It's high time I returned to my series of posts about the Leadership of Communities. Thank you to all who have read, commented upon and passed on the previous posts about the context and the group nature of communities.
I want now to focus on an aspect of community we tend to forget. Our technology is a very levelling medium in one sense. We can't see or hear one another. We don't have to react to the full range of our sense in our community interactions - so it's easy isn't it? Just blaze away and it will be OK!
Wrong!! Every address we encounter online belongs to a warm human being who has their own feelings and their own needs - just like you and me!
Do we ever stop to consider how the person behind the address is feeling about interacting with us? I am a techno idiot. I go into blind panic when exhorted in a community to "just drag it into Dropbox and then upload it onto Slideshare and post it in your Facebook group as well". I have progressed - far beyond where I ever thought I would be capable, but only because some of my new found colleagues in the internet space have had the sensitivity to understand I needed help and the willingness and patience to provide it.
I am not untypical in my spread of competences and levels of comfort.
So in our communities there will be a real mix. The expert, active in the technology for years, right through to the person taking their very first step into what will appear a very daunting and overwhelming world. In our leadership and support of communities we have to remember and take account of this breadth of experience, confidence and ability. People need to be welcomed as individuals, their needs listened to and then actively supported.
We need also to remember that competence in one area of our field does not necessarily mean competence in all of it. Just because I can drive an automatic does not mean I can handle a manual or a sports car. Someone who is good on one platform may be completely at sea on another. I meet numbers of people who are adept at Facebook (where I am almost totally ignorant) but scared of Twitter - which I find pretty easy. But take that same Facebook expert and ask them to handle a hardware configuration problem to enable access to some new platform and they may be completely lost.
I am passionate about learning! Its possibilities as a key business tool, its potential to reach billions of people through mobile technology, its platforms progressively transforming our lives and I can comment with some authority on these topics. But ask me about the mechanics of rapid content development or the problems of different operating systems in mobile devices and I will give you a totally blank stare.
I wrote recently about the proliferation of platforms and how many is enough. Jane Hart has done something similar and much more eloquently than me (http://bit.ly/rYCqhj ). I have a suite that I find useful and which meet my needs and I am not going to confuse myself and spend time unnecessarily on "pioneer" exploration of other platforms. I have little interest in that kind of stuff so when you talk to me about it I will have both a level of incompetence and also a lack of motivation.
What I will comment on is how platforms of different kinds can be used to support, enhance and enable the learning activity of the Smart Worker. In fact I can probably be just as boring to you on that topic as the Instructional Design specialist can be to me in their field.
What I am trying to convey here is the multiple levels of comfort and interest that are involved in all but the narrowest of the online communities in which we are involved.
Now we need to look at some other dimensions of the "individual" stakeholder in our communities. What devices do they have? What access is available to them- and who is paying for it? In our 24/7 world of on demand and "just in time" learning, what are the constraints that limit the freedom of universal access. I mean the attitudes of our work situation and those around us to using technology enabled learning, I am aware that in developing community expectations people will have different levels of interest and commitment to the community and the whole concept. There will be family constraints as people seek to balance the invasive dimensions of working with 24/7 access with the demands of parenting, social interaction in the real live community and so on.
And now, hot from the press, comes Clark Quinn’s great insight into the complexities of the levels of learning with which we all have to deal (http://bit.ly/u0b1Ug)
It is so much more complicated now than it used to be in the bad old face to face days when everything stopped at the moment the lecturer went home. But the power, the potential and the excitement of our modern learning far outweighs those difficulties so long as we take care to take into account that every address has someone behind it just like us - a human being who needs to be made comfortable and requires support to contribute to the synergy that should be part of our communities.
Looking forward to meeting and speaking formally to those of you at DevLearn – please say Hi! when we walk past each other!