Our class Saturday at 3600 West Broad Street was interesting. For one, the faces of classmates are starting to look familiar. And the professors keep changing, so, the format of the class, and those micro-expectations for how class is supposed to go keep shifting a little each time. Our professor this time was Cheri and the topic was the Five Dysfunctions.
In the morning we made our own groups and had an activity; in the afternoon, we were pre-selected into new groups. Our first group was generally respectful of one another; we got along, shared ideas, and I got a good vibe from my peers. In the afternoon, the stakes got higher, and we had certain things we had to articulate. First individually, then as a group.
Our team members were so focused on choosing the best answers, and I’m not sure if everyone realized this was all an exercise. The more important aspect was how we got along. Cheri asked us to reflect on how working in this group went; I found this time distracting, as most folks got up to leave, and good-byes were being exchanged.
I found the collaborative things we were to be doing frustrating and difficult for the lack of tools we had. We were exchanging information about one another, such as our LCI and MBTI scores. Only one member wrote them down; and I remembered feeling so frustrated when I didn’t have access to this information.
I suspect it’s my desire to have a visual reference to things I am considering. I do this a lot when planning; I need to see everything out in the open. The discussions taking place, too, were distracting, I wanted my introspective cocoon to make sense of the task.
The most frustrating thing was that despite the fact we had laptops with us, they were only used for one task in the class: to look up a poem by Charles Osgood to read independently. We could have been provided this on a handout. And yet, with a collaborative tool (like Google Wave, or even a Google Doc), the process of working in a team would have been simplified and enhanced.
The thing I notice most about working with educators outside my division is the different ease with which folks use technology. We tend to gravitate towards Google Apps and wikis. The note-taking style is divided for sure; if folks are going to use a laptop, they’re in Word. If they have an iPad, I think they’re just still figuring it out. And it seems more folks are using paper notebooks to document notes in class.
My thinking right now is a type of analysis of the class and how technology could have enhanced it. Two SMART boards were used, and the tools used were Word and PowerPoint. Students used the Web. Blackboard wasn’t utilized since the professor said she didn’t have access. Some folks found it difficult to get online. I helped a few myself.
I am not sure using, say, a Google Site to structure class would have been significantly more productive, but it would have enabled more collaboration across the large class. It would have maintained artifacts to be referenced later. And yet – how do we get there? What’s the expectation for how a group collaborates and works together?
I think this expectation comes from observation of behavior (what are others doing), what’s comfortable, and what’s typical for the environment.
The point of this session, I think, was to evaluate how the characteristics of our teams affected the tasks we were given to work on. I found two folks in my group emerged as vocal leaders, they took it upon themselves to sort through the various ideas and choose the best ones. I am not sure they were aware that they automatically favored their own ideas. Our method of collaboration without established trust was to look for commonalities, which isn’t a bad thing, but it discarded more unique, outlying ideas which may still have been good ones. These two were the extroverts in our team of introverts. It was also interesting to note that some felt comfortable using their laptops to process input; others adopted a notepad.
I think as an intellectual side-project for me as we move forward, is to note how members of the class use, and adopt over time, technologies to facilitate our tasks. As a cursory thought, I’m wondering how many folks actually went through the Five Dysfunctions routine before, as I have. Re-reading the book and considering the pyramid model was helpful as I reflected on progress made this year in our own teams at work.