Starting from scratch

Everyone can’t be on the cutting edge. While most people are having bleeding edge discussions about how to move forward faster, it’s always worth remembering that some institutions are just happy to be driving on the information superhighway at all.

I’m not sure what direction I’m heading with this blog, but I figure it might be an opportunity to reflect on the other side of things. While much of my life is very digital, it’s always nice to disconnect and spend time with people who live differently. For these folks, the internet is a vast array of trouble and something their kids use. When you talk to those kids, it’s not a world that represents opportunity to them, but rather, a tool that helps them achieve very specific aims.

I feel we’re not doing a very good job in higher ed of preparing today’s so-called digital natives for the future. While they might be adept at seeing what’s out there, they’re not really sure what value these tools have. Maybe the kids at Tier I institutions do, but kids living on the fringes of those places are getting the short end of the stick — not because they don’t care — because they’re not getting access to the right information and don’t know where to look.

I’ve always been skeptical of the assumption that every bleeding edge technology needs to be adopted to stay ahead of the curve. I think foremost, our job in higher education is to be responsive to our audience and to the market. Sure, we can go places they haven’t reached. We can also push the envelope. But at some point, there’s a concern that we’ve extended the conversation well past the folks we’re trying to reach and have entered a tautological discussion with ourselves.

Sometimes that can be fun. I’m just not interested in them right now. Last week was my first as the webmaster a rural community college on the border of Wyoming and Nebraska. This obviously presents a diverse array of interesting perspectives to the fore, but I relish the challenge of going into the trenches where people often don’t, to provide the sort of experience that I’ve done in much bigger places. 

To think you’re going to go someplace new and “change their ways” is naive. Much of what I do in a new role is to listen and see what people are doing. Watching how things are done and building relationships is far more valuable than trying to throw perceived weight around, hoping to move an agenda through condemnation. 

It’s hard to crowdsource ideas in a wide swath of land where broadband is scarce and like-minded people are few and far between. It doesn’t make blazing new trails any less important.

We’ll see where it takes us.

If it’s on the Internet, it’s on the Internet. That which can be copied WILL be pasted. So don’t kid yourself that you’re in a private space. The Internet is, by definition, a public space. And gloriously so. If the Internet is a series of tubes, then social media is the lubricant that makes sure the rudest thing you’ve ever said can travel through those tubes and quickly get to the person you’d least want to read it.

—Mike Monteiro, Professional Relationships and Social Media (via rachelmercer)