Beyond Email: Managing Content in a Read/Write World

Copyright 2008 Miguel Guhlin (mguhlin@gmail.com)

“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 & Instruction Department. “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 are still 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, among others. Their goal is to publish content online, enlist the aid of others—teachers, administrators, students, and, in some case, parents—to develop content that is 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 how many non-techies are now managing their own web-based content. Simply, it’s not how well a technology director has control over the content, but how easily you can distribute the authority to the end user to maintain their own web-based work.
Wikis are web pages that can be easily edited, connected to each other through keywords, and subscribable content. If you are a school district afraid that content is outside of District control, then you may need to manage your content management solutions. To do so, take advantage of free, open source solutions that are available. These no-cost wiki solutions—including the Dekiwiki with a WYSIWIG editor (http://wiki.saisd.net is one example), PMWiki (http://itls.saisd.net/km), and MediaWiki (http://wiki.bssd.org/index.php/Main_Page), the last two using wiki syntax (e.g. an asterisk to represent a bullet point)--are now in use around the world.
Find a list of organizational wikis in use online at http://del.icio.us/mguhlin/wikis-organizational
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 emails a day with documents attached. Keeping track of hundreds of documents that find their way into my inbox, that get “locked up” on my hard drive, is problematic. Often, these 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 at http://itls.saisd.net/km).The power of the wiki is 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 is easier to leverage staff’s personal creativity and enable transformation to collaborative creativity in ways that add value to our culture. Use of these 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, http://tinyurl.com/2aoblp
As district technology director, how are YOU using technology to help your students, teachers, and staff create and collaborate with each other using technology?

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 United States technology educator organizations (TCEA), Miguel Guhlin continues to model the use of emerging technologies in schools. You can read his published writing, engage him in conversation via his blog at Around the Corner at http://mguhlin.net