May 04 2008

Learning about technology stewardship in the “Connected Futures” workshop

In a simpler setting, when we’re launching the Foundations Workshop, for example, I have developed a whole set of heuristics for figuring out when people are engaged and the degree to which they are connecting with the group. Some of the tell-tales I use include:

  • Have they logged on?
  • Have they sent me their picture (avatar) or uploaded it themselves?
  • Have they posted something?
  • Is there evidence that they are navigating in different places and have some sense of what it means to post in different places?

During the first few weeks of a workshop, I have found a lot of different ways to model useful online behaviors, including:

  • Expressing enthusiasm
  • Disclosing essential information in a conversational way (rather than in an instruction page)
  • Acknowledging and correcting mishaps
  • Using the technology-mediated environment for contracting and engagement (rather than just information storage and retrieval)

But what is being presented in the Foundations Workshop is how to collaborate and be together in a community. That seems rather simpler than modeling or presenting technology stewardship. (I guess I’m thinking out loud here about what I find challenging so far about this workshop.)

In this workshop we’re establishing presence and making a lot of connections. People are asked to get access to:

  • a wiki
  • Web Crossing
  • a blog
  • Skype
  • Flickr
  • an RSS reader
  • Twitter

And then we’re trying to connect all of these tools together. So needless to say, people establish themselves on these tools incrementally and as one of the workshop’s technology stewards, I try to connect them all. There are some ways in which the process I’m following seems unique:

  • Trying to get everyone up and running at the same time — as opposed to a gradual gathering of people and technologies
  • Trying to establish both a private face and a public one for a group
  • Trying to support everyone more or less equally (obviously some technologies are old hat to some people and others are struggling with several new tools all at once)

Trying to compress a process in a workshop has all kinds of implications that are surprising. And I know that I don’t even see all of the issues yet. What am I missing?

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