Alexandria Online

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Check Signal Strength

My son is spending his junior semester abroad in Khatmandu, Nepal, studying the economics of developing countries. He is just beginning an independent project to study the hidden economy of the city, where few pay taxes and everyone dickers for everything. It is estimated that the hidden economy of Nepal may account for 30% of gross domestic product. When I was in college, this is not what people did when they studied economics.

The lad is also a planner. When we bought a new dinner table last year, he asked us to keep the old one in the basement for his first apartment. When he reads about the cities in this country and all over the world in the media, he thinks about what it might be like to live there, for a while, for ever, alone, with a family.

He and I often talk now about raising a family, finding community, building a career. I am happy to give him advice on these subjects, but I am profoundly skeptical of any actual value I might provide in my advice. I am, after all, just another old guy.

But I surprised myself; I came up with a great one-liner: "prepare for a career that does not exist right now." I was so happy because when it came out of my mouth I realized that I agreed with myself whole-heartedly. It wasn't just baloney.

I am a Director of Technology, or a Chief Information Officer, or a Head of Information Services, or whatever you want to call me. We all know what it means. But when I began my career in education, the job I currently do did not exist and the department I manage had not been created. So the advice that I'm giving my son is based on my own experience. The pattern is that there is no pattern.

What my son needs as he navigates his intellectual and professional life is good information. He needs a strong signal. With so much information available in so many forms, he needs to stay tuned. I need to stay tuned - finely tuned - just to keep my job.

This year we had not an internet outage but an internet slowdown. First time that's happened. It lasted a few days and my job approval rating plummeted even though there was nothing I could do about it. The incident underscored an important new reality. We can't teach without a network anymore. More specifically, we really need the internet. So my advice to schools is this: check your signal strength.

1 comment:

  1. Yes, but remember Horace's fable of the critter in the grain bin: "Don't get so fat that you can't get out of the grain bin again." I still think that chalk and a blackboard is the most efficient teaching technology. We can light candles and still get the job done.