Cycles of Renewal and Change

I left work and went straight to Waterloo Station on Friday, the last day before a two-week break for students and faculty.  I’ll be working next week, but the second week we intend to do some Channel sailing.

From Waterloo I trained to Portsmouth and took the ferry to Gosport to dine at the Haslar Lightship and then sleep on our boat.  All day Saturday I did the annual cleaning and filter renewals on the fuel system, the cooling systems, the air intake, etc. on our Volvo MD2030 marine diesel engine.

(I don’t mention to many that boys in my family were expected to rebuild cars from a young age, and close to my 15th birthday I started with two 1960 Morris Minors that I bought at a farm estate sale of a man who had passed away.  I used one for parts, rebuilt the other’s engine, and that was my first car in college.  After that, I had a ’68 MG Midget, a ’68 MGB, etc.)

So, on the boat, I have renewed the oil, fuel, air filters and fluids.  I upgraded the seawater pump to have a speedseal cover for fast access to the seawater impeller, that pushes sea water through the heat exchanger to help cool the engine (no air going through a radiator like on a car).  As I do these things, I feel reconnected to working on machines of an honest type, and I like to make them slightly better as I work.

In addition, we replaced our out-of-date flares with an off-shore pack, and we recently bought an EPIRB in case we need satellites to get us out of a bind. With all this, our four-man life raft is out of date and needs a £250 service, and our fire extinguishers are out of date, and our first aid kit expired in 2007, and the filter packs on our drinking water tanks expired two months ago.  So, I have more to do this week.

Doing all this made me think of cycles of renewal versus cycles of change.  On the boat, we try to make incremental improvements as we renew.  Back in December, we were advised the original 1973 winches had broken internal parts, and the drums were wearing though, so we replaced and upgraded to self tailing winches that look like this:

These winches are easier to use by one person, and safer for a smaller crew, and to idiots like us they are attractive pieces of gear.

To relate all this back to educational technology, we’ve been doing major cycles of change in the last three years that were more than incremental upgrades.  We’ve replaced the school web page (to Finalsite), the school wireless system (to Meru), the school email system (to Zimbra), we’ve created a large VLE (Moodle), we replaced the network core and firewalls (all Cisco), we are replacing the school Internet connection (100 mbit fiber), we are half-way through the replacement of the student information system (to Veracross), we replaced the backup systems (to HP SANs, drives that go off campus, and Mozy Pro),and we have modified the MS 1:1 laptop program.

That’s a lot of change, and it’s time to slow down for a few years.  I’m really looking forward now to more incremental cycles of renewal now, like our projector systems.  We have 6-7 year old NEC projectors in most classrooms with Avervision document cameras.  Most classrooms don’t have screens.  We’re thinking of either going to higer rez (1200 x 800) 3000 lumen projectors (NEC NP510W EDU units) and upgraded document cameras (Lumens DC265s), or going ultra short throw (Epson or Hitachi) with an eye toward more interactive boards in the future.

Either way, balancing costs, it’s relaxing to be moving into more of that type of phase right now (both at work, and on the boat).  As of right now, I get to type this in the cockpit of SR (on a little Samsung netbook with a Vodaphone 3G stick), on a sunny English morning in March, having my first coffee of the day while the family sleeps in below.  This is not a bad place to relax and think awhile, and my boat work is done for this weekend.

Time for a second coffee from the galley.

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