Friday, June 14, 2013

Digital stewards

"In higher education institutions, the take up of new forms of technology for teaching and learning is often led by a few innovators, first exploring the technology and then introducing it into practice. They act, formally or informally, as a focus for that introduction as they help others to follow in their footsteps. In doing this, they themselves seek support as they improve their expertise, but in their own institutions there may be few who can provide this. So they try to share the experience of those with a similar role in other institutions. Traditionally this has been done through face-to-face meetings such as conferences. Now the widespread use of social media provides many opportunities for the exchange of ideas and information. The two blended together is a strong combination.
Here, we explore the utility of social media for this purpose within a framework that has two elements. First, there is the extent to which the technology facilitates and promotes interaction. Of particular interest is whether it can be used as the basis of attempts to build a community of practitioners, those who share a common interest and wish to exchange ideas and their experience. This issue may be explored with the well-established concept of a Community of Practice (CoP) (Wenger 1998), described in more detail below. Second, the practitioners who are promoting the use of digital technology within their institutions may be thought of as technology stewards (Wenger, White, and Smith 2009), defined as “people with enough experience of the workings of a community to understand its technology needs, and enough experience with or interest in technology to take leadership in addressing those needs”. An alternative, and more accurate, designation would be digital steward, thus taking the focus away from the technology itself."

Experience of developing Twitter-based communities of practice in higher education. (2013) Research in Learning Technology 2013, 21: 18598 -

I've been lucky enough to work with several digital stewards in my time. My former colleague Jo Badge was one (she still is but got fed up with herding academic cats and moved on to sort out the teaching profession). My current colleagues Terese Bird and David Hopkins are digital stewards. There are probably others that I should mention but have omitted. These individuals are transformative of institutional practices, more valuable that all the formal training the institution spends its money on. But a prophet has no honor in his own country.

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