Trends in Education: Information Availability

Adult students in a classroom.I have been thinking about changes in education. Some are due to technology advancements, but some are from social changes as we discover new ways of teaching and learning.  This blog post will explore some of those trends and how we might take advantage of shifts to improve higher education.

Information At Your Fingertips

Scott Miller, PhD, president of Wesleyan College, said in an article: “Some faculty voice concerns that the prevalence of information has negated the inclination to learn it.” Some may see improved information access as a threat to their teaching but I think we can use it to our advantage to improve the learning process. I liken this new information availability to the introduction of the printing press. Before then, students relied primarily on their instructors who could read the few texts that were available. Teachers guarded the writings so they alone could dispense knowledge. Written texts were laboriously copied by hand. After the advent of printing, there were more texts available so the general population could learn to read and could synthesize the information for themselves and draw their own conclusions.

In 2016, information is available at our fingertips through smart devices and the internet. My students and I have access to the same information, so my responsibility is to create the learning space and pose questions that will prompt further learning. We share the task of gathering information so that we can synthesize it through discussions into knowledge or even wisdom. Rather than feeling threatened by this, I believe it frees us to focus on ideas and insights.

Experiential Learning

Some disciplines still require experience to fully synthesize information into understanding. Chemistry students can read about the reaction of two mixed chemicals but it’s not the same as personally experiencing the outcome. Civil engineering students can read about load calculations and design principles but until they experiment with models and see the resulting success or failure, do they really understand the principles and can they apply them to real designs? Disciplines that require experiential learning will still need a classroom with the materials to experiment with. But are there other ways to augment classroom learning?

Many employers have onboarding programs to welcome and train new employees. Some of these programs are extensive, lasting weeks, if not months. Would it not be more efficient to shorten the onboarding process and instead bring students in earlier as part of a hands-on expanded internship?  I believe that since we now have so much valuable information available to students and faculty, we can be much more efficient in how we use that information. With the time created by that efficiency, students should be able to apply that knowledge in a real world setting. Students would win valuable experience and potential employers could hire employees with advanced thinking skills and practical experience.

Thoughts

We can take advantage of greater information access by making learning more efficient and effective. At the same time, students take a greater part in their learning and can apply that experience to a successful career. Those are my thoughts but I would love to hear from you.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

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Finding Our Roots: The Technology of Genealogy

Vintage photo of books, journals, pens, and other tools of research circa 1930.There seems to be a resurgence of interest in history, particularly personal history and genealogy. Popular television shows such as “Finding Your Roots” and “Who Do You Think You Are” explore ancestry. Ancestry.com and similar websites provide a platform for discovering your lineage. I wonder if part of this interest is because we now have technologies that help us discover who we are and where we come from.

Document Scanning

The ability to scan and catalogue large numbers of documents has been a boon to genealogy research. We can mine the data from those documents to connect family lines. However, old documents are not always easy to read or access. A recent report from MIT highlights work that allows us to read fragile texts that cannot be touched or opened. Researchers are using terahertz radiation scanning and character recognition software to scan multiple pages at once. So far they are able to read through nine pages at once but hope to soon read through a whole book. This might someday enable us to read through ancient papyrus. They could one day unlock the information that links you to Cleopatra.

DNA Testing

Advances in DNA analysis have led more people to seek out testing, which adds more people to databases, which increases your chances of making family connections. Ancestry.com, mentioned above, sells a DNA collection kit for $99. Return a DNA sample and they will test it, add the information to their database and return the analysis that shows your ethnic mix and identifies possible relatives based on a match of DNA markers. This can be eye opening for people who do not know a lot about their past.

Record Matching

Advances in data analysis have improved the ability to match old documents in order to construct a family tree. Birth, marriage, death, and burial registries contain many errors that make them hard to reconcile. The town clerk in 1895 may have misspelled a name or recorded a date incorrectly so that it doesn’t match other official records. With modern data analysis, we can compensate for those errors and develop a “best guess” match for such records. Myheritage.com has proprietary matching algorithms that increase the chance of a correct records match.

Translation Software

Many of us do not speak the language of our ancestors, so when looking for records, we need translation. Researchers and technologists are developing applications able to translate names and other information from one language to another. Myheritage.com offers what they call “Global Name Translation” that breaks down the barrier of language. They describe this recent breakthrough in a press release in their blog:

“The new technology will now accept searches in English, automatically increase their scope to cover Russian and Ukrainian as well, and conveniently translate all results back to English.”

Such technology opens up a lot of possibilities that were once closed but can now help link family trees from different countries and cultures.

Thoughts

Technology can help bring people together and can aid our search for who we are and where we come from. It might even turn up a surprising connections to long lost family members. Have you used genealogy tools? Did they work? Let me know your experiences.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

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Star Trek Technologies: 50 Years Later

Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner post as Spock and Captain Kirk in a vintage black and white photo from the Star Trek series.The original Star Trek television series is celebrating its 50th anniversary so I have been thinking about some of the technologies they depicted that have become reality. Unfortunately, we still are not able to beam each other through space, but some of our current devices and applications have already surpassed the imagination of science fiction writers.

Set Phasers to Stun

In the TV series and the movies, characters always carried a phaser, particularly when they were exploring new worlds. This device had different settings and worked presumably by emitting a phased particle beam to either stun, freeze, or kill their opponent. Our equivalent is the taser, which I highlighted in a recent blog on law enforcement technology. It is different in that you need to make physical contact and it will only stun and not kill, except in rare cases. There is news that scientists are working on a real-life phaser, but that may just be wishful thinking from Star Trek fans.

Communicators

This is an area where I think we have surpassed the writers’ imagination. In the original Star Trek television series the characters used a cell phone type device to talk to another person on the ship. Nextel developed something similar in 1996 with their push to talk service over a standard cell phone. In subsequent franchises, the crew needed only to touch the logo on their uniform and they could start communicating. Fast-forward to 2016 when people walk down the street seemingly talking to themselves while communicating with someone not just on the proverbial ship, but possibly in a foreign country. How far we have come from the mythical communicator of 1966.

Telepresence

In the TV shows, the characters could communicate with each other via a telepresence video screen. They could even communicate with alien ships if their systems were compatible. Video communications were fairly foreign in 1966 but I think we now take it for granted. I was fortunate to be part of a pilot for HP’s Halo teleconferencing systems, now part of Polycom. The aim was to create identical rooms so that it appeared that your colleagues in Tokyo were just across the table from you. Now video communications have come to the smart phone through Skype, Google Hangouts, FaceTime, or Tango. That means our version of the communicator not only lets us speak to each other but also lets us do full video conferencing. Take that Captain Kirk.

Universal Language Translator

In a large universe it is necessary to be able to translate between many different languages. The crew of the USS Enterprise had a universal language translator they used to communicate with alien cultures. It somehow could translate any language. Our version is a bit more limited in the number of languages and I don’t think it currently translates Vulcan. Voice translator apps for smart phones are still in their infancy but work fairly well for about 50 languages. They feature speech to text or text to speech, and some have the ability to use the camera to capture and translate an image such as a road sign. I am excited about a new earpiece in development from Waverly Labs that allows you to hear and translate a foreign language. They are taking pre-orders now through Indiegogo.

Thoughts

Science fiction series such as Star Trek are a great catalyst for spurring our imagination about technology. An anniversary event is a great opportunity to reflect on our progress. Are there other Star Trek devices that we have already nailed? Let me know your thoughts.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

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Automotive Tracking Technology: Intrusive or Practical

Photograph of smiling teen boy sitting in a car, flashing a key and a thumbs up. Students are heading back to school. New college students on their own for the first time face a lot of challenges and nervous parents back home face fears of the unknown. If parents are sending their student off with a car, there are technologies that help limit the speed and other functions or even track the whereabouts of the car in real time. While these technologies are not new, they can allay some of the fears of the parents of young drivers. Let’s take a look at some.

Limiting Functionality

The folks at Ford have developed what they call MyKey. One key fob becomes the administrator key and the other inherits limited functionality. The administrator key can limit the speed of the car, cap the volume of the radio and keep it muted until the seatbelt is secure, ensure that all safety features are automatically turned on, and can set nagging seat belt chimes and deliver an earlier low fuel warning. The non-administrator key receives these settings. Although, I can see an enterprising young student in Engineering 101 or Computer Science 101 figuring out a way to reverse the settings in order to enjoy unfettered driving. This system also could keep a spouse with a lead foot out of trouble, but in that case, their partner holds the administrator key.

Tracking

A lot of modern vehicles have satellite navigation and many are also equipped with a GPS tracker for locating the car. This is important when a car is stolen but can also give peace of mind to a worried parent. General Motors has developed Family Link to be used in conjunction with their OnStar system. A family member can access Family Link online through their account and see the current location of the vehicle. They can also set up alerts to show when the car has arrived at its destination or where the car is at a specific time, curfew for example. I assume and hope that the folks at GM have built in a very strong security layer to prevent stalkers from accessing that same information. The technology is similar to that used by outdoor enthusiasts to broadcast their location in case they get into trouble and cannot communicate.

Some may see this technology as intrusive, but tracking a new driver or a family member driving in inclement weather might lessen the anxiety.

Thoughts

These technologies exist today, both as standard equipment or after-market. They can be plugged into the on-board computer and give early warning about failing mechanical or electrical systems or limit functionality. All of these technologies are designed to provide information or to ensure the safety of drivers, particularly first time drivers. Do you think these devices limit freedoms or promote more freedom for young drivers? I guess it partly depends on whether you are the one holding the administrator key or the other key.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

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The Risk and Security of Connected Healthcare Devices

Photo of a pile of pills and medical devices.A recent Forrester Research report highlighted the security risks of connected healthcare devices and some of the implications of lax policies of manufacturers and care providers. This brings to mind for me all kinds of doomsday scenarios so I want to highlight some of the best practices in the report. These apply to the healthcare industry and other businesses.

Internet of Things

Part of the allure of the internet of things (IoT) is that many devices can be connected, including medical devices. In a recent article, author Yash Mehta highlighted some connected and potentially connected devices. On the list are monitoring devices which allow patients to be at home instead of a hospital. He also mentions companies that are developing edible IoT “smart” pills that will help monitor health issues and medication. This is an area where I would want the tightest security.

Steps for Security Planning

Start from the inside when thinking about security. Is everyone in your organization following best practices? Are you requiring passwords be changed regularly? Is everyone following this requirement or have they developed a workaround? Are there any shared accounts with a shared password? One of the biggest security holes has to do with social engineering. A hacker will pretend to be someone trustworthy to secure passwords or entrance into secure systems, then launch a widespread attack. Make sure everyone in your organization is educated and prepared for such an attempt.

Verify that the new devices have security built in from the manufacturer. This applies to health care IoT and other connected devices. It is hard to build security with no foundation. Push manufacturers to install a minimum level of threat protection in every device.

It is necessary to separate device information from actual customer details. In the case of health care, that means storing data collected from the connected device in a separate data structure than the patient data. In a retail establishment this means storing credit card information away from personally identifiable information such as customer name and address. The two can be linked via a separate ID but it should be difficult for a hacker to connect the two sources of information.

Thoughts

It is exciting to think of all of the possibilities with IoT devices but it is sobering to contemplate the security risks. All of us must consider and mitigate the risks, either as consumers or as part of an IT team building the tightest security possible. IoT devices are coming. Are you ready?

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

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Avoiding Disasters: The Value of Continuity Planning

Server room represented by several server racks with strong dramatic light.The recent technical problems with the Delta Airlines network got me thinking about the value of business continuity planning. We teach an AIM short course dedicated to business continuity and disaster recovery planning and stress the importance of thinking through all potential scenarios. Consider this a friendly reminder to update and test your plan to make sure it is still valid. Has anything changed since your last test and could it halt your business? What is the worst-case scenario and how will you deal with it?

Delta

Delta is just the latest example of a sophisticated network of hardware and applications that failed and caused disruption to a business. In the case of Delta, a power control module failed in their technology command center in Atlanta. The universal power supply kicked in but not before some applications went offline. The real trouble began when the applications came back up but not in the right sequence. Consider application A that requires data from a database to process information to send to application B. If application B comes up before Application A, it will be looking for input that does not exist and will go into fault mode. In the same vein, if application A comes up before the database is online, it will be looking for data that does not yet exist and will fault.

Any of these scenarios will affect business operations such as ticketing, reservation and flight scheduling processes. Once flights are canceled due to lack of valid information, then the crew in San Francisco cannot get to Atlanta to start work and even more flights are canceled or delayed. In this case, it took four days before flights were fully restored. That is a lot of lost revenue and goodwill just because one power control module failed in a data center.

Disaster Recovery Planning

Information systems and networks are complex and getting more so all the time. In order to develop a plan to cover a potential interruption consider the following steps:

  • Map out your environment. Understand what systems you have, their operating systems, how they are dependent on each other, and how they are connected to each other via the network. Is it critical that all these elements come up in sequence? This map will be crucial in the event you need to rebuild your systems after a disaster.
  • Understand risks and create a plan. Understand your risk for each system and application. A small application that only runs once a month may not need attention whereas a customer order fulfillment application that runs 24/7 should be able to failover without interruption. Create a plan to keep the environment running or to restore it quickly.
  • Test the plan. This may be the most important part of the process. Testing the plan on a regular basis ensures that you have accounted for any changes to the environment and ensures that all people are up to date on their part in the event of a problem. Periodic testing also keeps the plan active and not something that becomes “shelfware.”

Thoughts

Businesses increasingly rely on sophisticated technology in order to sell product, service customers and communicate with partners. Any break in that technology can have a real impact on revenue and the long-term viability of the business. Have you tested your business continuity plan lately?

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

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Congratulations 2016 AIM Program Graduates!

Kara McFall, UO AIM Program director, speaks at commencement.This week’s post is the transcript of AIM Program Director Kara McFall’s 2016 commencement address. Commencement took place Saturday, August 13 on the University of Oregon main campus in Eugene.

To our 2016 AIM graduates, their families and supporters; our AIM faculty and staff; and all others who are here to join in the celebration of our 2016 AIM graduating class—welcome. I’d like to start by asking the graduates, faculty, and staff to stand or raise a glass and join me in honoring the families and friends who supported our graduates throughout the AIM Program. Every one of our AIM graduates has worked hard to achieve the right to stand here today as a graduate of the program; but every graduate also had the help and support of their families and loved ones, who agonized along with them over proper APA citations, assignment deadlines, and their nitpicky Capstone 1 instructor. The role that each of you played—as supporters of our AIM graduates—is an important one, and I would like to say thank you.

You are here today with no looming paper deadlines, no assignments that are due, no need to meet with your classmates to complete a team project. I hope you’ve had time to enjoy your new role as AIM alumni and the transition from your previous role as AIM students. I’ve spent the time since your newfound freedom writing and rewriting this address. I struggled honestly with how to frame my message to you, and I finally decided to take inspiration from the 2016 presidential race. Please bear with me.

The fact is, I love politics, and every election cycle I find myself caught up in the campaigns. As a political fanatic of many years, I’ve noticed over time that while each campaign is different, there are some parallels that are universal. In particular, political candidates have a set of terms that they’ve coopted and, in every election cycle, you’ll hear these terms lobbed at the opposition. For my address today, I will be applying those terms to you, our latest AIM graduates. My fellow Americans, I present you with the following indisputable facts about the AIM graduating class of 2016.

First, I would like to state for the record that AIM graduates are flip floppers. In a political campaign when you hear the term flip flopper, it comes when one candidate accuses the other of changing positions on an issue, oftentimes with videotaped evidence showing a candidate proclaiming to take one side of an issue, and at another time proclaiming to take the exact opposite side. I believe that flip flopping is a virtue, and it is my sincere hope that you as AIM alumni live up to the name. There is a reason why we asked you to research and write so many papers exploring various topics during your time in the AIM Program. The intent was not to encourage you to take a rigid stance, but rather for you to learn to gather evidence from sources; examine the sources critically to ensure they meet the five criteria of being of high quality, authoritative, timely, relevant, and lacking in bias; and then, based upon the information you’ve gathered and assessed, make a determination of your position on a topic. We gave you similar opportunities in discussion boards, where our hope was to provide a forum for the exploration of important and timely topics and to foster debate with your classmates and your instructor. I know through working with all of you that some, if not all of you, are emerging from the AIM Program having changed your positions on different topics – you have engaged in flip flopping, and I am proud of you for doing so. The opposite of a flip flopper is someone who is rigid and refuses to learn and grow, someone who clings to a belief despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. I hope that you will continue to base your positions not on what you believed yesterday, but rather that you will continue to gather information, examine what you find critically and, when warranted, that you will change your stance and embrace your role as a flip flopper.

Next, I would like to point out, ladies and gentlemen, that AIM graduates are uninformed. This may seem like an odd statement for the director of a master’s program to say to a group of graduates who have spent considerable time and resources in obtaining their degrees, so let me explain what I mean. I hope that your time in the AIM Program has taught you that, however much you think you know about a topic, there is always more to learn. I sincerely hope that each of you who leaves the program as an AIM graduate has nurtured or developed a love of learning. Once you have settled into your role as AIM alumni, I want you to continue to fuel your desire to learn by embracing the fact that you don’t know everything—that there are topics on which you are uninformed. I can think of no worse fate than knowing everything—to be stripped of the opportunity for the joy of discovery. I hope that saying the words “I didn’t know that” come to mean not the admission of ignorance, but instead to represent the opportunity to indulge a continued love of learning.

Finally, I would like to take a moment to talk about failure. Before you get your backs up, let me share my philosophy on failure. Everyone—everyone—fails in achieving a goal at some point in their lives. Those who fail the most are those who have tried the most. Most of us have a hard time when we fail to reach a goal—it’s a horrible feeling and, for goal-oriented people, having to admit that you’ve failed at something can be devastating. Reactions can range from defensiveness—explaining why you didn’t actually fail or why the failure was someone else’s fault—to feelings of negative self worth. I have students every year who view a less than perfect grade on an assignment or in a class as failure, and I understand—grades and what they represent are important, and most of you came into the AIM Program with goals related to your grades. But I hope that one of the lessons you take from the AIM Program is to look at failure to reach a goal as a gift. I want to repeat those words, because the lesson is the single most valuable lesson I have learned in my own life: Failure is a gift. Failure gives you the opportunity to honestly assess why you fell short in your efforts and identify opportunities for you to hone your skills or alter your approach, or even to sometimes let go of one goal for the opportunities represented by another. I want to encourage you to approach failure with grace and with gratitude, and to treat each failure to reach a goal as a gift that provides the opportunity to learn something new about yourself or the world, to improve, and to move in a new direction. I challenge you all to embrace your failures.

To sum up—I hope the AIM Program has provided you with the skills and confidence to pursue the knowledge that will enable you to flip flop on issues rather than remain rigid in your stances, that you will continue to seek out topics on which you are uninformed so that you can indulge a love of learning, and that you will embrace your failures for the opportunities they present. I also hope that you are able to embark on your post-AIM journeys without CNN chronicling your every step. AIM Class of 2016, I am proud of each one of you, and I don’t need an exit poll to tell me that all of you are winners. I hope you will take the opportunity to keep in touch with us as you move into your next phase as AIM graduates. Congratulations to you, AIM Class of 2016!

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Technology in Military and Law Enforcement

Photo of a drone in the foreground with the setting sun in the background.Police officers and military personnel face potential danger every day. This week we’ll look at technology that supports them and makes their jobs easier and safer.

Bomb Detecting Drones

According to a recent article, there are an estimated 100 million live land mines in the world. Many of these are from conflicts long past, but some are placed to sway the outcome of a current battle. Unfortunately there are no maps to show exactly where these land mines are planted. The Mine Kafon Drone can detect and destroy land mines and is currently looking for Kickstarter funding. It works by mapping an area and then using a metal detector to locate the mines within that area. When one is found, it is tagged with a GPS detector to mark its location. The drone then returns to the operator to be fitted with a robotic arm so that it can place small detonators on the mine. The mines are then detonated remotely with both the drone and the operator out of harm’s way. This is a great example of technology being applied to a serious and life threatening problem throughout the world.

Robots in Police Work

Police and rescue personnel use robots to find and retrieve missing people. These robots or drones can search for people in dangerous places; once a person is detected, the rescuers can plan a safe way to extract them. This is important in situations where someone is in a collapsed building or in an area where there are toxic chemicals.

Similar robots are now being used to neutralize a threat such as an active shooter. These robots are fitted with cameras and sensors, even guns or explosives when the mission is to eliminate the threat. These are used only as a last resort when negotiations break down or are not possible. As I think about the future of such devices, I wonder if we could apply this technology to war strategy. Can we ever get to a point where we choose an isolated location and each side sends out their best drones and robots to try to destroy the other side? The operators and other humans could be safe, far away from the conflict. Would it mean as much to blow up each other’s devices as to actually harm people? It would certainly be safer for us.

Thoughts

I am grateful for those who are developing technology to improve the safety of the men and women who protect us. I will be watching the development of the Mine Kafon Drone and other devices that detect and remove threats. Let me know of any similar technologies that you are aware of. I think this is a young but growing field.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

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Rule 41 and Digital Privacy Rights

Photo of wooden gavel on a black computer keyboard.Proposed changes to Rule 41 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure would allow a judge to authorize a search and seizure outside of their jurisdiction. For example, a Massachusetts judge could authorize a search in Alaska or even in a foreign country. This would mainly apply to government electronic hacking efforts into computers and computer networks. The changes have been approved by the Supreme Court and will go into effect on December 1 unless challenged by Congress.

I believe this is a slippery slope that threatens the Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures. What are the implications of this possible erosion of privacy on our own computers and networks?

The Fourth Amendment

The Fourth Amendment was added as part of the bill of rights in 1791 and deals with the search of homes and private property without a properly executed search warrant. It stems from the almost unlimited powers granted to British tax collectors to search homes and property for contraband that wasn’t being returned to King George in the form of taxes. Those who drafted the Fourth Amendment could not foresee 21st century technologies and interconnected systems. At issue now is whether a warrant can be issued remotely and whether one warrant can be issued for hundreds or even thousands of systems through surveillance and hacking.

No Expectation of Privacy

Senior U.S. District Judge Henry Coke Morgan Jr. recently ruled, “people should have no expectation of privacy on their home PCs because no connected computer ‘is immune from invasion.’” This is a ruling associated with a case of government takeover and surveillance of a site on the dark web for the purpose of collecting networking information of visitors. One warrant was issued for many searches, including those outside of the United States. The judge in this case argued that even that one warrant was not necessary because the defendants were engaged in illegal activity and took measures to hide those activities behind the anonymity of the dark web.

Digital Rights

Advocates such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation are challenging this ruling and filed an amicus brief in this case, but to no avail. My main question is how much privacy should we expect on our personal systems and in our transactions on the web? This case maintains that because there are so many hacking attempts we should have no expectation of privacy, even from our government. This seems like a spurious argument at best. I have written before about the notion of geographical boundaries and how those boundaries are disappearing as we engage in more electronic transactions. This case and the proposed changes to Rule 41 only accelerate the dissolution of boundaries.

Thoughts

My aim is to make you aware of the activities and rulings that could affect your right to privacy, particularly digital privacy. Is there cause for concern? Let me know your thoughts.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

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Life Lessons from the Road

Kelly Brown riding in the Portland to Seattle ClassicEarlier this month I rode in the Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic. That is 205 miles in the saddle over two days, although some choose to complete it in one day. I have done this ride before so I knew what to expect. Two days on the bike gives me a lot of time for reflection and I would like to share, particularly with AIM students, some of those thoughts. I call them lessons from the road, which applies to my time in the saddle and throughout my life in general. Hopefully they resonate with you as well.

Don’t Quit Until You’re Done

For those of us who choose to do the ride over two days, there are various towns where you can camp overnight. The official center point is the 102-mile mark and riders can camp there at a small college. Others, like me, opt to put in a few more miles on the first day and stay at the 120-mile mark, which makes for a much easier second day.

That night I ate with fellow riders and I repeatedly heard, “Oh, that last 20 miles almost did me in.” They set out that morning knowing full well they were going to ride the longer distance so it should not have been a surprise. After talking to many of them, it dawned on me that they mentally finished at the halfway point when everyone was cheering and congratulating them for a job well done. For the last 20 miles they were riding in body only, having already finished for the day in mind and spirit.

How many times in our lives do we do the same thing? We set an attainable goal for ourselves and then we quit mentally before we are finished. We try to coast for the last 20 miles or the last class or the last effort that needs all of our concentration. I am going to always try to finish strong and I challenge you to do the same.

Watch Out for Those Around You

In this ride they cap registration at 10,000 so there are always fellow riders around you. It is not as bad as a Tour de France peloton but sometimes the distance between wheels can be measured in inches. It can take a lot of concentration to watch out for others, but the reward is a safe ride. I came upon more than one accident involving multiple riders so I know the risk.

As in cycling, it makes sense to watch out for others as we pass through life. Not necessarily out of a sense of danger but in the spirit of lending a hand. Do you ever notice a fellow student struggling and reach out to try and help? Do you try to help young people, or perhaps the elderly, during your day? Sometimes others struggle with tasks that seem routine to us so it never hurts to lend a hand.

Enjoy the Scenery

One of the most important lessons I learned during those hours in the saddle is to enjoy the scenery. I am not the fastest rider and I often hear the phrase “passing on your left.” While I will most likely never finish first in any of these rides, I definitely take the time to enjoy the scenery. Each mile brings a different view and, while pavement is not very interesting to look at nature, people and architecture definitely are. Whether high up on a bridge or deep in a forest, there is always something interesting to see.

Life can be hard and finishing a degree program can be hard, but I think it is important to look up every once in awhile and take in the scenery. It helps to put everything else in perspective.

Thoughts

These are my thoughts from the road. Finish strong, help others, and enjoy the scenery along the way. Do you have any life lessons that you have picked up on your journey? I would love to hear your thoughts.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

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