“Open Is as Open Does”

I used quotes in the title of the post because that was the title of the presentation Jim Groom and Martha Burtis from the University of Mary Washington did here at VCU last week as part of our openVCU series. There is a recording of the session, but the audio is not great; Jim also blogged about the presentation. After the session, Jeff Nugent, Tom Woodward and I retreated with  Jim and Martha to our new, awesome incubator/experimental classroom. We explored the space largely because Jim, Martha and the rest of the DTLT team will be moving soon to a new space in UMW’s new Convergence Center. During our time in the VCU space, Martha talked about how they are excited to move into the new space but they also how the space they currently occupy informs the work they are able to do. Thankfully, Martha just blogged about “The Bullpen” that DTLT occupies and what it means for their work.

Today, as Tom and I were leaving Gardner Campbell’s office, he mentioned a conversation he had recently about moving the needle on technologically-inflected learning innovation. He had to hurry to another meeting, but he said that he had told a university (not VCU) stakeholder that it could very well start with one key internal stakeholder blogging. I’m not exactly capturing the tenor of what Gardner says, but his point was something about modeling what we want people to consider doing.

Earlier in the day, Tom and I had the good fortune of attending VCU Brandcenter’s Friday Forum where Kevin Proudfoot spoke about his work with Google Creative Lab. Kevin showed lots of videos about creative endeavors that the Lab had undertaken; he told stories of the stories they created for marketing purposes. In some of those videos, you could see the workspace at Google Creative Lab and it’s quite clearly an open space. There were no individual offices. Also, he spoke of just openly making/doing stuff; there were no pitches or committees or task forces…

Taken together, these events/posts/conversations have me thinking about what we’re trying to do by way of promoting (OPEN) online learning (and learning innovation more generally) at VCU. Specifically, there are at least two things that I’ve concluded. First, we have to be (somewhat shameless) documentarians of our processes. We have to openly document what we are doing so that people can not just learn from us, but so they can learn with us as we learn. Tom is doing an incredible job of sharing the learning he’s been doing since he started working here. I need to step up my game. This, I believe, is what Gardner was getting at and part of the message that Kevin Proudfoot was sharing. We need to do stuff and tell the story of doing stuff. When we document our work, others can learn with us and can help us work through challenges and opportunities.

The second thing I’m thinking about is our current workspace. We all have our own offices in two long corridors. It’s very, well, academic. Working in these closed spaces doesn’t lend itself to collaboration and creativity. Tom and I had discussed this yesterday and decided to just sit in one of the open workspaces we do have on our floor. We worked in an open work area and decided to say hello to people who walked by. When we did that, the folks who walked by responded with something to the effect of “Oh, I thought you were having a meeting; I didn’t want to interrupt.” That’s understandable, but it’s also symptomatic of the culture of most academic units. We need to be more open in the way we physically work and willing to “interrupt;” to say, “Hey, I see you’re doing X; have you considered Y?…”

Starting next week, I’ll be stepping out of my office more and working in our lovely open work areas. I’ll invite members of my team and others who live here with us to do the same. I’ll write more about what we’re doing. And, here too, I’ll invite members of my team and others who live here with us to do the same.

Because open is as open does.

February 28th, 2014 by