The role of the Technolgy Steward

Catching up on some recent blogs (have been out of circulation during the Christmas break), and picked up an interesting article on the Definition of a Technology Steward  on the Learning Alliances Blog by John Smith. The definition given is:

“Technologystewards are people with enough experience of the workings of acommunity to understand its technology needs, and enough experiencewith technology to take leadership in addressing those needs.Stewardship typically includes selecting and configuring technology, aswell as supporting its use in the practice of the community.”

Interesting from the prospective that I guess I’m fulfilling this role for the public sector Communities of Practice environment being managed by the Improvement & Development Agency – IDeA. The current release (Phase1) provides fairly basic functionality for the social media toolkit, though with the advantage of providing a fully integrated environment for community collaboration. The next release, due to be implemented in February 2007, will deliver improved editing tools, support for RSS and newsfeeds, better alert facilities, tag clouds and synchronous collaboration (e.g. on-line meetings) – amongst many other things.

John goes on to say in his article that …”nobody wakes up spontaneously and says to themselves “I’m a technology steward!” Very true in my case, but would agree that having such a function or role does ensure that the technology supports rather than leads the development of the community. It’s important to remember that the community will be a mix of users familiar with social media tools (wiki, blogs etc) and those that are not. I’ve tried to ensure that all of the facilities are simple and intuitive to use, quite often at the expense of building in elaborate functions that would only be of benefit to a very small number of users.  An over-elaborate, feature-rich interface may suit the ‘expert’ bloggers, but can be at best a distraction, and at worst a disincentive to engage for those who are fairly new to this form of virtual collaboration and knowledge sharing. The technology steward has to ensure that  the environment  meets the needs of the majority of the users. and not just the techies.

This will be my last posting for this year, so I’d like to wish all of my readers a very happy and peaceful New Year!

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