"When we think of where people turn for information, we usually think of databases, the Internet, intranets and portals, or more traditional repositories such as file cabinets or manuals. What we may not think of is one of the most crucial sources of all: other people."
It's time that all higher ed stakeholders value technology as a vehicle to connect people, share ideas, foster relationships, break down the silos, reduce the redundancy in our work processes, and collaboratively solve the problems that so many institutions and individual faculty are grappling with across our nation. This is a new way of framing technology which is still viewed as a barrier in the eyes of many individuals, particularly those who resist the notion that online learning can be relevant, inspirational, empowering, and life changing which, I have learned, it can when an instructor is trained and supported effectively.
How Google Hangouts Are Rocking My WorldI've been reflecting recently on how Google+ Hangouts have affected my learning and thinking about how free, easy-to-use, social, synchronous video-based learning environments will reshape organizational faculty development programs in the future. The future is looking much more faculty-centered to me, provided that faculty participate, build their personal learning networks, and engage in online informal learning.
So many people have asked me, "What makes Hangouts so different, really?" Well, in some ways nothing but in other ways, everything. Really, they deliver many of the same technological features that Skype delivers -- synchronous voice, text, and video communications -- but Hangouts support video conversations in groups up to 10 for free. Further, the simple fact that a Hangout is "baked into" a social network that I use to cultivate my own personal collection of humans from who'd I'd like learn and with whom I'd like to share sets it apart. Simultaneously, this is still the greatest drawback to most faculty, as well, as relatively few are using Google+.
Learning from Other Faculty: Without Walls
On college campuses, faculty development programs continue to be cut along with the budget, leaving the minimally staffed departments (if there is even one!) to be managing responsibilities that reach far outside of their original domain and leaving no time to stay current on emerging technologies. Exploring, questioning, examining and experimenting with how to teach effectively with social technologies is perhaps the factor that will keep college learning moving forward. These are the questions that will empower us to recraft a college learning experience that prepares our students for life in a digital, mobile, interconnected, global society -- one in which employers expect new employees to demonstrate their ability to have fostered relationships at a distance (through Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, etc.) and be able to effectively present and converse asynchronous and synchronously through a webcam (for starters).
From my experiences, technology is so often viewed as a barrier in higher education. It is seen as as an obstacle that comes between humans and undermines our genuine ability to interact and engage with each other. I've never viewed technology that way. To me, it's technology's dazzling capability to bring humans together regardless of their physical location that excite me.