‘Learning from the People I Teach’

Up close with a veteran instructional support specialist.

INTERVIEW | by Victor Rivero

CREDIT Larry LambertPrior to his ‘education adventure’, Larry Lambert enjoyed full-time careers as a musician, journalist, and airline administrator. “I am one of the few long time educators who does not have a lifetime career only in education,” he says. Nonetheless, with more than 28 years in higher education as a full-time, award-winning faculty and administrator, Larry worked for Southwestern College in Chula Vista as an Instructional Support Specialist, Distance Education Coordinator and Instructional Designer. “I work with colleges and universities across the country to help develop their online programs and consult on best practices in planning, strategies, technology and design,” he explains. Larry is past president of the California Community Colleges Distance Educators Organization, a

Be brave and courageous. Take the chance and reach out to your peers for help.

state professional development and representation body for the 113 Community College Distance Education Coordinators. He has won national recognition as ‘Higher Education Teacher of the Year’. He also received a national selection as a ‘Blackboard MVP’ for his skills, experience and his many contributions to Higher Education, and recognized as distance education expert. He works with the California State Chancellor’s office as an Instructional Coordinator, Distance Education Coordinator and selected Co-Chair for the Distance Education Coordinators Committee for the Online Educational Initiative. His online learning department at Southwestern College is the fourth largest in California and was awarded a certificate of achievement from both Blackboard Corporation and the College Accreditation Body. An award winning ‘Judge of Merit’ and a Judge Mentor for The SIIA CODiE Awards recognizing excellence in the educational software and information industries, he judges over 80 content, education, and software categories. In this interview, Larry sheds further light on the work of education, tipping points, paradigm shifts, and who teaches him.

Could you describe your work as an Online Instructional Support Specialist? 

Larry: Interesting question. My answer is consistent for most of us who work in education. What I do and what my job description reads are two somewhat different animals. My responsibilities are described as a technical position that helps faculty and students use our Learning management System (Blackboard) for the success of our students and increased teaching abilities for faculty. What I do transcends both technical and androgogical boundaries to make distance education and successful environment for our institutional district mission, our students, faculty, non-teaching classified professionals, and community members then promote planning and strategies for distance education at the state of California level. My technical responsibilities are to ensure that our learning systems are stable, current and developed to meet our user’s needs. I believe that the technical and androgogical aspects of distance education are inseparable. One only exists at the quality level of the other.

How has your past informed your current approach? 

Larry: I am extremely fortunate to have had a long and varied career in education. I have worked with and for both public and private colleges form Washington State to Southern California. A smaller, private college in Oregon gave me experience as a faculty with no tenure protection, and kept my position by consistently meeting standards balanced between competitive educational ones and profit. In 1997, I was honored with a national award of higher education “Faculty of the Year” distinction for private institutions. That truly was a tipping point for my education career. The national recognition I received afforded me the ability to consult with, plan with and evolve education in institutions of higher learning in broad and creative ways. Through the work and commitment to my careers, I have always had and my ability to positively influence the direction of higher education was increased exponentially as time and experience took hold.

What is the biggest change you have seen in education since the start of your career?

Larry: There has been a shift in the paradigm from traditional, one-dimensional thinking of learning delivery to include a viable distance education component. I began my foray into distance education just prior to leaving my college in Oregon in 1998. I created their distance education program and taught their first online class as I moved to San Diego. To me, the possibilities of teaching and learning from a distance without four walls, time or location constraints to limit learning was a grand epiphany. My creative DNA exploded and I was hooked. Distance education strafed the old paradigm of “Me Teach, You Learn”.   People from all over the world now had the ability to learn anything they wanted from anyone they wanted, any time they wanted and from whatever college they wanted and they could stay home. The archaic system of a “correspondence course” was soon abolished and replaced with a quality, creative and more available one with greater legitimacy.

What has been most rewarding for you?

Larry: It has to be my learning from the people I teach. I always look for the personal and educational characteristics of students, faculty, administrators and others to learn from during the time I have with them in a classroom, the internet, or wherever. My reward has always been their success and my new enlightenment. My philosophy for teaching is, “Ideal teachers are those who use themselves as bridges over which they invite their students to cross, then having facilitated their crossing, joyfully collapse, encouraging them to create bridges of their own.” That’s a quote from Nikos Kazantzakis. By teachers, I do not limit that definition to only those who have a faculty title and are located in a classroom. CODIE provides me with a new perspective and in turn, much of this reward, as a judge.

You are involved with industry programs. What do you find rewarding in your involvement with the edtech industry? 

Larry: Speaking on the technical side of my career, the SIIA CODIE awards has been the highlight of that aspect of my career. The technical side feeds my perfectionist of logical systems and my need for tactical creativeness. I joined the CODIE awards judging panel a few years ago at the behest of one of my college administrators who had been judging and was leaving to retire. She thought I would be a good candidate to take her place. The years have been exciting, informative and wonderfully filled with the most creative, energized and trend setting technical entrepreneur’s on the planet. I was in awe of the strength of their success and the love for their products. I was inspired by geniuses like Manish Gupta from UCertify and so many others that I was recharged with a new pathway to contribute to my institution and all the others in California and beyond. I felt a sense of honor and responsibility to do the best job I could. Locally (my college and others) I became the expert in emerging software in categories including but not limited to education. Because of the educational technology experiences and learning about their technical systems I was more prepared to work the magic in my career, making me versatile and a more multifaceted employee and consultant.

How do you recommend educators get more involved in industry programs?

Larry: I wish I had a whole book to write my perceptions of this questions answer. First of all, the cohorts of educators need to undergo a cleansing. Good educators are worth their weight in gold and bad ones are worth their weight in carcinogens. By “educators”, I mean administrators, faculty and everyone else tasked with learning. Getting educators involved in industry programs has to start with filtering out ones who are failing. Educators who have a passion, skills and a homeopathic yearning for educational Nirvana have an almost moral obligation to spread that wisdom to others. A new awareness with technology combined with new learning paradigms and you have a petri dish saturated in new ideas. Educators need to make the time to reach out and expand their knowledge. Sometimes with time restraints, it is easy to avoid other untested and unfamiliar responsibilities. I would recommend that educators get involved with the list serves first and then professional groups to network and find their best opportunities. Be brave and courageous. Take the chance and reach out to your peers for help.

Any trend predictions in K-20 education for 2016 and beyond?

Larry: K-20 is finding a synchronicity with technology but failing to keep up with positive trends. I predict that 2016 is going to be the year of “technotherapy” where institutions will find that heralded middle ground between technology evolving too fast, too ambiguous outcomes and the understanding of what systems will work for their schools. 2016 will be more of a collaborative year as well between K-12 and Higher education.

Many of the educational technology entrepreneurs have evolved their products through the K-12 ranks where they are more collaborative, more sophisticated and are more willing to share.

K-12 is restricted more and more accountable for high quality outcomes, not just for the sake of bells and whistles but also for the result of student success.

Higher Ed is being repurposed and accountable for the END of their students’ education as much or more than what happens when students first start their educational careers.

States are beginning to form cohorts and initiatives that include K-12 but more memorably inclusive of involving many other institutions. California is a good example of that. The “Online Education Initiative (OEI) for distance education is expanding to include all 113 community colleges and probably will move to Universities in the near future. Instead of operating in 113 silos, the state chancellor has tasked a very talented group to bring it all together for the goal of student outcomes and transferring to universities faster and more prepared. California has the largest number of colleges and universities with 400 total. I see this catching on and revolutionizing the way we learn.

Edtech is constantly evolving. Besides reading EdTech Digest, how do you stay up-to-date with the latest tools?

Larry: I stay up with trends and emerging technology by being a CODIE Judge and other professional networks. These are where I find the most useful and accurate educational (and other categories that I judge) information and see firsthand what is coming over the horizon. I am also on several list serves with my peers from all over the world. They are a professional group that will snatch a new technology and deconstruct it then tell the rest of us what it can and cannot do. I work for the state of California on educational projects and have a chance to network with leaders and brilliant minds up and down the state. Combine all this with my fervent need to be up on the latest edtech fits in very nicely with my goals and vastly improves my versatility at my own college.

How do you spend your time when you are not teaching? 

Larry: I am a voracious reader of Tom Clancy, David Baldacci, Lincoln Child and Doug Preston amid others. I was a musician so I will annoy my family and sometimes neighbors pets with a heartfelt revival of my suspect talents. I love to be near the ocean. I can still scuba dive and maybe a little sailboarding still. I do consult with Colleges and Universities in and out of California for their Distance Education programs. That is so very gratifying I would do it, as a fulltime job is possible. I have a black belt in Tae Kwon DO Karate that I earned 30 years ago, so I try to help others with personal safety. And I laugh a lot and try to outsmart my 10-year-old rescued greyhound racing dog—I fail miserably at that.

Victor Rivero is the Editor-in-Chief of EdTech Digest. Write to: victor@edtechdigest.com

Posted in interviews | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cool Tool | ST Math: K-6

CREDIT Mind Research Institute ST MathCheck out this game-based instructional software designed to boost math comprehension and proficiency through visual learning. Born out of research at the University of California, Irvine, ST Math’s unique approach accesses the mind’s innate spatial-temporal reasoning ability. This ability, which lies at the core of innovative thinking and sophisticated problem-solving, allows a person to hold visual, mental representations in short-term memory and to evolve them in both space and time, thinking multiple steps ahead. ST Math was featured in USA Today reporter Greg Toppo’s book, The Game Believes in You: How Digital Play Can Make Our Kids Smarter, as a game that gives students a chance to learn at their own pace, take risks, and cultivate deeper understanding. Greg Toppo joined teachers, corporations, students and parents at the STEMconnector Townhall to discuss how ST Math transforms the classroom with unique game-based learning opportunities to engage students and teachers. The independent education research firm WestEd published a study and found that those grades across 209 schools in California using the program for one year exhibited 6.3 percent more students scoring proficient or better on the California Standards Test, compared to those at similar schools not using the program. Visit a penguin named JiJi.

Posted in cool tools | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Cool Tool | Bloomz App

CREDIT Bloomz AppHere’s a teacher communication app providing real-time updates, event and volunteer coordination, and community building tools to engage with today’s generation of parents. Built primarily for the K-8 environment, it’s an excellent tool for helping to create connections between parents and teachers, thanks to its many tools available in one beautifully designed app. With Bloomz, teachers can save time in their communication with parents by easily send real-time messages, share pictures, schedule parent-teacher conferences and even sign up parents for volunteer opportunities, all made easy through a web or mobile app. Focused on helping teacher’s improve their communication with parents, the people behind the app have recently launched a series of additions to their product, from easier ways to sign up for it (class codes, SMS/Text integration), to increased teacher controls (posts scheduling, parent to parent communication control) and accessibility (content translation). Despite their young life (the service was only made available to the public in February of 2015), Bloomz has already been featured in various publications and gained teacher praise from all over, and is an EdTech Award winner.

Posted in cool tools | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

World-Class Graduate Education and Research

Software-defined networking, Wi-Fi, and mobile for teaching and learning.

GUEST COLUMN | by Naveed Husain

CREDIT Teachers College imageLike many leading graduate schools, the faculty and students at Teachers College, Columbia University, hold IT to the highest standards for supporting their learning and research needs. Technology needs to flow like electricity or water throughout the institution without friction. Teachers College has a 125-year history of preparing the next generation of educators and civil leaders, contributing significantly to education-related research and policy and shaping the future of education throughout the world.

Approximately two years ago, the College decided to make a significant investment in technology to meet current demands and prepare a secure and reliable foundation for onsite and new online certificate and degree programs. Our legacy wireless and wired infrastructure was not providing enough coverage, bandwidth, reliability or security. End-user wired port utilization in classrooms and research areas had fallen to near zero while the demand for mobility had escalated to multiple devices per person. Students were quoted as saying that the wireless in the library was like connecting on a 56k modem. (For millennials, a 56k modem is the device that we used to use to connect to the internet, the one that made all those beeping noises before you were connected. And, you could not stream Netflix with it!) In addition to the need for better performance, there was also a clear need for a college mobile app, wireless presentation capabilities, streaming and continued “free love” wireless.

Technology needs to flow like electricity or water throughout the institution without friction.

To meet these and other new challenges, we needed a stable foundation capable of adapting to the mobile-first, cloud-first initiatives this college is engaged in. And, to keep our institution among the top programs, we needed to be able to provide services on-demand at a manageable cost-to-production ratio.

With these tenets in mind, we decided to transition our classrooms to a next-generation, all-wireless digital model. Our new classrooms provide wall-mounted touch displays and software-based collaboration features that give students and faculty the desired ability to share content onsite or online and in real-time, with seamless streaming from their devices to the displays as well as web conference services, lecture capture capabilities and the ability to locally broadcast/stream content throughout the classroom using systems like Chromecast and Apple TVs.

Selecting strategic partners and technologies

After a thorough evaluation with multiple networking solution vendors, we determined the best path forward to leverage the latest infrastructure innovations would be to conduct a “forklift” upgrade of our end-of-life equipment and partner with Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) and Aruba (an HPE company) for wired and wireless solutions. In addition, we decided to utilize HPE Technology Services to assist us with the extensive network refresh, helping us to redesign our network architecture and optimize our investment.

Strategic technologies that we deployed include robust software-defined networking (SDN) programmability within the hardware and enterprise management tools for troubleshooting the network throughout our campus. These capabilities, coupled with a new network access control platform, ClearPass, enable a dynamic network infrastructure that will provide role-based access on demand, without the burden of rigid VLAN segmentation. With this solution, we will be able to deliver priority service to applications, add an additional layer of security beyond the perimeter, and conduct anomalous traffic monitoring that includes HIPAA-impacted data transfer both on our wired and wireless network.

Leveraging control platform allows us to create a single security policy across the wired and wireless network. This will ensure that, regardless of how the client connects to the network, all of our users will have the same secure experience. However, because the ‘elegance of experience’ is important to our senior management, and because security implementations can often become a barrier to the fluid use of technology – rather than the simple experience that users desire – devices will have to register to the network, but the experience will be streamlined.

With the platform and client certificates, we can utilize 802.1x authentication to deliver the necessary security without requiring our users to frequently enter passwords. Instead, our infrastructure can dynamically provide the ability to log in using the same privileges, regardless of location, based on who the person is and what device they are using to connect. Our goal is to base services around the person via a human-centric approach.

To make it manageable for our IT team, we needed the ability to set policies efficiently and automate the granting of access to the appropriate types of data for over 5,000 students – as well as our faculty, administrators, staff and research employees.

Deploying the latest innovations

For the LAN, we are deploying dual core switches plus an array of data center switches for top-of-rack server access. Also, we implemented HPE’s Intelligent Management Center (IMC) for LAN management and its SDN solution to dynamically program our network to align with our needs.

Additionally, we adopted multi-gigabit PoE+ campus switches with flexible programmability for SDN applications. We know that SDN is the direction of orchestration and management in the future and these switching platforms will allow us to take strides with SDN while leveraging traditional network management platforms such as the IMC for day-to-day FCAPS management.

On the wireless side, our new WLAN includes approximately 1,000 indoor and outdoor 802.11ac access points (APs) and mobility controllers for fast, Gigabit Wi-Fi. This enables us to provide high-performance experiences in classrooms, offices and outdoor courtyard areas.

This setup ensures support for Apple TVs, which our students use extensively for presentations in classrooms and conference rooms. We’re also installing Apple TVs in all offices, so we rely on the wireless network to support them smoothly and reliably.

Management and troubleshooting APs is accomplished with AirWave. The granularity of current and historical information on each AP, and each of the devices connected to an individual AP, helps us detect and resolve issues in minutes. This improves our operational efficiency and reduces network downtime. Moving forward, we can adopt new proactive monitoring capabilities to simulate situations, such as the flurry of connections at the start of a day, and identify issues before users experience them.

To provide secure Wi-Fi access, we’ll use ClearPass Policy Manager. Its capabilities include automatically segregating guest and internal users, as well as granting role-based access privileges. ClearPass also ensures that authorized users, requiring a higher level of security, don’t inadvertently join the guest network.

Moving toward mobile engagement

Looking ahead, we’re planning to expand our existing mobile app by adding mobile engagement capabilities. This includes deploying a ‘beacons and meridian’ mobile app platform to enhance wayfinding and supply other features like push notifications.

These innovations offer many possibilities. For instance, faculty members will be able to send students granular event notifications. Among the options are date and time, available amenities, refreshments, post-event gathering information and, if needed, any updates, changes or reminders.

Institutionally, we can potentially use the beacons and mobile app to send emergency alerts and supply students with important safety instructions.

With our new combination of mobile-first technologies, we’re answering student and faculty demands for seamless, reliable and secure mobility. We’re also significantly improving our ability to support their educational needs, which includes contributing to life-changing neuroscience, biological and cognitive research.

Currently CIO at the Teachers College, Columbia University, Naveed Husain has over 20 years of global professional experience in the private and public sectors. This includes challenging duty stations for the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations, where he supported missions in Ethiopia, Iraq, Israel, and Somalia, among others. Prior to joining Teachers College, he served as CIO for Queens College and in leadership roles at a range of organizations.

Posted in guest column | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Fundamental Technology

Three benefits of adopting cloud-based software for universities. 

GUEST COLUMN| by Matt Clark

CREDIT CorcentricUniversities have traditionally struggled to access and manage data across numerous academic departments. Advancements in technology now allow schools to tap into a variety of sources for a wider assessment of risks and opportunities. By utilizing cloud-based solutions, higher education institutions can take advantage of benefits that include risk minimization, operational improvement and establishing trust.

Risk Minimization

Schools are susceptible to a seemingly infinite number of risks. This becomes more apparent with larger universities that have many departments. To alleviate stress, schools must first identify the anticipated risks to their sensitive information. From there, they should create a short list of risks that need to be focused on more closely, based on how

Billions of dollars are being invested in this market, a clear indicator that universities not only need to take notice, but take action in adopting these tools.

damaging the consequences may be. Utilizing the cloud gives schools on-demand access to a shared system of data and resources, making this process a more tangible and efficient undertaking. Implementing a system of risk prioritization will not only help in managing and resolving issues more effectively, but it will ensure that each team member involved is on the same page when it comes to where time and effort should be spent.

All of the strategic planning and monitoring in the world does not exempt a school from the occasional issue. Learning from missteps and mistakes is extremely valuable – even more when there is data and resources to substantiate recommended solutions. The key is tapping into historical data in the cloud to gain insight in order to prevent these risks in the future.

Opportunities of Operational Improvement

Ignorance is never bliss when it comes to sharing information – it can cost a school time and money. Rather than seeing transparency as a challenge, universities can leverage the opportunity to identify potential operational improvements. These improvements can result in cost savings, more time, efficient processes and better ways to allocate resources.

When academic departments are siloed – metaphorically and sometimes physically – the separation of data, insights and resources is doing more harm than good. Now with new technology being developed at a higher frequency, there are a number of cross-device cloud solutions to help schools manage enrollment and other academic data across departments, gaining insight that is actionable. For example, schools that can better optimize enrollment data distribution by using cloud-enabling data processing are more likely to enroll best-fit students. The speed at which this type of technology is growing also shows no signs of slowing down. According to a Forbes report, the global Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) market is projected to grow from $49 billion in 2015 to $67 billion in 2018. Billions of dollars are being invested in this market, a clear indicator that universities not only need to take notice, but take action in adopting these tools.

Establish and Maintain Trust

Transparency, internal and external, is an essential part of establishing trust and reinforcing a positive reputation. Schools that lack a full understanding what’s going on in each department are finding themselves up against many risks and liabilities that could have been avoided. With competition for students as tight as it is, schools cannot afford to have inefficient processes. When a school moves its data to the cloud, not only is this a strategic decision that is environmentally friendly but it’s also a step towards transparency. Cloud solution tools enable teams at a university-wide level to keep a closer eye on where departments are succeeding and where red flags need to be raised. This fosters an environment of personal responsibility within university walls in order to build and reinforce a positive public image.

Working with the cloud enables a school to be more nimble, cost effective, and time-efficient. By embracing these solutions, a school will reap rewards that can be accounted for numerically on a spreadsheet but also felt by the public when it comes to a positive reputation. The on-demand access to resources and insight alone is a fundamental technology that any university today should take advantage of in order to stay innovative and transparent.

Matt Clark is COO for Corcentric, overseeing day-to-day operations and all software engineering and operational efforts, including implementation, client services, integration, and IT infrastructure. Most recently, Matt was VP of Operations for Corcentric. He received his degree from the University of Maryland. 

Posted in guest column | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment