Partner for More

August 19, 2011

I was cleaning my office to head off on vacation and ran across the article I wrote last year for the Continuing Higher Education Review about the work UC Berkeley ETS has done in our Opencast project and our engagement in higher education community source projects.

“Partner for More: Creating and Sustaining Collaboration to Support Campus-Based Rich Media”.

I meant to share it back then… Just shows how quickly time is moving!

2010-09-01_Partner For More Article – Mara Hancock

Sakai Conference 2011

June 16, 2011

Wrapped up the 2011 Sakai Conference in Los Angeles today. It started on Monday with a full day Opencast Matterhorn workshop. We had a packed room to start the day and it ebbed and flowed throughout the day. Bootcamp, implementation stories, speed dating… There is an impressive small group of vendors starting to come together to support the new project: Entwine (support services in AV design and software Dev.), Epiphan (hardware), NCast (hardware), and Longsight were all there. Big Blue Button is also working on an integration with Boise State. All-in-all it was a good day and I am really excited about the work being done on this project as it moves to it’s next stage and folks start adopting it. There is an impressive 762 instances installed around the world right now!

The conference was abuzz again with the promise of Sakai OAE, as it is on the verge of it’s v1 release. I think people are only starting to become aware of how transformative that product may be for our campuses. It is not your mother’s LMS nor is it your father’s portal… (I am sure someone else has said that already).

I am proud of the ETS team at Berkeley team for being an integral part of both of these projects.

Open code increases collaboration because…

  • it allows for peer review and and shared construction of knowledge. The code-base is the collaborative medium. Staff can grow, try things out, challenge themselves and their colleagues.
  • it allows industries to improve and build on what has gone before
  • It allows parts to be shared, not just wholes

Open source development increases collaboration because…

  • It provides a structure to come together around the design and development of a shared product
  • It engages the users in the evolution of that product
  • The conversations are not just about implementation within the constraints of the product, but about what could be

Open content increases collaboration because…

  • It allows for the shared construction of knowledge through access, reuse, and extended contexts
  • Nobody is on the outside (banging on the door or being left in the dark)
  • The content provides a platform for people to engage about ideas
  • It reaches out beyond the confines of a given group and opens us to the serendipitous engagement and discovery of the internet

Collaboration opportunities change when faced with an open environment because people think differently about the problem if they can directly impact it through their own contributions.

Open Collaboration. Really.

January 28, 2009

Open source, open content, open technologies… Open Collaboration. As many of us know, leading the transparent life is not the easy choice. That said, I strongly believe that it is worth every aspect of angst it produces. Look at Obama’s first week. Whether or not everyone agreed with the content of his message, I haven’t heard anyone complain about the process or the fact that he was saying this or doing that in p u b l i c. Some might see it as a political, ethical, or moral choice. Some see it as just plain old practical. So where do I fall?

Can I take a nebulous stance of opining that it doesn’t matter? That one follows the other? (and still have this post be meaningful?). Each might be the door we enter to get there, but after that the benefits continue to drive us to work on these projects, in this way, every day. And pretty soon it is hard to tell whether it is a value, a political point of view, or a practicality.

OK, I’ll be honest. I am writing this as I reflect on another deliverable I have on my plate: to collaborate with several trusted and brilliant colleagues on co-authoring an article exploring the merits and perspectives of “Open” in higher ed. We all participated in a collective brainstorm at the Frye Institute day-long retreat held at the 2008 Annual Educause conference. We decided to carry-forth with some practical output from the very engaging conversation we had around the table that day. We all chose¬† a theme that emerged from the day with which to tussle in writing (at least, that is my interpretation of the assignment!).

So, back in November, I chose to write about “how open source and open content improves our ability to collaborate both as consortia and individuals.” It sounds pretty boring to me as I re-read it now and prepare to collect my thoughts. Except when I add the concept of Open Collaboration. Really. When we talk about Open source and Open content we can see the end result, the product, as being the goal. And in many many ways it is. However, when I look at the value that these activities (yes, activities) bring to the higher ed community, to my campus, to my team, to my individual staff members, I see much more (and more gray hair). That is what I am going to have to articulate in the few paragraphs I’ll have in this article. One of my colleagues from Stanford, Jenn Stringer,¬† is going to talk about collaboration credits (as in carbon credits). I love this concept. But can we offset them?

So, what do you think? Help me write this article! Does Open Source and Open Content improve our ability to collaborate?

Positive Deviance

November 1, 2008

I attended the Frye Institute’s Alumni leadership workshop prior to Educause ’08 last week. The best part of the session was the morning when a small group of about nine of us set off to explore open source, open content, and collaboration. The conversation quickly headed down the path of ways in which the trends toward Open technologies (and we can include web 2.0 here) and open content are enabling stronger and more meaningful collaborations.

During the course of the conversation, Gardner Campbell introduced the concept of Positive Deviance. I don’t even remember how it came up, but it hit me like a great new hot salsa. I wanted more. It seemed so pertinent to challenges we face as managers in fostering innovation and encouraging creativity. But instead of being some great new “System” (yes, with a capital “S”), it is something that emerges through individual characteristics.There are people who do amazing things without batting an eyelash. They do not fit the norm, they make great things happen. And, like that new hot salsa, we want more of them. We need them helping to lead the way.

So I have started to do a little research on the subject (that is research with a lower case “r”). It has a fascinating history in the health services in developing countries but can also be applied to organizations. The University of Michigan Ross Business School states,

“A growing number of scholars believe positive deviance may be important for promoting subjective well-being and long-term organizational effectiveness.”

In an article in Fast Company, Jerry Sternin, the fellow responsible for testing out this theory in Vietnam back in the 1990s, says,

“The traditional model for social and organizational change doesn’t work,” says Sternin, 62. “It never has. You can’t bring permanent solutions in from outside.” Maybe the problem is with the whole model for how change can actually happen. Maybe the problem is that you can’t import change from the outside in. Instead, you have to find small, successful but “deviant” practices that are already working in the organization and amplify them. Maybe, just maybe, the answer is already alive in the organization — and change comes when you find it.”

Wikipedia provides a more general view:

“Positive Deviance (PD) is an approach to personal, organizational and cultural change based on the idea that every community or group of people performing a similar function has certain individuals (the “Positive Deviants”) whose special attitudes, practices/ strategies/ behaviors enable them to function more effectively than others with the exact same resources and conditions.[1] Because Positive Deviants derive their extraordinary capabilities from the identical environmental conditions as those around them, but are not constrained by conventional wisdoms, Positive Deviants standards for attitudes, thinking and behavior are readily accepted as the foundation for profound organizational and cultural change.”

The Postive Deviant Network names Seven Characteristics of Positive Deviants:

  1. Passion
  2. High Moral or Social Purpose
  3. Seeing Holes vs. the Net
  4. Moving Towards, Not Away
  5. Rapid Cognition
  6. Checking the Edges
  7. Low Regard for Social Convention

“Don’t teach new knowledge — encourage new behavior.”

If you are interested in learning more about these 7 characteristics, visit their web page (doesn’t work well in Firefox unfortunately) which has more detail about each characteristic.

I have more to learn about this concept, but I fully expect to continue to find some wonderful insights and ideas as I reflect upon and apply some of the concepts within the work environment at UC Berkeley. Thanks, Gardner, for the tip. Nothing like a little collaboration to expand our world! And of course, thanks to the open WWW for enabling me to find all this great information and thanks to those positive deviants that started it…

Open EdTech Summit

October 19, 2008

Now that the Opencast Deep Dive is over, I can starting to look forward to the upcoming Open EdTech Summit sponsored by the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC, or Open University of Catalunya) to be held in Barcelona on November 10 & 11, to be followed by the UOC UNESCO Chair in E-Learning Fifth International Seminar, Fighting the digital divide through education. The Open EdTech Summit promises to be an interesting time, with the program focusing on

  • Personalization of the learning process
  • Learning content development and delivery
  • Future technologies at the service of learning
  • Learning: everyone, everywhere and anytime

This is a lot to cover in one very very full day (unless the “Typical Barcelona Activity” is actually putting us to work…) but by the attendee list, I expect it to be quite interesting.

Of course, the Educause Annual comes first…

Opencast Deep Dive — Wow

October 19, 2008

I just came off two days of the Opencast deep dive. Prior to the Deep Dive, we had 3 days of pre-deep dive (really!). It was the central developers working together to define a proposal for the roadmap and architecture (now code-named Matterhorn).

The deep dive was an intense two days with around seventeen universities/organizations attending. The minutes, videos, and action items will be posted on the Opencast site next week.

Some random thoughts:

  • Building an open source community is an evolution
  • Bringing people along, building consensus, breaking through assumptions takes time
  • People feel better with concrete things to react to, but too much detail is inhibiting
  • The people and institutions involved in Opencast are incredibly diverse and multi-cultural, we have to be careful to ensure we understand eachother. Check and double check.
  • Building community around doing real concrete work is always best (see some of the good stuff going on in the Sakai Pedagogy group, for example)
  • There is a lot of great knowledge out there, the work is figuring out how to leverage it and extend it to new contexts

Generally, I am feeling really hopeful in regards to the ability of this community (growing rapidly) to be able to deliver on a common infrastructure and project. If you are at all interested in the idea of an enterprise podcast system, I encourage you to join the opencast forums and email lists. Lots of good stuff going on.