Not long ago, the MS Office suite comprised the bulk of computer applications in the world of mainstream business. I have to admit that as a career biology educator and instructional coach, I have precious little knowledge of the “real” business world. That said, this past year I have found my work overlapping many trends in business as I explore the efficacy of collaborative online applications in education. I am deeply interested in them as a framework for professional development as well as for classroom utilization.
“Yeah, but mainstream businesses aren’t using the Web 2.0 stuff… those are mostly a few cutting edge companies with money to burn.”
How much more “mainstream” can you get than Best Buy? Will Richardson pointed to the above video a couple of days back on Twitter, and I have held that browser window open since that time. I really enjoy some of the language found within. For example, one gentleman interviewed said that Web 2.0 applications allow the workforce to “…try a lot of different things, fail really fast, and then try things again.” I dig that attitude in almost any endeavor. To me it is pretty clear that being fearless and willing to innovate is a big plus in much of the business world as well as in education. I also like the fact that another interviewee listed the following things as benefits to social media applications being implemented within the company structure:
- better loyalty
- less office politics
- ability to meet other individuals passionate about the same things
- ability to stretch an idea across an entire organization
Now which of those things is not good as well for a school faculty? Of course blind loyalty leads often to the Abilene Paradox, and this is never a good thing. However, other than that, I’m betting that this list of four things is something all school administrators and staff would value in their world as well.
Those four items, as well as a few others, are a target of our school’s shiny new social network- Virtual Southside. This site was piloted by a cohort of 20 teachers and administrators at Benton High this year in the midst of an academic technology integration program. Starting next year, with our entire staff online in the program, this site will be a major part of how we conduct asynchronous staff professional development. Today I interviewed several cohort members about the benefits of working within our social network this past school year. A short list of their replies about our foray into social media is as follows:
- develop general comfort with social media
- ability to collaborate asynchronously
- differentiated professional development
- makes all staff a “professional developer”
- makes professional work transparent
- allows feedback from a wider dynamic of personalities
- provides an archival record
- creates an avenue for extrinsic motivation
Nearing the end of our first year employing social media in our school and in our classrooms, I am excited to see some of the benefits rolling in. In my opinion, the featured video showing similar strategies in a mainstream business model provides another interesting nod to the value of utilizing these strategies with our teachers and students as well. Are collaborative social tools being used currently where you work? What role do you see for social media in our schools and with our students?
*Thanks to Stephen Collins for the “fail gloriously” slide image.