Thursday, September 12, 2013

Shared Documents Require Process

Recently I worked with a number of people on a shared online document. What we never considered was the process that would underlie the life of the document? When would we edit? How would we communicate? Who would be responsible for what?

Unlike a binder, an online document has a life of it's own. Similar to a plant in your garden, websites and public documents require pruning, weeding, and nurturing to stay vital, attractive, and useful.  And when it comes to a collaborative document, the decisions about how to care for the document, the document share, and decisions about the document have to made by those who created the work.

Also unlike a binder, an online document has the potential to be a ready, accessible, helpful resource that individuals can access at the stroke of a key anytime night or day.  The online document doesn't require carrying home a cumbersome file of papers, and it's easy to edit, modify, or enrich.

Yet, if a process for collaboration, editing, and updating doesn't exist, then the online document ceases to fulfill its original aim or goal, and it essentially becomes much more like the outdated binder that sits on your shelf.

With regard to my own garden of websites, I update on a regular basis. I typically update unit websites a month before teaching a unit.  I update my ePortfolio, class website, and subject-area websites regularly to reflect new research, structure, and ideas.  I pay particular attention to websites that are public so that the information I share is timely and accessible.

It seems to me that online documents and websites require a bit more process and decision making up front in order to make the document useful, timely, and informative. As we move forward to include new tools in our work, it's important to understand and employ a process that matches those tools too.