Lessons in Technology from San Jose State University

Lessons in Technology from San Jose State University.

While walking around Palo Alto and eating at the Cheesecake Factory, Steve Sloan and I talked about what he's doing at SJSU. He's one of those evangelists that don't show up on any mailing lists. He's probably influenced millions of dollars of purchases in the past decade. Some of the things I remember from our chat:

1) Don't do wireless like SJSU is doing it. They are only putting wireless into the classrooms. Not into the cafeteria, the hallways, or the bar. Why is that bad? Because students are more likely to fire up their laptops and check email or IM folks in class. Instead, he wishes the university would have turned off wireless inside the classroom and enabled it in the hallways, cafeterias, etc.

2) They haven't switched to OSX yet. Why? Cost. They are still using QuarkXpress 4.1 (the current version is 6.0). Quark makes it very expensive to upgrade and the university system doesn't have site licenses for it (he says that Microsoft actually does a much better job of dealing with the university system than Apple vendors do, which gets more Microsoft adoption there).

3) ISV and OEM evangelism efforts suck. Why? Because they only talk to the management (translation: academic vice president). The management rarely is the ones who get faculty and staff to adopt new computing systems and rarely takes on an evangelistic role with hard-to-convince instructors. He suggests the OEMs talk to staff members and show them new computing devices (this was the first time he'd seen a Tablet PC, for instance, and thought it could revolutionize student life on campus).

4) The tenure system keeps technology adoption low. Why? Because once a professor gets tenure, what reason is there to keep up on the industry and adopt new ideas? He says more than 50% of professors barely know how to send and receive emails, and he knows no one seriously doing a weblog (not to mention know what RSS is).

5) Windows Server 2003 interactions with Macs aren't great. He notes that many users like to start file names with an asterisk, something that's allowed on a Mac, but not on Windows, so the Mac files have troubles when moved over to Windows Server 2003. He says they work well enough, though, that the University is slowly upgrading its servers to Windows.

6) He wants a decent Outlook for the Mac. Entourage isn't it, he says. Buggy, he says, things like copying contact information from an Exchange server doesn't work well. Would just like an Outlook-like UI and functionality for the Mac.

7) Career development at SJSU isn't very good. He pays his own way to O'Reilly's OSX and Emerging Technology conference every year. Note to O'Reilly from Steve: make your educational discount the same across the board (O'Reilly gives teachers a bigger discount than staff personnel). He says that's unfair for a couple of reasons. One: teachers (faculty) make more than staff do. Two: staff is usually the ones who evangelize conferences inside academic departments. Three: faculty usually has their conference fees covered by the university anyway, while staff do not.

8) Steve has never heard of a Microsoft academic program. Who wants to take that one on? (How about the guys who hang out on Academic Longhorn?) He says he'd love to see more Microsoft participation in campus user groups.

Anyway, a productive and fun day. Thanks Steve!  [The Scobleizer Weblog]

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