Perhaps the greatest strength of the SIF program is its emphasis on collaborative work. Yet it is also one of the great challenges of the program – especially as all of us working on the SIF are fulltime students, many deep in the process of writing dissertations or a thesis, or are honors undergrads talking full course loads. This poses immense logistical hurdles even to schedule a meeting, let alone to find working rhythms that work for everyone and that keep our projects progressing in a timely manner. That our projects are dynamic, and that new projects (such as the GSU growth map or the entire SIF outreach effort, which has steady and predictable components but is also designed to be continuously evolving) and new directions, not to mention the steady stream of unexpected technological issues that can arise at a moment’s notice. Keeping everything moving requires a lot of management work, and I think it is fair to say that the SIF has gotten much better this year at project managing. But I also think it is fair to say that there is still room for improvement – and I say this as something of a mea culpa as well as a general observation, as I am managing several projects in the SIF.
There are a lot of big picture points that I could make here, but it’s late in the semester and my desire for abstraction is low. Instead, I want to make a much more nose-to-the-ground type of observation, and argue that we should all be making greater use of one of our most underutilized assets, SharePoint. It’s not very pretty to look at, and it’s a bit clunky to use, but nevertheless we should be using it more. Every semester, Justin asks us to do so – and yet, most of the SharePoint project sites remain essentially empty or populated only with a few abandoned posts and other digital tumbleweeds. This is a shame, as I know I spend way too much time emailing people, trying to keep documents straight, and asking for updates on progress on tasks. If, for instance, everyone was using the tasks to their full potential, it would be much easier for project managers to assess whether things are running on time and figure out how to correct things that have gotten off track. It would also, perhaps, help SIF’s keep the small tasks they need to do in their heads, keep the actual logistics of who is doing what in which project straight, and remind them of what they need to do to keep projects going. The Yammer feed, another lightly used feature of SharePoint, could become a place where ideas and information are shared broadly among all SIF’s – in the process advancing what I think is an important, but oft neglected aspect of the fellowship – that it should be teaching us how to think about and talk about pedagogical and technological issues in higher education and society.
I’m not trying to cast blame or throw stones – my own use of SharePoint is sporadic and has become more so as the environment there becomes more tomblike, and there are a few teams (3D Atlanta and GSU Growth Map come to mind) that seems to be using SharePoint at least somewhat. I also recognize that using it adds another layer of stuff into everybody’s schedules. Yet if doing so would help us all get things done more quickly it would be worth it. If it could help solve some of the documentation problems that still plague our work (SIF outreach has spent a pretty ridiculous amount of time this year simply trying to find out what current and previous are up to), it would be worth it. And, if it could get us talking about the bigger picture on occasion, it would be worth it.