more words

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When I scroll down through the posts I've made and see so many words and so few pictures it makes me very, very sad. If I could take all of the recent words—here, in comments, in other blogs, in pointers to other posts—and reduce them to an essence, I think the keynote ingredient is noting the division in ETS.

At one point I thought it was a bad thing involving bad people, but that isn't necessarily the case. Chris Brady made a statement yesterday: he worked on the cutting edge of technology, but as an administrator, he was more concerned with what will work and be around for the long haul. Brady shares the division. We have people that are driven to explore the limits of what technology can do for education, and we have people who are driven to secure meaningful education for everyone, using stable technology.

Both are needed; both ultimately serve the same goal. I really don't think the two work well together, though. Each distracts and constrains the other in ways that are damaging, not helpful. What would happen if we split?

From the hip: Exploration group with Cole Camplese commanding and Allan Gyorke as first officer. They are ETS, but work with the Classroom & Labs and the Emerging Tech groups. Service group, maybe Brett Bixler commanding and Barb Smith as first officer, would also be ETS but would do work with the Training group.

I heard someone once say they wished they could get the "Services" part removed from our group name. I wish we could get the "Technology" part removed. That would make us the Education Services arm of Information Technology Services.


Yvonne said:

Excellent observation. We definitely need people who explore and generate ideas. Then we also need "do it" people who actually make the ideas happen. I agree that there is a divide in ETS and I fear that communications between the two groups is not very effective, making the divide more of a wall. I don't think the solution is to split the group and build more silos though -- that would just make the problem worse. If we split, there would be even less communication than there is now. Instead, I think our leaders need to work on their leadership and team building skills and the staff members need to polish up their communication skills. Instead of using the business model of "do unto others as it has been done unto you," we need to go back to caring about each other and "doing unto others as we would have others do unto us."

Cole said:

I don't see the division between exploration and do it. I honestly take a bit of offense to the notion that if you work to look down the road that one cannot be "driven to secure meaningful education for everyone ..." That to me doesn't resonate at all. I think the idea is to build a balance and work to be extremely aware of the needs of education and the potential to use technology to support them.

Clearly there continues to be an information gap -- it would be helpful for me to understand it better. I am at a loss that we have an environment where people are not cared for. Is this the perspective across the organization? I sincerely hope not.

Pat said:

Although I can't quote what Dean Brady said, the most significant idea I heard him say was that technology is only technology to those of us who grew up without it. I have to agree with that and in that respect I would agree with the idea of dropping "Technology" from ETS's title. However, we do try things out here and see what has value for both the classroom and the university in general, and that is important, too.

The only "division" I see is more in terms of whether you have an instructional design background or whether you are more of a hands-on skills person. And that division is not exactly a bad thing. We can't all be instructional designers, nor can we all be Final Cut Pro and Flash experts, and certainly not everyone can draw like you, Dave. If I would have wanted to be an instructional designer, I would have studied it in college, but I chose a different path according to my interests and abilities as did everyone else. When people start dropping instructional design acronyms in conversation my eyes just glaze over, the same as theirs would if I start talking about Actionscript event listeners. Sure, there is a division among us, but I think it's a good one as long as we can make full use of our varied skills. The big question I guess is how do we want to align our skills in the future to best serve education at Penn State?

Allan Gyorke said:

Hey Dave. Erin and I have been working with Chris Brady this semester on the blogging project. In our discussions, his concerns is not with blogging as a technology, but his particular application: whether to require blogging for all incoming scholars, how to nurture blogging, and how it can be used for assessment. With the current economic situation, he wants to be cautious with his human resources. He's not concerned with the blogs as a technology.

Chris does use Facebook and said that Facebook may go away at some point. Regardless, I think part of our job is to investigate Facebook since a vast majority of our students are using it.

Finally, I don't know how much you know about what we're doing with the English composition program (including English 15 and 202). We are working with faculty to modernize that program in response to what is happening in industry. They want Penn State students to be able to be able to write effectively online as well as prepare audio and video media. We are planning to use the blog software for this project and it will impact every student at Penn State. So I see that as falling into the "meaningful education for all".

So I guess it would help me to understand how you see this division. What people in our group are on each side of this divide? What technologies do you see as stable and unstable? You mentioned Brett as leading the "education for all" group, but Brett is working on gaming and technologies like Second Life. Yvonne is working with Adobe Connect and Digital Commons. Do you think of all of those as stable technologies/projects?

dave said:

Let me interject that I don't claim that exploration is not valuable or, in fact, "doing it".

Allan, possibly the division could be better represented as one group who has a solution and is looking for problems it can solve and another group that sees problems and looks for solutions?

Chris Millet said:

I don't see technology exploration as having a solution and then looking for problems it can solve. Ideally, our technology exploration is guided by some identified need. Granted that need might have been identified by making informal observations about how students and teachers work, as opposed to a more formal needs analysis. But both approaches have merit. And I think instructional designers are especially suited to identifying new technologies that have potential educational value, and that, in my opinion, is the first step in a process which leads up to well informed classroom practice. But this process is a continuum, and there's different people in this organization that contribute during different parts of that continuum. That's not a divide, that's (ideally) using resources appropriately and effectively to achieve a shared goal.

I believe that process is fundamentally sound, and it's one we've tried to articulate over the last few years. Actually it's partly explained in the "Idealand" poster Brett created which is hanging in the Rider 210 area. If there's a problem, a perceived division, it's because of how this process is implemented, or how it's communicated to the organization. And I'll be the first to admit that it may not have been communicated and/or implemented effectively. I think that's part of what Yvonne is saying and a good place to focus our energy in improving how ETS works. Blogs, wikis, podcasts, Twitter, guest speakers, all-staff meetings, informal lunch discussions, hallway whiteboards, hallway conversations, committee meetings, hot teams, and Cafe ETS are all useful components of a broader communication strategy that is clearly not perfect. What would be perfect?? I will say that attending (even via Connect) All-ID meetings and working with Yvonne on Digital Commons has been immensely enlightening for me and hopefully that goes the other way too. I think we should be talking less about divisions are more about leveraging the diversity in this organization.

dave said:

My weak words are reaching to attribute the problem to something as a way of starting repairs. If I pegged the problem incorrectly, I appreciate being corrected. I have a great deal of difficulty, though, seeing it on a day to day basis and pretending it doesn't exist. I'm glad it doesn't touch everyone.

Jamie Oberdick said:

I wrote this as a freelancer with this person:

Please note it, and look especially at #5.

I do think we have what could be considered a VEO; the communications thing is a bit shaky here but then again, I honestly have never been at a place where internal communication works well.

One thing that I do recommend that we do - next time you all organize an internal communications committee, please include all your communication professionals. I cannot imagine us creating an instructional design committee and shutting out instructional designers.

dave said:

I see a group who wants to engage the early adopters. I see another group that is more focused on the later adopters. That's ets. Is that hard to see? I don't think so. Both sides have IDs both sides have media people. Both sides have programmers. From my position on the fence I see a lot of animosity and resentment, a lot of dissatisfaction. People aren't being served. I'd like to see it get better and I think the answer is separating the missions and styles of engagement.

Yvonne said:

I think this can also be described as the people who work one-on-one with faculty and staff with new technologies and generating new ideas and the people who have to take the technology, idea, or resource and make it scale. Scale is a really big issue with all of the projects we work on. It's fine to work individually with early adopters (and we need people who do that), but the real test is in being able to design a system that efficiently and effectively makes a resource available to the masses.

Understanding scale and knowing how to design effective, efficient systems comes with experience -- and I think one of the biggest problems at ETS is the lack of respect for experience.

E. Pyatt said:

To Dave: I hear you man, I see the divide.

I agree that there is a middle adopter/early adopter oriented divide. When I began at ETS, we were oriented towards middle adopters which means that implementation was cautious (did we account for usability? accessibility? training?...).

Now, I do think we have shifted our focus towards an early adoption approach. Try many technologies quickly and solve the problems later. This is important because we can't figure out how blogs work unless we blog! Yet, if the process from pilot to large scale implementation is too swift, it can lead to many hours tied to the virtual help desk answering the same question over and over (who wants that?)

In the past, I have sensed that there was tension between these points of view. If you sense someone doesn't want to hear bad news you either don't deliver it all or deliver it with a snarl. I admit that neither improves communication much.

I tend to skew towards middle adopter caution, but I am working to make my input more palatable for everyone.

Cole said:

Scale -- Adobe Connect, Blogs at Penn State, iTunes U, Digital Commons, ANGEL, BLI, TLT Symposium ...

I believe we do big things well -- not perfectly. Sure we end up managing support for a time, but given the financial/organizational realities of the University, someone has to be willing to take on these tasks. Our own help desk isn't entirely prepared to manage it all at first. We will get there.

I also think we have projects across the board -- from small investigations to large-scale efforts with a diversity of faculty.

I wonder if Stuart Selber is an early adopter? Someone who has been working with us to completely redesign the resident education experience of over 10,000 students per academic year? I don't see us doing anything insanely tricky with him -- really just helping he and his fellow instructors rethink the role of digital media in composition. We didn't convince him, he came to us.

I wonder if Matt Jackson is an early adopter? A person who inherited a Comm 180 course when the faculty member before him left without leaving behind a single note about the course. This is a course that has 350 students per section ... and Dr. Jackson wants to educate students about the realities of modern communication. I don't se us pushing the technological envelope with him.

I wonder about our work with the Math department -- they certainly are not early adopters, but they are learning about how to do what they do better through design and assessment.

I wonder about the rush of Humanities driven projects that have been flowing in the last three or four weeks -- based mainly on our involvement with the Bamboo Project. Rethinking digital texts, working to help faculty preserve old texts, and rethinking how historically significant image collections could be shared are not built on emerging technologies. These rely on people willing to think differently with a group who would *never* turn to technology on their own.

I wonder about all the faculty who are envisioning new ways to use blogs, podcasts, and adobe connect in their classroom -- if they don't contact us, but are using tools we've designed, does that count? Are they all early adopters or are they simply part of the environment.

I just wonder when a diversity of perspectives, experiences, and approaches constituted a divide? A divide is a harsh term. If people are dissatisfied, filled with animosity, and resentment they need to share that. Hall talk and whispering doesn't make it change. We all bring our own experience to the table -- to say we don't respect it is difficult to buy.

But all of this is based on how I see the world. Doesn't mean its right.

Jamie Oberdick said:


I did a blog post on this, a nice long one, and Firefox crashed and I lost it. So, I am taking advantage of autosave in Word and writing this comment here and then pasting it there (one bitten, twice shy).

This comment is to answer your questions. By definition, based on the FACAC spring survey, they are early adopters. I see the faculty technology use there (for example 3% using wikis, 3% using blogs) and yes, they are.

See Seth Rodin's blog and his three-part Squid soup series: Readers of this comment, please read that because otherwise you will have no idea what I am saying in the rest of this comment.

We are indeed serving up some squid soup here at ETS. Another analogy that I think of is that old saying that visiting Tokyo is like visiting a world five years in the future. I experience this myself; I tell my friends (including marketing types) what we do here, and two years ago they didn't get it. Now they seem to understand it and in many cases because they are implementing it themselves.

However, because anecdotal evidence isn't of much value on its own (not a debatable point), I again point you to the FACAC survey.

Getting back to the squid soup analogy, look at it this way. We are making some mighty fine squid soup, made by a staff that frankly I think are the most brilliant I have ever had the honor of working with in my career. However, this stuff is a big change from the traditional diet.

You have your Carla Zembal Saul, your Laura Guertin, people who hear about squid soup and want a big bowl of it. You have the people mentioned above, who hear of this squid soup and find out that it's really good from these cutting edge innovators, so they want to try it. I would argue those are the early adopters (see Seth's graph) and those are the people you name.

Eventually we will see middle-adopters who see all our excellent Symposium stuff and positive stuff from their PEERS (my job is to get that peer reviews to them) and they decide that maybe they get a cup of squid soup. Of course, there are those who find that their basic old tomato soup (education the way they always did it) is just fine and it works. And, IMO, that also should be just fine to us. I am not sure that say blogs can work in every situation.

Of course, there are the very real concerns that Elizabeth, Chris, and Yvonne raise, scalability, of producing a lot of quality squid soup in a way that won't turn people off due to support problems, etc. We have challenges there that I think most companies really do not due to resources. That's where partnering comes in as a plan.

Anyway, my two cents, for what it is worth.

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