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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Just Do It

Just Do It So many of the promising conversations I have with colleagues get terminated by a vague sense that they cannot adopt new technologies because "something could go wrong", or a senior colleague "would not approve".

Blackboard, our institutional VLE, has been up and down like a yoyo all week, and I've been fielding endless emails from students who have left submission of assessments until the last moment. Clearly, something went wrong.

Our institutional webmail was down at the weekend. Clearly, something went wrong, but fortunately, Twitter was up and our students let me know all about it.

And so it goes. In Planning to Share versus Just Sharing, Scott Leslie describes "years of frustration with ineffective institutional collaborations". Fortunately, he also has the solution:
grow your network by sharing, not planning to share or deciding who to share with; the tech doesn’t determine the sharing - if you want to share, you will; weave your network by sharing what you can, and they will share what they can - people won’t share [without a lot of added incentives] stuff that’s not easy or compelling for them to share. Create virtuous cycles that amplify network effects. Given the right set, simple tech is all they need to get started.

I have never spoken to “an institution.” I would be scared if one started to speak to me. But I’ve spoken and shared with many *people* in institutions. Many *people* use stuff I have shared. And usually, in my experience, its people who directly, not through some intermediary, have a need.

I blog. I use twitter. I use delicious. I use flickr. I use facebook (when I have to.) I use drop.io. I use slideshare. I use scribd. I use google docs. I use… the list goes on and on... Contrast this with these formal initiatives to network “organizations” - in my experience, much time goes into finding the right single “platform” to collaborate in and somehow it always ends up to blame - too clunky, too this, too that.

...I am a big believer in everyone, no matter what their role in an organization, developing their own personal learning network/environment... if you must provide a single “platform,” my advice is to focus on providing one with these three simple pieces:
* a simple way to find out who else is out there (profile, even just a directory)
* some simple channels to communicate: email lists/addresses, threaded discussions
* a simple way to publish content

That’s it. Maybe a synchronous tool.

Focus on the people. Use the simplest tools you can. Most importantly of all, don't talk about it. Just do it.