Thursday, June 9, 2011

The classroom syndrome

Why do we keep on arranging meetings when we have much more engaging alternatives available via the net? Let's face it, an awful lot of meetings are extremely tedious and tend to be dominated by a handful of participants. Of course it's good to meet each other now and again but many people sit through a 2-3 hour meeting without saying more than a couple of sentences (although they may have a great deal to say if they got the chance). Notes may be taken during the meeting but are seldom shared and collaboration is very rare. Sadly, monologue is the most common form of communication.

This is the focus of an article by Andrew Marcinek on Edutopia, Stop meeting and start connecting and sharing. Instead of so many ineffective and time consuming meetings the author suggests using collaborative web tools like Google Docs to encourage everyone to contribute but not necessarily at the same time. Information can be shared on the common document and everyone is able to contribute when they can during the day. Those who would not have been able to attend a face-to-face meeting can now fully contribute.

"This type of meeting also allows the participants to work more productively under a deadline, and revisit points of interest along a timeline -- the document has a revision history option that allows users to look back through every revision made on the document. Finally, a shared document like this, that is open and transparent, allows all parties to continue sharing, growing, and reflecting."

Meetings are another example of what I'd like to call the classroom syndrome. Just as we simply cannot imagine learning taking place without some kind of classroom structure in place (physical or vitual) we have great difficulties in escaping from the tradition of having meetings. The technology is available to allow us to find more creative and rewarding ways of learning/meeting/teaching but we keep returning to the comfort of the traditional form. We use technology grudgingly to allow variations on the traditional theme instead of starting afresh and thinking "how can we work/learn more effectively using the new opportunities provided by technology?"

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