

Create a competitive research computing infrastructure and services that support the needs of faculty across the research community.

Work has been done in this space already, but we need a consistent and common message going forward to take us to the next level. We are in the middle of hiring 250 new faculty on this campus to strengthen and forward the teaching mission as well as radically impacting our research output. We need to continue to invest in core infrastructure, but we also need to find new ways to engage faculty who are participating in new forms of scholarship from the arts, the humanities, the liberal arts, and so on. We need to give them the tools they need as well as construct environments where we can continue to grow our investment in big data, high throughput and high performance computing, and the things that make sciences and medical researchers successful. It means faster networks, but it also means finding ways to support early stage grants and prototype building.

Provide a consistently safe, secure, and compliant information technology environment for Stony Brook.

We have only just begun to fully understand the security challenges facing IT in general and we in higher education are fully aware of our responsibilities. With that said it is imperative that we find ways to systematically address new types of threats that are both local and international. We need to not only construct forward facing policies, but we need to find new ways to help our community understand and embrace them. We must make a commitment to both protect and provide an elegant user experience for our faculty, staff, and students.

Provide services that greatly enhance the work of our faculty, staff, and students.

I know it should go without saying, but the idea that we develop services that make life easier for our customers is critical to me. I would really like to say that all we do should delight them, but I know that is pushing it a bit far. I do want DoIT to establish a way of thinking that presses us to be aware of how our products and services actually work and function. I want us to focus energy on understanding and promoting strong senses of user experience and usability. I want us to consider how what we make impacts the community.

Enhance a culture of operational excellence at Stony Brook.

I am lucky to be a member of the project management office responsible for the Project 50 Forward initiatives. Having that opportunity has afforded me insight into the outstanding work we have done at Stony Brook to become more efficient on a daily basis. This is truly the place that I have learned the most about how we operate. Through that learning I am proposing that DoIT work to adopt many of the frameworks, approaches, and tenants of the Project 50 Forward initiative internally. I believe that by focusing efforts on increasing efficiency, enhanced vendor management, campus wide IT governance, and portfolio management we can find ways to both reinvest and reinvent ourselves.

Encourage an agile, flexible, and forward facing staff who are leaders in their fields.

I cannot stress how much I believe in the staff at DoIT. I have told everyone I know how amazed I have been at the individual and collective intelligence of this organization. I think it is a critical next step for us to take stock in providing deep and systematic professional development across the board. I think we can improve our work in ways that would be unimaginable without first investing energy inwards. I am committed to finding ways to make professional development a cornerstone of DoIT and I believe that by doing it, we will be stronger and more prepared to attack issues and trends as they emerge. I fully expect Stony Brook IT to be recognized as a model in higher education.

(Virtual) Coffee with Cole

I’ve been enjoying the Coffee with Cole sessions I’ve been doing every few weeks … so much that I intend to extend them and open some more up (so look for an invite). Since I can only do so many and that space is limited to five guests I decided to add a new channel to connect. I created an open group in the Stony Brook Yammer space called, “Coffee with Cole.” Please feel free to join the group and leave comments, post questions, or suggestions. I am subscribed to the group via email, so I should see everything that gets posted there. Join the conversation!

Coffee with Cole in Yammer

Addressing University Senate

Today at 3:30 I will be addressing the Stony Brook University Senate. I was invited by Senate President, Dr. Fredrick Walters to both introduce myself to the Senate and provide a brief update. I don’t intend to spend more than 10-15 minutes talking, but will be sharing both my observations from the first 8o days here as well as my overall strategic priorities for DoIT.

Strategic Priorities

My DoIT Strategic Priorities

I think it will be interesting to see if there are questions afterwards … and know that I will either update this post or do another one after the fact. I am making an overt offer to attend department meetings and to invite the larger community to attend the Coffee with Cole sessions. Again, we shall see. At the end of the day, I am just honored to have the opportunity to represent DoIT and get to know our University Senate.

Listening and Watching

As the new guy on campus I have been doing quite a bit of listening — and watching.  As I mentioned in my previous post I have taken time to walk around campus a bit, albeit not nearly as much as I had hoped during these first two weeks but enough to see the beauty that has become Stony Brook University. I read an old piece in the NY Times (funny that that is my new hometown newspaper) from 11 years ago talking about the efforts underway to make the campus a source of pride. Very interesting to see the “after” without having seen the “before.” Let’s say I am impressed with the progress.

One of the interesting connections to that are the improvements that are underway on the technology side of the campus — less visible from the outside, but just as impactful in my opinion to the overall satisfaction of our faculty, staff, and students. I am thrilled about the new, nearly pervasive wireless access students will be greeted with in the Javits Lecture Hall this fall — this is just one small example of our collective work getting ready for fall 2013 and the networking upgrades that the DoIT team have been working on the last few years. This one thing is a huge deal to the nearly 60,000 students that pass through these learning spaces each week — and it will be to faculty too as we watch them envision ways to engage their learners in this newly enabled space.  I am confident that my colleagues in Teaching and Learning with Technology will be ready with ideas on how to leverage the affordances of this space with new connectivity.

I’ve also spent a ton of time listening in both traditional and non traditional ways.  I’ve had plenty of meetings with both our own staff in DoIT and with members of our administration. Each meeting I learn more — my Evernote app is exploding with new pages! It pushed me to do something I haven’t done in a while — I turned to Twitter to see what I could find from as many SBU channels as I could … and I found a ton. So much so that I started a Twitter list that I am adding as many Stony Brook related accounts i can find to and I am watching it as much as possible.  It is a vibrant and connected community and I encourage you to follow along (and suggest new follows for the list).

It doesn’t just stop with twitter. Our students are very active on tumblr as well and I am particularly fascinated by the sbufresh tumblr … really quite amazing. I was impressed enough to send a note to our director of communications last night and today she reached out to the owner of this very helpful tumblr to help us find a new channel for us to share some information.

Today I walked campus as new student move in was on display. It is always humbling to watch parents take a final stroll with their children as they get ready to leave them to start their freshmen years. It is in that I hope we can all see how critical our mission really is — to play a part in making the years they spend here an overwhelmingly positive experience. I saw so much today that filled me with pride and as the new guy, that was an emotion I wasn’t sure I was expecting to have. Seeing the student volunteers, the staff ready to lend a hand, and knowing that we were working feverishly behind the scenes to make sure the IT infrastructure of campus is ready for the big day on Monday was really great. I know most of us will be on call this weekend and I know we will be ready for them.

A Week In

Is it too early to reflect on the new job? Maybe, but I do have some observations … and not all are related strictly to the things I have been doing in my new post.  First some easy ones.

It is beautiful here — and by here I mean both on campus and the surrounding areas.  Each day I’ve made a point to check another part of both out.  Walking around campus it is easy to see that there is a value placed upon the physical aspects to campus. It shows wonderfully and as I explore I come to appreciate the effort that is going into making this place beautiful.  You may look at that and wonder why it is so important, but it is. If you think of the big picture, keeping our campus looking first rate is part of the path we are on here at Stony Brook.  My previous campus at Penn State prided itself on always looking its best and it was a strategic decision, one that paid off in lots of ways — an easy measurable is that PSU annually gets over 100,000 applications. Obviously not all of those are because the flowers are well placed and the grass is freshly mowed, but it helps and I appreciate that about what is happening here.

Then there is the surrounding area. Wow.  Each day after work I have taken time to go see the water. When you arrive from central Pennsylvania, the potential to hear the waves and see the sunset over the Sound is simply breathtaking. I am soaking it in and it is part of a ritual that has helped me round out the days and reflect on all that I am learning. If you live around here and you haven’t done it in a while try to do it with fresh eyes.

A couple additional observations from the first week … the DoIT staff have been wonderful to work with across the board.  I’ve been in meetings almost constantly since the minute I stepped on campus and in each of them I have obviously had to lean on my new colleagues at times. Each time, they’ve come through.  I find that our team is very smart and very committed to making this University a better place.  This extends past DoIT as well … I have had interactions daily with other senior administrators and I am struck by the collective intelligence and commitment to excellence.

I was struck this week by the connections to SUNY and the emphasis on working in a collaborative fashion.  On two different occasions this week I spent time with SUNY leadership and was very impressed with both their vision and approach.  Yesterday, Dr. Hao Wang, SUNY CIO, held a “listening tour” stop on our campus and invited CIOs from SUNY schools across the the eastern region and Long Island.  It was a great way to hear from colleagues and peers and have conversations related to where we could work together to solve big system level challenges.

I’ll close by saying it was an intense week filled with great conversations. I am aware of some of what is to be done, but also by what has already been accomplished. I am now turning attention to the next couple weeks as we welcome students back to campus and I can start to really dig into some of the larger issues at hand. A good first week.

A Welcome and an Invitation

I’ve been blogging for quite some time and have always found it to be a great outlet to work through ideas, share thoughts, communicate my thinking, and invite comments and feedback. I will use this space as much as I can and I imagine it will change over time — in the early days it will mostly be about reflecting on the learning curve and to share initial thoughts on my early interactions here. As time goes on I expect it to become more of an outlet to keep people posted on what I am working on, thinking about, and things that are of general interest to me, to the DoIT community, and those from the outside looking in.

I’ll invite you now to be an active part of this space — push me with comments, links to posts, and even ideas that I can use to create new content. I want this to be about the notion of “the conversation.” I am a true believer in discourse and in actively engaging those around me. I crave conversations and if you’ve ever heard me speak you will know that I firmly believe that the Internet is creating new opportunities to engage in very new forms of conversations. This is a primary reason for this space — a place for us to engage.

We are all incredibly busy doing what we do to support the faculty, staff, and students of our institution and taking time to blog may seem like a waste of cycles to some. To me it is part of the larger process of communicating across all of Stony Brook University. A space like this should provide greater access to the things that are driving our individual and collective agendas. I will try to use it for that.

I can’t meet with all of you on a regular basis … the reality of time and scale just will not permit it.  If there are things that you want to know from me that you think others will benefit from hearing, send me a note and let me know … that could very well be the prompt I need to take some time and articulate some thinking.

For now you should know that I am very active on the social web — some for me personally and some for professional pursuits. I don’t maintain multiple accounts, as I try to think of my online identity as an aggregate meta identity … so you won’t need to follow me across various twitter accounts, there is just one.  I try very hard to maintain my social presence in an intelligent way … Facebook, for example, is reserved for family and friends, but please feel free to plug into me on Twitter. Like many of you I have a life outside of work and I tend to share things on Instagram, Vine, Tumblr, and other outlets that are much more about who I am away from the office.

This is as much an invitation as it is an introduction, an invitation to engage in new forms of conversations. I will work to do my part, but my hope and ultimately, my expectation, is that you be a part of that. I am well aware this won’t work for everyone, but if it opens another channel for those that it does work for then I’ve succeeded in one small way. So, I will close with a very humble thank you … thank you for allowing me to become a member and a leader of this team. I will do my very best every single day to make sure we are doing what we need to continue to delight the people that count on us the most at this great University.

What do you think?