Monday, February 19, 2007

Technology Stewards

Being a technology steward has very little to do with being an expert technology user, instead it’s much more about understanding the connections and interactions of human networks.

In The Full Circle Online Interaction Blog, Nancy White along with Etienne Wenger and John Smith define Technology stewards as: “people with enough experience of the workings of a community to understand its technology needs, and enough experience with technology to take leadership in addressing those needs.”

In Technology Communities, the authors summarize the findings of a larger study of communities of practice. The role of the “technology steward” is described as a person or several people that “tend” to the technology to enable a community of practice. (Wenger, White, Smith, & Rowe, 2005)

Douglas Reeves (May, 2006) wrote an excellent article in Educational Leadership, “Of Hubs, Bridges, and Networks” where he described a “key member” in the community as a critical component in a framework for sustaining change. The “key member”, which I believe parallels the technology steward is defined as “one of those relatively rare people who not only knows a disproportionate number of other people, but also seems to influence them.”

One of the tensions faced by technology stewards is trying to understand future technology needs in schools which seem to be an impossible task based on the steady growth and change of technology today. The book “Kamishibai Man” by Allen Say is a story about Kamishibai, the Japanese art of street storytelling with storyboards and is said to have started in the 1920’s. Later this was replaced by the television or electric Kamishibai in the 1950’s. The story tells about the “joyful rediscovery and celebration of the special relationship between storyteller and his audience.”

Bev Trayner argues that communities of practice are more than just platforms. In her Phronesis (Towards a practical wisdom) blog she writes, “…they think that building a platform, with lots of functionalities, plus some animation will create a community of practice….In other words there is this gap in people's thinking between the lived in experience of human beings - with all their strengths, frailities and social lives - and the tools and technology they use. One person builds (animates) the community while someone else builds the platform.” The Kamishibai man used a mobile storyboard on a bicycle as his platform, coupled with the oral tradition of telling stories, which is really about community and the connections and interactions of the storyteller with others. Will online communities and connectivism provide the Kamishibai Man a new medium or new platform and increased (different) opportunities to build relationships with others?

I recommend viewing the 2020 vision clip, a graduation speech delivered to a group of students that enter grade one in September 2007, which outlines striking possibilities for the future of technology and impact on education. The intent of the clip is to ignite conversations about preparing for the future. View the clip and then have a conversation with someone in your community of practice. How can technology stewards prepare for the transitions through the vast changes that are inevitable in our future?

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