BYOD4L Day Four: Collaborating

The topic for day four of BYOD4L is collaboration. We were given two scenarios: one of a student finding it difficult to contribute to a group project because of other commitments, and one of a lecturer who wants to connect to other academics and give her students a wider exposure to the subject.

Collboration

Photo: Alan Cann (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

The student can’t make the meetings that are being arranged because they are are in the week and she works full time. I see this problem as having two parts – her need to take part in the meetings (discussion) and her need to share and access various project documents (resources). The obvious solution for discussion is to use asynchronous techniques, for example, a closed Google+ or Facebook group. However, synchronous techniques are also possible. She could see if an evening meeting could be arranged instead using a tool like Doodle.com to check availability. If she could argue that her course is of benefit to her employer she could ask for a degree of flexible working and either attend the weekday meetings face-to-face or via a Google hangout. The downside is that this requires a degree of self-confidence that she may not feel, particularly as she feels unable to ask her fellow students for a weekend meeting. Documents can be worked on collaboratively through Google docs, or shared through services such as Dropbox or Google drive.

Google hangouts are one area I would like to explore in my own practice. Despite being invited to many, their timing always seems to clash with something else. I’ve also taken part in many webinars although it’s arguable how ‘collaborative’ they are. A lot depends on the facilitator and the number of participants and their inputs.

Collaboration, I think, is a emergent property of the other activities (connecting and communicating) in a similar way to offline networking where you have to build a relationship and level of trust before you can work together.

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BYOD4L Day Two: Communicating – Channels and Contexts

The topic for day two of BYOD4L is communicating, and we were asked to visualise our own patterns and channels of communication. I used Freemind to create a mind map. The first question was how do I organise this? By channel or by context? I chose to organise by context, which gave me personal, professional and oCo. oCo stands for ‘our common oceans’ and is a marine conservation blog I’ve recently started. It sits between the two because it’s more than a personal interest (I studied the subject at university), but neither is it my employment. I think where to place it depends on a sense of identity i.e. is it a professional context because you have expertise in the area, or is it only professional if you’re being paid for doing it?

My communication – channels and contexts

My communication – channels and contexts
(Click for larger version)

Next, I came to the conclusion that it’s a mess, with a lot of overlap between different contexts. I have two twitter accounts. The original is @DuncanGreenhill, which has been for both personal and professional use, and @ourCommonOceans for the marine issues. I don’t see a conflict between the two because I only tweet what I’d be happy saying to (or discussing with) someone face-to-face. I am interested in politics so I may retweet things that others may disagree with. That’s fine. I know some would argue against a dual-purpose account because a future employer might google me, look at my profile and decide I’m not for them based on what they see. That’s entirely within their rights. I’d argue that by using the account for both purposes responsibly I’m demonstrating attitudes and characteristics that they might find valuable within their organisation.

I think it’s just a historical accident that there is so much overlap. As the number of people I follow has increased I’ve turned to lists to keep things manageable. Everyone I follow is on a list, but not everyone on a list is someone I follow. So for example all the accounts I’m interested in for work are on the education list, but except for a few, I don’t follow the individual accounts. That means at work, I can focus on the work lists in Tweetdeck without the timeline on my phone becoming too swamped out of work hours.

I use circles on Google+ in much the same way as lists on twitter – to compartmentalise interests so that I can deal with them and switch between them as I need to. If I see something on one of the other, more personally-focused lists, I can favourite it for later. So, for example, when lunch time comes around I can read those I’ve bookmarked (by favouriting) or switch to the ‘politics and news’ list to catch up with what’s going on. Facebook remains resolutely in the personal zone, although some pages and groups feed into the marine area.

So, what do I need to change? That’s a tricky one. Although I’m happy with the twitter account under my own name being used for two purposes, it might be worth thinking about how I more clearly differentiate between the personal and professional contexts, and hopefully without going to the extreme of having a third account to keep on top of.

Turning to the scenario of the busy student with work, family and study commitments, I’d say look to connect outside the campus using whatever channels the other students are using, and compartmentalise where possible. So if his colleagues are on Twitter, use Twitter. If they have a Facebook group, join that. Meet them where they are, and look for other more interactive opportunities to meet online, for example, Google hangouts to make up for the face-to-face contact he feels he’s missing out on.