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The IT Crowd

Beyond E-mail:
Managing Content in a Read/Write World


"Imagine if you didn't have to depend on a webmaster or techie to update your web site," I recently shared with a director of curriculum and instruction. "Imagine you could encourage collaboration among team members....Sharing materials and ideas on a Web site isn't as hard as it once was." And, while that is true, most districts still are locked into the idea of a purchased, enterprise-level solution. One lesson to learn is this -- there is NO enterprise level solution. Start with solutions you can use now, or you will see district staff use what is available for free to publish at will.

TECHNOLOGY SOLUTIONS FOR EDUCATION

Classroom teachers and campus administrators are coming out of the woodwork as content-creators and publishers. They are turning to third party providers of free content management services such as Wikispaces.com, WetPaint.com, PBWiki.com, and others. Their goal is to publish content online; enlist the aid of others -- teachers, administrators, students, and, in some case, parents -- to develop content thats educationally relevant. The wiki providers listed above empower individuals to publish what they care about (e.g. a lesson plan, a body of student work) at will.

The greatest successes are marked not by how many tech-savvy staff started the project, but by how many non-techies are now managing their own Web-based content. Simply, it's not how well a technology director controls the content, but how easily he or she can distribute the authority to end users to maintain their own Web-based work.

Wikis are Web pages that easily can be edited and connected to each other through keywords and subscribable content. If you're a school district afraid that content is outside district control, then you might need to manage your content management solutions. To do so, take advantage of the free, open-source solutions that are available. No-cost wiki solutions such as PMWiki are now in use around the world.

Note: Other content management tools will be explored in future issues, along with how to best craft administrative procedure to address publishing by students and staff.

TALES FROM THE FIELD: LARGE URBAN SCHOOL DISTRICT

As a school district administrator, I receive about a hundred e-mails a day with documents attached. Keeping track of the hundreds of documents that find their way into my inbox and get "locked up" on my hard drive, is problematic. Often, those documents are not confidential and should be looked at by lots of people, but those sending the documents just do not have another way of sharing them.

A few months ago, I started putting those documents into a wiki (Knowledge Management Wiki).The power of the wiki is such that I can continue to move content around, reorganize it easily, and share it back with a larger audience. And, increasingly, others are using the wiki to share information with the team and our target audiences.

CONCLUSION

With new content management tools available to school districts, it's easier to leverage staff's personal creativity and enable transformation to collaborative creativity in ways that add value to our culture. Use of those tools can help build a cross-campus, virtual peer group of learners.

Mark Gura shares the following point about 21st-century creative collaborations among educators:

"...21st-century skills are not solely technology skills, but involve the ways that learning, knowing, communicating, and solving problems have changed through the application of technology. They must be learned through the continual and ongoing use of technology."
Source: Mark Gura

As district technology director, how are YOU using technology to help students, teachers, and staff create and collaborate with one another?

About the Author

As director of instructional technology for a large urban district in Texas, past president of the state-wide Technology Education Coordinators group in one of the largest U.S. technology educator organizations (TCEA), Miguel Guhlin continues to model the use of emerging technologies in schools. You can read his published writing or engage him in conversation via his blog at Around the Corner.

Miguel Guhlin
Education World®
Copyright © Education World

Updated 08/31/2012