Martin’s Weblog

video confession 11

Social Spaces and Innovation

I’ve been working on our Exchange email system upgrade and pop down to the staff common room to get a cup of coffee from the machine. I notice Rachel and Kathy using their laptops in the staff common room – they are joint tutors on a course and are working together to update the “paperwork” they share on the network pool area.  

The shared pool area has been available from the “dawn of networked personal computing” in colleges and schools (around 1985) and it’s mapped for all our staff as the P: drive – it provides a shared file storage area which is familiar and relatively easy to use. The wireless laptops have been available for most of our staff since about 2002.

There is nothing new in the video but what struck me is the ease and familiarity with which people now take for granted what was once extraordinary – access to our IT systems and the Internet from anywhere and without wires.

The objective of our staff laptop provision program was to develop just what we see in the video – the normalisation of IT mobility. Being able to work in the staff common room instead being of “chained” to the wired desktops in our own area offices is an advantage in its own right but provides the opportunity to work and share more easily across boundaries.

We often consider architecture as a way of influencing behaviour but in many cases we could let behaviour influence our architecture – in this instance it could be that we should provide more open social networking spaces.

With developing globalisation there is an increasing motivation to boost our ability to innovate – to compete in the higher levels of the global economic “food” web and the ability to innovate and develop innovation in education is a key to our future.

Innovation is the introduction of something new and useful, for example introducing new methods, techniques, or practices or new or altered products and services. Innovation is the active, implementation of creativity and invention. Creativity and invention often come from crossing boundaries – for example the recent Terahertz security camera is based on work from astronomers studying dying stars.

Boundaries exist in organisations to facilitate management – this is necessary, the problem arises when boundaries are used defensively and used to drive management – we end up with a rigid structure which is more likely to break than to bend in the “winds of change”.

In a sense innovation is like the creation of compounds in chemistry – you have to start with a mixture and then add energy and or catalysts to create a new product. The higher and the more rigid the boundaries are then the more energy that will be needed to cross them – the less likely that innovation will be able to happen – the more likely something will break instead.

Open Social networking spaces provide the conditions for people to mix and come up with creative and inventive ideas from which innovation can happen. We may not all be able to build Google style workspaces but I strongly argue that we consider the significance of the social in work and education.


March 22, 2008 - Posted by | IT and education, mobile, video blog


  1. another way in which the tablets regularly save time for me is at the weekly ESOL Manager’s meeting on Monday. In pre-tablet days, we used to have to handwrite the minutes and copy them up later, we now write the minutes as we are going along and send them immediately. In addition, we can check data during the course of the meeting e.g. timetables of rooms, teachers, relevant websites etc.

    Comment by rachel | March 25, 2008 | Reply

  2. Funny you mentioning architecture only a couple of weeks before you change the network architecture. They are equivalent terms (in as much as they have real impacts on how people can interact/move/experience/act etc) it’s just that one is invisible and the other isn’t.

    How long before you think you’ll be filming staff discussing their workload “in-world” – once we enable SL. 18 months – 2011?

    Comment by rdsc | March 26, 2008 | Reply

  3. ??? the ability to use your laptop in the staff canteen in the college???? Why can’t the lecturing staff use the laptops where *they* want to. For example free WiFi hotspots or *even* their own wireless broadband connections in their homes.

    Comment by Micky Finn | May 4, 2008 | Reply

  4. Micky,

    The main purpose of the lecturer’s laptops is to operate within the college – behind the security of the college Firewall. If they operate outside the firewall there is a high risk that they will become infected with malware which would then be brought in behind the firewall.

    The college has a method for staff with their own machine’s to connect to college resources – this seems odd but the connections from these machines are made indirectly and these machines do not come onto the college internal network.

    Another thing that may seem strange is that we are providing guest Internet access on our premises – these connections pass through to the Internet without touching our internal network.

    If you have your own home computer and wish to access college resources please make a request through your line manager.

    Comment by martinking | May 5, 2008 | Reply

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