Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Coming down from the ivory tower

The last six weeks or so I have had a complete change from working in academia, to working in the healthcare industry.

A story of a princess
When I lived as a princess in my ivory tower, I used to gaze out of the window into the distance and dream of open access free resources for all, unlimited access to any web site, and a world where people wanted to spend all their time networking on the Internet.

But I have been turned into an ugly sister, and kicked out of the ivory tower, and sent to live with the ordinary folk in the village at the bottom of the hill.

Living in the 'real' world
Now that I am an ugly sister, I don't get accepted into the posh balls, nor am I allowed to wear fancy gowns. I am not allowed to watch YouTube anymore, and I have found out that ordinary village folk are not considered good enough to be invited to the balls, or have unlimited access to the Internet. To make things even worse, some times I am looked on as the village idiot when I talk about things like creative commons, and get locked in the stocks.

When will my prince come and rescue me??!!

One step forward, two steps back
Oh alright.....so I'm being a drama queen.....it's no where near as bad as that. In fact, I am very grateful to be working with people who recognise the importance of networking and who are very keen to learn new things about online communication.

Nevertheless, some times the slowness with which change happens is very frustrating, and lots of little mistakes and hindrances get in the way of success. For example, I made connections with people in an aged care advocacy group who wanted to know about web conferencing. I was about to launch into full throttle on Elluminate, but they could not get through their organization firewalls.

Everything is so much more exaggerated in the context I am working. What I see as a small hindrance which I can work through in five minutes can completely shut down the people I am working with.

Great successes
Having said all that, it also means that successes are so much more meaningful. I have now got the group of people who are supporting me as I develop the eMentoring project to meet in Elluminate. We've had our technical hitches, but are now really getting the hang of web conferencing.

I have also been asked by several groups to run networking and blogging workshops. One group is out in the west of Queensland, and are keen to explore how they can make use of online communication technologies to develop online community. This is especially exciting because it is a broader community initiative, not just aged care.

What has the princess learned?
I am learning that dreams do come true. It may not happen in quite the way one imagines, or even desires, and it certainly takes time. Working in the eLearning field can be extremely frustrating and tiring, and the old adage "patience is a virtue" is very true.

But if you do not dream, you cannot have a dream come true.


Image: 'Someday...' Gabriela Camerotti
www.flickr.com/photos/50417132@N00/980593503

12 comments:

Sue Hickton said...

ahh Sarah - lovely - so glad to hear there is some light for u now....I told you you were making a difference...sometimes stepping back helps (and choc and a good whine....err wine :) ) /hugs

Leigh Blackall said...

Have you identified who the person is that impliments the fire wall? Do that and see if you can get 15 minutes with him (of course its a him) and interview him about his job and about the sense behind the sensorship. Don't let on who you are too much.. just find out who he is.

Then find out who his boss is. If its a woman, you're probably stuffed. But if the boss is a bloke, then he's probably itching to tell this IT boss he's a tossa. Present a solid case against censorship in the workplace. Put a big dollar figure to it. See Jay Cross and his work on informal learning. Clearly state what is required, if the need for censorship is still considered important, suggest a peer reviewed censorware.. one where the black list is added to and taken away from by the users. Twitter for suggestions there.

Its a gamble, but someone needs to take it to the top. If not you, then someone.

Alternatively, do what I did in TAFE. Set up your own Internet connections for the staff in your project. Issue wireless cards at $40 per month and bipass the corporate network all together.

This is your time to step up little lady.

As soon as you have made a hole in that firewall.. Go straight back to the boss with a dollar reason why Creative Commons licensing is needed.

Sarah Stewart said...

@Sue I should have pointed out in my story that you are my fairy godmother - you flew in on your broomstick via Skype, and gave me lots of encouragement - I really appreciated that!

@Leigh Ahhh, my prince, you have come to my rescue!!

Yes, providing participants with their own broadband card is one plan up my sleeve.

Thanks for advice about putting dollar value to things - might come back to you about how to do that successfully.

I have just been to see the people at Creative Commons Australia and they are very keen to support me, but more on that in another blog post.

M-H said...

Never underestimate the blocking power of a good bureaucracy. :) Good on you for working to get around it.

Sarah Stewart said...

Thank you, M-H. Having people like yourselves to run things by certainly makes this sort of work easier.

One of the main problems is that in-directly I am working with so many different organizations, of differing size. This is why Leigh's suggestion about providing personal broadband access is a good one - that makes the participants independent of their organizations.

Frances Baxter said...

Good to see that things are improving, but very surprising to hear you infer that academia is preferable in terms of moving forward, access to the social network technology and quick to move. The brief exposure I have had to that world suggests the opposite. And my experience in the education sector has been that nearly all interesting web access and useful and fun tools are off limits.
Keep up the good work, though not in the health sector I enjoy your musings.

Frances Baxter said...

Good to see that things are improving, but very surprising to hear you infer that academia is preferable in terms of moving forward, access to the social network technology and quick to move. The brief exposure I have had to that world suggests the opposite. And my experience in the education sector has been that nearly all interesting web access and useful and fun tools are off limits.
Keep up the good work, though not in the health sector I enjoy your musings.

Jeffrey Keefer said...

Sarah, while this sounds so painful, I am a bit surprised how removed you make it sound that you really were in that Tower over there. From my experience on the edge of HE, there is more bureaucracy in academia and more mechanisms put in place to maintain the status quo than out here in the world of the masses. Yes, many academics are themselves quite progressive, but there is always a fear of upsetting the applecart, lest somebody notice how little teaching and research that informs or influences or helps practice is really done!!

I am really glad you are sharing your experiences here; it is a good model to follow.

Sarah Stewart said...

@Jeffrey & Frances

I was (am still am because I'm still employed 0.000000001) very lucky to be employed at Otago Polytechnic where ideas are very progressive. For example, we're one of the first institutions in the world to have a creative commons default IP policy. Yes, there are still things that could be improved. But speaking from a personal level, at an institutional level, OP has been very supportive of what I have wanted to do.

Frances Baxter said...

Great news Sarah- I am sure if is easy for me to have generalised on the state of certain sectors and this does not do any of us any good.

Jeffrey Keefer said...

How wonderful to have institutional support with the important work you are doing.

Sarah Stewart said...

Must admit it hasn't been all roses, but I just heard today that there is talk (now that I have left!!) of putting the whole undergraduate midwifery program online - that is what I was pushing before I left. So good to hear my words there were heard.