I read a post on a blog called The Fischbowl some time ago and scribbled some notes to myself about usingÂ "customer service" as a topic for my own post.
It's like when I scribble notes in the car for a poem or write down a dream in the middle of the night - I read it later and think, "What was I going to do with this?"
His blog is forÂ high school teachers "exploring constructivism and 21st century learning skills" and myÂ note says "customer service in education."Â I looked back and he wrote:
- "We're so accustomed to the way things are that we end up accepting things the way they are."
- "As teachers we are the "customer" of building and district administration. As adminstrators we're the customer of the Board of Education, who in turn are the customers of the state legislature and state board of education. And, of course, going the other way, students and parents are the customer for all those folks previously mentioned."
I was flipping pages today in a Professional Development Committee meeting and came across my note. We were in the middle of arguing about what should be the focus of our PD work this summer on things to start the year in September. No one agreed on anything.
At one point, we were talking about needing the students to collaborate more, but we couldn't collaborate on how to do that.
I have been using different types of collaborative tools the past few years. I'm interested in free and open source tools and now that I'm working with a high school on instructional technology that seems even more important.
Collaborative software (AKA groupware) is application software that integrates work on a single project by several concurrent users at separated workstations. In its modern form, it was probably pioneered by Lotus Software with the popular Lotus Notes application.
Software becomes more valuable when more people use it. Insert leap here -
Metcalfe's Law applies to this collaborative software, andÂ I am applying it to our Professional DevelopmentÂ Committee's task to provide better customer service.
Now I won't pretend to truly understand Bob Metcalfe's theory, and I'm proably misapplying it, but that's OK. It seems people are trying to use it to explain social networks the way it explained Ethernet style networks, so I'm not all that far off.
Metcalfe did a guest blog post where he writes:
"Metcalfeâ€™s Law points to a critical mass of connectivity after which the benefits of a network grow larger than its costs. The number of users at which this critical mass is achieved can be calculated by solving C*N=A*N^2, where C is the cost per connection and A is the value per connection. The N at which critical mass is achieved is N=C/A. It is not much of a surprise that the lower the cost per connection, C, the lower the critical mass number of users, N. And the higher the value per connection, A, the lower the critical mass number of users, N."
So, when I'm suggesting to the teachers that we use some free online apps (lower cost) and try to get as many teachers involved beyond the committee (critical mass of users), I don't think I'm breaking the spirit of the law. (I might well be breaking the letter or number of the law though.)
For example, calendaring becomes more useful when more people are connected to the same electronic calendar andÂ keep their individual calendars up-to-date. Even a simple application such as a collaborative to do list can be really usefulÂ for project management with a committee.
In a true collaborative writing environment, each contributor has an equal ability to add, edit, and remove text. The writing process becomes a recursive task, where each change prompts others to make more changes. Of course, it is easier to do if the group has a specific end goal in mind, and harder if a goal is absent or vague.
Our goal(s) were definitely absent today.
I started using Writely andÂ Writeboards (see below) for online collaborative writing and IÂ know peopleÂ are using Google Documents for this too.Â
The wiki software that runsÂ WikipediaÂ evolved from a free software philosophy for similar collaborative applications, and there is certainly something Metcalfian going on there.
So I took all the informationÂ the committeeÂ had gathered through a survey and a workshop day that was supposed to help pointÂ them towards creating "exit goals" for grades 7-12, and I put it in a wiki. I invited everyone to go in & start working on revising, commenting, collaborating.
Two weeks and nothing has changed except all my additions.
I can't get the CÂ in this C*N=A*N^2 any lower. And I know the value of A is pretty high (stakes) for next year's customers.
I feel like when I was in summer school after 8th grade for Algebra. That wasn't a good summer.
Want to try out a collaborative Writeboard? This is one I created just to show 2 colleagues what it was all about - go to http://123.writeboard.com/da9c073d4a087d38e
Â and log in with the password trivium.
I just put in some information about the trivium and you can take what's there and move it forward or take it in some other direction. Feel free to edit and play with the "compare" function, make comments...