Monday, February 27, 2006

Using Flickr and Wikipedia for new staff inductions

Sunshine and I are happily settling in to our new lives in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Actually, check out Sunshine's beautiful work depicting it in a blog to get the real idea of how life just got really good for us).

My first few days at the Otago Polytechnic have been good. I've just been busying myself researching the history of the place and getting to know the layout of the campus. Which brings me to the topic of this post - Using Flickr and Wikipeda as tools to enhance staff induction.

That's what I've been doing over the last 2 days. Self directing my own induction into this organisation. Everyone is quite busy this time of year, so I've been happily finding my way around and reckon I have learned a few things pretty well so far.

Firstly, I noticed that there was no entry for Otago Polytechnic in Wikipedia, so I used this as an opportunity to focus some of my learning. I found a few books and annual reports, and have set to work building up an entry in wikipedia. It so far includes a history of the institution, info about studying and working there, and a list of the types of course that are run - that I plan to populate (or encourage it so) with info as I go along around here. The final product is really a side issue, because what I want to point out most of all is just how effective that developing a wikipedia entry has been as a personal learning strategy. It has really done wonders for my motivation and cognition at least.

Secondly, I needed to orientate myself around the campus and get to know where everything is, and how it physically fits. So I grabbed a campus map and spent a morning strolling around taking photos of the buildings I visited. (Thanks Mike for the inspiring idea for this). But I took it a step further and uploaded the photos to Flickr, developing a naming and description convention, and thereby enhancing my learning of where, and what in Otago. Then I uploaded the map and used Flickr's great little roll over notes features to create a kind of virtual tour.

Now, I really want to emphasize that it's not so much the finished, not even nearly finished content that I have developed here that is important - but the learning through creation of content I am undergoing. That learner centered stuff, and learner generated content we always talk about. Seymour Papert's Constructionism. I plan to continue to do this for at least the next 6 months as I get to know the place, and attend formal induction workshops. For me at least, I find it is a powerful and very efficient method of learning. Add to this some mobile technology, some elements of the student orientation programs, and some socially networked software and I'd say we could have quite a powerful and ongoing induction and orientation process for new staff and students.

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