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CCN Focus: Chris Kadlec

As a part of the National Convergence Technology Center (CTC) featured blogs, we would like to introduce to you some of our professors and instructors in the Convergence College Network (CCN) community. The CCN is a select cohort of community colleges and universities from across the country that connects IT educators with a wealth of resources to enhance their programs. In this week’s Q&A blog, we’re featuring Chris Kadlec, Associate Professor of Information Technology at Georgia Southern University.

What do you teach? I teach a lot of courses at the undergraduate level. I teach an operating systems class. I teach IT infrastructure. I teach a VMware ICM class, what we call Data Center Management, and anything else in between.

How long have you been a teacher? I have been involved with IT since 1994. I officially started teaching in 1999 and became a fulltime teacher in 2007. Having said that, anybody in the IT field has to train people and has to train themselves. Any time I’ve been involved with IT, I’ve been teaching, just not formally.

Did you have a job in industry before you became a teacher? Yes, I was IT support from 1994 until 2004 for different universities. I started at the University of Mississippi, and then I went to the University of Georgia. At the University of Mississippi, I was IT support for the campus. IT support was very young, so we hadn’t decided to have a help desk at that time. Things were very haphazard at that time, I would say. We in the field have evolved significantly since then.

When I went to the University of Georgia, I was working for the college business there. During that time, they asked me to become a teacher because Y2K was such a problem. They were short of teachers and personnel that could do any training.

What sparked your interest in teaching? I was asked to start teaching a class while I was in the Ph.D. program. Originally, I was going through the Ph.D. program to become a CIO (Chief Information Officer) of a university and needed those credentials to continue where I was. At that point, I was asked to do some teaching and I really enjoyed it. Teaching became my primary focus.

What’s the biggest challenge teaching IT? Staying up to date, that’s one of the things I like about the CCN (the National CTC’s Convergence College Network community of faculty from 76 colleges across the country). It gives us an opportunity to meet with other faculty; it pushes the idea of meeting with industry. We interface with each other because we’re all under the same need to stay up to date. It is a huge challenge but that’s one of the benefits. My father was a teacher, one of his favorite things to teach was theater history. And he said the whole time he was teaching, not once did Shakespeare write a new play. And he’s right. In IT, we have to change our classes every semester.

And what is the secret to successfully teaching IT to students? I don’t know that there is one. I think you have to make everything accessible to them. You have to give them the confidence that they actually know something, and they know something different than other people. You have to give them a passion for learning because it’s constantly changing. We also need to be able to read each individual students and give them what they need to succeed. So, is there one thing? I think the one thing is figuring out what everything is for that one person.

Do you have a favorite class to teach, if so, why? The newer ones. Since I like new things and I like the evolution of IT, the constant push back and forth with new curriculum gets everything going. If I teach something too long, it starts to get old and stale even though I enjoy what I’m doing.

What is the best thing you like about being a teacher? Seeing the “ah-ha” moments on the students faces, like “Wow!” It is amazing and it keeps us coming back for more.

What advice would you give an IT student about to graduate and enter the workforce? Look at things objectively. Inside of this field, it is very objective. The computer doesn’t have any feelings; the computer doesn’t care. We do what we can to make it do what we want it to. But they [students] also need to look objectively at themselves, find out what skills their missing and what skills need to be honed. They don’t need to fall in love with one company. They need to look at things objectively.

IT is always changing; how do you keep up with the ongoing evolution of IT? I don’t think you can have a one-pronged approach. I think you have to use a lot of different things: You need to read; you need to try; you need to talk; you need to listen. And I think that it’s all those things. You need to listen to the faculty around you and figure out things that they’re trying. You need to look at the industry and see where things are going. You need to understand the things the students are doing; you need to understand that the students are going to know different things at different times; and they may know more about the subject than you do. You have to constantly be learning but willing to learn from any resource.

How do you see the IT landscape changing in the next five years? In the next five years, I will say that it’s going to continue down the same path, which is somewhere new. I know that it’s going to continue to change and that there’s going to be brand new things that I never even thought of. It’s going to get bigger and more relied on. It’s going to get more dangerous; and there’s going to be more data, but it’s going to be a lot of the same thing just more of it.

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