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Ask the CIO
FLETC looks to mobile tech for training
Thursday - 7/7/2011, 7:19pm EDT
Federal News Radio
The mobile computing wave is hitting the Homeland Security Department's Federal Law Enforcement Training Center harder and from a different angle than most agencies.
FLETC, which trains law enforcement officers from 89 federal organizations as well as state, local, tribal and international entities, must meet the demands of the younger generation and it must do it today, not in a few months or years.
"I'd like to get to the point where we can say bring-your-own-device," said Sandy Peavy, FLETC's chief information officer. "We secure them and run them in a virtual environment. I realize security is a tough nut to crack, but we have to figure it out."
FLETC has been running a pilot with iPads where a couple of hundred students are using them for training materials and collaborating through a Microsoft SharePoint site.
"We just had reams of books and papers students have to carry around, and now we have put all that information on the iPad," she said. "It's a three-month pilot and we are going to look at it and take the lessons learned and apply them to future mobile computing efforts."
Peavy said the security issues are of major concern. FLETC had to get a waiver from the DHS CIO to make the iPad's WiFi enabled, but have not turned on the Bluetooth features of the devices.
Peavy said the iPads are just the beginning. She would like to move the students and staff's entire desktop to a data center to let them access it from any device.
DHS CIO Richard Spires wants to provide enterprise services from the agency's data centers, including virtual desktops.
Peavy said she expects FLETC to be among the first DHS components to try out these services.
"We have more challenges at FLETC because of the distance we are from the data centers," she said. "We have 3,000-to-5,000 people at one time hitting these virtual services and that may pose some bandwidth problems."
Another big priority is virtual learning. Peavy said FLETC already is using avatars to help trainees improve their driving skills and how they communicate with the public.
"We have to teach students how kids communicate today, mainly through texting," she said. "As a result, we are teaching interview skills through avatar simulations so they can practice and get feedback. The simulation includes free flowing conversations through speech recognition and it has a computer synthesized voice. It uses virtual avatars that can actually display appropriate non-verbal behavior to create a realistic training experience."
Peavy, who started with the Office of Personnel Management as a GS-3, is the longest service CIO in DHS. She has a staff of about 66 federal employees and about 50 contractors with a budget of $20 million.
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