Strategic Thinking and Strategic Resources

It has been ages since I posted anything here…a combination of end of semester and work in the Center.  Part of what has been driving me lately are strategic questions, and I have some for you.

For the past two weeks, I have been drafting a white paper on the state of the union regarding online education.  It certainly has had me thinking strategically.  I do not think that I am alone – it seems many are thinking strategically right now.  I have been influenced by Stephen Downes’ “The Future of Online Learning,” the Landmark Project and its Big Ideas for Education, and the Sloan-C annual report, “Staying the Course – Online Education in the United StatesKen Allen, Laura Blankenship and Gardner Campbell also have me reflecting longer term with some of their recent posts.  When I am further along on the white paper, I will post more about it.

Yesterday, Jeff Nugent and I joined about 18 other educators from around Virginia to help the Electronic Campus of Virginia do some strategic planning.  ECVA is a cooperative effort of the state institutions of higher education to pool resources, learn from one another, and assist policy makers in formulating electronic policy for the state.  In our meeting yesterday, we broke into four groups to examine:

  • Assessment of Digital Literacy
  • Fading and Emerging Technologies
  • Open Source
  • Virtualization / Cloud Computing

Gardner was a past leader in ECVA, and was tweeting about his current participation in the MIT Program for the Future conference – a timely event.  The relevance of his tweets was a bit spooky!  Jeff and I joined the group discussing fading and emerging technologies.  Our first task was to define “emerging technologies.”  Jeff tweeted:

It was a good question.  As we often discuss here, what is emerging for us as early adopters is different from what is emerging for the masses in the middle.  Historically, the early and late majority have been slow to adopt new technologies…and equally slow in letting go of old technologies.  Early adopters on the other hand are quick to move on to some new technology and drop their latest even as the majority are starting to recognize what they are abandoning.  Stopping support for fading technologies (think slide projectors and overheads) is even tougher.  John St. Clair of University of Mary Washington used a great term yesterday when he noted that we sometimes need to “euthanize” technologies that are past their prime.

I wish that I had found Ray Sims post yesterday.  I like how he framed his question of “In the context of enterprise 2.0, what items potentially demonstrate emergent behavior?”…

  1. Use cases for new collaboration and social software applications. I think back to my experience with wiki four+ years ago prior to having benefit of the seeds in Then, we openly didn’t know what we were going to use the wiki for, but overtime, some “standard” use cases emerged. Now I see the same with some of the newer social software applications like Twitter, where not only use cases but syntax conventions (for @username and #hashtags) emerge.
  2. Shifts in company culture, including towards more openness and more innovation
  3. Shifts in the macro way that employees work
  4. Organizational networks, including new ties facilitated by social software applications, shifting demographics, and changing culture
  5. Folksonomy, emerging from content categories
  6. Increased visibility to the most valuable content, derived both from explicit ratings and from behavior (e.g. tagging, subscriptions, linking, and page views)
  7. Wiki page structures
  8. Definitions and terminology, including definitions of web 2.0, enterprise 2.0, and knowledge management beyond the original coinage — see for example the enterprise 2.0 definition exchange documented in the AIIM report
  9. Collective intelligence. I’m still sorting out in my own mind to what extent this term works for me, but I at least think it is better than AIIM’s “collective wisdom” — although the report also uses “collective intelligence”
  10. Perhaps software applications, or at least mash-ups. Is it valid to claim emergence here? Although in a common-language sense they are emerging, it really isn’t emergence in the sense of complexity theory.

Ray has some great points.  We tend to focus in on tools and technologies, but what is really driving use is the culture established…and leaders are responsible for the culture.

As we circled around the topic, we kept coming back to the question of what resources drive our thinking.  We had all been influenced by the Horizon Report from NMC.  Jeff noted that when educators put lists together, they quickly grow to huge numbers, which few then digest.  So we began to wonder, could we cull such lists down to the top five resources we should point policy makers towards to influence their decisions?  We have great diversity in the edublogosphere, but we also tend to see common themes.  Can we collapse those themes down to the five we would give to policy makers?  What five resources would we want President-Elect Obama and the new Secretary of Education to read?  We thought that the list would include these three as a start:

So my question to my readers – What would be on YOUR top 5 list?  Use the comment feature below to add your ideas and voice.

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5 thoughts on “Strategic Thinking and Strategic Resources

  1. Britt – hi there, saw your mention of the Market IQ on Enterprise 2.0 that I co-wrote while working at AIIM earlier this year.

    I hope we didn’t leave the impression that Culture isn’t incredibly important for Enterprise 2.0 (or anything else for that matter). We covered it in a fair amount of detail (I thought?), specifically pointing the connection to the success of Knowledge Management from many years ago.

    Carl Frappaolo and I had a bit of fun doing a skit at the Enterprise 2.0 Conference, specifically about the “age issue” and culture.

    See that clip at:

    Further coverage can be found at:

    And we’ve continued to refine the cultural discussion with an evolution chart that always diverts any presentation we’re making for a good 15-20 minutes by itself, see Carl’s post at:

    Keeping up with the blogging is quite a challenge, eh? I find Twitter to be a plausible substitute, although for those not ON twitter, they’re not seeing the “behind the scenes” discussions going on.


  2. I guess I was not clear. I agree 100% that culture is key!

    And good point about Twitter. While my blogging is lagging, I continue to tweet daily – and stay informed through my network.

  3. I have been wondering about these same questions recently as our school has undergone severe budget cuts.

    I think part of the problem,however, is that many IT departments are asking the wrong question. What they should be asking faculty is “what are you doing now that you would like to be doing better?” Using this as a starting point, IT personnel can introduce a basket of tools (some old, some new) that we majority or late adapters might choose from, depending on our needs and technology abilities.

    Likewise, faculty need to understand that traditional ways of teaching might not work in the current environment so they may have to adjust their teaching style and tools. What is important is to identify the affordances for faculty and make them aware that the same tool can be used many different ways. For example, I use Power Point in my classroom to capture ideas (in lieu of the chalkboard) that can then be saved as class notes. I also use it for its graphics features as it is easier to create charts and graphics than other software I use. I am familiar with the graphing features and have yet to find a new program which gives me the same control and templates. Why change or learn a new program for graphing (such as adobe products or Mac’s graphing capabilities) if I can do it just as well on a program I already know.

    So, for me the five affordances I need in technology these days are: collaboration organization software (keeping records of collaboration, central depository for resources, task management); simple mind mapping or model creation software that allows for free drawing of relationships and arrows; a way to organize video clips and set them up in sequence so they can be shown in class without having to upload the site (one click will stop or go); easy screen capture software to put together user instructions; and a course management system that organizes links to outside tools for student use.

  4. Barbara Dieu captures a great quote from Jimmy Wales here
    on the structures of value and control which run counter to collaborative pedagogy.

    Dr Campbell also tackles systemic blocks to sharing such as units of credit

    A presentation to Congress by Wesch and his students

    All highlight the tensions between the business of education and the experience of learning. Perhaps it is more the emergent economic practices and values which should be under a spotlight. Perhaps the economies of scale, restrictive copyright, and institutional risk aversion which make good business sense are cutting away the freedoms which provide the messy root space for learning.

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