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Monthly Archives: March 2013

Leveraging the Power of Web Tools for Productivity in Education

The following blog will reflect on how the nature of work is changing due to the web in education and list the implications that the web poses on the leadership in higher education. 

Today, the nature of work has changed the structure, framework, and processes of how we do business around the world due to the web, particularly in education.  Learning has shifted from a teacher-centered format to a student-centered format and the web has helped to foster this shift. With the use of collaborative web tools such as GoToMeeting, Skype, Trello, and Basecamp students are able to collaborate by sharing ideas, innovations, and critical thoughts through an asynchronous or synchronous platform.  Prior to the web students would demonstrate an understanding of a topic by articulating the knowledge learned through hand-written documents, verbal communication, and pencil and paper tests.  Now demonstrated learning can be assessed by a multitude of web and technology based tools.  This has enhanced the students learning, increased efficiency, and promoted innovation and creativity.

More recently, the use of mobile learning has shifted the way teachers and students interact even in the classroom.  Students can now use their iPhones and other smartphone devices during class sessions.  By using the same network students can answer questions that are provided during class and the answers can be evaluated real-time.  A new initiative called Stanford Mobile Inquiry-based Learning Environment (SMILE) “turns a traditional classroom into a highly interactive learning environment by engaging students in critical reasoning and problem solving while enabling them to generate, share, and evaluate multimedia-rich inquiries” (Stanford, 2012).

The emergence and development of the web has changed the way educational institutions administer and facilitate instruction to students.  One of the overarching goals for most educational institutions is to expand student knowledge to prepare them for a challenging profession.  In order to do so, these institutions must learn how to adapt to the continual changes in technology, but more importantly leaders of educational institutions must know the tools’ purpose in order to match the learning objectives to the appropriate technology.  Because of this, leaders of educational institutions are faced with the daunting task of continuously updating materials and course curriculum to meet the needs of technological advancements.  The implication that educational administration faces is that technology changes faster than the time it takes to continuously change the material while giving students enough time to retain what is currently being taught. 

Stanford University (2012). Office of Innovation &Technology. SMILE: Stanford Mobile Inquiry-Based Learning Environment. Retrieved: http://gse-it.stanford.edu/research/project/smile

 

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The following blog will reflect on Friedman’s concept of the Triple Convergence and its relationship to knowledge management.  It will also explore the relationship the role of leadership in knowledge management.

Chapter three of Friedman’s broad message of a flatter playing field explores the concept of “the triple convergence”.  He explains that with the use of the ten flatteners, leaders from all areas of business are enabled to “get comfortable with, and develop, the sorts of horizontal collaboration and value-creation processes and habits that could take advantage of this new, flatter playing field” (Friedman, 2005).  Friedman compares the era of Globalization 2.0, which he describes as being “vertical silos” of collaboration to Globalizations 3.0, which he considers to be a flatter, side to side method of collaboration.  The new technology that he introduced in Globalization 3.0 fosters a fresh way of conducting business practices.  According to Friedman, the combination of computers, web tools, and a faster means to retrieve data through fiber-optic cable, businesses are able to connect and collaborate “horizontally.”  Friedman suggests the concept of  “the triple convergence” is “reshaping the whole global business environment” (Friedman, 2005).   In the following blog, the author will explore the relationship of “the triple convergence” to knowledge management and how it plays a role of leadership today.

Knowledge management (KM) can be defined as a process to share, provide, represent, and distribute information in an organized way so that it is available for the use of organizations and individuals. Friedman’s contribution in explaining “the triple convergence” helps us to understand the foundations and relationships that it holds with knowledge management. Today, individuals not only retrieve and view information across networks, they also can comment and share thoughts about the same information through social networks. The convergence of a plethora of technology has enabled organizations in an increasingly competitive world, to access knowledge in a multitude of settings. The use of this knowledge has shaped the way people share ideas through horizontal organizational structures.

The role of leadership, as it relates to knowledge management, has been discussed in many forums. Jarche (2013) describes ways to incorporate KM in a recent blog post titled “From Hierarchies to Wirearchies”. Jarche (2013) explains that organizations should support environments that are cooperative and collaborative and for organizations to be successful in an emerging “network era” it must “support both types of activities”. This will help to encourage “social networking which can increase innovation through a diversity of ideas”. The relationship between these ideas describes how organizations are no longer sending information from top down, but the information is provided “side to side” or within a “wirearchy”.   The following example of provides an example of an organization that supports both of these concepts.

The following paragraphs will demonstrate an example of the role knowledge management plays in leadership today.  XYZ Organization, a cable company offering land-line phone, internet, cable, and wireless services, implemented a strategy to organize and distribute data and information for internal and external stakeholders.  The internal stakeholders include the organization’s staff and the external stakeholders are its customers. By providing the information to internal and external stakeholders helps to “flatten the playing field”.  These efforts focused on outcomes that would improve overall organizational performance to stay competitive in an ever-changing industry.  The knowledge management system (KMS) acted as a compass that provided information to help sales, marketing, technology, engineering, human resources, and innovative operations that provided the individuals of these groups the ability to solve problems and think critically.  The idea is to provide all stakeholders with the same information to be accessed anywhere at anytime.  The KMS is a revolutionary system that changed the way XYZ Organization conducted business.

This has enabled the user, both internal and external, to gain useful information to improve their practical understanding about the products and services that were provided at XYZ Organization, hence, “flattening the playing field”.

References:

Friedman, Thomas L. (2007). The World is Flat 3.0 – A Brief History of the Twenty-First

Century. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Florida, Richard. (2005). The World in Numbers, The World is Spiky. The Atlantic Monthly,

pp. 201-265.

Jarche, H., (2013). From Hierarchies to Wirearchies. Retrieved: http://www.jarche.com/2013/03/from-hierarchies-to-wirearchies/

Assignment Two: ILD 831

For your assigned tool, research (1) What is it?, (2)  How might it be used for your leadership situation (education, healthcare, business, non-profit, etc.)?, and (3) What are downsides to using it?  If you would like to strike out further, go back to the list of top tools.  Given your own discipline and work environment, which resonate with you and appear to have promising possibilities for further research? This second part is optional but might be something some of you want to explore.  This is your initial post which will count as your written assignment for this week.

Keep the focus of your initial post and responses tied to this week’s learning objectives:

    • Research and describe a web-based tool and its potential use.
    • Review and comment on other tools researched by classmates
    • Identify ways that web-based tools can improve productivity in your workplace.

Introduction to the PBworks Tool and its Use – http://pbworks.com/

PBworks is an online collaboration platform that allows users to share files and manage projects within an online environment. It is a commercial product that offers real-time collaborative editing (RTCE).  In short, RTCE is a software application that allows several individuals at one time edit one or several computer documents on different computers. The PBworks tool offers services to a variety of organizational structures that include: agencies, law firms, general businesses, and educational institutions. It also offers free basic features for free and upgraded or advanced features for a fee. PBworks can also build products that are specific to organizational needs.  For example, PBworks will create a specific tool for a non-profit agency to manage their meetings more effectively.

Downsides To Using the Tool

The main downside to this platform is that in order to utilize the full advantage of this tool you have to pay a fee.  This is a downside because there are other similar tools that can be used for free. It really depends on what the organization is utilizing it for.  For example, if organizational members are interested in sharing documents across units, then the organization may want to use google docs (which is free) for this purpose.   There is no need to purchase an application if the main purpose is to share documents.  With the basic free account users only have one single workspace, 2GB storage, no SSL, no per-page security, you can’t use it for business reasons (individual use only), and it has limited email support.

The Educational Leadership (Higher Education perspective)

For an educational leadership perspective regarding PBworks, this tool has many benefits.  First, this website is easy to use and learn.  The most useful way to use this tool is to interact in both online ad campus courses.  Educators can use this tool for discussions about a specific subject.  The students are then able to comment back and forth while providing their thoughts about a topic in question.  Another useful aspect of PBworks is that students that are working in groups can share documents and track their progress on the project while discussing the project’s design, implementation, and follow through all in the same workspace.  This will centralize the location of all project’s documents in one area. This tool would best be fit for online learning as it helps to manage communications between instructor and the students, collectively.  Students are able to login at any time of the day and view comments from other students or feedback that the instructor provides.  The instructor is also able to track student usage and monitor student interaction in an effective way.  Overall, this tool is used as a vehicle for participants of education to exchange creative ideas and documents.

After creating a login and signing in, I was quickly able to create a workspace and get started.  Within the platform is specifically asks the user to choose the field that fits your needs (Legal, Agency, Business, Education). This is very helpful because it reduces the amount of time it would take to train students.  With the fee version of PBworks, you are able to have 100GB of storage and more is available, but with a fee.  With the free version you are able to; export data, customize security options, encrypt information over the internet (SSL), customize your workspace appearance, search, add tasks and milestones to your work, track client engagement, document guest repositories, audit the logging of individual tasks, social network, and microblog.  All of these options are useful and helpful in the educational environment. For example, students can collaborate on projects, share workspaces, add their assignments, share best practices, blog about a specific assignment, track the progress of assignments and projects.

Currently, PBworks hosts more than 300,000 workspaces for the educational industry. As stated on their website, the use of this tool ranges from large universities to public k-12 schools.  Universities and schools use this product to encourage a student-centered environment, provide resources to students, and interact virtually.  Students, faculty, and staff can also easily upload photos and graphics to the platform. This product seems reliable to universities that are using it as it is shown in the testimonials that are stated on their website.

PBworks also offers a platform for knowledge management systems (KMS).  This can be useful in learning environments because it holds information that students or employees can access if they have questions about processes, online learning, subject matter, human resources, educational financing, etc.

PBworks also offers technical support.  They have email and phone support from 7 am to 7 pm Sunday through Friday with a less than four-hour response rate.  This is useful students, faculty, and staff that are having technological issues.

Further Research of other Tools That Can Benefit Education

 

Moving forward, I would like to research a few other tools that may be helpful in the educational environment.  The first one is Audacity.  As an instructor, this can be used to record weekly instructions for assignments, quizzes, and projects for online students.  Having this not only in written form can help students that learn by audio.  I would also like to research Edublogs.  This tool would be useful in an educational setting to provide students to exchange ideas via a blog format, just like we are doing for this class. I will provide students with a means for communicating and sharing their work, as well as, teaching them the application used to do so.

Thomas Friedman’s analysis of globalization in the 21st century in his bestselling book; The World is Flat: A Brief History Of The Twenty-First Century is a creative description of how governments and organization’s must stay abreast of technology to remain competitive in a global economy. The title of the book is a metaphor that describes the many forces that are flattening the world.  These forces or themes paint a vivid picture of how the business world has transformed with the use of technological advances.

 

In the first chapter, Friedman explores the ideas of a flattening world by recognizing different eras of globalization.  First, he discusses Columbus’ voyage beginning in 1492 where he discovered the world was round.  When the book was written, through many interviews and case studies, Friedman describes the new world as flat due to the creation and use of fiber optic networks (Friedman, 2007). Because of these technological advancements, governments, businesses, and individuals can work “closer” even though they are many miles apart. 

 

In contrast, a recent publication written by Florida (2005) presents the flattened world in new light.  Florida (2005) suggests that “globalization has changed the economic playing field, but hasn’t leveled it” (p. 48).  Florida suggests that population density defines where there is more economic activity (Florida, 2005, p. 48).  This theory resonated with me and seems reasonable due to the inconsistency of spikes in different areas of the United States.  In central Florida there are several areas that provide avenues for economic production. These areas are typically in bigger cities and rural areas where there is dense population.  These spikes are also seen in other parts of the US and the world.  Although this makes sense, Florida (2005) does suggests that “unfortunately, no single, comprehensive information source exists for the economic production of all the world’s cities” (p. 49).  This will make it very difficult to support this allegation. 

 

Overall, the both authors have valid theories; however, considering the publications were written more than five years ago, things have changed. Technology, especially in the U.S. is changing on a daily basis. Governments and businesses must continuously assess the use of technology to ensure what is being used is right to achieve economic success.  Governments and businesses must also protect software and hardware developments that are created within the organization so that other areas of the world or areas within ones own country are not inappropriately using these internal proprietary innovations.  This is one way to stay economically competitive.

 

A recurring theme throughout the first chapter depicts the increase use of foreign and domestic contracting. Outsourcing has become a means for businesses to save money and save time. Although this seems to be a fix for money saving alternatives, it has its downfall. Companies that outsource work to other areas of the world are continuously training and re-training their employees.  As technology changes, so does the need to train employees on the new technology.   Training is and overhead and costs money.  Another downfall is the social responsibility and ethical issues that arise when organizations hire employees from other areas of the world. Ethics, traits, and morals vary between areas of the world, and this could negatively impact the organization. 

 

 

References

 

Florida, R. (2005).  The world in numbers: The world is spiky globalization has changed the economic field, but hasn’t leveled it.  The Atlantic Monthly

 

Freidman, T. (2007). The world is flat: A brief history of the twenty-first century.  New York, New York:  Picador