Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Using writeboards for portable, editable content: a living document

I've been working on an flexible learning project with a group of teachers at CIT and we've been keeping track of our project using Writeboard. Everyone contributes and being password protected it means we can all add and edit without the feeling that someone is looking over our shoulder!

The writeboard has a comments feature and a version tracker and I also subscribe privately to it using Bloglines so I can be alerted to any changes (other than my own). Take a look at writeboard yourself, if you're keen.

Why it seems to work for our project is that it is immediate. This is great given the fact that we cram in as much as possible into our project workshop sessions (meeting once a week for 3 hours and trying to do stuff inbetween), and it means we can capture information as we go, rather than letting things slide into nonexistence. The writeboard is also downloadable as a text file or as a html page (good to link to if you're ready to 'go public' with your information there - although we haven't had a use for that yet).

The edit functions are fairly simple and team members have worked it out for themselves. This is a bonus of ready-to-use social software tools and services seem to offer readily. There are many possibilities and uses for Writeboard - it just depends on your interests and needs.

Similarly, I have been using writeboards to develop my workshop notes and content for PD/online training at CIT. I usually link the page into the interface and can update the information as I go - something I am doing with my 'Communicating and Collaboratiing Online' workshop (3 sessions in 3 weeks). This sort of development suits me, as I tend to plan for serendipity (if that makes sense), which leaves space to alter the program or adjust the content to suit workshop participants. This works especially well with teachers from various contexts around the Institute.

Working in a multidisciplinary team of flexible learning innovators, teachers and designers means we're scattered across the institute on various jobs, tasks and projects. The writeboard has been one way we have brainstormed ideas about how we plan our work and meet our professional development plans, along with department wide strategies for the year. The writeboard for our team has become a living document, rather than one that gets printed signed and shoved away into the bottom desk draw! It also ups the ante and has us all contributing, because we all have a vested interest in making sure it includes our needs and focus too! That's a pretty good incentive! Decisions become more democractically made rather than being left to management.

Just as Jay Cross says, I too am finding I'm moving more of my work to the Web, especially as I travel beteween different campuses and work with different groups. I'm carrying less as a result! I keep my online stuff, like the writeboards I use together via my wiki, which also helps to keep my work in context for me. I sometimes feel like a travelling roadshow as I flick between sites and show various things! That's the fun bit though, so I'm happy with that. :o)

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