Monthly Archives: January 2017

Raising Digital Citizens

When was the last time you read the use agreement completely for an app, a website, or new software? I am guilty myself of rushing straight to the “I Accept” button without thoroughly reading the agreement. I justify it, perhaps erroneously, by the fact that I have read standard boilerplate agreements in the past and like to think that I am tech-savvy and understand the implications. As we move into an increasingly digital world, not everyone understands the tech behind the tech and the consequences of agreeing to use documents, particularly young kids who are now growing up digital.

Growing Up Digital

The Children’s Commissioner For England recently published a report calling for increased internet protection for children. They called for greater oversight and user rights of websites targeting children and teenagers. When 13-year-olds were asked to read through the use agreement for Instagram, where many of them had an account, they found the legal language boring and incomprehensible. When the use agreement was rewritten to be understandable, the children were surprised at the rights that they had given up and their lack of recourse in case of problems. The report calls for more oversight of websites and apps targeting children and a crackdown on cyber bullying by children and adults.

In the beginning, the internet was designed for exchanging information between the military and advanced research academic institutions. I am not sure that anyone could have foretold a time when it was being used commercially for exchanging pictures and texts by people of all ages. It has morphed and grown over time and I think we have a responsibility to protect the youngest users.

Digital Responsibility

As educators and parents, it is important that we teach digital responsibility to young people to give them a basis on how to conduct themselves on the internet and in social media. I work with a youth group and we regularly talk about rights and responsibilities while on the internet. We focus on recognizing cyber bullying, sharing private information, and behaving appropriately on social media. We can all think of adults who should have had these lessons growing up.

I recently came across an article that shares ideas on how to teach digital responsibility. They give some great pointers on topics such as using social media wisely, developing a professional persona, and protecting your privacy. We may think that some of these are topics for adults, but children are building their digital footprint already. When my son was still a teenager, he somehow developed a profile that listed him as a 50-year-old veteran and father; the resulting advertisements showed up in my mailbox for several years afterwards. He got an invitation from AARP even before I did.


Dijiwise is a tool created to allow parents to connect to their child’s social media accounts (assuming they will give you the password). You can monitor multiple accounts, such as Instagram and Facebook, through an app. This tool gives real time notifications so you can steer a teenager toward responsible posting and sharing. Circle by Disney is a device that connects to your home wi-fi and controls all devices in the home. You can set various limits, such as times a device is used, sites visited, or time spent on a particular device. This is useful for monitoring younger children.


Young people are growing up digital so it is important they start off on the right foot. Even with all of the monitoring and tools available, I think that the most important tool is open conversation. “What are you working on tonight?” “How are things going in your social circle?” The earlier we start that dialogue, the better chance we have of setting them up for success as digital citizens. 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.

Workplace Trends: Increasing Employee Engagement

As the US economy continued to grow in 2016, employers added more jobs and competition for jobs increased. By the end of the year, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 5.5 million unfilled jobs. Part of that is due to a skills mismatch and part to competition for a finite number of workers. What do employers need to do to fill all of these openings? I did some research on workplace trends that will hopefully attract workers to these jobs.

Generation Y and Z

The median tenure with an employer is currently 4.6 years. Among millennials, the statistic is 2.8 years. Millennials are concerned about respect and about doing great work. They are more confident in their skills and switch employers when they don’t feel respected or feel that their work is not meaningful. Employers will need to combat this with more transparency. Instead of rolling out new policies, companies will also need to explain the rationale behind the decisions. Better yet, employees should be involved in policy making. Generation Y and soon to follow Generation Z, are both tech savvy so it will be harder in the future to not be transparent. If you don’t believe me, look at to see what current and past employees are saying about your company.

 Employee Experience

In recent years, we have used data analytics to increase our knowledge about customers, potential customers, and even suppliers. This year, companies are turning the lens inward to observe employee experience and satisfaction. IBM has been developing people analytics tools as a marketable product and for use in their own workforce. Human resource (HR) departments are able to do predictive analysis on employee satisfaction and hopefully reduce dissatisfaction and excessive turnover. It reminds me of the movie “Minority Report” where there was a method of predicting when a crime would occur and the police stopped the crime before it happened. Perhaps HR can swoop in and persuade a key employee not to leave the organization since it costs a lot more to replace than retain one. HR departments are changing to meet organizational needs, and people analytics is one tool they will be using more in the future.

Blended Workforce

The gig or freelance economy has grown over the last few years, but the emphasis this year will be on blending these contractors with a traditional workforce. Freelancers work on discrete, time-based jobs or projects and then move on after the job is complete. Websites such as Taskrabbit facilitate this. If the trend continues, employers will need to figure out how to blend short-term contractors, who generally make more money, and full time employees who get benefits on top of a salary. They serve different purposes toward the same goal and they often work side by side, particularly on technical jobs such as coding. How do you reward and retain loyal employees who work alongside those who have no loyalty and are hired for a specific task?


These are just some of the trends that employers will be working through in 2017. Some can be aided by technology but most are a matter of attracting and retaining a talented and dedicated workforce in a competitive market.

What other workplace trends do you see for 2017? 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.

Artificial Intelligence Applications

Artificial intelligence (AI) will continue to contribute to innovations this year. I think some industries will embrace the change and some will resist for various reasons, including job displacement and trust. Our world is changing already in terms of the tasks that computers take on. Let’s examine some of the ways that AI will change how we work in 2017 and beyond.


AI is simply a set of cognitive tasks that can be handled by a computer. Some AI functions incorporate vision and robotics but do not necessarily resemble Arnold Schwarzenegger’s dangerous “Terminator” character. Think of the hundreds of decisions that you make every day and which of those decisions could be best made by a computer, thus freeing you up for more creative and innovative tasks. Another term associated with AI is machine learning. That is the ability of a computer to learn from past cognitive decisions and make corrective choices, similar to how we learn from our mistakes and change our thinking in order to produce a better outcome.


In a recent InformationWeek article, the author is hopeful that AI advances will help solve a skills shortage in the cyber security field. Right now, computers are used to gather data on threats and potential threats to weed out erroneous information and help security professionals formulate a mitigation strategy. In the future, the computer will also be left to formulate and institute the threat response as well as gather the initial data. Far from displacing security personnel, it will free them up to work on higher level tasks such as business continuity and refining the data collected and filtered. In this case, AI provides another pair of hands but security professionals will continue to be in as high demand as they are now.

Automotive Applications

One of the AI applications I am most excited about is automotive. I have written about this in the past and there have been some real breakthroughs recently. One practical application of AI is Ford’s new Pro Trailer Backup Assist. I cannot back up a trailer to save my life; I was denied that gene when I was born. Somehow the trailer appears at my side whenever I try to back into a spot. With backup assist, the driver removes their hands from the steering wheel completely and backs up by using a small knob on the dash. Turn the knob to the right and the trailer moves to the right. This is just the opposite of trying to use the steering wheel and certainly much more intuitive. This is an example of machine learning using vision and computing algorithms. Another even more radical example is the upcoming autonomous vehicle. These vehicles make constant decisions based on sensor input from around the vehicle to safely transport a passenger.

Danger Zones

Robots using machine learning differ from simple drones in that they make independent decisions based on past experience. A drone is controlled by a human operator and cannot function independently. An example of independent robot development is CHIMP from Carnegie Mellon University. CHIMP will be used in industrial application and for search and rescue when the situation is too dangerous for humans. It makes decisions based on instructions, experience, and multiple sensor input.


These are just a few AI applications, with a lot more to come. Are there tasks or decisions that you would just as soon leave to a computer? Do you trust the systems to make those decisions? This is a brave new world and it will take a leap of faith before some of these developments become completely commercialized. 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.

Education Trends in 2017

Image of a student walking a road labeled 2017 with a question mark on the horizon.I try to follow higher education trends to make sure I know what is coming and can gear my teaching appropriately. This blog highlights some of the strategies and technologies I think will emerge in 2017. We will see in 12 months if I was right.

Improved Distance Education

I think technologies that create a shared classroom experience will improve distance education in 2017. Students will increasingly enroll in distance education,  so it is important that we improve the virtual classroom.

Immersive virtual reality is growing in popularity. I was one of the first to try out HP’s Halo telepresence system, now a Polycom product. Each of the teleconference rooms were physically identical, right down to the wall coloring and furniture. The idea is that you see your colleagues across the country or the world on the bank of monitors in front of you and feel like they are just on the other side of the table. It is a good idea and it works great but is expensive to purchase and maintain. Imagine if you could take this same technology into distance education using virtual reality. You could hold debates, work on shared projects, and hopefully improve the overall education experience to the point where it approximates an in-person experience. A September article from the Center for Digital Education highlights some of the specific developments in this area. The experience won’t change overnight but it is an important tool to improve distance education and an area that I will be monitoring.

Industry Partnerships

I believe that we need to do a better job of matching curriculum with skills needed in the workplace. In ancient Greece, students attended Plato’s Academy to learn thinking skills and become philosophers. Today we also need to equip students with applied skills they can use to further the mission of an employer. Rather than guessing what skills employers need, it is important to form partnerships and allow input into curriculum design. This could also lead to more internship opportunities where students could practice newly-learned skills. A strong partnership will help schools meet the needs of industry.

Standardized Certification System

Particularly in information technology and information management, there are a large number of available professional certificates. They range from security to advanced networking to systems administration. As an employer, how do I know whether a new or current employee presenting these certifications can really do the job? How do I know whether organizations offering these certifications are legitimate? Author Matthew Meyer, in a 2016 article, argued for a national certification system. This would be a certification system for certifiers, if you will. With the rising popularity of certificates this is an idea whose time has come because it would add some legitimacy to a certificate and assure quality and rigor to an employer. As I write this however, the American Commission for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) is fighting for its survival in the courts after the federal government cut off student aid for people attending those certified colleges. It could take several revisions to work out an appropriate certification body similar to the current regional accreditors for non-profit universities.

Political Changes

The political climate in the United States changed with the election and that could mean a shift in direction for post-secondary education. There could be more focus on vocational education, research, or toward non-degreed education such as skills-based certifications. The government influences the direction and emphasis on higher education through federal funds and guaranteed student loans. I believe that there will be a split emphasis on advanced research and skills-based education as we focus on current and anticipated workforce needs.


There is a lot changing in higher education and it’s an exciting time to work in this field.

What changes are you seeing in education? Are we taking advantage of technology and ideas on improving learning? 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.

Making 2017 the Best Year Yet

Image of exuberant person with raised arm forming the 1 in 2017.Our calendar was introduced in 1582 but was not widely adopted throughout Europe and beyond until the eighteenth century. Even now we have complex rules to align our timekeeping with the natural passing of seasons. Calendars are a human construct, but they do provide us with a beginning and end of days, weeks, months, and years. January 1, the official start of the western new year, is a chance to shed the old and consider fresh starts. I challenge you to finally start those things that will make you happier and more successful in 2017.


A new year is a great opportunity to change health habits. They don’t have to be big changes like the traditional resolutions that many people don’t keep; small changes practiced consistently add up to big changes. Good health is essential for concentration and clear thinking. My goal in 2017 is to train more on my bicycle to prepare for long rides. I generally get to the last few miles of an organized ride and wish I had trained more because I feel like I am done before the ride is over. This is the year that I finish strong. A fresh commitment to train coupled with small changes in my routine will make a big difference.


Perhaps 2017 is the year to sign up for that class you have been meaning to take or get that certification, or maybe even start or complete an undergraduate or graduate program. Our AIM students are an incredible group who consistently balance school, family, and work. I know it is not easy, but at some point they committed to that new direction to enhance their lives and their careers. That commitment will not only aid them in the future, but may give them insights to help them in their current jobs.

I am challenging myself in 2017 to teach better than ever. That means I will need to prepare more, just as in cycling, and to expand my knowledge through training and research. I challenge you to find time for your own new direction in learning.


I believe that we all have choices in how we live and what we do to improve ourselves. We can put off making changes for another day or week or year, or we can choose to start today. We can either react to the world around us, or we can change our environment and ourselves. The opportunity, responsibility, and choice lies with us. I am responsible for the change I want to see in my world.


These are not necessarily new ideas and perhaps I have read too many self-help books over the years, but I do believe that whether it is January 1 or July 15 it’s always a good time to take that first step. Take stock of where you want to be in the future and take the first small step towards that goal. Let me know what steps you are going to take in 2017 to make this your best year yet.


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.