December 03, 2006

LTS at the heart of social media?

LTS, through people like myself working Futures, is absolutely committed to providing social tools within Glow, the national intranet. This large wiki project is one step in that direction but not everything we do is centralised in the same way as the edutopia proposal is.

Robert's words of wisdom, encouraging LTS to take more of a role nurturing social media and paying more attention to what's going on in East Lothian, seem to forget, though, that a significant part of current social media growth in East Lothian is down to work and advice that LTS is giving East Lothian. A few examples that Robert cites are elements, in fact, which LTS has helped nurture:

  • advising the use of open source blogging software in the form of WPMU;
  • encouraging more diversity in designs and templates, particularly for students (remember those ezPublish pages? We now have fuschia! ;-));
  • making sure you can create things in one click without asking someone to set things up for you;
  • devising training programmes and sifting through tools that support staff throughout the year;
  • making sure that multiple forms of expression - not just textual blogs - are pushed through to potential users;
  • still on the cards: getting the albeit-behind-schedule RSS-fuelled portal open by January; and
  • the rebranded service (you'll be able to find it in Google - yay!)

LTS want to see what has impact on kids' education or workers' efficacy and then push to get the tools built for future Glows. Should I be heart-achingly reassured when, as LTS's social media conscience, our work with East Lothian is so seamless that no-one notices it ;-)

Using LTS to further fuel social media
One more example: LTS are proposing a Virtual Advisory Service, where teachers with questions on any curricular area, covering pedagogy, curriculum, technology... anything, really. The advice will come from designated "experts".

There has been some criticism about it already as it reinforces the impression that those in the classroom are not experts. I think that is partly misplaced and looking at it from the wrong angle. This represents a huge opportunity, in fact, for those who are part of self-propelling educational communities, using blogs, photo-sharing sites or wikis.

I was talking through some opportunities with Don Ledingham, Director of Education of East Lothian, just a couple of weeks ago. He also likes the idea of communities of practice addressing the occasional need of teachers for a helping hand. Since I started working with East Lothian we have managed to increase uptake in social software tools, not just in blogging, from around 20 keen individuals to around one third of our teaching staff around 300. This gives us a really strong community with which to work, and a community which is going to be relatively easy to leverage, as far as I can see.

But here's my point: while individual "experts" from the Virtual Advisory Service will be paid individually is there anything to stop communities of experts who are already sharing their knowledge for free on the blogosphere from contributing to this service and commanding a share of that cash investment as one group? The money could be used for the greater good of the community, to fund action research, time, or independent servers through which to run 'safer' blogging communities, for example.

In East Lothian I believe this could happen, giving yet another opportunity for that community to share its knowledge and further the impact of existing tools on the education of our kids. Could other Local Authorities in Scotland find the same sense of community to make money and expertise work harder and smarter?


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Ah yes - sorry Ewan! I forget sometimes that you work for LTS. I think of you as part of the East Lothian team. That's another part of the good practice that is worth repeating - embedding someone in an authority as you have been has definitely been a big success.

I think you should be most reassured Ewan. You, David Gilmour, Don Ledingham, Karen Robertson, I, all the Glow mentors, IT support team etc etc.....[apologies for the many ommissions]..we are all doing our bit, and thankfully none of us are being too precious about claiming individual credit for the good things that are happening.

About experts: none of us can be an expert in all the areas we may wish to make use of in our professional lives. The day of the renaissance man is past, simply because there is too much around for one person to master. It is vital that we all recognise the moment when we need to consult someone who knows more than we do.

Robert hits it on the head - East Lothian is lucky to have (nurtured?) lots of people with very different expertise and to have worked relatively quickly towards an environment that will lead more of us to contribute to this kind of work. Not all Local Authorities can say that. It is for East Lothian, though, not to do what would have been done in ye olde times, and sell that expertise wholesale as packs or materials, but to offer it up for others wanting to replicate it.

This post hits on far to many thing of interest for a Sunday evening!
LTS at the heart of social media? is an interesting question, edutopia sounds like a wonderful idea. Your recent wiki posts are fascinating. Do you think this is a sea change for LTS? If so has it happened or is it just one of many possibilities?
Is there any more info on the 'Virtual Advisory Service'? (VAS?) This is the first mention I have seen (I've checked Don's post too).
independent servers would be great, not only for safer, but to enable us to build 'more interesting' tools. I am sure there are many in the scot edu world who have ideas above their stations, it would be great to find a way to fund them.
Anyway great post, will probably lead to insomnia here:-)

On the subject of a "virtual advisory service", Creating Passionate Users has a great post today - How to Build a User Community

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About Ewan

Ewan McIntosh is the founder of NoTosh, the no-nonsense company that makes accessible the creative process required to innovate: to find meaningful problems and solve them.

Ewan wrote How To Come Up With Great Ideas and Actually Make Them Happen, a manual that does what is says for education leaders, innovators and people who want to be both.

What does Ewan do?

Module Masterclass

School leaders and innovators struggle to make the most of educators' and students' potential. My team at NoTosh cut the time and cost of making significant change in physical spaces, digital and curricular innovation programmes. We work long term to help make that change last, even as educators come and go.

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